Friday, October 7, 2016

New Testament Journey part 3

Leadership: Where Things Started To Go Wrong.
In Jesus own words about leadership, he said to the Apostles, “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 23:8-12

Acts 20:28-31: This bears repeating!
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, “savage wolveswill come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and “distort the truth” in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 “So be on your guard!” Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you “night and day with tears.”

          Many times in our day, it is not politically correct to judge other Christians. However, we must remember that judgment begins with the household of God. So, Is there some unwritten rule somewhere that Christians are not to question other Christian’s beliefs about the Institutional Churches traditional practices?  No way! We are to “test” the spirits in the search for truth, but with gentleness and respect”.  From my research, it is absolutely imperative to speak the truth in love.
An early example of how leadership might have gone awry is what “Diotrophes” did to the Apostles, other believers, and believers that he was fellowshipping with. The scripture below points to what could possibly be the early beginnings of the development of the “clergy/laity division.”

3 John 1:9-10
9 I wrote to the church, but “Diotrophes,” who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so (that is believers welcoming other believers) and puts them out of the church. WHAT!!!

·       Paul wrote to the Elders of the churches. (there were more than one)
·       Elders were the spiritually mature leaders who developed from the body of believers over time.
·       Elders, overseers, pastors, ministers, shepherds, deacons (means servants), etc., are terms that are all synonymous terms. They meant “functions,” not offices. Over time, we have let these words, through tradition, morph into words that are incorrectly defined. Mainly, these definitions came from the traditions of the Early Church Fathers.
·       Elders gave guidance and direction to believers through maturity, wisdom, and gentle persuasion, but decision-making was by consensus of the entire body of believers. (Not based on supposed Democratic voters meetings.)

False Teachings ofThe Early Church Fathers and Others Influence:The Major Fatal Flaw:
So, “who caused the deception?” False teachers and false teachings were abundant during the time of the Apostles. The Post-Apostolic, false teachings of the Early Church Fathers heavily influenced the beliefs of the Christian’s around them. If they would have stuck to what Jesus taught the apostles, and the apostles passed on to other believers they would have been on the right path. However, the Early Church Fathers went astray when they themselves developed (I think it was partially out of ignorance and partially intentional) their own organizational system. From this point, the Early Church Fathers started straying from what Jesus taught, and believed that what should be taught was Jesus teachings plus their teachings. In fact, they went beyond and believed that their teachings super-ceded those of Jesus.
          With this belief came the development of a division caused by the Early Church Fathers.  From the quotes below, it is not hard to see that this foundational error of the Early Church Fathers developed into a system. Their “organizational system” was completely spread throughout the body of believers by the end of the fourth century. From this “biblical error,” all other areas of the body of believer’s practice were and continue to be affected and in error. These are the areas that were affected: The pastor, sermon, order of worship, church buildings, Lord’s Supper, baptism, tithes, clergy salaries, music ministers, choirs, Sunday morning dress, etc., etc., etc.

Examining The Early Church Father’s Quotes:
Clement of Rome, in his epistle to the Corinthian Church in AD 95, wrote:
"The high priest has been given his own special services, the priests have been assigned their own place, and the Levites have their special ministrations enjoined on them. The layman is bound by the ordinances of the laity."WHAT?!!!!

Where did the Apostles write about ordinances for the laity and being bound by them? They didn’t!

Where did the Apostles ever speak of their Christian brothers and sisters as layman in their writings? You won’t find it!

Ignatius - Bishop of Antioch AD 110
To the Ephesians:
"Your REVEREND presbytery is tuned to the Bishop as strings to a lyre...Let us be careful not to resist the Bishop, that through our submission to the Bishop we may belong to God...We should regard the Bishop as the Lord Himself..."WHAT?!!! 

Where is the humility of a servant?  There is None!
Where did the Apostles ever demonstrate this type of thinking in their actions? They didn’t. 
Paul was not high-minded like this. In fact, He said, “I am the worst of sinners.”

To the Smyrneans:
*"Let no-one do anything that pertains to the church apart from the is not permitted to baptize or hold a love-feast independently of the Bishop. But whatever he approves, that is also well pleasing to God." WHAT?!!!
“He that does anything without the knowledge of the Bishop serves the Devil.” WHAT?!!!!
Where did the Apostles ever write this type of requirement in the New Testament scriptures and said these things?
 They didn’t!

To the Magnesians:
*"I advise you to always act in godly concord with the Bishop, presiding as the counterpart of God, and the presbyters as the counterpart of the council of the Apostles...As the Lord did nothing without the Father, either by Himself or by means of the Apostles, so you must do nothing without the Bishop and the presbyters."  WHAT?!!!
Where did any of the Apostles write anything like this? They didn’t!

To the Trallians:
"...respect the Bishop as the counterpart of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of the Apostles: without those no church is recognized."  WHAT?!!!!
“It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the Bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the Presbytery (Elders), as to the Apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, if we live, we shall be found.” WHAT?!!!
Where did any of the Apostles write anything like this? They didn’t!

Tertullian - AD 200
·       This is a very interesting quote “Custom or (Tradition, my word) without truth is error grown old.” Tertullian.  (Pay close attention here.)
This comes from the man who helped develop the priesthood/clergy leadership structure.

"The supreme priest (that is the Bishop) has the right of conferring baptism: after him the presbyters and deacons, but only with the Bishop's authority.
What? !!!!!
Otherwise the laity also have the much more is the discipline of reverence and humility incumbent upon laymen (since it also befits their superiors) “It would be idle for us to suppose that what is forbidden to PRIESTS is allowed to the laity. WHAT?!!!The distinction between the order of clergy and the people has been established by the authority of the Church."
WHAT? !!!
Where did any of the Apostles write anything like this? They didn’t! There was no separate authority or class.
Cyprian - Bishop of Carthage AD 250.
"If Christ Jesus our Lord and God is Himself the High Priest of God the Father, and first offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father, and commanded this to be done in remembrance of Himself, then assuredly the priest acts truly in Christ's place when he reproduces what Christ did, and he then offers a true and complete sacrifice to God the Father, if he begins to offer as he sees Christ Himself has offered."

Where did the Apostles speak of  priests as the mediators of and for the people? They didn’t! The only thing Peter stated was that we are  “a priesthood of all believers”.

Scriptures Concerning Believers as Responsible Users of the Word

Romans 15:14
 I myself am convinced my brothers that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”  Interesting! Where do you find the need for a priestly/pastor mediator for man before God? You Don’t!

2nd Timothy 3:6
All Scripture is God – breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that “the man of God” may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Where is the need for one man to guide the flock? There isn’t!

Acts 4:13
When they say the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were “unschooled, ordinary” men (take special note and mark this in your Bible), they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Interesting, Peter and John were “unschooled and ordinary”. Hmmmmmmm.

2nd Peter 1:5-8
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; (accurate) and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being “ineffective and unproductive” in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1st John 2:27
27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Anointing defined: This passage teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the efficient means of enabling all believers to possess the knowledge of the truth!
We are all men and women of God. There is “no clergy/laity division!” We are all or can be competent in the use of the word and it’s application.
Why do most Christians do the things they do and never ask Why?

The answer is “Human Tradition”!

Let me repeat a quote,

“Change” is nearly always difficult especially when it involves “long-standing, deeply-seated traditions” that we have become accustomed to. Anonymous

Paul speaking to the Galatians said, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by “human effort?”  Galatians 3:3

Jesus Words to the Pharisees/Scribes/Sadducees:

“Why do you transgress” the commandment of God for the sake of your traditions?”

Greek Language Word Meanings:Tradition and Transgress

Transgress Means:
Paranomia – contrary to the law
Parabaino – to go beyond the commands of God
Hyperbaino – overstepping the limits, breach of the law

Tradition Means:
Paradosis – “handing down”
Paradidomi – “to handover or deliver”

All of these definitions are applicable in the case of the Pharisees/Scribes/Sadducees.

Just because people have believed something and handed it down through the years, “Does not make it true!”

Pharisees Did This By Developing:The Jewish Law

Halakhah – Jewish Law – means “the path that one walks.”
613 laws to follow – 248 positive/365 negative laws

Three categories of Jewish Law:
·       Gezeirah or Fence Laws – Laws designed so Jews would not get too close to breaking the Torah Law.
·       Takkanah – Rules for the general public welfare.
·       Minhag – Customs developed by the Rabbi’s for worthy religious reasons.

·       Jesus disciples picked grain and ate it without going through this traditional ritual of washing their hands.
·       Pharisees traditionally washed their hands all the time before eating.
·       Jesus healed the whole man on the Sabbath.
·       Pharisees did no work on the Sabbath, i.e., pick up pencil on prayer book on Shabat
·       Modern Day Example: In Israel, on Shabbat, elevators – stop on every floor so Jews won’t have to push any buttons – Pushing buttons equals work.
They surely went beyond the commands of God! In fact, Jesus came to set the people free from this type of burden that the Pharisees were forcing the people to carry, i.e., ritualistic ceremonial traditions. This is why in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find “rest” for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Mainly, the reason for sharing this information is to demonstrate not only the legalism of the Pharisees, but how it relates to the body of believers today. We, as believers, have ignorantly taken on, carried up to the present day, and adhere to the same burdensome traditions of the Early Church Fathers and other legalists. We ourselves have unnecessarily placed a yoke of slavery on our own shoulders.

Hebrews 6:1-2
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts (defined as “useless rituals in the Greek Language”) (Mark this in your Bibles) that lead to death.

Hebrews 9:14
How much more then will the blood of Christ who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts (defined again as “useless rituals in the Greek Language”) that lead to death so that we may serve the living God.

Galatians 4:9
“But now that you know God or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved all over by them again?”

Let me share another story that I believe demonstrates how others inside the church and the Early Church Fathers deceived the Christians of their time and is continued up to and in our present day.

How to Catch a Rat:
A grandpa’s grandson had a chicken coop that was invaded by rats. Attracted by the feed, they had moved in. He asked for his grandpa’s help and they set out a couple of traps. After a week, they had not caught a single rat. A farmer friend came by and offered some advice. “No rat”, he said, “Will touch an exposed trap. You’ve got to disguise it with food. Fill a pan with meal and place a trap in it. Cover it well with meal so it is completely hidden.” It worked! The next morning they had a big, fat rat.

          All this is a reminder that the devil knows this trick all too well. He has used other believers and the Early Church Father’s “man-made traditions” to deceive and drive a dividing wedge between all believers. He took that error and hid it under religious “things” like ceremonial rituals like church services, sermons, titles, authority/power, etc., etc., and in turn, it became the foundation for the Catholic Church. The Institutional Protestant Church has fallen prey to the same man-made traditions as well.

Important Note:
·       Every believer must have a discerning spirit and attitude, not just the spiritually mature.
·       Be “continually watchful for false teachings and keep your spiritual radar on “high alert” and in the receiving mode. We must watch over our hearts with diligence.

Scriptures Concerning Discerning Truth About Tradition: A Fuller Picture

Colossians 2:8
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through “hollow” and “deceptive philosophy”, which depends on “human tradition” and the “basic principles of this world” rather than on Christ.

Scripture Breakdown: Meanings According to the Greek Language.

See to it
Paul sees the situation in Colossi as very serious, almost to the point of having to command them to do what he is saying. Be very aware!

No one takes you captive
To be taken captive in this context means to take control of a person and carry them away from the truth into the bondage of error by the false teacher’s subtle persuasion.

Hollow and Deceptive
This was the character of the Philosophy. Hollow meant that there was “absolutely no purpose” or is completely fruitless, nothing of truth or reality. Deceptive meant “to give a false impression by appearance, statement, or influence.” Also, to be led astray was done by subtle persuasion.

Philosophy at the time was solely based on human thinking apart from God, i.e., religious doctrines and speculations, i.e., Gnosticism, Aceticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism.

Human Tradition
In this context, Paul was talking about the “human traditions” that perpetuate error and cannot be supported by God’s word. These traditions were fabricated by man and given more importance than God’s word. Some examples of this are the Rabbi’s Talmudic teachings that were based solely on their own authority as well as the Pharisees observance of ritual and ceremonial laws. (I’m sure that some of the Early Church Fathers who continued their traditions were sincere even though what they taught was wrong. A person can be sincere, but, also, can be sincerely wrong.)

Basic Principles of this World
In context, this meant the basics of religion or the ABC’s.

Romans 16:17
17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.Keep away from them.”

I urge you
Paul’s thinking-I beg of you please! Very Urgent Message!

Watch out
Examine and scrutinize carefully. Keep your eye on those who cause divisions (dissensions) and obstacles (hindrances). During Paul’s time, he was encouraging the believers in his day to make this a“continual activity” because there were many, many false spiritual teachers present.

Divisions and Obstacles
They refer to a person or thing by which one is drawn into error, or sin, or trapped by an enticement. Other thoughts are that they make progress slow or difficult, or they interfere with the activity or progress of something, or they block the way.

Contrary to the Teachings
Is that which goes against the Gospel truth.

Keep Away From Them
We are to obey this command of “continually avoiding association with them”, and steer clear of them. Don’t give them the time of day. Also, this conveys the idea of protecting fellow believers who are not as spiritually mature as others as well as new believers. It may sound harsh, but do this! If you know what they stand for, than why associate with them?

Colossians 2:20-23
20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom”, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Human Commands and Teachings
The human commands and teachings of the Pharisees meant a formalized set of man-made rules/prohibitions as well as coercing others by the imposition of these rules, i.e., Legalism, Asceticism, Ceremonial rites and rituals, as well as an organizational system.
What was happening at the time of Paul was the Colossians were being led into the error of believing that they could not eat certain foods as well as by keeping other rules they would be the key to greater spirituality.

To shrivel, wither, spoil, ruin, or corrupt. Also, refers to a state of ruin, destruction. It pictures deterioration, disintegration, or rotting like organic matter. It pictures a “departure from the original or from what is pure and correct.”

Appearance of Wisdom
All these precepts and teaching can be lumped into one category. Paul’s thinking was that these teachings had a reputation at the time for “popularly passing as wisdom” i.e., seeker sensitivity, New Apostolic Reformation, Latter Rains Teachings, Word of Faith Teachings, etc., etc., but they lacked the reality of true wisdom. Similarly, it is the same way we operate in the traditional churches today.

Self-Imposed Worship
The thinking is a religion thought up by one-self. The idea pictured is an individual practicing beliefs resulting from their own desires and initiative. Also, a man worships what seems best to him by his own will.

False Humility
An external effort by showy piety means - To make a show of reverence for divine things by complying with painful rites or ceremonies.
Examples: No Long hair, no makeup, long dresses, unusually long periods of fasting, going to church multiple times per week, etc.,etc.,etc.

Harsh Treatment of The Body
Not sparing or holding nothing back. The picture is of severity and austerity, and in context, most probably is alluding to Asceticism, i.e., self-denial, self-torture to attain a higher state of holiness. Also, it is not uncommon in ancient as well as modern religions to find thinking and practice of extreme self-denial or self-torture of the body with the notion of purification of the soul.

Restraining Sensual Indulgence

They cannot keep the reins on the flesh. Man-made rules are of no value. Jesus alone provides the power for purity, cleansing, and fullness of spirit.
          So, why have I given you all this information so far? It is for you to gain a sense of what was happening during Paul’s time as well as how this flowed into the development of the traditional body of believers through “man-made traditions” concerning leadership and believer’s meetings.
          The above scriptures and the breakdown by meaning are for you to think about when you are making a comparison of New Testament Christianity during the Apostles time with the body of believers today! They speak directly about human tradition.