The Appearance Of Unity

April 15, 2021

Many passages teach God desires unity among the believers. One such passage, John 17:20-23, goes so far as to tie our success in converting people, at least to some extent, to this unity. Notice Jesus teaches this connection in verse 21b as it reads, “that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Unfortunately, unity among believers has not been widely achieved. In the face of this division, and knowing the connection that Jesus made in John 17:21 between unity and our success at converting others to Christ, many Christians think hiding our differences is the next best thing to unity, that though we are divided, if we can somehow hide this from our neighbors, then we can still have the success in converting our neighbors that Jesus conditioned upon actual unity in John 17:21. The only problem with this point of view is that God desires actual unity, not the appearance of unity. Jesus never promised the appearance of unity would help us convert the world; only actual unity will help.

There are at least three categories regarding division and our religious differences. The first one is perfect unity. This is of course what God desires (I Corinthians 1:10), and is therefore possible to obtain. It is rarely achieved however. This is similar to the fact that God desires each Christian to live perfectly, without sin (I John 2:1). It is therefore possible to live without sin; it is just that no man, except Jesus, has ever achieved it (I John 1:8,10).

Lacking perfect unity, most denominations have taken another course of action. They have become content with and accepted their division/differences as okay. This is a violation of passages such as Eph 4:3 that teach us to strive for unity.

That brings us to the third category. Knowing there are differences, many Christians are taking the correct action; they are striving for unity. But of these, many think it is God’s will that we hide our differences in the mean-while from non-Christians. They evidently think John 17:20-23 teaches that, lacking true unity, covering up our differences will help us in trying to convert the lost. They usually justify their actions with old adages such as, “we shouldn’t air our dirty laundry before unbelievers,” or “we need to put our best foot forward.” But hiding our differences, covering up our disunity, is dishonest (Rev 21:8), and hypocritical (Matt 23:3). Jesus did not teach in John 17 that the appearance of unity will help in our teaching the world; only true unity will help that.

Lacking true unity, God does not desire us to hide our divisions. Acts 15 records a debate between Christians, trying to settle their differences/division, and God put it right smack in the middle of the New Testament for the whole world to see, including non-Christians. If we are not united, then it is better for non-Christians to see us striving for unity, rather than for them to find out later we were not honest with them, that we were hiding something from them. Our non-Christian prospects need to know what they are getting into, if and when they choose to obey the gospel. It is better for non-Christians to see us discussing our differences, trying to obtain unity, than for them to think we are just content with and accept our divisions as okay.

I am not saying we should flaunt our differences unnecessarily, but I am saying it is dishonest to cover up our differences. Jesus did not teach in John 17:20-23 that the appearance of unity would help us convert the world, he taught that only true unity would help in that regard. God desires actual unity, not the appearance of it.

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The Jews Are No Longer God’s Chosen People

April 8, 2021

A parable the point of which is to show the Jews would no longer be God’s chosen people is found in Matt 21:33-46. In the story a landowner plants a vineyard, lets it out to farmers, and moves far away (33). The landowner represents God and the farmers represent the Jews (45). When harvest time comes, the owner of the vineyard sends servants to collect his share of the fruit, but the farmers beat, kill, and stone these servants (35). These servants represent the prophets (Luke 11:47) God sent to the Jews through the centuries, and how the Jews mistreated such prophets (Luke 13:34). Lastly the landowner sends his son to collect, but the farmers kill him also. This son represents God’s son Jesus Christ of course.

Jesus asks his audience in verse 40 “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” His audience correctly answers “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen ….” Jesus reaffirms this conclusion by saying in verse 43 “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Precipitated by their longtime disobedience, with the final straw being the killing of the son of God (Matt 23:37-38), the kingdom of God would be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles.

This doesn’t mean Gentiles are children of God by physical birth (like the Jews used to be). Instead it means anybody can become a child of God (and heirs of the promise to Abraham) through faith by being baptized into Christ (Gal 3:26-29), and that most of those who end up doing so are Gentiles (Acts 28:28). Now “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom 2:28-29). Now one is of the “Israel of God,” not because of physical birth and circumcision, but by being a “new creature” (Gal 6:16). Exod 19:5-6 said about the Jews “ye shall be a peculiar … people … a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Of course this was always conditioned upon the Jews’ obedience (Exod 19:5). Their disobedience would lead to them being “plucked from off the land” (Deut 28:58,63). Now that the Jews have lost their status, I Pet 2:5,9 says the exact same thing about Christians “ye … are … a spiritual house, an holy priesthood … a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” Christians are God’s chosen people now; it doesn’t matter anymore if one is Jew or Gentile (Acts 10:34-35). Spiritual birth is now the entrance to the kingdom (John 3:3,5).

Accepting Jesus Christ As Your Personal Saviour?

April 1, 2021

Many churches teach that to be saved, all a person has to do is “accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior.” Assuming they mean the same as believing “with all thine heart” (Acts 8:37), accepting Christ as your personal savior is a good thing. The problem is “accepting Christ” is not all a person has to do to be saved.

To show this, we can substitute “accept Jesus Christ as personal savior” for “believeth” in Mark 16:16a. The passage would read “He that accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior and is baptized shall be saved.”

The truth is accepting Christ and obeying Christ are both required. Talking about Jesus, Hebrews 5:9b reads “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Matthew 7:21 proves the same as it says “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Acts 10:35 teaches “he that … worketh righteousness, is accepted with” God. James 2:24 says “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Revelation 20:11-15 reads “they were judged every man according to their works.” Obedience is required to become saved (Acts 2:38), and obedience is required to stay saved (Revelation 2:10b).

Galatians 5:6 teaches that what avails is “faith which worketh by love.” We must have all three attributes. Leaving off faith won’t work, even if we possess the other two attributes. Neither will leaving off working. And neither will leaving off love.

Does the church you attend agree with the Methodist Church in 1896, 1940, 1960, 1984, or 2015?

March 25, 2021

To open the outline to see their dated quotes, go to www.bibledebates.info, on the left side click Personal Work, scroll down and click Methodist Changes On Divorce.

Why Are There Apparent Contradictions In The Bible?

March 18, 2021

Sometimes we get troubled because just when we think we find what the Bible teaches on a particular topic, we run across a verse that seems at first glance to be teaching just the opposite. Three points …

Diligently Study The Context

I suggest to you these “apparent contradictions” are inevitable, because the Bible is large enough that subjects are considered from different angles. In cases like this, a study of the context of the statement usually resolves the apparent contradiction. For example, on the surface, Ephesians 2:8-9 would appear to teach just the opposite of James 2:24. But when you consider all passages on grace, faith, works, and obedience, and the contexts of Ephesians 2 and James 2, you see Ephesians 2 is discussing the BASIS for our salvation (how it is earned) while James 2 is discussing whether or not we have to meet CONDITIONS in order to receive the salvation provided for (earned) by the death of Christ.

Seeming Contradictions Help Us To Learn Detail

Sometimes these seeming contradictions help us to learn more detail about the subject in question. In the Ephesians 2 / James 2 example just cited, the “problem” forces us to investigate how the apparently conflicting statements do not contradict. Knowing that God wrote the Bible, and knowing that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), we therefore know the Bible can’t contradict itself, so we go into an in-depth study of the contexts and other passages to determine how the two passages don’t contradict. Another good example I’ve heard to illustrate this point is the apparent contradiction between Acts 9:7 and 22:9. Did the men with Saul hear the voice of Jesus or not? The answer is that they heard the voice in the sense of hearing the noise of the voice, but they did not hear the voice in the sense of understanding the words. We commonly use the word “hear” in both those senses today, and so does the Bible in this case. This is a trivial example (because it doesn’t involve any doctrine), but it does illustrate how an apparent contradiction can help us to learn detail. If we didn’t have both verses, we wouldn’t know the detail they the men actually heard the voice, but didn’t understand the words.

God Wants There To Be Some Effort Required

Passages like Mark 4:11-12 and Matthew 13:13-15 teach God makes learning the truth harder than “falling off log,” because he wants a person to love Him enough to show diligence in his study. II Thess 2:10-12 shows if a person does not love the truth enough, God will send him a delusion. Simply put, if a person wants to believe a lie, then God will facilitate that. John 7:17 teaches those who really want to know God’s will and are willing to do it once they learn it, are the only ones guaranteed to learn the truth. Half-hearted commitment to Christ (Rev 3:15-16) will never be enough to learn enough of the truth to be set free (from sin) by it (John 8:32). Spiritual laziness (in Bible study or otherwise) will not cut it with God (Acts 17:11).

Romans 7:14-25 Describes Our Struggle Against Sin

March 11, 2021

Gal 5:17, Mark 14:38, and Matt 26:41 teach the same thing as Rom 7:14-25 (“… For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do …”) and these three verses definitely state a truth about all Christians:

· Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

· Mark 14:38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

· Matt 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sure if we compare ourselves to Adolf Hitler, we barely sin at all. But if we compare ourselves to Christ, we sin all the time. The latter is what these four passages are talking about – sinning once a day (perhaps just accidently breaking the speed limit – I Pet 2:13) is sinning all the time compared to thirty-three years of absolute sinless perfection (Heb 4:15).

Some say Rom 7:14-25 refers to before Paul became a Christian, but Paul’s describes his difficulty in overcoming sin in the present tense no less than 19 times (by my count) in these 12 verses. Perhaps somebody can think of a reason present tense doesn’t mean presently in this case, but they certainly wouldn’t be able to say context was on their side if they did.

What Is The Main Point Of I Cor 7?

March 4, 2021

One of the main points of I Corinthians 7 is that God was recommending (not commanding) that people stay single at that time (a temporary period of time) because of the present distress (possibly some form of persecution that would be harder to overcome if one had a spouse). Notice these texts from the chapter …

The advice is to stay single:

1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

But it is not a sin to marry:

6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

Abide single or married, whatever state you are already in:

17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

It will be harder to face this persecution if one has a spouse to care for or protect:

29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;

31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

A father may give away his virgin daughter in marriage, but it is better during this present distress if he doesn’t:

36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.

37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

This same inspired advice applies to widows:

39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.

hear Bible Crossfire Sunday nights at 8:04 central on SiriusXM radio Family Talk 131 or at BibleCrossfire.com

Is Acts 8:18 Saying The Holy Ghost Was Given Through The Apostles Hands ONLY?

February 25, 2021

Acts 8:18 reads “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” Many say that means only the apostles had this power to lay hands on someone to impart miraculous gifts. But are we justified in adding the word “only” to this text to make it say the gifts were imparted via the apostles only?

First, most true Christians can see adding the word “only” to verses like Rom 5:1 (“justified by faith”) is incorrect because of verses like James 2:24 which teach we are not justified by faith only. Similarly, might Acts 8:18 be saying apostles could impart the miraculous gifts but not trying to say the apostles only?

This truth is more easily seen once you realize Acts 8:18 is not talking about the twelve apostles, but specifically two apostles, Peter and John (verse 14). Verse 18 says Simon “saw” something. What did he actually see? He didn’t see that the gifts were bestowed by the twelve apostles (they weren’t all there), but what he actually saw was that the gifts were bestowed by the apostles Peter and John. So if we add the word “only” to this verse, that would say the gifts could only be bestowed through the hands of Peter and John, as they are the only apostles verse 18 is referring to.

To illustrate, suppose all the living Presidents were gathered for an important fundraiser, and I said “The Presidents enjoyed their meal.”  Would I mean all 46 presidents enjoyed a meal, or just the Presidents that were there? Acts 8:18 does not say “twelve” apostles; it is referring to the two apostles Simon “saw” laying on hands.  It would be correct to refer to Peter and John as “apostles” would it not?

And if we consider other texts, can we not see passages where someone other than an apostle was able to impart spiritual gifts? Examples:

· Doesn’t Acts 9:17 teach Ananias was sent Saul so that Saul could be “filled with the Holy Ghost”? How could that be true unless Ananias could somehow/someway bestow the Holy Ghost upon Saul?

· Doesn’t I Tim 4:14 teach Timothy received a miraculous gift through the “laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (the eldership), not necessarily through the laying on of the hands of the apostles?

Perhaps there are other ways of explaining these two passages that I have overlooked, but what harm does it do just to take them at their face value?

What we need to realize is I Cor 13:8-13 and Zech 13:1-4 tell us the duration of the miraculous gifts; they would cease when the New Testament revelation was completed. The Bible does not say they would cease when the last person whom the apostles laid hands on died. (that argument already ignores the fact that some received the Holy Spirit directly, such as the apostles, Cornelius’ household, and perhaps others) The chances that last person died would be at the same time as when the New Testament law was completed might be one in a zillion (hyperbole). God did not intend to leave the timing of the cessation of the miraculous gifts to chance. Those gifts had a specific purpose – to reveal and confirm New Testament law (Heb 3:3-4), and so the gifts would be needed up until and ending when that was completed (I Cor 13:8-10).

Is Rom 1:24,26-27 Only Condemning Homosexuality Because It Was Associated With Idolatry?

February 18, 2021

When publically debating homosexuality with the Gay Church, my favorite passage to condemn the practice is Romans 1:24,26-27. But because idolatry is condemned in the same context, the Gay Church’s reply is usually that Romans 1 is only condemning homosexuality because it was associated with idolatry. How do I respond to their assertion?

First, if this argument has any merit at all, then the other sins mentioned in the same context (fornication, murder, deceit, haters of God, etc., verses 29-31) would also only be wrong when they are associated with idolatry. I doubt even the gays are willing to go that far.

Second, the language of the passage condemns the act of homosexuality by itself:

· vile affections – driven by their personal affection, not for the idol

· change the natural use – sex act itself is unnatural

· burned in their lust – doing it to satisfy their own lusts, not for the idol necessarily

John Boswell (a homosexual and famous scholar) makes the same point about why this Gay Church argument is inadequate: “… it is clear that the sexual behaviour itself is objectionable to Paul, not merely its associations. … Paul is not describing cold-blooded, dispassionate acts performed in the interest of ritual or ceremony: he states very clearly that the parties involved “burned in their lust one toward another.” It is unreasonable to infer from the passage that there was any motive for the behavior other than sexual desire.” (Christianity, Social Intolerance & Homosexuality, p.108)

Richard F. Lovelace makes a good point – “The disorders in verses 24-32 are not wrong because they issue from idolatry, they are wrong in and of themselves, and Paul mentions them because they prove the spiritual bankruptcy of idolatrous cultures.”

Conclusion: To any extent homosexuality is connected with idolatry, it simply compounds the sin. Homosex is a sin in and of itself, in every case, in any shape, form, or fashion!

Gen 20:1-7 And Sins Committed In Ignorance

February 11, 2021

Take a moment to read Genesis 20:1-7. Notice the following three facts about the story …

If Abimelech had committed the sin (taken Sarah as wife), it would have been a sin of ignorance – verses 2,5-6.

If Abimelech had committed this sin of ignorance, he would have been a dead man – verses 3-4.

Because Abimelech was sincere, God withheld him from committing this sin of ignorance – verse 6.