(PART 4) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 6:15am

(PART 4) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?

Are the traditions inspired that are being taught? In regard to the last question, you might ask, what do you mean? Teachings on church tradition are important, but they should be teachings that are based on inspired traditions.

What is the difference between tradition and inspired tradition?

E. Traditions

A tradition is defined as being the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice; a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.24

However, inspired traditions are divine instructions delivered orally or in writing that are contained in the written word.

Some of these are:

The Agape Feast (a weekly gathering of the saints when a common meal was partaken, followed by the observance of the Lord’s Supper).

The anointing with oil (the anointing with virgin oil in the sign of the cross on the forehead of a believer who was physically sick; this was done by the elders (pastors) of the church while having their hands extended over the believer and accompanied with prayer for restoration to bodily health).

The laying on of hands (on the head of a believer which signified commissioning and granting of authority).

The faith that once and for all was delivered to the saints.

Teachings delivered by inspired men, and teachings that come from God to guide our lives.

There are many more traditions that are inspired; however, some extra observance was added to them making that aspect of it uninspired. These were decided upon by a Church Council or a book called the Apocrypha. Examples are Palm Sunday (Palm leaves-relics), Lent (giving up food or habit), Easter Sunday (the search for chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, candy), Confession of sins (to a priest), and Good Friday (not consuming meat). By the way, this book, the Apocrypha, referred to eleven or twelve books that are not included in the Hebrew Bible.

There are also some uninspired traditions whereby the interpretation of related Scriptures has introduced either the doing of something or the partaking of something that would bring about a spiritual reality in the life of the believer. These are contained in the completion canon of Scripture composed of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament) being adopted by Church Councils or believed in by a few of the Church Fathers (leaders in the Catholic faith who defend, expound, and defend church doctrine). Some of these uninspired traditions are called Salvation (water baptism regeneration), and Communion (transubstantiation – the bread and wine turn into the literal body and blood of Christ).

Likewise, there are uninspired traditions which have no Scriptural basis. These are traditions derived from a Church Council or a book called the Apocrypha. For example, Ash Wednesday (ashes of palm leaves rubbed on the forehead), the Holy Days of Obligation (developed by various church leaders), Purgatory (temporary place of punishment for venial sins not confessed), Prayers for the dead (so that they would leave Purgatory sooner), and Celibacy (priests not allowed to marry).

The best way to illustrate this is to present the inspired traditions with their meanings and the Scriptures which support them, to be followed by the uninspired traditions. Some will have a change in meaning, others with the addition of some activity or observance, and still others that were just plainly made up, along with the references used to support them.

 

The initial one has to do with the giving out of palm leaves.

Palm Sunday

Inspired 

Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?(Matthew 21:5, 8-10)

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Palm Sunday is a day which commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem while riding on a colt (the son of a beast of burden) accompanied by its mother (donkey). His disciples were with Him. A crowd of people took off their outer garments and laid them on the ground in front of the procession, along with repeatedly cutting down the branches (leaves) of palm trees. They placed them on the ground all along the route to Jerusalem while proclaiming that Jesus was the promised seed of King David, Israel’s next king. One week later, Jesus would be raised from the dead following his crucifixion.

There is no mention in Scripture that the leaves of palm trees should be handed out for remembrance of this event on a yearly basis. Some might argue that I’m over-sensitive in this regard. My concern is that usually an observance of any Biblical event involves some kind of uninspired practice that leads to another uninspired practice. I would recommend simply teaching on this or any Biblical topic as the Spirit guides and prompts. When outward observances become the focus, and the inward renewal of a believer by the Spirit becomes neglected, then what we have is religion where the followers operate in their own power instead of the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

Uninspired

Fresh palm leaves are handed out to the congregation to signify not only this event but also to represent the victory of martyrs. A martyr is someone who followed Christ and chose not to deny his faith under penalty of death. This led to the uninspired tradition of preserving some article of clothing or physical remains of this person, which can be used to provoke some mannerism of honor such as bowing or making the sign of the cross.

*Reference: from the Apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees.

 

This tradition is one that I observed for many years. I will admit at that time I would give up a food item of which I was truly fond.  

Lent

Inspired

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:1-4)

Jesus, being influenced by the Spirit, went into the wilderness and fasted for forty days and forty nights thus learning to completely rely on the Father, who by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit provided Him with supernatural power to endure the lack of physical nourishment.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

This event was a part of God’s plan for His Son Jesus Christ. As such, we should not make it a part of God’s plan for our lives in trying to imitate Him.

Why not? Because each believer has a particular plan to follow specifically designed by God. May we, like Jesus, learn how to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to perceive God’s unique plan for our lives.

 

Uninspired

A forty day period of self-discipline in giving up a particular food or habit in remembrance of Christ’s fasting to attain God’s blessing.

*Reference: One theory says that Lent came from the Church Council of Nicaea. Another says that this came from a forty day fast that occurred in Alexandria following the celebration of the baptism of Jesus.

 

Ever have the ashes of palm leaves rubbed on your forehead?

Ash Wednesday

Uninspired

This is considered to be the first day of Lent. Ashes were taken from the palm leaves used on Palm Sunday. They were burnt and rubbed on the foreheads of the assembly in the sign of the cross indicating not only a person’s sorrow and repentance for their sins but the need to prepare for a holy death. In this way, they (the assemblage) are said to appreciate the death and resurrection of Christ.

*Reference: from the Council of Nicaea.

 

This is probably the most challenging tradition to repudiate because there are Scriptures that appear to support it.

Salvation – Water Baptism – Indwelling Holy Spirit

Inspired

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)

The Gospel [the good news that Christ, who is the God-man, paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world having cancelled their debt (providing forgiveness), and that whosoever repents of their sins to God the Father and believes in his Son Jesus Christ will receive the indwelling Spirit along with subsequent benefits one of which is eternal life].

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)

Salvation is not determined by any meritorious work but by the washing of regeneration (the new birth; being born again of water and the Holy Spirit).

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

…in Christ… In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:10, 13)

Being born of water is symbolic of the declaration of the Gospel and the unbeliever’s response to it. Being born of the Spirit refers to the receiving of the indwelling Spirit upon repentance and belief.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:3-5)

As far as water baptism is concerned, it is an outward action of believers being immersed in water and subsequently coming out of the water which symbolizes their identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

If unbelievers believe (repent and believe), they will be saved. Water baptism should accompany salvation, but if for some reason it doesn’t occur this doesn’t annul salvation. Although the following verse appears to state that belief and water baptism must happen in that order for salvation to take place, the second half of this verse dispels the idea. It doesn’t say that if a person doesn’t believe and participates in water baptism, he/she will not be saved. It says if they don’t believe, they will not be saved. Therefore, water baptism is not considered as half the cause of salvation, but a testimony of it.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:24, 38, 43-45, 47-48)

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:12, 14-17)

Some also consider repentance and water baptism to be the pre-requisite for the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They will use the verse that follows which appears to support this protocol.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

However, this is clearly not the case, because there is also a different example in Scripture of water baptism taking place after the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (Acts 10:47)

There are a couple of other Scriptures which indicate that water baptism occurred before the receiving of the Holy Spirit, but this involved the sending of some of the apostles to pray and lay their hands on those who believed the Gospel as evidence that the apostles were indeed called of God.

(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:16-17)

 

Uninspired

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

Before being immersed in water, an adult needs to repent (change their mind about Jesus). However, babies are to be sprinkled with water. Repentance is established for them from the faith of their parents. At this time, the congregation is asked to pray to the Father that he will send the Holy Spirit upon the water. As water baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins, the consequence of such is that the one being baptized will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and become a child of God.

*Reference: Scriptures

 

Believe it or not, this tradition advocates that the more someone participates in it, the more they will evidence Christ-likeness.  

The Lord’s Supper – Communion 

Inspired

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

The partaking of the elements of bread and wine are symbolic of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. This should be observed as a memorial that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for all mankind paying the debt owed to satisfy the justice of God.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Partaking of these elements has nothing to do with a believer’s spiritual growth. Once an unbeliever has repented and believed, they will have received the indwelling Spirit. Following this, they are commanded to be filled (controlled) by the Spirit. This is another way of saying that they need to learn how to walk in the Spirit; in other words, to learn how to walk under the guidance of the Spirit. How is this accomplished?

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-12)

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

This is accomplished by listening to the teachings of those who are called to an office gift of the church (e.g. apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers) whose collective purpose is for the perfecting (mending, repair, or correcting all that is deficient) of the saints, for the work of the ministry (the work of Christian service), and for the edifying (to cause to grow strong) of the body of Christ so that every member might become mature or fully grown.

This involves not only instructing the saints about the many doctrines of the faith (e.g. redemption, sanctification, eternal security, forgiveness, etc.) but also declaring to them the new thoughts concerning who they have been made to be in Christ. After hearing about what these new thoughts are in contrast to the fallen sinful nature’s mental counterparts (e.g. jealousy, fear, insecurity, polluting imaginations, evil thoughts, etc.), they should appropriate (memorize) and meditate on them, which will activate the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (Colossians 3:10)

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: … (Proverbs 23:7)

Spiritual growth is not dependent on what we do or not do or on what we eat or drink, but on confessing our known sins to God the Father and replacing the thoughts we were entertaining with thinking about ourselves in light of God’s word.

 

Uninspired

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:53-54)                                                                                                                                           

At communion, the bread turns into the literal body of Christ, and the wine turns into the literal blood of Christ while maintaining the appearance of bread and wine. During this time, there occurs a sacramental union of the participants with Jesus, which is a mystical and spiritual union of their soul with Him, produced by their physical contact with his body.

Spiritual growth occurs by the frequent participation in Holy Communion, the fruit of which will be produced within the soul and evidenced over time to others. This evidence will be exhibited by a lessening of racial and national prejudices, a diminishing of neighborhood resentments, and an increase in neighborliness, compassion, patience, and forbearance towards others.

*Reference: Some of the early church fathers (e.g. Ambrose of Milan, Athanasius, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, Hippolytus, etc.) believed in this doctrine, which they called transubstantiation.

 

Do you remember going to church and after the service was over    looking for eggs hidden somewhere on the lawn outside?

Easter

Inspired

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. (Acts 2:31)

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:22-23)

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18)

Easter is the day that celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the third day after He died on the cross. Following His death, his soul went to hell (Hades), where two compartments were located. One was called Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, where the souls of all those who believed in God resided as He was revealed; and torments, where the souls of all those who did not believe in God resided as He was revealed.

On the third day, His soul re-entered his earthly body which was quickened by the Spirit. For forty days He witnessed of his resurrection to over 500 people. After that, He ascended into heaven. His resurrection indicated that His sacrifice on the cross was acceptable to God the Father and that He truly is God come in the flesh. His ascension into heaven indicated that those who repent to God the Father and believe in Him (Christ) as to who He is and what He has done will no longer go to a compartment of hell, but go directly to heaven.

The word “Easter” is not found in Scripture and is believed to be derived from paganism. The introduction of chocolate rabbits or colored eggs is symbolic of new life and rebirth. These, however, have nothing to do with being born anew, which cannot be attained through earthly means. These observances distort the real basis for the power of Christ’s resurrection working in us in our response to the Gospel, receiving the indwelling Spirit, and learning how to be filled with Him.

 

Uninspired

The day that not only celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the third day but also is considered the end of Lent. Children often hunt for hard boiled eggs, plastic eggs with money inside, or plastic eggs with candy inside which signifies the breaking of the Lenten obligations with sweets. 

*References: While there could be many reasons where the idea of using a rabbit and eggs in observance of this day started, one theory was that it originated from German Lutherans who believed in an Easter Hare who determined which children were good or bad in their behavior. Those who were good would receive colored eggs, candy, or toys at their home on the night before Easter Sunday.

 

It is believed that if there is willful disobedience in not attending the worship service associated with one of these days, and this person chooses afterward to not confess guilt, he will go to hell at physical death.  

Holy Days of Obligation

Inspired

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (Acts 2:46)

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

Initially, in the early church, Jewish Christians met in the temple in Jerusalem. They continued to observe the tenets of the Mosaic Law. However, they also gathered together at times in different homes where they heard teachings from the apostles, prayed together, and shared in fellowship meals, which was followed by the Lord’s Supper.

Over time, it was made clear to both Jew and Gentile Christians that following the Mosaic Law could neither provide salvation nor sanctification. Eventually, due to their doctrinal differences, Christians were persecuted by religious unbelieving Jews. As a result, the assembly of believers began to gather outside of the temple or synagogue on the first day of the week, the day following the Sabbath, the day celebrating Christ’s resurrection, in private homes.      

Christians were admonished to not forsake their gathering together. Some attributed this to the decision made by some of the Jewish believers who decided to stop attending because of the inclusion of converted Gentiles to the church. Another reason for this could be related to the persecution of the church by the Roman authorities.

What should be the purposes of going to church?

The purposes of going to church are to:

Learn Bible doctrine.

Learn how to walk in the Spirit.

Discover the gift or gifts that were given to each member by the Holy Spirit.

Exercise those gifts for the edification of the body of Christ.

Bring believers to a place in their walk where they would evidence Christ-likeness to a lost and dying world, and when the opportunity arose, to share the Gospel with them.

There were not certain days of assembly that were considered paramount for believers to attend to prevent any danger of losing their salvation.

 

Uninspired

Days vary on which believers are required to attend, depending on the country in which those days are being observed.

In the USA these days are:

January 1 - The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter - The Solemnity of the Ascension
August 15 - The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1 - The Solemnity of All Saints
December 8 - The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 25 - The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

While there are allowances for not attending on any of these days (such as lack of child care, personal sickness, work, etc.), willful neglect is considered a mortal sin. A mortal sin is the committing of a certain sin, which if not confessed to a priest, will cause the sinner to go to hell at physical death.

*Reference: Unclear. These days of obligation were developed over hundreds of years ago by various church leaders whose desire was to set aside certain ones as a time of reflection in relation to particular events of the Bible.

 

Is there an interim place where believers will go to suffer for sins that they didn’t confess on earth?

Purgatory

Inspired

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

All sin was paid for by Christ on the cross for all mankind. It’s not the type of sin or the habitual committing of sin that determines a person’s eternal destiny. What determines the eternal destiny of unbelievers is whether they responded favorably to the declaration of the Gospel. In other words, did they repent of their sins to God the Father and believe in his Son? If they did, then they will receive the Holy Spirit along with a bundle of benefits, one of which is eternal life. When believers die, immediately they will go directly to heaven.

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:13-14)

There will be a judgment for both believers and unbelievers. Believers will be judged not for their sins, but for their works as to their spiritual quality (character). Works that were done in the filling of the Spirit will receive a reward.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:12-13)

Unbelievers, likewise, will be judged not according to their sins, but by their works. However, this will not be with respect to rewards, but as evidence that there was no response to the Gospel and as such no indwelling Spirit, which renders each work void of spiritual quality (character).

 

Uninspired

Purgatory is a place where the souls of those who are destined to heaven must reside until they have suffered for their venial sins that were not confessed to a priest while on earth. A venial sin is a sin that does not bring about eternal damnation.

*References: This view came from the Church Council of Trent.

 

This tradition usually involves the penitent repeating the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers immediately following confession.

Confession of Sins

Inspired

And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt-offering, for a sweet savour unto the Lord, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. (Numbers 15:22, 24, 28)

Addressing personal sins was different in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament during the Age of Israel, sins were classified as either sins of ignorance (not to realize one’s failure) or sins of presumption (willful). Sins of ignorance were addressed by means of animal sacrifices offered by a priest.

But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:30-31)

If disobedience to God’s commands occurred because what was done was done willfully (intentionally), then the congregation would not bring an offering to the priest, and thus no atonement would be made. The punishment for the offense committed would be exacted on the person who committed it.

…Christ. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:13, 18)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:14-16)

In the New Testament, the believer has direct access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, confession of sin can be made directly to Him. If our sin happens to be against another person, then we should also go to them and confess (admit fault).

 

Uninspired

The committing of sins can be confessed to a priest, so that a pardon may be granted based on the person’s desire to return to God.

*Reference: The Council of Trent.

 

Why would someone pray for a loved one who has passed from this world?

Prayers for the Dead

Inspired

Prayer is of vital importance for a Christian.

Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13)

We could pray according to the instruction of James for God’s perspective and power when we are suffering in difficult circumstances.

That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)                                                     

We could pray according to the instructions of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy that in everything we do we are motivated by faith in God and accomplished with His power so that He will consider us worthy of our calling.

There is no reference in the Scriptures of a believer praying for loved ones who have died so that they might leave an interim place where, supposedly, they have gone after physical death, and then be expedited to heaven. However, in the Old Testament, there was an example of one of the Kings of Israel, King Saul, who sought counsel from the Lord regarding an upcoming battle with the Philistines. As the Lord chose not to communicate with him through divine channels (e.g. prophet, Urim and Thummin, etc.), Saul sought out a woman of Endor who had a familiar spirit. She asked him who he would like for her to bring up from the dead, and Saul said the prophet, Samuel. So, Samuel was brought forth. He conveyed to Saul that the battle would be lost and that both he and his sons would perish. This is an example of someone seeking counsel from the dead and receiving it.

 

Uninspired

Prayers for the dead are made for those who are residing in a place called Purgatory and who are suffering for their venial sins. Those prayers are supposed to speed their release from this place a lot sooner for them eventually to get to heaven.

*Reference: From the writings of Pope Benedict XVI.

One story from such relates to another pope, Pope St. Gregory.

And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel. (Numbers 20:26, 29)

This pope deduced that there might be a place where believers atone for their sins, which he called Purgatory, with respect to the Scriptural declaration concerning the death of Aaron, the high priest of Israel. Because Moses and Aaron disobeyed God’s word in relation to the lack of water at a place called Meribah, neither one would be allowed to enter the Promised Land of Canaan.

Just before the children of Israel would be allowed to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan under the command of their new leader Joshua, God chose to take Aaron home. Immediately following his death the children of Israel mourned over him for thirty days. It was believed by Pope St. Gregory that they did this because upon physical death Aaron went to an interim place where he would suffer for his sin of disobedience. It was assumed by this pope that it took thirty days of mourning and prayer to release him from this place so that he could proceed to heaven.

 

I could never understand why I couldn’t eat meat on this particular day.

Good Friday

Inspired

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?  which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. (Mark 15:33-34, 37)

The day on which Christ suffered and died on the cross has been disputed as not having occurred on a Friday, which we will address at some other time.  For a period of three hours, all of the sins of mankind were put to His account during which time He was separated from fellowship with the Father. When this work was finished, He then gave up His spirit.

Some believe that when celebrating this particular day on a yearly basis the meat of animals or fowls should not be eaten because this would require killing them. Another way of saying this is that the shedding of their blood might interfere with what the participant should be occupied with, which is the shedding of Christ’s blood.

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. (Genesis 9:4) 

The first reference regarding the shedding of an animal’s blood is found in God’s admonition to Noah following the catastrophic flood. Noah and his family were instructed not to eat the flesh of animals with blood in them. This simply meant that they were to make sure that the animal’s blood was drained before they partook of its meat. The draining of the blood signified an acknowledgment that they took this animal’s life with God’s permission. This same admonition was to be followed by the Jews during the institution of the Mosaic Law during the Age of Israel.

Were there any issues about eating meat as relating to celebrating the day of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion during the dispensation of the New Testament church? There are two instances that I can think of.

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (1 Corinthians 8:14, 7-13)

The first has to do with believers of the Corinthian church. Apparently, some of them were attending pagan temples which provided food and drink from the sacrifices which were offered there. This was causing problems with those who had left paganism and had become Christians. They were judging their fellow believers who were attending these rituals. The apostle Paul addressed this issue by saying that what was being offered in these pagan temples was to idols and was thus constituted as demon worship. His instruction was for the believers to stop attending the pagan temples.

This prohibition didn’t end here. In association with this, there were times when not all of the meat was consumed. In some of these cases, the pagan priests would bring whatever was left over to the meat markets where it would be sold. The question which arose was, should a believer buy these meats if it was known that they were used in pagan sacrifice? The answer was no, they shouldn’t.

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: (Acts 15:1, 20, 23-24)

The second instance did involve not eating meat with blood in it. Apparently, there were some fellow Jewish believers from the church of Jerusalem who came to Antioch contending that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised to be saved. After much discussion amongst the leadership, it was determined that this teaching was inaccurate. It was also concluded that the Gentiles were under no obligation to keep any aspect of the tenets of the Mosaic Law. Along with this, there was a recommendation put forth that the Gentiles abstain from the pollutions of idols, fornication, from things strangled (animals whose blood had not been drained), and from blood (drinking blood).

Why, if the Gentiles were not obligated to keep any of the Mosaic Law, were they instructed to not drink blood or eat animals which had blood in them? The reason for this was because the Gentiles and Jews would partake of a common meal together following their assembling for worship. This was called the Agape Feast. It was understood by the Jewish Christians that they were allowed to continue to observe the tenets of the Mosaic Law, fully understanding that they could neither become saved nor grow spiritually by doing so.

One of the aspects of the Law had to do with their dietary restrictions. They were not allowed to drink anything which had blood in it, and neither were they allowed to eat animals whose blood had not been drained. The Gentiles, some of whom liked to consume drinks with blood in them and eat animal meat with blood in it, were asked to bring food and drink to the feast in compliance with the Jewish dietary Laws so they could enjoy this meal without any confrontation or dissension.

So, there you have it. There were instances in both the Old and New Testament concerning the eating of meat. However, there was no Scriptural evidence of abstaining from eating meat on the day of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion.

 

Uninspired

There are some who call this day good because Christ shed his blood for all mankind. He became our substitute and thus paid the penalty of sin that was due mankind to satisfy the justice of God. Personally, I would concur that the day on which Christ suffered and died is good.

They will further state that the meat of mammals and fowls are not allowed to be eaten on this day, because this would require the shedding of blood, and if this were allowed it would interfere with reflecting on the shedding of Christ’s blood, which should be the primary focus. Foods such as fish, eggs, etc. are allowed. However, in other countries on which this day is observed fish, eggs, meat, and other foods would not be allowed to be eaten.

If the eating of meat were done willfully on this day, then this would be considered a mortal sin. Remember, a mortal sin is the committing of a certain sin, which if not confessed to a priest, will cause the sinner to go to hell at physical death.

*Reference: Some believe this practice started way back in the early church during the times of the Church Fathers when meat was not common place and therefore was considered an acceptable food for fasting, especially in relation to the idea of the shedding of blood.

 

Are those who are called to a leadership office in the church allowed to marry?

Celibacy

Inspired

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1 Timothy 3:1-2)

Both in the Old and New Testaments, those who were called of God to leadership positions were allowed to be married. One example of this is found in the book of Timothy regarding the qualifications of those who desired the office of bishop (pastor). One qualification was that, if married, they were required to be the husband of one wife. There is more to say as to the meaning of these words, but we’ll just say that scripture indicated church leaders could marry.

 

Uninspired

Anyone who is in leadership positions of the church is not allowed to marry. It appears there might be many reasons why those in leadership could not marry, but one reason, in particular, stands out.

In the 4th Century A.D., there was a tendency to choose an ascetic way of life (of denying oneself) as a means to express one’s devotion to God. This could involve injuring one’s physical body, wearing worn out clothes, abstaining from sex, removing oneself from living in society, etc. It could be that this mindset permeated the thoughts of those who were in the position of determining what was considered acceptable decrees for the church. At the Council of Elvira, it was decided that a priest couldn’t have sex the night before he conducted Mass. If somehow it was found out that he did, he would be removed from his position. The next Council of Nicea concluded that a priest could not marry.

*Reference: Council of Elvira and the Council of Nicea.

So, there you have it. Quite interesting! With this in mind, now that you are born again, you have become aware as to what should you be looking for when attending a church assembly and making the decision to remain in it.

 

Summary

  • Is the Gospel being preached to foster an understanding that to receive the Holy Spirit unbelievers must repent of their sins to God the Father and believe in Christ, who is not only a prophet, teacher, and the Son of God, but also God come in the flesh? He is one of the members of the Trinity; the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit--one God in three persons. Beware of those that say he is an angel, a perfect (sinless) man but not deity, not the Messiah, etc.
  • Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit operational? While there are more than nine gifts, these initial gifts are evidence that the Holy Spirit is a unique participant in the exercise of each of them. As such, He provides a supernatural utterance, a peculiar impulse that provides assurance that His power will assist in the performing of some matter, divine energy, and the unveiling of truth for the past, present, or future. The initial nine gifts are prophecy, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, faith, healing, miracles, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discerning of spirits.
  • Are the names of the offices of the leadership called apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers? If they are not but are called priest, Father, high priest, the most high, the exalted one, the special one, etc. you know you are in the wrong place.
  • Does the content of the teachings not only talk about such topics as eternal security, redemption, the blood, justification, predestination, election, the rapture of the church, the seven year tribulation period, etc. but also emphasize personal sanctification? In other words, do they assist believers in being able to recognize and address areas of human weakness or strengths in their walk with God so that the spiritual qualities (e.g. love, joy, peace) of the Holy Spirit can be realized in their lives and be evidenced to others?

I would also consider the following questions regarding the content of the teachings.

~ Do the teachings by the leadership of the church address sin (e.g. adultery, fornication, slander, lesbianism, homosexuality, lying, cheating, stealing, drug addiction, drunkenness, extortion, etc.), or do they condone it?

~ Are the egregious sins committed by those in leadership or by those in the assembly so public that they cannot be concealed? Are these sins so certain that they cannot be denied, being addressed by those in the assembly who are in charge of dealing with such matters? If the leadership says they are only answerable to God regarding committing egregious publicly known sins run out of there as fast as you can!

  • Are the traditions that are being taught inspired?

That means whether they were delivered orally or in writing they are contained in the written word. That would include such things as…

~Water baptism

~The Lord’s Supper

~The Agape Feast

~The anointing with oil

~The laying on of hands

~The gospel

~The allowance of those in leadership to marry

~The believer’s immediate entrance to heaven upon physical death

~Christ’s temptation by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days and nights

~The resurrection of Christ

~Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah King of the Jews

~Christ’s suffering and death on the cross paying the debt owed by mankind to satisfy God’s justice

~Prayer for personal direction, guidance, protection, spiritual growth, etc.

~The faith that once for all was delivered to the saints

~Teachings given by inspired men

~Teachings that come from God to guide our lives

 

Be on the lookout for those traditions that are not inspired. These would include…

~Celibacy for those in leadership

~Water baptism salvation

~The literal changing of the bread into Christ’s body and wine into His blood called Transubstantiation

~Not being allowed to eat meat on certain days

~The receiving of palm leaves which are also used to represent the victory of martyrs and the honoring of their relics

~Having your forehead rubbed with burnt ashes of palm leaves

~Confession of your sins to someone in leadership

~The belief that some will go to a temporary place called Purgatory to atone for unconfessed venial sins

~Mandatory church attendance on certain worship days

~Prayers for those residing in a temporary dwelling place following physical death so that their entrance into heaven will be sooner rather than later

 

This should help you know what to look for when attending a church assembly. Now that you are born again and are beginning to understand what your gift or gifts are, which you have received from the Holy Spirit, and have started to be aware of those kinds of teachings that will promote your spiritual growth, there will also be some roadblocks along the way that you will encounter. These might cause you either to advance or regress in your walk with God. What these roadblocks are and how to address them will be the focus over the course of the next few chapters.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

 

Endnotes

 24Dictionary.com

 

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