Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Divine Inspiration vs Divine Guidance

So, according to Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  By the way, the Greek text literally says "God-breathed".  But what does it mean for something to be inspired by God.  Many claim that because Scripture is inspired by God, that it must therefore be inerrant because God would not inspire error.  Which, I completely agree that God would not inspire error.  But what does it mean to "inspire", anyways?

Side note:  The word translated as "Scripture" in this verse is the Greek word "graphe", which literally means "writing" or "document".  It's where we get the word "graph" from.  A purely literal translation of this verse would read "All writings are God-breathed".  Obviously, context needs to be taken into consideration when determining which writings Paul is talking about.  Also, when he wrote that, the New Testament didn't exist, and most of the writings in the New Testament either (a) didn't exist yet, or (b) weren't widely known about.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand.  What does it mean to inspire something?  Well, I looked it up in both the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and Dictionary.com.  And inspiration has to do mainly with motivation.  And it has nothing to do with guidance except, for some reason, when it comes to divine inspiration.  Interesting exception to the rule.  But the inclusion of guidance exclusively when it comes to divine inspiration seems rather arbitrary, so I'm going to reject the definition of guidance and stick with motivation.  That is not to say that God did not give any guidance.  It just means that guidance and inspiration are two separate things.

So, if a writing is "inspired by God", then that means God motivated someone to produce said writing.  Does that mean that the resulting document is going to be inerrant?  Absolutely not.  Also, simply inspiring someone to produce a document has nothing to do with whether the person is inspired to write truth.  The question is:  Would God inspire someone who prioritizes an agenda over truth?  Certainly not!  God would inspire a God-fearing person to produce the document.  And the faith of the God-fearing person would inspire truth!

To put this another way, God motivates a God-fearing person to produce a document, and the faith of that person is what motivates that person to be truthful in the document that he/she writes.  Such a person will diligently investigate the matter in which he or she is writing about to make sure that everything in the document that he or she is producing is correct.  In other words, God doesn't have to inspire truth.  The faith of the God-fearing person he inspires will do that for him.  Now does this mean that the resulting work will be inerrant?  No.  It can be inerrant, but that is not guaranteed for the simple fact that humans still make mistakes.  But the fact that the person's faith inspires truth will make the document as close to perfect as humanly possible.

In order for to get inerrancy in a document, God has to do more than just inspire the right person.  He has to tell that person what to write down, or guide that person concerning the truth.  Some prime examples of the former would be the five books of Moses, where Moses wrote everything that God commanded.  And we can't forget about the books of the prophets, who were required to speak EXACTLY what God spoke to them.  And of course all of the teachings of Jesus are inerrant, for Jesus is God in the flesh!  Some examples of God guiding the person the truth is found in the book of Psalms.  For example, Psalm 8:8, which mentions the "paths of the seas".  Today, we call these paths "ocean currents".  And the example that Jesus gave is Psalm 82:6.  By the way, Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 state that the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge.  The one who fears God is the one God guides in matters of truth.  Everyone else is on their own!

Does everything in the Bible need to be the literal word of God in order for it to be the primary (or only) authority in our lives?  No.  Only the parts that claim to be the literal word of God need to be that.  Does the entire Bible need to be inerrant in order to be the primary (or only) authority in our lives?  No.  But the parts that claim to be the literal word of God does have to be without error.  Otherwise, Deuteronomy 18 applies.  Anything that claims to be the literal word of God, yet gets so much as one item wrong, is not the word of God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What About Hanukkah and Purim?

In my last post, I exposed the "golden calves" of Christianity, which includes its false holy days.  In this post, we're going to examine Hanukkah and Purim to see if they also count as "golden calves" as well.  Some who wish to justify the observances of the traditional "Christian" holidays will point to these days (which are not mandated by God's Law) and say, "if these aren't okay, then why are Hanukkah and Purim okay?" under the premise (which they know is false) that these traditionally "Christian" holidays are not of pagan origin.  If we remove the deceitful premise, then the question is perfectly valid.

Let's start with Purim, since the record of its institution is in the Bible, in the book of Esther.  The description is in Esther 9:20-32.  The day was established as a celebration and memorial of God delivering the descendants of Israel from an enemy (Haman) that sought to destroy them completely.  And that the remembrance of that day shall never die from among the descendants of Israel.

So, is Purim okay?  If so, why?  I'll let you decide the answer to the first question as well as your rationalization.  But here's what I've noticed, and what my opinion on this matter is.  There is nothing in the text about Purim being a feast to Yahweh, like what Aaron and Jeroboam I did during their times.  That means it's not masquerading around as a holy day to be celebrated in addition to or in the place of something that God has ordained.  And there's absolutely no indication that anyone is attempting to even claim that God is commanding its observance.  In addition, there's also no indication in the text that this day was derived from any pagan practices, except the giving of gifts.

I did however, find that there are those who believe that the book of Esther is an example of historical fraud, designed to justify and sanitize what they claim is a holiday that is on par with a version of Halloween that includes indulgence in sexual sin.  Make of these claims and any presented evidence what you will.  But if these claims are true, then the book should be removed from the Biblical canon, for historical fraud does not belong in the canon of Scripture.  Also, if these claims are true, then Purim absolutely should not be celebrated for the reasons discussed in my previous post.  Also, I will be investigating these claims and the evidence presented.  Interestingly enough, when I first started writing this paragraph, I was going to conclude that Purim is okay, now I'm not so sure about that.  It is entirely possible that, once I finish my investigation, my answer to the question "is Purim okay" will be a definitive "no".

Okay, so I can't give a definitive answer to Purim.  Hopefully I can give one for Hanukkah.  But you're not really supposed to be relying on what I say about anything, anyways.  Do the research for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  Hanukkah is not found in the Bible (except in passing in one verse in the New Testament), but it is found in the Apocrypha.  The account of it's establishment is found in 1 Maccabees 4:36-39.  And in 2 Maccabees 10:1-9, it is recorded that the day was originally kept in the order of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Interestingly enough, the text says that they worshiped Heaven, not God.  That is definitely sinful, and it shows how just how hard it is to rid yourself of all pagan practices.

I have found no historical evidence that the feast was called "the festival of lights" until long after the day's establishment.  But there is definitely a pagan feast called "the festival of lights".  I believe this to be a paganization of the celebration.  I've also found no evidence of the miracle of the one day's worth of oil lasting eight days.  This appears to be an embellishment of the Talmud.  There is also no record of a 9-branch variant of the Menorah until much later on.  There is also the tradition that the first Hanukkah was the Feast of Tabernacles that year because they weren't able to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles that year at the appointed time.  This is the only tradition that has any sort of historical support for it.  That's because of 2 Maccabees 10:1-9, which I mentioned earlier.  But I haven't found any definitive proof of that tradition either.

In terms of the first Hanukkah being a late Feast of Tabernacles, the Torah does give precedent for such things.  In Numbers 9:10-13, God gives provision for eating the Passover later than the appointed time if you are unable to eat it at the appointed time.  That would make the first Hanukkah perfectly fine to celebrate.  But what about the Hanukkahs that come after that one.  Some interpret Jesus not condemning the holiday as a nod of approval.  And even celebrating it himself.  Others interpret the mention of the holiday as simply a convenient reference to the timing of the events described, not being meant as either affirmation that the holiday is okay, nor condemnation of the holiday.  I can see both points of view.  It's important to remember to distinguish between what the text says, and the interpretation of the text.  The Bible does not state that Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah.

Now in modern times, Hanukkah has been highly paganized because of Christmas.  This paganized version of Hanukkah is definitely not okay.  Neither are any other paganized forms of Hanukkah.  But what about as recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees?  Well, there's no record of it being established as a feast to the Lord, either in addition to, in in place of what God has established.  In addition, the celebration, as described in Maccabees, is in the order of the Feast of Tabernacles, not in the order of any of the surrounding pagan holidays.  And I can find no evidence that contradicts the historical record of Maccabees.

There is however, an apparent link to paganism found in the date of the celebration:  The 25th day of the 9th month, which on a solar calendar, would be the winter solstice (which would later become the 25th of the 12th month).  It is entirely possible that in the year that the Temple was desecrated, the 25th day of the 9th lunar month coincided with the winter solstice.  But there's no evidence in the text that the winter solstice has anything to do with the celebration.  Because, if it were, they would have tried to fix the date to the winter solstice rather than to wherever the 25th of the 9th lunar month fell each year.  They seem to be ignoring the solstice altogether.  But there are paganized forms that do place importance on the winter solstice.  So I'm going to conclude that Hanukkah, without all of the pagan traditions that are associated with it, is perfectly okay.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Golden Calves of Christianity

In my previous post, we investigated the two incidents in Israel's history involving golden calves and the perspective of the people who were worshiping the calves.  I'll give a brief recap:  From their perspective, they were using the calves to worship God, but from God's perspective, they were worshiping the calves.  Also in both instances, they held "sacred" feasts to God (only God can declare a sacred feast).  I also want to make sure that we are clear on the criteria for a golden calf.

The first criteria is that it has to be a direct violation of Exodus 20:4.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. [Exodus 20:4; NIV]

By the way, the word "image" in the Bible means any physical object with a form that is designed to look like something else.

Failing the first criteria, something will still be classified as a "golden calf" if (a) the pagans did the same thing to worship their gods (see Deuteronomy 12) or (b) if the object in question is part of the worship of God.

If the item in question is not a physical object, but rather a "sacred" feast, celebration, or fast that God has not ordained, then that also counts.  Basically, any day called "holy" that God has not made holy, with holy meaning set apart to God.  That is, any violation of Deuteronomy 12:32.

Now that we have the criteria defined, let's take a look at (hopefully) all of the golden calves of Christianity.

Depending on the denomination, there may or may not be statures of angels among Christians.  This is a blatant violation of the 2nd Commandment and obviously meets the first criteria.  Similarly, nearly all denominations have something called "manger scenes", which has a statue of Jesus as a baby surrounded by statues of Mary, Joseph, three wise men, and possibly a number of animals.  Again, a violation of the 2nd Commandment.  Also, the Catholic Church (which completely corrupted Christianity even to this day) has something called a "crucifix", which is a cross with a stature of Jesus nailed to it.

So that's all the things that I can think of that blatantly violate the 2nd commandment.  What about Deuteronomy 12, which is the first part of the second criteria?  We have many more things that meet this criteria that probably don't meet the first criteria in an obvious way.  These still violates the 2nd Commandment just by being worshiped.  And remember, it's your perspective vs. God's perspective on who or what is being worshiped.  And guess which perspective is the one that matters.  I only quoted the first part of the 2nd Commandment in this post.  The second part, in verses 5 and 6, forbid us from worshiping anything other than God.  And defines loving God as keeping the 2nd Commandment, and hating God as breaking the 2nd Commandment.

The first item on our list is the Christmas tree, which comes directly from the pagan practices that the Israelites were supposed to wipe out of the land that God gave them!  This is shown directly in Jeramiah 10:3-5.  Even the shape of the tree is the same, for they were cedars, as mentioned in Isaiah 37:24.  Not that this makes much difference.  The fact that the pagans used trees to worship their gods automatically means that using trees to worship our God is a violation of Deuteronomy 12.  And even if that were not the case, it's still the case that it's the tree that's being worshiped, not God.  The exact same thing goes for the star placed on top of the tree, the Easter egg, and Easter rabbit.  All of which, by the way, are symbols of fertility associated with the pagan fertility gods and goddesses.

We have the same situation with the symbols of Valentines Day and Halloween.  The symbolism of the Valentines Day symbols is yet another example of worshiping fertility rather than the One who makes people fertile.  And the symbolism of Halloween doesn't even try to hide it's demonic origins.  In a previous blog post, I pointed out the satanic origins of Halloween.  What I failed to mention in that post is that the symbols were used to deter evil spirits and keep spells away.  And also that "trick or treat" originated as a threat for the purposes of extortion.  It still is that way in some parts of the world.  And no, the Church has not, historically, celebrated Halloween as a celebration of Jesus defeating death and the devil on the cross (which doesn't change anything anyways).

Now, what about the holidays that are celebrated?  Christmas was an instance of sun worship that happened on the Winter Solstice, which was on December 25 when Julius Cesar established his Calendar in 45 B.C.  It was at this time that the pagans celebrated the birth of their sun gods.  The Catholic Church hijacked this celebration to celebrate the birth of the Son of God instead to make "Christianity" more appealing to the masses.  Even if the date was just a coincidence (which it is not), the fact that the pagans celebrated the birth of their gods means we are forbidden from celebrating the birth of our God.  And even if the pagans did not have such a celebration, it would not change the fact that it is a man-made day to the Lord, which is a direct violation of Deuteronomy 12:32.  Only God can appoint days to God.

Easter is even worse than Christmas, because even the name comes from the name of the pagan fertility goddess.  In fact, the pronunciation is nearly identical to the name of the Babylonian fertility goddess (Ishtar).  And its celebration is directly condemned in Ezekiel 8:16 (and that's just a sample of what went on during that celebration).  What became the Easter celebration of Christianity predates the founding of the Catholic Church by more than 1,000 years!  And by the way, this was also the day that the pagans sacrificed their infants in the fire to Moloch.  Are you sure you want to be celebrating Christ's resurrection on this day?

A couple more notes about the celebration of Easter and Good Friday.  The timing instituted by the Catholic Church was deliberately set so that the two days would never coincide with Passover and Feast of First Fruits.  In fact, the Catholic Church outright replaced Passover with Good Friday, and First Fruits with Easter Sunday.  So if Christmas is merely an addition to God's commands, Easter is outright rebellion against God!  Jesus gave us something to remember his death by.  Something that is in full compliance with all of God's commands.  But even that has been replaced with a cracker and a one-ounce cup of grape juice!

Now, about Halloween.  I already made a post about it on Halloween.  But let's go into a bit more detail.  First off, the word Halloween comes from the phrase "All Hallows Evening", which translates into "All Holy Night".  That alone should tell you everything you need to know about Halloween, since God never declared the last day of any month holy.  This is another celebration that was hijacked by the Catholic Church to make "Christianity" more appealing.  What they did was they changed the day of the celebration to the last day of a month on their calendar that came closest to the last day of the month on the calendar that it was originally celebrated on.  The new date happened to be October 31.  The Catholic Church also added "All Saints Day" to the celebration, which was given the date of November 1, out of the need to remember all of their dead "saints" without completely filling-up the calendar.  Then they added "All Souls Day" for November 2.  In terms of the celebration on October 31, virtually nothing has changed except the calendar used to schedule the celebration, and the fact that some parts of the world now do it for fun rather than out of fear of evil spirits or being cursed with a spell.

How about Valentines Day?  This is yet another pagan celebration of fertility which, by the way, is also linked to witchcraft and the superstitions surrounding the full moon (which is why it's in the middle of the month, which was originally a lunar month).  The name comes from the name of a Catholic "saint":  St. Valentine.  On this day, the pagans made sacrifices to their gods so that they would remain fertile and to celebrate their fertility.

Finally, we have the Sunday Sabbath.  This came about in direct rebellion to God's commands because the Catholic Church didn't want to do anything on the same day that the Jews did things on.  The day has it's name because the pagans worshiped the sun in the sky on this day.  The excuse that the Catholic Church gives is that Jesus rose on the first day of the week (in reality, he rose at sunset on what we would call the seventh day of the week).  But God said to rest on the seventh day of the week.  The purpose of the Sabbath has also been changed from the "day of rest" to the "day of worship".  And a common defense of not observing the Sabbath on its proper day (which we call "Saturday") is that "cults worship on Saturday".  Some of these same people acknowledge that Christmas and Easter originated within cults, which should tell you all you need to know about their motives.  Regardless of which, God commanded that we rest on the seventh day of the week.  And that those who deliberately work on the seventh day are to be put to death!  Remember, the Sabbath is the only one of the Appointed Times that God commands all to practice!  The whole world!  For it was established in the beginning, and it was established for the benefit of all mankind!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Truth About the Golden Calves

The account of the first golden calf is well-known within Christianity (or at least I'm under the impression that this is the case).  But it is poorly understood.  And this is no coincidence as Satan wants to keep people away from God.  A proper understanding of this account is necessary to understand just how successful the enemy has been at keeping Christians away from God.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” [Exodus 32:1; NIV]

An interesting thing to note about the Hebrew word that is translated as "god" or "gods" is that it's almost always in the plural form.  This word is "elohim". In fact, this word appears 2,606 times in the Old Testament.  The singular form appears only 57 times.  One of the times that the plural form of the word is found is in Exodus 20:2, where the literal translation is "I (singular) am Yahweh your gods (plural)."  The word "elohim" literally means "mighty one(s)", not "god(s)".  Though it's often used to refer to god(s) and the One, True, and Living God.

Notice in Exodus 32:1, the "gods" that they asked Aaron to make are to replace Moses.  In their mind, they were not replacing God, just the mediator between them and God (which would be Moses in this case).  The passage can just as easily be translated as them saying "make us a god who will go before us."  In their mind, they were still serving the God that brought them out of Egypt.  But Christians are taught that the Israelites openly went after other gods.  And this is the misunderstanding of the incident that blinds Christians from the truth about idolatry!

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. [Exodus 32:2-6; NIV]

In verse 4, we again have a situation where the words can be translated in either their singular or plural form.  In this case, we have two words, not just one.  The first one is "elle", which can mean either "this" or "these" (as well as a number of other things).  The verse can easily be translated as "This is your god".  Again, the word "god" in this case refers to the mediator between God and men.  And in verse 6, the word translated as "Lord" is actually the name of God, Yahweh.  So not only did they replace their mediator with a golden calf, but they also decided to make their own feast to God!  Again, in their eyes, they were worshiping God, not the calf.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ [Exodus 32:7-8; NIV]

Now the Bible reveals God's perspective of what the Israelites were doing.  Again, the phrase "these are your gods" can also be translated as "this is your god".  Notice that in God's mind, the people were sacrificing to the calf they built.  The people are sincere in their worship of Yahweh, but they don't realize that they are actually worshiping the calf.  Unfortunately, most read this account from the perspective of God and don't even realize that there are two perspectives here.  God's perspective and man's perspective.  The Bible reveals both perspectives, but it's God's perspective that matters.

Have you noticed how frequently I mention Deuteronomy 13 in these types of posts?  There is a reason for that.  And really, I should be mentioning Deuteronomy 12 more often, since it also deals with idolatry.  Deuteronomy 12:32 warns us to be careful to keep God's commands, and not to add to or diminish from it.  And Deuteronomy 13 defines idolatry as rebellion against God's Law by how it contrasts obedience against serving other gods.  And Exodus 32 should serve as a reminder of what it means to God when we try to worship him our own way.

Now:  About that second golden calf incident.  By the way, there was a second incident involving golden calves.  The first king of the northern kingdom of Israel (Jeroboam I) set up two of those:  One in the north and one in the south.  Let's analyze that one as well.

25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.

31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings. [1 Kings 12:25-33; NIV]

The NIV for some reason replaced the word "behold" with "here are".  A more accurate translation would be "here is your god."  While this second account doesn't give nearly the insight on the perspective of the people, it doesn't need to if you already understand it from Exodus 32.  The calves represent Yahweh, who brought Israel out of Egypt.  This of course is a violation of the 3rd Commandment as was the calf that was made several hundred years earlier.  But the people were sincerely worshiping God and sacrificing to him.  Notice however, that the text gives God's perspective on the matter.  And from God's perspective, they are worshiping the calf and sacrificing to the calf, not him!

Notice also that he changed one of the Appointed Times to be on the eighth month instead of the seventh month.  Yet another violation of Deuteronomy 12, which by itself would be classified as idolatry by Deuteronomy 13.  And if that wasn't bad enough, Jeroboam I built high places in outright defiance of the Deuteronomy 12 commands to (a) tear down all the high places and (b) not to worship God the way the pagans worshiped their gods.  There is a reason God is so strict on how we are and are not to worship him.  And the sequence of events that unfolds over the course of the book of 1 Kings demonstrates perfectly the reason.  The kingdom of Israel went from worshiping God through unauthorized and forbidden means (lip service) to openly serving other gods.  Had they stuck to God's Law concerning how we are to worship him, this would not have happened.

God is eternal.  And his law is eternal.  This means that neither God, nor his law, can change.  And it should be clear from the Deuteronomy 13 Test that anyone seeking to change the Law, by definition, is leading you to serve other gods.  Basically, God put it in his law that the Law cannot be changed or done away with.  So anyone who worships God in a way that is forbidden by God's Law is, at best, paying God lip service.  Anyone who changes or replaces God's Appointed Times is, at best, paying God lip service.  Both are far from God and serving false gods, no matter how sincere they are in their worship of God.  Remember, God wants obedience rather than sacrifice.  And he wants that obedience to come from the heart.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Proving Paul is a True Apostle [Part 2]

In Part 1, we examined a significant portion of the book of Romans to prove that Paul is a true apostle of Jesus the Messiah.  I planned on going through more of the book (if not finishing it) in part 2, but I realized I missed something in part one.  So we're going to start this off by addressing what we missed in the last post.

Here is the relevant passage.  Romans 3:9-20.

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. [NIV]

The charge here is that Paul is taking Scripture out of context and twisting it to say what he wants it to say.  They contend that Psalm 14:1 (which Paul quotes in Romans 3:10-12) says that there's nobody among fools that does good.  However, Paul is not quoting just one verse here, but multiple verses.  The next two (Psalm 14:2-3) makes it clear that there is nobody among all mankind that does good.  We see the same pattern in Psalm 53.  And Ecclesiastes 7:20 (one of the many verses Paul quotes in this passage) also makes it clear that nobody is righteous.  And the definition of righteous that is used in that verse requires the person to never sin once.  Ironically, it's those making the charge against Paul who are taking Scripture out of context.

There may be other places I've missed or will miss, but we'll address those when I realize I've missed them or when they're pointed out to me.  In the mean time, let's continue where we left off from part 1:  Romans 8.  Here, we are introduced to two new laws:  The "law of the Spirit" and the "law of sin and death".  In addition to that, we have the law of God, which is referred simply as "the Law".  So we see that there are at least three laws at play here.  In verse 7, Paul states that he is referring to God's Law when he says, "The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so."  What does that tell you about those who say "God's Law is a burden" or "God's Law is too difficult"?

So, let's go back to Romans 6 and 7, and see if chapter 8 can help us understand these passages which imply that God's Law is the problem or that we've been set from from it.  Paul states that we have died to sin (6:2) and have been set free from sin (6:7).  He also said that sin shall no longer be our master because we are not under the law, but under grace (6:14).  So if being set free from sin means we are no longer "under the law", then which law is Paul referring to?  Wouldn't it be the law of sin and death mentioned in Romans 8:2?  Also, if the answer is no, then does Paul define what it means to be "under the Law" when "the Law" refers to God's Law?  Perhaps.  In Galatians 3:10, Paul quotes God's Law when he says that those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse.  Why are they under a curse?  Because the Law says, "Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out." [Deuteronomy 27:26; NIV]  So, if being "under the Law" is referring to God's Law, then it means being under the curse of the Law because you have broken the Law.  Again, it is not those who keep the Law who are cursed, but those who break the Law who are cursed.

Continuing on, Paul says we used to be slaves to sin (6:17), but have since been set free from sin and are now slaves to righteousness (6:18).  And that we should now offer ourselves as slaves to righteousness just as we used to offer ourselves as slaves to ever-increasing wickedness (6:19).  And we have been set free from sin, and are now slaves to God (6:22).  In Romans 7:1-3, Paul uses the marriage Law as an analogy to what has happened to us, then says we have died to the Law (7:4), have died to that which once bound us (7:5) and have been released from the law (7:6).  Which Law have we been released from?  The law of sin an death!  The marriage law represents the law of sin and death that we were bound to before we came to repentance and faith in Jesus.  By the way, in Romans 7:23, Paul specifies that it is the law of sin working against the Law of God.  And the next two verses, states that it was through Jesus the Messiah that he was delivered from the law of sin.  So we were introduced to the law of sin here.  And it is this law that we are no longer under.

Friday, November 5, 2021

What and When is the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is the very first of God's Appointed Times.  In Genesis 1:1-2:3, God sets a pattern for us to follow by creating everything in six days (working) and then resting on the Seventh.  The Seventh day of the first week was the very first day that God set apart (made holy).  Later, he codified it as a mandatory rest for all (Exodus 20:8-11), even rest for the animals.  In fact, God commanded that even those not in covenant with him observe the Sabbath.  It's that important to him!  So we've basically answered both questions from the title, but some may object and say that the Sabbath was changed by either Jesus or his Disciples.  So let's address that claim.

The first question we should ask is this:  Does Jesus, or his Disciples have the authority to change the Sabbath?  Some may say that Jesus does, because he is God in the flesh.  And while it's true that Jesus is God in the flesh, he also lived as a man on the Earth.  In order to live a life without sin, he must keep God's Law.  In Deuteronomy 12:32, it says to keep God's commandments.  And forbids us from adding to or diminishing from them.  Changing the Sabbath is not keeping God's commandments, but replacing them with your own commandments.

Also, we have that Deuteronomy 13 Test to worry about.  Deuteronomy 13, in a nutshell, is this:  Anyone who teaches what is contrary to God's Law is, by definition, leading people into idolatry.  And anyone who teaches obedience to God's Law is, by definition, teaching people to serve God.  Would God tell the Israelites to test the teachers in this way, then send someone to teach the opposite 1,500 years later?  Those who know what God's Law says would immediately conclude that such a person was a false teacher.  In fact, this is what the Pharisees tried to do so many times in an attempt to get rid of Jesus.  But they couldn't find anything.  Ironically, the high priest, after hearing Jesus say that he would be at the right hand of the father, broke the Law by tearing his garment (Matthew 26:65)!  By the way, did I mention that it was considered blasphemous for anyone to claim that they would be with God in heaven?

So, while you can argue that Jesus did have the authority to change the Sabbath, doing so would invalidate his work on the cross and our faith in him would be futile.  So if even Jesus did not have the authority to change the Sabbath, then his Disciples certainly did not have any such authority.  So if they didn't change it, who did?  False convert Constantine did.  Constantine is the one prophesied about in Daniel 7:24-25.

So, what about the evidence that the Disciples observed the first day of the week (what we call "Sunday") as the Sabbath?  Well, in Acts 20:7, it mentions that Paul was speaking until about midnight, and that it was the first day of the week.  The way that the Israelites count the starts of each day is different than from how we count them.  Their days start at sundown the night before.  So Paul was still speaking on what we would call "Saturday night", going into Sunday.

In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs one of the congregations to collect money on the first day of every week, so that they will not have to collect money when he arrives.  This is typically interpreted as a change in the Sabbath, but since Deuteronomy 13 calls that idolatry, the collection on the first day of the week is so that they will not be collecting on the Sabbath.

And before anyone tries to use Hebrews 7:12 as evidence that the Law was changed, Deuteronomy 12:32 and Deuteronomy 13 prevents this from happening.  The passage is greatly mistranslated.  The Greek word for change is "allasso", but the words translated as change are "metatithemi" and "metathesis", which both mean "transfer".  It's kind of difficult to change something that is eternal.

So the Sabbath is a day of rest (not a day of worship), and it is on the seventh day of the week, which is the day that is called "Saturday".

Thursday, November 4, 2021

How Accurate is the Translation of "Church"?

What comes to mind when you hear the word "church"?  A building where Christians meet?  Christianity as a whole?  Something else?  The word translated as "church" in our Bibles is the Greek word "ecclesia", which is a compound Greek word that literally means "to call out".  This word appears in the Bible 118 times and is translated as "Church" 115 of those times in the KJV.  But how accurate is this translation?

If by "Church", you mean "congregation" or "assembly", then the translation is not accurate at all.  Nothing I could find about ecclesia has anything to do with gathering together or assembling.  It has everything to do with what some refer to as "the called out ones".  That is, the people who believe in Jesus.  A better word to translate as "Church" in the context of an assembly would be the Greek word "synagogue", which literally means "assembly".  The Bible also uses this to refer to the place where believers assemble.

If you mean the place where believers in Jesus assemble, then the phrase "house of God" or "house of the Lord" seems to be the best option.  Every place where this phrase appears in the Bible, it always refers to a physical location or building where the people assemble.  The word "synagogue" I guess can work, but that word is usually reserved for congregations that try to observe God's Appointed Times and Sabbaths as closely to what's prescribed as possible.

In two places in the New Testament, you'll find the phrase "God's household".  Paul uses this is 1 Timothy 3:15 to refer to "the called out of the living God" (literal translation).  Peter seems to use it in the same manner in 1 Peter 4:17.  So while the phrase "house of God" refers to the physical place of assembly, the phrase "God's household" refers to those who believe in Jesus.  Although some interpret "God's household" as synonymous with "house of God", which refers to the place of assembly.

If by Church, you mean those who believe in Jesus, then you have a whole host of phrases to choose from if you want to eliminate any ambiguity.  Phrases such as "body of Christ", "body of the Messiah", "the called out ones", "the called out of God", and a few others.  You also have the word "Christians".

In conclusion, the word "Church" is not the most accurate translation of ecclesia.  A literal translation of "called out ones" or "called out" seems to be the best translation in most (if not all) cases.  By the way, have you been wondering what exactly we have been called out of?  I believe that the answer is that we've been called out of sin.  That would mean "ecclesia" refers to those who have been called out of sin, and now walk according to that calling.  I also believe that God is calling everyone out of sin, but very few are going to answer it.  This is why I believe that this translation is the best.  Because by using this, we will constantly remind ourselves that we have been called out of sin, and into righteousness (Romans 6:11-14), which is obedience to God's commandments (Romans 2:13).

Monday, November 1, 2021

Proving Paul is a True Apostle [Part 1]

So, in a previous post, I exposed the rather lacking attempts that the Church makes to defend Paul and explained why they cannot provide an adequate defense of the Apostle.  In this post (which will probably be a multi-part series), I'll be proving that Paul is a legitimate Apostle of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah.  We're going to be starting in the book of Romans since much of the accusations against Paul are the result of misunderstanding what Paul wrote in his epistles.  First, we need to lay a few rules about how we are testing Paul to determine his legitimacy.

  1. Any command that he gives that he credits to God must come from God's Law.  Same for any command that he credits to Jesus.  For he is not allowed to add to or diminish from God's commandments [Deuteronomy 12:32].
  2. Teaching people that they do not have to keep God's Law is the same as teaching people to follow after other gods.  See the Deuteronomy 13 Test for why this is.
With that out of the way, let's get started with Romans Chapter 2.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [Romans 2:12-16; NIV]

In the above passage, Paul makes it abundantly-clear that only those who keep the Law will be declared righteous (verse 13).  And in verses 14 and 15, Paul explains that the one who does what is required by God's Law, even though they do not have the written Law, shows that they have his Law written on their heart.  By the way, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a promise by God to make a new covenant with his people where he will write his Law on their hearts.  The Law being on our hearts is nothing new.  Deuteronomy 26:16 commands us to keep the Law with all our hearts.  That is, keeping God's Law should come naturally to us.

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. [Romans 2:25-27; NIV]

There is definitely a lot of confusion on the topic of circumcision.  Some use the above passage as proof that circumcision is bad.  But those we are addressing in this post use this passage as proof that Paul was a deceiver.  But notice what Paul said about the one who keeps the Law, yet is not circumcised.  If God's Law requires all to be circumcised, then how can somebody obey the Law without being circumcised?  Hint:  It does not require all to be circumcised; only the descendants of Israel and those who want to eat the Passover.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. [Romans 3:19-20; NIV]

This passage should be pretty self-explanatory.  The Law tells us what sin is, and it is because of the Law that the whole world will be held accountable to God on Judgement Day.  This is one of many passages that are used as proof that keeping the Law is a bad thing.  But the logic behind this is what's known as a non-sequitor.  It does not follow that because the Law makes us aware of our sin, that we therefore should not keep the Law.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Since the Law tells us what sin is, we should be making every effort to keep the Law.  And remember Romans 2:13:  Only those who keep the Law will be declared righteous.

Romans 3:21-26 is Paul explaining that righteousness comes from believing in Jesus.  This does not mean that one can break the Law and still be righteous.  It means that those who believe have been forgiven of their transgressions through the blood of Jesus.  Forgiveness means God no longer counts the times you have transgressed his Law against you, and are therefore, righteous in his sight.  Oh, and if anyone gets any ideas after stopping at verse 30:  You stopped one verse too soon!  Those who have faith keep God's Law!  Now even if he didn't explicitly say that, think:  How much sense does it make to define righteousness as keeping God's Law, then teach us not to keep the Law?  Does it make any sense for someone to say, "righteousness is keeping God's Law, therefore do not keep God's Law"?  Of course not.

Starting in Romans 3:21, Paul is teaching that righteousness is by faith apart from the works of the Law.  And in Romans 4:3, Paul quotes the historical account in Genesis 15 to prove his point.  This is because Genesis 15:6 states "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. [NIV]"  Many assume that Paul is teaching something called "faith alone", which James had some choice words concerning such doctrines.  The only time the phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible is when James speaks against it.  It never appears anywhere else.  Faith alone is the doctrine that since our righteousness is by faith apart from the works of the Law, that our works have absolutely no bearing on our righteousness.  And those who teach it will say that if you teach otherwise, then you are, by definition, teaching a "salvation by works".  Never-mind the fact that only those who keep the Law can be declared righteous in God's sight (Romans 2:13).  In Jame's rebuke of such heresy, he quotes from the exact same verse to prove that Abraham's deeds came from his faith.

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:20-21; NIV]

Here's another verse that I've seen used to try to prove that Paul spoke against the Law.  There's just one tiny little detail:

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? [Romans 6:1-2]

Yup!  They stopped too soon again. Speaking of which, chapters 6 and 7 is where Paul starts his teaching on slavery to sin vs slavery to righteousness; being dead to sin, but alive to God.  Take to heart Peter's warning, and read carefully the whole passage before jumping to conclusions about what Paul did or did not teach.  Because a lot of the misunderstandings about what Paul taught are from forming whole doctrines around one or two verses without taking the context into consideration.  By doing this, one will draw a conclusion that is the exact opposite of Paul's teachings.  This is on top of the fact that Paul is still difficult to understand, per Peter's warning.

Read Romans 6 very carefully.  And notice how Paul is teaching that we have died to sin, and therefore are no longer slaves to sin, having been set free from it.  And that we are to offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness.  Now, what does Romans 6:14 mean?  What "law" is Paul referring to when he says we're not under the Law?  Is it possible that Paul is talking about more than one law here?  Under what law is sin our master?  If it's God's Law, then what does being "under the Law" mean?  Does being under the law mean we have to keep the Law?  Or does it mean something else?  Perhaps it means that we are under the curse that comes when we break the Law.

If you interpreted "not being under the Law" as referring to God's Law, then you might want to continue reading.  The very next verse states that we shall no means sin because we are "not under the Law".  It seems that Paul knew how we might misunderstand what he was trying to say, and so he made sure that we would not draw any incorrect conclusions about what he was trying to teach.  If only we would not keep stopping one verse too short.

That brings us to Romans 7, which will be the last chapter we cover in this post.  At the end of Romans 6, Paul reiterates one final time that we have been set free from sin and are now slave to God.  And Romans 7 starts off by making using God's marriage law as an analogy for what he is trying to say.  So now, what is Paul trying to tell us when he says that we have been "released from the Law" (Romans 7:6)?  Which law is he referring to?  If he is referring to God's Law, then is he referring to the requirement to keep the Law?  Or is he referring to the penalty that the Law requires for breaking the Law?  Again, it seems Paul knew how people would interpret what he was saying verses what he was trying to say.  Because in Romans 7:7, he says (clearly referring to God's Law), "What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'"

Notice again that Paul is saying that it is because of God's Law that we know what is sinful.  And if you keep reading, you will see that Paul is saying that sin uses God's Law to deceive us.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Because this is exactly the same trick that the serpent used in Genesis 3 to deceive Eve into eating the fruit that God said, "you shall not eat of it".  And Paul spends the rest of the chapter explaining how he used to be under the power of sin, but have been saved through Jesus the Messiah (Romans 7:21-25).

In part two, we will (Lord willing), continue to study Paul's writings to prove that he never once taught against God's Law.  For now, I'll leave you with this quote, from Paul:  "I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the flesh a slave to the law of sin."

Part 2 is available here.

Change of Heart, Change of Style

A while ago, on social media, a posted a rather harsh reply to something that a pastor posted, and got rebuked for not making my reply in a ...