The title of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes derives from a Greek root. From that Greek word comes the word ecclesia, which refers to a group or gathering and also the moderator or main speaker at a gathering. The Hebrew title was originally the Quoheleth. From the root of this word also comes gathering and, also, the moderator or main speaker at the gathering. This main speaker was also called the preacher, which is why you may find ‘The Preacher’ as a sub-title to the book. The group or gathering or the words of the speaker/preacher seemed to be focused on contemplating the meaning of life. This would have been included in the canon (Jewish and Christian) to encourage people to consider that God did not create us without meaning, but it is part of our nature to seek out that meaning and have faith that whether we understood or not, believers do have a purpose and a Redeemer. This word, ecclesia, was used in the New Testament to refer to the gathering that we now call the church (from the German ‘kirke’).
Jesus taught that a house divided against itself would not stand. When people consider the many denominations that call themselves the Christian church, some would suppose that the church is divided against itself, therefore it is doomed to fall. I propose that we can demonstrate both through the words of Christ, and the major theological concepts of every true denomination of Christ’s church that it is a fallacy to suppose that His church is divided.
The church is a term that developed to refer to Christian followers of Jesus. Jesus taught that His followers were ‘one’ (meaning ‘not divided’) in the Spirit. Jesus taught that His followers would be known by their love, which is consistent with all the law of God. This love would bind true Christians to one another into His church in service to Him and one another and in reaching out in service to those who don’t know Him. Reaching out to those who don’t know Him means we are to love and show mercy even to wicked people, without participating in their wickedness, and we are to even love and care for our enemies, and those who would despitefully use and abuse us.
If you study the fundamental theology of most (if not all (I haven’t studied all)) denominations, I believe you will find that their scholars and theologians attest to the fact that not everyone who claims membership in their denomination are true Christians, and therefore not true members, of His church. Also, I believe you will find that most scholars and theologians attest to the fact that there are members of most every denomination who are saved members of Christ’s true church. The corollary being that, though the denominations may be divided, the consensus of the scholars and theologians of most every denomination is that Christ’s true church is not, and never can be divided.
Thus, there are members of many church denominations who are not true members of Christ’s true church; also, there are members of many denominations who are members of Christ’s true church. So what are the differences? For the most part, there are differences in details about how Christ’s ministry (His service) is to be implemented (or performed). Christ may be worshiped and served (actually the service to Christ is a form of worshipping Christ) in many ways. The factor that makes Christ’s true church “ONE” is in that faith that we obtain our salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and that we are to live out our lives in that service of love which is the foundation of our Creator’s law.
Salvation to a Christian means God’s mercy providing forgiveness for man’s sinful condition. Christians are to understand that all are sinful. ‘Man’s righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord.’ It is this condition that separates sinful man from the Holy Creator, the Mighty God of the universe. In the third chapter of John’s gospel, we are told that in God’s love for man, His only Begotten Son came so that any who believed on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel he taught that any who believe on the name of this One sent from God had the power to become a child of God. In the fifth chapter of John’s letter (epistle) he reiterates that whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God becomes God’s child (sort of an adopted brother to the Only Begotten Son).
Prepositions in the Greek may be translated in different ways, but it is important to understand a few concepts. To the Greeks, believing ‘in’ or ‘on’ someone is more than simply believing that they existed, or they were real people, or believing something ‘about’ them. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ means: believing that He is the ‘Lord’ (Master); and He is ‘Jesus’ (from the Hebrew which meant ‘Yahweh is Salvation’); and He is the ‘Christ’ (from the Greek word which translated the Hebrew word Messiah which meant that He was ‘anointed’ by God to deliver sinful people from this wicked world).
Satan knew Jesus, and recognized Him as God’s Son. This is shown in the recorded temptations of Jesus. Why did Satan attack Jesus with temptations? Satan knew that Jesus was there to save people from Satan’s grip, and defeat Satan’s purposes. How could Satan tempt Jesus by offering Him dominion over the earth if God already had dominion over all creation? God had given dominion over the earth to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve relinquished that dominion to Satan when they submitted to Satan’s temptation. That is why the New Testament teaches that ‘Satan is the prince of the power of the air’ and ‘ruler of this world’. This is why Satan’s offer of ruler-ship of this world to Jesus is valid as a temptation. So simply believing that Jesus was Who He was or believing ‘about’ Jesus wasn’t enough to save Satan, or anyone else.
Believing in Jesus meant believing in Who He was, and all that He taught. We have to believe that He was sent from God to save us from this wicked world. But why would we believe that someone was sent to save us, if we didn’t see that there was a reason or need for us to be saved? So naturally we would have to recognize that we had no rights to stand before God on our own merits, because our ‘merits’ were woefully lacking because of the sin that separates us from God.
Believing in Jesus meant believing in all that He taught. Jesus taught, among many other things, that He was the Son of God, that He came forth from God, that He and His Father (God) were One, thereby making Himself equal to God. He also taught that no man can come to God except through Him. So believing in what Jesus taught means believing that there is no other way to come to the Heavenly Father except through Him: no other teaching; no other religion; no other ritual; no other way.
Aside from ‘believing’, is there anything else we must do to find salvation? Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus what ‘works’ they must do to be saved. Jesus answered them that the ‘work’ that they were to do was to ‘believe on Him’. Paul, John, Peter, and the early church fathers taught that it was not our works that save us, for it is only by His grace in accepting our believing in Jesus that we could be saved. People are sometimes confused by James’s statement that ‘faith without works is dead’. Careful study of the grammatical construction of what James was saying (even in the English translations) show his meaning. It is one thing to say that you believe in something. It is quite another that what you believe shows up in your way of life.
Jesus said that He had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Jesus told His disciples ‘a new commandment (a law) I give you- that you love one another’. Now the Jewish leaders knew that the greatest commandments of the Torah (Law) were to ‘Love God with all that is in you; and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus taught (and Paul reiterated) that all the law rested on these commandments of love. So why was this commandment of Jesus, ‘that they love,’ one another a new commandment? Jesus offered a different and stronger love than was previously realized in the old commandments of the Torah. Jesus taught that the Torah commandments had been handed down as the prophet had said before ‘as though they were simply rules of rote, taught by the precepts of man.’ The love that Jesus empowered His disciples with was a love that didn’t need to be learned, but a love that was seeded, nourished, and blossomed in the believers’ hearts.
For me to see myself as the unworthy and undeserving recipient of the love that Christ showed for me by going to the cross, and suffering the shame, temptations, stripes, suffering, and death of this world so that He could save me from my sinful estate, then it would ill-behoove me not to realize that such love is to be shared with others, regardless of my personal opinion of who ‘I think’ might be deserving of that love, because I am so undeserving myself. What James was teaching was that true faith would be demonstrated by those works which come from that love. If you truly love someone, then you wish to serve that someone, and to serve someone means ‘doing works’ for someone. So Peter’s works would demonstrate that love that came from his personal belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. John affirms this in the fifth chapter of his first epistle.
The First Principle of Bible Study- Part 2
Another point that carnal minds view as an absurdity are imprecatory psalms. In the book of Psalms are many prayers to God that the enemy be treated with extreme harshness. These types of psalms are called ‘imprecatory’ psalms. The scoffer would say that this went against the teachings of Jesus to love your enemy and pray for those who despitefully use you. Who on earth has never been hurt to the point that at some point you wished the worst on your enemy? God knows the hearts of people. The Psalms are honest accounts of men’s hearts before God. The Bible was intended in part to be an honest picture of man’s thoughts and feelings to show man how far we are from what God intends for us to be. Anyone (carnal or otherwise) who needs more understanding than that, I’ll leave it to your prayers for the Holy Spirit to better explain.
Next to the last issue that the carnal mind may consider to be absurd has to do with a few things that Jesus said. Before Jesus ascended the mount on which He was transfigured he had told His disciples that some of them would see Him in His power and glory. Another time Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders and told them that many of them would see His kingdom with their earthly eyes. When Peter was told how his life would end, Peter asked about another man, and Jesus told him that if He wanted him to live until He returned, what is that to Peter.
The man whom Jesus said about what if He willed till He should return. Many scholars believe that He was referring to the Apostle John. It could be said that John lived till he saw the return of Christ, after all, he wrote all about the events surrounding that coming in the book of Revelations. Imagine that! And Revelations teaches that Christ (the Only Begotten Son) was the Lamb that was slain from the foundation (very beginning) of the world. Does not God know the end from the beginning?
When Jesus was transfigured there were disciples with Him who witnessed His Kingdom power and glory. Many then and today see Christ’s Kingdom in His followers, because Christians make up Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus did not tell Peter that the man would live until He returned. He only told Peter that if Jesus willed him to, what was that to Peter; Peter should not concern himself with God’s plans for that other man, but with God’s plans for himself. (Someone with a spiritual mind recognizes that all things are possible with God; so if Jesus willed for that man to live till He returned, then I could be willing to believe that he was still here somewhere.) The deacon, Stephen, saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God. Paul encountered the glory of our Lord on the road to Damascus. Paul also spoke of a man (most scholars believe Paul was referring to himself) who was carried up to the third Heaven.
This brings us to the last issue: what is the third Heaven? It doesn’t take a great deal of cultural understanding to see this. When we lift our eyes to the ‘heavens’, what is the first thing we see? The sky with the clouds and birds, or the first heaven. What is the next thing we see? How difficult is it to observe that the sun, moon, and stars are certainly in a heaven beyond our first heaven, the sky? So where would we see the second heaven to be? Then when someone lifts their eyes to the ‘heavens’ in prayer to God, where would anyone suppose the third heaven to be?
The Scriptures cannot be understood by the carnal mind but by the spiritual mind. If you encounter anyone who claims that the Bible is flawed, imperfect, or contains absurdities (foolishness), then please realize that you are dealing with a carnal mind. Love that person. Pray for that person. Witness to that person. If possible, try to reason with that person. (Such reasoning to Christian scholars is known as ‘apologetics’. But to a carnal mind, apologists will seem foolish. Remember, God’s wisdom is foolishness to the carnal man.) If this person does not accept the Spirit, then I suggest following Jesus’ instructions to shake the dust from your shoes as you leave that person’s house.
The First Principle of Bible Study- Part 1
Many have referred to the Bible as a Christian’s Handbook, Guidebook, and Textbook. The Bible tells us to ‘study to show ourselves approved.’ The Bible tells us that the writers of the Bible as it has been handed down to us was ‘written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.’ The Bible tells us that ‘the Scriptures cannot be understood except by the aid of the Holy Spirit.’ So the first principle of Bible study is to rely on the Holy Spirit. Quick and simple, right?
Still we can elaborate somewhat for more understanding. The Bible says that man’s wisdom is foolishness (or absurd) to God. The corollary being that to man’s wisdom God’s wisdom appears foolish (or absurd). The Bible teaches that spiritual things cannot be understood by a carnal mind because the carnal mind is preoccupied with interpreting things according to the way of this world. Only a spiritual mind can understand the things of the Holy Spirit (or Ruach Ha’Kadesh). So anyone without a spiritual mind would be prone to see the Bible as full of errors and absurdities. Remember the first principle of Bible study, the Word can only be understood by those who rely on the aid of the Holy Spirit, and you won’t find the aid of the Holy Spirit without the spiritual mind.
So Jesus told people that His words may seem to be a mystery, or hidden meanings. He went on to say that to those who came into His kingdom would be able to gain an understanding of those mysteries or hidden meanings. You see, it’s not that they were hidden because the Lord didn’t want them to be found. The Lord wants people to search for Him, and in finding Him, they find the key to the spiritual mind. It also doesn’t mean that immediately after finding Him, everything is immediately understood. That is why the Bible says to STUDY to show thyself approved. Also, some things that are not completely understood in this life, will be made perfectly clear at His appointed time. Please allow me to illustrate with another way of looking into a few matters that may to the worldly mind seem confusing or absurd.
God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to Him (God) on an altar. Many may think this is absurd. First, understanding something means not taking it out of context. The language when this story was written may not fully be comprehended when translated to modern language. That does not mean that it cannot be understood by a spiritual mind. Also, people’s thought processes differ from culture to culture. Something that makes perfect sense to one culture, may not seem so apparent to another. But any way you slice it, the Bible as enlightened by the Holy Spirit can be interpreted by any Christian no matter the language or culture barrier. However, don’t forget, not everything becomes readily apparent, and some things may not be revealed until their proper times. Many times the Bible has demonstrated that God knows the end from the beginning. With that in mind, we have to realize that God knew just what Abraham would do. He also knew how the end of the matter was going to be.
Abraham knew that he and his wife were considered to be beyond the age of childbearing when God promised him a son. Yet Abraham and his wife had a son, Isaac by name. Abraham knew the power and faithfulness of God, and trusted God to work all things according to His (God’s) Word. I will not pretend to know Abraham’s mind, but it’s not difficult for a spiritual mind to suppose that Abraham trusted that God- a) would take Isaac to Heaven where he may either serve God personally, or God may use him in heaven to serve Abraham (his earthly father) still on earth; b) God would return Isaac to him whether through a resurrection or through his wife again by natural childbirth; or c) God would prevent the actual sacrifice from taking place and provide another way. Whatever was going through Abraham’s mind, the key point is the demonstration of Abraham’s faith in God.
Something else was demonstrated that can be discerned by a spiritual mind. Abraham was prepared to offer his promised son as a sacrifice to God. This foreshadowed God’s promised Messiah Who was the Heavenly Father’s Only Begotten Son Who was offered in sacrifice so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
Do you believe in Jesus? Then Who is this Jesus you believe in? Do you know much about Him? If you believe in Him, then surely you know enough about Him to know what it is you believe. But different people have different conceptions about Who He is and what He taught.
Jesus is the great Messiah expected before He was born to Mary in Bethlehem. Before He was born to Mary in Bethlehem, the Jewish nation was looking forward to a coming Messiah. As the Jews were expecting for a coming Messiah, then we can say that they believed Messiah. Jesus is Messiah, and believing in Him brings God’s grace to offer us eternal life. It is truth that believing in Yahweh’s Messiah is the way to eternal life in God’s Kingdom. Though the Jews believed in Messiah before He was even born, and because their teachings were expecting Him to come, then why didn’t they know Him when He came? If the Jews believed in Messiah, then why did the Messiah call them a generation of vipers and white-washed sepulchers? (Since Jesus is Messiah then does it really matter if we call Him Jesus or Messiah? He is one and the same, so for the purpose of this discussion we will call him by His other name, Messiah.)
The Scriptures teach in a number of places that all who believe in the Messiah will be saved. The Jews of Jesus day would tell you they believed in the coming Messiah, so wouldn’t that mean they were saved? People miss the point because “Messiah” is interpreted different ways by different people, and their interpretation was wrong. The Sadducees had their interpretation of Messiah and the Pharisees had their interpretation of Messiah. The Democrats have their interpretation of Messiah and the Republicans have their interpretation of Messiah. So which Messiah do you believe in? Do you search the Scriptures for the truth (though we may not perfectly understand it all, but the Lord said to search and to study), or do you simply accept what some other source tells you to believe (perhaps a church or perhaps a political party)?
Some preachers preach a Messiah who will bring you earthly success and a good living in this world. Other preachers preach a Messiah who calls you to let go of these earthly, worldly material possessions, give to all, and await for eternal rewards. Which Messiah do you believe in? Those who promise so much in this world are the preachers many call prosperity preachers and I tend to avoid those because I believe they have perverted the gospel, have traded their eternal rewards for earthly rewards, and they are getting rich by pan-handling the precious blood of my Savior, and they will meet eternal torments. But the question remains, which Messiah do you believe in? Which Messiah do you worship? Do you search the Scriptures to see what it is that you believe and why you believe it?
A lot of viewpoints I really don’t care to hear, but in this world you can’t always prevent hearing what you don’t want to hear. I heard a man who puts himself forward as something of an expert on the Messiah, in that he wrote a ‘scholarly’ book on who killed Messiah. To publish and advertise his writings is presenting himself as an expert on the subject he publishes. When asked a question about how the government responds to some teaching from Messiah this “self-published expert” said that Jesus was talking to individuals, not to governments. Anyone who studies ‘governments’ should recognize that they are comprised of ‘individuals’. An emperor is an individual. A king is an individual. Court counselors and advisers are individuals. Parliaments are individuals. Senates are individuals. Congresses are individuals. Anyone who studies the Bible can see that divine judgments come not only on individuals, but on nations, kingdoms, governments, or anyone else that breathes (or even has breathed). Well, a lot of people may believe in this ‘published expert’s’ teachings about Messiah, but I for sure am not interested in his perverted teachings. (By the way, this ‘self-published expert’ is a Republican and a staunch supporter of the Republican platform.)
Some people may get really enthusiastic about the prosperity preachers teachings about the Messiah, but I don’t care to hear them. Some people may be enamored and trust in the Sadducees teachings about Messiah, but I don’t care to hear them. Some people may be held in awe of the Pharisees teachings of Messiah, but I don’t care to hear them. Some people may get excited and support the Democrats teachings about Messiah, but I don’t care to hear them. Some people may be fanatical about the Republicans teachings of Messiah, but I don’t care to hear them. My Creator is soon to destroy all this worlds teachings about Who He is because this world is ruled by Satan, and Satan perverts people’s interpretation of Who their Creator is. Satan can teach a lot of truth, but wrapped up in a lot of truth is always Satan’s devastating lie, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
The Lord said through Hosea that people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. This lack of knowledge is because people too easily accept false teachings that ‘sound good to the ears’, but fail to search the Words of Yahweh’s truth. People are afraid of the truth because that truth is a light that shows people to be the sinners they are who are so desperately in need of a Savior. Am I asking people to believe in me? No! I can’t save anyone. Each person must search the Scriptures and study to show themselves approved (as the Scriptures teach).
The bottom line is, you may believe in someone else’s interpretation of Who Messiah is, and they may be right in their teachings, but that doesn’t mean that you have found Him for yourself. It is not someone else’s teachings that we are called to believe in, but we are called to search the Scriptures and study to show ourselves approved. You can be saved by believing in someone else’s teachings, if you sincerely believe and providing they are teaching right teachings. But once you believe, you need to search these matters out more carefully to be certain of what you believe and why. This is part of why Paul said we were to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12).’
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