Jesus vs. Yeshua: A Phonetic Analysis

•04/13/2016 • Leave a Comment

More and more these days, people within many of the various branches of Christianity are feeling drawn (perhaps “led” is a better word???) to the early Jewish roots of their faith. One of the ways this is taking shape is in the way believers have begun saying the name of the Lord. For many millions, the name Jesus, has so far and will continue to, suffice them in all aspects of their walk with God. Others, however, are seeing a need to divest themselves of the current English transliteration and Anglicization and pronunciation in favor of the Aramaic/Hebrew name Yeshua.

For some, this has caused quite a stir, and if one was so inclined, they could search the internet to see just how divisive the debate has become. Personally, I am not looking to add to the debate by arguing with anyone; rather my contribution is merely one of data. I want people to be informed, so they can decide for themselves which approach to the Savior, or rather, the name of the Savior, to take. As the title suggests, the data I intend to provide below is in regards to phonetics, or the study of the sounds of language.[1] So, without further ado, I give you a phonetic analysis of the name of Jesus versus the name Yeshua…

Phonetically, we pronounce the name Jesus like so:

[GEE-zuss] or, more formally, [dʒiːzəs][2], [3]

Yeshua is pronounced like so:

[ye-SHOO-ah], or more formally, [yēšūă‘] [4]

Every phoneme[5] in each name is completely different from the corresponding one. See the list:

The Letter “J” Versus The Letter “Y”

J = voiced post-alveolar affricate /dʒ/ (i.e. a hard “g” sound, as in jeans)[6]
Y = palatal approximate /j/ (as in yes)

The Letter “E” Versus The Letter “E”

E = close front unrounded vowel /iː/ (as in geese)
E = close-mid front unrounded vowel /e/ (as in trestle)

The Letter “S” Versus The Letters “SH”

S = voiced alveolar fricative /z/ (as in zip)
SH = voiceless post alveolar sibilant /ʃ/ (as in shun)

The Letter “U” Versus The Letter “U”

U = mid central vowel /ə/ (known as “schwa” in English, as in salami)
U = close back rounded vowel /u/ (as in “loose”)

The Letter “S” Versus The Letter “A”

S = voiceless alveolar fricative /s/ (as in confess)
A = open mid-back unrounded vowel /ʌ/ (as in rut)

To simply:

/dʒ/ versus /j/, or “J” versus “Y”

/iː/ versus /e/, or “E” versus “E”

[z] versus /ʃ/, or “S” versus “SH”

/ə/ versus /u/, or “U” versus “U”

/s/ versus /ʌ/, or “S” versus “A”

Phonetically, or in the individual sounds of each name, it is quite clear that Jesus and Yeshua ARE NOT THE SAME NAME AT ALL.

They don’t even bear a passing resemblance, phonetically speaking (not to mention syllabically). Just say them out loud one after the other after the other for awhile. If we took someone else’s name and evolved or changed it as much phonetically speaking, if we tried to address them with the evolved or changed version, they wouldn’t know we were addressing them and would correct us and tell us that the evolved or changed version isn’t their name.

And yet the Son of God seems to respond to either pronunciation, whether in prayer, in the working of miracles, or in baptism, and/or etc.

What then does this suggest?

To me, it suggests the following:

1.) The name of our Lord isn’t a magic charm or incantation dependent upon an exact pronunciation (although we can all agree, I think, that his name isn’t Ted, or Brian, or Henry, or some other non-resembling variation of whatever name).

2.) The name of our Lord is the appellation for an actual, living person who is capable of knowing whether or not we mean or intend to refer to Him whether we say His name just right or not (so long as we aren’t trying to completely rename Him, as in the parenthetical example above).

3.) That Hebrew is not a sacred or divine language; God responds to every tongue. This means no one becomes automatically more spiritual or more invested with divine power from on High because they call the Lord Yeshua instead of Jesus.

4.) That the Sacred Name[7] crowd is picking a fight with everyone else that God didn’t ask them to pick

5.) That it comes down to personal preference

6.) That being the case, no one should judge another for their personal preference

7.) That the Lord would have us unify around Him, as a person, and not dis-unify against Him as if He is merely a name

In conclusion, I hope this analysis has added to the knowledge base of anyone who takes the time to read it. Additionally, I hope that as believers in the Son of the Father, we can all agree that regardless of how we say His name, it is Him, as a Person, and not merely His name, that we trust, honor, love, and obey.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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[1] The data I am providing in this blog is being given a technical presentation, according to the standard practices of linguists who study phonetics. In order to not go past the reader who might not be familiar with such a technical presentation, I will be adding various explanatory footnotes as seem required.

[2] When words of any language are written phonetically, as opposed to orthographically (that is, according to how they are actually spelled), they are traditionally placed in brackets, as the reader will see throughout.

[3] When it comes to writing a word phonetically, it should be noted that occasionally, unfamiliar symbols instead of letters are used by linguists, to indicate the sounds typically produced by whichever letter in question, as seen here, with the following: ʒ

[4] In phonetics, when a word is written according to its sound, as opposed to its spelling, often times various diacritical marks are placed into the word, as guides to pronunciation. For example, a short, horizontal line above a vowel indicates the vowel should be pronounced according to its “short” form. For this analysis, it’s not overly important for the reader to be able to make sense of such marks, as they are used sparingly and in this case, don’t have any bearing on the final conclusions.

[5] A phoneme is the total available units of sound any one letter can make; that is, a phoneme is the sum of every available allophone (allophones are all of the smallest possible units of sound any particular letter can make. For example, the letter “s” can sometimes sound like the letter “z” instead of “s”. These two different sounds of the letter “s” are examples of allophones). Additionally, the phonemes of a word are all of the various distinguishable sounds pronounced in the given word so as to separate one word from another. When written phonetically, phonemes are written like so: /a/, that is, with two adjacent forward slashes to the right and left of the phoneme in question.

[6] From here on in, the language becomes quite technical. What is, for example, meant by the phrase “voiced post-alveolar affricate” (and etc.)? Briefly, such words are indicators of where in the mouth any given phoneme is articulated, and how, with the mouth (including, the tongue, lips, and teeth) any given phoneme is made. For an in-depth look, try the following: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_of_articulation

[7] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Name_Movement

Impatience…

•03/25/2016 • Leave a Comment

I fear many brethren today are or have already become, impatient with God. I’m not talking about the return of the Lord, or waiting on God to answer prayer, or to heal, or to give a miracle, to pour out a blessing, or etc.

What I’m referring to is an impatience with God giving understanding of His Word at the duly appointed times.[1]

Impatience breeds boredom. Instead of waiting on God to reveal the depths of His Word according to His own timetable, men of God become bored with what they’ve already learned, and so, jump in half-cocked into all sorts of weird and silly ideas because they can’t otherwise get God to open His Word to them.

They bang and bang away at God’s Word looking for secret ways to get into God’s private counsel, that is to say, the counsel God takes with Himself after His own will (Ephesians 1:11), hoping to hear, as it were, “some new thing”.[2]

What these brothers (and to some degree, sisters) don’t understand is that God doesn’t budge. He has a process, and He sticks to it. The greatest teacher in the Kingdom of God is experience, the experience God gives a saint when they PATIENTLY sit at the feet of the Messiah, attending Him as a servant.

If the Messiah speaks not, the servant isn’t to presume a meaning in the silence. When the Messiah speaks, the servant isn’t to try and read into His words some esoteric, between the lines, meaning.

It is given to us to understand the parables of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11). God will, in His own time (that is, at His divine leisure, so to speak) unravel His Word for those who have the patience to allow Him to create for us unique and lasting experiences which will teach and guide us into all truth.

Take, for instance, a simple, but powerful verse of Holy Scripture, such as Romans 5:9.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

This verse speaks, in such a simple way, of the complexity and depth of God’s love and the atonement made for us at the cross of Jesus Christ. How is it possible, brethren, that we can become bored with being “saved from wrath”?

And yet it happens. And so, in our impatience, in our willingness to forsake the possessing of our souls, we go looking for things in the Word that aren’t there, so we can first, impress ourselves at our own ability to reveal the hidden mysteries of the Word of God, and second, go on to try and impress others with the same in order for them to be awed at our spirituality. We wash, rinse, and repeat, ad nauseum.

Give it up, man!

The most powerful truths of God’s Word are the simplest. God is love. Meditate on that for a few years! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Mull that over in your mind for the rest of your life.

The hidden, wonderful depths of God’s Word are available to us through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). But sometimes, we just need to wait on the Lord. So wait, I say, on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

Stop trying to get into God’s private counsel some other way.[3] Only a reverential fear of God, coupled with patience and a continued attendance at the feet of God’s Son through the Holy Spirit, will cause or allow us to really learn anything of great consequence.

The fact is, the difference is evident. God can and does forgive all sorts of human folly. It’s in our nature to be foolish, at times, with our words. But that’s what the rod of correction is for, to drive such foolishness out of us.[4]

How many strips across the proverbial back do you want, before you realize God’s not going to let you have what you are too impatient to wait for?

When I was a child, I convinced myself that because once, in the past, my mom let my brothers and I open one Christmas gift a day early, that I could do so again, without her permission. Knowing I had been purchased a particular video-game, after my mom went to bed, I opened the game and played it throughout the night. I had lots of fun. When my mom woke up and saw me still awake, playing the game, knowing I had opened it without permission, she was very disappointed. I tried to explain and justify my actions, but deep down, I knew the truth. I made a big assumption against her wishes to satisfy my own impatience.

She took the game away from me for a week. I never tried to open a Christmas present a day early again.

Brethren, we are co-heirs with Christ. We get to partake in and share all that the Father has given to Him. Be satisfied with what we have been given, by grace. Stop trying to drum up new insights and revelations that God has not given us to understand at this present time. You can still be spiritual, just by being full of the Holy Spirit, and walking in It, as God, through His Spirit, takes you by the hand, to lead and guide you into all truth.

But you must stop running on ahead. The privilege is not yours. You are to obey. Abide in Him, patiently. Abide in the shadow of God’s wings (that is, stay close to the hem of His garment). The riches of God’s Word aren’t out and away from Him. They are nestled deep within Him, the folds and recesses of His royal robes. There is plenty to see, hear, and learn, there, in the shadows of His wings.

Anything learned anywhere else is just useless, strife-inducing debate.

The Lord bless and keep you,

Aaron

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[1] Meat in due season, right?

[2] Acts 17:21.

[3] Compare Psalm 25:14 with John 10:1.

[4] See Proverbs 22:15. If we become impatient with God and go about trying to get special revelation and understanding of His Word, but not according to His timetable and according to the methods His prescribes, we stay immature, or like children. And as the proverb indicates, the rod of correction is the only thing that will get us back on track.

Sore Evils I Have Seen

•03/04/2016 • Leave a Comment

The Qoheleth[1], in Ecclesiastes, twice mentions the “sore evil[s]” which he has seen and/or experienced (5:13 and 16). The evils he describes in those verses have a different scope and a more universal application however, than, the “sore evils” about which I intend to write.

First, the Qoheleth addresses how the transition of wealth as an inheritance from one generation to the next may be or become depleted through what the English Standard Version declares to be a “bad venture”, which is to say, a risky investment that fails to produce a return.

The second “sore evilthe Qoheleth addresses is about the people who experience this, namely, how a man loses all his wealth and then, afterward, has a son to whom he now has nothing to give. The Qoheleth continues to say that that son, because of his father’s misfortunes, dies no better than he lived: impoverished and as naked as the day he was born.

The sore evils I intend to address, however, have to do with a portion of the Oneness Pentecostal (sometimes called Apostolic) Movement.[2] These are not new evils. In fact, they date back at least to the 1st century (As the Qoheleth was wont to say, there really isn’t anything new under the sun). Observe:

Matthew 23:15,

  1. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

This verse is just a small part of an overall diatribe spoken by the Lord against the Perushim.[3] The main point seems to be that the Perushim placed a great emphasis on bringing converts into (the practice of) their faith, only to bring those very converts into a terrible condemnation. The new converts, on top of already having been lost to hell, then become converted into the practice of a system that cannot save them, hence why Yeshua describes these new converts by saying that they are “twofold more the child[ren] of hell” than the Perushim who brought them in.

Essentially, the faith of the Perushim would have saved the convert, by bringing the convert into covenantal relationship with God. However, the practice of that faith, as prescribed by the Perushim, was what was so damaging. To be certain, I don’t think we should believe that Yeshua was implying the faith of the Perushim was evil or ungodly.[4] Rather, He was attacking the practice of their faith, and how they led others to the same practice.

A sore evil to be sure!

And unfortunately, this is very similar to how some within the Oneness Pentecostal or Apostolic Movement operate. I’ll explain:

I have personally seen and heard of many varied accounts in which an Oneness adherent undertook a monumental effort to proselytize the lost. I have heard so many stories of how it literally took the Oneness adherent years to finally win someone to the Lord. And in the winning, to be sure, much celebrating and rejoicing occurred.

But in time, or rather, in a short amount of time, something terrible happens. That new convert, for whatever uncertain reason, is only given a specific amount of time to get their spiritual act together to the satisfaction of the clergy overseeing the assembly to which the new convert was won. The timeframe seems to differ depending on the account, but something like six months to a year is the norm, with some occasioning up eighteen months. This is what I mean:

An adult man or woman, having been a Gentile sinner for their entire life, comes to believe in Yeshua the Anointed One, and the Benevolent Message of His Salvation (See, e.g. John 3:16, Romans 1:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They repent of their sins. They are immersed for the remission of those sins. They receive the Holy Spirit, and speak in tongues, and they become the happiest person on earth, suddenly beloved by all in the Church (See, e.g. Acts 2:38, 2:4, Luke 24:45-49, and Romans 6:3).

Afterward, days turn into weeks, and as the weeks go by, they turn into months, and in time, the “honeymoon” stage of their salvation tends to come to an end. Now begins the long trek toward enduring until the end. Temptation shows up. Trials come about. The now not so new convert begins struggling. Often, they reach out for help. Help is given in the form of prayer and counsel. So far, so good.

But for some reason, as this doesn’t happen with all converts to Oneness Pentecostalism, some just can’t seem to overcome. They continue to struggle. Their faith falters. Perhaps a temptation gets the best of them. They fail one of their trials. They become discouraged. Despondent, they miss a service or two. They don’t return a phone call from the pastor or another elder.

Condemnation sets in. The unspiritual people of the congregation begin to talk. The spiritual people of the congregation begin to pray. God hears the prayers of His righteous elect, and, in His own sense of steadfast love, He arranges for the despondent new convert to run into one of God’s praying elect, and this brother or sister offers great encouragement, enough to see the faltering brother or sister through, enough to see them come back to church the following Sunday.

They pray through, are strengthened and helped by the Holy Spirit, and go home feeling better, but with a continued sense of dread, knowing that the temptation that took them out a few weeks back hasn’t really been conquered. The trial they know they failed still has to be passed.

But something else occurs as well, something they don’t know. Subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) this struggling semi-new convert has been put on a list. This list contains the names of all the other semi-new converts of years past who had been in the same exact position as this semi-new convert. Those semi-new converts of yesterday eventually faltered again, and in time, like say somewhere between six months and a year, perhaps up to eighteen months, the church which had not so long ago embraced them as a new baby brother or sister in unsolicited love, dropped them like a bad habit. Indeed, even the one who had spent years doing everything he or she could to evangelize and win one of those semi-new converts abandons him or her, under the pretense of “they don’t have a love of the truth” or “they just don’t want to live for God”, or something similar, according to the clergy overseeing the assembly.

The semi-new convert doesn’t know it, but if he or she should struggle with their flesh and with temptation for very much longer, and if he or she should falter just once or perhaps twice more, the assembly that had welcomed him or her with great big open arms just six months to a year to perhaps eighteen months ago, will give up on them as lost and not worth the time and effort to find.

This is a sore evil I have seen.

How is it that a Oneness brother or sister, a Spirit-filled saint of the Most High, can pray and pray and pray, and ask others to pray and to pray and to pray, and fast, and fast some more, and look past all sorts of worldly faults and failures in a sinner in order to get a chance to share the saving message of the Word of God with them in order to win them to the Lord, and do so consistently for years, but then, within just a few short months, convince themselves or be convinced by someone else, that because the man or woman they won to the Lord continued to struggle past an unacceptably presumed and un-Biblical deadline for spiritual maturity, that continuing to pray and pray and fast and fast, and to continue to ask others to continue to pray and pray and pray, and to do everything within their power that they once were so willing to do, in order to win this man or woman, is now, just not worth it?

My dear brothers and sisters, if you sell out to the Lord and sacrifice greatly in order to win the lost, you had better sell out to the Lord and sacrifice greatly in order to keep the ones you win. If all you’re doing is merely hoping someone is okay, or that they eventually turn things around and make good on their covenant with God, but don’t actually do anything to see that that happens, your love for that person isn’t genuine (See and contrast to 1 Peter 1:22).

We are to love in deed and in truth, not in word or tongue only (See 1 John 3:18). Claiming to love someone doesn’t mean anything. Having an emotional soft spot in your heart and a feeling of grief when you think about someone you believe or know to be fallen from grace is useless if that emotional soft spot and feeling of grief doesn’t get you off your you know what to call up that semi-new convert and/or show up at their door and try and try and try and try and try and try and try for as long as you can, to bring that one lost sheep back to the fold (See Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:4-7).

Now, it may be that the semi-new convert in question rebuffs your every attempt, and adamantly refuses to repent, deciding that the reproach of the Anointed One is not worth esteeming (See and contrast to Hebrews 11:26). In such a case, that formerly semi-new convert will make it plain. His or her “blood”, as it were, will not be on your head (See, e.g. Ezekiel 33).

But did you try? Did you try at all? Did you try to see past the anger and hard stances to see how their hurt and discouragement has caused them to put up a front and although they talk tough with you or act like they don’t want you to keep reaching for them, the truth is, they need you then more than ever, but they’re too afraid to admit it?

Or did you quit? Did you quit because someone whose name is not Yeshua of Nazareth told you to? Or for whatever ungodly reason? The fact is, you know full well that such a brother or sister most likely is not okay, and that they’re not going to be okay, since there is no salvation outside of their covenant with God, and His covenant with them requires that they be a living stone, i.e. an active, healthy member of the Body of the Anointed One. You know full well that if such a brother or sister, if they don’t have that in their life, is doomed.

And, Dear Reader, as unfortunate and evil as the above is, it’s not the only sore evil I’ve seen. As the second sore evil described by the Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes 5:16 is an extension of the former, first sore evil mentioned in Ecclesiastes 5:13, so, too, is the sore evil I’ve mentioned above an extension of another, preceding evil.

The sore evil above is an outgrowth of a doctrine embraced by some within the Oneness Pentecostal Movement that insists there is no such thing as a ministry to the backslider.[5] This is wrong on so many levels. From this point forward, I intend to enumerate the various levels. I will, in parenthesis, place a number in bold text, as a way to keep count.

The first problem with this doctrine is that the term “backslider” is never adequately defined (1). One preacher I heard once stated that there is a difference between backsliding and being backslidden. The former can be rectified in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, so to speak, by calling on the name of the Lord in prayer. The latter is the final, resultant condition that comes from backsliding, and getting out of that condition is not always so easy.

He continued to say that his definition of backsliding is being in a state at any point in time in your walk with God, in which you are not as close to Him as you used to be.

That’s perhaps a nice working definition, but it’s awfully vague and highly subjective. Who makes the determination? Does the convert? Does the pastor, or another leader or elder? Does the whole local assembly?[6] Who can really determine if and when a brother or sister just isn’t as close to God as he or she used to be? And by how much? (2)[7]

Is it when a brother or sister commits a premeditative sin? Was such a brother or sister already backslidden in heart and so, were willing to premeditate against God a transgression of His law (See 1 John 3:4), or were they merely backsliding but not yet backslidden (3)? Perhaps we could say that, if the brother or sister in question had already reached a place of maturity and should have known better. But what about the new or semi-new convert? If we cannot say the same about them, we’re now dealing with two different definitions of “backslidden”, one for the new or semi-new convert and one for the mature saint in the Lord (4).

The bottom-line is only the Lord God knows who is and who is not backslidden (5). We, every one of us, are poor judges, and should never undertake to make such a call against a brother or sister (6)[8]. And even if we think God has given us a special discernment or insight through the charismata as given in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, we must realize that we are fallible creatures, apt to getting many things wrong (7).[9] Our subjective understanding of the things we think or believe (read: assume) God is communicating to us is not something upon which we should so quickly rely. We should prove all things first, and only when undoubtedly proven, hold fast to that which is good (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

In fact, even if you or someone in an assembly claims a special word of knowledge, or prophetic discernment about a brother or sister, it should be first discussed with the actual brother or sister in question, in a loving, gentle way.[10] If such a word or discernment is truly from God, and if the brother or sister in question is honest with themselves, the Spirit will bear witness inside of them that the word or discernment really was from God (See Proverbs 14:10). And if that happens, chances are good you or the person with the word or discernment will find yourself/themselves being able to do what James 5:19-20 declares:

  1. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
  2. Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins (8).

This is not the final problem of such a doctrine, but it’s the last one I will address. This verse is clear. If someone, whether new, semi-new, or a mature convert to the Oneness Pentecostal Movement, who is in true covenant with God the Father through Yeshua our Lord, should err from the truth, in any way, and someone goes out to reach out, and brings them back into the fold, no matter how badly they’ve erred, and that someone converts him or her, i.e. causes that brother or sister to turn back and revert to their former condition as a faithful, truth believing, truthful living saint, they save that new, semi-new, or even mature convert from death, i.e. from eternal separation from God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Anointed One.

Indeed, they “hide a multitude of sins” (See Proverbs 17:9). All the transgressions committed while in such a state, whether we want to call the state of such a person backslidden or something else, will be erased by the blood of the Lamb of God, and that brother or sister will be immediately restored to right standing with the Anointed One and His Body, on earth (See 1 John 1:7-9 and 1 John 2:1-3).

But not, Dear Reader, if no one thinks to even try.

I have seen a sore evil in the Oneness Pentecostal or Apostolic Movement, and it is this:

Some are taught there is no such thing as a ministry to the backsliders, even in clear defiance of the obvious teachings found in the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant. This causes many in our movement to completely abandon to Hell any and all new to semi-new (and even many mature) converts who just can’t seem to overcome in the amount of time allotted to them by an uncaring, unloving, incorrectly indoctrinated local ministry or assembly. Even though much time, prayer, fasting, and sacrifice was offered to God in order to evangelize and proselytize the lost sinner, who, by being abandoned after struggling for too long with their flesh, with temptation, or whatever, becomes a twofold child of hell. They were the children of hell already, being Gentile lost sinners, and now, being abandoned by the very ones in the Church God sent to save them, these hurting, despondent, rejected and disowned former saints and family members of the Most High, will likely never come back to the faith of those who didn’t love them enough to keep intentionally seeking them out and actively reaching (read: getting off their you know what’s) for them to come back to God and His Son.

Yeshua was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (See Matthew 15:24). He was sent to a nation in covenant with God that had, almost universally, in a collective sense, backslidden from the Father. The Anointed One often spoke in parables, and in His most famous series of parables given in the New Covenant Scriptures (i.e. Luke 15), Yeshua makes it plain that a shepherd will always leave the ninety and nine, to go and seek the one lost sheep. The woman with the lost coin will always search and search and keep searching until she finds her lost coin (which was likely a part of her dowry, which proved her marriage was legitimate).[11] The Father’s greatest wish is and will always be, for the prodigal to return home.

But not according to some.

I have seen a sore evil in our movement, Dear Brothers and Sisters. If you have seen the same sore evil as me, won’t you please pray with me, that God will grant us mercy and repentance and so, give us another chance to obey and do the right thing, and so, not sin against Him?[12]

In the name of Yeshua. Amen.

Peace and God bless,

Aaron

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[1]Qoheleth” is a transliterated term from Hebrew. It is a notoriously difficult word to translate, as it tends to defy the standard rules of Hebrew grammar. Some translate it ‘Preacher’ (e.g. KJV, NKJV, ASV, ESV, and NASB), some translate it ‘Teacher’ (e.g. NIV, NLT, NRSV, and HCB), and at least one, the Contemporary English Bible, renders it ‘Teacher of the Assembly’, which may most closely catch most of the various nuances contained in the word. For more information on the translation difficulties and grammatical structure of the word, see: The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes by Robert Alter, Norton, New York, NY, 2010, p. 337.

[2] The reason I write “portion” is because I don’t imagine what I’m going to write about from here on in applies everywhere. It is, however, something I have seen in my limited experience, here in the United States. Therefore, please note that if what I write doesn’t describe you or your local ministry/assembly, understand that this blog then, isn’t directed toward you; although I will say that I hope you read it in its entirety, and take it to heart as something that is happening, right now, in our movement.

[3] Perushim is the transliterated form of the Hebrew spelling commonly known in English as the word Pharisees. It means “The Segregated Ones”, or those who segregated themselves from all others in an attempt to be closer to God, i.e. more holy (Consider this in light of Isaiah 65:5).

[4] The faith of the Perushim was in the God of Avraham, Yitzak, and Ya′acov, the same faith that Yeshua shared.

[5] This is usually due to a terrible misunderstanding and misapplication of 1 Corinthians 5 coupled with Romans 16:17-18 with a bit of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 thrown in for good measure. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 may likewise be mixed into the recipe. And if they really want to seize the jugular, Hebrews 6:4 will be used. Taken highly out of context, some come to believe that these verses are blanket condemnations that can be applied universally to every situation. It’s sad, but true, that anyone would so misuse the Holy Scriptures in this way.

[6] See, e.g. Matthew 18:15-19, noting especially verse 17 as it applies to the entire assembly.

[7] If the Lord is as close as His name, as so many suggest, and if a person not as close to God as he or she once was is merely backsliding and not backslidden, and if such a person can see an immediate turn around by calling on the name of the Lord in prayer, as the preacher mentioned above indicated, than just how far away from the Lord can that person really be?

[8] See, e.g. Matthew 7:1-5.

[9] See, e.g. James 3:2. Quoting from the New Revised Standard Version, James 3:2a reads, “For all of us make many mistakes”.

[10] See and compare Matthew 18:15. If there is a sin or sinner in the Body, and you’re the only one, by way of special revelation, that knows, you should take care of the matter privately. If the brother or sister repents, you’ve gained your brother or sister.

[11] See Luke: The Gospel of Amazement: by Michael Card, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2011, pg. 183.  Near Eastern custom at the time was for a woman to wear what is called a semedi, an ornamental headdress made out of coins, with each coin equal to about a day’s wage, most likely stamped or engraved with royal markers from the Roman Empire (See: https://bible.org/seriespage/luke-15 , http://www.gotquestions.org/parable-lost-sheep-coin.html, and http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/luke/15.html). Since this lost coin is part and parcel of the woman’s proof of her legitimate marriage covenant, it stands to reason that the symbolic nature of the coin refers to a soul in covenant with God, but otherwise currently lost, i.e. a backslider in need of repentance and restoration. Note, too, she searched the house, i.e. she went looking inside of “the church” to find that which was missing. Struggling saints are still a part of God’s House, even if they seem to be missing. Who among us is willing to light a lamp to go and find them?

[12] James 4:17.

Answering The Charge Of “Chaos”

•01/13/2016 • 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 14:26,

26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

1 Corinthians 14:33,

33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

1 Corinthians 14:40,

40. Let all things be done decently and in order.

In various discussion forums I have been a part of, I have more than once seen someone make the charge that a church meeting must have some kind of formalized liturgy with an officiant overseeing it, else the meeting would descend into “chaos”.

The idea goes like this: if everyone in the church got to stand up and share, testify, sing, teach, exhort, or whatever, the meeting would last ten hours. There is no logical way everyone can have the right to do their thing. Things would get out of hand. Brother or sister so and so, who everyone knows is crazy, would end up offending someone, and all the visitors would head for the exits. There would be no control over the meeting; people would end up talking over each other, or competing to have their song be sung first…

And on and on goes the argument. Some have so seriously believed the charge that they’ve come to believe that Paul was being sarcastic in 1 Corinthians 14:26, i.e. that he knew and understood that when the Corinthians believers all came together, everyone of them wanted to do “their thing”, but that doing “their thing” would result in an un-edifying mess, hence the rules he laid out in the chapter 14 of his epistle.

There is no doubt that God wants things to be orderly and decorous. A messy church reflects a messy Savior, and Jesus is anything but that. But why assume that allowing each member of the Body of Christ in a local assembly an opportunity to be used by God automatically leads to a chaotic situation?

Can it not be recognized instead that, when a meeting is led by and of the Holy Spirit of God, God, who loves order, will make sure order is maintained, and that Jesus Christ, as Head of His own Body, will be the only “officiant”, as it were, to direct the goings-on?

I submit to you, the reader, that the charge of chaos is really a confession of unbelief. We simply cannot fathom how God can sovereignly orchestrate a meeting, where all who volunteer to Him by faith, can be used by Him, at His discretion, in His timing, when He decides, in a way that is edifying, uplifting, encouraging, and in order. Instead we think we need a trained clergy to set us up with an “order of service”, not knowing or not caring that such a thing isn’t in the Bible.

What is in the Bible is an active, vibrant priesthood of all believers, each a lively stone reflecting the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, first to one another, and then, to the outside world. Putting a liturgy on things, where only the trained get to be involved, keeps large portions of the Body of Christ neutered and inhibited from ever showing what Jesus looks like through them, to others. Never getting a real chance to show the rest of the church and the world at large what Jesus looks like means the Body of Christ isn’t really “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love…” (Ephesians 4:16).

Yes, people may stumble. New converts are likely to stutter and have difficulty prophesying for the first, or even fifth time. But so what? They’re just kids, after all, and like anyone with children understands, it takes time for someone to become adept at something, even if that something is being used by God successfully, in a way that keeps the order God prefers when His people meet. Every joint in a body is supposed to be offering the whole something of value. The same is true in the Body of Christ. We have to allow every joint a chance to supply something of worth to the whole, so the whole may be edified, in love. Having a bunch of unequipped saints sidelined in the pews weakens everyone.

Now, I realize that this may sound nice and all, in theory. But what about in practice? Can every member of a local assembly really have a chance, in a meeting, to participate and share? I mean, what if the local assembly has 50+ members? How would it be possible?

First, let it be known that mass meetings of the saints are not the typical norm of the New Testament Scriptures. We read right away in Acts 2:42 that the 3,000 new disciples met “house to house”, but did they do it all at once, together? Not at all. They did it in small groups. There is more than one reference in the New Testament to so-called “house churches” (See, for example Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:12, and Philemon 1:2).[1] These verses prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that trying to get every believer in a city together on a regular basis wasn’t what the Holy Spirit had in mind. Rather, pockets of believers were welcome to move amongst themselves and fellowship with each other at any and all times, without any formal liturgy or clergy present. Each meeting usually involved a meal for all to share, worship and thanksgiving to God, and prayer. Occasionally, especially gifted servants of the Gospel would arrive or be sent for, and they would be used by God in the way He decided (See, for example Acts 8:14-17). But otherwise, as the saints met, their gifts and callings would begin to be showcased as the Holy Spirit moved among them and anointed those chosen by God at the time (See, for example Acts 6:1-6).

But note! If every member isn’t allowed to participate, it becomes impossible for anyone to truly discern their calling! Only when everyone is allowed to be a part of what God is doing in a meeting does it become evident who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers, and etc. Imagine having a highly gifted prophet sitting on the bench, as it were, because he or she was a part of an assembly where they weren’t allowed to be used, because their gift didn’t fit into the schedule. Imagine someone sitting on a gift of healing and not being used because the liturgy of that day’s meeting didn’t call for the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil in the name of the Lord by the elders.

We all want to see the power of God. We all want a demonstration of just what the Holy Spirit can do. But quite frankly, we absolutely box the Spirit of God in, and don’t let the Lord have His way. He’s merely worked into the proceedings, instead of being the author and finisher of all that proceeds from Him.

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone was allowed to prophesy one by one (1 Corinthians 14:31), so that all may learn, and be comforted? If so, where did it happen? And how?

I can tell you where it didn’t happen: it didn’t happen in a church building, that’s for sure.

And I can tell you how it didn’t happen: it didn’t happen in a tightly organized, restrictive liturgy. That’s also for sure.

You see, when you allow the New Testament Scriptures to make sense, and when the Holy Spirit is given the chance to shine throughout the ENTIRE Body of Christ, and not just a select few, great and mighty things begin to happen. It’s not chaos. It’s not even controlled chaos. Rather, it’s the Body of Christ in all her glory, the way she is supposed to be: beautiful.

I urge you, reader, that if you are not a part of a local assembly that allows for EVERY MEMBER to function as a royal priest, and be used by God as He sees fit (and not according to whether or not a select group of elites decides if you belong in that day’s agenda), that you sincerely begin to pray and petition God to make changes.

This is not intended as a harsh criticism of the Body of Christ at large, i.e. how it now generally functions. Rather it’s a vision of how the Body of Christ at large can learn to function, in complete unity, with the Head of the Church truly being pre-eminent.

We have to begin to trust God and each other enough to know that His love for us, and the love we are supposed to have for each other (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15), will guide us and win out. If something is revealed to another, my love for that brother or sister, and for the Lord, will keep me in check until they have had a chance to speak or share (See 1 Corinthians 14:30). If the Lord is inspiring a song in my heart, my love for Him and for the brethren will cause me to share it, as a means of blessing God, and ministering to them. Love doesn’t abandon half of the Body of Christ (or more!) to uselessness. Love embraces, accepts, and desires to see every member functioning, finding purpose and meaning in why we are called to assemble in the first place: to know the Lord and make Him known.

May God bless you and keep you, dear reader. Seek Him for truth and understanding. He will show you the way forward. Amen.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Please note that I personally don’t prefer the term “house church”. Rather, the way I say it is the church meets in homes, or house to house.

Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Orthopathy

•12/08/2015 • 4 Comments

Right belief. Right practice. Right experience.

All are critical to the life of a believer in the Anointed One. They each need to be balanced with the other two. But one thing must be noted. There is an order, a flow to them, which needs to be maintained. Observe:

Right belief, if firmly held, will lead a person to a right practice of that belief. The practice will be an outgrowth of the conviction or belief. With a right belief and a right practice, the believer will have the God-ordained right experience, that is, the experience intended by God when right beliefs and practices are embraced.

However, a person may, for example, have many right experiences in their walk with God, but without understanding them, or realizing why they are right. They can be received as if by accident. Many people receive the Holy Spirit in this way. Not knowing too much about the Bible, but feeling drawn to God, they cry out to Him in a moment of faith and crisis, and receive the promise of the Father. But and unless they continue on with Him and allow the Spirit of Truth to lead them into all truth, they may never come to a right “anything”, whether belief, practice, or additional experience.

As Yeshua said, only those who continue in His Word are His students (John 8:31-32). This shows that doctrine comes first.

Additionally, many people maintain a right practice, and perhaps are even seeking a right belief about something, but and until the experience validates the belief and practice, it all become empty religiosity. This tendency causes much discouragement. I have met several people over the years that have pined about how the Book of Acts doesn’t seem to come alive here in the 21st century. And why not? Or at least seemingly why not? Because the right experiences of those 1st century believers isn’t happening in some of today’s groups of believers.

So, perhaps there is so much discouragement because right beliefs aren’t being maintained regarding the operation of God in the modern church? I mean, if I don’t believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as an example, they aren’t going to happen in my life or ministry. I will walk right by them, and never get to see the glory of God in power and demonstration.

Further, if something about God, His Son, or the Word is true, but for whatever reason, that truth is unknown to, or disregarded by, the believer, there will be an automatic limitation upon the life of that believer, until whatever is true is finally believed.

How many people have been incorrectly immersed? Why? An unrighteous, i.e. incorrect belief about baptism has led far too many to practice it incorrectly, and so, far too many have received an unrighteous, that is to say, incorrect experience when getting immersed. For some, all that happened was they got wet.

However, when a right belief about baptism is maintained, and when a believer with that right belief is immersed correctly (according to the right practice of Biblical immersion), they always receive the right experience: remission of sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, some have practiced immersion correctly, even invoking the name of the Lord when performing it, but nothing happens to or for the immersed. Why not? There could be many reasons, but here a few:

  • An incorrect belief about the Son of God
  • An incorrect belief about the Gospel
  • An incorrect belief about the need for repentance and faith prior to immersion
  • An incorrect belief about the reason to be immersed
  • An incorrect belief about normative experiences when immersed

Do you see how right belief has to come first? Without a doctrinal conviction regarding immersion, even if performed correctly, the immersed isn’t going to receive the correct or right experience God intended when He gave us immersion as part of the New Covenant.

Finally, what happens when right belief is present, but right practice and/or right experience is/are not? If a person correctly believes the core doctrines of the Bible, but doesn’t practice the faith accordingly, then they either tend toward extreme legalism, caring only for doctrinal purity as an intellectual pursuit, or extreme carnality, as an anything goes mentality is developed. Any experience, no matter how un-Scriptural, is validated, because how one practices the faith of the Son of God is non-essential. This is how many false prophets make their money. They may generally agree on the doctrines of God outwardly, but in practice, it doesn’t matter overly much what God actually says about a subject. Conversely, what God says about a subject may be so limited by the doctrinal purist, that no one can have a question or disagreement, or feel a liberty to practice their faith and receive Biblical experiences apart from what the purists maintain is acceptable.

There is so much danger in imbalance!

Start with correct belief, dearly beloved saints. Right belief, if held and maintained, will, because God is faithful, lead you to right practice. Orthodoxy will guide and direct all that you do as a Christian. And when orthodoxy and orthopraxy get together, because God is faithful, He will make certain you have the type of Scripturally ordained experiences He wants you to have, the ones you read about in the Bible, Book of Acts or otherwise.

But if your experiences are not towing the line, or aren’t meeting your expectations, chances are your practice or your belief is off. Same with your practice. If the practice of your faith is un-Biblical, be sure to realize you’ll never have sufficiently right experiences in the Lord. Your beliefs about Him and how to practice His faith need to change. In either case, if ever something is amiss, look at what you believe first. That’s the first, and really only way, to correct anything and make things right.

 
Mark Showalter's Blog

Always seeking to know God more

Theo-sophical Ruminations

A collage of theological and philosophical musings

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