Ancient Landmarks

Ancient Landmarks

If you have not yet read Let Us Make It Difficult for You and Disturbing Trends, reading these first will give context to this blog post, part three of three in a series based on a sermon called, “Don’t Make It Difficult,” by Shawn McCracken.

Here’s a quick recap.

The first Christian council in Jerusalem produced a letter to Gentile believers in Antioch. This letter demonstrates some disturbing trends that have persisted among believers for almost 2,000 years, including misapplication of spiritual authority, a failure to recognize the extent of God’s nondiscrimination, a failure to understand God’s “over-abounding” grace, and disregard for Christ’s instructions to not exercise lordship or authority over one another as believers. When it comes to disturbing trends, information that was not included in the letter is as important, if not more important.

4. Omission of Important Information

During the Council of Jerusalem, some discussion had taken place which ought to have been included in the letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch. The letter was only a portion of the Jewish apostles’ and elders’ plan. James is the one who suggested they write a letter. Here is what James said:

Wherefore I judge not to trouble those [Gentiles] who from the nations do turn back to God, but to write to them to abstain from the pollutions of the idols, and the whoredom, and the strangled thing; and the blood; for Moses from former generations in every city hath those preaching him — in the synagogues every sabbath being read.

Not all of what James said is included in the letter. Along with the four requirements, the council hoped that the Gentiles would eventually conform to the Mosaic Laws by becoming assimilated into the Jewish community (“For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath”).

The implications are that the spiritual growth of the Gentile believers would increase, until eventually they would achieve the same level of spiritual maturity as the Jewish believers. In other words, they would not be excluded from salvation, as long as they continued to follow the four requirements and continued in their indoctrination for further requirements of the law. They could technically be called “saved” and attend church (synagogue), but it would take further assimilation for them to hold the same status as Jewish believers who followed the Mosaic law. And they most definitely would not be able to enter into the temple court to do animal sacrifice unless they had fully complied, including being circumcised.

In the institutional church system, this trend continues. For example, McCracken compares the Acts 15 situation to BOTH people who don’t know Jesus AND people who already know Jesus. It is as if people who already know Jesus are somehow considered sub-standard believers until they practice the requirements of Judaism, or in the case of McCracken’s sermon, until they practice the requirements of churchism. There’s a heavy  burden placed on believers by believers. What is that burden? Why is that burden imposed?

Let’s look at his sermon to find out.

McCracken proposes a hypothetical situation, that is, joining the Road Dogs, a motorcycle group and Lifegroup in the church. In order to join, you don’t have to wear a skull cap. You don’t have to get tattoos. “This is a Christian motorcycle club,” McCracken says, but “you don’t have to know Jesus,” or be affiliated with any church or denomination, sign off on bylaws or creeds, and you don’t even have to ride a motorcycle. “They don’t grill you,” on whether you know Jesus.” McCracken explains, “As you get to know them, you get to know the Jesus that’s within them. When you get to know the Jesus that’s within them, they hope that eventually you will want become a Christian.” So far, McCracken is referring to people who do not know Jesus joining a motorcycle club. This Road Dogs analogy is not about people who already know Jesus, and it is not about whether these people should be considered part of the church. McCracken says that the Road Dogs “don’t make it difficult to join, but this is where the rub is…”

Notice how the topic changes as McCracken continues:

We also don’t cheapen grace. We cannot cheapen grace. Grace came at a very costly price. The blood of Jesus Christ poured out on Calvary. We cannot cheapen that. But at the same time, we cannot make it difficult to join. We cannot make it difficult on the onset. We cannot make it to where it’s a requirement. We are not God. We are agents of the Holy Spirit. We are vehicles, but He’s still the Holy Spirit. What we are yoked to is easy and light, remember? Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Here’s His burden. (2 Cor 5:19-21) “He has committed to use the message of reconciliation…”

The topic dramatically shifted from someone who doesn’t know Jesus joining the Road Dogs (no requirements) to someone who doesn’t know Jesus joining the church, in other words, becoming part of the body of believers. Not only this, but within another breath, the subject changes even further:

Our message is not this: I do not go up to Dana and say, “Dana, are you circumcised? That’s real personal. I realize this. But I need to know, are you circumcised?” Now, when I am mentoring him, when I’m discipling him, you know, maybe some issues of morality and things like that, they need to come out. But I need to give him the message of reconciliation.

So the subject of the sermon shifted as follows:

Someone who doesn’t know Jesus joining the Road Dogs —> Someone who doesn’t know Jesus becoming a believer —> Someone who DOES know Jesus becoming a believer

Dana, as far as I know, has been a professing believer for years. Why should McCracken want to give the message of reconciliation to Dana, who has already been given the message of reconciliation? Look at the context of 2 Corinthians:

If any one is in Christ — he is a new creature; the old things did pass away, lo, become new have the all things. And the all things are of God, who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and did give to us the ministration of the reconciliation, how that God was in Christ — a world reconciling to Himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses; and having put in us the word of the reconciliation…

If we believe this, then we can say:

Dana is a new creature; the old things did pass away, lo, become new have the all things. And the all things are of God, who reconciled Dana to Himself through Jesus Christ, and did give to Dana the ministration of the reconciliation…

And what, exactly is Dana’s ministration of reconciliation?

…how that God was in Christ — a world reconciling to Himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses; and having put in Dana the word of the reconciliation…

The word, or message, of reconciliation is already within Dana. His easy and light yoke or burden is to tell people that God, in Christ, is reconciling the world to Himself and not counting their sins against them. The word “ministration” in ministration of reconciliation is:

Cognate: 1248 diakonía – ministry; active service, done with a willing (voluntary) attitude. See 1249 (diakonos). For the believer, 1248 /diakonía (“ministry”) specifically refers to Spirit-empowered service guided by faith (4102 /pístis, “the Lord’s inbirthed persuasion”).

In other words, Dana is Spirit-empowered and guided by the Lord’s in-birthed persuasion with the message that God is reconciling the world to Himself and not counting people’s sins against them.

The yoke or burden that McCracken described is different than the ministry of reconciliation Paul described (that is, once Paul grew some balls and stopped catering to the elders in Jerusalem). McCracken claimed that the burden is light, but if we compare the burden he described to the one above, it proves to be heavy. It’s more like the Pharisee believer’s requirements to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic laws or like the Jewish believer’s requirements to start with a few rules and move toward complete assimilation. McCracken says,

That is the burden that is light that is on us. That’s what we have to say, “Listen, things are wrong in your life. Be reconciled to God. Make things right with your heavenly father.” The same way as if I am in a counseling session with somebody who has something wrong with their earthly father, I would say, “Listen, you need to make things right. You need to talk. You need to have forgiveness in your heart,” things like that. “You need to make things right with God. Be reconciled to God.”

Clearly, McCracken defines “Be reconciled to God” as “You need to make things right with God.” Who is the one initiating reconciliation in McCracken’s counseling analogy: God or the one whose sins are not counted against them? What is the message of reconciliation in McCracken’s counseling analogy: Your sins are not being counted against you or your sins are being counted against you?

Notice how McCracken wavers, like Paul did at first, between law and grace.

First grace:

Making it easy…

Then law:

does not mean watering it down or cheapening it. It doesn’t.

Then a mix of grace and law:

You have to understand that there’s a fine balance.

Grace:

I am not saying, “Listen, come to Jesus and your life is a bed of roses. All you’ve got to do is say a prayer and you’re good to go, keep living how you’re living and it’s good, it’s good, seriously. God loves you anyway.” God’s love is unconditional…

Law:

…but He does not like how you are living. He is still a holy God.

Grace:

But on the outset, we cannot be telling them what to be changing before they can come to Christ, because it’s not based on what they change, it’s based on what Jesus can do to change them…

A mix of grace and law:

It’s this fine line. And if we talk about anything in this church, we talk about that fine line between grace and law and between lasciviousness and legalism. And there is that fine line.

Grace:

And we do not want legalism to where everything is checked and you can only wear this, we don’t want that…

Law:

…and at the same time we don’t want sloppy agape, either. His grace is too costly. Again, a relationship with Him produces holiness. I want to be like Him when I spend time with Him. And if I’m not spending time with Him, then something is awry in my heart.

Grace:

But that should tell me that something’s awry in my heart, not somebody pointing their finger at me.

The powerpoint slide says, “Our task at the onset is to make sure God is the one that initiates transformation, not us,” but the sermon is a jumbled mix of grace and law for both believers and not-yet-believers. Several times McCracken refers to a “fine line” believers must walk in order to navigate through the jumbled mix of grace and law.

I believe that the institutional church has set up an elaborate framework of doctrines to create a sense of safety in walking a line we were never meant to walk, which leads to the next section…

McCracken’s “Ancient Landmarks”

The council prefaced the letter to Antioch, saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” McCracken calls this a “powerful statement” and calls the entire situation “uncharted waters.” From this, he moves to the subject of leadership, the appointing of elders, and the importance of the governance of doctrine or “making sure that things line up.” He references Proverbs 22:28:

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.

McCracken’s interpretation of this proverb is as follows:

Something important that we have to realize when it comes to our faith in leadership within our faith. In a local church, such as ours, but also in, we are a non-denominational church as you know, but also within denominations, within Protestantism, within the church as a whole, within our church fathers as a whole, going back to Martin Luther, going back further than him, that they have set landmarks. It’s important to understand we are allowed to question those landmarks, in fact it’s healthy to question. It’s healthy to study to show thyself approved, Paul tells his disciple, Timothy. But we must beware if we start to move it. They’re there for a reason. The Holy Spirit has led them for a reason, collectively. Our whole scripture that we have here is canonized, meaning, many, many godly men got together, and by the direction of the Holy Spirit said, “This, these are the books, these are the writings that God wants put together for us, for all time.” And we trust that that is from the Holy Spirit, that God moved upon man to write, and God moved upon man to combine together. And then we must trust that. This is where leadership comes in. It’s important.   The Holy Spirit appoints leaders in every church, including adoption, teaching, and refuting of doctrine. That’s why it’s so important. That’s why the impact on a teacher is so great. As a teacher, I must be held accountable to a higher standard than somebody who isn’t teaching. As an elder of this church, I am held to a higher degree of accountability before the throne room than somebody who is not, because of this very thing. That’s why we have to depend upon the team and we have to depend upon the ancient landmarks. Not blindly. Please hear me, church. Not blindly. But we have to also realize that the Holy Spirit spoke to them the same way He speaks to us now.

I’d like to point out a few problems with McCracken’s use and application of Proverbs 22:28. First, the meaning of the text does not support McCracken’s claims. In addition, the meaning of the text, ironically, goes directly against McCracken’s use of it. Also, it’s not beneficial to rely so heavily on the “landmarks” of believers in the past. Furthermore, McCracken’s view of canonization is not accurate. And finally, we need to take a closer look at the idea that the “Holy Spirit spoke to them the same way He speaks to us now.”

About Proverbs 22:28

The ancient landmarks were boundary stones to mark property lines. Elsewhere in scripture, the boundary stones are used to describe God defending oppressed people. For example, Proverbs 15:25 says, “The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.” And Proverbs 23:10-11 says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.” To move the landmarks was to move the property line, basically robbing one of a portion of his/her rightful inheritance through deception.

The meaning of the text, ironically, goes directly against McCracken’s use of it.

McCracken likens ancient landmarks to doctrine. Suppose for a moment that the ancient landmarks = doctrine.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “Let not property in general be entrenched upon, by robbing men of their liberties and privileges, or of any just ways of maintaining them.”

If God is nondiscriminatory, but people move the boundaries of this doctrine, taking away one’s freedom in Christ, if grace is over-abounding, but people move the boundaries of this doctrine, counting one’s sins against them, and if the law has been fulfilled in Christ, but people move the boundaries of this doctrine, making people work for what Christ has already earned, then those who prevent people from putting boundary stones back where they belong are robbing others of their spiritual inheritance. I don’t see God being very happy about this. McCracken said, “Grace came at a very costly price.”

If erroneous doctrines are defended, thereby limiting God’s grace, believers are then robbed of an inheritance, since inheritance and grace are interconnected (“I commend you, brethren, to God, and to the word of His grace, that is able to build up, and to give you an inheritance among all those sanctified”).

It’s not beneficial to rely so heavily on the “landmarks” of believers in the past.

McCracken talks about landmarks set by church fathers and names Martin Luther in particular. Church fathers, including Luther, were fallible human beings. For example, Luther taught that if one wasn’t baptized, then he or she was not saved. Whistling Pines doesn’t subscribe to this doctrine. According to “What We Believe” on the Whistling Pines website:

We believe that water baptism (full immersion in water by a believer) and communion (The Lord’s Supper) as ordinances of the church, give outward demonstration of the covenant we have with God through Christ and with one another. These ordinances however do not cause regeneration. (Mk 1:9-10; Matt 28:19; Acts 2:41-47; Rom 6:1-14; Col 2:11-13; Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-33; Ti 3:5)

I don’t know how Whistling Pines handles one who has no desire to be baptized, yet professes faith in Christ. If you think about it, baptism is a lot like circumcision. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting circumcised or baptized as an outward display of what has happened in your heart, but to require it for official inclusion in the local assembling of believers is to agree with the Pharisee believers in Acts 15. After all, if God includes an unbaptized believer in His family, what gives Whistling Pines the right to exclude him/her from being considered just as much a member of the community as one who is baptized?

Perhaps baptism is not a requirement for membership. I have no idea. I’m putting just one example of a doctrinal landmark out there for consideration. Remember there are many, many other doctrinal landmarks that ought to be held to open scrutiny.

McCracken’s view of canonization is not accurate.

There’s just too much information to include in one blog regarding how the Bible as we know it now, was compiled, and perhaps even more importantly, who the decision-makers were, and what the political climate and position of the church within that climate was. The idea that “these are the writings that God wants put together for us, for all time,” stands in contrast to:

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:2-6).

The Bible is a lot like history. It is useful for teaching, testing, correcting, and training in what we ought to do compared to what we’ve done in the past. It is a tool given to us by God and used by the Spirit of God to reveal the intentions of our own hearts. But it does not in any way compare to the Word living in us, that is, Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches that produce fruit.

We must consider the fruits of those who established the Biblical canon and put the writings on the pedestal that they are on today. For now, I encourage you to watch this video, and then study (using unbiased sources), how the canon of scripture was decided.

The Holy Spirit spoke to them the same way He speaks to us now.

I don’t believe that McCracken or almost anyone involved in leadership positions in the institutional church recognizes the practical implications of such a statement. If the Holy Spirit really does speak to us now in the same way He spoke to believers in the first century, then why are church leaders so afraid of laypeople disagreeing with doctrine or preaching without authorization/permission?

Even the apostle Paul had to deal with church leaders appealing to their positions of authority to undermine the message (“wacked doctrine”) given to him by God. Paul wrote, “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles.’ I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge.”

McCracken said, “Leadership is not about lording over… but if you are teaching doctrine, it might be a good idea to at least run it by us the first time, because it might be wacked doctrine.” I would love to be a fly on the wall and report to you, readers, exactly how those conversations go, word-for-word. You will be at a disadvantage before you even walk into the church office, because any doctrine that is not in full agreement with their doctrine will be automatically considered “wacked doctrine.”

There is no unbiased third party to whom you can appeal to consider both sides.

McCracken adds, “At the same time, if you feel like something we say that comes out of our mouth is wacked doctrine, please come talk to us, and we’ll talk it through. It goes both ways.”

I can only tell you the words that I heard, when I began to question “wacked doctrine” coming from the pulpit. Words like the subject being “shelved indefinitely,” whispers of “heresy,” accusations of “spiritual rebellion,” warnings like “guard your words,” warnings of “consequences for questioning authority,” and finally, ugly words like “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “false prophet,” and “heretic.” There was no point-by-point debate and no in-depth examination of the subject. It was ignored until I would no longer allow it to be ignored, and then I was quickly (and publicly) stripped of any title or position and driven from the fellowship.

I truly believe that going to have a private visit with church leadership over disputes with doctrine is an ass-backwards approach to conflict resolution. Let me put it this way. If you suspect corruption in the police department, you don’t call the police, you call an investigative reporter or some outside agency. In the institutional church, there is no investigative reporter or outside agency, there is only a chain of command that ends with people who will not tolerate any serious threat to orthodoxy.

If you study church history, you’ll find that reform is almost always accompanied by denominational or local church splits, and reformers are almost always demonized and outcast by orthodoxy. The only way to have a fair and honest conversation with church leaders is in a public manner, and that just doesn’t happen, at least, not within the church walls.

When was the last time you heard an announcement at your church for a meeting to hold some long-standing doctrine under the light of scrutiny? I’m not talking about a lecture by an approved talking head on why you should still believe such-and-such doctrine, I’m talking about the scene you see in Antioch in the first few verses of Acts 15.

Sometimes, Acts 15 breaks out on Facebook. Watch how quickly your church leaders unfriend those who publicly challenge the doctrines they teach.

The leaders at the Council of Jerusalem were playing God, stepping in and teaching partial-truths that minimized grace by retaining prohibitions (law) under the guise of passive language (grace) like “You will do well to avoid these things.” The council served a purpose. It set a precedent.  Organic, Spirit-led conflict resolution would eventually be completely replaced by church councils where decisions of importance would be made in an official manner by a handful of people in the upper hierarchy. Decisions, once made, would be very difficult to challenge without severe consequence. The issues being discussed were important. But much of the growth and development of spiritual understanding in the early church took place outside of councils.

The growth and development that took place as a human institution began with the first council and evolved (went from simple to complex, growing geographically and politically in influence, etc) from there. For example, councils were held to decide whether people who renounced their faith under persecution should be received back into fellowship with other believers, whether people who were baptized by unapproved others should be rebaptized, whether some bishops should have authority over other bishops, what should be considered the Bible canon (which is different from the one accepted today, BTW), arguments over jurisdiction of apostolic authority, the minimum age for ordination, the minimum number of deacons for each city, etc. These councils were more localized, so decisions made were only considered as official decisions for the immediate area.

As time went on, the councils became more political and the decisions made there were considered official decisions for the entire church (all believers, everywhere), not just a local group of believers. Christian Roman Emperors convened, and decisions were enforced by the state church of the Roman Empire. During this shift in decision-making, the idea of the Infallibility of Church and Papal Infallibility arose, along with a new and darker meaning for the word “anathema,” excommunication (de-salvation) for those who did not abide by ecumenical council decisions, and canon law. The Word of God was considered to be both scripture and tradition, each considered equally divine revelation. The goal of the councils was to unify the Christian church, but this unity was to be imposed by force, and stood in contradiction to unity accomplished by the Spirit of God.

Today, we are witnessing the slow fall of the kingdom or reign of God that believers have built for God. This kingdom is one you can see. It is built on fear and forced upon people from without, an attempt to transform the world into something it is not. This is different than the Kingdom or Reign of God, in which Jesus Christ “conquers,” all social, political, economic, and religious institutions, not by fear, but by His authority and power of love over hearts and relationships. It is the Reign of God that is built on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, beginning within individual people and spreading in influence until He is all in all.

Related blog posts: Reign of God / Reign of HumanityRebranding ReligionEvery Day EasterOn Abortion, Homosexuality, and ObamaOrthotomeo (aka, Rightly Dividing)Whistling Pines’ Barbie God: A Response from a Believer Who Has a Voice5 Ways to Build the Church of Your Dreams & 5 Ways to Destroy ItAbundant LifeThe Light of ScrutinyThe Church Has Left the BuildingYou Can’t Kill God’s Idea, and Aion, The Eternal Torment Four-Letter-Word

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas June 30, 2014 at 6:19 am

    I think you read into the text what isn’t there. Nothing is said about hoping that the Gentile believers will be assimilated into the Jewish Christian community. That the Mosaic Law was preached and read in every city doesn’t mean anything more than that this was an integral part of life and worship for Jewish believers. And where it is said or implied that the Gentile believers would have to attend synagogue and be circumcised, etc., in order to have the same status spiritually as the Jewish believers? I don’t see any of this in the text or as following from what the text says. In Acts 21, when Paul visited the leaders of the Jerusalem church and told them about his mission among the Gentiles, the response was unqualified praise. No one said anything about the Gentile converts having to become Jewish in order to be fully accepted and included; nor is there any hint that the Gentile believers were regarded as being second-class. The response was one of pure celebration (see Acts 21:17-20).

    I agree with what you say about reconciliation to God being God’s doing, not ours, about it having been accomplished by God in the Christ event and not being something that we must do in order to get right with God. And I agree that this preacher’ comments which you cite suggest confusion about salvation by grace alone and salvation by human achievement/keeping the law, though I don’t agree that this is analogous to the situation in Acts 15, in which the Gentile believers were instructed to practice a minimal observance of Jewish ritual law for the sake of the community of faith.

    I agree with what you say about his misinterpretation/misapplication of the text in Proverbs, and I agree that erroneous doctrine that limits or obscures grace robs people of the freedom in Christ that is God’s gift to all. I agree, too, that church fathers were, without exception, fallible human beings and that therefore their views and doctrines are not infallible. (I’m not sure that Luther believed that an unbaptized believer was not saved. For Luther, as for the other leaders in the Protestant Reformation, baptism was a visible manifestation of invisible grace.) While I think that the Holy Spirit was involved in the process of the formation of the canon, I don’t think that everything in the scriptures reveals the will of God. I do think, though, that they bear witness to God’s self-revelation and that therefore there is correspondence between this word of God and the one Word of God, namely, Jesus Christ.

    I agree with what you say about it being hard for alternative viewpoints to be voiced and heard in the institution. I don’t agree, though, that this is analogous to what is recorded in Acts 15: church leaders coming together to discuss and decide a matter of great import in the life of the early church and reaching a Spirit-guided decision that endorsed the full inclusion of Gentile believers in the church and that was celebrated by the Antioch Christians. I agree with what you say about councils in the history of the church too often going against God’s purposes of love, justice, truth, and freedom, though I think the picture you paint is one-sided, overlooking that good in the way of clarifying beliefs and fostering unity (not entirely forced) that came out of them. But I don’t disagree that there is much the history of the church and particularly in church councils that did not represent an enactment of God’s gracious rule.

    I like what you say about the reign of God being different from the kingdoms built by people; and I agree totally that the Lordship of Christ is established by the power of love, not by fear or by force/violence. And I love your last statement, envisioning the final triumph of God’s reign and the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all.

    • admin June 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      Of course, you know you and I can disagree back and forth, and it gives both of us food for thought 🙂

      I feel the need to respond to a few things you disagree on:

      You write, “I think you read into the text what isn’t there. Nothing is said about hoping that the Gentile believers will be assimilated into the Jewish Christian community. That the Mosaic Law was preached and read in every city doesn’t mean anything more than that this was an integral part of life and worship for Jewish believers. And where it is said or implied that the Gentile believers would have to attend synagogue and be circumcised, etc., in order to have the same status spiritually as the Jewish believers?”

      The reason I see James’ final comments as an indication of the intent to assimilate Gentiles in the Jewish community is that James in giving the requirements, addresses Gentiles “ger toshav” who were new believers, freshly divorced from idol-worship, not to Gentile *”ger tzedek,” that is, circumcised Gentile converts to Judaism who were already Torah-observing, synagogue-attending, idol-renouncing people (see Acts 13:26, 17:17, and elsewhere) with full membership in the Jewish community before they became believers. In other words, the first group needed clear instruction so they could begin their journey in becoming more like the second group. The requirements couldn’t possibly be intended for ger toshav, because they were already accustomed to following those requirements. As for the ger tzedek, James didn’t need to “burden” or give them more than the four requirements in the letter, because the other requirements would be instructed to them every week. THIS is why the apostles and elders were pleased.

      Ger is translated in the Septuagint, “proselytes.” Jesus said, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye go round the sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and whenever it may happen — ye make him a son of gehenna twofold more than yourselves.” And why Paul wrote, “I, Paul, do say to you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing; and I testify again to every man circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.”

      You write, “In Acts 21, when Paul visited the leaders of the Jerusalem church and told them about his mission among the Gentiles, the response was unqualified praise. No one said anything about the Gentile converts having to become Jewish in order to be fully accepted and included; nor is there any hint that the Gentile believers were regarded as being second-class. The response was one of pure celebration.”

      The celebration is for the Jewish believers only, which would include the “ger tzedek,” (“proselytes of righteousness” who are circumcised and keep the whole Torah) but not the “ger toshav” (“proselytes of the gate,” who are not circumcised and are only required to keep certain portions of the law). This is not stated outright, so I can see where you would dispute the way I interpret this text. But notice the difference in tone and context:

      Paul was going in with us unto James, all the elders also came, and having saluted them, he was declaring, one by one, each of the things God did among the nations through his ministration, and they having heard, were glorifying the Lord. They said also to him, `Thou seest, brother, how many myriads there are of Jews who have believed, and all are zealous of the law, and they are instructed concerning thee, that apostacy from Moses thou dost teach to all Jews among the nations (Gentiles), saying — Not to circumcise the children, nor after the customs to walk; what then is it? certainly the multitude it behoveth to come together, for they will hear that thou hast come. `This, therefore, do that we say to thee: We have four men having a vow on themselves, these having taken, be purified with them, and be at expence with them, that they may shave the head, and all may know that the things of which they have been instructed concerning thee are nothing, but thou dost walk — thyself also — the law keeping. `And concerning those of the nations (Gentiles) who have believed, we have written, having given judgment, that they observe no such thing, except to keep themselves both from idol-sacrifices, and blood, and a strangled thing, and whoredom.’

      Acts 15 decided they were saved or included in the world to come, but they were not included among those who were “zealous of the law.”

      • Mary Vanderplas July 1, 2014 at 5:48 am

        I’m not following what you’re saying. The issue in Acts 15 is whether Gentiles who repent and believe the gospel can simply become Christians, members of the covenant community, without keeping the Mosaic Law and in particular without being circumcised, i.e., receiving the mark of the covenant. Clearly, the people in mind are “unclean” Gentiles – uncircumcised, not keeping Jewish food laws, etc. – not Jewish proselytes. The council did not decide to make them Jewish proselytes, but to accept and include them on the basis of the fact that God had already accepted them and included them in the church. They were not to be burdened with having to become Jews first before they could be included. No wonder the Antioch Christians rejoiced when they received the report of the council’s decision.

        How was the celebration reported in Acts 21 for the Jewish believers only? I’m not seeing this at all. Paul reported the great things God was doing among the Gentiles and the brothers responded by praising God. Then they told him about the great things God was doing among the Jews. There’s no hint of “Our mission is better than yours,” “You need to be sure that the Gentile converts become Jews,” or anything like this. It’s just, “Look what God is doing among these two wings of the church.”

        Paul’s gripe wasn’t with circumcision or Law-keeping as such; it was with circumcision and keeping the Law as meritorious achievement and with imposing the Law on Gentile Christians.

        • admin July 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm

          You’re right. I should not have written the celebration was for Jewish believers only. I do think the elders were genuinely happy about Gentile believers, but in the same way that church leaders are happy when visitors show up on Sunday. What I should have written was that the elders made a point of “zealous for the law” as one bookend, gave instructions about the show of keeping the law to which they expected Paul to comply, and the letter (and the unstated portion of the council discussion regarding the law of Moses) as the other bookend. So the conversation, boiled down to bare bones goes like this:

          Paul – Look at what God is doing!
          Elders – Glory to God!
          Elders – Jews are believing, too, AND THEY’RE ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW.
          Elders – Based on what we’ve heard, you don’t seem to be zealous for the law.
          Elders – Do this, that, and the other thing to demonstrate you’re still zealous for the law.
          Elders – As for those Gentile believers, they have our requirements (and the law of Moses taught to them regularly).

          It’s law, law, law, and more law.

          • Mary Vanderplas July 2, 2014 at 5:20 am

            Here’s my take on the Acts 21 text:

            Paul – Look at what God is doing among the Gentiles!

            Leaders – Glory to God!

            Leaders – God is doing great things also among the Jews – and they’re zealous for the law!

            Leaders – There’s a rumor circulating among the Judean Jews that you’re teaching the Jews of the Diaspora to abandon the law of Moses, that you’re telling them not to practice circumcision and not to observe the other rituals of the law. Here’s what we propose you do in order to squelch the rumor and prove that you’re a faithful Jew, committed to the traditional practices of Judaism…..

            Leaders – Regarding the Gentiles believers, we’ve sent a letter stating a few basic directions for them to follow in order to help the two groups live and work together in one community.

            (clearly implied from his actions reported in v. 26) Paul – Good idea! I’ll do it! That way the Jewish believers will know that I’m definitely not anti-Jewish, not anti-Mosaic Law.

            Nothing is said about the law of Moses being taught to Gentile believers regularly. The opposite is implied: “But as for the Gentiles who have become believers” suggests that they are not taught what the Jews are being taught.

            For the Jewish believers, it is law. They were not expected to abandon their Jewish faith when they became believers. For the Gentile believers, it’s a few basic instructions for accommodating their Jewish brothers and sisters – who would have been at risk for going into cardiac arrest when the barbequed pork was passed at the church covered-dish supper.

      • Mary Vanderplas July 1, 2014 at 8:27 pm

        It is good that we can disagree and discuss our points of disagreement – I agree. 🙂

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 30, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Alice’s statement: “I truly believe ….” is all this blog site contains which is totally devoid of godly counsel. She has a LOW view of Biblical inspiration and claims more wisdom than her Creator God.

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 30, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      I offer Alice’s statement: “The leaders at the Council of Jerusalem were playing God, stepping in and teaching partial-truths that minimized grace …” as proof that poorly judges “what God does.” She can’t be taken seriously.

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Your comcern for the Acts 15 Council at Jerusalem should have taught you CONTRARY to your false conclusion that God saves everybody.

    “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets … That the residue of men might seek after the Lord … Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”

    God knows absolutely the future of every individual soul and that He left the multitudes to perish when He speaks of “the residue of men” and of taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name sake. When God prophesied “all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called” He limits that group to His Elect, the only Gentiles He called to distinguish with His name. It is the same as saying all the people upon whom Vanderplas is called, which does NOT mean all the people that ever existed are called Vanderplas, but rather just all the people that have Vanderplas as their name are a limited group. So also all the people who have God’s name are a limited group. By Jesus’ words of Matthew 7: 13 & 14 we are informed “the many” go to destruction while “the few” find eternal life.

    The Few are those separated from humanity and distinguished as God’s elete church. By its definition as God’s elete assembly called out from humanity, His Church cannot ever consist of all humanity.

    • Lanny A. Eichert July 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Peter, writing to only believers, is also convinced by the Holy Spirit that few are chosen unto salvation and the remaining many are ordained to destruction.

      Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto THEM WHICH BE DISOBEDIENT, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being DISOBEDIENT: WHEREUNTO ALSO THEY WERE APPOINTED. {1 Peter 2: 7 & 8}

      God never planned to save everybody. Everybody’s name is not Vanderplas and everybody is not called by God’s name. However the few that are called by God’s name, God has pledged to save all of them. The rest perish in everlasting torment, even all those nice persons Alice loved but died without confessing Christ.

    • admin July 4, 2014 at 2:36 am

      You might want to have a look at this:

      http://biblehub.com/interlinear/acts/15-17.htm

      specifically, http://biblehub.com/greek/2645.htm and http://biblehub.com/greek/3956.htm.

      Paul explains this further in these two verses: http://biblehub.com/text/romans/11-25.htm and http://biblehub.com/text/romans/11-26.htm

      Notice, http://biblehub.com/greek/4138.htm Gentiles and http://biblehub.com/greek/3956.htm Israel.

      All “shut together” in disobedience & all shown mercy: http://biblehub.com/text/romans/11-32.htm

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 4, 2014 at 3:29 am

        Again, Alice, You misuse Scripture by not taking clear texts to explain uncertain texts. Romans 11 is about the prophetic end times restoration of the national Israelite persons who will be mortally alive at the time of restoration when Jesus returns to sit on David’s throne in literal Jerusalem to rule the world with the rod of iron as Israel’s Messianic King for one thousand literal years. There is no salvation except during mortal life. All Israelites alive at Messiah’s return to literal earth will be saved during their mortality.

        Your universal texts are not conclusive and need the rest of Scripture to provide sufficient information to be correctly understood. Matthew 7: 13 & 14 especially make it clear that the Many perish in destruction while the Few are blessed to find eternal life. Throughout Scripture which is written to God’s Elect the wording is that they are the us and we, but unbelievers are the them and they making another clear distinction that few are saved and many remain lost.

        God saves from WHAT DEATH, Alice? Try again. You really are unable to answer what is salvation, aren’t you?

        • Lanny A. Eichert July 4, 2014 at 3:45 am

          Alice, don’t you see that ET, everlasting torment, is necessary to define salvation. You cannot have even the slightest notion of literal salvation without literal ET, isn’t that so? From WHAT DEATH does God save people?

          You refuse to answer because you choose to be rebellously unable in order to work against God just like Satan. I told you you are not saved and you prove it.

          • admin July 4, 2014 at 12:33 pm

            Consider that Jesus said He “came to seek and to save the lost,” and then read Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, paying close attention to the dead/alive/lost/found concept the father explains to the prodigal son’s older brother. This paints a picture of WHAT DEATH we are saved from.

            • Lanny A. Eichert July 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

              Alice, must I answer for you that the wayward son’s “death”, a useless ruined mortal life, pictures the everlasting useless ruined conscious torment in the everlasting Lake of Fire the unbeliever experiences for eternity, the real Second Death you try to deny?

              God saves only His Elect in mortality from the everlasting Second Death which is the final consequence of sin.

          • Lanny A. Eichert July 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm

            Alice, pictures are pictures, not reality. The wayward son’s “death” was a useless ruined mortal life picturing WHAT DEATH, Alice? Explain the REALITY of what that death pictured, the opposite of Eternal Life, what is it?

            God saves from WHAT DEATH, Alice? Try again. You really are unable to answer what is salvation, aren’t you?

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 30, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Alice, your “Reign of God that is built on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, beginning within individual people and spreading in influence until He is all in all” DOES NOT EXIST & WILL NEVER EXIST. Two thousand years of human history since the Cross has proven the world has NOT globally gotten any better since Christ’s resurrection. Uniformally >90% of the world’s population died without confessing Christ and are now burning in hell to be cast into the everlasting Lake of Fire to be everlastingly tormented in literal flames. Your god’s track record for saving all humanity is grossly inadequate to prove he loves his creatures since he torments >90% of them in hell’s fires for unimaginable ages before you say he saves them.

    So from WHAT does your god save them? Define your idea of salvation if torment is only finite purification and there is no everlasting torment without personal change.

    Define salvation.
    You can’t, can you?

    ET means they are NOT changed in the slightest from the very first moment in hell or any moment thereafter. Therefore they never bow the knee and they never confess with the tongue. Philippians 2: 9 – 11 is a response only saints and unfallen angels are able to make to the exalted name of Jesus. All sinners and fallen angels refuse to recognize His exalted name: they use it as a curse instead and will everlastingly. They will know the truth of their situation but will everlastingly deny it and His exalted name.

    You probably know persons living in denial and pity them.

    • admin June 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      Jesus defines salvation: “And this is the aiōnios zōē, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and him whom Thou didst send — Jesus Christ.”

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 1, 2014 at 9:03 am

        WRONG, Alice, that’s the definition of everlasting life, not salvation. Try again.

        So from WHAT does your god save them? Define your idea of salvation if torment is only finite purification and there is no static everlasting torment. FROM WHAT DOES GOD SAVE?

        • admin July 1, 2014 at 10:03 pm

          I actually got to thinking about that after I posted it, and was going to write a follow-up comment, but you beat me to it. 🙂 Saved from sin and death, saved to relationship with Him.

          • Stephen Helbig July 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm

            Alice I treasured your first response and comment concerning salvation, found @ admin says:June 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm ~ FOR SALVATION IS ALWAYS UNTO ETERNAL LIFE

            Greek σώζω (sózó) ~ Used 108 times in the N.T. of salvation, of sin (Mt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25); of danger (Mt. 14:30; 27:42); of spiritual conflict (Jn. 12:27; 1 Tim. 4:16); of sickness (Jas. 5:15); yet ALWAYS UNTO everlasting life (Jn. 3:16-18); … of slavery (Jude 5);

            p.s. ~ Alice I am reminded of the passage found in Romans 15:15 concerning you and your blog. I am thankful to God and am appreciative of His allotment of WHAT GOD DOES thru you ~
            Scripture
            ~ “But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God” (Rm.15:15)(NASB)
            ~ “God’s gift of grace is the motivation of my [“Alice”] writing to you [“here @ whatgoddoes”]; I urge you to remember your (1)allotted portion in life.” (Rm. 15:15)(Mirror Bible) ~ [“note” added by stephen]

            p.s.s. ~ It is interesting to note that the word, (1)meros found in the above verse (Rm. 15:15), means form or allotted portion; and it is equally interesting that the word translated ”sin”( which Jesus saves us from (Mt.1:21)) is hameros, ~ see http://biblehub.com/greek/266.htm ~ “HELPS Word-studies266 hamartía ~ (a feminine noun derived from 1 /A “not” and 3313 /méros, “a part, share of”) – properly, no-share (“no part of”); loss (forfeiture) because not hitting the target; sin (missing the mark).” ~ And it means to be without form, and to be without your allotted portion, Thus missing the mark of the high callings of God. Every sin springs thus from man’s sense of unfulfillment and lack, due to ignorance concerning those things which rightfully belong to him, his true spiritual identity, his innocence, and his partaking of the Divine nature and inheritance in Christ.

            p.s.s.t. ~ So once again thank you for expounding unto us the exceedingly great and precious promises of God ~ Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them we may become partakers of His Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world and the traditions of man that make the word of God of no effect.
            Cross References
            John 17:3
            Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

            • Lanny A. Eichert July 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

              WRONG, Stephen, salvation is DELIVERANCE. Oppression is required before any need of deliverance is realized. Eternal life is the opposite of that oppression. So what is the opposite of eternal life, dear Stephen?

              What is the oppression? Not sin, but the end of sin. What is the end of sin, Stephen and Alice? Death. WHAT DEATH?

              From WHAT DEATH does God save the Few?
              From WHAT DEATH does God not save the Many?

              What’s the difference between the Many and the Few?
              Few are believers; Many are unbelievers. God requires believing the right things to be saved by Him. Believing the wrong things makes one an unbeliever by God’s judgment.

              All those lovely people Alice loved who physically died without confessing Christ are right now burning in hell-fire and will be in the everlasting Lake of Fire when the hell they are inside will be cast into it with all its residents. ET is everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire for EVERY unbeliever who physically dies.

              WHAT DEATH, dear people, especially Alice?
              From WHAT DEATH will God save only His believers?
              What is the opposite of Eternal Life?

        • Lanny A. Eichert July 2, 2014 at 1:03 am

          WRONG AGAIN, Alice, since your idea is the purification of finite torment in the lake of fire eventually purges sins, quickens, and restores relationship with God only as THE PERSON LEARNS TO SUBMIT, REPENT, BELIEVE, AND OBEY your god after physical death: that’s your Protestant Purgatory and self-salvation just like the Roman Catholic Church heretically teaches without their frills. That’s salvation by human effort, not salvation by God’s grace.

          God saves from WHAT DEATH, Alice? Try again.

          Define salvation.
          You can’t, can you?

          You gave me: Saved from sin and death, saved to relationship with Him. You imply saved to relationship with Him is what saved from sin and death means, but that’s only the result. What is saved from sin and death? What happens to the person who is NOT saved from sin and death? You don’t have such a person in your scheme of things, do you? How can your god save anybody if there’s nothing to save them from? You cannot define saved from sin and death, can you?

          God saves from WHAT DEATH, Alice? Try again.

  • Lanny A. Eichert July 2, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Reader, Alice will not believe Jesus spoke of TWO everlasting destinies when He spoke Matthew 7: 13 & 14.

    Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    She wants you to wrongly agree with her that the destruction of the broad way is after all only finite and remedial with an end that produces life everlasting without traveling through the strait gate and the narrow way.

    She conveniently forgets there are no statements in God’s perfect literal Holy Bible stating anybody is able to repent after they physically die. She forgets they die IN THEIR SINS and carry them with them into the after-life as desires they continue to have, but are unable to fulfill them in their new environment. They everlastingly retain their sinful desires and are confirmed in them everlastingly unable to repent. Since they have become like the confirmed fallen angels Jesus will say to them, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. {Matthew 25: 41}

  • Lanny A. Eichert July 22, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Alice prophesies Jesus Christ “conquers” all by His power of love over hearts, yet her conquers is in quotes because it isn’t real. It is only a dream that will never happen, but she’s living in denial like all her friends. Jesus, Himself, said MANY are destroyed and FEW are saved.

    Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. {Matthew 7: 13 & 14}

    • admin July 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      That’s not why I used quotes. Most people, when they see the word “conquer” think of force and oppression.

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

        Alice, Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. {John 16: 33}

        I have overcome the world. What world, dear Alice, this world, not the world to come. The world to come is of His making wherein is the Lake of Fire into which the vast majority of humanity are thrown as Jesus’ trash. He doesn’t overcome His own new world which He makes in righteousness which no one can corrupt.

        Salvation is only available in this world which Jesus has overcome: conquered. Physical death is the cutoff point for personal salvation. All your lovely friends who have died without confessing Christ will burn everlastingly in everlasting torment because they have actively rejected God’s salvation in the Lordship of Christ. They would not have this Man reign over them in this life. Salvation is this life sort of thing. Everlasting Life begins the moment in this life a person believes the right things and never ends.

        For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? {1 John 5: 4, 5}

        Faith, Alice, faith; and where is faith, except it be inside believers who are in this world, not the next where all is sight. My faith will be sight in the new world.

        Why can’t you see that? Are you so blind? You wish for something that never can be and have been sold a bill of goods that your dream could be, yet it is not clearly in Scripture. You take what you think is possibly a hint of your dream and develope it contrary to clear Scripture into your dream because you don’t want to believe your friends are burning in everlasting torment without remedy, even when the entire Bible ends that way with a populated Lake of Fire without any possible way out of it. It ends with a plea to mortal man to come now to Jesus before it is too late. Please heed that plea, dear Alice, Jesus is waiting to be your Lord and Saviour. He cannot be your Saviour without also being your Lord; and that means joining a fundamentalist church and actively working in it.

  • […] allowing the book to read you. For more on this, read Organized Bible Study, 25% Truth, Ancient Landmarks, What the Noah Movie Says About God, and Hawking and MacArthur Explain the […]

  • Bigger Fences for the Fold November 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    […] McCracken wavering between law and grace in Ancient Landmarks, Silverberg oscillates between two visions of the church — the idea that the church (flock) is […]

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.