Augsburg Confession Article III: About the Son of God

reading-the-bible-on-bench

This is my third post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.

 

“Our churches also teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, took upon himself human nature in the womb of the blessed vir-gin Mary.  Therefore, he has two natures, one divine and the other human. They are united in one person and cannot be sepa­rated. Thus there is only one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the virgin Mary. He truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He went through all this so that he could restore us to peace with the Father and be a sacrifice, not just for original sin, but also for all other sins.

The Word [Christ] also went down into hell, and truly rose again the third day. Afterward he went up into heaven so that he might sit on the right hand of the Father. There he rules forever and  has  power over  all creatures,  making  holy all  those  that believe in him.  He does this by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts  to rule, comfort,  and make them alive, as well as defending them against the devil and the power of sin.

This same Christ will openly come again to judge the living and the dead, etc., as the Apostles’ Creed says.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

The above is simply what the scriptures teach about Jesus Christ.  I have written before on such topics in several posts at great length.  You can find them below:

  1. The Deity of Christ
  2. Two Natures of Christ
  3. Two Natures of Christ: Zwinglian or Lutheran
  4. Decent to Hell

 

Below are some common passages to support the things taught in Article III.

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.;  The same was in the beginning with God.; All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 KJV

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” Heb 1:8 KJV

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.” Matt 4:2 KJV 

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2:52 KJV 

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Tim 2:5 KJV 

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:; 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison1 Peter 3:18-19 KJV 

 

As is the case with all Christian paradox, Christology depends on accepting all scriptures as true.  When you come to two teachings that don’t make a lot of sense the temptation can be to abrogate one with the other.  This is how most denominations are formed in my opinion.  Instead of doing that we should accept all teachings in scripture as true.  We can use logic to try and put them together, but we should also be honest and concede when we cannot.

Just as Jesus “increased in wisdom” he is also omniscient.  Just as he tired and hungered he is also omnipotent.  He is fully man and fully God.  With Lutheran theology particularly, it is my understanding that we do not separate the two either.  There is communion between the two natures, thus we would expect Jesus to walk on water with his human flesh and raise the dead with his human voice, just as we also expect that he is omnipresent in the Eucharist.  This is explained better in greater detail in Solid Declaration VIII.

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Augsburg Confession Article II: About Original Sin

jesus-thorns-cross-sculpture

This is my second post in a series on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  Original Sin is more controversial in Christianity than it should be.  This is because in our day a lot of Churches are functionally if not confessionally Pelagian or at least Semi-Pelagian.

 

“Our churches  also teach that since Adam’s fall into sin, all men who are fathered in the normal physical way are conceived and born  with sin. This means  that they are born  without  the fear of God, without trust in God, and with evil desires.  This disease,  or original  sin, truly  is sin. It condemns  and  brings eternal death to those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.

Our churches condemn the followers of Pelagius and all others who deny that original sin is truly sin. Such people argue that humans can be justified before God by their own strength and rea­son. This lessens the glory of Christ’s work and its benefits.” The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

Above the writers of the Augsburg Confession is making it clear that those they speak for are not Pelagians.  My understanding is that Pelagius taught that we are born perfect and in time fall away in the commission of sins.  This is why he didn’t teach that Baptism was necessary until around the age of two or three.  The Bible teaches however that we are born with the guilt of sin.  This is taught in many places but is most obvious in two particular passages.

 

“5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalms 51:5 KJV 

“3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 2:3 KJV 

 

Notice above that David teaches he was “shapen in iniquity”.  This is powerful imagery of sin itself knitting with his very flesh as he is growing in his mothers womb.  Also, with Paul in Ephesians it is taught that we are “by nature” children of wrath.  There are many passages which corroborate this teaching that a blog contributor detailed in an older post you can find HERE.

The reason I focus on those two verses above though is because they are the clearest and most obvious as identifying our guilt in sin at the time of conception.

I personally find it interesting though that most protestants will agree with me in rejecting the Roman Catholic teaching of the sinlessness of Mary, but then will go and teach that billions of Christians have been born and died sinless before the age of accountability.  I think this demonstrates an inconsistency on their part at the very least.

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Augsburg Confession Article I: About God

MartinLutherPreachingtoFaithful1561noticechasublecrucifix_zps9669e67a (1)

This is my first post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  What is the Augsburg Confession?

“The Augsburg Confession, also known as the “Augustana” from its Latin name, Confessio Augustana, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Lutheran Reformation.” Wikipedia

 

For the purposes of not starting a bar fight most will point to October 31st 1517 as the kick off of the reformation.  But historically speaking it would be more accurate to date it to June 25, 1530 when the 28 articles were presented to the Emperor in Augsburg.

**Shots Fired**

This is because the 95 theses themselves were simply a call for debate, which was a common thing to do back then.  It was really only the combination of the political context at the time and the printing press that set events leading to the Augsburg Confession in motion.

In my opinion other traditions that came later are just other traditions that came later. I wouldn’t even classify them as part of the reformation.  Too harsh?  Maybe, but I’m just calling it like I see it.

For each post on the Augsburg Confession I am going to present one article at a time.  I attempt to back each one up with scripture.  If I have a post on it already I’ll provide a link and some key proof-texts.  If I don’t have a post on it already I will take a more comprehensive approach or link to someone more knowledgeable that already has.  All analysis will be my own.

 Article I: About God

“Our churches  are united  in  teaching  what  the Council of Nicaea decreed: it is true that there is only one divine being, but there are three persons; and that this should be believed without a doubt.  In other words,  there is one divine being, which is called God and which truly is God. He is eternal, has no body, has no parts, has all power, wisdom, and goodness.  He is the maker  and  preserver  of all  things,  both  visible  and invisible.

Yet there are also three persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy  Spirit.  They  are  of  the  same  being  and  power  and  are equally  eternal. We use the word person in the same way  the early Christians  used it.  It does not mean a part or quality of another being but something that exists in and of itself.

Our  churches  condemn  all  heresies  that  have  sprung  up against this teaching, such as the Manicheans, who taught there were two divine  beings, one good and the other evil. We also condemn the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Muslims, and all others like them. We also condemn the ancient and modem followers of Paul of Samosata. They claim that there is only one divine person.Through clever and ungodly reasoning, they argue that the Word [Christ] and the Holy Spirit are not distinct per­sons,  but  that  “Word”  means  only  a  spoken  word,  and  that “Spirit” refers to a movement within created beings.” – The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

Essentially what I see above is a brief confession of the Trinity.  The writers of the Augsburg Confession are letting everyone know that they are Trinitarian.  This is actually a big deal, generally cults that break off of Christianity have always been antitrinitarian on some level.

I have demonstrated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity from scripture in an older post which you can find HERE.  The idea is that the Bible teaches three clear theses about God.

  1. One Being
  2. Three Divine Persons
  3. Same Substance

No matter what language you use to confess this all three must be confessed to be Biblical.  This paradox gives us a key for understanding the Bible too, because we know that we should approach it in such a manner that all teachings are true rather than pick one over the other.

 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” Deut 6:4 KJV

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” Matt 28:19 KJV

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodilyCol 2:8-9 KJV

 

Cults and offshoots will typically deny one of the three teachings above in favor of one of the others they prefer.  This isn’t the case though at Augsburg.  Say what you like about these men but they were clearly Trinitarian, and anyone claiming to be Lutheran today is only being honest if they are too.

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Church Fathers on Baptism

 

baptism

It is important to study and consider the writings of Christians who came before us.  Especially those of the Early Church Fathers.  Jesus taught that hell itself would not overcome the Church (Matt 16:18), therefore its fair to reason that true Christian teachings should be found throughout Church history.

For this post I want to ask and answer the following questions

  1. Did the Early Church Fathers believe in baptismal regeneration? Or,
  2. Did the Early Church Fathers believe that baptism does nothing at all and has to be done by immersion only to be a sign one has made a decision for Jesus?

In order to find out where they land on this I have assembled a large collection of Patristic quotations that I originally found HERE.  Though I am borrowing the source from that book all analysis is my own.

 

“After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If  you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If  you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” —Didache 7:1 Date: 70 A.D.

“Regarding  [baptism],  we have the  evidence of  Scripture that Israel would refuse  to accept the  washing  which  confers the remission  of sins and would set up a substitution of their own instead [Ps. 1:3–6]. Observe there how he describes both the water and the cross in the same figure. His meaning is, ‘Blessed are those who go down into the water with their hopes set on the cross.’ Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water, burdened with sin and defilement,  we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls” —Barnabas, Letter of Barnabas 11:1–10 Date: 74 A.D.

“I have heard, sir,’ said I [to the Shepherd], ‘from some teacher, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins.’ He said to me, ‘You have heard rightly, for so it is” —Hermas,  The Shepherd  4:3:1–2 Date: 80 A.D.

“As many  as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”—Justin Martr, First Apology 61 Date: 151 A.D.

“For since you have read, O Trypho, as you yourself  admitted, the doctrines taught by our Saviour, I do not think that I have done foolishly in adding some short utterances of His to the prophetic statements. Wash therefore, and be now clean, and put away iniquity from your souls, as God bids you be washed in this laver, and be circumcised with the true circumcision… The  command of circumcision,  again, bidding [them]  always  circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision,  by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ”—Justin Martyr,  Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew 18 & 41 Date: 160 A.D.

“our Christ, by being crucified on the tree, and by purifying  [us] with water, has redeemed us, though plunged in the direst offenses which we have committed, and has made [us] a house of prayer and adoration… “the mystery of saved men appeared in the deluge. For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, for ever the first in power. For Christ, being the first-born of every creature, became again the chief of another race regenerated by Himself through water, and faith, and wood, containing the mystery of the cross; even as Noah was saved by wood when he rode over the waters …I mean, that by water, faith, and wood, those who are afore-prepared, and who repent of the sins which they have committed, shall escape from the impending judgment of God.” —Justin Martyr, Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew 18 & 41 Date: 160 A.D.

“Then  said  Jesus  unto them, ‘I have been given  all authority in heaven and earth; and as my Father has sent me,  so I also send you. Go now into all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world”—Tatian the Syrian, The Diatesseron 55 Date: 170 A.D.

“Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration—all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God”—Tehophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 12:16 Date: 181 A.D.

“And when we come to refute them [the gnostic], we shall show in its fitting- place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian]  faith…For the baptism instituted  by the visible Jesus  was  for the remission of sins” —Irenaeus, Against Heresies 21:1-2 Date: 189 A.D.

“And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” —Irenaeus, Fragment 34 Date: 190 A.D.

“When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as  sons.  Adopted  as  sons,  we  are  made perfect.  Made perfect,  we become immortal . . . ‘and sons of the Most High’ [Ps. 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination,  perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments  due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation”—Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1 Date: 191 A.D.

“Now faith occasions this for us even as the Elders, the disciples of the Apostles, have handed it down to us.  First of all, it bids us to keep in mind that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the name of God the Father and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was incarnate, died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit of God.  This baptism is the seal of eternal life and the new birth unto God that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men but of the eternal and perpetual God.” — Irenaeus, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Date: 192 A.D.

“Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . But we, little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish,  Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes—by taking them away from the water!” —Tertullian, Baptism 1 Date: 203 A.D.

“Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins.” —Tertullian, Baptism 7:2 Date: 203 A.D.

The apostle indeed teaches, in his Epistle to the Colossians, that we were once dead, alienated, and enemies to the Lord in our minds, whilst we were living in wicked works; that we were then buried with  Christ in baptism, and also raised again with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. “And you, (adds he), when ye were dead in sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” And again: “If ye are dead with Christ from the elements  of the world, why, as  though living in the world, are  ye subject  to ordinances?” —Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh 23 Date: 211 A.D.

“And the bishop shall lay his hand upon them [the newly baptized], invoking and saying:  ‘O  Lord God, who did count these  worthy of  deserving  the forgiveness of sins by the laver of regeneration, make them worthy to be filled with your Holy Spirit and send upon them thy grace [in confirmation], that they may serve you according to your will” —Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 22:1 Date: 215 A.D.

“When the one being baptized goes down  into the water, the one baptizing him shall put his hand on him and speak thus: ‘Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?’ And he that is being baptized shall say: ‘I believe.’ Then, having his hand imposed upon the head of the one to be baptized, he shall baptize him once. Then he shall say: ‘Do you believe in Christ Jesus . . . ?’ And when he says: ‘I believe,’ he is baptized again. Again shall he say: ‘Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?’ The one being baptized then says: ‘I believe.’ And so he is baptized a third time” —Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21 Date: 215 A.D.

“After his resurrection he promises in a pledge to his disciples that he will send them the promise of his Father; and lastly, he commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the three persons, at each several mention of their names” —Tertullian, Against Praxeas 26 Date: 216 A.D.

“[P]erhaps someone will ask, ‘What does it conduce unto piety to be baptized?’ In the first place, that you may do what has seemed good to God; in the next place, being born again by water unto God so that you change your first birth, which was from concupiscence, and are able to attain salvation, which would otherwise be impossible. For thus the [prophet] has sworn to us: ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you are born again with living water, into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy  Spirit, you shall not enter into the kingdom  of heaven.’ Therefore, fly to the water, for this alone can extinguish the fire. He who will not come  to the water  still  carries  around with him the spirit  of insanity for the sake of which he will not come to the living water for his own salvation”— Hippolytus, Homilies 11:26 Date: 217 A.D.

Baptism  washes away all,  absolutely all,  our  sins, whether of deed, word, or  thought, whether  sins  original or  added, whether  knowingly or unknowingly contracted” —Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 Date: 420 A.D.

“But you will perhaps say, ‘What does the baptism of water contribute toward the worship of God?’ In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men,  is cut off, and so . . . you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true prophet [Jesus] testified to us with an oath: ‘Verily,  I say to you, that unless a man is born again of water . . . he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” —The Recognitions of Clement 6:9 Date: 221 A.D.

“That unless a man have been baptized and born again, he cannot attain unto the kingdom of God. In the Gospel according to John: ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” —Testimonies Concerning the Jews 3:2:25–26 Date: 240 A.D.

“While I was lying in darkness . . . I thought it indeed difficult and hard to believe . . . that divine mercy was promised for my salvation, so that anyone might be born again and quickened unto a new life by the laver of the saving water, he might put off what he had been before, and, although the structure of the body remained,  he might change himself  in soul  and mind. . . . But afterwards, when the stain of my past life had been washed away by means of the water of rebirth, a light from above poured itself  upon my chastened and now pure  heart;  afterwards, through the Spirit  which is breathed   from heaven, a second birth made of me a new man” — Cyprian of Carthage, To Donatus 3–4 Date: 246 A.D.

“Then Probus . . . leapt into the water, saying, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, and everlasting God, let all my sins be taken away by this water.’ And Paul said, ‘We baptize thee in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.’ After this he made him to receive the Eucharist of Christ” —The Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena, Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena 21 Date: 250 A.D.

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born…. If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held  back from baptism and grace,  how much more, then, should  an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except  that, born of  the  flesh  according  to Adam, he  has  contracted  the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he  [an infant] approach  more  easily  to receive the remission of  sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another”— Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 64:2 & 64:5 Date: 253 A.D.

“He [Jesus] commanded them to baptize the Gentiles in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. How then do some say that though a Gentile be baptized . . . never mind how or of whom, so long as it be done in the name of Jesus Christ, the remission of sins can follow—when Christ himself commands the nations to be baptized in the full and united Trinity?”—Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 73:18 Date: 253 A.D.

Peter showed and vindicated the unity of the church by commanding and warning that we can be saved only through the baptism of the one church. Just as in that baptism of the world by which the ancient iniquity was purged, the one who was not in the ark could not be saved through water, so now anyone who has not been baptized in the church cannot be saved, for the church has been founded in the unity of the Lord, as the sacrament of the one ark. —Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 74.11. Date: 253 A.D.

“[When] they receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” —Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 71[72]:1 Date: 253 A.D.

“And in the gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine  voice, saying, ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit,  he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ . . . Unless therefore they receive saving baptism in the Catholic Church, which is one, they cannot  be saved, but will be condemned with the carnal in the judgment of the Lord Christ” —Seventh Carthage, Date: 256 A.D.

“If Zipporah has circumcised her son with the temporal circumcision and has averted death, will not death with much more reason be banished by the true baptism? The one baptism into Christ puts on the Living One who vivifies the whole world.”- Nisibene Hymn, Date: 4th Century

“We believe . . . each of these to be and to exist: the Father, truly Father, and the Son, truly Son, and the Holy Ghost, truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth his disciples for the preaching, said, ‘Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ Concerning whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy” —Eusebius of Caesarea, Letter to the People of His Diocese 3 Date: 323 A.D.

“And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”—Nicene Creed, Council of Nicaea, Date: 325 A.D.

“From baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ. At that same moment in which the priests invoke the Spirit, heaven opens, and he descends and rests upon the waters, and those who are baptized are clothed in him. The Spirit  is absent from all those who are born of the flesh, until they come to the water of rebirth, and then  they receive  the Holy Spirit. . . . [I]n  the second  birth, that through baptism, they receive the Holy Spirit” —Aphraahat the Persian, Treatises 6:14:4 Date: 340 A.D.

“Since man is of a twofold nature, composed of body and soul, the purification also  is  twofold: the  corporeal  for the corporeal  and the  incorporeal  for the incorporeal. The water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul. . . . When you go down into the water, then,  regard not simply  the water, but look for salvation through the power of the Spirit. For without both you cannot attain to perfection. It is not I who  says this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter. And he says, ‘Unless a man be born again,’ and he adds the words ‘of water and of the Spirit,’ ‘he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” —Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 3:4 Date: 350 A.D.

“[A]s we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened” —Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians 3:26 Date: 360 A.D.

“And the whole faith is summed up, and secured in this, that a Trinity should ever be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, ‘Go ye and baptize all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 28:19). And entire and perfect is the number of the Trinity —Athanasius, On the Councils of Arminum and Seleucia 2:28 Date: 361 A.D.

“For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, the death of sin, regeneration  of the soul, a resplendent  garment,  an unbreakable  seal,  a chariot to heaven, a royal protector, a gift of adoption” —Basil the Great, Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects 13:5 Date: 379 A.D.

“But not yet perhaps is there formed upon your soul any writing good or bad; and you want to be written upon today. . . . I will baptize you and make you a disciple in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and these three have one common name, the Godhead. And you shall know, both by appearances and by words that you reject all ungodliness, and are united to all the Godhead” —Gregory of Nazianz, Orations 40:45 Date: 380 A.D. 380

Who is the one who is born of the Spirit  and is made Spirit? It is one who is renewed in the Spirit of his mind. It is one who is regenerated by water and the Holy Spirit. We receive the hope of eternal life through the laver of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. And elsewhere the apostle Peter says: “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” For who is he that is baptized with the Holy Spirit but he who is born again through water and the Holy Spirit? Therefore the Lord said of the Holy Spirit, “Truly, truly, I say to you, except a man be born again by water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And therefore he declared that we are born of him into the kingdom of God by being born again by water and the Spirit.”—Ambrose of Milan, Of the Holy Spirit 3.10.64 Date: 381 A.D.

“[S]eeing that a man, baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, becomes a temple of the Lord, and that while the old abode  is destroyed a new shrine is built for the Trinity, how can you say that sins can be remitted among the Arians without the coming of the Holy Ghost? How is a soul purged from its former stains which has not the Holy Ghost?” —Jerome, Dialogue Against the Luciferians 6 Date: 382 A.D.

“There  came out from his side  water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass  this mystery by without a thought. For I have still another mystical explanation to give. I said that there was a symbol of baptism and the mysteries in that blood and water. It is from both of these that the church is sprung “through the bath of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” through baptism and the mysteries. But the symbols of baptism and the mysteries, water and blood, come from the side of Christ. It is from his side, therefore, that Christ formed his church, just as he formed Eve from the side of Adam. —John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instructions 3.17 Date: 387 A.D.

“The  Church was  redeemed  at the price of Christ’s  blood. Jew or Greek, it makes no difference; but if he has believed, he must circumcise himself from his sins [in baptism (Col. 2:11–12)] so that he can be saved . . . for no one ascends into the  kingdom of  heaven  except  through the  sacrament  of  baptism.  . .‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” —Ambrose of Milan, Abraham 2:11:79–84 Date: 387 A.D.

“This, too, is plain, that in him who is baptized the Son of God is crucified. Indeed, our flesh could not eliminate sin unless it were crucified in Jesus Christ.… And to the Colossians he says, “Buried with him by baptism, wherein you also rose again with him.” This was written with the intent that we should believe that he is crucified in us, that our sins may be purged through him, that he, who alone can forgive sins, may nail to his cross the handwriting which was against us.”—Ambrose of MilanConcerning Repentance 2.2.9 Date: 388 A.D.

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!”…“Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” —Gregory of Nazianz, Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 & 40:28 Date: 388 A.D.

“Such is the grace and power of baptism; not an overwhelming of the world as of  old, but a purification of  the  sins  of  each  individual, and a complete cleansing from all the bruises and stains of sin. And since we are double-made, I mean of body and soul, and the one part is visible, the other invisible, so the cleansing also is twofold,  by water and the Spirit; the one received visibly in the body, the other concurring with it invisibly and apart from the body; the one typical, the other real and cleansing the depths”—Gregory of Nazianz, Oration on Holy Baptism 7–8 Date: 388 A.D.

“You see how  many  are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with  Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members”—John Chrysostom, Baptismal Catechesis in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 Date: 388 A.D.

“You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses in baptism are one: water, blood, and the Spirit (1 John 5:8): And if you withdraw any one of these, the sacrament of baptism  is not valid. For what is the water without the cross of Christ? A common element with no sacramental effect. Nor on the other hand is there any mystery of regeneration without water, for ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” —Ambrose of Milan, The Mysteries 4:20 Date: A.D. 390

“Circumcision is no longer performed with a knife,  Paul  says, but in Christ himself; for no human hand circumcises … but the Spirit. The Spirit circumcises the whole man, not simply a part.… When and where? In baptism. And what Paul calls circumcision, he again calls burial.… But it is not burial only: for notice what he says, “Wherein you were also raised with him, through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” —John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians 6 Date: 395 A.D.

“Circumcision” refers to the life of immortality embraced through baptism, just as “uncircumcision” is the old life of mortality. Commentary on Colossians.” —Theodore of Mopsuestia, TEM 1:287, Date: Early 5th Century

Through baptism comes the stripping away and circumcision  of sins.… Those being baptized in the blood of Christ confess that they share in his death through baptism and that following this they enjoy the resurrection. Resurrection is used here in a twofold sense, the one spiritual and the other physical. All persons will rise through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Those, however, who have not been baptized in Christ but have died without faith will share in the general resurrection. However, they will not enjoy the promise of redemption.… As many  as were baptized into Christ, these have freely benefitted before the general resurrection from the spiritual resurrection, for they have already risen from the death of sins. Thus, Paul also says: “in whom you were raised,” not “in whom you will be raised.” —Severian of Gabala, Pauline Commentary, Date: Early 5th Century

“Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost has Christ for its  authority, not any man, whoever he may be; and Christ  is the truth, not any man” —Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24 [57] Date: 400 A.D.

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” — Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 Date: 400 A.D.

“Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord [Rom. 6:3; Col. 2:12–13]. . . . [H]e that out of contempt will not be baptized  shall  be condemned  as  an unbeliever  and shall  be reproached  as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says, ‘Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” —Apostolic Constitutions 6:3:15 Date: 400 A.D.

“The  custom  of  Mother  Church in baptizing infants  is certainly  not to be scorned,  nor is  it to be regarded in any way as  superfluous,  nor is  it to be believed that its tradition  is anything except apostolic” —Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 Date 408 A.D.

“O Lord our God, we believe in you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. For the truth would not say, ‘Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ unless you were a Trinity” —Augustine, The Trinity 15:28[51] Date: 408 A.D.

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” —Augustine, Letters 166:8:23 Date: 412 A.D.

“If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration”—Augustine, Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 2:27:43 Date: 412 A.D.

“It is this one Spirit  who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated . . . when that infant is brought  to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, ‘Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents’ or ‘by the faith of those presenting him or ministering to him,’ but, ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit.’ The  water, therefore, manifesting  exteriorly  the sacrament  of grace,  and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in Adam” —Augustine, Letters 98:2 Date: 412 A.D.

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated  in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” —Council of Mieum II, Canon 3 Date: 416 A.D.

“If any man  says that new-born children need not be baptized, or that they should indeed be baptized for the remission of sins, but that they have in them no original sin inherited from Adam which must be washed away in the bath of regeneration, so that in their ease the formula of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’ must not be taken literally, but figuratively, let him be anathema; because, according  to Romans 5:12, the sin of Adam has passed upon all.”—Council of Carthage to Investigate Pelagianism, Canon 2 Date: 416 A.D.

If the forgiveness of sins were not to be had in the church, there would be no hope of a future life and eternal liberation.  We thank God, who gave his church such a gift. Here you are; you are going to come to the holy font, you will be washed in saving baptism, you will be renewed in “the bath of rebirth.” You will be without any sin at all as you  come  up from that bath. All the things that were plaguing you in the past will be blotted out.” —Augustine, Sermons 213.8 Date: 417 A.D.

“If any man  says that new-born children need not be baptized, or that they should indeed be baptized for the remission of sins, but that they have in them no original sin inherited from Adam which must be washed away in the bath of regeneration, so that in their ease the formula of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’ must not be taken literally, but figuratively, let him be anathema; because, according  to Romans 5:12, the sin of Adam has passed upon all.”—Council of Carthage, Canon 2 Date: 418 A.D.

“Those who, though they have not received the washing of regeneration, die for the confession of Christ—it avails them just as much  for the forgiveness of their sins as if  they had been washed in the sacred font of baptism. For he that said, ‘If anyone is not reborn of water and the Spirit,  he will not enter the kingdom of heaven,’ made an exception for them in that other statement in which he says no less generally, ‘Whoever confesses me before  men,  I too will confess him before my Father, who is in heaven —Augustine, The City of God 13:7 Date: 419 A.D.

“This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth” —Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13 Date: 421 A.D.

 

I did try to find Patristic evidence for the belief that baptism doesn’t do anything but has to be done by immersion only as a sign of making a decision for Jesus.  I wasn’t able to, from what I can see this is a teaching that didn’t appear in Christianity until about 500 years ago.

This of course doesn’t do the work all on it’s own, one has to appeal to scripture as the ultimate authority.  I would say however, that if one believes that all of Christianity was wrong on this all the way back to the first century then they must also not believe that the Bible is sufficient enough to speak clearly.  It shouldn’t take 1500 years for anyone to understand a text that speaks clearly.

Posted in Armchair Lounge | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

The False Christ of Ellen White

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Before reading this post I would recommend that one read the Two Natures of ChristDeity of Christ, and the Holiness Wrath and Love of God.  Those are some fundamental Christological doctrines presented from scripture that the reader will need to understand for this post.  Summarized, the incarnate Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  He is not a demi-god or a super-man.  Both natures are true, yet he is one Christ.

If someone is teaching a Jesus different than that they are teaching what is called a false Christ.

“24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matt 24:24 KJV 

What about Ellen White?  Does she teach a false Christ?  To be fair, I’ll present a few quotes from her writings on each topic.

A False Christ of No Wrath

“Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.”  – The Desire of Ages, Pg 353, Ellen G. White

My problem with the quote above is that it leaves out the authority, power, and wrath of God.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the love of God either.  Both are true, as I presented in an older post which you can find HERE the Holiness, Wrath, and Love of God are connected to each other.  If you pull one out you lose the others.  Instead of presenting the authority and wrath of Christ accurately Ellen White has scaled it back for us.

To demonstrate this I will compare how Ellen White presents his “scathing rebukes” with the way the Bible does.

“15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.; 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” John 2:15-17 KJV 

Instead of something closer to the Biblical text Ellen White gives us imagery of a voice cracking in tears.  I think it’s fair to say that Ellen White and I are not thinking about the same person.

Wrath and Authority

Tears in voice

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This theme continues beyond aesthetics though.  The Jesus that Ellen White talks about doesn’t hold to the “heresy” of eternal torment.

“Untold evil has come from the heresy of eternal torment. It takes the religion of the Bible, so full of love and goodness, darkens it by superstition and clothes it with terror. Satan has painted the character of God in false colors, making people fear, dread, and even hate our merciful Creator. The repulsive views of God that have spread over the world from the teachings of the pulpit have made millions of people skeptics and unbelievers.” –The Great Hope, Pg 28, Ellen G. White

Notice that she pits love against wrath as if one abrogates the other.  The expression of the Love of God is found in the cross in which God himself dies and in doing so satisfies the Wrath of God.  Only an infinite love can quench an infinite wrath.  Ellen White however pits the two against each other deleting wrath altogether.

The topic of Hell is something that I break down Biblically in an older post which you can find HERE.  The quote she has given is just silly though, one must assert that the passages below teach heresy.

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:11 KJV

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:10 KJV

I realize that there are other ways of interpreting these passages above, and that some people read them very differently.  While I disagree with those interpretations and went into length as to why in my post on hell, keep in mind Ellen White is saying that it’s a heresy to read them plainly.  The average Annihilationist would not call me a heretic for believing in eternal conscious torment, nor I they.  Clearly to go out on that limb she is teaching a very different God entirely than the one we get a picture of when we take the Bible at face value.

A False Christ Who Could Sin

I argue in an older post that Ellen White taught that Jesus Christ did in fact sin, you can find that HERE.  In addition to that though she also plainly teaches that Jesus was susceptible to sin.  This is either a denial of the Holiness of God or the Deity of Christ.  You can’t have both if you have a moral susceptibility to sin.

“The temptations to which Christ was subjected were a terrible reality. As a free agent He was placed on probation, with liberty to yield to Satan’s temptations and work at cross-purposes with God.” EGW, Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 131.

“For a period of time Christ was on probation. He took humanity on Himself, to stand the test and trial which the first Adam failed to endure. Had He failed in His test and trial, He would have been disobedient to the voice of God, and the world would have been lost.” EGW, Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899.

The above passages are clear enough, in them we see that in Ellen White’s Jesus there is a possibility of Christ failing entirely.  He might just not pull it off but he is gonna try really hard.

Below it get’s even worse as she entertains the idea of the possibility of Christ refusing to fulfill the will of God.  It would be fair for her to point out perhaps that we are seeing the weakness of the human nature in Christ at Gethsemane.  We know that Christ also tired and hungered and things like that.  But to extend that to a chance that he might fail crosses the line into the territory of a false Christ by denying the divine nature.

Am I supposed to be happy that the SDA false Christ barely pulls through in the end?  Really??

“The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father… He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. He accepts His baptism of blood… He will not turn from His mission. He will become the propitiation of a race that has willed to sin. His prayer now breathes only submission: ‘If this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.’ ” – The Desire of Ages, Pg 690, Ellen G. White

A False Christ With No Atonement

Ellen White teaches us about a False Christ that rather than providing a vicarious penal substitutionary atonement, dies to give you the power not to sin in this life so that you can pass probation without a mediator.

“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediatorTheir robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.”  The Great Controversy, Pg. 425 Ellen White

To be clear, instead of teaching about a Christ that will be with us “always” she gives us a false Christ that leaves us hanging at probation.

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:20 ESV 

All we get from the SDA False Christ is a shot in the arm to help us be perfect on our own during probation.  Notice below that instead of Christ taking God’s wrath on our behalf he is simply empowering us.  This is what Martin Luther calls a “theology of glory” rather than a “theology of the cross”, something I may blog more on later.

“When Christ gave His life for you, it was that He might place you on vantage ground and impart to you moral power.” EGW, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 74.

“The glory of Christ is his character, and his character is an expression of the law of God. He fulfilled the law in its every specification, and gave to the world in his life a perfect pattern of what it is possible for humanity to attain unto by cooperation with divinity.” EGW, Signs of the Times, Dec. 12, 1895.

The Jesus Christ in the Bible came to save us from death and hell not to make us special.  It’s obvious to me that Ellen White is talking about someone else.  Just read the passages below and see what the Bible says Jesus died for.

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24 KJV

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.;  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 KJV

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” 1 Cor 15:3 KJV

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Rom 4:25 KJV

Why would you want to turn this into a story of how awesome you are?  That doesn’t even make sense.  This is about Jesus and what he has done for you and me.  This is the real Jesus.

A False Christ That was Created

Ellen White teaches that Jesus was “made” by the Father at some point before creation.  This is a holdout of her arianism.  I have explored it at length in older blog posts which you can find HERE and HERE.

“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind.” EGW, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 07-09-1895, “The Duty of the Minister and the People,” Par. 14

“The exaltation of the Son of God as equal with the Father was represented as an injustice to Lucifer, who, it was claimed, was also entitled to reverence and honor.” EGW, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 37

“The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty” EGW, Letter 32, 1899, quoted in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1129

This isn’t the Jesus Christ that the Bible teaches us though.  In the Bible we see that Christ created “all” things.  If he were created then one would have to also believe that Christ created himself.

Also, Jesus speaks of the Glory that he had with the Father before the world was.  Since time itself is part of creation one would have to place a sequence of events in time to place the creation of Christ outside of time.  It’s not Biblically or intellectually tenable.  This is just a sample, for more on the Deity of Christ please click HERE.

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” Col 1:16 KJV 

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5 KJV 

Conclusion

It is obvious above that Ellen White is teaching a false Christ , one that she made up, instead of the one that is in the Bible.

  • No wrath and no authority.
  • Who could have sinned and probably entertained the idea once or twice.
  • Didn’t die for our sins in any meaningful way and leaves us to fend for ourselves at the close of probation.
  • Was created and or formed rather than eternal.

Essentially, she gives us no Christ at all.  Ellen White isn’t the only one who has done this, like Jesus warned us, many false Christ’s have gone out into the world.  She just gives us one of them.  To the reader I urge you to study the scriptures and what they teach about the real Jesus Christ.

Posted in Leaving Adventism | 2 Comments

The Decline of Adventism

3D business decline graph

 

The Adventist Review recently put out an analysis looking into the attrition rate of the Church.  You can find their article HERE.  Though I’m curious as to why they seem to have chosen to leave out doctrinal disagreements from their survey, what stood out to me wasn’t so much their results but rather their solution to it.

 

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Image Source: Adventist Review

I have no reason to doubt the results they are reporting, or to question their concern.  What stands out to me is their proposed solutions to stem the loss.  Below are the final two paragraphs of their analysis.

“For many Seventh-day Adventists, their local church did not prove a loving and supporting community. When they experienced conflict or difficulties, they stopped attending church—and often nobody noticed they had left.

We are not promised an easy road when we become Christians. Jesus is clear about this when He says, “The road is narrow.” However, what is our responsibility as members of the body of Christ in creating guardrails for our fellow members to keep them from drifting away? Knowing that about one quarter of those leaving the church perceived a lack of compassion for hurting people, what could we do to shift that perception? Further, what could be our part in helping someone who recognizes their failures to make the changes they need for reconciliation? How can we support those who are struggling morally or facing marital difficulties, ensuring that they are not isolated? What can be done to train our members to resolve conflicts in a Christ-like way? Let’s remember that Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) It should be our mission too.”

Notice above that the solution to what they believe to be apostasy is only more law.  The Gospel is left out entirely.  The death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ just doesn’t factor in as a solution whatsoever.  Instead, they burden their current membership with shaping up and encouraging those around them to do the same.

I’m not saying that law doesn’t have a place in such things at all.  Our culture today certainly needs to hear some law rightly preached in how we have all failed to meet Gods perfect standard.  But if all you’re giving people is a watered down version of law that they can actually fulfill then the Gospel has no meaning even if you do preach it.  In this case the writer for the Adventist Review has only given the former and left out the latter entirely.

One should find a Church that preaches the Law (Matt 5:48) and Gospel (Php 3:9) rightly.  Even if membership at such a Church does decline that isn’t what’s important.  The thing that matters is that those who are attending are transformed into Christians by the power of God’s Word.  Simply entertaining goats with a false law and no gospel fails to be relevant even if it fills the pews.

Posted in Leaving Adventism, MicroBlogs | Tagged | 6 Comments

Are Tattoos a Sin?

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This question keeps getting brought up on Confessional Lutheran Fellowship every week or so.  Each time it does a huge debate breaks out as if nobody has seen it before.  So for this reason I am going to address it.  The answer is of course no, it’s not a sin to get a tattoo.  It doesn’t even matter, you can do it or not.  It’s a wisdom issue not a sin issue.  Even still, I’m going to break down the reason why and address the passages that are used to claim it is a sin.

Before reading this though I recommend you read an older post on the Law of Christ covering the distinction between old and new covenant law.  I will reference and build upon those concepts but I won’t be presenting them again with detail in this post.

There are three common passages that I see used by well meaning Christians to identify tattoos as a sin, I will present and address them one at a time.  Even if you run into someone using another passage the same principles should apply.

 Doesn’t Leviticus ban Tattoos ?!

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“28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:28 ESV 

Wow!  That seems rather straight forward!  The Bible says not to get a tattoo so I guess we shouldn’t!

No actually it’s not that simple.

First off even the above passage on it’s own is speaking in a narrow sense to ceremonies for the dead, not tattoos in general.

Secondly, the Bible has many old covenant laws that don’t apply anymore and this is one of them.  For more on this I recommend reading through my post on the Law of Christ.  But to summarize, the scripture teaches that old covenant law is obsolete.

“20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20 ESV 

“14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility ; 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” Ephesians 2:14-15 ESV 

“16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Col 2:16-17 ESV 

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second…. 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13 ESV  

New Covenant moral law is most objectively identified by cataloging what the apostles prescriptively taught after the cross.  You can go back to the old covenant to help with defining your terms when a crossover exists but it’s not a prescriptive source of law.  One thing that you can point out to people who misuse this verse in Leviticus is to read the verse that comes right before it:

“27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:27-28 ESV 

So if you’re going to follow verse 28 that means you should also follow verse 27 and not get certain haircuts.  You also need to grow out a patriarch beard and look like Moses.  Actually that last one sounds pretty cool if you ask me, but you shouldn’t go around telling everyone it’s a law.  Additionally, Paul gives a heart stopping rebuke to anyone who would turn to old covenant law today.

“4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Gal 5:4 ESV 

But doesn’t “you’re body is a temple” mean no tattoos??

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The second verse I see used most often is one that I have addressed before in an older post on 1 Cor 6:19 rebuking the manner in which SDA twist it.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” 1 Cor 6:19 ESV 

The idea here is that since your body is a temple, it is therefore a sin to do anything unhealthy.  Besides the obvious anachronisms one must employ for such a understanding, the primary problem with this is it’s methodology.  The passage isn’t talking about healthful living it’s talking about sinning against your body.  Specifically Paul is rebuking sexual sin.  Don’t take my word for it, read the context for yourself:

“15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! ; 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” ; 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. ; 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. ; 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” 1 Cor 6:15-19 ESV 

When someone makes this about issues of health rather than issues of sin that are already plainly condemned as sin elsewhere in scripture their flaw is in the methodology.  Specifically, one must insert the concept of “X” into the text from their imagination that is not already present.  In this case it’s tattoos.  If one were to apply this methodology consistently they would be unable to confess the Christian faith.

For example, I could cite passages about the Trinity, Deity of Christ, and Virgin Birth then simply assert that they are all actually talking about NASCAR and end up a heretic.  Of course that’s absurd, but it’s employing the same methodology.  One cannot insert whatever premise they want from their imagination.  We don’t do this with any other form of literature on the planet, but for some reason we come to the Bible and it’s assumed to be a sound practice.

But but but…. Doesn’t jewelry mean the same thing as tattoos?

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This one is less common but I have seen it brought up so I’ll address it here.  The passage that some like to use is one in which Peter is rebuking the sin of vanity.

3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— ; 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV 

This is a very bad passage to use against tattoos.  For starters Paul is addressing women about vanity and their behavior with regards to an unbelieving husband.  This doesn’t mean the same can’t apply to men, it’s just silly to rip it out of context like that.  Essentially he is instructing them to let their husband see the new Spirit created within them by God (Eph 4:24).

While it would be fair to argue that this passage teaches vanity as a sin, which can be corroborated by comparing it to other passages, one can’t even single out the specific examples Paul cites as inherently sinful abstract from vanity.  The two are connected in the text.

Would it be fair to say that if one is vain in their tattoos it is a sin?

Sure

However that would apply to anything.  It wouldn’t even mean that one sinning in vanity with tattoos needs to have them removed.  It would just mean they are called to repent of their vanity and be forgiven.  This is called soundly applying a Biblical principle in the greater context of Law and Gospel.

Conclusion

As I stated at the outset tattoos are not inherently sinful.  If one wants to argue that they are they need to present a clear prescriptive text after the cross that quotes and or reaffirms Leviticus 19:28 in the new covenant.  Such a verse does not exist which means the teaching isn’t Biblical.  If you are personally convicted against tattoos for your own reasons of conscience then you shouldn’t get one, but that doesn’t give you the license to bind other peoples consciences either.

In my opinion, the reason many try to make extra laws is because on some level they see the scripture as insufficient.  The Bible has plenty of laws that it commands people to follow, even in the new covenant.  We don’t need new ones, we already fail at keeping the laws we have, what we need is our risen Lord and Savior to forgive and justify us in his blood that was shed on the Cross for all of our sins.

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Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

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The idea that Christmas is a pagan holiday is more compelling to Christians than most might assume.  I once believed this myself, everyone said Christmas was fake so I went along with it.

There are two main reasons that changed my mind regarding Christmas.  First is that the claim of pagan origins relies on a logical fallacy.  Second is that there is a pretty decent amount of Biblical  and historical evidence for December 25 actually being Christ’s birthday.  In this blog post I will explain both of these reasons in detail and then leave some links to my sources at the bottom.

Origins of a Pagan Logical Fallacy

The most common pagan holiday that Christians are accused of ripping off that I have seen is Saturnalia.  For a quick summary below is a quote I obtained from a source you can read HERE.

“In Ancient Rome the Winter Solstice festival Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days.

Saturnalian banquets were held from as far back as around 217 BCE. The festival was held to honor Saturn, the father of the gods and was characterized by the suspension of discipline and reversal of the usual order. Grudges and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. Masquerades often occurred during this time.

It was traditional to offer gifts of imitation fruit (a symbol of fertility), dolls (symbolic of the custom of human sacrifice), and candles (reminiscent of the bonfires traditionally associated with pagan solstice celebrations). A mock king was chosen, usually from a group of slaves or criminals, and although he was permitted to behave in an unrestrained manner for seven days of the festival, he was usually killed at the end. The Saturnalia eventually degenerated into a week-long spree of debauchery and crime – giving rise to the modern use of the tern saturnalia, meaning a period of unrestrained license and revelry.”

It’s actually very common to find holidays in a wide variety of cultures and traditions around the winter solstice.  Notice that even this being the case, Saturnalia is on Demeber 17 not the 25th.  While some will cherry pick and point out that gifts were given, nobody will accuse Christians of stealing the idea of celebrating “debauchery and crime” every Christmas.

The real tell here though is the use of a false cause logical fallacy.  Just because two things are similar doesn’t mean that they came from each other.  A nexus has to be drawn between the similarities to logically make the connection.  Pastor Jonathan Fisk uses a really good example of this in a video that I have linked at the bottom of the post.

How he puts it is that just because apples and oranges are both round, that doesn’t mean that apples came from oranges.

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Specifically, to prove the claim that Christians appropriated Christmas one would need to find an ancient document of early Christian Bishops conspiring to do so.  This isn’t an unfair demand on my part either.  We have a vast library on early Christian correspondence and scholarly works.  We have also found embarrassing forgeries and comments that we would probably prefer to ignore.  Even with that being the case there has been no evidence found of Christians stealing a holiday.  Instead we see that many genuinely believed December 25 to be the day.  The following is a quote from Hyppolytus that pre-dates Constantine:

“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.” – Hyppolytus of Rome, Commentary on the book of Daniel (c. A.D. 204)

Hyppolytus actually believed that creation began on March 25, nine months prior to December 25th.  The idea is that Christ was conceived on the anniversary of creation itself.  It’s a breathtakingly beautiful idea, and for that reason alone I honestly hope it’s true.  Whether Hyppolytus is correct or not, the fact is he had his own reasons for believing in a birth date of December 25 separate from pagan influence.  Which means it would not be fair to accuse him or those who came after of ripping it off.

Lastly, there are many good reasons to institute a holiday on or around the winter solstice.  This is easily overlooked in a day with smartphones and outlook calendars.  But back then getting everybody across the world to observe a holiday at the same time would have been more difficult.  If you place it around a winter solstice though it’s not that difficult at all.  Even if one small village in the middle of nowhere gets it wrong they will still be close.

So, based on the fact that there are reasonable motivations to have a holiday in the solstice season besides cultural appropriation, and that there is no direct evidence of such a theft, I simply dismiss the claim that Christians have done so until some actual evidence is presented.

Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christmas

This one surprises everyone, yes there is Biblical evidence to support December 25th.  There is obviously no command in scripture to keep the date.  In fact, there is even clear scripture against enforcing such a command (Rom 14:5-6).

But there is some Biblical evidence for the date itself which is rooted in the birth of John the Baptist.

“5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” Luke 1:5 ESV 

“9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.; 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.; 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.; 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” Luke 1:9-13 KJV

Above we see Zechariah performing his duties in the temple.  It is probable based on Biblical and extra Biblical sources though that he was performing his role in Yom Kippur, not as a high priest of course, but his priestly duties associated with the season. Notice above that he was required to enter and perform the services alone in accordance with his division of Abijah.

“5 Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar…

10 The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah…

19 These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the Lord, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded him.1 Chronicles 24:5, 10, 19 KJV

Many excellent sources argue for either a Yom Kippur / Feast of Trumpets referent to Luke 1.  It is reasonable to assert that the Early Church saw this as well based if nothing else on their selection of December 25 for the Birth of Christ.  This would place the conception of John the Baptist between the dates of September 22 – 30.

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:24-35 KJV

A friend of mine named Larry Dean has a very helpful analysis of the events in Luke 1. He believes that the text not only allows for but requires a Yom Kippur / Feast of Trumpets referent when compared to the Jewish Talmud from 70 AD, and I agree with his reasoning.

“The records that are found in the Talmud that date from AD 70 – the only accurate and complete record of the various “divisions” of the Temple service in use during the First Century – place the Division of Abijah squarely on Yom Kippur.

Zacharias’s offering of incense when the angel spoke to him is not inconsistent with this, since incense was offered on Yom Kippur in both the Holy place and the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies to incense the spot where the Ark of the Covenant would have been. Luke does not say that Zachariah was the High Priest.

But any Priest could and did offer incense in the Holy place on Yom Kippur. That duty was not limited to the High Priest.”

If you add six months to Sept 22 – 30 you’re going to be very close to March 25.  It’s fair to point out that March 25th is when the Church has traditionally observed the Annunciation of Mary (when Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit) on the Liturgical Calendar.  Which can be dated back to St Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD)  and is consistent with Hyppolytus reflections.

When you add 9 months to that you get December 25.  So to prove the date of Christmas being pagan in it’s origins one would also have to prove that the day Christ was conceived was stolen from pagans too.

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Is it a tradition of the Church?

Of course it is.

Are we allowed to have traditions and keep dates if we want to?

Yes we are as Rom 14:5-6 and others allow for this.

It would also be fair to call Christmas a Biblical tradition as it’s not only permitted by scripture but it’s also compatible with the details of the narrative.

There are of course sound objections to the date of December 25.  Some will point out that the shepherds being out with their flock at night favors a spring or fall birthday.  This is insufficient though.  There could be many reasons that they would be out with their sheep, perhaps it was an unusually warm night.  We simply don’t know.  Temperatures in the middle East actually allow for shepherding at night in December anyways. For more on that click HERE

Some will argue that Luke 1 could also be referring to Sukkot rather than Yom Kippur.  If that were so then it would put Jesus date of birth in early October rather than late December.  I think this is unlikely though as the Jewish 70 AD Talmud places the week Zecharia would have been in the temple at the time of Yom Kippur.

Also, since the Annunciation of Mary is key for the December 25 date, one would have to prove that this day is of pagan origins too.  The fact that nobody is sounding that alarm is telling.  In my assessment this shows an intellectual inconsistency in the argumentation of Christmas deniers.

 

Conclusion

Are there pagan traditions that continue around this time of year that even Christians participate in?

Sure  

I realize that Santa Clause has roots in St. Nicholas, but lets be real, this is a pagan demi-god.  There is nothing Christian left about Santa Clause.  There is also nothing wrong with such things either in their proper context.  Do you place your trust for your salvation in Santa Clause?  Of course not.  If such pagan traditions bother your conscience then maybe you should abstain, but if they do not there is freedom in Christ to be unconcerned (1 Cor 8).

The point of this post though is to make it clear that there is plenty of evidence for the Christian origins of Christmas.  The burden of proof is on the one who claims it was appropriated from pagans to make their case and provide some original source material.

Below is a succinct YouTube video that I found very helpful for this article

Also, you can click HERE for a steadfast Lutherans post that I found useful.

For an excellent article on why Yom Kippur is most likely the referent to Luke 1 see HERE.

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Who are the 144,000?

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My source for this post is Worldview Everlasting,  you can find the specific video and links to others they have done in the one that is embedded at the bottom.  Basically I am just going point out a few key things in the text that so many gloss over.  When taken as the Bible presents it, the 144,000 isn’t some mysterious number.  It’s really just a comforting truth to God’s elect.

 

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,

12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,

12,000 from the tribe of Gad,

12,000 from the tribe of Asher,

12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,

12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,

12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,

12,000 from the tribe of Levi,

12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 

12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,

12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,

12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:4-10 ESV

 

Above we can see that in verse 4 John says that he “heard” and in verse 9 it says that he “saw”.  I would contend that the plainest reading of this passage would be that John is speaking of the same group of people.  At first he hears a symbolic representation of them and then after that he sees the group right before his very eyes.  Numerically the groups are presented differently to convey a deeper meaning rather than to give us a western mathematical understanding.

To help with this I have put together a list of the 12 tribes of Israel as they are presented in different places of the Bible.  Take a look and check the hyperlinks if you want.  This is by no means comprehensive, the twelve tribes are listed many times.

 

Revelation Genesis Exodus Numbers
Judah Reuben Reuben Reuben
Reuben Simeon Simeon Simeon
Gad Levi Levi Judah
Asher Judah Judah Dan
Naphtali Zebulun Issachar Naphtali
Manasseh Issachar Zebulun Gad
Simeon Dan Benjamin Asher
Levi Gad Dan Issachar
Issachar Asher Naphtali Zebulun
Zebulun Naphtali Gad Benjamin
Joseph Joseph Asher Ephraim
Benjamin Benjamin ? Manasseh

 

The first thing that should be obvious is that these list don’t all match!  Notice that when the 12 tribes are first given to us Dan is included, but by the time it gets to John he is removed.  John replaces Dan with Manasseh but leaves out Ephraim.  Some argue that he implies Ephraim with Manasseh as they were both Josephs sons, others argue that there is a specific reason that Ephraim was removed.  I can’t honestly say which is correct but I am more comfortable speculating the former.

There is likely a very good reason Dan was removed though, a good example of this is a passage in Genesis with regards to Dan in the first place.

 

“17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way,a viper by the path,that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward.” Gen 49:17 ESV 

 

Perhaps I am reading into it but I think it’s telling that the author of Genesis is referring to Dan as a serpent.  Those of you who read the book likely remember the third chapter when we first see a serpent, so it’s possible that a connection here is implied.

 

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,“when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,but of hearing the words of the Lord.12 They shall wander from sea to sea,and from north to east;they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,but they shall not find it.13 “In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. 14 Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’they shall fall, and never rise again.” Amos 8:11-14 ESV   

 

The passage above is more clear, it’s very possible that John left Dan out due to the sin of idolatry.  Why 12,000 from each tribe though?  Pastor Jonathan Fisk has a good explanation for this with symbolic numbers in the Bible.  The idea is that in this passage 12 is the number of God’s Church new testament and old.  This is why  you have 24 elders in heaven just a bit earlier:

 

“8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8 ESV 

 

Just as you have 12 houses of Israel in the old testament you also have 12 Apostles in the new.  With 10 you have a number of completion represented three times, one for each person of the Trinity.

10 x 10 x 10 x 12 x 12 = 144,000

Thus, symbolically the number of the elect which John heard is a representation of the same group that he saw.  Just as believers of all nationalities are grafted into the olive tree of Israel today (Rom 11:17) and consist in that number, so is the multitude that John witnessed of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

 

“9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ” Revelation 7:9-10 ESV 

 

What you have here  is a group symbolically represented with a number that cannot be numbered because it is so large.  I find this very comforting because what we are seeing is a representation of the elect outside of time.  No man has the power to add or remove people from that group.

 

But… Are you saying all believers are virgins????

 

Well no I am not saying that at all.  First let’s take a look at the verse people are talking about when they say you have to live a chaste life to be part of the 144,000.

 

“1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. ; 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps,  3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” Revelation 14:1-5 ESV 

 

First off, it’s helpful to keep in mind the rest of Revelation where idolatry is represented by a woman, specifically, the whore of Babylon.  Notice that the passage also says that these people are “blameless”.  This is because they are covered by the blood of the lamb as stated in the text when you continue reading Revelation 7.

 

“13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” ; 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:13-14 ESV 

 

Those redeemed from the earth are perfect in Christ, which is the only way any man or woman can be perfect as all have sinned.

 

“9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” Php 3:9 ESV 

 

Conclusion

Stated simply the 144,000 is just another way of saying all believers of all time.  Another word for the same thing would be the “elect”.  These are the people redeemed from the Earth by the blood of the Lamb on the cross.  You can’t add anyone to this list and you can’t take anyone off it.  If you’re ever so honored to be used as a mouthpiece for God to call his elect into the fold then that’s a beautiful thing.  But don’t ever forget that he is the one doing it, not you.

To see the video that I used as a source for the blog post please click play on the one I have embedded below.  It’s 5 minutes long and well worth your time.

 

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Is Fornication a Sin?

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This post is being written as a follow-up to an older one on Homosexuality because I thought it would be helpful.  My conclusion in that post was that the Bible does in fact teach that homosexual acts and desires are condemned as sin.  I think writing this post will be helpful because too often Christians are misrepresented as being bigoted or hateful with regards to Homosexuals.  The fact is that sin is sin, so in this post I am going to demonstrate another sin in much the same fashion that applies to a larger group of people.

 

Does the Bible teach that Fornication is a Sin?

This question is actually very easy to answer from scripture and shouldn’t take too long at all.

“41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.” John 8:41-42 KJV

“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal 5:19-21 KJV

“18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Cor 6:18-20 KJV 

Not to point out the obvious, but the fact that I can quote:

“he that committeth fornication sinneth”

is kind of obvious for answering the question as to whether or not it is a sin.  Based on shear clarity of language I’m going to leave this question settled.  Anyone who interprets that passage any other way must not be taking the text very seriously to begin with.

What is the Biblical definition of fornication?

“4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Heb 13:4 KJV 

“1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” 1 Cor 5:1 KJV 

“32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Matt 5:32 KJV   

“2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” 1 Cor 7:2 KJV

It is clear from the passages above, especially the last one, that fornication is defined as sexual acts and desires outside of the covenant of marriage.  Even lusting after a woman in your heart is equated by Christ to be the same sin as adultery.

“28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matt 5:28 KJV

This would obviously convict every man and woman of the sin of fornication.  Nobody can claim in good faith that they have never lusted after another human being they were not married to.  Furthermore, the “born this way” argument for other sexual sins obviously doesn’t work either.  A Heterosexual is born attracted to the opposite sex, and it is still a sin for them to lust outside of marriage.

Jesus very narrowly defines marriage in Matt 19, thus anything outside of that context is going to be fornication.

“4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matt 19:4-6 KJV 

That’s really it right there, any sexual acts or desires outside of that covenant are a sin.  So just as homosexuality is a sin so is fornication.  Neither is worse or better than the other.  Notice that Paul even equates them to each other.

“9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Cor 6:9-10 KJV

For those unfamiliar, the phrase “abusers of themselves with mankind” is old english for homosexuals.  For more on that click HERE.  What’s far more important though is the verse that comes next:

“11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:11 KJV

Notice that the verbs above are in the past tense.  At the very least, in this verse sanctification is not being used as a process.  Instead, it is being couched in baptismal language that took place when one was “washed“.  This is part of why it is fair to say that the Gospel surpasses the Law.  Your sins have been put to death in Christ.  The gospel is the same fornicator as it is for the homosexual.  None of us are better than each other.  We have all committed sexual sins as well as every other kind of sin.  Everyone needs forgiveness.

Conclusion

Just as Homosexuality is a sin, so is fornication.  Both are sins and both are just as wrong.  The answer to both is the same, repent and be forgiven in Christ.  This doesn’t mean that the fornicator will never commit that sin again in one capacity or another.  This doesn’t mean that the homosexual will never commit the sins they are inclined to either.  It just means that both are forgiven in Christ as if those sins never were.  The Bible teaches us that believers of all stripes will fight their sinful inclinations their entire life, and when they fail, there is always forgiveness at the Cross of Jesus.

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