Biblist

Apologetics

Clayton  B Carlson

 

Copyright © 2017 Clayton B Carlson

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9781988226095

ISBN-13: 978-1-988226-09-5

CONTENTS

1 Chapter One: Holy Spirit Led Apologetics 2
2 Chapter Two: Nature of The Human Soul 22
3 Chapter Three: Denominationally Driven Apologetics 62

 

 

CHAPTER ONE
HOLY SPIRIT LED APOLOGETICS

 

The definition for Christian apologetics as found in Wikipedia is as follows.

 

Christian apologetics (Greek: ἀπολογία, “verbal defence, speech in defence”)[1] is a field of Christian theology which present reasoned bases for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections.

 

This defense of Christianity is normally directed towards people who are non-Christian, in an attempt to demonstrate the validity of the Christian faith. It can however, also be an argument of justification for a theory, or doctrine. Christians of all denominations will use some form of apologetics to support the beliefs held within the denomination they are a part of. Some of these doctrines are biblical and some come from the social traditions the denomination was formed out of.

For example, most people of the Amish faith steadfastly refuse to use electricity, but they would be hard pressed to find a Bible reference for that refusal. Their doctrine comes from a social context or principle, rather than a specific Bible teaching on the subject of electrical usage. Holding to their doctrines and beliefs is what identifies them as Amish, not necessarily Christian. Christians may come with a variety of doctrines and beliefs depending on the denomination they come from. However adhering to the traditions and doctrines from your denomination may not guarantee that you are Christian.

 

Jesus tells us how we are to act towards each other and how the world will recognize one of his true followers.

 

John 13:34-35 Living Bible

34 “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. 35 Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

If we are to be worthy disciples of Jesus we need to put his love, the greatest fruit of the spirit, into action in our lives continually. The spiritual fruit of love is said to be the best of all of the fruit of the Spirit and is the one that will be of long lasting value in the coming Kingdom of God.

 

1 Corinthians 13:9-13 Living Bible

9 Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor. 10 But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.

11 It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things. 12 In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.

13 There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

 

Love is the fruit that we need to have ripening in our lives as we grow in spiritual understanding of God. It is essential for a practicing Christian to be showing the love of God toward others around them. In doing so they show God to those who don’t know him.

 

Matthew 5:15-16 Easy-to-Read Version

15 People don’t hide a lamp under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand. Then the light shines for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.

 

The topics that are covered by Christian apologetics are as varied as the people defending their beliefs. Not all of the beliefs and doctrines defended are essential to the Christian faith. Most of the apologetic defenses are covering peripheral topics that are supported by those Christians who believe in them. These peripheral topics, being defended as a Christian truth, can make it somewhat confusing to a non-Christian outsider exploring the Christian faith. There are many different voices supporting a vast array of doctrines, some contradicting each other, all claiming to be Christian and coming from the word of God, the Bible.

 

Most of the apologists will use bible scripture to support their position as they want a biblical foundation to uphold their beliefs. Few will knowingly venture onto the soft sands of human wisdom to build their house of faith. We all believe that our doctrines are sure, otherwise we would not hold them as true. A mathematician will give, mathematical proofs, when defending their formula or hypothesis. In a similar way Christians will use Bible scripture to support their doctrines and beliefs to be sure they are on the solid rock of God. As prudent Christians we should dig into scripture for ourselves and prayerfully follow where the Spirit of God leads, being careful to follow and live out the teachings of God before the teachings of man.

 

Matthew 7:15-27 International Children’s Bible

People Know You by Your Actions

15 “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you and look gentle like sheep. But they are really dangerous like wolves. 16 You will know these people because of the things they do. Good things don’t come from bad people, just as grapes don’t come from thornbushes. And figs don’t come from thorny weeds. 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit. And bad trees produce bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit. And a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 You will know these false prophets by what they produce.

21 “Not everyone who says ‘You are my Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do the things that my Father in heaven wants. 22 On the last day many people will say to me, ‘You are our Lord! We spoke for you. And through you we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ 23 Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you.’

Two Kinds of People

24 “Everyone who hears these things I say and obeys them is like a wise man. The wise man built his house on rock. 25 It rained hard and the water rose. The winds blew and hit that house. But the house did not fall, because the house was built on rock. 26 But the person who hears the things I teach and does not obey them is like a foolish man. The foolish man built his house on sand. 27 It rained hard, the water rose, and the winds blew and hit that house. And the house fell with a big crash.”

 

This desire to have a sure foundation from the bible is why I favour Biblist apologetics. Wiktionary describes a Biblist as follows.

 

Noun

biblist (plural biblists)

 

One who holds the Bible as the sole rule of faith.

A biblical scholar; a biblicist.

 

As a biblist in the Berean tradition I endeavour to uphold and support only what I can find supported by all of what the bible has to say on a topic.

 

Acts 17:11 Easy-to-Read Version

11 The people in Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. They were so glad to hear the message Paul told them. They studied the Scriptures every day to make sure that what they heard was really true.

 

At times the Bible is not decisively clear on a particular subject in which case we are left having to make our way as we are led by the Spirit of God.

 

John 16:13 New International Version

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

 

We all must take responsibility for the choice of beliefs that we let shape our lives.

 

Philippians 2:12 New King James Version

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

 

Looking at all of the scriptures that pertain to a particular doctrine or belief can take time and we may change our minds about the subject as we come to see different perspectives through new arguments introduced to us. This is why we are admonished to let our iron sharpen each other. This sharpening may not always be comfortable as we are likely to create sparks and get hot during the sharpening process.

 

Proverbs 27:17 International Standard Version

17 Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend’s character.

 

God will use these episodes in our lives to make us stronger in him.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 English Standard Version

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 

We must always remember that love is the Spiritual fruit most valuable and the one we need to be showing to each other and the world.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Good News Translation

1 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned – but if I have no love, this does me no good. 4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. 8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.

9 For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; 10 but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear. 11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me.

13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

 

Being challenged in our beliefs and doctrines is not an experience to be shunned. You will never believe in your doctrines and beliefs more than when you have to prove them to yourself and defend them to others. As Christians we need to grow skillful in recognizing the truths of God.

 

Hebrews 5:12-14 Modern English Version

12 For though by now you should be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God and have come to need milk rather than solid food. 13 Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are mature, for those who through practice have powers of discernment that are trained to distinguish good from evil.

 

An example of non-essential Christian apologetics would be in the defence of the young earth creation doctrine. This doctrine teaches that the universe, earth and all creation is only seven thousand years old. This is taught as a Christian doctrine coming from the Bible. No other biblical explanations for creation are normally mentioned, only that God created everything in the physical realm approximately seven thousand years ago. Creation science is a loud supporter of this belief. They believe it to be the only biblically supported view. But is it?

 

I call it non-essential because believing in this doctrine is not linked to being essential for salvation. The Bible is clear in more than one scripture that we only need to accept Jesus for the salvation of our sins. The knowledge bar for salvation is set fairly low. The only test is that of faith.

Romans 10:9-10 New King James Version

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

The fact that most doctrine fall into the non-essential category is important to keep in mind when discussing doctrine from an apologetic point of view. This allows the participants the freedom to follow where the Holy Spirit leads them in their understanding without the fear of turning their backs on the essentials of Christianity. Discussing the merits of different doctrines will help give you a broader view of the Christian faith and deeper insight into the plans of our heavenly father. You may not agree with those that you are in discussion with, but the objective shouldn’t be to convince others of the correctness of your opinion, but to let the Holy Spirit lead them in the truth God has called them too.

 

Agreeing that God is the creator is seldom an issue in Christian discussions. How and when he did his creating is a more hotly debated topic. The young earth proponents often question why other Christians would not believe the plain description of the days of creation as the literal truth. They recognize no other interpretation for the text. They will point out that God knows a day contains only a twenty four hour period. To be counting them off in an orderly fashion, stating with what was created on each day, can only mean that creation took place completely during that first, seven day, week long period.

 

Other Christians who hold to a belief in, old earth creationism, think God created all things within what the natural physical limits provided. They agree God is the creator but see him working within the bounds of the physical world he established. This belief puts you in less confrontation with the world of science. It can be supported biblically as well, seeing the texts in Genesis as an overall descriptive story, and not as a scientific text book. Rather than the original creation taking place in Genesis, the creation story can be viewed as a rebuilding or renewing of creation. This would account for having light being created on day one. Before the creation of the heavenly lights in the sky on day four. Old Earth supporters may see there being a large time lag from God creating in verse one.

 

Genesis 1:1 (KJV)

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

 

To where we see the world becoming without form and void in verse two.

 

Genesis 1:2 (KJV)

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

 

The earth seen without form and void, is a far cry from how it began, when God created it so perfectly that the angles spontaneously shouted for joy.

 

Job 38:4-7 (KJV)

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

The account of creation in Genesis can be understood from the perspective of being on the earth as things were taking place, being recreated to their former glory. Going from being in dark water to slowly seeing light, then all of the new recreation unfolding into its fullness as time passes. Demanding that the wording in Genesis be taken literally, makes some wonder why not demand the same literal interpretation of other scriptures.

 

Scriptures that were traditionally seen as literal, but now because of expanding scientific knowledge, are understood in a more figurative sense. The debate surrounding the findings of Galileo in the early sixteen hundreds comes to mind as an example. The non-essential Christian doctrine that the earth does not move, but that the rest of the universe rotates around it, has strong biblical support. Language used in the scriptural texts supporting a stationary Earth are just as plain and straight forward, as those for creation found in Genesis.

 

Psalm 93:1 Modern English Version

1 The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt.

Indeed, the world is established; it cannot be moved.

 

Psalm 96:10 King James Version

10 Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.

 

1 Chronicles 16:30 New International Version

30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

 

Psalm 104:5 New Revised Standard Version

5 You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:5 New King James Version

5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose.

 

These scriptures were, for thousands of years, used as the basic understanding of our cosmos. Thought to be foundational truths of God, Christian leaders defended what they saw as essential beliefs and would not tolerate any deviant notions from their truth. For the most part this belief went unquestioned until a few curious scholars, with nothing better to do, started observing the night sky with their tubes of leather and glass. Through their observations they developed the, then, Bible contradicting celestial model that is commonly believed today. Most modern Christians would have no problem agreeing with these new ideas on the workings of our solar system. They do not see these new beliefs as contradicting the Bible in anyway. The mind shift that took place was one of a contextual understanding of the scriptures intent. Modern Christians now read the scriptures mentioned above, not in a literal light, but see them as being more figuratively poetic in nature.

 

Still the young earth defenders may not be convinced, and that is all right. They need to follow where they are led by the Holy Spirit. The arguments for young earth creationism can be compelling. Whichever side of the debate you gravitate to, or if you are not sure which side you agree with, keep in mind this is a peripheral topic and not essential to your salvation. You can believe in, God the creator, Jesus our saviour, and the authority of the Bible, while not holding to either point of view.

 

Being an avid fan of public radio, I have listened to countless interviews of artists, authors, directors, and clergy. Several of them have talked about their personal journey of faith, or about their journey away from faith. Of those who left their faith in the Bible behind, most have described how their decision to abandon Christianity revolved around the doctrines of creation. One story that stuck with me was that of a young man who recounted how in grade eight he felt like he had to decide if he believed in dinosaurs or God. He chose the dinosaurs as he could see their bones.

 

I believe that by demanding non-essential doctrines, be believed as essential, with no other options for belief given, forces many to abandon their Christian faith when they find themselves in disagreement with those non-essential beliefs. Rather than linking the Christian faith to non-essential doctrines and beliefs we should stress that freedom of thought in non-essential beliefs is vital for people to follow the Holy Spirit in their walk of faith. Having a wide understanding of non-essential Christian beliefs is useful in following the Holy Spirits lead, as it is through the knowledge of God, found in the Bible, that we can follow him. Not being biblically literate can lead us into misunderstanding biblical topics. Listening to others, while testing what they say, through Bible scriptures, will lead to wisdom.

 

Acts 8:30-34 New International Version

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

 

Romans 10:14 International Children’s Bible

14 But before people can trust in the Lord for help, they must believe in him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about him. And for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.

CHAPTER TWO
NATURE OF THE HUMAN SOUL

 

There are times that, as a biblist, I find myself at odds with some of the traditions that have become accepted within the Christian community at large. These beliefs, doctrines and traditions may not by themselves pose a problem to our salvation, as they are mostly in the realm of non-essential. Being equipped to understand their origins and how these beliefs came to be included into the Christian culture is helpful in keeping them non-essential.

 

Being left in the dark, on the history of these beliefs and thinking they are essential to the Christian faith, can draw us far from a biblical understanding of the plans God has in store for us. Like setting sail on an ocean voyage, if you start slightly off course you will miss your intended destination, if no course adjustment is made along the way.

 

I believe one of the fundamental things that will aid in our understanding of God’s plan for us, is in understanding the limitations of mankind as we were created by God. The main limitation I am talking about is the physical nature of humans. We were created physical, as the original Hebrew describes in Genesis.

 

Genesis 2:7 IHOT(i) (In English order)

7 H3335 וייצר formed H3068 יהוה And the LORD H430 אלהים God H853 את  H120 האדם man H6083 עפר the dust H4480 מן of H127 האדמה the ground, H5301 ויפח and breathed H639 באפיו into his nostrils H5397 נשׁמת the breath H2416 חיים of life; H1961 ויהי became H120 האדם and man H5315 לנפשׁ soul.

 

I have picked out the word that has a direct bearing on mankind’s nature.

 

H5315 נפשׁ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon Number

nephesh

neh’-fesh

From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental)

KJV Usage: any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.

 

Most Christians believe that humans have an immortal soul that will live on somewhere after our fleshly body dies. As you can see above, the word translated as soul in the King James Version was the Hebrew word nephesh. The KJV translators intended usage for the word nephesh, as I have made in bold print, include mortality. The list of usage does not include any term for immortal or eternal in reference to mankind. It only refers to our physical body as well as our emotional and mental capacities. Despite popular belief the KJV translators did not use the same word to describe mortality and it’s opposite, immortality. The Hebrew word nephesh is the same word God had inspired to be used for all of the other creatures he made at creation. We are physical, the same as any other animal on the earth.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 King James Version

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

 

When we die we are dead and possess no attributes of life such as thought or feeling.

 

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 KJV

5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

 

Keeping the fact that we are wholly mortal firmly in mind is essential when trying to understand what happens to people when they die. Knowing our basic nature as humans is vital if we are to fully understand the plans God has for making humanity his children. Being mortal, we require God to give us eternal life just as we were dependent upon him to give us physical life. We do not have immortality innately within us, it comes to us as a free gift from God. I believe most misunderstandings about God and his plans for mankind, come from not truly grasping the mortal nature of mankind. This misunderstanding is not limited to Christians alone. Humanity as a whole has been misled from the start of creation by the deceiver of the world. This deception is recorded for us in the Bible, it takes place shortly after Adam and Eve started living in the Garden of Eden.

 

Genesis 3:1-7 King James Version

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

 

This section of scripture, often referred to as the fall of man, describes how Adam and Eve were tricked into eating of the tree of knowledge. They chose to eat of this forbidden fruit, taking for themselves the decisions over good and evil, rejecting the divine wisdom of their maker. Choosing to follow Satan rather than God, they also believed Satan’s lie that they would not die, verse 4. They chose to follow the path taken by Lucifer when he rebelled against God. He wanted to replace God as ruler in his life. He wanted to be like God, with the power to decide right from wrong.

 

Isaiah 14:13-14 New International Reader’s Version

13 You said in your heart,‘I will go up to the heavens. I’ll raise my throne above the stars of God. I’ll sit as king on the mountain where the gods meet. I’ll set up my throne on the highest slopes of Mount Zaphon.

14 I will rise above the tops of the clouds. I’ll make myself like the Most High God.’

 

This Satanic lie of not dieing has been believed by mankind ever since. Throughout history, virtually all religions and cultures of the world have had the belief that mankind possesses an immortal soul, or spirit that lives on after their physical body dies. This belief comes directly from Satan himself, humanity was infected by his lie from the very beginning, by the father of lies.

 

John 8:44 Easy-to-Read Version

44 Your father is the devil. You belong to him. You want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies.

 

As a biblist it is important to look at all of the scriptures that pertain to a particular subject. Trying to glean all of the available information on the topic to get the largest overview possible. If we look carefully the Bible will soon uncover Satan’s lie. Many people who read these scriptures seem to forget about the other tree mentioned growing in the Garden of Eden, the tree of life. It was in eating the fruit of this tree that gave eternal life. In Genesis 3 we are told how after expelling Adam and Eve from the garden, God made sure they could not eat of its fruit and gain eternal life.

 

Genesis 3:22-24 Names of God Bible

22 Then Yahweh Elohim said, “The man has become like one of us, since he knows good and evil. He must not reach out and take the fruit from the tree of life and eat. Then he would live forever.” 23 So Yahweh Elohim sent the man out of the Garden of Eden to farm the ground from which the man had been formed. 24 After he sent the man out, Elohim placed angels and a flaming sword that turned in all directions east of the Garden of Eden. He placed them there to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

Had mankind possessed immortality already, keeping them from the tree of life would have done no good as they would already have been immortal. By God keeping mankind from the tree that provided eternal life, proves they did not have it already. Humanity was not created with immortality, innately part of them. We were created completely physical, mortal beings as described in Genesis 2, with nothing that lives on beyond our physical death. We must rely totally on God and his plan for us to have any hope of eternal life. Acknowledging this helps us in understanding the plans of God by removing Satan’s misdirecting lie of humans having an immortal soul. Many of the big questions people have about life and death are answered by understanding how temporary humans were created. This understanding will aid us in learning what God is up to.

 

The old saying, “a man convinced against his will, is still of the same mind still”, applies to apologetics and biblical discussions. For any meaningful change to take place in the hearts and minds of the participants they need to be willing to alter their beliefs, not because of a skilled debater or cunning arguments, but because they respect the authority of the Bible over their lives. What I say, or the opinion of anyone else, has no validity, if it is not supported by scripture. Not just one or two verses pulled out of the Bible for support of a position, but a thorough look at all of the applicable material. This will take some time depending on the subject, but it is well worth the effort made if you truly want to know what God has to say. Then once you do find the answers, you need to follow Gods Spirit into his truth and worship him in truth.

 

John 4:24 Disciples’ Literal New Testament

24 God is spirit, and the ones worshiping Him must worship in spirit and truth”.

 

I believe the Bible will not contradict itself, if it seems to be then we are not interpreting it’s message correctly, or we are have not understood the context it was written in. There are many differing opinions over what is said in the Bible, they can be misleading if you don’t look into how and what is actually written. A prime example of this is the account of the repentant thief crucified with Jesus.

 

Luke 23:43 New King James Version

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

As you can see there is no punctuation in the Greek text below. (It’s all Greek to me. lol)

 

ΚΑΤΑ ΛΟΥΚΑΝ 23:431550 Stephanus New Testament (TR1550)

43 και ειπεν αυτω ο ιησους αμην λεγω σοι σημερον μετ εμου εση εν τω παραδεισω

 

When inserting punctuation, the translators changed the meaning of the verse. Moving the comma, in the NKJV, to the right of today, changes the meaning of the text. It will say “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.” I believe this to be a better rendering of the text. I have found most of the posts on the internet about the text disagree with me. They contend that both Jesus and the thief entered paradise at the moment of their death. They believe the souls of both of them will be in a pleasant spot somewhere. This could be a convincing idea if you believed in the doctrine of an immortal soul. But as we have seen from the Bible, mankind was not created with immortality and still does not possess it. The entire doctrinal premise of entering paradise or hell immediately after death, depends on humanity possessing a spiritual form that lives on after the body dies.

 

Does God in his word have anything to say about this topic? Well not surprisingly he does. He declares that man is mortal.

 

Genesis 6:3 New King James Version

3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

 

Most apologetic arguments for the existence of Heaven or Hell start with the supposition that humans have some form of immorality innately within them. This is why I contend that knowing the nature of mankind is essential to understanding the plans God has for humanity. There are a number of misunderstandings in traditional Christianity, if the verses we have read thus far were correctly understood. This is a topic we all need to understand thoroughly when pursuing the heart of God.

 

The existence of hell or the coming Kingdom of God is not in question, however the fate of those that enter into them may be. Being thrown into the lake of fire not possessing an immortal soul, has a significantly different outcome, than for those who do possess eternal life. Being mortal, as man is, you will die once the conditions to sustain physical life are gone. Having to rely on God for the gift of eternal life, only those whom he wants to give it to, receive it. Those that find themselves in the position of being thrown into the lake of fire and still being mortal will die as they will not be able to live in that environment. Once they are burned up and dead God will not resurrect them back to life, leaving them dead for the rest of eternity. Making their punishment eternal. This understanding is backed up by some of the most popular scriptures in the Bible, they tell us what will happen to those who reject Jesus and the eternal life he alone brings.

 

John 3:15-16 GOD’S WORD Translation

15 Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

16 God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

 

If you do not have eternal life through the salvation of Jesus you will die. Only the covering sacrifice of Jesus can cleanse us of our sins and bring immortality.

 

Ezekiel 18:19-20 The Message

19-20 “Do you need to ask, ‘So why does the child not share the guilt of the parent?’

“Isn’t it plain? It’s because the child did what is fair and right. Since the child was careful to do what is lawful and right, the child will live truly and well. The soul that sins is the soul that dies. The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child. If you live upright and well, you get the credit; if you live a wicked life, you’re guilty as charged.

 

Body and soul, as was shown to us in Genesis, is the physical body and mind, personality, or psyche. However you understand the term, it is destroyed the same as the body is in hell.

 

Matthew 10:28 Expanded Bible

28 Don’t be afraid of people, who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. The only one you should fear is the one who can destroy [L both] the soul and the body in ·hell

 

Those that possess eternal spirit life, like Satan and the demons, will not die in the flames of the lake of fire. They will be tormented there, and because they are immortal, they will never die regardless of their physical surroundings. Not being able to escape the lake they will be tormented there forever.

 

Revelation 20:10 Modern English Version

10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

 

Some people will find this reasoning and examples unsatisfactory as proof that mankind does not innately possess a spirit or something that lives on after death. It is difficult as an apologist to cover every possible argument or scripture reference someone may have in mind and refute it. As this is a non-essential belief of Christianity, some people will at times agree to disagree. I don’t favour this approach. As a biblist I don’t believe the Bible would be contradictory on such a fundamental subject even if it is non-essential.

 

One could argue that prayer is non-essential to becoming a Christian, as we are saved by faith, but few would say that prayer is non-essential to understanding God and his plans. Getting it right is important for our growth as Christians. Agreeing to disagree will only leave one party in the darkness of misunderstanding or both if neither one is right. Proving what is right for ourselves is the key to obediently following the Spirit of God.

 

Let’s look at the subject of innate immortality, from the light of an essential foundational belief of Christianity. A belief that virtually all Christians would agree with. The doctrine that Jesus alone can provide salvation, it is fundamental to the Christian faith.

 

1 Corinthians 3:11 GOD’S WORD Translation

11 After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.

 

There is salvation found through none other, every one that receives salvation from their sins must go through Jesus.

 

Acts 4:12 Disciples’ Literal New Testament

12 And there is no salvation in any other, for neither is there another name under heaven having been given among people by which we must be saved”.

 

Acts 10:42-43 King James Version

42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

 

Mark 16:15-16 Easy-to-Read Version

15He said to them, “Go everywhere in the world. Tell the Good News to everyone. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. But those who do not believe will be judged guilty.

 

1 Timothy 2:5-6 New Life Version

5 There is one God. There is one Man standing between God and men. That Man is Christ Jesus. 6 He gave His life for all men so they could go free and not be held by the power of sin. God made this known to the world at the right time.

 

The only way to get to our heavenly father is through Jesus. As sinners we must all be cleansed by Jesus, our own efforts are futile.

 

John 14:6 American Standard Version

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.

 

Romans 3:9-20 The Message

9-20 So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.

No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. Their throats are gaping graves, their tongues slick as mudslides. Every word they speak is tinged with poison. They open their mouths and pollute the air. They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, litter the land with heartbreak and ruin, Don’t know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day.

 

This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

 

The only way to eternal life is through Jesus. If we do not have Jesus, we will not have life.

 

John 3:36 Good News Translation

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not have life, but will remain under God’s punishment.

 

1 John 5:11-12 Living Bible

11 And what is it that God has said? That he has given us eternal life and that this life is in his Son.

12 So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life.

 

People new to the concept of mankind being only mortal, with no hope of immortality apart from the sacrifice of Jesus as the Bible has described, sometimes wonder, where are all the faithful people from the Old Testament times before Jesus was crucified? They had faith in God. Abraham was said to have been the friend of God, his belief in God was counted as righteousness, he is the father of the faithful. What has happened to these faithful Old Testament believers?

 

Galatians 3:6-8 New International Version

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

 

Hebrews 11 is also often cited as proof that these people of faith are now in heaven.

 

Hebrews 11:1-38 King James Version

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.

34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

 

Traditional Christian thought presumes that Abraham is in heaven. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man clearly places him in charge of heaven. This Bible parable puts Abraham alive and well, if not in heaven, then somewhere else in charge of the other faithful departed souls.

 

Luke 16:23-26 The Message

22-24 “Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.’

25-26 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It’s not like that here. Here he’s consoled and you’re tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.’

 

As I pointed out earlier, being a biblist demands that I look at all of the scripture pertaining to a subject, keeping in mind that the Bible will not contradict itself. Should the Bible appear to be contradictory, then I am misunderstanding the scriptures. Bible believing Christians accept the Bible to be the true word of God and an infallible guide for life, they try to follow its teachings and incorporate them into their lives. We seem to have found some confusion as to where the faithful dead are from the period before Jesus was crucified. The question is, will the Bible contradict itself on such a basic point and will Christians be willing to test their beliefs against the scriptures as they pursue the heart of God, like the Bereans did?

When we read Galatians 3:6-8 again, the text only tells us that Abraham, “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” It does not say that he is in heaven with eternal life, only that his faith would give him credit with God. That credit would amount to the same as righteousness.

 

Presupposing that Abraham has eternal life innately within himself, draws some people to the conclusion that he is in heaven, but that is not what the verse tells us by itself. For it to be telling us that Abraham was in heaven, it would need to be more specific. The verse could mean that when God resurrects Abraham he will be resurrected into a spiritual immortal body because his faith in God, is counted as the righteousness he would have received had he believed and accepted the redemption brought by Jesus.

 

His faith in God was so strong that it would not have mattered to him how God worked out his salvation, he knew God would do it somehow. A person could also argue that since Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, technically Abraham did accept Jesus. This concept may not be widely held by Christians, or you. Learn more about this belief by doing your own bible study on its merits. Here are just a few scriptures you may find in support of the argument.

Colossians 1:13-18 Lexham English Bible

13 who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, 15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16 because all things in the heavens and on the earth were created by him, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things were created through him and for him, 17 and he himself is before all things, and in him all things are held together, 18 and he himself is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself may become first in everything,

 

John 1:1-4 New Life Version

1 The Word (Christ) was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 He made all things. Nothing was made without Him making it. 4 Life began by Him. His Life was the Light for men.

 

Hebrews 11 is an overview of the faithful believers from the Old Testament era. Many Christians believe this chapter supports their belief in mankind possessing an immortal soul, as they believe the faithful mentioned have been in heaven with God since their death. Some may question their beliefs when they understand what the last two verses of Hebrews 11 are saying.

 

Hebrews 11:39-40 King James Version

39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

 

When carefully read, we see that these two verses are telling us that even though all of the faithful people mentioned in the Hebrews 11 text did receive “a good report through {their} faith,” they did not receive the promise made to them by God. The reason they did not receive God’s promise yet is because God has a great plan for them and us. They need to wait to be made perfect, which is to be resurrected to spirit immortal life, not before us, but with us, all at the same time. The time when the faithful are resurrected together is told to us four times by Jesus in the book of John chapter 6. The “last day” referencing the day of his return to the earth.

 

John 6:39 New International Version

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

 

John 6:40 Living Bible

40 For it is my Father’s will that everyone who sees his Son and believes on him should have eternal life—that I should raise him at the Last Day.”

 

John 6:44 King James Version

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

John 6:54 Modern English Version

54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.

 

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man has been used by many as a description of hell. A parable, as defined in a dictionary, is;

par·a·ble noun: parable; plural noun: parables

  1. a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.

 

Scripture used in a parable may not be the strongest plank on which to build a Christian doctrine. Being a story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, the moral or lesson being taught by the story, may be in dispute. Unlike those who understand this parable as a teaching about what heaven and hell are like, others understand it to be teaching how the religious leaders would not believe Jesus was the Messiah, even if someone came back from the dead to tell them.

 

Some people will refuse to accept Jesus as Saviour and King no matter what proof is offered to them. This parable was told, by Jesus, to the Pharisees no more than three weeks before he brought his friend, coincidentally also named Lazarus, publicly back to life. This miracle performed by Jesus completed all of the messianic miracles the Jews had laid out for the returning Messiah to perform, confirming the identity of Jesus to the skeptical Jews. Having completed all of their test miracles Jesus should have been hailed by the religious leaders as their King. Rather than accept the proof offered, they rejected the authenticity of Jesus and had him crucified, denying his divinity.

 

As with other parables of Jesus, the meaning or interpretation of it comes at the end. To discover the meaning for the Lazarus and the rich man parable we should look at the end of parable.

 

Luke 16:27-31 Good News Translation

27 The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.’ 29 Abraham said, ‘Your brothers have Moses and the prophets to warn them; your brothers should listen to what they say.’ 30 The rich man answered, ‘That is not enough, father Abraham! But if someone were to rise from death and go to them, then they would turn from their sins.’ 31 But Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.’”

Resurrecting Lazarus back to life, after being dead for over three days, was Jesus’ closing crescendo in fulfilling the messianic miracles. This miraculous proof of who Jesus truly was is foreshadowed by his parable describing how his messiah-ship would be rejected by the Jewish leaders, even if one should come back from the dead. The parables meaning was played out in real life, as described in John. 11

 

John 11:45-54 Holman Christian Standard Bible

45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what He did believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do since this man does many signs? 48 If we let Him continue in this way, everyone will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.”

49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.

53 So from that day on they plotted to kill Him. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And He stayed there with the disciples.

 

Understanding how all scriptures blend together is important if we are not to be left with contradictory doctrines. Being consistent in personal beliefs is vital if we want to follow the Spirit of God into his truths for our lives. If we hold to contradictory beliefs we will not be stable in our faith.

 

James 1:5-8 Modern English Version

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and without criticism, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, without wavering. For he who wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed with the wind. 7 Let not that man think that he will receive anything from the Lord. 8 A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

 

These following fundamental truths are at the heart of the Christian faith. Indeed, few that claim to be Christian would stray far from these central points. If we can agree on these facts as a starting point, then let’s look at the doctrine of mankind possessing an immortal soul through the undisputed lens that our only hope for salvation from sin, access to God and eternal life, is through Jesus. He is our all in all.

 

Colossians 1:12-22 New Life Version

12 I pray that you will be giving thanks to the Father. He has made it so you could share the good things given to those who belong to Christ who are in the light. 13 God took us out of a life of darkness. He has put us in the holy nation of His much-loved Son. 14 We have been bought by His blood and made free. Our sins are forgiven through Him. 15 Christ is as God is. God cannot be seen. Christ lived before anything was made. 16 Christ made everything in the heavens and on the earth. He made everything that is seen and things that are not seen. He made all the powers of heaven. Everything was made by Him and for Him. 17 Christ was before all things. All things are held together by Him. 18 Christ is the head of the church which is His body. He is the beginning of all things. He is the first to be raised from the dead. He is to have first place in everything. 19 God the Father was pleased to have everything made perfect by Christ, His Son. 20 Everything in heaven and on earth can come to God because of Christ’s death on the cross. Christ’s blood has made peace. 21 At one time you were strangers to God and your minds were at war with Him. Your thoughts and actions were wrong. 22 But Christ has brought you back to God by His death on the cross. In this way, Christ can bring you to God, holy and pure and without blame.

 

Opposites can be interesting, for example as far as east is from a starting point west is just as far, only in the opposite direction. Some opposites have different values, you can have one hundred dollars in your bank account, or you could be one hundred dollars in the debt. White and black, although opposites, both come from the lack of colour. Still other things can be measured but their opposites cannot.

 

Light is like that, we can quantify the amount, intensity, colour and speed of light. We cannot measure darkness, the opposite of light. All we can do is measure how much light that is present to determine how dark it is. Complete darkness requires a total lack of light. Life and death are similar in the respect you can only measure life. You cannot measure death as there is nothing to quantify. Death is the total absence of any life. No movement, no feelings, no thoughts, nothing that can be measured or experienced.

 

Were the doctrine of mankind having an immortal soul, or some part of them that lives on, after death true, they would have to be at least, somewhat alive. Perhaps you imagine them in some sort of an altered state of consciousness. Where ever they are thought to be, if they are to be, doing, feeling, or thinking, then they cannot be dead, for to be doing anything requires life. The only way for humanity to gain eternal life is through Jesus. This is the foundation, Christianity was built upon.

 

The Christian belief that we receive eternal life, only if we accept Jesus, then the opposite is also true. If you don’t accept Jesus you will receive death. In death you will not have any attributes of life. Having just one dim thought would mean you were not dead, but barely alive. Agreeing with this foundational Christian belief and then teaching that people will be alive and tormented in hell for all eternity, cannot be true, for life and death are opposites.

 

Scriptures tells us eternal life is the gift God reserves for those who follow Jesus. Hell is reserved for those who do not follow Jesus. For people to be alive and tormented in the fires of hell for all eternally, would require well known scriptures to be rewritten something like this;

 

John 3:15-16 Completely Wrong Version

15 Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal happiness.”

16 God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not live in excruciating pain, but will have eternal Joy.

 

Romans 6:23 Improperly Revised Version

23 For the wages of sin is to be tormented in the lake of fire for all eternity, but the free gift of God is to have eternal blessings and joy in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

CHAPTER THREE
DENOMINATIONALLY DRIVEN APOLOGETICS

 

Another area of Christian apologetics surrounds the topics of legalistic ritualism and grace. Legalistic attitudes can be found in Christian denominations of all stripes. Some beliefs are founded in the Bible, like the dietary laws restricting the types of foods people should eat. Some come from the social traditions where the denomination was founded, such as not allowing their followers to dance, or to encourage their devotees to handle venomous snakes. Some of these doctrines and beliefs can be seen as extreme by the outside observer, but as a badge of devotion by the participant.

 

Countries around the world have patterned some of their domestic laws from the doctrines and beliefs found in their major dominant faiths. Even countries that are thought to be free of religious interference have laws that reflect the doctrines of their religious communities. One law that comes to mind is the Lords Day Act. It was in effect in Canada until 1985. It prohibited some stores from operating on Sundays and restricted the type of traffic allowed on public roads. This law stemmed from the legalistic belief that Sunday, was the day the New Testament leaders used to replace Saturday, as the Christian day of worship.

 

Some of the scriptures used to establish Sunday as the Christian day of worship are not that compelling when read from a biblist point of view. Most modern apologists have moved on from the popular doctrines of past generations. Similar to the abandonment of the doctrine that the earth does not move, popular in the fifteen hundreds. This example should be taken to heart by those who vigorously defend the doctrines hotly debated today. Demanding that peripheral doctrines be adhered to by all “true Christians” promote legalistic, and exclusive attitudes in those who believe them.

 

Having freedom of thought on peripheral Christian beliefs, often makes the believer more accepting of other Christians holding to different doctrines. As the Christian past has demonstrated, demanding adherence to questionable non-essential beliefs, allows little freedom for the Holy Spirit to lead in peripheral matters.

 

Like in the story about the boy who cried wolf, the non-Christian world will begin to view the essential truths of Christianity, as non-essential, when all Christian denominational doctrine are taught as essential. There are many denominations within Christianity, each has its own appeal to those who attend them. As Christians we should recognize the differences between denominations as just that, differences and not as eternal life ending errors. Jesus instructed us to, look for the love, when trying to identify his followers. These are important words to remember when teaching the doctrines of our denomination to new converts.

 

That’s not to say there is no sin that will separate us from God, many denominational beliefs were developed to help us stay out of the clutches of sin. However, following traditions will not guarantee, the following of God, rather we each have to prayerfully follow the Holy Spirit, as he leads us to God.

 

John 16:13 Worldwide English (New Testament)

13 When the truth-giving Spirit comes, he will show you everything that is true. He will not speak his own message, but he will tell you the things that he has been told to tell you. He will tell you what is going to happen.

 

Isaiah 59:1-3 New King James Version

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.

2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity.

 

Getting caught up in legalism has been a pitfall for the followers of Jesus from the beginning. The apostles fought vigorously against the suggestion that there was any way we could gain salvation through our own efforts.

 

Isaiah 64:6 Easy-to-Read Version

6 We are all dirty with sin. Even our good works are not pure. They are like bloodstained rags. We are all like dead leaves. Our sins have carried us away like wind.

 

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 The Message

26-31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

 

Fulfilling doctrines, and traditions is not our source of salvation. Keeping those traditions may help us fit in socially, but keeping them is not what makes us acceptable to God.

 

Galatians 5:10-15 Living Bible

10 I am trusting the Lord to bring you back to believing as I do about these things. God will deal with that person, whoever he is, who has been troubling and confusing you.

11 Some people even say that I myself am preaching that circumcision and Jewish laws are necessary to the plan of salvation. Well, if I preached that, I would be persecuted no more—for that message doesn’t offend anyone. The fact that I am still being persecuted proves that I am still preaching salvation through faith in the cross of Christ alone.

12 I only wish these teachers who want you to cut yourselves by being circumcised would cut themselves off from you and leave you alone!

13 For, dear brothers, you have been given freedom: not freedom to do wrong, but freedom to love and serve each other. 14 For the whole Law can be summed up in this one command: “Love others as you love yourself.” 15 But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always critical and catty, watch out! Beware of ruining each other.

 

Christianity came out of the legalistic religion of Judaism. Early Jewish Christians had a long history of tradition and doctrinal baggage to overcome. Historically to be accepted into the Jewish culture you could not deviate from the societal norms. These strong homogeneous feelings were culturally ingrained and hard for the new Jewish converts to abandon. Seeing Christianity as the next step in the worship of the God they had worshipped in Judaism, it was understandable Jewish converts would want to carry-over their old traditions. Putting Christianity firmly in the house of grace was an ongoing battle for the first Christians.

 

Acts 15:17-21 Names of God Bible

17 so that the survivors and all the people who aren’t Jewish over whom my name is spoken, may search for the Lord, declares the Lord. 18 He is the one who will do these things that have always been known!’ 19 “So I’ve decided that we shouldn’t trouble non-Jewish people who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write a letter telling them to keep away from things polluted by false gods, from sexual sins, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from eating bloody meat. 21 After all, Moses’ words have been spread to every city for generations. His teachings are read in synagogues on every day of worship.”

Acts 15:28-29 The Voice

28 It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to keep you free from all burdens except these four:

29 abstain from anything sacrificed to idols, from blood, from food killed by strangling, and from sexual immorality. Avoid these things, and you will be just fine. Farewell.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 New Living Translation

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 

The urge to root themselves in the scripturally rich soil of legalism can be hard for most Christians to avoid. This can be attested to by the number of non-essential doctrines adopted by most Christian denominations. I referred earlier to the Sunday, Saturday, worship day controversy. It can be a good non-essential apologetic topic to discus, as there are a host of legalistic doctrinal beliefs that will stand or fall with the understood outcome of our day of worship.

Scriptures supporting a Saturday Sabbath abound in the Old Testament. They give detailed instructions on what activities can be performed, to the precise times and days that observance should be adhered to. Some denominations gravitated to not only the weekly, but to the yearly Sabbaths as well. These annual days of worship were implemented in the Old Testament at the same time as the weekly Sabbath, and are believed to be just as binding on devoted Christians today. A brief overview of these Sabbaths is given in Leviticus chapter twenty three.

 

Leviticus 23:1-44 New King James Version

Feasts of the Lord

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.

The Sabbath

3 ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

The Passover and Unleavened Bread

4 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. 5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’”

The Feast of Firstfruits

9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. 13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. 14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

The Feast of Weeks

15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’”

The Feast of Trumpets

23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’”

The Day of Atonement

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”

The Feast of Tabernacles

33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.

37 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day— 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord.

39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month.   42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’”

44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.

 

Denominations and apologists who support Sunday observance use versus from the Old Testament to regulate the habits of their members, only they replace Saturday with Sunday. The apologetic reasoning for this replacing of days, is what is normally under question. Looking carefully at the scriptures will either support, disprove, or not be applicable to the argument. The following are some of the usually quoted scriptures.

 

Acts 20:7 New King James Version

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

 

Superficially this verse appears to be saying that the disciples were having a church meeting on the first day of the week. To us, the time line would generally be understood as likely some time Sunday afternoon as they were coming together to break bread. Then Paul continued to speak until midnight before departing the next day. This explanation makes sense from our modern perspective.

 

To a reader from before the keeping of mechanical time the understanding of this scripture would be fairly different. This stories time line would start a day earlier as their day started and ended with sunset. Midnight on the first day of the week would have been, twelve pm. Saturday to us. This would have put their meeting to break bread, to be having supper late Saturday afternoon around sunset. Leaving the account supportive of a Saturday day of rest.

 

The term to “break bread” is a common term for eating a meal.

 

Acts 2:42 Easy-to-Read Version

The Believers Share

42 The believers spent their time listening to the teaching of the apostles. They shared everything with each other. They ate together and prayed together.

 

Acts 2:43-47 The Message

43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved

 

Reading the entire text of Acts 20. will give us insights to the full story, they will be missed if we only look at a few individual verses.

 

Acts 20:7-14 New King James Version

Ministering at Troas

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

From Troas to Miletus

13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene.

 

Reading the entire story we find this event had it’s beginning in Troas, and then Paul walked across the tip of Asia Minor to Assos a distance of twenty one miles. His companions sailed their boat around the tip, where they picked Paul up at Assos. Paul departed Troas at dawn, after teaching until after midnight of the first day of the week. Keeping in mind, that days started at sunset, the evening and night part of the day came first. Paul walked the twenty one miles overland on the daylight part of the first day of the week, while his companions took the long way around the tip of Asia Minor by boat, to Assos. These strenuous trips would not have been activities, appropriate for the day of worship and rest.

 

Paul and his companions spent the daylight portion of the first day of the week travelling, not holding a church service. Paul walked over twenty one miles, and the others took the perilous long way around by boat. Had they been trying to establish the first day of the week as the new Sabbath for Jewish converts, they surely would have treated it with more reverence by using the day to teach about Jesus and firmly anchoring Sunday in Christian tradition.

 

Another verse used in support for Sunday worship is found in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 New King James Version

Collection for the Saints

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

 

This text does not give the Corinthians direction to assemble together, but rather, to be putting aside gifts as God had prospered them. The reason to do this weekly setting aside was so that when the time came to send their gifts to Jerusalem there wouldn’t be a flurry of collecting. Then if it was all right with the Corinthians, Paul would accompany their gift bearers to Jerusalem.

 

1 Corinthians 16:3-4 New King James Version

3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.

 

Further explanation of, collecting for the saints, can be found in 2 Corinthians 9.  Here we are told that Paul has been boasting about the generosity of the Corinthians to the other churches, and in case some believers from those other churches should be accompanying him, the Corinthians should have all of their gifts ready to go when he gets there. Otherwise it may look like he was embellishing the truth about how generous they were.

 

2 Corinthians 9: 1-5 New King James Version

Administering the Gift

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

 

Paul goes on to describe the benefits of being a cheerful giver. Encouraging the Corinthians to continue being generous out of the abundance God has provided for them.

 

2 Corinthians 9: 6-9

The Cheerful Giver

6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”

 

Paul’s closing remarks probably rang true in the hearts of many of the Corinthians as most of the inhabitants of Corinth had their roots from freed slaves brought there to rebuild Corinth as a Roman colony. They became rich as trade routes developed and banking flourished. They may have seen themselves, in economically fertile soil, to provide for their less fortunate brethren. They may have believed God planted them there, for a time such as this. I find these scriptures inconclusive in supporting Sunday as our day of worship.

 

2 Corinthians 9:10-15

10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 

Looking into the scriptures intent and finding other verses relating to the topic is important if we want an accurate understanding of what God tells us through his written word. Another biblical reason given for Sunday worship is that Sunday was the resurrection day of Jesus. For this article I will only refer to the proof that Jesus gave to the technically legalistic Pharisees and Sadducees.

 

Matthew 16:1-4 New International Version

The Demand for a Sign

16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

Matthew 12:39-40 The Message

39-40 Jesus said, “You’re looking for proof, but you’re looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you’re going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah-evidence. Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish’s belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in a deep grave.

 

Luke 11:29 Holman Christian Standard Bible

The Sign of Jonah

29 As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: “This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

 

The sign of Jonah, was that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights as recorded in the book of Jonah.

 

Jonah 1:17 International Children’s Bible

17 And the Lord caused a very big fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

 

Jesus knew the type of people the Jewish religious leaders were. He gave them a proof that he would fulfil to their exacting standards. He would not give them any technical way to disprove or ignore his proof of divinity.

 

Matthew 23:4 King James Version

4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

 

Luke 11:42-44 Good News Translation

42 “How terrible for you Pharisees! You give to God one tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint and rue and all the other herbs, but you neglect justice and love for God. These you should practice, without neglecting the others.

43 “How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the reserved seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44 How terrible for you! You are like unmarked graves which people walk on without knowing it.”

 

Jesus gave us a proof of his majesty that no one could dispute. He delivered this proof to a group of people who would be sure to complain if it was not fulfilled to the letter in precise detail. Jewish leaders posted guards at the grave to ensure the body could not be stolen.

 

Matthew 27:62-66 Good News Translation

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while that liar was still alive he said, ‘I will be raised to life three days later.’  64 Give orders, then, for his tomb to be carefully guarded until the third day, so that his disciples will not be able to go and steal the body, and then tell the people that he was raised from death. This last lie would be even worse than the first one.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate told them; “go and make the tomb as secure as you can.”

66 So they left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch.

 

By bribing those same guards to lie about the outcome, proves that Jesus did fulfil his prophecy in every detail. Had Jesus not done everything precisely as he had foretold, the Jewish leaders would have been the first ones to point out his failure to the world. Should Jesus have failed to do all he said he would, those leaders would have saved their beloved money by not bribing the guards to lie.

 

Matthew 28:11-15 Good News Translation

The Report of the Guard

11 While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. 14 And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about.” 15 The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day.

 

Having Jesus our Saviour in the grave for three days and three nights as he said he would be, for the ultimate proof of his identity, demands that we look at the traditions and doctrines the traditional Christian churches have adopted. As I have pointed out earlier, the Bible will not contradict itself, if it appears to, then the failure is ours by not adequately understanding what the Bible is telling us.

 

The power of legalism is displayed by its attempt to co-opt the grace of Christianity. Taking the laws associated with the Sabbath and placing them onto Sunday observance only moves the requirements of the law to a different day. By trying to justify Sunday observance through the actions of first century Christians, misses the point scriptures explaining our grace have to tell us. The power of God’s grace shines brightly through our love towards each other. Letting the Holy Spirit lead people to where God wants them, puts the onus on each individual believer to be personally responsible for their own salvation.

 

Romans 14:1-12 English Standard Version

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

These verses teach us sin should have no power over our lives as we are slaves to Jesus, not being controlled by the outward rules of the law, but by the internal workings of God’s favour and love.

 

Romans 6:10-18 GOD’S WORD Translation

10 When he died, he died once and for all to sin’s power. But now he lives, and he lives for God. 11 So consider yourselves dead to sin’s power but living for God in the power Christ Jesus gives you. 12 Therefore, never let sin rule your physical body so that you obey its desires. 13 Never offer any part of your body to sin’s power. No part of your body should ever be used to do any ungodly thing. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have come back from death and are now alive. Offer all the parts of your body to God. Use them to do everything that God approves of.

14 Certainly, sin shouldn’t have power over you because you’re not controlled by God’s laws, but by God’s favor. 15 Then what is the implication? Should we sin because we are not controlled by God’s laws but by God’s favor? That’s unthinkable! 16 Don’t you know that if you offer to be someone’s slave, you must obey that master? Either your master is sin, or your master is obedience. Letting sin be your master leads to death. Letting obedience be your master leads to God’s approval. 17 You were slaves to sin. But I thank God that you have become wholeheartedly obedient to the teachings which you were given. 18 Freed from sin, you were made slaves who do what God approves of.

 

Verses like the ones above about love are not usually sufficient to steer people away from, or out of legalism. People who see the law as essential to their faith, while faithfully following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are slaves to God their master and they must answer to him. Those who believe all or some aspects of the Old Testament law have control over their lives, will usually also be familiar with these verses that state the law of God will not lose any of its authority, till all is finished.

 

Matthew 5:18 King James Version

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

 

Luke 16:17 Good News Translation

17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest detail of the Law to be done away with.

 

These two versus clearly support the foundational role the law has to play until all be fulfilled. The point those who have legalistic leanings seem to miss is, all was fulfilled with the Crucifixion of Jesus. The tearing of the temple veil, demonstrates the access to God that is available to mankind through Jesus our high priest.

 

Matthew 27:50-51 New Life Version

50 Then Jesus gave another loud cry and gave up His spirit and died.                                          51 At once the curtain in the house of God was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks fell apart.

 

Hebrews 4:14-16 New International Reader’s Version

14 We have a great high priest. He has gone up into heaven. He is Jesus the Son of God. So let us hold firmly to what we say we believe. 15 We have a high priest who can feel it when we are weak and hurting. We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. But he did not sin. 16 So let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it.

 

Completing everything that was required for the salvation of mankind, Jesus was, the fulfilment of all things. The law no longer has power over the lives of people. This is what Jesus said with his last breath. Jesus finished all that was needed for the redemption of our sins.

 

John 19:30 New King James Version

30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Hebrews 12:2 Easy-to-Read Version

2 We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.

 

Romans 10:2-5 Living Bible

2 I know what enthusiasm they have for the honor of God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand that Christ has died to make them right with God. Instead they are trying to make themselves good enough to gain God’s favor by keeping the Jewish laws and customs, but that is not God’s way of salvation. 4 They don’t understand that Christ gives to those who trust in him everything they are trying to get by keeping his laws. He ends all of that. 5 For Moses wrote that if a person could be perfectly good and hold out against temptation all his life and never sin once, only then could he be pardoned and saved.

 

Love is what will identify us as the followers of Jesus. Rather than focusing on our differences of faith levels, we should focus on the central essentials of our shared Christian faith and the Spiritual fruit that will last us the rest of eternity. We need to practice the apologetics of love more than we need to practice the apologetics of doctrine. For love has the greatest value and will generate the largest yields of Spiritual fruit.

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 The Message

Freedom with Responsibility

1-3 The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.

4-6 Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.

7 In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.

8-9 But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.

10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.

11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.

When we do come together to sharpen our iron in defense of our doctrine and beliefs let’s keep in mind what is essential and what is denominationally peripheral. Holding tightly to the things that will bring life to all involved. Realizing that we have greater knowledge about the plans of God than the prophets of old did, should humble us and temper our desire to convert our brothers to our own correct point of view. Let others freely follow the Holy Spirit as they are led.

 

Matthew 13:16-17 The Message

16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

 

James 3:17 Good News Translation

17 But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Christians hold many different beliefs, traditions and doctrines. Some doctrines may obscure the freedom brought by Jesus, others may not recognize sin. At times, both opposing doctrines are wrong for the same reason. Taking the biblist approach, as the believers did in Berea, with a mind ready to follow where the Holy Spirit leads, is always the best option, when you are trying to practice, biblist apologetics.

 

 

 

About The Author

 

Clayton and his wife live in the Okanagan Valley of southern British Colombia, Canada. They have two adult children and enjoy getting out to explore the outdoors, camping and quading. Clayton started his working career as an owner-operator in the trucking industry. After an industrial accident he retrained as a heavy duty mechanic and driving instructor. He enjoys working with his hands. Being a tradesman provides a good living for his family, but his passion is to study the Bible as the Bereans did, proving what is true from the scriptures.
Clayton is a published freelance author within the Christian genre. He writes articles and bible studies for the www.Biblists.com web site, and has audio books and articles appearing on various podcast websites.
Join Clayton and team in the Berean tradition, as they find biblical truth. Understanding scripture by reviewing original texts of  ancient believers, scrutinizing modern theology.

 

Connect with Clayton B Carlson

 

Find Clayton on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/biblists/

Visit his website:  www.Biblists.com

 

Books by Clayton B Carlson

 

 

Biblist Apologetics

My Baby Died. Where is My Baby?

Searching For Immortality

The Eden Conspiracy

Thy Kingdom Come, The Next Big Thing.