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I figure there may be someone who needs my help, and posting a comment may be easier than emailing me. I would prefer an email, but I am here to help those in need.

**Do you have history in the Worldwide Church of God? Are you still attending one of its offshoots? Do you see cracks in the doctrine and want more information, or do you not know why you're still there anymore? Is there a hole in your heart and just don't know why God isn't granting you the happiness you were promised would come through tithing and following a man? Do you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot live up to your own standards, and you feel like a failure? Do you find your pursuit of God to be based on fear?
Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rare Political Post

In these last few days before the election, I want to think about something that has been on my mind. I hope to never post another political message here again, but I am compelled to say this.

I need to define a few assumptions, first.

One - All government derives power from the barrel of a gun.
Anyone who says the death penalty is not a deterrent has misunderstood the most basic human interactions and perhaps all of history. Imagine you see a $100 bill on the ground a short distance away. Would you walk over and pick it up? Probably! Now imagine that the largest snarling Rottweiler you've ever seen stands within striking distance of that bill. Now would you walk over and pick it up? The threat of death has changed the dynamic, hasn't it? Again, let's say someone walks up to you with a rubber chicken in hand and demands your wallet. Will you hand it over? Probably not. Now, imagine a real 9mm handgun in place of the chicken. The threat of your death has changed the dynamic considerably has it not?
Imagine if you will, not a Rottweiler but a massive Federal Government, and not a 9mm handgun but a standing army of police armed to the hilt and well corrdinated. Should you deny them the taxes they have come to extract from you? I think not. Of the 300+ million people in the United States, so few are the real rebellions against confiscatory taxation by the common man, that when they occur they tend to make the national news. And if they come to take your children by force, will you plead with them? And if they consript you to throw yourself in front of that bullet you fear, who will save you?
The actions of a few desperate criminals asside, the threat of death (be it by gun, by bloodclot, by starvation, or any other means) is a prime motivator for almost everything we do. The threat of death and loss is the source of all government power.

Two - Government exists for a few basic and clear reasons, one of which is to enforce social contracts. It is itself a social contract. The point being to minimize as much as possible all predatory or parasitic interactions between citizens.
Imagine if you will purchasing something from Big Box Store which is completely not what you were lead to believe it is. What recourse do you have? Without government, there would be none. You would need to muster a force powerful enough to genuinely threaten Big Box Store to lend weight to your demands for justice. You would likely fail in that. Government is your counterbalance. It enforces the agreements and provides neutral judges to arbitrate.

Now, on to the meat.

Government is an involuntary assocition. It is thrust upon us all. Given the choice, in a perfect world, government would not exist because we would all govern ourselves. However, this is not a perfect world. Though few enjoy government, it is better than the alternative. It is at best a necessary evil due to our own nature. I take the position that government should be clearly defined and very much limited.

Unfortunately, too few genuinely govern themselves to a degree even approaching that necessary to have a limit government. If you will not govern yourself, then government MUST govern you. Hence the reason why Benjamin Franklin said the government of the United States is for a moral people. A moral people govern themselves.
And government rules by threat of death and loss. Government is subtle, though. They do not wield guns at you openly, but laws. Laws are enforced by the gun. They are an extension of the gun. Some laws are just, but the number of laws is a direct reflection of the condition of the citizenry. A healthy and self-governing citizenry, actively involved in politics, does not need a preponderance of laws. SO IF YOU WISH TO BE FREE, LEARN TO GOVERN YOURSELF!

When a politician runs for office, he runs for power. This could be a beneficial or a harmful thing. It can be just or a perversion of justice. Power is a limited commodity. He only has so much in himself, so he has to get you to lend him some of yours.
Government is by the consent of the people. If the people allow government to run roughshod over them, there is no one to blame but the people. Do not complain about what you have given your consent to!

But the danger looms that government itself can overstep and become the GREATER of evils. Why choose government who steals much from you daily, when a robber would only steal what he can carry, and only do it once in a while? When that occurs, hard choices must be made. Who can overcome the government but a cohesive and united citizenry, of one mind and purpose, who through the very fact of their numbers can threaten the government and return it to its rightful boundaries? This cannot be done but through personal sacrifice. One must forego the self to work towards the good of the whole. Some personal loss is guaranteed - be it time, money, or even life. An active involvement in politics is the best prevention - and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In a selfish, undisciplined, aloof, and divided nation, the government grows unchecked. If government at its best is a necessary evil, then unchecked government is certainly not your friend.

The goal of a government out of control is to keep people divided. Take Communist China for example. There, a lone rogue citizen isn't payed much heed. Dissent on a personal level doesn't warrant retaliation from the state. The act of retaliation would unite the people in a way the loan rogue is not achieving on their own. The goal is to keep people from uniting, not to unite them. To retaliate and draw a crowd is self-defeating. Now, if that rogue starts to unite people, then he becomes a real threat. Not that he is anything, but the united citizenry are something. Then a retaliation by the government is sure. A united citizenry is the greatest terror to a ferrel government.

And this gets to the point of this post - DO NOT LET THE GOVERNMENT DIVIDE YOU!! BE UNITED!!

When the government plays class-warfare, they divide people in their minds. Now it is no longer 'we the people, but 'us vs. them'. The unity is broken. A powerful government now has a less cohesive and united citizenry. You are no longer working for the common good but everyone against his neighbor. Government's ability to abuse power is greater. The people's ability to receive true justice is lessened. And by our own selfishness no less! DO NOT LET THE GOVERNMENT PLAY CLASS WARFARE! Your only hope of defense against tyranny is lost.

When a class of people allow the government to single out another general class for any form of sanction, then the government has become the greater evil. This includes "spreading the wealth". There is a way which seems right to a man, the ends of which are death. Now, instead of government being a neutral counterbalance to Big Box Store's robbery, you the divided and self-seeking people have turned government into a bandit and sent it to its own robbery of the citizenry. Instead of protecting you from robbery, it now engages in robbery. You have perverted justice! Now, government can turn and plunder you! And who will stop them? The upper class you say should pay for your mortgage and schooling? They won't help you. In fact, they will extract that money back from you in another way. Now you have TWO enemies! A graduated tax system may sound like a good idea, robbing the rich to feed the poor may sound like a noble idea, spreading the wealth may sound like a benign idea, but if all the people are not treated as one equal and undivided unit, then you are neither equal nor undivided. You will find that it is you who are conquered and a conquered person is nothing but a slave! You must choose to be satisfied with what you have and if you desire more you must be indistrious and work for it. IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, BE UNIFORM AND AMBIGUOUS IN APPLICATION OF LAW!

Any politician who says otherwise is not being straight with you.

Take levys for example. What is the point of levys? You see a levy on the ballot, it sounds nice, it promises to give children a place to hang out after school, and it only costs $5 per month. You vote yes. What have you done? You have said "I would like to contribute to that." But you have also said, "And everyone else will also be contributing right along with me, regardless of whether or not they want to or can afford to." The same is true for universal health care, retirement, welfare, right to this, right to that... what have you done?? Tyrant!

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."


The United States is in apathy now, and slipping from apathy into bondage. The Fourth of July is not the name of the nation's birthday. It is INDEPENDENCE DAY! IN-dependence, as in, NOT DEPENDENT. Not dependent on what? On government!! Why do we choose to put on that yoke of bondage again? Who has bewitched you???

Who are you to reach into someone else's pocket and take what doesn't belong to you? Did you get up out of their warm bed in the bitter cold morning and kiss their children goodbyeto grow up apart from them and labor their life away as a wage slave and earn their money you just gave away? NO!! If you want to contribute then reach into your own pocket! If you can't afford to reach into your own pocket to the tune of $5 per month, then whom else will you expect should do it? There are people out there who can barely afford their homes. Foreclosures are at a record high. The American Dream has turned into a nightmare! And here we all sit saying "I need affordable health care. And I need toe government to give it to me." Have you ever considered that if taxes weren't so high, we could all afford our own health care? Have you considered if you would stop abusing tort law, stop all the frivelous lawsuits, stop using the law to unjustly extort money from those you perceive can afford it, then we could all afford healthcare?

The lawyers in government will not help reform tort law because they gain from it. They have divided you! The insurance lobbies in government will not support reform because they gain. They have divided you! The drug companies will not support reform because they gain. They have divided you! And the government is complicit in the wholesale fleecing of the citizenry because it gains the most. They have divided you! And they have all conspired to sell you a bill of goods called "universal health care" becuse when you vote to reach into someone else's pocket to steal their property to pay for your purposefully, artificially, and grossly inflated bills you have divided yourselves. You are divided and conquered!

When you vote, think about what you're doing first. CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS! Consider that you are about to nail another nail into the coffin of over 230 years of the most incredible incredible chance at freedom and independence ever known in the history of man. (We've beat the average lifespan of a free government, but not by much.) Think of who truly represents the nation. Why trade a few tyrants in Washington DC for 300 million tyrants right here?

As for me, I'm voting third party. Viva la Ron Paul Revolution!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Galatians Quick Scan

Upon reading Galatians this weekend, I was reminded how I never cease to be amazed at how different my Bible is when I read it on my own as opposed to reading it without Herbert Armstrong telling me what to think.
I would like to write what I've found in my own words.

Things that do not come by the law:
Justification (GAL. 2: 16)
Righteousness (GAL. 2: 21)
The Spirit (GAL. 3: 2)
Perfection (GAL. 3: 3)
Miracles (GAL. 3: 4)
Inheritance (GAL. 3: 18)
Life (GAL. 3: 21)
Grace (GAL. 5: 4)

Quick Scan Overview:
(GAL. 1: 6) Some TROUBLE the Galatians. Anyone who preaches this 'other gospel' is accursed.
**Who? "Trouble" is key to identifying them.  See also GAL. 5: 10 & 12.
(GAL. 2: 4) False brethren were bringing in bondage ..they failed to compel Titus to be circumcised (v. 3).
(GAL. 2: 14) Why compel Gentiles to live as Jews? This is not straightforward to the truth of the gospel (v. 13)! Even the converts who were natural born Jews that keep the law believe that justification is in Christ and not the law (v. 15-16).
Verses 11-13 show something about 'the circumcision' was troubling things between Jew and Gentile. Peter, Barnabas, and the Jewish converts were influenced by men of the circumcision, influencing them to be divided.
**What is 'the circumcision' to Paul?
(GAL. 2: 16) No one is justified by keeping the law [three times this is said].
(GAL. 2: 21) Righteousness is not of the law - if so, Christ died for no reason.
**If someone says 'you avoid sin and I avoid sin, but I keep the Commandments, therefor I am better' they do not understand grace. By faith in Christ we are justified and not by the law at all. Keeping the Sabbath does not justify. If it did, Christ died in vain.
(GAL. 3: 2-4) The Spirit does not come by keeping the law. Perfection does not come by the flesh. It is foolish to think so. Miracles do not come by the law.
(GAL. 3: 10-12) If you start to keep the law, you must keep the WHOLE law - every last bit of it - or you are cursed! Only if you do the law can you benefit. Therefore it isn't faith in God, but our own effort.
**See my other posts on Cherry-Picking the law for more info on how the COGs do not keep the whole law.
(GAL. 3: 15) No man can change the law!
(GAL. 3: 16-18) We receive the gift by a promise by God to Abraham and his Seed, Christ. That comes to us through oneness with Christ (also see v. 26-29 and GAL. 4: 1-7). The law cannot enhance nor annul that promise. (also see v. 21).
(GAL. 3: 19-25) What is the point of the law? to curb our carnal nature until Christ comes, bringing faith with Him. But once Christ and faith came, we no longer need the law.
**We grow up individually, and the world grows up in God's eyes as well.
(GAL. 4: 8-9) The Gentiles were once pagans, then came to Christ, now again they turn to bondage to weak and beggarly elements [the law].
**We know this "weak and beggarly elements" refers to the law since this is the subject of this and the previous chapters, as well as the following. The key is the word "bondage". What/who is bondage? The Old Covenant (GAL. 4: 21-31)!
(GAL. 4: 11) Paul is so worried about the Galatians turning to the law; he doubts their conversion (see also v. 20).
(GAL. 4: 16) Is Paul an enemy because he tells the truth?
(GAL. 4: 17) Those of the law zealously court the freed Gentiles, but for no good purpose.
**Bringing someone under the law is not a good purpose.
(GAL. 4: 24-25) The Old Covenant gives birth to bondage! The Old Covenant is that which was given at Sinai.
**What was given at Sinai? The 10 Commandments!! (see also EXO. 34: 28 and DEU. 4: 13).
(GAL. 4: 28) We are not children of bondage [the law], but of promise (also see v. 31).
(GAL. 4: 30) Cast out the Old Covenant.
(GAL. 5: 1) Stand fast in the liberty of the New Covenant! Do not be entangled again in bondage [through the law - the 'yoke of bondage']!
(GAL. 5: 2) If you submit to the Old Covenant (even in part) Christ profits you NOTHING!
(GAL. 5: 3) If you submit to one part of the law you are bound to keep the whole thing - ALL of it.
(GAL. 5: 4) The law removes us from Christ's grace.
(GAL. 5: 8) The persuasion to keep the law does not come from Christ.
(GAL. 5: 10) Paul is confident the Galatians will reject this false gospel of the keeping of the law, and the one who teaches such will face God's judgment.
(GAL. 5: 11) Paul did not still preach circumcision [keeping of the law]. If so, then what Christ did on the cross has ceased.
(GAL. 5: 12) Paul wishes those who teach the necessity for circumcision [and thus, the law] would emasculate themselves.
(GAL. 5: 13) We have been called to liberty [not law], but that liberty is no excuse to continue in carnality. 
(GAL. 5: 18) If we are under the Spirit, we are not under the law.
**Remember, the Spirit does not come by the law!
**If there is no law, how do we know what to avoid? (GAL. 5: 19-25) answers this.
(GAL. 5: 12-13) Those who promote circumcision [the keeping of the law] don't keep the law anyhow. They just wish to boast in meaningless flesh.
**And if you start out to keep the law but don't keep the whole law, you fall under the curse of the law.

Summary:
Galatians deals with a controversy of mixing the law of Moses with faith. The claims of these false teachers were not that keeping the law earns justification, but in order to achieve justification one must also be keeping the Old Covenant law. This is identical to Armstrong's teaching. In other words, Paul absolutely contradicts Herbert W. Armstrong in the strongest terms. 
A gospel based on keeping the Old Covenant law is a false gospel. The Old Covenant is the 10 Commandments. The law was never meant to continue past Christ; but to keep man's carnal nature in check until Christ [among other things]. Those false brethren who preach this 'other gospel' are accursed because they teach the keeping of the law, yet they do not themselves keep the whole law. If you start to keep the law,  you are bound to keep the whole thing - ALL of it! No exemptions. Some may attempt to "change the law out of necessity" - but no man can change the law. The false gospel of blending faith with law nullifies all Christ did for us.

Dearly loved of God, is this what you want? As you attend a COG to get close to God, is this really what you want? Do you want to keep a tradition that Paul comes out so strongly against? Do you want a partial keeping of the law? Do you want to nullify what Christ has done for you? Is that honestly what you intend?? The nullification of the cross? I doubt that deeply. I know that you want justification, righteousness, the Spirit, perfection, miracles, inheritance, life, and grace - in other words, salvation. Believe what you read in your Bible; those things will never come from the law. The law cannot be a requirement to receive what can never come from it. Accept that it comes by grace through faith - as a promise made 4,000 years ago that the law cannot nullify. Step into the New Covenant!

Friday, October 24, 2008

4 Parts of the Old Covenant Remain?

The Gentiles were specifically told to mind certain things:

(ACTS 15: 19-20) 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

(ACTS 21: 25) But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

A common question brought up is, “Why would only these 4 points be brought up, which are from the law of Moses, and nothing else?” I would like to look in to that.

Even though all four of these points can be found in the Old Covenant law, the beginning of the answer is – these points are not a continuation of the Old Covenant. I see several possible contributing factors.

Here is one possibility. 
According to some Jewish groups, there are 613 laws in the Torah binding upon all Jews. Conversely, there are 7 “Noachide laws” that had existed from the beginning and are binding upon all mankind.  
As far as I can gather, these laws were oral until the second century AD when they were codified by the Sanhedrin 56a, taking the form we see them today. A Gentile was righteous if he kept only these 7 laws. And they are:
1. Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
2. Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
3. Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4. Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: You shall not commit adultery.
5. Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God's name.
6. Prohibition of Cruelty to Animals: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4)
*cruelty to animals included a prohibition against blood
7. Requirement to have just Laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the preceding six laws fairly.

Gentiles needed only to learn about these and they would be considered righteous by any Jew. This is in no way a “primer to Judaism” as I’ve heard it described. They were in no way officially expected to learn the remainder of the 613 laws. 
This could very well represent the understanding of the Jews who were zealous for the law, including the Apostles. 

Some would ask, “What does this have to do with anything?” Well, in order to understand what James, who appears to regard both written and oral law in certain instances, did, one must understand where he was coming from. Selecting 4 points from the Old Covenant law to arbitrarily bind upon the Gentiles, or to bind on them as a primer to introduce the rest of the law later, was certainly not what he was doing.

The mistake the converts from a Pharisaical background kept making is they assumed Gentiles were converting to Judaism first in order to be Christians, thus subjecting them to the rest of the law - which they were not subject to.  That they would not be eventually brought in to the rest of the physical law is clearly evident in all of Paul's works and the words of James. 
(ACTS 15: 24) Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment.

So, the law of clean and unclean meats was most certainly not on its way later, as Armstrong professes vehemently. At the very least, if that were indeed so, we should hear something of it from Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin… somebody! We do not.

Here is another possibility. All four of those points were common in pagan rituals. 

As Paul pointed out time and time again, a Gentile convert would do well to avoid paganism.
In many places we see how God hates idolatry. God doesn’t hate idolatry by law; He hates it by nature of who He is – the true and Living God. Even if the covenant is removed, God by nature hates idolatry because a lie is contrary to God's nature; idolatry itself is a lie. 

All of these things mentioned in Acts 21: 25 are common practices in idolatry.

As an asside.. an interesting thing about the eating of blood - it was symbolic of Jesus’ sacrifice. In the blood is the life (GEN. 9: 4; LEV. 17: 11; DEU. 12: 23), and in Christ is Life (JOHN 1: 4; 14: 6; COL. 3: 4). All things belong to God. He gave us the use of meat for our bodies, but blood is only for the atonement of man to God.

In the Old Covenant we see this:
(LEV 17: 10-12) 10 ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’

 But now Christ tells us we SHOULD take that into us (symbolically):
(LUKE 22: 19-20) “19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

(JOHN 6: 52-58) “52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

Of course the Jews were quarreling. As with this debate on food laws, they saw things only in the Old Covenant terms, not in the New Covenant terms. So, we can see that the New Covenant is (at least symbolically) contrary to the Levitical prohibition. Even so, since animals were first given to Noah as food, God has never plainly condoned the ingesting of actual blood.

Going back to the original point, did Worldwide ever explain these things? No. They said, “[certain] meats were created unfit for human consumption," and left it at that. First, the Bible never says any “unclean” animal is “unfit for human consumption”. That isn’t a striving over words, it’s an important fact, since “unclean” means “ceremonially unclean”.  If we are to say these things were an abomination from the beginning, then we nullify Genesis 1: 31. If we are to say they were unclean from the beginning, then we nullify Romans 14: 14. In order to claim both of those things, without actually saying either of those things, the phrase “unfit for human consumption” was thrown in. The Jews do not teach 'food was unfit from the beginning'. No Jewish group that I am aware of teaches such. 

Worldwide would always quote Romans 3: 2 to bolster their theology when they were in symmetry with Jewish teachings. I wouldn’t suppose they will quote it in this instance.

There were two distinct groups in the early church: the Jewish converts – those Paul referred to as “of the circumcision”, about whom James remarks  “they are zealous for the law” (ACTS 21: 20) - and then there were the Gentile converts. It is clear that the two groups were indeed distinct. They were separate in conscience due to their backgrouns, but unified in Christ. 

Paul stopped in to Jerusalem and went to James. In Acts 21, James showed Paul all the converts from Judaism who were zealous for the law (verse 20). But those same Jewish converts were disturbed by what they heard about Paul’s teaching. And what disturbed them?
(ACTS 21: 21) 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.

They only cared if Paul was teaching THE JEWS to forsake the customs of Moses. They already knew what the church’s policy was towards the Gentiles.
(ACTS 21: 25) “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing [referring to the laws of Moses], except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 

Once again, they appear to be in line with Jewish teaching about the Mitzvahs and the Noahide laws. Yet some love to overlook that while they let slip judgment and condemnation, saying we must all observe all the laws of Moses (even while they themselves really do not).

Why was this decision made about the Gentiles in the first place? Because of Jewish converts to Christianity causing trouble among the Gentile converts, teaching them they had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.
(ACTS 15: 24) Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment

Notice what happened between Paul and James then:
(ACTS 21: 22-24) 22What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.

The Jewish converts in Jerusalem wanted to make sure Paul, a convert from Pharisaical Judaism, was keeping the law, including circumcision which we clearly see Paul did teach against - not that they wanted to make sure the Gentiles were doing these things. Paul had a policy about that sort of thing:
(I COR. 9: 19-20) “19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law” 

The Gentiles were already decided to not be under the law. Everyone understood that (almost). However, the zealous converts from Judaism were none too happy with Paul. James’ solution? Have Paul obey the ceremonial laws of washings, which even the Worldwide Church of God in all its zeal for the law teaches were done away with. Worldwide said, “Paul only taught against the ceremonial laws of washings and sacrifices and the keeping of Jewish traditions added throughout the years.” Yet those are exactly the things James coached Paul to keep here.

If Armstrong sees Acts 21: 22-24 as such proof of the law still being in effect, why then do we see Paul being compelled to keep the washings which Armstrong sees were done away with? And why was circumcision mentioned by James which was done away with? Also, if Paul kept the law so closely, why do we only one time ever see Paul returning to Jerusalem to keep the Holy Days while the temple still stood? If the law was in effect, wouldn’t he be obligated to travel there regularly while the temple still stood? Worldwide simply didn’t make very good arguments. I suspect the reason is because no one can show the whole Old Covenant is still in effect alongside the New without great wrangling and twisting, adding to and taking away from.

Now notice that these wonderful and law abiding zealots, who constantly beset Paul and the Gentiles with trouble, also then plotted to KILL Paul! We see that in the next several chapters, starting here in verse 27 of Acts 21. And for what did they insist on this evil? For supposedly, though not actually, taking a Gentile into a physical temple which they supposed to still yet house the spirit of God, not understanding whatsoever that God’s temple is in His faithful believers. 
Not that we can prove it, but according to tradition, James himself was killed by these same legal zealots after they failed to kill Paul.

I painfully conclude, being zealous for the law does not necessarily equal being zealous for God.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Sheet Vision

In an ongoing effort to investigate Armstrong's keeping of the clean and unclean meats laws, I would like to go over the Sheet Vision of Acts 10.

Not that anyone knows for certain, but some put the calling of Cornelius around 40AD. Peter was staying at the house of one Simon, a tanner, when God caused a centurion named Cornelius to send three of his servants (all of whom were Gentiles) to meet Peter.

9About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill [Strong's 2380 burn for ritual sacrifice] and eat." 14"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure [2839 ceremonially or morally unclean, common, polluted] or unclean [169 ceremonially or morally lewd or demonic]." 15The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure [2840 ceremonially or morally unclean, common, polluted] that God has made clean [2511 make clean, purge, purify]." 16This happened three times [one for each man coming to him], and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. 17While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate.

I want to draw your attention to the word “kill” in verse 13. It is not just kill, but to burn in sacrifice; yet again, food laws are associated with sacrificial laws. From the days of Adam, animals were separated for sacrifice. Now, God says to Peter “sacrifice even what was once the unclean.” To a Jew, this must have been utterly impossible to accept. To those who feel the foods laws are still in place, think of how it makes you feel now, and then multiply that by a billion.

“Peter had God’s Spirit, and certainly was as much an apostle as any man,” Armstrong argued, “shouldn’t he have been taught by Jesus that the food laws were no longer valid, if that were the case?” 
The answer is obvious: at the time of Jesus’ life the Gentiles were not called, but this vision shows that by Jesus’ death and life God had changed the paradigm.

The Worldwide Church of God taught that this took place 10 years after Jesus’ death. I’ve heard numbers as high as 20 years and as low as 3 years. This was most likely from 7-9 years after the death of Jesus. 
Should we use this very same logic, the “Peter didn’t know x years later” argument, then we must conclude that physical circumcision is still in force since he didn’t know about that, and Gentiles are not called since he obviously didn’t know about that either, as well as Talmud laws are still in force since he and several others continued to regarded those even 20 years past this point. Peter didn’t understand those things at this time. This logic cannot selectively apply to one area (meats) and not the others (Gentiles, circumcision, Talmud, marriage laws).

Is it any wonder Peter didn’t understand all things? Clearly he didn’t see Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 15 and Mark 7. When Jesus taught them He would be killed, and then it came to pass, what did Peter do? He went back to fishing (JOHN 21: 3). Peter is one of the men who asked the resurrected Jesus on the day He was taken up, (ACTS 1: 6) “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel”. Jesus simply did not teach everything the Apostles would need to know while He was alive, nor did they grasp it all. This is clear in His statement in John 14: 25-26 “25 These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Clearly, God was at this time teaching Peter something he did not previously receive (JOHN 16: 12-13). 

That lesson, I regret to add, Peter was not always straightforward in following even 20 years after the death of Jesus as we read in Galatians 2: 11-14. He was eating with the Gentiles, in a manner that he knew the Jewish converts would not approve of. But he regarded their opinion more than he regarded the calling of the Gentiles.

(GAL. 2: 11-14) “11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”

We can see even further that Peter had no understanding at the time of Acts 10 about Gentile cleansing by the first words out of his mouth to Cornelius in Acts 10: 28, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.” 
ONLY this vision gave Peter any inkling of any removal of the rules against associating with Gentiles, so therefore it most certainly did change things. It was not something Jesus taught them before this day. Certainly it is clear that no one else at that time understood either, because the first thing the people said to Peter when he returned to Jerusalem to tell about his experience was “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (ACTS 11: 3). Those who were zealous for the law were offended and accusing him of sin and betraying not only the food laws of Moses but the circumcision laws of Abraham. 

It is clear that Jesus openly and plainly taught no one about the calling of the Gentiles, yet the Gentiles are called. The argument that “Peter wasn’t taught meats are cleansed by Jesus, therefore meats are not cleansed” is completely invalidated. People who make this claim often haven’t the foggiest idea what a great many and very strict rules there were in Judaism to separate them from the Gentiles, both in the Torah and in the Talmud. It wasn’t just food by any means, but food and rules against intermarriage were the main separators. The symbolism of the unclean animals includes separation. The animals were separated from them as unclean (LEV. 20: 25).

According to Worldwide’s own theology, “God instituted His law of clean and unclean to show the difference between His people and the nations around them.” 

Absolutely correct! This is how some of the Jews understand it as well. However, we now know there is no substantive difference in God’s eyes any longer.
(GAL. 3: 28) “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

All of these separations were wiped away – including the intermarriage between Jew and Gentile (especially between Christ and His Church). If the separators weren’t removed, the Apostles, being Jews, couldn’t go to the Gentiles effectively. If they weren’t wiped away, what Paul corrected Peter for in Galatians would have been normal behavior. Remember, Peter was the original Apostle to the Gentiles (ACTS 15: 7). Is it any wonder Paul took over that spot (GAL. 2: 8)?

Until that time, all who preached the gospel went to the Jews only:
(ACTS 11: 19) “19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.” 

Of course that’s what they did. The gospel was to the Jew first, then the Gentile (ROM. 1: 16). But at that time they simply didn’t understand. Peter said to God, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” Peter never went into a Gentile’s house until that time either. Yet he was about to. And he was about to eat with them. Peter ate with uncircumcised men!
 
Now, let me inform you of a little known fact about the clean/unclean meats laws as practiced – it was (and still very much is in some circles) considered an offense for anyone who is neither Jewish nor seeking to become a proselyte to Judaism to keep the food laws. Many Jews consider that a sign between them and God only. All Gentiles are discouraged from even attempting to keep the food laws. There are 613 laws in the Torah, given by Moses, called mitzvahs, which are binding on the Jews. However, there are only 7 laws binding on the Gentiles, called the 7 Noachide laws. The food laws were not among them. So, Peter ate with men who were not keeping the food laws! Now, in all honesty and candor no one can claim to know what Peter ate. But the opposite is also true – no one can claim to know what he didn’t eat. Best chances are however, in a Gentile house that until a few hours beforehand he felt was forbidden for him to enter, he ate something unclean.

“But Peter’s reaction to the vision clearly showed that the Gentiles are now called,” one would argue, “it doesn’t clearly show meats are cleansed”. Yes, Gentiles, the reality to the shadow, are cleansed. And no it does not clearly show this. That is correct. But one must take the evidence as a whole. This is only one specific area of the Bible. We cannot prove nor disprove the entire meats argument here - this is supporting evidence only.
Take circumcision for example - the other great physical sign given to physical Israel; commanded from the days of Abraham himself. The first people Peter reported his experience to complained that he ate with uncircumcised men. Later we learn that circumcision of the flesh was done away with – however we have no direct command from God showing Paul this was so. The evidence must be taken as a whole. 
So this argument then becomes completely undone. Gentile separation and circumcision are shown as being done away with, yet not all in one place. Even so, nothing separates Jew from Gentile now in God’s eyes. But we are to believe the unclean meats laws are still in effect? This makes no sense!

What did Peter see? Gentiles? No, he saw unclean beasts of all sorts. What did God ask him to do? Go to the Gentiles? No, God asked him to sacrifice and eat. How much more clear can you get than that?? Is God a liar? Does God tempt us to sin? What did Peter say to three direct commands from God? “No.” And we side with Peter against God, as if God didn’t know what He was talking about but Peter did, as if God were asking Peter to sin? “God never rebuked Peter,” Worldwide says. As if saying no to God and getting away with it makes it alright. However God most certainly did get after Peter.
(ACTS 10: 15) “15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’”

Yet some still insist “God was not talking about meats.” If the vision wasn’t about meats, why did Peter respond about what he put in his mouth? I conclude God most certainly was talking about meats – if the vision wasn’t enough to convince people, then He was talking about meats by associating them with Gentiles.
Some quote Acts 10: 28 “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Then they say, “See? Peter concluded that he should call no MAN common or unclean.” And so God did instruct Peter as such. What God has cleansed we should not call common. Obviously God’s point in the vision was primarily about men. The disconnect is some people claim it is only about men, which makes little sense given the weight of other Bible verses touching this subject. They forget Peter was a Jew and believed the meats laws didn’t apply to Cornelius anyhow. Why mention them, then?

If the meats had nothing to do with the equation, why did God use them in the vision? Why not use some other symbol, for example seas or perhaps Gentiles? But if meats represented Gentiles here, why not let the Bible interpret the Bible and see that meats represent Gentiles, and most likely have represented the Gentiles since the day God instructed Moses concerning them. It was the food laws that worked the front line on the separation of the Jew from the Gentile. Now that separation is abolished by a miracle of God. Why then the continued need for the separator? Also think about this, if the meats are a shadow of the Gentiles, and the Gentiles (the reality) are cleansed, then how can one reason the meats (the shadow cast by the reality) are not cleansed? Can a fountain give fresh water and impure water? Can a cleansed reality cast an unclean shadow? Not possible!

Look at Peter’s reaction to the vision – he wondered about its meaning. The Worldwide Church of God asks, “If the meaning of the vision was so simple as to cleanse all foods, why did Peter wonder about the meaning?” Two things: 
First, this wasn’t so simple as foods; that statement is misleading. It was a sea change in God’s direction unheard of for 1,400+ years. Things are being changed here that went back before the law and the prophets all the way to Abraham. While Jesus was alive as a man, He challenged the Talmud openly. Now He is challenging the Old Covenant and the calling of the Jews only.
Second, any man would wonder. The proven fact that Peter did not understand up until this point makes that his obvious natural human reaction. Most certainly he marveled at what God was doing. We can imagine what went through his mind. “Could it be so? Is God really doing this? It was against all the law – what else does this change?”

And what was his conclusion? Peter did not previously understand the New Covenant, or the gospel, or even God’s love. Now he does – just that much more.
(ACTS 10: 34-35) "34Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."

He knew the Jews were no longer separated.

“The vision was of God, but the vision was symbolic,” they argue. You find me one vision that isn’t symbolic! Much of the book of Revelation is symbolic. Of course it was symbolic! But that doesn’t give us license to undo what God was doing. What a weak argument this is.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feast of Tabernacles 2008

I used to keep the Feast of Tabernacles with the scattered Armstrong churches. I would have been in Panama City, Florida right now having an incredible vacation. I seriously miss the people and the fellowship and the 'spirit' that was certainly there. It wasn't just a vacation for me, though in effect that is what it is.

Who can fault people who seriously want to be godly people? Who can say anything against people who pray to be Christlike and led by God, and be good examples of Christianity? In listening in to services this morning I heard deeply, honestly believing people who believe what they do because they feel they see it in the Bible. They genuinely believe they follow Christ and refer to Him as the Head over all things to His Church. They concern themselves with a close relationship from the heart with God. It's beautiful!

Let me tell you a little about the people I used to fellowship with. These are people who do not elevate Herbert Armstrong. They do not play his recordings nor quote him nor refer to him often. They see themselves as being a group who owes much to the Worldwide Church of God, but they see many flaws and shortcomings in the old teachings. They seek to correct those errors. Everyone who still speaks to me only has good and kind words to say to me; filled with hope that my family and I will work out whatever we are going through and return to their family. Is this condemnation? No! They do not condemn at all in the way most certainly anyone doing what I am doing would be ensured of in the old days. I have NO condemnation in return for these people and I am not bitter against them. I cannot help but love them deeply and rarely a moment goes by when I do not miss them.

Why separate myself then? Because it's not so simple as to say "circumcision is of the heart". Circumcision must actually be of the heart. I hope you understand what I mean by that. As much as I firmly believe that these people are not far from the Kingdom of God [I know that you sneak in here from time to time to read - I do not say this to flatter you.. I mean it], there are some points which simply cannot be ignored or paid lip service to. I do have deep, fundamental disagreements with Armstrong's basic theories; and to those theories it is undeniable that all COGs cling. It is the base and foundation of all they believe. One can say they follow Christ and not a man, but what one says is inconsequential compared to what really is. There is an old saying, "perception is reality". I think a change in perception is desperately needed.

What are some differences? See any post here at my blog discussing 'law vs. grace' or 'cherry-picking', or 'legalism'. I recommend reading Three Times in the Year parts 1 and 2. A good summation is my post on Old Covenant vs New Covenant
You see, I believe that the Old Covenant was not just expanded but completely superseded by the New Covenant. This is contrary to Armstrongism. For decades I could not grasp the concept of the removal of the Sabbath and Holy Days. "Sin is the transgression of the law;" I would say, "without those things how can I know what sin is so that I can avoid it?" I didn't want to be the one left behind while the other was taken. I didn't want weeping and gnashing of teeth. Since these are the verses often read to keep the minds in line through fear. They talk a wonderful game about Christ and salvation and peace and being part of God's Family. I really wanted those things. I still want those things! Then one day it became inescapable that within Armstrong's attempt to reconcile the Old Covenant with the New, there were irreconcilable errors. When Paul says in Galatians 3: 10 and again in Galatians 5: 2 also James says in James 2: 10 that anyone who attempts to keep the law but does not keep the whole law, that one has fallen from grace and is under a curse. Even the COGs read these verses. However, they say "Look! You have to keep the Old Covenant law!" To which I often have asked "Then why on God's green earth don't you keep the whole law??"
Christ, whom they say is the Head over all things to them, becomes NOTHING in that case. "...for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (GAL. 2: 21)! How much LESS then does righteousness come through a partial keeping of the law? Even so, to compensate for this short falling I was often told "Herbert Armstrong changed the law by necessity". No man can change the law!!

(GAL. 3: 1-5) 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you  as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Is this "using liberty as an opportunity for the flesh" (GAL. 5: 13)? Not at all! There is still law - an even better, greater, magnified law! Only not the Old Covenant shadowy, burdensome, temporary law. There is reality. There is salvation. There is justification. There is true righteousness. NONE of those things came or could come through the Old Covenant law, and most especially not from a cherry-picked and incomplete keeping of that law. Paul says that FALSE brethren taught such a keeping of the law (GAL. 2: 4). And why? To keep people in bondage and to prevent them from achieving the freedom of the New Covenant!

I heard a message that said such and such are the rewards Christ will bring to you. Then this disclaimer was added: IF you are among those who are being spoken about. What do you mean IF?? How can one know? Haven't you ever asked yourself why you can never be sure if you've 'qualified'? The clear and certain answer is that no one can "qualify"! But you know that it is a gift. No one receives the reward because they've earned it. But then, why do you try to earn it? You say it is a gift, and you are right. But then you say the gift will only be given to those who keep the law. So you then you immediately turn right around and make it no longer a gift. 

Here is the logic:
It's a gift that no one deserves; but to get it you need to keep the law; so you must qualify for it; but no man keeps the law fully so no one qualifies; so the law isn't the qualifier since Jesus' grace is needed; then it must be by faith; but if so, then it is a gift apart from the law; but you need to keep the law in order to qualify; but no man keeps the law fully so no one qualifies; so the law isn't the qualifier; then..... and round and round it goes.
Or do you see that as the old way? The new way goes like this: 
It is a gift that no one deserves - you just get it. However, if you don't keep the law you will LOSE that gift. 
Is that how you feel? Don't you see that this is no different from the "old way" of viewing it. You still have set up the law as a qualification - only now it's not for the receiving but for keeping the gift. So therefore you wonder if you actually have kept the gift or thrown it away in a moment of weakness.

Let me offer you this what I think I see to answer your dilemma. It is a gift indeed; undeserved indeed. Not by law and not by qualification. It is a gift by PROMISE! There is no qualification to be met save accepting Christ as Lord and proclaiming as much. (I suggest reading my post By This All Will Know.)

(GAL. 3: 16-18) 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

So Christ is the inheritor and object of the promise. How, then does it come to us?

(GAL. 3: 26-29) 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

You are heirs NOW! In Christ, by faith - NOW! One with Christ NOW! Will there be things to come? Will there be a reward Christ will bring at His second coming? Certainly! But at that point the guarantee is already past. The inheritance is already sure. It should be no surprise to you whether or not Christ comes for you. So how do you know? By the evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in you. And that Spirit does not come by the law.

Yet many of you would say "I have that now". Do you? Are you so certain? Why, if you have that now, do you look forward to a time years in the future when you will share oneness and peace with God? Have you not read?

(I COR. 10: 16-17) 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
(EPH. 5: 23, 30) 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. ... 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 
(GAL. 2: 20) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 
(REV. 3: 20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

If the Spirit is in you, then you are one with Christ at this moment. Is this not a closeness? I know that one would say the closeness doesn't compare to that promised in the future. But I would respond that you shouldn't discount the closeness we have now. Don't lessen it because it perhaps is less by comparison. Let me show you something even further!
(I COR. 3: 16) Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you
(I COR. 6: 19) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

IF you are the temple and that Spirit is in you, then this verse takes on a whole new meaning:
(JOHN 14: 2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
You no doubt hear that at every Feast. You no doubt are told this will happen at some future point after Christ returns. But in the New Covenant understanding, taking all of the previous verses we have just read above, let's look at this more closely. A "mansion" is a dwelling place, a residence, an abode. It is a place where God lives. In God's house there are many places -not for YOU to live in, but for for HIM to live in. What is "God's house"? Is it not His temple? What's more than that - is it not His Church (EPH. 2: 19; HEB. 3: 6; I PET. 2: 5; I PET. 4: 17)? So we see here that Christ had to leave to prepare a place for God in us. Have we not achieved that now? Certainly we have! When did we receive it? When the Spirit came. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (JOHN 16: 7). John 16 explains this so well. Jesus had to depart to prepare a place for us in God's household. And He has prepared that place even now. The deposit of the final fulfilment of that is the presence of the Spirit in us - God's presence... in us.. now. We are the place that was prepared in God's household and God has come in and made His abode with us.

Do you see the incredible difference in the way Armstrong views scripture - future, distant, unsure - and the alternative? It is a gift. It is a promise. Am I saying there is no way to lose the gift? Certainly not. Reject it and it will be taken back for sure. How do you reject it, in a moment of weakness? Hardly! One must grow into it over a lifetime. To reject it you have to both accept it to begin with, then willfully turn completely from it without repentance. But for the COGs the real question is have you ever accepted it in the first place? You say you have the Spirit in you, and I pray you do, but with your words you show those things have yet to occur.

While you who are still in the COGs are at the Feast or if you have just come home, or whenever you read this, think of the Feast of Tabernacles. Think of the first resurrection for which you strive to achieve. What amount of risk are you willing to take that you might lose part in this resurrection? For what would you trade a share in the glory of Christ? For a man? For a group of friends? If you do not love Christ MORE than family, friends, and even self, then you are not worthy of Him (MATT. 10: 37). You know this. Then you know why I had to separate myself from Armstrongism. Are you so certain that Galatians is not referring to you? That you can sit on a fence between the Covenants and not offend both? That you can achieve by the Old Covenant law all those many things the New Testament clearly shows you will never receive from the Old Covenant law? Are you certain you should bury your head to these things and cover your ears and cry DECEPTION! DECEPTION!  Have you proven? If you will not look or seek or ask, then in what way have you proven??

You don't have to stop keeping the Feast. (Although, it's probably better that you do.) Just stop keeping the Old Covenant law and step boldly into the New Covenant. If you so deeply desire to fellowship with old friends at the Feast, then go. However, go in newness of Spirit rather than in the oldness of the letter. Don't believe that righteousness can come of keeping the law. If you want a happy Feast, certainly this is the only way to truly achieve it.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant

Got this from Tentmaker.org. I have seen it elsewhere on the COG blogs, but I thought I would like to have a copy here. (Not that this is an endorsement of everything on Tentmaker.org; I just think they did a fabulous job with this material.)

It gets to the root of what I think the major error of Armstrongism is: that HWA tried to resurrect the Old Covenant, but it cannot be resurrected and shoehorned into the New Covenant. All he accomplished was a cherry-picked version of the law, which is not good for anything. In fact, it could very well be quite harmful to its adherants.

Mosaic CovenantNew Covenant
Old covenant II Cor. 3:14New covenant II Cor. 3:6
First covenant Heb. 8:7, 9:1Second covenant Heb. 8:7, 10:1-9
Came by Moses John 1:17Came by Christ Heb. 8:6, 9:15
Law of Moses Acts 13:38-39Law of Christ Gal. 6:2
Law of sin Rom. 7:5-6Law of righteousness Rom. 9:30-31
Law of the flesh Rom. 7:5-6Law of the Spirit Rom. 8:2
Not of faith Gal. 3:2Law of faith Rom. 3:27
Yoke of bondage Gal. 5:1Law of liberty Jam. 1:25
Ended by Christ Rom. 10:4Established by Christ Heb. 8:6, 10:9
Law of death II Cor. 3:7Law of life Gal. 3:11, 6:8
Entangles Gal. 5:1Makes free John 8:32, 36
A shadow Col. 2:14-17The reality Heb. 10:1-18
Fulfilled Mat. 5:17-18Now in force Heb. 8:6, 10:9
Leaves imperfect Heb. 7:19Makes perfect Heb. 7:19
Glorious II Cor. 3:7More glorious II Cor. 3:8-10
Powerless to save Heb. 9:9, 10:4Saves to uttermost Heb. 7:25
Many sacrifices Heb. 9:12-13One sacrifice for sin Heb. 10:12
Temporary priest Heb. 7:23Eternal priest Heb. 7:17
Remembers sins Heb. 10:3Forgets sins Heb. 8:12, 10:17
Yearly atonement Heb. 10:3Eternal atonement Heb. 10:14
Priests have sin Heb. 5:1-4Sinless priest Heb. 7:26
Aaronic priesthood >Heb. 7:11Melchisedec priesthood Heb. 5:5-10, 7:21
Out of Levi Heb 7:11Out of Judah Heb. 7:14
Animal sacrifices Heb. 9:12Human sacrifice Heb. 9:14-28
Earthly tabernacle Heb. 9:2Heavenly tabernacle Heb. 8:2
Imperfect mediator Gal. 3:19Sinless mediator I Tim. 2:5
No inheritance Rom. 4:13Eternal inheritance Heb. 9:15
Instituted upon animal blood Heb. 9:16-22Instituted upon blood of Christ Mat. 26-28
Law of works Rom. 3:27Law of grace and faith John 1:17
Works wrath Rom. 4:15Saves from wrath Rom. 5:9
Non-redeeming Heb. 10:4Redeems Gal. 3:13, Heb. 9:12-15
Non-pleasing Ps. 40:6Pleasing to God Heb 10:5-18
Abolishment predicted Is. 51:6Establishment predicted Heb. 8:7
Circumcision Ex. 12:48No circumcision Rom. 4:9-12
Made to change Heb. 7:12, Gal. 3:25Made eternal Heb. 13:20
Faulty Heb. 8:7Perfect James 1:25
Weak Heb. 7:18Strong Heb. 7:25
Unprofitable Heb. 7:18Profitable Heb. 7:19,25
Natural program Heb. 9:10-14Spiritual program II Cor. 3:6, 18
Daily program Heb. 7:27Finished program Heb. 10:10-18
Infirm high priests Heb. 5:2, 7:28Perfect high priest Heb. 7:26
Made priests by law Heb. 7:12, 28Made priests by an oath Heb. 7:21, 28
No salvation Heb. 10:2-4Eternal salvation Heb. 5:9, 10:10
Perfected nothing Heb. 7:19Perfects believers Heb. 7:19, 10:14
Earthly priests Heb. 5:1-4Heavenly priest Heb. 9:24, 10:12
Repeated inability Heb. 10:11Glorious success Heb. 10:10-18
Many offerings Heb. 9:7One offering Heb. 10:10-14
Good promises Dt. 28:1-14Better promises Heb. 8:6
A good covenant Rom 7:12A better covenant Heb. 7:22, 8:6
Many high priests Heb. 7:23One high priest Heb. 7:24-28
Typical tabernacle Heb. 9True tabernacle Heb. 8:2, 9:11
No mercy Heb. 10:28Complete mercy Heb. 8:12
Handmade things Heb. 9:1-5, 24Not handmade Heb. 9:23-24
An old way Heb. 8:13New and living way Heb. 10:19-20
Unavailing ministers Heb. 7:18Able ministers II Cor. 3:6
Carnal ministry Heb. 9:9-10Spiritual ministry II Cor. 3:6
Ministration of condemnation II Cor. 3:9Ministration of righteousness II Cor. 3:9
Glory covered II Cor. 3:13Glory uncovered II Cor. 3:18
Brings bondage Gal. 4:24-25Brings liberty II Cor. 3:17
Cannot justify Gal. 2:16Does justify Acts 13:38-39
Brings a curse Gal. 3:10Redeems from the curse Gal. 3:13
Live by works Gal 3:10Live by faith Gal. 3:11
Cannot give life Gal. 3:21Does give life John 6:63-68
Exposes sin Gal 3:19Covers sin Rom. 4:1-8
Under law Rom 6:14-15Under grace Gal. 3:22-25
Done away II Cor. 3:7-14Not done away II Cor. 3:11
Abolished II Cor. 3:13Continues glorious II Cor. 3:11
Ministry of death II Cor. 3:7Reconciliation ministry II Cor. 5:18
For Israel only Dt. 4:7-8, 5:3For all men Luke 22:20, Mark 14:24

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Quotes

I've been doing some light reading today and I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes with you.  

"But who today understands what the prophets foretold? Why, only the ministers today whose word comes to pass!-those who are appointed and guided by God to preach the truth! Those whose utterances do not come to pass have not spoken the prophecies truly. We give you here the record of what we have been proclaiming for the past 2 years-a message which no other voices, to our knowledge, have been proclaiming.... But what we have been warning you about is happening!-precisely as we have stated.... This is how you can know that our work is not of men but of God!" 
(The Plain Truth, Dec. 1956, p. 3.)

"There is no other church or work on the face of this earth that either understands or dares to proclaim these vital warnings!... This is the very Work of God!... You are now being warned!" 
(The Plain Truth, Roderick Meredith, Aug. 1957, p. 6.)

"We have been daring, as no other church on earth, to proclaim definite, specific prophetic events to occur-and they have been happening!... For the specific prophesied events which this Church alone proclaims will soon be demonstrated as a physical reality! There will be no reasoning or argument about this. You will see and feel these things happen!" 
(The Plain Truth, Rod Meredith, June 1959, p. 32.)

"It doesn't take an understanding of certain 'Bible doctrine,' or necessary agreement with it, to admit to yourself candidly that what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was faithfully proclaiming back before, during and right at the close of World War II, and what he and others who have since come to join him in this great work of God have been proclaiming day in and day out ever since-is actually happening before your very eyes!" 
(The Plain Truth, Ted Armstrong, Nov. 1962, p. 21.)

"We do not set dates!... Yet in our human zeal and enthusiasm for getting this greatest mission on earth done, we have a few times come close to it or appeared to-and that we deeply regret...if we...appear to set a date, I feel I do not need to apologize!" 
(Tomorrow's World, Herbert Armstrong, Feb. 1972, p. 31.)

"[We prophesied in] fifteen years the U.S.A. will no longer be a nation, and 15 years has come and gone. Was that a mistake or not? Yes!"
(Garner Ted Armstrong - speaking at a ministerial conference, January 1974)


(DEU. 18: 20-2220 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— 22when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.


Bill Hughes assembled these for us and I simply cherry-picked (d'oh!) these certain ones to post here for you because of their hard-hitting nature.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Word Was With God

In support of my friend Seeker of Truth over at As Bereans Did, I am posting about Jesus' preexistence. I'd like to look closely at John 1: 1.

(JOHN 1:1) [Greek] en archê ên ho logos kai ho logos ên pros ton theon kai theos ên ho logos
(JOHN 1: 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This document will explore, in depth, the meanings of the Greek words used in John 1: 1, and their English translation and usage. It will look at the verse in three parts: part 1 – in the beginning was the Word, part 2 – and the Word was with God, and finally part 3 – and the Word was God. This is going to be a word-study, so it may be a bit heady. I tried to make it as plain and easy to understand as possible.

I seek to show how at the time of the first creation the Logos already existed. And at that time, the Logos was toward, or to, or in an active and involved relationship with God – which can be none other than God Almighty the Father. And at the time of creation the Word was God – not THE God or A God.. just 'God' (Elohim, if you will). We will also see how the ‘Jesus as created being’ doctrine has no support here.

PART 1: In the beginning was the Word

[Gr] en archê ên ho logos
[En] In the very beginning of all creation the Word already was. 

To read over this statement quickly, one gets the sense that at the time of the beginning, the word was there. In the English, it takes an additional leap of logic to consider the Word already was there BEFORE the beginning. But this is exactly what this statement says in the Greek. Let’s look at it word by word, phrase by phrase.

"en"

Strong's Greek 1722 
 ἐν
Thayer Definition:
1) in, by, with etc.
Part of Speech: preposition

'En' denotes a specific point in time. We now consider the exact timing of whatever comes after it.

"arche"

Strong's Greek 746
ἀρχή
Thayer Definition:
1) beginning, origin
2) the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader
3) that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause
4) the extremity of a thing
4a) of the corners of a sail
5) the first place, principality, rule, magistracy
5a) of angels and demons
Part of Speech: noun feminine

'Arche', in this sentence, is the beginning of the creation. Whatever came first – angels, water, air, energy, etc. – is not important (if you must know, we can assume this is angelic, since later in the chapter the logos is shown as having created all that was created). What is important here is the timing. ‘Arche’ is the beginning, and “en arche” is the specific moment of the start of all creation. Although the Greek doesn’t say “the” before arche, “in the beginning” is translated well enough since it is implied that this is the very farthest beginning possible.

For further background about the idea of 'arche' as Greek culture during John's time may have known it:
In the ancient Greek philosophy, arche is the beginning or the first principle of the world.
The idea of an arche was first philosophized by Thales of Melitus, who claimed that the first principle of all things is water. His theory was supported by the observation of moisture throughout the world and coincided with his theory that the earth floated on water.
Thales' theory was refuted by his successor and pupil, Anaximander. Anaximander noted that water could not be the arche because it could not give rise to its opposite, fire. Anaximander claimed that none of the elements (earth, fire, air, water) could be arche for the same reason. Instead, he proposed the existence of the apeiron, an indefinite substance from which all things are born and to which all things will return. [energy?]
Anaximenes, Anaximander's pupil, advanced yet another theory. He returns to the elemental theory, but this time posits air, rather than water, as the arche. Anaximenes suggests that all is made from air through either rarefication or condensation (probably meaning thinning and thickening). Rarefied, air becomes fire; condensed, it becomes first wind, then cloud, water, earth, and stone in order.

"en"

Strong's Greek 2258
ἦν
Thayer Definition:
1) I was, etc.
Part of Speech: verb

Notice this is a different 'en' than before.

“En” is a timeless word, it doesn’t state or point to a specific time at all, it simply shows that previous to whenever we are referring to something was. And the time we refer to is ‘in the beginning’, “en arche”. So, previous to the very beginning, something already was.

John refers to the Word in this manner all the way up to verse 14 where the Word “was made” [ginomai] is used. Being timeless, no matter how hard we try, we cannot conclude there ever was a time when the Logos was not in existence. This information is not available. Even so, this one ‘became’ incarnate flesh at a definite point - yet how long this one “was” before that point is not given (nor either can it be given).

"ho"

Strong's Greek 3588
ὁ / ἡ / τό
ho / hē / to
Thayer Definition:
1) the definite article, “the” in its masculine, feminine or neuter gender
2) the demonstrative pronoun
Examples:
“this”
“that”
“these”
Part of Speech: definite article or demonstrative pronoun in all their inflections. The specific part of speech is dependent upon the context

‘Ho’ means “the”; ‘ho’ is masculine.

"logos"

Strong's Greek 3056
λόγος
Thayer Definition:
1) of speech
1a) a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea
1b) what someone has said
1b1) a word
1b2) the sayings of God
1b3) decree, mandate or order
1b4) of the moral precepts given by God
1b5) Old Testament prophecy given by the prophets
1b6) what is declared, a thought, declaration, aphorism, a weighty saying, a dictum, a maxim
1c) discourse
1c1) the act of speaking, speech
1c2) the faculty of speech, skill and practice in speaking
1c3) a kind or style of speaking
1c4) a continuous speaking discourse - instruction
1d) doctrine, teaching
1e) anything reported in speech; a narration, narrative
1f) matter under discussion, thing spoken of, affair, a matter in dispute, case, suit at law
1g) the thing spoken of or talked about; event, deed
2) its use as respect to the MIND alone
2a) reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating
2b) account, i.e. regard, consideration
2c) account, i.e. reckoning, score
2d) account, i.e. answer or explanation in reference to judgment
2e) relation, i.e. with whom as judge we stand in relation
2e1) reason would
2f) reason, cause, ground
3) In John, denotes the essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.
Part of Speech: noun masculine

The 'Logos' – universally accepted to be Jesus the Christ; the representative, the expression, the messenger, the spokesman – the Logos.

When we read ‘en archê ên ho logos’, we read that at the very moment of the beginning of creation, the Logos already existed.


PART 2: and the Word was with God

kai ho logos ên pros ton theon
And [at the beginning of creation] the Word [already was] in a relationship with God.

"kai"

Strong's Greek 2532
καί
Thayer Definition:
1) and, also, even, indeed, but
Part of Speech: conjunction

'Kai' simply means “and”

Using the words from Part 1, we can see “kai ho logos en” means “and the Word was”. Again the Word “was”. The Word was from some unspecifiable eternity in existence. If we use the context of the beginning of the sentence as a reference point, we can conclude that ‘at the beginning of creation, and for some unspecified length of time before that, the Word was’… something.

"pros ton"

Strong's Greek 4314
πρός
Thayer Definition:
1) to the advantage of
2) at, near, by
3) to, towards, with, with regard to
Part of Speech: preposition
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: a strengthened form of G4253

Christ has always given men direction toward God in all He did. Similar to the prefix ‘pro’, it means ‘in support of’ (like pro-life, for example). And it denotes an active, involved relationship is in place.

Some try to take the word “pros” and apply a definition to it meaning “out of” or “away from”. They say the Logos is simply the spoken word of God Almighty, and it went out from Him from the beginning. This is demonstrably false. Unfortunately, in the "against God" claim we only see the only word ‘pros’. But the phrase is actually “pros ton”.
In the Greek, even when "pros ton" means "against" it still means "towards". Why? Because, the idea is to be face to face against something. Even if you are against something, you are still facing or pointing in its direction.

‘Pros’ has 35 different English translations; almost all indicate movement toward someone or something. Now, notice some things about the phrase ‘pros ton’. The phrase ‘pros ton’ appears 13 times in the New Testament - 3 times it is translated “with”, 10 times “to”, “unto”, “toward”, and “against” (but to be against someone, you are still moving toward them).

(ACTS 4: 24) toward God
(ACTS 12: 5) unto God
(REV. 13: 6) against God

In translating the phrase ‘pros ton’ in a manner denoting direction away from, certain ones have injected their own philosophy into the phrase where it has no place. It cannot mean such a thing.

Finally, the phrase is translated “with”, but the Greek doesn’t say ‘with’ (although ‘with’ isn’t exactly wrong, it is very weak). The Logos wasn’t near or in association, but He was ‘toward’, ‘to’, or ‘in a relationship with’. The use of “with” is most likely a product of the translator’s belief in the Trinity doctrine.

In the very beginning of creation, the Word already was in a relationship with, or pointing us to… something.

"theon"

Strong's Greek 2316
θεός
Thayer Definition:
1) a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities
2) the Godhead, trinity
2a) God the Father, the first person in the trinity
2b) Christ, the second person of the trinity
2c) Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity
3) spoken of the only and true God
3a) refers to the things of God
3b) his counsels, interests, things due to him
4) whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way
4a) God’s representative or viceregent
4a1) of magistrates and judges
Part of Speech: noun masculine

‘Theos’ means “god”. Not THE God, or any specific god for that matter, just ‘god’. Two main words are translated “God” throughout the New Testament: kurios and theos. So the Word was in an active relationship with whom? God. Which God? The Bible makes that clear elsewhere – God the Father; THE God. Jesus was timelessly ‘with’ God Almighty. Meaning from time without beginning the Word was in a relationship with the Almighty God, facing the Almighty God, pointing us to the Almighty God. 

This has the benefit of showing the distinction of the two beings. They are not the same, yet they were always together.

When we read “kai ho logos ên pros ton theon”, we read “and from the very beginning of creation the Word already was in a relationship with the Almighty God, pointing toward the Almighty God”.


PART 3: and the Word was God

kai theos ên ho logos
And [at the very beginning of creation] the Word was already God.

Now, since all of these words have been defined and discussed in parts 1 and 2, we need not define them further. Except there is yet something to notice here. “Ho” is the article whose English translation is “the”. Notice the word “theos” has no such definite article. It is “anarthrous”, meaning it has no article.

The lack of an article before theos and the presence of one before logos clearly shows logos as being the subject, therefore John is not introducing the Almighty God (who later is shown to be the Father), but he introduces the Logos. The Father is not the subject in parts 1 or 2 either. We can conclude the Word is being spoken of throughout this sentence.

In a move that simply had to be intentional, John leaves out the article. This does not have the side-effect of dismissing the Trinity doctrine, as I once believed. In a proper understanding of the Trintiy doctrine, the two are distinct, yet one. Even so, it doesn't handily prove the Trinity doctrine either.
It does handily dispose of the ‘Jesus as a created being’ doctrine (arianism) by claiming the Word was eternally God.

The lack of article displays that theos shows the nature of logos, not his identity. Since logos is theos, Jesus is clearly God. Not THE God, not even A God, but simply God. 'Elohim', if you will.

John calls Jesus ‘theos’, as he calls the Father ‘theos’. This is not the same as the Greek word “theion” (notice the I in theion), which would indicate a divine nature, that is to say what the logos consists of. To describe what something consists of we would have to use the word ‘hypostasis’. But the word is “theos”, which would indicate He IS God. And the phrase doesn’t use an adjective, so it doesn’t imply Christ was ‘like’ God. He is God.

There is also the presence of the word “was”, ‘en’, again. This is just as timeless as always. From even before the beginning of creation, the Word was God.

When we read “theos en ho logos”, we read “the Word [subject] was [timeless, from before the beginning of creation] God [theos – not THE theos, or even A theos, just theos].”

CONCLUSION

We’ve seen how at the time of creation (whether angelic or physical is unimportant) the Logos already existed. And at that time, the Logos was toward, or to, or in an active and involved relationship with God – which can be none other than God Almighty the Father. And at the time of creation the Word was God.
We have also seen how the ‘Jesus as created being’ doctrine are shown to have no support here.

A summary transliteration of John 1 and verse 1:

"At the very time of the beginning of the very first creation the Word already existed, and at that time the Word was already in fellowship with God Almighty, and at that time the Word was already God."


Helpful reference: