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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Conditional Security – Sealed – New Testament Teaching

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Sealing of the Spirit.  What does that mean?

This type of study (a simple word study) is my favorite type.

As discussed in the previous post, when I was a youngin’  and found out about Strong’s concordance, I well near flipped with the possibilities.  Computers were not available to me at the time, and the hard cover Strong’s I had given to me was a treasure trove of data!

This second part of the study, we will review all the New Testament verses that include the greek word translated as “sealed”

New  Testament References

Roman SealIn the previous post, we reviewed each Old Testament passage describing the concept of sealing.  Now that we will venture into the New Testament to discover how the Lord Himself, and His apostles understood the concept of sealing, I feel it is only correct to compare similar concepts of sealing.

Therefore I used the Septuagint to find the greek word used in the New Old Testament translation of the Hebrew text , (which Jesus and His disciples used during their lifetime).

In this case, when the translators of the Septuagint came to Daniel 12:9 and saw the Hebrew term châtham, they used the greek word sphragizo.  

Therefore I am going to continue with the study of “sealing” with the greek work sphragizo.  The following verses use ether the verb or noun of the simple word, and one strengthened verb (prefix of kata)

Σφραγίζω sphragizō – (Verb form of the greek word)

Matt 27:66

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The intention of the seal was to ensure that no one disturbed the body. But we all know the seal was broken!

John 3:33

He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

Setting a seal is certifying something, or affirming something/someone to be correct or true. The metaphor of sealing is a common one for giving attestation (Robertson’s Word Studies).

John 6:27

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed .

It is interesting that in the previous verse, men affirm the Messiah’s testimony, and in this verse, the Messiah is affirmed by the Father.

As an aside, the verse could literally be read … for this one the Father sealed, God.

Rom 15:28

When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Paul went to Rome with the intent of imposing fruit (delivering cash!) to the believers in Jerusalem.

2Cor 1:22

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Ephesians, gives us a good insight into Paul’s usage here when he states, “An owner seals his property with his signet to mark it as his; if at a later time he comes to claim it and his right to it is questioned, his seal is sufficient evidence and puts an end to such questioning. So, the fact that believers are endowed with the Spirit is the token that they belong in a special sense to God…Other seals, literal or figurative (like circumcision, the seal of the covenant with Abraham), were affixed externally; the seal of the New Covenant is imprinted in the believing heart.

2Cor 11:10

As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.

Paul is speaking of the inability of man to keep him from boasting of the churches in Achaia.

Eph 1:13

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Note the past tense of the sealing. Also that the sealing happened after the believing. Very interesting! Can you tell what type of soteriology I tend to?

Eph 4:30

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

The sealing is for the purpose of redemption. Those sealed have the mark of ownership on their lives, and that mark is the Holy Spirit of promise. The mark is easily seen by others, (or at least should be).

What is to be said about the Christian who shows no “mark of holiness” in their life?

Rev 7:3

Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

The angel had to wait until the believers were identified. The “mark” is referred to often in the book of revelation and many times it is referring to believers! See below

Rev 7:4 – 8

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

No comment

Rev 10:4

And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

John was instructed to keep from writing the message of the thunders. He was to “keep it” from us.

Rev 20:3

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.

The one who had a seal set upon him, was loosed for a little season.

Rev 22:10

And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

Consider Daniels message in previous post, where he was told to seal up the prophecy till the time of the end. Here John is told to seal not the prophecy since the time is at hand. Jesus is the seal breaker – He is worthy!

Σφραγίς sphragís

(Noun form of the greek word)

Rom 4:11

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Circumcision is a mark on the body signifying Abrahams faith.

1Co 9:2

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

The Corinthian church was the mark of Paul’s apostleship. Amazing that they would commit mutiny as they did, questioning the apostles authority.

2Ti 2:19

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

A mark of identity seen by all in the believer’s life, is one who is departing from iniquity.

Rev 5:1 – 2

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

No comment

Rev 5:5

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

No comment

Rev 5:9

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

No comment

Rev 6:1

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

No comment

Rev 6:3

And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

No comment

Rev 6:5

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

No comment

Rev 6:7

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

No comment

Rev 6:9

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

No comment

Rev 6:12

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

No comment

Rev 7:2

And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

No comment

Rev 8:1

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

No comment

Rev 9:4

And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

Κατασφραγίζω katasphragizō

Rev 5:1

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

No comment

Additional resources below are provided for your convenience.

Strong’s

σφραγίζω

sphragizō

sfrag-id’-zo

From G4973; to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication to keep secret, to attest: – (set a, set to) seal up, stop.

Thayer

σφραγίζω

sphragizō

Thayer Definition:

1) to set a seal upon, mark with a seal, to seal

1a) for security: from Satan

1b) since things sealed up are concealed (as the contents of a letter), to hide, keep in silence, keep secret

1c) in order to mark a person or a thing

1c1) to set a mark upon by the impress of a seal or a stamp

1c2) angels are said to be sealed by God

1d) in order to prove, confirm, or attest a thing

1d1) to confirm authenticate, place beyond doubt

1d1a) of a written document

1d1b) to prove one’s testimony to a person that he is what he professes to be

Part of Speech: verb

A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G4973

Citing in TDNT: 7:939, 1127

The Complete Word Study Dictionary

σφραγίζω

sphragízō; fut. sphragísō, from sphragís (G4973), seal. To seal, trans.:

(I) To seal, close up and make fast with a seal signet such as letters or books so that they may not be read (Sept.: 1Ki_21:8; Isa_29:11; Dan_12:4). Hence, figuratively of lips, to keep in silence, not to make known, with the acc. (Rev_10:4; Rev_22:10; Sept.: Dan_8:26). Generally, to seal or set a seal for the sake of security upon a sepulcher, prison, with the acc. (Mat_27:66; Rev_20:3; Sept.: Son_4:12). Figuratively, to secure to someone, make sure, deliver over safely, in the mid. with the acc. and dat. (Rom_15:28 [cf. Deu_32:34; 2Ki_22:4]).

(II) Generally, to set a seal or mark upon a thing as a token of its authenticity or approvedness; used of persons, with the acc. (Rev_7:3); pass. (Rev_7:4-8). More often of decrees or documents, to attest by a seal (Sept.: Est_8:8, Est_8:10; Job_14:17). Hence figuratively, to attest, confirm, establish, with the acc. (Joh_6:27 [cf. Joh_5:36]), followed by hóti (G3754), that (Joh_3:33). So also of Christians whom God attests and confirms by the gift of the Holy Spirit as the earnest, pledge, or seal of their election to salvation. Mid. with the acc. (2Co_1:22); pass. (Eph_1:13; Eph_4:30).

Deriv.: katasphragízō (G2696), to seal closely.

Syn.: kleíō (G2808), to shut, close; asphalízō (G805), to render secure; sugkleíō (G4788), to enclose, shut up.

Ant.: anoígō (G455), to open; dianoígō (G1272), to open up completely; lúō (G3089), to loose.

Strong’s

κατασφραγίζω

katasphragizō

kat-as-frag-id’-zo

From G2596 and G4972; to seal closely: – seal.

Thayer

κατασφραγίζω

katasphragizō

Thayer Definition:

1) to cover with a seal, to close up, close with a seal

Part of Speech: verb

A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G2596 and G4972

Citing in TDNT: 7:939, 1127

The Complete Word Study Dictionary

κατασφραγίζω

katasphragízō; fut. katasphragísō, from katá (G2596), an intens., and sphragízō (G4972), to seal. To seal up. Referring to a book or scroll (Rev_5:1; Sept.: Job_9:7).

Syn.: kleíō (G2808), to shut up; katakleíō (G2623), to shut down, incarcerate; asphalízō (G805), to render secure.

Ant.: anoígō (G455), to open; dianoígō (G1272), to open up thoroughly; apokalúptō (G601), to reveal.

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Conditional Security – Sealed – Old Testament Basis

Conditional Security - if-150x150 - Red with SplashSealing of the Spirit.

What does that mean?

This type of study (a simple word study) is my favorite type.

When I was a youngin’ (that is a Christian youngin’), and found out about Strong’s concordance, I well near flipped with the possibilities.  Computers were not available to me at the time, and the hard cover Strong’s I had given to me was a treasure trove of data!

Jewish SealThis first part of the study, we will review all the Old Testament verses that include the hebrew word translated as “sealed”  חָתַםchatham (khaw-tham’)

For this study in sealing, using old Testament occurrences will help me establish the apostles/first century believers understanding of the concept.  Therefore the first portion of the study will look at all of the Old Testament verses that include the concept of sealing, found in the Hebrew word defined above.

Old  Testament References

Lev 15:3

And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue: whether his flesh run with his issue, or his flesh be stopped from his issue, it ishis uncleanness.

No comment

Deu 32:34

Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?

This is the Song of Moses and up till this verse, Moses is writing about the faithfulness of God and the chastisement required upon His people. At verse 34, Moses declares Gods compassion on His people, in that “this” that is laid up in store is the need for the chastisement the people of God need to experience. This judgment that is sealed up among God’s treasures is described many times in the Pentateuch, and many believe it refers to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. If so, this sealing was not permanent. But it was secure!

1Ki 21:8

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles thatwere in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

Jezebel sealed the letters with the seal of the King. 1 Kings 21:11 tells us that he seal was broken in order to read the letter and condemn Naboth to death.

Neh 9:38

And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

No comment

Neh 10:1

Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah,

No comment

Est 3:12

Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring.

Similar idea as 1 Kings 21:8. The seal was broken in order to read the pronouncement. As a matter of fact, it needed to be broken in order to effect its purpose.

Est 8:8

Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.

Similar to above

Est 8:10

And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:

Similar to above

Job 9:7

Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.

A poetic expression of darkness – when the heavens are completely dark, it is as if God sealed all the stars up in a bag. But thankfully the sealing is not eternal.

Job 14:17

My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity.

Similar concept as above.

Job 24:16

In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the daytime: they know not the light.

No comment

Job 33:16

Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,

No comment

Job 37:7

He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.

No comment

Son 4:12

A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

No comment

Isa 8:16

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

Isaiah speaks of the prophecy as being complete and that it should be stored away, sealed up among his disciples.

Isa 29:11

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

The prophecies were sealed until the One who is worthy to break open the seals revealed the truth of the prophecies.

Jer 32:10

And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.

No comment

Jer 32:11

So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

Jer 32:14

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.

Jer 32:44

Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.

Some background to these verses

Just before the destruction of Jerusalem, in the days of Jeremiah, God told Jeremiah to buy some land and to take the sealed purchase papers and the accompanying letter (open evidence) and to bury it in the ground. Verse 44 tells us that the day will come, when the captivity is accomplished, that men will again purchase property in the land of Israel. This occurred some 70 years later after the return of the Israelites.

Does this verse teach the unbreakableness of a seal or imply something else?

Eze 28:12

Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.

Ezekiel is speaking of the King of Tyre and of his opinion of himself. He was full of himself! Ezekiel is a master of sarcasm!

Dan 9:24

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

A very difficult verse in many respects but the concept of sealing occurs twice, once with the idea of “completion” or “finishing”. A tremendous prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of finishing of sins and completing/fulfilling prophecy

Dan 12:4

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Dan 12:9

And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

In verse 8, Daniel asked when the prophecy would be fulfilled. God told him to seal the prophecy, since it would not be revealed until the time of the end. The prophecy would be sealed until revealed! (Hey – I’m a poet and didn’t know it!)

In order to compare similar concepts of sealing, I used the Septuagint, (the greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which Jesus and His disciples used during their lifetime). For example, when the translators came to Daniel 12:9 and saw châtham, they used the greek word sphragizo.  

Therefore I am going to continue in our next post in the study of “sealing” with the greek work sphragizo.

The following verses use ether the verb or noun of the simple word, and one strengthened verb (prefix of kata)   חָתַםchatham (khaw-tham’) Strong’s 1. to close up 2. especially to seal [a primitive root] KJV: make an end, mark, seal (up), stop.   Brown Driver Biggs 1) to seal, seal up, affix a seal 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to seal, affix one’s seal 1a2) to seal up, fasten up by sealing 1b) (Niphal) to seal 1c) (Piel) to lock up 1d) (Hiphil) to be stopped Part of Speech: verb   The Complete Word Study Dictionary

A verb meaning to set a seal on, to seal up. It indicates the act of affixing an impression to serve as a seal on something, then sealing it up as well. It could be done to any clay object: a letter (1Ki_21:8); a bill of sale, such as the one used by Jeremiah (Jer_32:10-11, Jer_32:14, Jer_32:44); a house could be sealed up (Job_24:16); something could be sealed up or stopped up (Lev_15:3). It is used often figuratively: Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks when fulfilled will seal up the prophetic vision (Dan_9:24); Israel’s testimony or law is “sealed” among his followers for future reference (Isa_8:16). It is used in Son_4:12 to describe the bride of the bridegroom as a spring sealed up with promise of delights in marriage. It indicates sealing something so it can be opened only by the one who has the key that will open the seal (Isa_29:11).

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Christians and the Government

War & ReligionRecently I was discussing with a friend the role of Christians in the armed forces.

This conversation began to make me think of a Christian’s relationship to the government, specifically in the responsibility of a believer in raising a weapon against someone for the sake of a government’s ideology or geography.

Federal AgentLater that night I learned that one of my favorite niece’s husband was in training to become a federal agent. This seemed too coincidental for me to ignore, and since my niece confesses Jesus as her Lord, I thought I would discuss this issue with her.

As I mentioned earlier, her husband was in training to become a federal agent for a government. They are very excited. “Frank” and “Belinda-Lu” (not their real names, dontchaknow!) are in the process of finding out where the government will be stationing this family in the near future.

Exciting times!

These young folk are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus in their daily walk and because of that, I thought I would chat with “Belinda-Lu” about Christians and Government Authority.

A Discussion and a Distinction

What follows is that conversation. (Comments by Belinda-Lu is indented and in italics.)

May I ask you a question about your husbands vocation with the government?

Shoot! Hahaha no pun intended!

First off, congratulations on your husbands graduation!!! It must feel good to complete that step in your lives.

A friend at work has a son joining the US navy and it got me thinking about the armed forces and belief in the Savior. He mentioned that he may specialize in becoming a sharp shooter/ sniper. I asked him about how he feels about killing someone for no other reason than ideology or geographical circumstance. He said he was alright with it, but I am not so sure – he is very young! (I am also not sure of his commitment to the Lord Jesus.)

My question is similar for your husband. I am assuming as a federal agent for your government, your husband may be called upon to fire a weapon upon another person. How has your husband reconciled this possibility with Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemy, turning the other cheek,…

Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… Until a court date can be given and our flawed justice system can deal with the matter. Frank’s mission as an RCMP is to “serve and protect” not to “seek and destroy.” He graduates this September.

I understand that authority here on earth is flawed, but everything needs to be done in balance…. Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.

“Belinda-Lu” – At no time did I intend to infer that your husband was on a “seek and destroy” mission. I hope you will understand that I am not against y’all, and I know that you wish to please the Lord Jesus. (That is why I am asking you this hard question!)

Therefore, lets look at the passage you offered to see if Paul was advocating believers to be active in “carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v.4)

For many years, I saw Romans 13 as the strongest passage that allowed a believer to be active in government enforcement, but after considering the passage below, (Romans 12:9-21, which provides context to Romans 13), I think Paul was describing (in Roman 13), the God ordained activities of government, but not necessarily endorsing a believers involvement in the government.

Of course I am still learning, and I suppose that is one reason I thought I would ask y’all this question.

Thanks for your patience with me and I do hope all is well. May the Lord Himself bless you and keep you – He is Good.

Romans 12:9 – 13:5

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 13

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

One thing that is interesting to me is that Paul uses the second person (you) and the third person (he) in this passage. Since this letter was written to believers, it is safe to say that the “you” Paul is referring to are believers. Who is the “he”? Is it the “you”? Can’t be for then he would use the “you”! (BTW who’s on first?)

Following the grammar of the text helps me to show who Paul is referring to. I am going to insert (hopefully clarifying) added words into the text to help us see where Paul is going with his thoughts. Again – if I am incorrect in my understanding of the apostles teaching, let me know. As I said before, I would like to honor God, and to do so, I need to understand His will for my life also!

Romans 13:

Let every person (lost or saved) be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Therefore whoever (lost or saved) resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist (lost or saved) will incur judgment.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you (Christians) have no fear of the one (the governing authority) who is in authority? Then (you Christians) do what is good, and you (Christians) will receive his (the governing authority) approval,

for he (the governing authority) is God’s servant for your (Christians) good. But if you (Christians) do wrong, be afraid, for he (the governing authority) does not bear the sword in vain. For he (the governing authority) is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore one (lost or saved) must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

I find it very instructive that in this passage, Paul actually defines two different groups.

  1. Christians

  2. Governing authorities.

If believers should be part of the governing authorities, why did Paul create the distinction? This distinction is what bothers me. I just don’t get it. Where in the passage does Paul advocate a believer “carrying out God’s wrath”?

You also mentioned…

  • “that authority here on earth is flawed”

– No argument there, but it isn’t the issue. Why join ourselves with a system/kingdom that is admittedly flawed (as you correctly state!), when we have been invited into a kingdom that has Him as King?

  • “but everything needs to be done in balance”

– Do you really mean that? Should I balance out my life with part God’s will and part my will? I am not sure what you mean by saying that. Please explain.

  • “Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.”

– I think you meant …Living a life that honors God is doing what God says to do, obeying, sacrificing, pleasing God. (There are too many scriptures to refer to, to show this. We are judged on our works, not our intentions.)

  • “Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… “

– I understand the “life in danger” argument, but my concern was whether or not God wants a believer to be in this situation at all.

Remember the words of the Master… “Blessed are the peacemakers” He didn’t say blessed are the peace keepers!

I do hope that y’all will continue to seek Him and His will. Drop a line when you would like to chat.

Love ya.

Be blessed

Uncle Carl

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (ESV)

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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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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

brown book page

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

Church on a hill

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.”

submit-to-authority-728x500

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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Conditional Security – Colossians 1:21-23

Conditional Security - if-150x150 - Red with SplashYears ago, when I was merely beginning to consider verses that may hint at the possibility of a chance that conditional security could have a tiny opportunity of gaining credibility in my understanding, this particular verse may have been the culprit that started my “descent into heresy”.

The circumstances, combined with my studying this verse in Colossians, seemed to be completely unrelated. It came about because I was meeting with a bunch of word of faith “believers”. I had been visiting with them, trying to understand their thinking, (instead of just taking someones word on their thinking.)

Anyhow, they were looking at the temptation of the Lord, and specifically the “if” statements the devil was throwing out at Him. I can’t recall the specific clause they landed on, but their conclusion followed the Arian heresy*. Two minutes after I asked some pertinent questions, and understood their settled stand on this matter, I spoke of my conviction, thanked them for their hospitality and quietly excused myself from thier home.

But the talk haunted me and set me on a bit of a study on the word “IF”. (Carl – you need to git a life!)

Anyway, I found a table (see end of post) that seemed helpful in explaining the different conditions in the Greek manuscripts that the English word “IF” was trying to communicate to us.

Colossians 1:23 uses the first class condition. But I am getting way ahead of myself.

Lets consider the passage first.

Colossians 1:21-23

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Like I said, Colossians 1:23 uses a first class conditional “IF”, and some teachers state that this term can be translated as “since”. This would definitely take any “conditionality” out of this passage, since Paul would be stating a settled fact, as in …. Since you will continue in the faith….

Boy, that would be devastating for the conditional position.

But wait! Lets try that same translation for other instances where the first class conditional “IF” is used in the New Testament.

How bout this one.

Matthew 5:29

Since your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell

This verse actually instructs believers to pluck their eye out, since their eye offends them!

OK – Lets try this verse

Ephesians 4:21

assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Ephesians 4:21 seems to allow using “assuming” instead of “if”, but this seeming exception should not make the rule. Paul may be questioning these believers if they really heard “Him” to make a point.

OK Carl, how can you say it is the exception to the rule. Check out these verses to consider if translating this word as “since” makes sense.

Matthew 12:27

Since I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

Matthew 17:4

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. Since you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Luke 11:18 

SINCE Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

Luke 22:42

Father, SINCE you are willing, remove this cup from me . . .

John 10:37

SINCE I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me . . .

Acts 25:11

Now SINCE I am wrong and have committed a deed worthy of death, I am not refusing to die . . .

Romans 4:2

For SINCE Abraham was justified by works, he has a basis for boasting . . .

Romans 4:14

For SINCE those who follow the law are heirs, faith is canceled out and the promise is voided

1 Corinthians 7:9

But SINCE they are not exercising self-control, they should get married.

1 Corinthians 8:13

SINCE food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat . . .

1 Corinthians 9:17

For SINCE I do this willingly, I have a reward; but since I do it unwillingly, I have been entrusted with a stewardship

1 Corinthians 11:6

For SINCE a woman will not veil herself, she should cut off her hair . . .

1 Corinthians 15:13

Now SINCE there is no resurrection from the dead, neither has Christ been raised

1 Corinthians 15:19

SINCE in this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most miserable

1 Corinthians 15:32

SINCE the dead are not raised, “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”

Galations 2:21

For SINCE justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Galations 3:18

For SINCE the inheritance is from the law, it is no longer from the promise.

Galations 5:11

Now brothers, SINCE I am still preaching circumcision, why am still being persecuted?

Hebrews 9:13

For SINCE the blood of goats and bulls . . . sanctifies those who have been defiled

Hebrews 12:8

SINCE you are without the discipline which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not sons

James 2:11

Now SINCE you do not commit adultery, but SINCE you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

OK – I think I made my point. A simple reading of the passage communicates the conditionality intended by the author. So it seems Paul is informing the Colossians of their conditional status before their Master.

Story Time

As an aside, a few months after my study on this passage was complete, I was attending a newly formed Bible study and coincidentally looking at the first chapter of Colossians. The spirit of the meeting was very cordial and I sensed an openness to ask questions. Since I had just learned of this passage, I thought I would bring it up.

NO DISCUSSION ALLOWED.

The leader actually stood up from his chair, and approached me in front of the rest of the group. “The preacher said those verses should be read differently.” Therefore that was all the discussion that was needed. I am sure he was seeking to maintain the purity of the faith, protect the weak, or enforce his leadership, but that night sticks with me.

A couple of practical applications come to my mind from this experience

If I feel threatened by a believer’s differing views, ask yourself…

  • Are you depending/trusting in a man’s interpretation of a verse, passage or theology? Professional Christians may have oodles of learning, but NOTHING replaces self study and prayer in seeking to understand the Word.

  • Have I “finished” searching out the Scriptures? They – the Scriptures – tend to speak of Him, and with that hope, the Word is worthy of trying to understand.

  • Do I discuss opposing views with respect and an honest effort to understand the position? The Word of Faith folks, in my opinion, were wringing the Scriptures of truth, but any mockery, dismissal, anger or intimidation would accomplish absolutely nothing positive. Trust me – I have personal experience of this!

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.


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  • According to Wikipeadia – The Arian controversy was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and God the Son.