Watchman, What Of The Night?

•06/26/2015 • Leave a Comment

Isaiah 21:1-11,

1. The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.

2. A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.

3. Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.

4. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.

5. Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.

6. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

7. And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:

8. And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:

9. And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.

10. O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.

11. The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

John 9:4-5,

4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

A few years ago, while talking about the Church and the coming great tribulation, a brother in the Lord asked, “At what point do we go from ‘revival’ to ‘survival'”?

At the time, it was a very though-provoking, if not completely rhetorical question. The topic at hand was the so-called “End-Time Revival” that Apostolic preachers everywhere have been hyping for years, even decades, a revival, I’m sure we all can admit, which has never come. And at the time, there wasn’t any real way to give an answer.

But I believe the Lord has recently spoken to me, a watchman on the walls. And while I do not say that I have THE answer, I believe I have AN answer.

Current events have, I believe, revealed the devil’s hand. For nearly a century, the field of psychology has been attempting to unlock the secrets of the human soul.[1] However, this 100 year old quest has been tainted from the beginning, as it has not sought out the counsel of the Heavenly Father, but rather, has all too often relied upon the insights of the father of lies, or the devil.

Satan has much intimate knowledge of the human condition, having been, after God, the number one influence upon it since the Fall.[2] Throughout human civilization, we have been obsessed with what comes down to just a handful of soul-searching, inspiring questions. Examples include:

  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • How did we get here?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Do we have a purpose?
  • Is there a God/god?

Such fundamental questions, and indeed the asking of them, are not inherently evil. They are important questions that have for eons propelled the human narrative forward to this very present day. While we may never know the answer, there is a reason Paleolithic humans painted stars and constellations of stars on cave walls. There is a reason ancient man told stories and created myths on the origin and purpose of our species. Why did the Egyptians build the pyramids at Giza? What propelled the Phoenicians across the seas? Who decided to carve small, apparently fertility related cult fetishes and deposit them all over Europe, and why?

And while paleontologists, anthropologists, and archaeologists dig through the piles of eroded rubble for answers, many modern psychologists and the philosophers who predate them have attempted to offer an answer of their own.

Nearly 2,400 years ago, Plato wrote “Knowledge is nothing but perception”.[3] Much more recently, and perhaps more famously, humanist and philosophical mystic Aldous Huxley wrote, “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception”.[4]

Even more recently, American Jewish spiritualist and metaphysicist Marianne Williamson said, “Old Newtonian physics claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of them. Quantum physics, and particularly Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, reveal that, as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes”.[5]

What’s the bottom-line? Simply this, the axiom of the modern day and world is “Perception is Reality”. What this means is that, however one perceives a thing, that perception, and not the innate defining qualities of the thing, are the reality in, of, and about that thing, without limitation.

For example, if I were to perceive the colors of the petals of a rose as turquoise regardless of its actual redness, to me, the reality of the colors of the petals of the rose is turquoise. It matters not. My perception is my reality. I have the right to perceive as I wish, meaning I can and will create my reality—as I perceive it—anyway I want. And, if what Marianne Williamson says is true, over time, I can bend reality to suit my desires and cause a complete redefinition of what it means for the petals of a rose to be red instead of any other color.[6]

Does this sound silly? Is it ridiculous? Ludicrous? It should seem so, but it’s not. One very recent, popular example comes to mind. One very famous, once world renowned person has once again come to the attention of the nation and world simply because his self-identifying perception of reality has caused him to think of himself as something he isn’t, even to the point of undertaking drastic measures to change his physical appearance to suit his own perceived understanding of reality.

And while some perceptional variation between people in regards to reality is acceptable, even normal and healthy, when God’s created order and actions are called into question, undermined, rejected, and mutated[7] into something He never intended, then something is seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY wrong with the culture that accepts such actions. And let’s be honest, the actions of the person mentioned above have been celebrated and rejoiced over since first announced. Granted, some are merely indifferent, and many are merely tolerating them but few, if any, are actually denouncing them, that is, the actions of the person in question, as abominable.[8]

What is happening? What led up to this change in the culture, and what does it mean for the Church in the United States?

Isaiah 5:20-23,

20. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

22. Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

23. Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

The devil has been working overtime against the people of the United States in particular, and the West in general for a long time. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.[9] We have been quite prosperous as a nation since World War II. In fact, not an economy anywhere in the world comes even close to matching us.[10] And with such prosperity has come an easiness of life, what the Bible calls “a fullness of bread and abundance of idleness” (See Ezekiel 16:49).[11]

Granted, there is “no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Sin and wickedness have been in the world a long time, but let’s be honest. The United States of America has been the devil’s playground since at least the 1960’s. And he’s been quietly, under the cover of moral relativism, pushing his agenda on the American people for decades.

My friends, there can be no doubt, the tide has turned. The cultural collective consciousness of the United States of America has reached critical mass. Demonic entropy has reached its zenith. There is nothing left but continued degradation and then the final annihilation of all that is right and godly with our once beloved nation.

Now before you write this off as just another doom and gloom prediction, please continue reading, as I would like to share very specifically what I believe the Lord imparted to me. If, after reading, you judge it an unwarranted alarm, then to your own Master you rise or fall. Do as you please. But at least pray about it first!

Ephesians 6:10-13 (New Living Translation),

10. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

In a time of spiritual meditation, after the news broke world wide about this once and now again famous man who is no longer a man, God reminded me of the above passage of Scripture. What He showed to me is that the “evil authorities and rulers of the unseen world” have taken hold on the moral fabric of our nation, and torn it asunder. The culture is fully poisoned. We are in the death throes of the United States of America. The “evil spirits” in heavenly places, while not perhaps triumphing over the true Church of the Living God, have nonetheless won the war for the soul of this nation. It’s not about presidents and lawmakers, or governors and supreme court judges. They are but flesh and blood pawns, against whom we do not wrestle. They are not the enemy. The “mighty powers in this dark world” operating behind the scenes are the ones pulling all the strings. And they’ve succeeded in blinding the church, obscuring her vision, while at the same time, happily introducing her to one of the worst sins of all: complacency.

And because these evil spirits have gained control over the heavenly realm in these here United States, an invisible but all too real force is coming against the Church, such as we’ve not realized.

It’s simple, really. It’s not some deep revelation (and frankly, it seldom is). Since these rulers have gained control of the culture, and since the Church is neck deep into the culture, an unsettling reality is about the befall us.

What is an evil spirit? What is wickedness, when it comes down to it? An evil or wicked spirit is simply a spirit that refuses to be governed by the laws of God. And what God showed me is this:

As these ungovernable, wild spirits continue to reign over the heavenly realms and unseen world of the United States, they will instigate lawlessness in the Church. But not as one may first assume. The lawlessness will not be a temptation to give oneself over to outright sinful indecencies. That is too obvious. No, the lawlessness that’s about to hit the church is simply a lack of personal discipline.

Proverbs 25:28,

28. He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

When a saint can’t control himself because he lacks the fruit of temperance, it’s because he’s lacking in self-discipline. An undisciplined saint is, in effect, a lawless saint. He will not be governed by the laws of God, but rather, by the whims and fancies of his own reality. The undisciplined saint will eventually succumb to the law of “whatever is convenient”, or “whatever feels good”.[12]

You might think this is too simple, too easy. You might think that if the devil really wanted to destroy the Church, he’d do something more drastic, something more menacing, something much more hurtful than inciting a saint to become unable to “rule over his own spirit“.

But I would ask you to reread the Proverb. Once a city is broken down and without walls, it can be taken easily. The gates of hell will never win a face to face match against the Church. Christ has prophetically promised it.

So the operation has to be on the sly. It has to be at a slow pace. It’s got to be almost imperceptible, like a hidden piece of cartilage that’s taken over ten years to slowly rip and tear in your knee before one day, when you needed it most, it gave way and you hit the floor in agony.

It’s coming, Church. The imps and familiar spirits of the demonic realm have done a good job keeping us distracted and bored while the kosmokratorasi.e. the “mighty powers” do the real damage against the world, against this country, and against us, the Church.

How long until it’s survival instead of revival time? Like I said, I don’t have THE answer, but I do have AN answer.

The moral tide in this country has turned. Good is now accepted only as evil. Evil is now only accepted as good, collectively speaking. No one can do wrong. The cultural perception of reality has changed.

When Satan comes against truth, he’s not merely attacking Jesus as “the truth“, or against the Bible as the “Word of Truth“, rather his attack is an attempt to completely undermine the fabric of reality. When God speaks of truth, it’s not merely doctrinal truth, or moral truth, or scientific truth, or any such thing. When God speaks of truth, He is speaking of the WAY THINGS ACTUALLY ARE, i.e. reality, from His point of view.

This reality of God’s has a distinct order and administration to it. There are rules, laws, which govern all aspects of what God has created. Satan is working against this divine order and rule of law to thrust the universe into complete chaos, the exact opposite of cosmos. In Hebrew, the phrase is tohu va bohu, famously translated “formless and void” in Genesis 1:2.

To get to that point, (and thank God, it’s not going to, as the Holy One of Israel will eventually vanquish Satan and his evil works before it happens), the devil has to try to chip away at all aspects of God’s created, or, in the case of this blog, God’s recreated order, as in the laws that govern the Church, i.e. the New Creation in Christ.

So don’t expect some big right cross from the devil. He’s not going to throw one. He can’t ever successfully attack the Church head on. But what he can do he will do. And since he has successfully overthrown the moral compass in this country, it’s only a matter of time until the Church in the United States falls.[13]

The criminalization of American Christianity has begun.

The Spirit of Antichrist is ascending.

Expect no quarter.

Prepare yourself.

________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Understand that literally, psychology is the study of the human soul, from the Greek word psuche, meaning “soul”.

[2] Ask yourself, how did the serpent know exactly what to say to Eve in order to deceive her and coax her into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? It was a perfectly constructed, perfectly timed question. Beware the source of the questions you entertain!

[3] From The Theaetetus, circa 369 B.C.E.

[4] From The Doors of Perception, published in 1954. The very famous 70’s era rock band The Doors took their name from this book. Huxley wrote the text after intentionally experiencing a psychedelic “trip” induced by ingesting a drug called mescaline, the principal agent of the San Pedro Cactus, otherwise commonly known as peyote.

[5] From A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, published in 1992. A Course in Miracles was a tome written by a woman named Helen Schucman, first published in 1976. At the publisher’s website, any curious investigator can read that Helen Schucman believed an “inner voice” she claimed was Jesus was dictating the text to her and that she was merely the “scribe” who wrote the words down, pen to paper. See http://www.acim.org/Scribing/about_scribes.html for proof.

[6] I highly suggest reading the following blog: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/psychology-marketers-revealing-principles-human-behavior. Apply these marketing tactics to understand how the devil operates on the human psyche to sell sin to the average person. Note especially item #3, or Social Proof. Imagine I was an important enough person and my words carried enough weight to convince others that roses are turquoise. How long before a large scale, mass redefinition of what it means to be a rose happens?

[7] And in this case, surgically altered.

[8] While it may be noted that some preachers and Facebook folks have raised a cry against what this man has done to himself, no one in the public sphere, whose voice carries any moral weight, has said a word.

[9] 1 Timothy 6:10, English Standard Version.

[10] See Economic Overview, United States of America, CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

[11] This phrase is a Hebrew idiom referring to “secure carelessness of ease” (See James, Fausset, and Brown A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible).

[12] Imagine the oppressive forces evil at work just to keep you undisciplined enough to stop praying. This is what’s coming, on a massive, unprecedented scale.

[13] Note I didn’t say “fails”. There will be a true Church of the Living God here in America, no matter what. But it will be persecuted and nearly decimated before Christ comes for her.

The Truth About Heresy

•06/22/2015 • Leave a Comment

Introduction:

When I was in college, I made a friend named Peter. I began to share the Gospel with him and taught him the doctrines of the New Birth. He was very interested. There was just one problem:

Peter had a friend named Tim, and Tim was teaching Peter differently than I was, regarding salvation.

I didn’t want there to be a tug of war over a human soul; Peter would have to decide for himself whose teaching was accurate, and whose was spurious. But before that happened, Tim wanted to meet with me and talk. So we did.

It was cordial enough at first. But as time continued on, and it became apparent that we weren’t going to agree, Tim became more and more hostile. It seemed like he didn’t like the idea of me sticking to my guns. I had brought my Bible only. He brought Wayne Grudem’s gigantic tome Systematic Theology.[1]

Every time I quoted a Scripture and explained it, instead of turning to the Word and giving his own understanding, he would flip through Grudem’s book and read from it in an effort to, quid pro quo, disagree with me.

When I challenged him on his dependence upon the commentary instead of turning to the Bible, Tim became defensive (and offensive, too).

It was at that point he brought out the label heretic. His exact words are “You’re a heretic!”

I took it calmly. I looked him in the eye and said, “Well, if you really believe that, that I’m a heretic, then, as Paul wrote in Titus, since you’ve admonished me more than once, and since I’m not changing what I believe, why don’t we just end the conversation and call it a day? No anger, no bad feelings?”

This really got him mad. He continued his attack. I ended the conversation by saying that we could take our respective beliefs to the Judgment Seat and see how it turns out for us then. He went from upset to livid. I just walked away.

(By the way, this anecdote is being told from an approximately ten year old memory. I may not have every exact word or nuance just right, but the gist of the above is complete and true.)

This story then, brings me to my first point about heresy.

Part One:

Titus 3:9-11,

9. …avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

10. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

11. Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Often times, when someone decides to throw the pejorative “heretic” at someone, they only do so after a debate has sprung up over a “foolish” question. A lot of headache and heartache in the Body of Messiah can be avoided, and brothers in Christ can learn to not so quickly turn on each other, if we’d all just not care so much about the foolish questions some people ask.

A man approached Jesus one day. He begged the Lord to arbitrate an inheritance his father had left him and his brother. Christ remained uninvolved, stating quite clearly that He had no desire to be a “judge” in such matters (Luke 12:13-15). Now, we might honestly say that a question of financial inheritance is not a foolish question. Many important decisions have to be made when an estate is left to a family.

But Jesus wouldn’t get involved. So why do we involve ourselves in questions and contentions that have no real value to the Body? Why do we all too often and willingly strain at at gnat while swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24)?[2]

Consider what we all agree on. Why aren’t these fundamental truths of the Word of God enough to hold brethren together? Why do secondary, tertiary, and even lower items on the rungs of the spiritual ladder constantly take precedence over the BIG picture? Why do we let them separate us? Are we bored and indifferent? Are we too focused on self and the problems we perceive that we can’t set aside differences long enough to lift our hands together and worship the King of kings?

Sadly, the answer seems to be “No”. Differences are rarely if ever set aside. Everyone wants to have some final say, like they’re the Lawgiver (James 4:12) who gets to decide truth for everyone else, while denouncing all sincere brethren who disagree as rebellious heretics and dissidents to their established order.

I have not so learned Christ (Ephesians 4:20-21)[3]. Have you?

After avoiding foolish questions and contentions, we are instructed to also avoid strivings about the law. What does this mean? Well, first, understand that “strivings” is the Greek word mache and it means a battle or controversy. Secondly, understand that “about the law” comes from the Greek word nomikos, or things that pertain to the legal aspects of Old Testament Torah.

Paul very clearly indicates we aren’t supposed to do battle with each other over any of the various commandments that govern our ceremonial or ritualistic aspects of worship (Note, I’m not talking moral commandments, such as “love thy neighbor as thyself“). Fights over things like Sabbath observance, head coverings, facial hair, days of worship, holiday/festival traditions, vows, and etc. have no place in the Body of Christ.[4]

And while there may be a correct understanding to be found, these strivings about the law are to also be avoided.

So let’s sum up what we’ve learned so far:

1.) Foolish questions and contentions are a waste of time and should never be used to divide the Body.

2.) Battling over various legal traditions as found in the Torah have no place in the Body of Christ.

3.) We don’t do a very good job of following 1 and 2 above, so we constantly debate and quarrel with each other, even to the breaking of the bonds of fellowship, while haphazardly and callously throwing the term “heretic” around like it’s our sovereign right to do so.[5]

Titus 3:10-11,

10. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

11. Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

What does the word “heretic” mean? Chiefly, it refers to someone who has a made a choice to believe (and possibly teach) something which differs from the Body at large.

Is this so wrong, automatically speaking? The answer is “No”. Sometimes we are supposed to stand apart and stand for truth, even if it means separation from the “Body at large”. After all, the Body at large is sometimes wrong. But Paul isn’t talking about someone who is making a choice to stand for truth for righteous reasons. The context proves it.

Rather, Paul is writing about someone who has made a choice to believe and possibly teach something that is not congruent with the Holy Scriptures. Further, by believing and possibly teaching such a thing (or things) a heretic will often end up causing division in the Body as he rallies people to his side to convince them his belief and teaching is true (More on this later in Part Two).

What Paul is NOT saying is that when a person in the Body holds to a different belief than the rest of his brothers, that he’s automatically a subverted heretic who “sinneth, being condemned of himself“.

What Paul IS saying is that when a person in the Body holds to a different erroneous belief than the rest of his brothers, and begins to teach it in order to divide the Body by forming a sect around himself, then he IS automatically a heretic who “sinneth, being condemned of himself“.

Now, note something VERY IMPORTANT. Paul wrote this verse to Titus, to a man he had sent to Crete in order to ordain bishops and elders in the various churches on the island (Titus 1:9) according to the qualifications inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, when Paul instructs Titus in 3:10 to reject a heretic, he is not writing to tell Titus to cast out of the church anyone who happens to be a true heretic, but rather, Paul is telling Titus to reject from the bishopric and eldership anyone who happens to be a heretic (or, possibly, to not let such a man be promoted to such positions in the first place).

What does this mean?

First it means that all these saints in our churches who have gotten the boot (i.e. ex-communicated) over accusations of heresy have been mistreated. That is not what Paul is instructing here. He is only indicating that if a man is found to truly be a heretic, he either has to be demoted from his oversight or role as an elder, or he must not be promoted to such a position until he repents of his schism-inducing, sect/party creating erroneous views and beliefs (i.e. he must be rejected).

Second, there must be at least two separate, formal warnings made to the heretic by an apostle or his representative. Titus was not a local pastor or bishop in charge of one church. He was the modern day equivalent of a district or regional superintendent. So the rejection must come from above, not from within the local assembly. Too often, at the local level, one man makes all such decisions to reject on these grounds. This is part of the nature of our broken system. Elders are to be appointed by apostles or their representatives, Scripturally speaking. Instead, we home-grow them and appoint them from within the ranks of the local assembly under the auspices of “the pastor”. Sorry, but this isn’t the Biblical model.

Third, in order to properly affirm that one in the midst is a heretic (i.e. a schism causing embracer of false doctrine), and so, in order to be able to admonish him properly at least two different times, a thorough/complete investigation of the accused man’s beliefs must be made, lest a true brother in the Lord be accused of something he isn’t. Just because it’s easy to call someone a heretic doesn’t make it so.

In the case of Tim and me, we spent nearly four hours going over what we both believed, in fine detail, and while I still think my understanding of the Gospel and New Birth is correct, at least Tim did a thorough investigation of what I believe before he (mistakenly) denounced me.

Is this how we operate in the Apostolic Church today? Not usually. Usually, someone “gets a word” or has a dream and denounces a man, a brother in Christ, without so much as a face to face conversation to determine if what the so-called “heretic” actually believes is Biblical or not.[6] No questions are asked, the church or at least the other elders aren’t consulted (until perhaps after the fact—and then they are merely dictated to, and expected to uphold the decision), and so, a man, a brother in Christ is accused and sent packing without Titus 3:10 ever entering the equation.[7]

Part Two:

2 Peter 2:1,

1. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

In trying to understand the truth about heresy, we must eventually come to this verse in 2 Peter 2. Even trying to understand heresy from Titus 3:9-11 isn’t enough. We need greater context. So with that, please allow me to exegete, from this passage, the truth about heresy.

The easiest way to make sense of this verse, and so, allow the reader to gain the quickest, deepest understanding, is to break the verse down into successive bullet points, as seen here:

  • Just as the nation of Israel suffered false prophets, the Body of Christ will have to suffer false teachers
  • These false teachers will spread their various heresies in secret, not openly, lest they get caught
  • The heresies in question are to be considered “damnable“, i.e. soul-destroying to the point of losing one’s salvation for eternity
  • The heresies in question will cause the false teachers and those who follow them to deny “the Lord that bought them
  • This means these false teachers were, at one point, true members of the Body of Christ
  • When this denial of the Lord who bought them takes place, they bring upon themselves “swift destruction

Now, with these bullet points highlighted, the exegesis can begin.

1.) False teachers: this speaks to the nature and content of the man’s character. He isn’t simply wrong on a matter of doctrinal importance, but otherwise sincere in his faith, he is blatantly a deceiver at heart, and he knows it.

Apollos wasn’t a false teacher, even though he was wrong about a few things (Acts 18:24-28). Elymas, however, was false in every way (See Acts 13:6-12). It is important to note this distinction.

If we are going to label a person a false teacher and a heretic, it can’t simply be because they are wrong about something in their understanding of the Bible (after all, who isn’t wrong about at least ONE thing, or even many things?). It is their attitude, their demeanor, the way they speak, act, and treat others, and the type of fruit they bear that must be weighed in order to determine whether or not one is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

2.) If a man is going to be labeled a heretic, then chances are he first must have tried to secretly divide the Body of Christ, even at the local level, by causing some to rally around him, privately so, in order to avoid the watchful eyes of the other church elders. This is a subversion tactic, and speaks to the duplicitous nature of the heretic. If any brother publicly teaches what he believes, shares it with other elders in council, doesn’t fracture the Body in any way, and is willing to answer any questions posed to him, while he may be wrong about some, most, or even all that he believes, he’s not a heretic or false teacher. Heretics/false teachers don’t do such things. They aren’t “above board”, if you understand my meaning.

3.) Only those privately held views which actually destroy the soul of the one holding them should be considered heresy. Making a choice and believing something different than the Body at large on non-fundamentals isn’t heresy, even if everyone else disagrees with the choice/belief. When a man chooses to go against the grain and believe something that has no bearing on his salvation, it is HIS RIGHT under the headship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1-3). If he is wrong about these not-salvation-based views, his own Master will be able to help him get back up and on the right track (Romans 14:4). It’s not our place to judge the man, say he’s backslidden, is a rebel, or that he’s a heretic. If his views aren’t damaging his soul, and he isn’t using his views as a stumbling-block against other believers, it doesn’t make a bit of difference, as he’s not only not harming himself, he’s also not harming anyone else.[8]

4.) A choice to believe something against the grain will not damn a soul if the choice to believe something against the grain never causes the person in question to deny “the Lord that bought” him.[9] If the belief in question doesn’t cause a person to reject Jesus Christ as their Lord, then we have to be willing to admit the possibility that such a belief doesn’t cause Jesus Christ to reject them as His servant (therefore, we shouldn’t either).

Consider how many people in the world today have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Trinitarians, Unitarians, Oneness, Catholics, Baptists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, and etc. have all received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and have spoken in tongues.

Acts 5:32,

32. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

Acts 11:15-18,

15. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

16. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

17. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

These two passages prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the following:

A.) Anyone who has legitimately received the baptism of the Holy Spirit has “obeyed him“, i.e. God. This means that, in some way, shape, or form, their level of obedience to Him was sufficient for Him to acknowledge their faith and grant them the gift of His Spirit.

B.) Anyone who has legitimately received the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been “granted repentance unto life“.

Now, here’s the kicker: Believers from all denominations, movements, and traditions have received the Holy Spirit, and spoken in tongues. This is a fact. But are all these people right or orthodox in everything they believe? Not a chance. Errors abound in every denomination, movement, and tradition. And yet, God didn’t require a complete doctrinal overhaul of every error before granting individual members of all these different denominations, movements, and traditions the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Trinitarians speak in tongues. Oneness believers speak in tongues. Catholics speak in tongues. It’s everywhere. So, if a person need not correct every belief before God grants them repentance sufficient to receive the Holy Spirit, how salvationally-based can some of these errors be?

The truth is this:

Romans 10:8-10,

8. … The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If a person believes Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and believes that God raised Him from the dead, they are an automatic candidate for the Gift of the Holy Sprit, no other questions asked. Salvation is within their reach, regardless of whatever error(s) might be present in their way of thinking or believing. If they obey the Lord and repent and believe, and trust God to fill them with His Holy Spirit, He will, no matter what else they do or don’t believe.

This is where the Spirit of Truth comes into play (See John 14:26 and 16:13). People need to first receive the Holy Spirit before they can be led into ALL TRUTH. After God has granted them repentance unto life and sealed them with the Holy Spirit, HE will faithfully help them sort out the rest of their mess, subsequent to filling them, as long as they faithfully seek Him and are teachable.

Therefore, it should be quite obvious by now that making a choice to believe something that doesn’t damn the soul isn’t a heresy, because as long as it doesn’t cause a person to deny “the Lord that bought” them, that person can be helped by God to stand, through the Spirit of Truth, lovingly correcting and guiding him back toward a better understanding of all of these non-salvation based matters.

5.) Since a person has to have been truly “bought” by the Lord, i.e. redeemed, in order to deny Him, anyone who hasn’t first been saved shouldn’t be considered a damnable heretic or false teacher. Rather, they need to be loved and won to the Lord through the Gospel. Remember Apollos!

6.) Swift destruction will  eventually come upon a true heretic. However long it takes, if the divisive views are damnable, it will eventually cause the heretic to disavow the Lord. Once that happens, to put in plainly, they’re toast.

But note a key point: If swift destruction isn’t occurring in the man’s life, then he obviously hasn’t denied the Lord who bought him, meaning his view or belief isn’t a “damnable heresy“, meaning he’s not a false teacher, even if what he believes is different than what most understand to be true.

Conclusion:

It is true to say that heresy exists. It is also true to say that those who embrace heresy are heretics.

But it is not true to say that all differing views and understandings of the Holy Scripture are automatically heresy or make one a heretic.

It is true to say that if any man, after a thorough investigation and a refusal to repent, having been twice admonished to abandon his false views, is found to be a heretic, he must be rejected, either demoted or not promoted, into a bishopric/eldership.

But it is not true to say that a man, if he’s found to be a heretic, is automatically ex-communication worthy. He just can’t share in the oversight of the Christian community.

It is true to say that false teachers exist. It is also true to say that false teachers, because of their wicked nature, try to divide the Body in secret, under cover of pretense and deceit. Further, it is additionally true to say that such a false teacher will have embraced a damnable heresy, and if he doesn’t repent, he’s going to eventually deny the Lord and lose his soul.

But it is not true to say that if a man in the Body holds to some differing doctrinal views regarding certain non-essentials that he’s automatically a heretic who has lost his soul.

The truth about heresy is that, sometimes, the so-called “heretics” in our midst are actually the ones who are right.

It’s the rest of us, because of tradition, lack of discernment, or a weak understanding of the Holy Scriptures, who are the real “heretics”. We’re the ones mistakenly leading others astray. We’re the ones dividing the Body, battling over foolish questions and strivings about the law. We’re the ones hurting God’s Family by not obeying the instructions of Paul to Titus. We’re the ones who might end up denying the Lord because we’ve been so busy damning everyone else we haven’t taken heed to our own souls.

In conclusion, my dear brothers and sisters, you owe the individual members of your family in Christ the benefit of the doubt. You owe it to them and to yourself, to know EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT before you randomly and/or carelessly dismiss a blood-bought saint of the Most High God as a heretic, simply for disagreeing with you.

I hope you have ears to hear…

Peace and God bless,

Aaron

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[1] http://www.amazon.com/Systematic-Theology-Introduction-Biblical-Doctrine/dp/0310286700

[2] Maybe it’s because we’re Pharisees?

[3] Notice how Ephesians 4 starts off about unity and the oneness that we in the Body are supposed to have with each other. As the chapter continues, Paul eventually gets into things that destroy unity (See vs. 17-19), until, in vs. 20-21, he writes: “But ye have not so learned Christ…If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus…” If we have heard Christ and have been taught by Him, we will not allow petty disagreements over non-fundamentals to end our fellowship. And yet we do, thus proving, we haven’t heard Christ as well as we think, and we haven’t been taught by Him as much as we claim.

[4] Consider the Jewish Talmud, which attempts to answer a bevy of theoretical questions about various legal situations that may or may never arise and how to try and handle them just in case they should come up. Note, too, how, in Jewish Yeshiva, these foolish questions get fought over, for and against, for hours on end, to no avail.

[5] Remember the opening anecdote. I could have lashed out at Tim and called him a heretic in return. And before long, we could have escalated the discussion into a contest of “I know you are but what am I?” or some other childish antic not fitting for believers. (The point being that saying something about someone else doesn’t make it so, no matter how weighty you think your words are. You call me a heretic and I call you one; we can trade blows and duke it out all day and at the end of the day, no one has proven anything. This isn’t to say that there’s no such thing as a heretic, because there is, but it’s something WAY different from what we tend to think, as will be shown later in the blog).

[6] Understand I’m not talking about general questions of the faith. I am talking pointedly direct, yes or no, do you believe this or not type questions, with an opportunity to explain each answer according to the Bible. Even the Sanhedrin gave Jesus a chance to defend Himself and answer His accusers (See John 18:19). To do less than this is to be less than the council that denounced Jesus and had Him crucified.

[7] I know of one situation where a man, a brother in Christ was expelled as a heretic without any formal investigation into his views and beliefs. He was never admonished, or given a chance to prove his innocence or the legitimacy of his views. He was simply asked to leave without so much as a chance for him or his wife and kids to say goodbye. The whole church turned on him and dis-fellowshipped him, and treated him as a backslider. Some members wouldn’t even look him in the eye and say hello at the local Wal-mart. We reap what we sow, friends.

[8] This is where grace comes in (we are to forbear one another in love, right?). Conformity is not unity. Unity requires diversity. Although God is One, He is multi-faceted, and there are various aspects to His personality. The Body needs to be diverse in order to reflect those layers in God.

[9] Understand that the Greek word for “deny” in 2 Peter 2:1 means to speak against, i.e. contradict, which then entails a disavowal of the Lord. It’s a process, you see. Contradict the Lord who redeemed you long enough, and it will become a disavowal of all that He is and is supposed to be in your life. When the Lord is contradicted, the person speaking against Him is not acknowledging His right to rule over them as their Lord and Son of God. Note then, that from here on out, when I speak of denying the Lord, I mean it within this context (i.e. of speaking against/contradicting leading into a disavowal of His Lordship over them and the Church).

The Loss of Joy

•05/23/2015 • 2 Comments

Having grown up in an abusive home, in which fighting, antagonism, hatred, strife, and sometimes violence were typical companions, I feel like I have a particular insight into what an abusive church looks like.

In a family environment, abuse is not always noticeable. Many times the family takes on a dual personality: acting one way in public so no one suspects them of having dysfunctional issues while acting at home in a different, perhaps even completely opposite way, where the gloves can come off and the members of the family, especially the authority figures (i.e. the parents) can be themselves, bad and unfortunate as that may be.

Abuse in a church is often not noticeable, either (unless one knows to look for it, or rather, for symptoms indicative of abuse). Members in a local church, for the most part, have come together in love, for God and Christ, each other, and the community at large, and so, it can be almost impossible, from such a vantage point, to see abuse when it’s happening. There’s no perspective.

And yet, many are the saints who can tell a story of how, over time, they just began to feel like something at their local assembly was “off”. They couldn’t put their finger on it, there wasn’t a very good way of describing it; they just felt like something wasn’t right.

They couldn’t point to a particular sin in the camp. Sometimes, they assumed something must be wrong with them. Others just chalked it up to a slump or some other kind of seasonal, spiritual depression, a funk, if you will, that they thought they’d bounce out of, when God decided it was time. And some just left, for parts known or unknown, never to find out the true cause of why they wanted to leave in the first place.

Very few of these people ever called it like it was, back when that nagging feeling first started nipping at the back of their minds. But something interesting occurred. They began to feel like they couldn’t talk about it with anyone from their local church. They became afraid that speaking up and attempting to name the nameless specter would get them in trouble.

So they sat on it, held it in, maybe only talking with their spouse, or a brother or sister far removed and/or in a different assembly.

And over time, something began sapping them of a most important fruit of the Spirit, that is to say, something began sapping them of their joy.

Rejoicing and celebrating with the brethren became more of a chore and a duty, rather than a natural response to God’s grace and mercy.

Others in the assembly, oblivious to what was really going on, if they noticed a change in them, began making unfounded assumptions: they were struggling, they were battling temptation, they were falling away, they had an offense, they were backslidden I heart, et cetera and et cetera.

I want you to know, dear brother or sister, that if you’ve ever experienced what I’ve written above, but have yet to realize what’s really going on, that what you’re going through is the first symptom of spiritual abuse.

Before love, before peace, even before goodness, which is kindness, before any other fruit of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord quickly disappears in those sensitive souls who truly love and appreciate God and His salvation, if and when, abuse is present (even if under wraps or unnoticeable) in the local church—when they, themselves are being abused.

It’s tricky. In a family, if a person is being beaten, molested, taunted, or terrorized physically or emotionally, they know right away, or at least by the time they’re old enough to know such treatment is wrong, that they are, or have been, abused.

And abuse is always about the same thing: personal inadequacy on the part of the abuser resulting in an unrighteous desire to control others and make them pay for how they themselves were abused.

Hurt people hurt people, right?

So, what does spiritual abuse look like? In an abusive church, it may not be (and pray it isn’t so) that anyone is being physically hurt or violated. It may be that no one is being tormented emotionally. And so, it may seem impossible to discern abuse.

But remember what abuse it: unrighteous control of others.

God grants us all authority. Some may have more than others. However much authority God gives to one person or another, the moment a person oversteps their bounds, abuse occurs. Firstly, it’s an abuse of their authority, what we might call an abuse of power.

When one’s power in the Gospel is being abused, it never fails: God’s people are the ones who suffer.

If I was authorized to a certain extent in Christ, to reprove or rebuke (for example) and instead of holding that power in reserve for only severe, absolutely necessary occasions, and instead, just began reproving and rebuking anyone and everyone for what I perceived to be even the smallest slight, then I would be abusing my power/authority in the Gospel.

If I was authorized to expect financial remuneration from the Body of Christ for my ministry (See 1 Corinthians 9), but instead of simply being content with “food and raiment” (1 Timothy 6:8), I began to badger and bemoan the Bride of Christ, expecting Her to take care of many, most, or all of my financial needs, even my unnecessary whims (all the way up to my necessary house payment, car payment, student loans, and/or any other major expense), then I have, AS PAUL REFUSED TO DO, abused my authority in the Gospel (See 1 Corinthians 9:12-19[1]).

What is it then, brethren? The issue is abuse in the church, albeit, abuse of the spiritual variety, which almost never looks like abuse in the regular world. While abuse in the church often, and sometimes, almost exclusively comes from those who have been given a level of authority by God (just as in the secular world with parents, for example), the manner in which that authority is abused is significantly different.

It is expected of an authorized person in Christ to reprove and rebuke (See 2 Timothy 4:1-2). So when a line gets crossed, it’s hard to know.

It is expected of an authorized person in Christ to expect financial support for their ministry (See 1 Timothy 5:17). So when a line gets crossed, it’s hard to know.

BUT GOD KNOWS. And those who know God will begin to feel what He feels: discontent, even sorrow (that is, lack and loss of joy) at and for the abuse. God is an emotional being; He feels things. God can become distressed and upset at how things in His church are going, even at the local level. It’s true. That distress and sorrow can be, and often is, experienced by those who share true communion with Him. He expresses and emotes His feelings to those willing to listen, feel, and understand, as much as any husband is willing to express and emote how he feels to his wife (See and consider Ephesians 5:22-33). One person I know calls it “pillow talk”.

Here’s what it comes down to:

If a husband is being mistreated, even abused at his job, what’s the first thing that happens?

He loses his joy for the job and wants to quit.

If a wife is being mistreated, even abused in her marriage, what’s the first thing that happens?

She loses her joy for her husband and wants to leave.

If children are being mistreated, even abused at home, what’s the first thing that happens?

They lose their joy for their family and want to run away.

When a student is being mistreated, even abused at school, what’s the first thing that happens?

They lose their joy for learning and want to stop attending.

If a saint is being mistreated, even abused at their church, what’s the first thing that happens?

They lose their __________ for __________ and want to __________.

Can you fill in the blanks? If you’re suffering abuse at your church, I bet you can.

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[1] I recommend reading from a translation other than the King James Version since some of the words in the King James don’t make as much sense to our modern understanding, e.g. power and reward. Try instead the English Standard Version or even the New Living Translation to get the fullest sense of the passage (and how it applies here).

Link to ESV:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+cor+9%3A12-19&version=ESV

Link to NLT:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+cor+9%3A12-19&version=NLT

Why Some People Fall

•05/16/2015 • Leave a Comment

There are any number of reasons why a Christian might stumble and fall. From intellectual doubts and uncertainties, to unfaithfulness in spiritual disciplines, to carnal lusts and/or other wanton desires, to yielding themselves unto unrighteousness in any form, any believer, should he or she not take heed and love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength, can grow weak and weary and in a moment, drop from the face of the church world.

While it may be that there are warning signs, even as God is likely trying to signal the believer and others that the person in question is heading for a cliff, sometimes the fall seemingly comes out of nowhere.

But there is one reason some people in the faith of Christ fall, one that is seldom if ever talked about, let alone taught and addressed. I want to give time to this one, specific reason. If interested, please read on.

1 Timothy 4:1-2,

1. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2. Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…

Most people I know make use of the King James Version of the Holy Bible as their Bible of choice for personal devotion to the Word of God, for sharing, for teaching and exhortation, and etc.

And not only people I know personally, but people all over the world make use of the KJV as their translation, sometimes to the exclusion of other versions.

With this being the case, as one reads here from 1 Timothy 4, it would be easy to see why some fall: they give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; eventually they turn to lying and hypocrisy. But there’s something wrong with this understanding, in a general way. What’s wrong, of course, is the translation, i.e. it’s misleading.

But before I explain how, please allow me to exegete this passage according to the KJV. If the translation was accurate, or if the general reader assumed it was accurate, they might come away with the following conclusion:

Because a believer, for whatever reason, has allowed his or her conscience to be “seared with a hot iron“, that is, burned beyond repair and so become scarred and unfeeling, they eventually depart from the Christian faith, even to the point of paying attention, not only to false teachers/doctrines, but also the evil spirits/demons who control the false teachers and gave birth to the false teachings. Once this occurs, the fallen believer now gives themselves over to habitual lying and, in an effort to cover his or her lies, becomes a hypocrite.

Interestingly enough, the conclusion given above is not entirely off. Much of it is correct. But to see where the mistake is made, please continue reading.

The Greek text of 1 Timothy 4:1-2 looks like this:

τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ῥητῶς λέγει ὅτι ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως προσέχοντες πνεύμασι πλάνοις καὶ διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων, ἐν ὑποκρίσει ψευδολόγων, κεκαυστηριασμένων τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν

Transliterated, it looks like this:

to de pneuma rhetos legei hoti en husterois kairois apostesontai tineses pisteos prosechontes pneumasin planois kai didaskaliais daimonion en hupokrisei pseudologon kekausteriasmenon ten idian suneidesin

Dr. Paul McReynolds, professor of Greek and New Testament at Pacific Christian College, Fullerton, California, and author of Word Study Greek English New Testament with Complete Concordance, on pages 756-757, very literally translates the above passage as follows:

The but spirit expressly says that in later seasons will stand off some of the trust holding to spirits deceivers and in teachings of demons, in hypocrisy false words having been seared by fire the own conscience…

My translation looks like this:

However, the Spirit patently indicates that in later days[1] some people of the faith will apostatize, adhering to deceptive individuals and demonic instructions through dissimulating, erroneous discourses, having been rendered senseless [in] their moral perceptions…[2]

Do you see the difference?

The King James translation makes it seem as though the people who fall away or depart (i.e. apostatize) from the Christian faith are the ones who give “heed” to the “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of devils“; verily, that they are the ones who end up speaking lies as hypocrites until their consciences are, quite literally, cauterized.[3]

But that isn’t so. The ones who end up falling away from the faith in this manner do so because other people, under false pretenses, deceive them with demonic teachings and inaccurate sermonizing.[4] These other people are the ones who have caused the scorching in the consciences’ of the apostates, i.e. they are the ones who have made the fallen brothers or sisters to no longer feel any sense of wrong doing in his or her behavior[5] (meaning he or she isn’t receptive to the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit) because…why???

Why would anyone allow themselves to come to such a place? Why would anyone dare do such things to a fellow believer in Christ Jesus?

The answers are innumerable. But it happens a lot. Many, many sincere and tender-hearted believers in Christ Jesus eventually fall, not by their own doings, but because they fell victim to predatory, so-called ministers of the Gospel.

Submission to authority is a Christian doctrine. It is Biblical. And many people, especially neophyte converts, under conviction from God, feel a natural tendency to submit to the pastoral presence in the church. It’s part of the impartation received when one is endued from on high by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it’s the very mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8), who submitted Himself to every ordinance and command of the Father, i.e. His Authority.

And so, when a young, sincere, tender-hearted believer in Christ comes to saving faith, they naturally incline to submit to and believe everything their leaders in the faith say to them, almost unquestionably. Loyalty is a beautiful sentiment.

But beware to whom you grant your loyalty. They just might be the stumblingblock, i.e. the occasion to fall, i.e. the cause of your apostasy (See, e.g. Romans 14:13 and 1 Corinthians 8:9 and surrounding verses for context).

This is why headship is so important (See 1 Corinthians 11:3). If Christ remains a man’s only head, and if that man’s wife (if married) always and only follows her “head” i.e. her husband in Christ, none will be worse for wear, even if a hypocritical deceiver passing himself off as an authority figure in the church comes sniffing around to mislead a brother or sister into doctrinal error and indifference to the reproving promptings of the Holy Spirit.[6]

So, in conclusion, why do some people fall? Simply because, at some point in time, a false brother or sister comes along and pushes them.

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[1]Later days” is a translation of the Greek phrase husterois kairois. It means an occasion, as of something appointed for a certain future, i.e. set time, to come about sometime after the writing. Obviously for Paul, that future set time would be after the end of the Apostles’ ministry, especially his own. In Acts 20:29-31 Paul warns the elders of the church in Ephesus that “grievous wolves” would enter in to destroy them once he was gone. Interestingly, 1 Timothy is written to Paul’s “son in the Gospel” as a letter of instruction on how Timothy can attend to and resolve various problems that had developed in Ephesus in Paul’s absence, chiefly among them, the rise of presumptive teachers who didn’t know what they were talking about (See 1 Timothy 1:3-7). No wonder then, why Paul wrote what he did here in 1 Timothy 4:1-2. The Holy Spirit made it plain to Paul what was going to happen in Ephesus (and by extension, to the rest of the church world of the future). And it really did happen in Ephesus (Revelation 2:4), just as much as it has happened in the rest of the church world of the future, even to this very day.

[2] It is important to note that the people who fall away in this manner have been rendered senseless in their moral perceptions (i.e. their ability to discern between good and evil) on account of the influence of the dissimulating, erroneous discourses of the deceptive individuals operating under the sway of an evil spirit. If a brother or sister were being guided by a righteous saint and given a true doctrinal understanding of the Holy Scriptures, he or she would not, at least in this way, fall away from the faith.

[3] From the Greek word kauteriazo, an obviously Anglicized cognate. It means to “brand”, from a root (kaio) meaning to “set on fire”.

[4] Note how in the Greek text, the word is pseudologon, a compound of pseudo, meaning fake, false, deceptive and lego, the root of the word logos, meaning to lay forth, speak, or relate a topic in a systematic manner, hence a speech or discourse, which in a church setting, would mean a sermon.

[5] It happens like this: a prophet or teacher speaks under false pretenses (either by being false in heart, being inwardly double-minded, or by being intentionally deceptive toward his or her listeners) and so, spiritually, causes uncertainty and doubt in the congregation (if received in good faith by the Body). He or she may say one thing in private, but publicly declare the opposite. He or she may speak boldly about a certain topic but not actually embrace the topic as a righteous aspect of personal conduct before the Lord (See, e.g. Romans 2:21-23). He or she basically says one thing, but does another, or, says two different things depending on the company (i.e. he or she is fair-weather). This relative morality in the prophet or teacher causes relative morality in the ones heeding his or her speech. The Spirit may be trying to bring a certain conviction into the heart of a believer, but that conviction is constantly wrestled with because the pseudologon and constant dissimulation of the prophet or teacher interferes with the work of the Holy Spirit. If the believer gives himself or herself over to the relative morality of the prophet or teacher long enough, their conscience, i.e. where the objective morality of what is right and what is wrong according to the Lord is created, gets burned to the point of insensitivity, just like a nerve that’s been damaged beyond repair. And once that believer becomes incapable of receiving conviction by the Holy Spirit, it isn’t long before he or she falls. Note, however, that the believer may continue to act as though he or she is a righteous saint living for the Lord, but God says otherwise, having at that point given him or her over to a strong delusion (See 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

[6] See John 16:7-11.

The Leadership Deception: Part II

•04/13/2015 • Leave a Comment

Some time ago, I wrote a blog called The Leadership Deception, which can be read here.

This blog entry is a continuation of the themes and ideas presented there, but will be more specific in scope.

For this entry, I would like to zero in on one particular verse, shared in the previous post, namely Matthew 23:10.

But instead of posting the King James Version of the verse, which can be read here, I want to share it from the New American Standard Bible, which reads as follows:

Matthew 23:10,

10. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

You will notice right away a contrast between the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible in that the King James Version reads “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ”.

Indeed, other major English translations read differently than the New American Standard Bible. For example:

  • The English Standard Version reads, “Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ
  • The New Revised Standard Version reads, “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah
  • The New International Version reads, “Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ”
  • The New King James Version reads, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ
  • The New American Bible reads, “Do not be called ‘Master‘; you have but one Master, the Messiah
  • The New Living Translation reads, “And don’t let anyone call you ‘Master‘, for there is only one master, the Messiah

It would seem that there is a general consensus among the major English versions that the verse should be translated as anything other than leaders and Leader, respectively.[1] And when considering how the seven other versions given above translate the words, it makes one wonder what the translation team behind the New American Standard Bible was thinking.

And yet, since its publication, the New American Standard Bible has been unanimously respected as one of, if not the most literal, word for word English Bible translations in the world. In fact, it is so literal, by following as much as possible the syntax and grammar of the source languages for each testament (and not just the individual, denotative meanings for every word of Scripture), that some complain its readability greatly suffers.

And I would agree with that complaint, having read through various portions over the years. And I admit, I was just as puzzled as anyone when I read its translation of Matthew 23:10.

But it’s easily understood when looking at the Greek text behind all of the translations so far examined. It looks like this:

μηδε κληθητε καθηγηται εις γαρ υμων εστιν ο καθηγητης ο χριστος

Transliterated into English alphabets, it looks like this:

mede kaethete kathegetai eis gar humon estin ho kathegetes ho Christos

The pertinent words have been bolded. As you can see, they are merely different forms of the same root word, kathegetes. With this in mind, let’s break the word down and see if we can figure out why the New American Standard Bible translation team chose to translate Matthew 23:10 the way it did.

Kathegetes: (noun) a compound word, made up of two components, kata- and hegeomai. Kata- is a prefix and usually means down, under, or through, often indicating intensity (although it is translated many different ways in the New Testament, depending on context and grammatical structure). Hegeomai, as a verb, is the middle voice[2] of a strengthened form of the Greek word ago. Ago simply means to lead. Therefore, hegeomai also means to lead, but the idea behind the word is strengthened or more forceful than ago by itself. Basically, hegeomai means to command, as with official authority.

Therefore, we can construct an understanding of the compound word as such: a kathegetes is someone who not only leads, but leads with authority, issuing commands along the way. A kathegetes doesn’t merely show the way through exemplified leadership qualities, he or she actually (because of the intensity represented by kata-) orders the way others should go.

This is corroborated by several respected commentaries. See here[3]:

  • Vincent Word Studies reads, “Matthew 23:10, Masters (καθηγηταί), Lit., leaders”
  • Albert Barnes Notes on the New Testament reads, “Neither be ye called masters – That is, leaders, guides, for this is the literal meaning of the word. It refers to those who go before others; who claim, therefore, the right to direct and control others. This was also a title conferred on Jewish teachers…Neither of these commands forbids us to give proper titles of civil office[4] to men, or to render them the honor belonging to their station…They prohibit the disciples of Jesus from seeking or receiving mere empty titles, producing distinctions among themselves, implying authority to control the opinions and conduct of others, and claiming that others should acknowledge them to be superior to them.”
  • Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible reads, “Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters – Καθηγηται, leaders. God is in all these respects jealous of his honor. To him alone it belongs to guide and lead his Church, as well as to govern and defend it… [these] are the three titles which… our blessed Lord condemns…”
  • John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible reads, “Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters, Or guides and leaders…”

So now, instead of wondering why the team behind the New American Standard Bible translated Matthew 23:10 the way it did, we ought to be asking ourselves why any of the other teams behind their respective translations didn’t translate Matthew 23:10 the way the New American Standard Bible people did!

Furthermore, there are other Greek words that means instructor/teacher and master, respectively, namely didaskalos, (from the verb didasko, to teach) and kurios, commonly translated as “lord” in the King James Version and others, neither of which are present in Matthew 23:10, so all of the versions above appear to have chosen incorrect words for their respective translations.

Now, if we can admit that the New American Standard Version is correct in its translation of Matthew 23:10 and that the others are incorrect, we need to ask a simple question:

Why?

Mind you, we aren’t asking why the one version is correct and the others incorrect as it pertains to lexicographical meaning, but rather, why did the one version translate the verse properly versus the others which did not, as in, what was the motive?

To answer, I guess we have to decide how optimistic versus pessimistic we want to be. Optimism says it was an honest mistake made by honest translators, who, for whatever reason, were convinced the Greek word kathegetes ought to be translated as master, instructor, or teacher i.e. as someone who leads a classroom or takes the lead in the giving of instruction).

Pessimism says the translators knew what they were doing, knew they were not being honest or accurate, and because of any number of reasons, from personal bias to pressure from outside sources, gave into their flesh and purposefully misled their respective audiences.[5]

Whatever the reasons for the sundry translations, a startlingly fact remains: we are not, under orders from Jesus Himself, to call ourselves or allow ourselves to be called “leaders”.

And yet, as I wrote in Part One, being a leader and the idea of leadership in general is all we ever seem to hear about. It’s the number one marketed gimmick in the American church today.

I challenge you to go to any average assembly on any given day when a service is being held, and ask the average parishioner who the “leader” is or who the “leaders” are, and they will inevitably point you to the pastor and his leadership team, IN DIRECT DEFIANCE OF THE WORDS OF THE LORD JESUS as given to us by Matthew in 23:10.

But I hear someone argue and say, “But the apostles most certainly were leaders and issued commands on a regular basis”. To which I reply, the apostles most certainly were slaves and transmitted the orders of Messiah as they were given to them by Him through the Holy Spirit (See Acts 1:2). And even then, the various Greek words behind “command” and/or “commanded” (and etc.) as given in the New Testament in regards to the Apostles, more readily mean to urge, admonish, bid, exhort, or instruct than they mean to order about, issue commands, or control through speech, i.e. boss around and/or demand compliance/submission.[6]

In fact, the only times in the Greek that stronger or more forceful words are used (e.g. entellomai [to enjoin upon, i.e. to impress upon another a duty, that is, to command] and/or keleuo [to incite to action by speech]) they are ever only used, in a good sense, of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels regarding the commands He gave to His disciples.

In the bad sense, these words are used by the Pharisees and Sadducees in their early relations with the Apostles in the Book of Acts (See, for example, Acts 4:15 and Acts 5:34).

Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t yield ourselves to the urgings, admonishments, biddings, exhortations, and instructions of the Apostles of the 1st century or of others in our own century.

But it does mean that no one, apart from the Head Himself, has any authority whatsoever to command and/or order anyone in the church around to do anything. Why? Because there is only One Leader in the Church of the Living God, that is, Jesus Christ, and He hasn’t delegated that authority to anyone, ever.

So, I say: Thank you New American Standard Bible translation committee for being true to the Greek text and the real words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.[7]

Oh, how His words save us from our leadership deception!

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So what does all this mean, in real terms, in today’s church world?

The first thing it means is that the ramifications are far and wide-reaching. Almost every aspect of our church culture has to change. Why? Because right now, almost every assembly across the USA, and even the world, revolves around a leader or group of leaders who aren’t supposed to be what they claim they are. To be true to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ as contained in Matthew 23:10 means that an entire group of Christians, who often think of themselves as the collective “clergy”, all need to repent and change their way of thinking and how they perceive their status and role in the Body of Christ.

Second, another group of Christians, who are often thought of as the “laity” need to also repent and change their way of thinking and how they perceive their status and role in the Body of Christ.

Repentance for the first because of presumption, pride, and arrogance (and in many cases, ignorance—which is not an excuse!). Repentance for the second because of apathy, idolatry, and indifference (and in many cases, ignorance—which is not an excuse!).

It’s not enough that so-called, self-named leaders repent and allow Christ to finally be the Only Leader of the Church. The rest of the Body must likewise humble itself for abandoning its responsibility to God.

God has called each and every member of the Church to the New Testament Priesthood. Instead, thousands and even millions have called themselves to the pews while someone else does all the ministering in the Body.

Yes, there are translation issues which have, unfortunately, caused many people to not realize the true teachings of Christ. Shame on the translators who have misled a believing multitude of English speaking Christians.

But one verse of Scripture has been accurately translated in English by all of the major translations, namely 1 Corinthians 11:3.

King James Version:

3. But I would have you know, that the head[8] of every man is Christ…

New Revised Standard Version:

3. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man…

New International Version:

3. Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ…

New King James Version:

3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ…

English Standard Version:

3. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ…

New American Bible:

3. But I want you to know Christ is the head of every man…

New Living Translation:

3. But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ…

And finally, the New American Standard Bible:

3. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man…

Do you understand it yet, all you “leaders” and “followers”[9] of the Christian world? Do you finally see what Paul was so desperate for the Corinthians believers to realize?[10]

Your only leader is Christ Jesus. None else. You follow Him and Him alone. Anyone else who gets in your way is not from God, but is…well, just wait for Part Three.

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[1] Of all the English Bible translations I have checked, the only other major one that uses the words “leaders” and “Leader” is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the version commonly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are however, lesser known and lesser read versions that use the same language. Examples include: The Centenary Translation of the New Testament, God’s Word, Moffatt’s New Testament, and the Weymouth New Testament.

[2] Middle voice simply means that the person or thing both performs and is affected by the actions represented by the verb in question.

[3] Ellipses or words in brackets are my doing and are not part of the original text.

[4] Here Barnes lists three verses of Scripture which I have omitted from the quote. They are Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:7 and 1 Peter 2:17. Please note, as Barnes did, that these are civil, i.e. NOT sacred titles, given to people who hold positions in the secular world, e.g. Caesar, King, President, Governor, and etc.

[5] Please see Translator Bias and Eisogesis, which can be read here, for more information.

[6] Examples include diatasso, to set in order or appoint, and so, by implication, to give direction. This is in regards to official church policy, as in the taking up of an offering (See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1). Also, paraggello, to pass on an announcement, that is to say, to charge someone at someone else’s command (i.e. the Lord’s a la 1 Corinthians 7:10). Finally, protasso, used famously in Acts 10:48 of Simon Peter and Cornelius’ household, meaning to arrange toward, i.e. to set up in the near future. Basically, Peter, in seeing their need to be immersed in the name of the Lord, spoke and shared with them their need and so, with their cooperation, arranged for them to be baptized. He wasn’t ordering them as demanding they obey him or else.

[7] As it reads in the Foreword of the New American Standard Bible, under the Fourfold Aim of the Lockman Foundation (i.e. the publishers): 1. These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. 2. They shall be grammatically correct. 3. They shall be understandable. 4. They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him…

[8] Note the word “head”, which, in Greek, is kephale. Of course it means the physical member of the human or even animal body. But as a metaphor, means the following: anything supreme, chief, [or] prominent (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). As Adam Clarke stated in his commentary, “The apostle is speaking particularly of Christianity and its ordinances: Christ is the Head or Author of this religion; and is the creator, preserver, and Lord of every man”.

[9] And before you throw 1 Corinthians 11:1, et al, at me, please note the Greek word behind “followers” as given in the King James Version, is mimetes, and it means to imitate, as in do the same as according to practice, not (metaphorically or otherwise) walk behind someone else barking out orders, constantly telling you what you can and cannot do, how you can and cannot live, and act, and etc., in your service to Christ in His Body.

[10] And not only the Corinthians, but also the Ephesians (See Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, and 5:23) and the Colossians (See Colossians 1:18 and 2:10). Paul’s teaching on the matter is conclusive, and thus universal. The entire church, for all time, and not just these three 1st century assemblies, are to embrace this understanding of Christ as Head as true doctrine.

 
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Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

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Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings

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