The Biblical Notion Of Need

The Biblical Notion of Need

A compilation of articles and responses to the

problem of benevolent acts within the church proper

James A. Sterling, D. Min.

May 24, 2017

Within the Scriptures, a model is clearly established for God’s defining, application and ultimate purpose for need in a broken world.  Cries of pain and grief are common throughout Scripture as the beginning of a process to the understanding of a genuine, personal need.  Yet, this is quite different to the modern concept of simply realizing one’s desires and melding it to an actual need.  Thus, society has entrenched us in the secular idea that want constitutes need.  This has leaked into the assembly of Christ and surfaces ever so frequently in the name of ministry, outreach, and otherwise.

In the Bible, people who finally realized their separation from His Holiness could only cry out for mercy and pardon.  In doing so, they would decisively turn from the sinful lifestyles and worldviews in which they were participating.  This included, but was not limited to, idol worship and those who continued to willingly participate in wickedness.  Additionally, scriptural references show us that meeting the need of an individual was the prelude to introducing them to their real need: salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The only direction for the truly needy person to turn is toward a radically different life of worship.  This includes a dismantling of the old lifestyle and a creation of a new life.

Thus, we face a modern dilemma of true needs verses ‘false’ needs, which will also be referenced as ‘wants’.  From whence lies the difference?  Consider if it is a factual statement in that ‘real’ needs first call mankind to humility, faith and prayer, then a ‘false’ need in any cloak will do exactly the opposite.  False needs have no call to faith, no call to prayer, and no desire to consult the Lord.  The desire becomes an unjustified declaration of “I / we want” fallaciously stated as “I / we need.”

Noted scholar and apologist Oz Guinness has approached the subject of the “abandonment of evangelism for social justice.”[1]  While statements have been made concerning ‘building huge churches’ yet, neglecting the poor,[2] it is acknowledgeable that some of the larger congregations have generously funded programs for seeing to the poor within their communities, as well as overseas projects.  Yet what is most often neglected is the theology regarding seeing to the poor in biblical actuality.  Consider how God used severe need to turn His people’s faces back to Him.  Moreover, it was the same God who used extreme need to push Jacob and his clan towards Egypt as a crucial part of His plan to set the stage for the Exodus to come years later.[3]

However, if one is to be transparently honest with oneself, he must lay out his pre-suppositional baggage on the table.  Even though one may think emotion has had no effect on his responses, having ‘needs’ in one’s past can be memories of a particular nature with powerful consequences when it comes to discernment.  Couple this with an active engagement to benevolence ministry and one may find himself crippled in assessing biblical need with a tainted lens of action based on sympathy invoked strictly by feelings.  There are specific reasons why certain television commercials utilize shocking pictures of extreme suffering in efforts to collect funds.  Emotive responses seldom have been filtered through logical discernment, let alone biblical purposes.

On the other hand, examples given by a person who will be referred to as “Mr. Smith” had been actively involved with and in multiple benevolence programs.  Mr. Smith reported being abused and stolen from while volunteering at distribution locations.  Not only was the church building broken into in the particular area where the distributions would take place, but his truck toolbox was stolen from, ironically after assisting one of the recipients with starting their vehicle.  In one particular situation, a person received 2 full paper sacks of groceries.  After leaving with the goods, the individual returned to the location with the sacks, still full, and slammed them on a table exclaiming in expletive language that he disapproved of the contents therein.  Mr. Smith also reported that at the food and clothing pantries where he served, an estimated 80-90% of persons were monthly (in some cases, bi-monthly) ‘regulars’.  He stated that many would have practiced and polished heart-wrenching stories that would periodically include their children, parading about barefooted, filthy, and crying, so as to get more money, goods, and services.  Mr. Smith confirmed that a portion of these same families were ‘professionals’, working a circuit in a tri-state region, selling and trading much of the items they were accepting.  He stated being most disturbed that they were training their children for the deception and discovering how they networked and communicated with others who did the same.

Thus, working in such benevolence programs is a double-edged sword.  When one witnessed the despairing faces, whether genuine or learned behaviorisms, it pierces the heart through.  In the same notion, it also sets the stage for being abused.  Understanding then that the situation is ripe for subjective management and manipulation, Christians must rightfully turn to the Scriptures looking for directives and answers.

Thus, the next challenge is before the church.  Debates held within and between denominations over what the Scriptures actually state concerning ‘need’ pendulum from having no concerns to feeding the world.  The problem then is largely misconstrued to being one of whether or not to be benevolent, instead of focusing on the actual direction of the Word of where benevolence ministry energies should be applied.

Consider if one were to say something along the lines of, “I really hate it when mom and dad are constantly trying to tell me what to do with my life,” and later on a person who had been listening in, later told one’s parents that it was said, “I hate my mother and father.” The person who made in the initial statement would likely be outraged for being misrepresented.  Yet, in subtler (and sometimes not so subtle) ways, the church is commonly attempting to do this very thing with Scripture.  This is the source of many denominational schisms.

One passage that is commonly quoted as “hard to misinterpret,” is Matthew 25:31-46.  Yet, the typical hermeneutic applied is one that ignores the primary rule of context for understanding any passage.  Broadening the scope of the passage will give perspective to the intent of not only the writer, but the Speaker quoted as well.  In going back to chapter 25:1, the essential ‘title’ of this local context is found.  It is found in the first 5 words, “Then the kingdom of heaven.”  Therefore, the context of this section of Scripture given largely in parabolic form is about the kingdom of heaven.  This is affirmed in the statement given in verse 34, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”  To attempt to ignore this is to ensure a fatal hermeneutical error.

Paragraphs in contemporary translations are subheadings of the contextual theme.  Verse 14 is such a subheading, which illustrates an emphasis to ‘be ready’ and to have a proper attitude of stewardship, which ultimately makes the point that these things are connected to grand context of ‘the kingdom of heaven’.  This is demonstrated in verse 29, which states another emphasis on being faithful with the task at hand, because it concerns a distinct connection to how one will conduct one’s self in the kingdom of heaven.  Confirmation to this contextual observation is in following sentence, verse 30.   It is the particular regard of an ultimate separation of those who will be in (the kingdom of) heaven and those who will not.

Verse 31 and following picks on the continuing theme Jesus is presenting about the kingdom of heaven and then addresses that it will be broader than His listeners think.  Here, Jesus shifts from the parable to a metaphor with simile applied.  This is revealed in the actuality of a coming judgment, for both Gentiles and those of Jewish descent.  The Jews have been primarily raised on the notion that all Gentiles will be ultimately excluded from the kingdom of heaven.[4]  But Jesus says to those ‘on His right’ in verse 34, “inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

Verses 35 and following made by Messiah are not referring to the world in need.  Rather, He is referring to Himself, as most translations do justice by capitalizing the pronoun.[5]  Christ is referring to Himself as the ‘stranger’.  Any remote suggestion that this is a reference to the lost of the world is not merely a stretch.  It borders pantheism.[6]  In a classical sense of the reversive, Jesus flips the point back to those listening and addresses them as the ‘righteous’.  So in this sub-point of the context, the ‘nations’ (Gentiles) will consist of some saved people who genuinely came to Christ – and the ‘righteous’ (Jews) will have some that will be rejected, as they rejected Him.

Again, the context is consistent, because the ‘saved’ are in the kingdom of heaven and all others are not.  Then, even more explicitly, Jesus describes the separation in verses 41-45.

However, there is one key element in this widely quoted passage that unilaterally defeats an argument for unequivocal form of benevolence to all suffering people.  It is found in the ‘least of these/them’ of the group that Jesus makes reference.  Aside from the context previously stating an exclusive reference to ‘the kingdom of heaven’ in verse 40, Jesus defines the ‘least of these/them’ as ‘brothers of Mine’.  This phrase is repeated in verse 45.

As the first rule of any sound hermeneutical practice is exegetical context, the second rule to interpretation is to allow Scripture to literally interpret itself.  Thus, the question is demanded, who are these ‘brothers of Mine’ and the ‘least of’ persons?  Within the same gospel account in chapter 10:14-17, and more explicitly, verses 40-42, the answer is derived in that it is those who have received Christ.  Therefore, this passage does not support the notion of non-arbitrary benevolent application to any person or persons exhibiting need, whether slight or severe.  In the facts presented, it is the reverse.  These are not merely nondiscriminatory benevolent acts; rather, they are direct, specific reactions to the disciples of Jesus, His brethren.  In the contemporary context, it is the body of Christ as found in the true church.

Unfortunately, the western contemporary church has a tendency polarize over basic biblical principles and simply shout at any who disagree with their premise.[7]  Christians can hold deep-seated grudges against those who hold views contrary to their own and sever all ties where they can.  Classical debate has been lost in discussing matters with any form of argument as seen to be hostile.  This is especially prevalent in the benevolent-welfare industry.  If one seeks a biblical definition in regards to the poor and seeing to the needs thereof, judgmental assertions are sure to follow accusing the questioner as one who rejects all forms or caring for the needy.  Yet such extremism is unmerited and should be rejected on the basis that Scripture gives concise direction on the matter.

The prior biblical example given Matthew 25 demonstrated a common and fatal exegetical mistake used in benevolent assessment.  Another passage used is found in John 12:8, which states, “for the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”[8]  Though commonly used as an overgeneralized inclusion for all people who are in need, this particular passage, in its context, technically does not have anything to do with an expected location where the poor exist, local or otherwise.  Jesus was merely correcting the pseudo-concern Judas Iscariot expressed for the expensive perfume being used by Mary.  Ironically, Judas was claiming that he wanted to use the value of the perfume to give to the poor, while Jesus points to a more important purpose within the moment.  Therefore, this passage technically has nothing to do with the biblical assertion of Christians being obligated to see to the wants and needs of the world, local or otherwise.

Another argument is also given from the book of Acts as giving examples of how Christians should be responding, as none are to be in need.  This is an obvious reference to Acts 2:45; 4:34, 35.  However, this is not a generic statement for providing for all needs for all people, nor for those living locally.  The context in both passages is strictly within the “congregation of those who believed.”[9]  The primary responsibility of the Christian community is to the ‘kingdom’ of Christ and these particular chapters of Acts leave no doubt as to the contextual address.  The ‘none in need’ are only applicable here to the church proper, as chapter 2 is the incipient congregation of “about 3,000 souls”[10] and chapter 4 is the “congregation of those who believed.”[11]  There is a meeting of needs and removing of social barriers in Acts that is in response to the shear numbers of people responding and the differing cultures of nations[12] coming to Christ as represented by His kingdom.  It is not a generic application of benevolence to the rest of the world outside of the body of Christ.

Understanding these specifics, what then is the biblical definition of ‘need’?  As stated prior, the modern cry for need seldom depicts an accurate picture of what true need actually encompasses.  Our current system has a tendency to cultivate need into a standard for society as opposed to something of an actuality.  In other words, being needy becomes status quo; or more easily said, being needy becomes normal.  A brief examination of socialistic structures reveals systems, which built themselves on the growing of a needs-based generation.  Ultimately, people would become dependent on something other than God, such as a governing authority, and subsequently surrender their freedom.

However, the ‘need’ that the Bible addresses is far from this.  God’s word, when properly applied, takes the needy person from the abnormal and brings them up into the normal.  Albeit there are some exceptions such as physical disabilities, mental disorders, etc., where there will always be some essential need involved, the predominant issue of man’s problem is a heart matter that must ultimately be addressed.  Therefore, the physical deficit is that which points mankind to his spiritual necessity.

Still, an argument persists that in only serving needy Christians, a lost and hungry world is left unreachable.  A common statement is that a person cannot hear the words of Jesus on an empty stomach.[13]  This is either a serious misunderstanding of the Scriptures or a straw-man argument used to pacify consciences.  Insofar as the biblical Word states, one did not necessarily have to be converted in order to receive aid, financial loans,[14] or even general hospitality,[15] which in reverse is fortunate for the family of Jacob.[16]  However, the Law states that there is to be one statute for the nation of Israel, which constitutes the people of God, and the alien who sojourns with them.[17]  The difference between the biblical example as opposed to the contemporary is that Israelites were instructed to draw others to come into the camp of YHWH.  Today, Christians are directed to go out with goods and supplies, even to places and nations that are hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The irony is, even when some countries are in desperate need, their laws against Christianity trump any acceptance of benevolent aid.  In other words, church congregations may bring money, food, medicine, and even laborers to help.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ, either spoken or written, is forbidden and punishable even to death.

Even so, there appears to be little, if any consideration what God may be doing in the lives of the lost that are faced with dire circumstances.  If God used critical need to obtain the attention of His people who already profess His name, how much more then might He use the same to reach the lost?  Even in terms of the fall of humanity, had Adam and Eve not been driven from the Tree of Life, they would have never known the true need to be saved, thus, needing a savior.  In this desperate circumstance, God points mankind to Himself in Christ Jesus, to “draw all men” to Himself.[18]

Moreover, believers are also given the account of Job, who, at the permission of God, suffers tremendous loss for what appears to primarily be an example of faithfulness in needful circumstances.  Had Job not experienced such dire need, there would have been no testimony.  If Israel had never been captive in Egypt, there would have been no demonstration of deliverance in the Exodus, which was a foreshadowing of Christ to come and His act of salvation.  If Assyria[19] and Babylon had not been used as tools of discipline and punishment, the Israelites would have continued in their depravity.  If the logic holds true then for the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is it not considered applicable in the present tense for a world seen experiencing great need and suffering?

In light of YHWH’s acts to draw His errant people to Himself through need, Scripture also demonstrates His mission in drawing the nations likewise.[20]  More pointedly, God states that the nations will specifically “come to” Him.[21]  While in the ancient passages, this entails a specific geographical location encompassed within the borders of Israel, in particular, the temple.  It is there that YHWH determined that He would “meet” man.  Since the advent of Christ Jesus, man comes to know God through the body of Christ, as is known to be the church proper.  If the theology of the nations being drawn to the temple during the ancient period holds true, then the theology of “all men” being drawn to Him is likewise authoritative.  To ignore the historical example of God using need to gain the attention of mankind is at the peril of interfering with His plan and purpose.  While some areas may appear grey in defining the communication of His gospel while seeing to the needs of those who are lost, in all cases the minimum charge for the church is to testify to Jehovah Jireh as source for all provision.  As the nations were to be drawn to the Lord God in His temple, the world is to be drawn to the church.  If the church convinces itself to see to the needs of the suffering in spite of this, hearts may be temporarily pacified, but it becomes a classic co-dependent and enabler of lives separated from God.

God demonstrates the reverse of a secular attitude towards neediness, as well as the pervasive contemporary form of charity in the western church.  He also sees the great potential in every human being to be all that He has intended for them in the imago Dei.  Biblical need sharpens the focus of man’s need for God more than the need for his stomach.  Thus, as need has always been a tool of the Lord to turn the faces of people towards Him, it is in one’s dire sense of hardship that man ultimately will look to Him for help.  The key element that the church often fails to acknowledge in this case is to wait for the needy to first turn towards God.  If not, it would be similar to forcing baptismal water onto the lost before they come to the question, “What shall we do?”[22]

Moreover, when a needy person is properly ministered to, they not only cease being dependent and a burden to others, but they potentially become co-disciples in kingdom labor.[23]  This is the essence of a truly benevolent heart.  The biblical notion of need must be understood in that it turns man’s attention from self-reliance and resolutely sets his face towards God.  It is in a needful statement that Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty.”  His directive is, “let him come to Me and drink.”[24]

[1] Bob Paulson, “Hostility on the College Campus, A Conversation With Oz Guinness,” Decision Magazine, 27 May 2016, (accessed 10 May 2016).

[2] Jefferson Bethke, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” YouTube, 10 January 2012,! (accessed 25, January 2012).

[3] Genesis 42-45.

[4] Some doctrinal variations of Messianic Jew and Christians of Hebraic roots interpret all application of the word e[qnh (eth-nay – nations / Gentiles) as those who are not of Messiah.  This interpretation will have no effect on the contextual point given regarding ‘the kingdom of heaven’.

[5] Here, it may also be seen, in a post-facto sense, that ‘He’ will ultimately be revealed as the ‘body of Christ’, as found in the Church (cf. Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12).

[6] Pantheism in the sense that all persons, saved or otherwise, would be a part of the constitution of God, as a whole.

[7] James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars (BasicBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 52-57.

[8] New American Standard Version Bible

[9] Acts 4:32; New American Standard Version

[10] Acts 2:41-47; ibid

[11] Acts 4:32; ibid

[12] Acts 6:1; ibid

[13] Matthew 4; ibid; Jesus fasted 40 days and nights and affirmed the Word before Satan.

[14] Deuteronomy 23:20, ibid

[15] Hospitality during the Judaistic period could be limited in many circumstances to those who were considered ‘clean’, albeit with certain exceptions and changes of contact (Acts 10).

[16] Genesis 42-47; ibid; Understanding that the written Law, nor the nation of Israel had yet been established, the family of Jacob and Egypt were still considered ‘foreign’ to one another.

[17] Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:14-16; ibid; Note the inclusion of burnt offerings by the alien and sojourner.

[18] John 12:32; ibid

[19] Isaiah 10:5; ibid

[20] Isaiah 11:10-12; 42:6; 49:6, 22; 60:3; 66:18-20, ibid

[21] Micah 4:1ff; Habakkuk 2:5; Zechariah 8:18, 23; Malachi 3:12; ibid

[22] Acts 2:37b; ibid

[23] Ephesians 4:28; ibid; The principle carries in Paul’s teaching not to steal and to work ‘in order that’ one may have something to share with him who has need; once again, in the context of the church.  The antecedent is evident in verse 25.

[24] John 7:37; ibid

Sin, Transgression and Iniquity

Psalm 32:5

I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;

And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

HEB: חוַעֲוֹ֘נִ֤י (ḥaṭ·ṭā·ṯî) / (chatta’ah) = “missing the mark”

NAS: I acknowledged my sin to You,

HEB: וַעֲוֹ֘נִ֤י (wa·‘ă·wō·nî) / (avon) = to bend, twist or distort (as in God’s word)

NAS: And my iniquity I did not hide;

HEB: פְ֭שָׁעַי (p̄ə·šā·‘ay) / (pasha) = “a willful act of disobedience”

NAS: I will confess my transgressions to the LORD;

HEB: וְעֲוֹ֖ן (‘ă·wōn) / (avon) = *see above

NAS: And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

Sin?  Transgression?  Iniquity?  What’s the difference?  “Sin is sin is sin is sin,” are things we have heard for years.  Yet the question is still demanded from ourselves, given in the text – Why has God chosen to use 3 different words for what many have deemed as the same thing, in just one sentence (a line from the psalmist, in between pauses)?

For the sake of brevity, in what may initially appear as the oversimplification of an argument, let the following be acknowledged as a basis: all acts against the will of God, whether committed in full knowledge or utter ignorance, are to be considered sin.  However, distinction is given for the one who sins in willful disobedience and also the one who wishes to take His will, and ‘twist’ the actual determinative meaning and intent.  As the serpent said to the woman, “indeed, has God said….?”  This would make him (the devil), the original ‘pervert’.

So let us start from the basis of the argument that ‘all acts against the will of God are sin’.  If this is the case, how can a sinful act be held against a person who has no knowledge of the Word of God?  In Romans 1:20, the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, establishes his argument on general revelation.  This is the inescapable testimony to the knowledge of creation that can be obtained by observing what is around you and being able to discern the demand of a created order.  Paul states, “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse;” (emphasis mine).  Thus, ignorance is not an argument for innocence.

Yet there appears to be an even greater sense of accountability to those who not only know they are willfully disobeying God’s will, but even more so for the ones who would ‘twist’ and ‘bend’ the pureness of the intent.  This, by definition, is ‘perversion’ of the Word.

Understanding these differences, there would be 2 basic classifications of sins: general sin – anything against the will of God, and transgression – sin that knows better.  Iniquity fits under transgression as a sub-point.

But how did mankind come to an understanding of sin in a more specific way than general revelation?  It was the literal giving of the Law from the hand of God into the hand of man (When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.  Exodus 31:18).  Had sin been understood (by mankind) under general revelation to the extent that God intended, He would have no reason to produce hand-written tablets of stone – not once, but twice, since Moses destroyed the first set in a fit of anger.

However, once mankind has been given the Law, now he is particularly accountable to the will of God.  But make no mistake, just because one is ignorant of the Law does not mean they are dismissed.  As Paul writes in Romans 2:12ff, those who sin against God, with or without the Law, will perish.

So why does God bother with giving us the Law?  As with any relationship, a better understanding of one another is always conducive to a fruitful bond.  Living by God’s word gives us true life, and most importantly, leads us back home to Him.  Yet as we dive deeper and deeper into His Law, we quickly discover that we cannot possibly accomplish the letter (Romans 3:20, “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin”).  This is when the intent begins to shine through.  As we see our imperfections under the microscope of the Word and how weak we are in accomplishing even the most basic principles of godly love, we find ourselves in dire straits.  The wages of sin is death.  If we cannot achieve all of the Law, we sin.  Our wage’ then, awaits us on the horizon.  It would seem hopeless, if we are left to save ourselves.  Then, the Word (the Law) literally puts on flesh (John 1:14), intrudes into this brokenness, and pays our ‘wage’ in punishment.  This is where our sin is dealt with.  Sins of ignorance; transgressions in full knowledge; and even iniquities where we attempted to distort the will of God are all satisfied between the genuinely repentant heart and the purely efficient sacrifice of the only perfect One.

Lastly, God distinguishes specifically between sins that are; 1) committed intentionally (with knowledge); 2) unintentionally (ignorantly); and 3) defiantly (“with a high hand,” as in ‘fist clenched towards heaven’).  Passages from Numbers 15 will best represent these differences (emphasis mine).

1) There are numerous passages that deal with sacrifices (burnt offerings / the cross of Jesus Christ) for sins.  These are easily found.  Therefore, only the next 2 will be focused on here.

2)  15:22-29; ‘But when you unwittingly fail and do not observe all these commandments, which the Lord has spoken to Moses, even all that the Lord has commanded you through Moses, from the day when the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations, then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error.  So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, with the alien who sojourns among them, for it happened to all the people through error.  ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven.  You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them.

3)  15:30, 31  But the person who does anything defiantly (‘with a high hand’), whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.  Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”

The ‘defiant’ is particularly disturbing when you understand that it is tangible to the biblical definition of being the ‘unforgivable sin’ (Luke 12:10; Jude 12 (doubly dead); 1 John 5:16; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26, 27)

By clarifying these distinctions, it is easy to see that there is a greater responsibility and accountability for those who understand the Word.  As recorded in James 3:1; Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.  How much greater then for those who attempt to deceive not only themselves, but others also, that God’s Word says something other than His original intent.

Keep the Faith,



You only have I chosen among all the families of the earthAmos 3:2a

A small, skinny boy stood out in the middle of a parched recreation field with the dry wind whistling through his hair.  He was desperately trying to look calm and unconcerned about the event unfolding before him.  It was nothing new really.  Every week the P.E. class would exit out the side doors and head over to the sports grounds adjacent to the school building.  Every week it would be announced what game would be played.  And every week his stomach would tie up in knots while the team captains would pick their teams from the group of boys.  It seemed like it was the same story being reread – the same song being played over again.  They would get down to the last couple of boys, and once again, he would be left out to stand on the side, while everyone else played.  As the teams would run off to play kickball, baseball and soccer, the field looked like it went on forever.  He was unable to even hear what they were saying to each other when they ran off.  His side of the playground always felt cold.

But something different happened today.  He thought he heard his name called by one of the captains, but knew that it just could not be.  He had terribly embarrassed himself twice before thinking he had been selected and ran over to the team, only to be laughed at and jeered all the way back to where he stood before.  So he held his place, looking down at his worn shoes.  His name was yelled this time.  “Are you deaf or what?” said the team captain.  In a sense of indescribable excitement, he felt the blood rush through him.  He kept telling himself to play it cool, but the silly ear-to-ear grin plastered across his face could not be hidden.  Today he had been picked.  Today he had been chosen.  And today he would do everything within his power to prove his gratitude to the other boy, who in his mercy, gave him a chance to be a part of the team.

In the sacred Scriptures, we read that God chose Israel out of the pack of humanity. He refers to them as the “entire family that He brought up from the land of Egypt;” and says, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” in Amos 3:1-2. Out of all the people in creation, God selected this puny little group of people who had been enslaved for some 400 years (“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” Deuteronomy 7:7).  Though they leaped for joy to be brought into the team of God, they soon forgot what it meant to be picked by God.  They began to presume on the fact that they had been chosen and were in a covenant relationship with the Lord.  They had long forgotten the days of feeling like they had been left out and left behind.  As their pride swelled at being the chosen ones, they felt as if they could sin with impunity.

To be chosen does not mean one is absolved from accountability or responsibility.  In fact, the elect of God are more liable for their actions than anyone else.  Just as we would expect an elected official to be accountable to the people for their actions, in a much greater sense, the elect of God are accountable for every single deed, from first to last (And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36).  It has always been the temptation of man to think once he is saved he can sail on the waves of lukewarmness.  At first, he is zealous for being selected and accepted; however, after a while his salvation is taken for granted.  Instead of being a servant to the King, he becomes a servant unto himself.

Let us never forget the thrill of when God pointed at us and said, “I choose you.”

Keep the Faith.



A Response to Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus”


Jefferson Bethke of Mars Hill Church recently released a short video that has over 15 million hits on YouTube and has started a firestorm of interest.  While many have adamantly applauded his remarks which are given in a rhyming ‘rap’, filmed in a contemporary style with the camera darting in and out of the scene, an equal number of people are left standing unsure of ‘what exactly was just said’.

My purpose is to shed a very brief light on the words spoken by standing them against the Scriptures so that the audience can decide for themselves if the words carry any authority in regard to the church as a whole.

When one hears (emphasis on ‘hears’) something that invokes a desire to quickly respond with a stance of agreement or disagreement, it is advisable to get a transcript of what has been said to read and discern based on observation and educated response.  Apologist Ravi Zacharias uses the illustration that we should see ‘through’ the eye and ‘with’ the mind.  Likewise, I would say we should hear through the ear and with the mind.  The best way to pin the words down for understanding is to read them.  Then, all of the pageantry and otherwise distracting effects are removed while the words lie unprotected in their simplest forms.

One note of caution – it is equally as dangerous to operate with a hermeneutic of suspicion as it is to mindlessly dive into approval because it ‘feels good’ or ‘sounds right’.  When seeking truth in a matter, one must be ready to accept what ever it may be, even if it treads all about our presuppositions.

The lyrics will be stated in quotes with generalize statements following.  I will preface by saying I will only address statements that have issue with Scriptural authority or that merit clarification.

Paragraph 1

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion

What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t His mission?

What if I told you republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian

And just because you call some people blind doesn’t automatically give you vision

When Mr. Bethke uses the word ‘religion’, because of a lack of defining otherwise, he leaves us with the definition in a biblical sense.  The Greek word transliterated is ‘thrayskeia’, which is translated as ‘religion’ and ‘worship’.  As you can see, this immediately causes some concern in the first line of his monologue, when he states, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?”.  If we were to exchange the word ‘religion’ with the word ‘worship’, we probably would have stopped listening right off the proverbial bat.  Admittedly, many, if not most words are translated accordingly to the context in which we find them.  However, in the Scriptures, ‘religion’ is not categorically a negative word.  In fact, only if it is a false ‘religion’ is it deemed bad.

Secondly, the introduction of a political observation concerning one party is unadvisable for effectiveness in a setting for his first line.  Regardless of where one stands, Jesus did not come to vote Democrat either.  While some would point to the ‘religious right wing’ thinking they have the corner market on God, is it not equally true that the ‘liberal left’ thinks it has the monopoly on caring for minorities and the under-privileged?  Though the political division clamors for the religious vote, it is a fact that the vast majority of conservative Christian circles have rejected the Democrat party based on the party’s promotion of homosexuality and abortion.  The grand exceptions usually are based on racial lines and liberal theology.  Nonetheless, some of the most devout agents of religious backing of political agendas are Democrats.  One should check the last time a Republican was tolerated to speak from a church pulpit concerning political issues without threats of the church losing their 501c3 (not for profit status).  On the other hand, Democrat politicians are openly allowed to speak during a Sunday morning assembly, even to openly call out Republicans by name, without a hint of risk from the IRS.  Therefore, it is interesting that Mr. Bethke only speaks of one side of the political equation.

What remains in the context of Mr. Bethke’s paragraph is blindness and vision.  This largely smacks of the ‘anti-judgment’ crowd sounds, where people state that it is wrong to ‘judge’ others.  Yet, we are clearly told it is our responsibility to judge each other (1 Corinthians 5:3, 6, 12; 6:2, 3;), even as Paul calls on men to judge what he has said for truthfulness (1 Corinthians 10:15).  Our confusion lies in the difference between judging and judgmentalism (see for more details).  The point is, as Christians, when we do judge/discern, we are often criticized.  While it is agreed that self-righteousness has no place in the kingdom, the abolition of stating what is righteous has no claim to the home either.

Paragraph 2

I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars

Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor

Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce

But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores

The next paragraph states that religion has caused wars.  This is no more true than stating one can tax a business.  As only individuals can be taxed, wars can only be started by people.  Moreover , God never condemned the grand temple Solomon built, because its original intent was to glorify Him.  So we quickly see it is the motivation that determines whether a ‘huge church’ building is right or wrong.  It should be noted, that the statement concerning ‘building huge churches’ while neglecting the poor, in itself is judgmental.  Some of the larger congregations have generously funded programs for seeing to the poor within their communities, as well as overseas projects.  It is the ‘religious’ who sacrifice, and give of their money and volunteer time for these efforts.  Moreover, so often neglected is the theology regarding seeing to the poor.  Without going into details, consider how God used severe need to turn people’s faces back to Him.  After all, God used severe need to push Jacob and his clan towards Egypt as a crucial part of His plan to set the stage for the Exodus to come years later.

It is also unfairly categorical to say that religion per se has condemned ‘single moms’.  It is untrue to make this claim applicable to all places and could be resentful to those who have specific ministries regarding these particular issues.  Herein lies something much more problematic: 1) It was not exclusively ‘religious’ people God called ‘whores’; it was rebellious people.  2) and to parallel this with the ‘single moms’ line is to assert that ‘religion’ calls all single mothers ‘whores’.  This is dangerous and needlessly accusatory rhetoric that could potentially plant seeds of hurtfulness throughout the church.

Paragraph 3

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice

Tend to ridicule God’s people, they did it to John The Baptist

They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it

Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket

See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core

It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores

Like lets dress up the outside make it look nice and neat

But it’s funny that’s what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath

I will only take 2 words from this paragraph to encompass a meaning – “behavior modification.”  This is exactly what people need in conjunction with a heart renewed.  If the latter happens without the former, it would be like taking the new car that the person has completely neglected and trashed, and handing them another new one, with no direction for care and maintenance.  To deny this is to ignore Leviticus, where the first half of the scroll instructs how to get Israel holy and the second half is how to keep her holy.  It is the “put off” and the “put on” of Ephesians 4.  If we do not change our sinful behavior, that which has been made clean will subsequently be defiled once again.  I understand this may differ with some denominational doctrines.  However, most would reasonably agree that the renewed heart of a blood-bought Christian will behave differently than before.  ‘Behavior modification’ is the fruit of being connected to the True Vine.  And make no mistake – the word ‘discipline’ is used in Scripture because it must be a willful effort on behalf of the saved individual.  If it were different, we would have no need to train/discipline our walk in Christ.

Paragraph 4

Now I ain’t judging, I’m just saying quit putting on a fake look

Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook

I mean in every other aspect of life, you know that logic’s unworthy

It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey

You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me

Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography

See on Sunday I’d go to church, but Saturday getting faded

Acting if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted

See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness

But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness

As much as one might agree with Mr. Bethke’s following statements in this paragraph – without mincing words – yes, he is judging; Acknowledging that while he is being judgmental in some respects (to religion), but in the correct sense to the subsequent matters stated.  So own it.

Boasting in one’s weakness is a tightrope.  Only in the shadow of Christ’s strength to overcome our frailties can be righteous be obtained.  When our weakness becomes our badge, even our identity – i.e. my infidelity, my addiction, my temptation, my, my, my; then Christ becomes our co-dependent enabler (in the distorted mind).  Most everyone has met or personally acted as one who has willfully sinned on the fire insurance concept that God will not hold them accountable.  This is a dramatic error.  Salvation was not purchased by the tortuous death of Jesus to leave the individual unchanged.

Paragraph 5

Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean

It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken

Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin

Because it doesn’t depend on me it depends on him

See because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan

He looked down and said I want, that, man

Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools

Don’t you see so much better than just following some rules

Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the bible, and yes I believe in sin

But if Jesus came to your church would they actually let him in

See remember he was called a glutton, and a drunkard by religious men

But the Son of God never supports self righteousness not now, not then

It is fruitless to attempt to hide one’s sin before God.  But most have also know those who, as in the prior remarks, have worn their sin as some sort of badge of honor; that somewhere along the way, their testimony of their past became more of their the dramatic part of their story, rather than the redemptive power of Christ’s blood.  Therefore, not having to hide it before God is not license to parade it as well.  After all, repentance is an about face in our conduct.

Now comes the apex of the argument.  When Mr. Bethke states that ‘Jesus hated religion’, he makes a monumental mistake.  In no place in Scripture will find such a statement.  Quite the reverse, one reads in James 1:26, 27; “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.  Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  Therefore, religion is presented here to be a good thing and endorsed by God in such a way that instruction is given how to have a proper religious attitude.  The term ‘organized religion’ even makes a delineation from ‘religion’ in its proper context.  To state that religion is something evil is living in the dangerous area of calling that which is good, evil.

Moreover, many sincere Christians would answer his question concerning Jesus’ admittance into the buildings where they meet with a resounding “Yes!”  In our congregation, we even purposefully named it in the possessive (“Christ’s”) to be a continual reminder whose it was and is.

As stated prior, Mr. Bethke to have confused ‘religious’ with ‘rebellious’.  Had the men he referred to been genuinely religious, they would not have called Jesus such false names.

Paragraph 6

“Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention

How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum

See one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention

See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection

See because religion says do, Jesus says done

Religion says slave, Jesus says son

Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free

Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see

And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans

Once again, Mr. Bethke is incorrect that ‘Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrum(s)’ (see James 1:26, 27).  But perhaps now is the juncture at which the point should be made concerning the main issue at hand.  Mr. Bethke would have been correct throughout most of his assertion had he used the word ‘legalism’ instead of ‘religion’ (although it would have been difficult to match the rhyme with).  Legalism would adeptly represent his allegations in a proper representation of the ‘infection’ of the church.

Onto the statement “Religion says slave, Jesus says son;”  While both statements are relatively true, Mr. Bethke makes a gigantic theological mistake at pitting them against one another.  Romans 6:16-23 clearly states that Christians have been purchased at a great price out of one slavery, to be ‘set free’ into another slavery.  While this initially sounds contradictory, early Christians completely understood the difference between having freedom under a good master and being abused under an evil one.  Our idea of chattel slavery leaves us with incorrect notions about Paul’s illustration.  Indeed we are bound (bondage) to Christ when we accept Him as Savior.  We are making an open declaration that we are completely surrendering our will to His and committing ourselves to obeying His commands and not our own.  Ironically, it is telling in regard to the limited commitment we see in Christians in the contemporary church – but that is for another subject.

Paragraph 7

“Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man

Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own

Not based on my merits but Jesus’s obedience alone

Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face

He took what we all deserved, I guess that’s why you call it grace

And while being murdered he yelled

“Father forgive them they know not what they do.”

Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you

And he absorbed all of your sin, and buried it in the tomb

Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross, saying come on there’s room

So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it

Because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it

The search has never been God for man.  He knows exactly ‘where’ we are.  This what makes the arrival of Jesus Christ so fantastic.  God has come to us.  Emmanuel.  It would be a correct statement to say God is ‘pursuing us’ instead.  While salvation is ‘free’ per se to us, it is important to remember that it is not free from cost.  See Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s teachings on ‘cheap grace’.  And while our salvation is not based on our merits, he who loves Christ will keep His commandments (John 14:21).  Just as James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

At the end of it, one would be left to think Mr. Bethke had a sincere thought that had more to do with legalism than with religion.  However, the danger is twofold: 1) Listeners may be easily mislead.  Just as Mr. Bethke has used ‘religion’ erroneously to make his point, others may just as easily trade ‘religion’ out for ‘the church.”  As I canvased a number of individuals as to what they thought he was talking about immediately after viewing the clip, I received a number of responses, many of which were skewed.  2) One who speaks in such a manner teaches others, and James warns us of a strong accountability in these matters (James 3:1).  Words matter and carry meaning.  We must be thoughtful and careful – especially in the mass communicative formats we share in today.  May all of our teachings be strictly and contextually biblically based.  Then the message will be pure.

Mr. Bethke has a great talent and ability for contemporary communication.  He also has a great opportunity to set anything straight that might have been off-target.  While this will take a tremendous measure of humility, it will be the test of his lifetime.  Our prayers are with him to be a strong instrument of Jesus’ righteousness.


New Year 2012

 “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love,”

Colossians 2:2

            We love a sense of belonging.  We yearn for relationship and yet live so fragmented.  I am convinced that this is one of our greatest challenges to overcome in the church.  We greet each other well enough and inquire about our health.  Yet we tend to walk separate ways and splash back into the rapid current in the rivers of our lives.  The overall effect leaves many feeling empty and disconnected, looking for something to fulfill that innate urge for community.

            The root of this great tree is deep.  Our society is not only laced with a subdivision of classes, but an ambition to scratch, claw, and pound its way up to the top of the ever-elusive heap.  There many areas that can be observed and critiqued in this regard; for expediency I will examine one.  The word career is a relatively new term that gained popularity in the middle and later nineteenth century.  It was predominantly used in the sense of a course of professional life or employment that offered advancement or honor.  A word used in similar circumstances is “profession” and though it is an older word, it began to take on new meanings when it was detached from the concept of a “calling.”   Once independent, the word was given to express the new idea of a career.

            A calling once meant the reason a person would enter a profession.  Within this reason would be the ultimate purpose of functioning within a community and strengthening its basis.  I can illustrate this simply by pointing to the one profession or career that is still referred to as being filled by a “calling;” This of course, is the position of what we commonly refer to as “minister” (acknowledging fully that technically we are all ministers).  If a person attempts to minister as a J-O-B as opposed to being called, he and his ministry is doomed from the start.

            Society has twisted the priority though.  Now, instead of a ‘calling’ being the motivating force of entering a profession, the profession becomes a career and is no longer obligated to the ultimate good of the community as a whole.  It seeks goals on an impersonal and selfish basis.  Rather than being a cohesive part of the community, following a profession now typically means quite literally “to move up and away.”  The modern professional has subsequently convinced themselves that they have been handed an invisible license to look down on those who aren’t in their rank.  The goal then is no longer strengthening the body of people, but to achieve “success.”  Presently, the definition of “success” is as volatile as sea-sand and its appetite is insatiable for more that no level achievement will satisfy.

The world will continue this pattern indefinitely.  However, in the church we find a sanctuary for all peoples, of all nationalities, male or female, slave or free, rich or poor, professional or layman, intellectual or otherwise (Galatians 3:28).  In the church we are of one body – the body of Christ Jesus.  The field is dramatically leveled and we stand eye to eye, toe to toe, equals in essence.  In other words, we have the format for the perfect community.  In this body, we are all called – called according to His purpose, which means that we are all doing what is in the best interest of the other person.  That in itself is the definition of agape – God’s love.  In this community we have been knit together in love.

In this New Year, I want to encourage you to strive for things that constitute the kingdom of heaven and realize that our efforts must be in chorus with the body of Christ that resides therein (Matt. 6:3; Phil. 2:3).  If you are waiting for your brother or sister to make the first move, perhaps they are waiting on you to do likewise – so be a leader – live the sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Now go spread the word and keep the Faith.


Disagreeing With Authority

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.’”  Acts 23:1-5

After praying for wisdom, what are the first 3 rules for proper interpretation of a passage?  Context, Context, Context!

This is definitely one of those passages (such as Matthew 5:39; Luke 16:1-9) that if we are not careful, we find ourselves with not just a bad, but a fatal exegesis.  Not working properly with Luke 16 can easily leave a person with a justification for extortion, misappropriation, and ‘cooking the books’.  Enron could have skated on less.  The theology must be wrung out from it within its context, both culturally/historically as well as its immediate biblical situation.  Otherwise, we find ourselves attempting to shoehorn its meaning into our own immediate circumstances (i.e. politics!) as opposed to letting its timeless principle, found within the theology, shape us.

As a quick aside, many conservative scholars interpret Acts 23 as a sarcastic response from the apostle Paul to Ananias – why so?  Because any biblical historian knows that at that time Ananias was not the true high priest – he was a prop high priest, appointed by Herod, king of Chalcis.  This is in the same vein as when Jesus was led in front of Annas (similar name, a different man) in John 18 and was chastised and struck by one of the officers who said, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?”  What made this odd was that Caiaphas was the ‘official’ high priest (as revealed within the same context in verses 13 and 24).  However, the Jews were obviously doing their own authority thing behind the backs of the Romans with their mock trials.  Back to Paul’s address in Acts 23 – J. Munck, in ‘Acts AB’, (223), states, “Did he (Paul) not know who gave the command to strike him or was Paul being ironical: one would not expect a high priest to transgress the law?”  And what chances would it be that Paul, an expert in Judaism, would not know who the high priest was at the time – or even having not met him, could he not easily identify him by his mode of dress/adornment?  Even where the man would be seated in the council would direct one’s attention to understand his position.  Consider also that Paul calls him a ‘whitewashed wall’, which is also the very address used in Ezekiel 13:10ff concerning God’s wrath against His leaders and how He will ‘strike them down’ as well.  Therefore, it is plausible that Paul is not actually apologizing, but rather indirectly stating that a true high priest would not behave as he (Ananias) just did (vrs. 3).

Anytime a verse is quoted from what we refer to as the ‘Old Testament’, we must also bind ourselves to interpret the usage of the sentences based within their context.  Exodus 22 is clearly addressing the nation of Israel – which means that the rulers would be their judges, high priest, priests, prophets, and eventually, kings.  This is a far cry from what we may attempt to extrapolate and apply across the board today.  Consider that even United Nations authority has gained traction in the Unites States.  Now consider all of the rulers who hold authority at that particular table.  You should see my point.

While there is no excuse for a moment of ‘unkindness’, it would be important to require the definition (of unkindness), especially in our current hostile political climate.  A mere disagreement does not constitute unkindness, because unkindness is not necessarily defined by the feelings of personal infringement (offense because they are disagreed with) of one person or another.  Consider the scathing rebuke given by our Savior to the leaders/authority of His day in Matthew 23.  Words like ‘hypocrite, vipers, whitewashed tombs, unclean,’ and even reference to being murderers was shot their way.  Is this unkind?  Perhaps living in ‘the land of the offended’ has dulled our sense of truthfulness and letting it stand on its own – no matter how ‘unkind’ it may sound.  This is no license for unnecessary rudeness; nor is it a reason to allow a culture to squelch us from calling darkness out into the light.

Moreover, if any passage appears to conflict with another, the culprit lies in our misunderstanding – and in just one example, the people of Ezekiel that bothered to ‘object’ against their governing authorities (in the context of the authorities being ungodly), are the ones that God blessed and declared He would preserve.

Romans 13:1-4 then appears to be the kink.  But once again, context – even in the whole of the canon, must prevail.  Anytime a passage is interpreted, if it appears to conflict with another, it is our misunderstanding – and I contest that it is 90% contextual error on our behalf in Romans 13.  If we are to attempt to apply Romans 13 ‘across the board’ as given in the article, what shall we do with Revelation 13:16-18 (given that the governing authorities command alignment to justify commerce, etc – vrs. 17)?  What of the very readers immediately post Paul’s time when the Caesars decided they were deity (‘Augustus’) and commanded all people to worship them?  Of course, we then would state that the people should not do so.  But is not that ‘resisting authority’ as stated in Romans 13:2?  Did not Daniel resist the authority of Nebuchadnezzar when he refused to bow before the golden image in Daniel 3?  And I would call to your memory the example of Jesus’ address to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23.  God would never command His people to break His very command against idol worship, and yet rulers continually command people to do so.  Therefore, total submission to a wicked ruler cannot stand the test of the law of non-contradiction here.  However, if we read Romans 13 within the grand context of Scripture as a whole, then we see very quickly that we are to never align ourselves with ungodly statutes from any authority.  Paul assumes that we would never consider such things (i.e. embracing and endorsing any leader who promote abominable things such as abortion and homosexuality).  Our challenge is to carefully separate that which we must resist from that which we would rather resist, but are given the imperative to submit to otherwise (taxation, extraneous laws, etc).

Unkindness cannot be equivalent to a complete lack of the ability to object – especially concerning wicked authority.  After all, Satan is even referred to as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  Otherwise, we would simply roll along with any ‘wind of doctrine’ and set God aside while we obey earthly rulers.

Keep the Faith,


Slow Changes

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.”

                                                                                                         James Madison


And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

                                                                                                         Matthew 16:6

Judas, Lot, Gideon.  What do they have in common?

Lot was chronologically first.  He was the nephew of Abraham and lived under the blessings and protection of being in the entourage of God’s chosen path of covenantal blessing.  Lot is most notably remembered more for his wife, who literally became salt of the earth, but in the negative sense.  Next is Gideon; temporary judge of Israel during the disobedient and chaotic years preceding the period of the kings.  The most common recognition Christians give him is to do with a ‘fleece’ and how he selected an army of warriors to lead in radical odds of victory.  Lastly, in this example, is Judas.  The only name Americans know that would compete with this man for the title of betrayal would be Benedict Arnold.

So what is the one underlying, yet fundamental ‘thing’ that these men share?  Deception.  And as tempting as it might be to accentuate on possible deceptions that they attempted with others, the actual issue lies more pointedly in how they were deceived.

Staying the preceding order, Lot started in his travel to wealth and prestige when he was packed up in the family of Abram (later to be named ‘Abraham’) while living in Ur.  As Abraham accumulated possessions and power, Lot became the beneficiary and likewise obtained property and position.  But as his portfolio increased, so did his pride, as exhibited in Genesis 13:7, when he argued with fellow herdsman about ‘who owned what’.  Lot was given the choice to move, and in his greed, took the choice land near the dangerous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  However, through a chain of unrecorded events, it appears that living in the fertile land nearby was not good enough for Lot and his family, as he ultimately ends up directly in the city of Sodom.  During a raid of local enemies, Lot and his family are taken captive.  When Abraham hears of the kidnapping, he takes his private army and delivers Lot (et al) and restores his safety.  However, as we see in the text, Lot takes his family right back into the pigpen of Sodom, and the city is no better for being saved by Abraham against the raiders.  Most readers know the rest of the history.  Abraham is visited by three heavenly figures who reveal their plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham advertently pleas for Lot and his family’s preservation (without mentioning names).  The heavenly beings appear to honor this by sending Lot and family on their way with the stipulation to not look back at the destruction when it beings.  Lot’s wife does not heed this command, and is subsequently turned into a ‘pillar of salt’.

Next is Gideon.  This warrior is called to serve the Lord in Judges 6.  Though initially unsure of his qualification to do so, he accepts the responsibility and begins to dismantle the altars of the foreign gods within the land.  Then, upon his request to deliver Israel, Gideon presents a series of tests for the Lord’s will.  The problem is, each time the Lord answers, Gideon wants another sign of approval.  After he finally accepts God’s affirmation, he is next directed to reduce the number of his army to a measly 300 men.  God was obviously not interested in men receiving glory for a victory, but for the people of Israel to see that it is Him who delivers.  And even though Gideon appears somewhat ‘shaky’ in the faith department, he seems to hold true to God, even to the point when Israel calls on him, his son, and his grandson to rule over the people, because he tells them, “the Lord shall rule over you.”  But shortly thereafter comes the fatal flaw.  Gideon requests the warriors to contribute one gold earring each from the spoils of their victory – to which the people oblige; and then some.  Then, as if standing in the shadow of the great sin at Mt. Sinai, Gideon had an ephod built out of the presented gold (which was highly unusual since they were commanded to weave it out of fabric in Exodus 28).  “And all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.”  This is the last information we are given concerning Gideon’s faith and leadership in God.

And of these 3 widely known individuals, perhaps the last is most renowned – Judas.  Few people remotely familiar with the Scriptures do not know who Judas was and what he did.  And though we are not given much detail on what constituted the man Judas prior to his calling, we are not led to believe him to be an evil man prior to his control of the ‘money box’.  It appears that along the way in his walk with Christ, he fell to the temptation of the control of money, which ultimately led to his betrayal of Jesus and subsequent suicide.

Returning to the original question – what did these three men have in common?  They were all slowly led down their paths to destruction.  Though some appear to have descended quicker than others, nevertheless, the result was the same.  And herein lies the salient point for our consideration: Satan and the realm of evil works as if they have all the time in the world.  Think about it – we seldom ever get flipped on our ear overnight in deception.  It’s usually a very gradual shift.  This is at least of the viable reasons that Jesus makes reference to the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees.  Yeast is relatively slow to rise – even our modern ‘quick-rise’ version is not all that fast.  Yet if there is just a small amount in the dough, it will spread and continue to expand until arrested.  Likewise, evil acts as the deceptive yeast in our ‘spiritual dough’ (if you will).  Slowly it creeps through and swells without us realizing what has taken place.

Lot was deceived into thinking he could leave the security of God’s people and live with in the middle of evil without being affected.  Gideon was deceived into thinking he would never take the glory from God.  Judas was deceived into justifying his theft as ‘caring for the poor’.  All were slowly changed to destructive circumstances.

The only way to avoid this ‘leavening’ is to 1) place ourselves humbly in the light of spiritual accountability to others; and 2) honestly observe ourselves and ultimately ask, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”  In other words, “How will this bring glory to Jesus Christ?”

We might be tempted to look at these three men and shake our heads in tragic disappointment, thinking of the vast wasted potential.  Looking through the lens of Scripture and observing ourselves and one another is the call of the church – the body of Christ – to preserve each other in this walk of endurance.  Though the change away from God can be subtle, so as not to be noticed, repentance is just the opposite.  Quick.  Sure.  About – face.  Just like that.  No weaning and no excuses.  Now that’s reality gospel.

Keep the Faith  (Galatians 3:23),


Judging Judgmentalism

It is commonplace in recent years to hear individuals both in the church and of the world state that we should “judge not lest we be judged”.  This, of course, is typically taken from our Master’s discourse in what is commonly referred to as ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 7:1).  The notion that the church is not supposed to observe anything or anyone and consider whether it is good or evil is, for lack of better phraseology, asinine.  Even from a worldly perspective that would simply use common logic, to apply such a statement as these individuals commonly perceive it as to not judge, is to judge a person for judging.  In other words, it’s a circular argument.

The misinterpretation of the passage is because of two primary reasons: 1) Our English translations fail to capture the difference between the word ‘judging’ and the concept of ‘judgmentalism ;’ 2) It is convenient to use as a defense when an error is being distinguished and determined.

 As with all passages, context must be determined in order to understand exactly what was being asserted in regard to the speaker, audience, and author.  The context in which Jesus applies this, is in dealing with those that we would typically call ‘finger pointers;’ i.e., those who ‘think themselves to be righteous’ (Luke 18:9). They are the arrogant who think they have no fault.  The people who are continually pointing out the wrong in others and fail to acknowledge the error within themselves are classically ‘judgmental’ by definition.  Every contextual situation in Scripture of the call to ‘not judge’ is in dealing with those who are practicing the upturned nose of judgmentalism.

 However, if we do not judge/discriminate (which has been totally distorted by the world in definition), we are told that we will be ‘tossed about by every wind and wave of doctrine/teaching’ that comes our way (Ephesians 4:14). The apostle Paul addresses this directly to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5.  He directly calls for the congregation to ‘judge those who are within the church’ (in the form of a rhetorical question – 5:12) and to ‘remove the wicked man from among yourselves’ (5:13).  This is because there is a person inside the congregation that has his father’s wife.

 As you can see, Paul is calling for the people in the congregation to pass judgment.  In other words, they are to use their minds for discerning what is right and what is wrong and to not ignore the elephant that is in the room.  If we attempt to apply the ‘judge not’ mentality here, then the immoral relationship openly stays in the congregation and no one would be allowed to say anything about the situation at hand.  This is the very gun that the world (as well as the world within the church) attempts to hold faithful Christians hostage with, by asserting the threat of being labeled as ‘judgmental.’

 I am called to judge by the position that I hold.  At times I wish it were not so because of the weight of the burden in the criticism that comes from outsiders looking in on me, as well as my fellow leaders.  In the past, I have been called to judge things that have caused my family a great deal of anguish and illness.  With much angst I have attempted to be faithful to the Lord in the best of my ability according to His word in these situations.  Even the mere recall causes my heart tremble at the severity of the conditions.  However, for most Christians, this is not unique to the local leadership in which I serve.  Most of the critics would buckle under the weight of these crosses many of your leaders carry.  And as leaders, we most often perform these tasks ‘behind the scenes’ to draw as little attention as possible and to protect the common flock.

 Nevertheless, the task belongs to the church as a whole. Whether we like it or not, we are required to look, consider, and act in gentleness and agape love.  In fact, this is the definitive measure of what we commonly refer to as ‘Wisdom Literature’ (e.g., Proverbs).  ‘My son stop and listen’ means to ‘look before you leap.’  Think about the end-product, use the telescope – ask yourself, “Where will this lead?”  What we use to measure righteousness and unrighteousness, clean and unclean, the holy and the profane, is the entirety of the scriptural reference.  Jesus Christ exemplifies this by pointing to the ancient texts on multiple occasions as the verification of our guiding ‘light.’

To fail, deny, or practice apathy in the matter of righteous judging shames the very sacrifice of Christ and bows to the throne of cultural tides.   In the simplest of west Texas phraseology I can muster; “Through the eyes and heart of the Word, use your head church.”

Keep the Faith (Gal. 3:23),


An Apologetic Response to the Inerrancy of Scripture

The following is an informal approach at a lengthy subject that is addressing a shotgun attempt of questions posted in a Facebook thread on my profile.  I have tagged those who posted on the original thread.  The subject dealt with in this response is an actual digression of the original thread posting.  The questions will not be repeated in their entirety.  It is stated in the following informal arrangement in order to serve as a ‘hands-on’ type of instructional to demonstrate the application of a classical style, biblical apologetic.  It is not meant to carry any derogatory tone and does not seek to demean; this is being stated due to our current cultural climate being one of ‘constantly offended’ whenever one is disagreed with.  I respect and appreciate the opinions and well supported arguments presented.  Please forgive the grammatical typos and misspellings as I won’t proof read and polish.

Psalm 11

In the LORD I take refuge; 
How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain; 
For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, 
They make ready their arrow upon the string 
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, 
What can the righteous do?”  The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; 
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. 
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, 
And the one who loves violence His soul hates. 
Upon the wicked He will rain snares; 
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. 
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; 
The upright will behold His face.

The argument in question is not untypical of our culture – even amongst those who declare themselves to be Christians, in the sense of following Jesus Christ, primarily isolated to a selection of passages in the classical canon of Scripture.  The assertion is against the notion of a particular imperative (command) given in the ancient Scriptures because it is contextually aligned with other imperatives which are not enforced in the contemporary church.  Therefore, the question arrives at the conclusion of dismissing the entirety of said imperative, as it does not agree with a personal ethos (which is attributed to Jesus Christ, which will be dealt with later in this answer).

Moreover, please note the attempt of responsibility shift that often sets Christians aback when they are confronted with a barrage of antagonistic questions concerning the Scriptures of the basis of their faith.  In other words, many questions that are directed in such exchanges leave the recipient bewildered because they are unsure of where to begin.  Always start by making sure that the person questioning has satisfied the logic of their assertion.  If they have not, you will find yourself frustrated at attempting to answer logically that which is illogical in premise – ‘swinging at shadow ghosts on the wall’ if you will.

We have no authority in ourselves.  Authority rests in the Word of God, living and active, the double-edged sword of truth, wielded by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:12;.

However, the argument does not divorce itself from other issues, such as rape, murder, etc.  The particular context that is quoted from (Leviticus 19:19) also commands against keeping the Sabbath, no idolatry, properly handling of sacrifices, stealing, dealing falsely, lying, searing falsely by the name of the LORD, withholding a man’s earnings, putting a stumbling block before a blind man, oppressing one’s neighbor or robbing him, acting in injustice, favoritism, slander, threatening the life of a neighbor, hating your fellow countryman, responsibility to reprove, vengeance, love as the LORD, keep the Law of the LORD, sex with a slave of another man, harvesting, eating blood, the cutting of hair, cuts and tattoos on the body, making your daughter a prostitute, respecting the sanctuary, using spiritists, respecting the elderly, treating foreigners decently, and fair business practices.  Moreover, if one were to include the rest of this single scroll, murder, rape, and certain prohibitions for times of sex (saving you from the sordid details), and a host of many other situations are also addressed.

And to think – that’s not even including the rest of the Torah.

Therefore, before we can even get started on addressing the assertion, the assertion falls apart, unless one is willing to denounce the entirety of all the imperatives.  But this is usually not the case when dealing with antagonists to the Scriptures.  Typically, the contender demands a defense of the application of a passage that can be found in a particular text as such, without defending their own platform which the footing has been removed ironically by their own argument.

Culturally, this is becoming more and more commonplace.  Take for example the scene out of the series, ‘The West Wing’.  President Bartlett is shown to thoroughly trounce a Dr. Jacobs who apparently supports a biblical notion that homosexuality is unbiblical.  A simple web search for the YouTube clip carries a mob of cheerers that this ‘Bible thumping bigot’ is ‘shown how it really is’, with shouts of ‘yeah, look at how stupid they are…..’, etc, etc.  Just watching the scene strikes fear in the hearts of many Christians because they find themselves unsure of how they would respond to such an attack.  And let me say in brevity – I hold church leadership responsible for not making a healthy dose of apologetics a primary concern among their people.  It is clearly evident that vast majority of ‘Christians’ today cannot hold a cup of water against the conniving arguments set against the Word.  Is it any wonder why secular education is so successful in rampantly destroying the faith of our children?

At the risk of intrusion, I must also state, that propping one’s argument in front of a cheering crowd of those who think just as one does, gives a false sense of encouragement, approval, and pride.  Just as the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes to the church in Corinth, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”  We must seek the approval of God, not individuals.

As I address this issue, I am going to attempt to do so in an easily understandable manner – while acknowledging the following: 1) In a proper apologetic, one should never allow a false set rules or order to be dictated to follow; 2) Though one may think this is entirely too long-winded, due to the nature of the assertion, the answer is actually very deep and broad, but for brevity’s sake, I will only be addressing the ‘surface’; 3) My answer will be in the form of demonstration of the application of a Christian (classical) apologetic.  This form stems back to the early church fathers, Aquinas, and is witnessed in contemporary apologists such as Geisler and Zacharias.

The General Rules of All Philosophy:  Apologist throughout the centuries have parsed and needled the support and framework of arguments.  This is a dramatic understatement to degree of testing that these philosophical views have endured.  The following, with slight variations depending on the school of thought, leads to the following 3 stages of philosophy that one should utilize (some add a fourth, but for simplicity, I will leave at 3).  If any of these three levels are absent and are not satisfied in this particular order, the philosophy fails.

Stage 1 – Logic.  This is where we state why we believe in what we believe.  The laws of logic are indisputable and must be applied to our reality.  For example, the statement of an absence of absolute truth is illogical because the statement in itself cannot be ‘absolutely true’.  Likewise, to state that there is no meaning is to say the statement is meaningless within itself.  In other words, it would just be expelled air.  Logic must be satisfied first and foremost.

Stage 2 – How is the philosophy demonstrated in the existential / feelings.  Initially, this may sound confusing, yet it is essentially simple.  It is the ‘why we live the way we live’.  The philosophy of a person/persons/culture is reflected in the way they demonstrate themselves in the arts, literature, music, etc.  This is probably one of the most powerful issues we currently face in our culture because so many individuals find their feelings conflicting with the logic of their faith.  In fact, even those who do not necessarily profess a faith find themselves struggling with this dilemma.  This is because they have allowed their philosophy to be dictated to them at this stage first without having passed the first stage of logic.  When we allow this ‘cart’ to become our ‘horse’, then our passions, which branches directly to our self-centeredness, begins to drive us and we become slaves to what we want, as opposed to what is right.  Our stage 1 must trump our stage 2 if we are to survive our philosophy.

I remember a song years ago by Rupert Holmes called ‘Escape’ (better known as the ‘Pina Colada’ song).  The story in the song is about a man being bored in relationship with his ‘lady’.  He whimsically decides to put an ad in the personal section of the newspaper looking for an adventure in romance – thus, the escape.  The short version is, that he receives a response from a woman sets a blind date meeting.  Upon the woman’s arrival, he is surprised to find out that the responder is none other than his ‘own lady’.  And they go off on the adventurous ‘escape’ they had both planned to spend with other strangers.  The song topped the charts and is still played with much affection across the airways today.  Now, I dare say that most listeners would not appreciate their significant other planning a rendezvous with a single’s ad stranger.  Yet, if this form of ‘art’ expression were allowed to drive our philosophy, we would be in for a long line of destructive relationships, and a likely trip to the STD clinic.  Note the artistic expression in centuries past and the concentration on biblical histories in comparison to the blatant vulgarity today.  The reason for the shattered morality and ethos in our land is because we have largely allowed stage 2 to be our stage 1.

Stage 3 – Application – or what I call ‘the great so-what’.  This is the place where we not only apply the principle to our lives, but find footing that validates the application for others to live by as well.  It is the ‘why we authorize for others the way we do’ part.  In day-to-day living, we attempt to determine what is and is not acceptable.  In many cases, we instruct, and legislate to others these things as well.  The simplest example is the question, “Do you believe (fill in the blank) is ok?  If we have not worked through the first two tests (stages) before entering this, our applications will contradict us at every corner.

Therefore – we must base our arguments on stage 1; demonstrate our feelings on stage 2; and apply our philosophy at stage 3.  As Dr. Ravi Zacharias states, “From truth to experience to prescription.  If either the theist or atheist violate this procedure, he or she is not dealing with reality, but is creating one of his or her own.”  Far greater than my line of thought is of C. S. Lewis in ‘Mere Christianity’, when he speaks of combat between our faith and reason (stage 1) and emotion and imagination (stage 2).  He illustrates that while lying on a surgeon’s table, he well knows in his logic that anesthesia does not suffocate, and therefore has faith that is based on prior logical knowledge that it will not kill him.  Yet, on the table, his emotions and imagination can take hold of and cause him to panic.  If he does not control his emotions (stage 2) with his faith and reason (stage 1), he will crumble under the duress.  It is my assessment that many of the arguments against Scripture, including this particular issue, is due to one leaping to stage 2 for the definition of their ethos, and attempting to bend their stage 1 to conformity.  When we have developed relationships and care for others who are in a direct affront to God’s will (as He has given us, both in the Word and the natural revelation – i.e. Romans 1), if not checked, we can easily find ourselves scrambling to find a doctrine that fits our feelings, thus putting stage 2 before stage 1.  It is not that having these feelings are inappropriate.  In fact, they are of a Christ-like quality.  However, if we truly love those living against the Scriptures, we will not attempt to justify their sin.  Rather, we will direct them towards His will because we do truly care in the eternal sense.  This of course is the great risk.  We may be rejected, labeled as bigots and have derogatory slogans such as ‘Hatin’ with Jesus’ plastered above our heads.  Nevertheless, a true sense of agape love will seek to rescue the person, not justify their destruction.

Concerning the argument of the dating and fallibility of recording, selection, and translation of the Scriptures: In the canon of Scripture we hold before us today, we have 66 books written 40 authors over the approximate span of 1,500 years.  The writers encompass the genres of literature including (but not limited to) historical, wisdom (sayings), poetry, narrative, prophetic, philosophical, theological, and apocalyptic.  They address the pragmatic as well as the existential.  They address the answers to the great questions of origin, purpose, and need of mankind.  They give direction for daily and eternal living by offering workable steps toward practical solutions.  In all of these writings, there is an agreeable and common arrow that runs throughout the entirety of the Scriptures that pulls, points, and ends in the manifestation of God to us in Jesus Christ.  If the Bible were to systematically make contradictory and false historical and philosophical statements throughout the writings, there would be a substantial case for one to reject its validity.  Therefore, it is not I that states the Word to be infallible.  I simply agree with it as a whole that it evidentially states it is the Word of the only true and living God, and therefore that as a true and supportable statement makes it infallible.  However, the arguments against the Scripture in the last 50 years have long been tried before and have shattered against this rock of truth.  This leaves one shaking the head when someone anew comes charging full throttle, head buckled down, to try their case against that which has never been cracked before.  Precedence is roundly ignored.

Consider that there is no other piece of literature in the history of the world that holds this distinction.  That over 1,500 years of writings the consistency, with particular regard to the prophetic, have been verified both historically and archaeologically that even honest secularist scholarship will warn antagonist from attempting to attacking it ‘half-cocked’.  Therefore I make this exclusive statement – No ancient document in the history of the world has the consistent documentary support that the Bible has as a whole.  So when we make a summation as a whole of the evidences presented, there is more than a compelling argument that the canon of Scriptures are just and accurate, but that they have withstood the test of scrutiny that no other document in the history of the world has had to withstand.  One may say they do not believe in God and deny the Scriptures as a whole.  But one who asserts to accept some of the Scriptures and yet deny others stands on no argument whatsoever.  In fact, before they even start, they defeat their own agenda by laying doubt on which Scriptures are acceptable and which ones are not.  The very position in itself justifies the objection of another.  In other words, by the argument that only parts of the Scriptures are acceptable, the statement has in turn justified any other person to state that they believe likewise, but reject the ones the opponent has given approval to and accept the ones he rejects.

Bruce Metzger, the premier Greek scholar of our times and editor of the UBS Greek New Testament and ‘A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament’ states that if one takes the 20,000 lines of the New Testament, it is assured that scholarship may rest on a 99.6% accuracy of the over 5,000 documents in hand.  Again, no other document in the history of the world has undergone the scrutiny of the Scriptures.  I would suggest a Greek class and an introduction to the construction of the Greek New Testament class as well for an education of the subject.  However, his original dispute was not with the New Testament (which stands to question why he would attack its authenticity since he is using it for evidence); it was with the Old Testament.  While it is true that the earliest copies of the NT are approximately dated AD 120 (Rylands p52 – Gospel of John fragment), it is curious as to why he gives this in evidences since it is ‘knocking on the door’ of the original manuscript, which is purported by ancient church historians to have been written approximately AD 90.  More applicable to the original discussion is the OT writings.  The LXX (Septuagint) translation alone was started approximately 3rd century BC and finished 132 BC.  Once again, the test(s) the Word has endured far outdate this contemporary (yet antique) attack.

Concerning Gnosticism: Historically, incipient Gnosticism was just starting to occur in the early church around AD 50 -70.  Galatians, Hebrews, the Johannine Epistles, etc., address it directly.  Gnosticism is not acknowledged historically to be in full swing until approximately AD 200.  Moreover, it was judged as heresy by the early church fathers.  The statement that the Gnostics developed and taught the NT is far-fetched seeing their teachings (the Gnostics) were adamantly condemned in the epistles.  But once again, the purported argument destroys the very foundation of which it attempts to stand on by pointing to the teachings of Christ, and yet questioning their legitimacy in terms of heretical reinterpretation.

Concerning Jesus approval of the OT scriptures:  Jesus leans directly on the supportive foundation of that which the argument denounces as merely ‘writings of men’.  A simple concordance search of the word ‘fulfill’ will quickly demonstrate that the validity of Jesus as the Christ rests on the prophecies of the OT scriptures.  Jesus attends synagogue.  Jesus reads from the ancient scrolls (Isaiah) and states that they prophetically speak of Him.  Jesus points to Genesis as authentic for the model of one man and one woman in the beginning (Matthew 19).  Jesus’ parents were obeying the very Law of the passage that was quoted in the argument, when they took Him as an 8 day old infant to be circumcised according to the Law.  Jesus calls on the OT Scriptures throughout the Sermon on The Mount, not changing, but clarifying what these very Scriptures stated.  And Jesus stated to the people that if they love Him, they will keep His commands – which are the ancient Scriptures that antagonists and many others would wish to abolish because they simply cannot accept the statement from God that homosexuality is unacceptable in His sight.  Thus, the argument is not with those who point to Scripture, as they have subjected themselves to it.  The argument lies with Scripture itself.

Not once did Jesus ever deny the Scriptures.  The argument states that Christ never directly stated that homosexuality was/is a sin.  This is a mute point that a Jewish Rabbi does not repeat the entirety of the Law as a statement of agreement.  That would be to say that a past president did not agree with the Constitution of the United States because he did not state each line and his approval thereof in an autobiography.  John states that had all of Jesus’ statements been recorded, we would not have room enough to publish them (21:25).  You see, by the assertion the argument makes, the burden rests on his shoulders to prove that Jesus never denounced the command in the Jewish Law against homosexuality.  Not only is the lineage of Christ laid forth as one of distinct Jewish heritage, He clearly stated that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  Furthermore, Jesus application of these Scriptures (that have been placed in question) are just as Mr. Miertschin has previously stated as with the woman allegedly caught in adultery.  He instructed her to ‘go and sin no more’.

The argument uses the word ‘hate’ in an exclusive secular definition without acknowledging, 1) the biblical definition, and 2) that God declares a ‘hate’ against certain things.  It is asserted that love is skipped and hate is being accentuated.  This evidences a secular misunderstanding that biblical ‘hate’ exists because love ‘is’.  In the Word, hate abhors that which stands against agape love.  To embrace God’s word as a ‘lamp unto our feet’ is to love that which is true and not be ashamed or browbeaten into agreeing with a cultural tide.  If the argument has a problem with this ‘hate’ (i.e. Malachi 2:16, Romans 9:13), one must deal with God on His terms of how He views that which is against His will – not His followers.

The argument desires evidence of Jesus’ rebuke of homosexuality in the Scriptures.  This ends in a pointless debate with someone who rejects not only the authority of Scripture as a whole, but also one who rejects that Jesus is the Word manifest (John 1).  Therefore, the argument discounts the apostolic passages that address the issue in particular of those who testify to be His representatives of the Word.  But as I have already demonstrated, Jesus never rejected the Law.  Rather, He acknowledged it in fullness and proclaimed Himself as the fulfillment of it (Matthew 5:17).  One example of His execution of the Law in action is in Matthew 19, when He corrects some of the Jewish leaders by pointing to the beginning book of the Law, and expressly drawing attention to the first man and first woman and the precedence of their relationship and how it would correctly exist.  And bear in mind, we have no record of Jesus rebuking pedophilia, drug usage, suicide, etc, etc.  By the standard of the argument, these would be acceptable as well.

The argument proposal fails to justify the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus by stating a categorical rejection of Leviticus.  If Jesus did not die for these ‘sins’, then what for?  If Leviticus (or any other OT passage and select NT passages that do not support one’s agenda) is removed and invalid, why did Jesus instruct the people against any sin listed in the Mosaic Law?

Heretic is not technically a derogatory term.  It is a fact.  It is one who presents a teaching that attempts to change a particular doctrine.  This is different from apostasy, which is only determinable by a person’s prior testimony(ies).

The $64,000 question (and perhaps the most valid) is, why do we not practice the entirety of the Law, but point to certain passages as applicable?  There is an appreciable amount of evidence that I could present concerning the distinctions of civil, moral, and temple law of the Torah.  There are an abundance of cultural contextual observations, and they are not limited to the OT; i.e. head-coverings for women while praying in Corinth, no jewelry, braided hair, or expensive clothes for women in Ephesus, and men being viewed as an overseer not being a new convert in Ephesus while not being an issue in Crete.  Culturally contextual observations are common sense in everyday living.  Yet when dealing with sensitive issues such as the one the argument finds offense with, we find it tossed to the side, demanding absolutes across the board.

When I was in high school, the most attractive thing a young man could wear (at least in one peer group) was a flannel shirt, untucked, sleeves rolled halfway up the forearm, with skin-tight blue jeans (white blue jeans were even the rave at one time).  Just limiting myself to the American culture over the last 100 years, the amount of time that this would have been seen as a ‘sexy’ look for males is negligible.  But in one city, at one high school, for one year, in one peer group, it was.  This is a truth.  Therefore, when a young man got up and dressed, if he were looking to be sexually impressive, hoping to ‘score’ (however he may), he might find himself targeting this particular look.  But in another area in the interior of Houston, just 20 miles away, that mode of dress would have only received the impression of ‘country bumpkin’ – so one dressing that way would not necessarily have any such ‘goal’ in mind as the prior.  Likewise, many other scenarios could be painted that directly example matters of the heart that determine if right or wrong, depending on the setting.  However, there are some things that would be deemed morally and ethically deficient no matter how many miles were traveled.  If a young lady decided to start trying to earn extra money by performing sexual acts for cash in the parking lot during the lunch break, I dare say this would be morally wrong in a sense that transcends not only school districts, but cultural boundaries as well.

Likewise it is in Scripture.  Man’s attempts to alter this have been by either the misunderstanding of the application of Scripture (which is a study within itself), or the direct motivation to justify some aspects of sin based upon drawing suspicion to the validity of transcultural imperatives by attaching them to issues related to a locale.

If I may, I would like to draw on the real-life illustration given by Ravi Zacharias in his example of an apologetic approach to this very question.  Dr. Zacharias recalled an occasion when he had finished lecturing at a university, a female asked a question to which she attributed it disturbing in regard to those who call themselves ‘Christian’.  “Why,” she asked, “are Christians openly against racial discrimination but at the same time discriminate against certain types of sexual behavior?”  Dr. Zacharias stated, “We are against racial discrimination because one’s ethnicity is sacred.  You cannot violate the sacredness of one’s race.  For the same reason we are against the altering of God’s pattern and purpose for sexuality.  Sex is sacred in the eyes of God and ought not to be violated.  What you have to explain is why you treat race as sacred and desacralize sexuality.  The question is really yours, not mine.  In other words, our reasoning in both cases stems from the same foundational basis.  You in effect switch the basis of reasoning, and that is why you are living in contradiction.”  Dr. Zacharias then stated that the initial response was silence, and she said, “I’ve never thought of it in those terms.”  This is all we can ask from others – to at least think about it.

In summation, I end where I began.  “If the foundations are destroyed, 
What can the righteous do?”  The act of pointing to Scripture and in the same breath, denounce its overall validity is illogical (stage 1) and contradictory in itself.  Idolatry by definition is when a person designs something that is a projection of one’s selfish interest.  In other words, it is a god created in one’s own image.  Taking Jesus Christ and attempting to shape Him into a more culturally accepted personae mocks His sacrifice of being tortured to death on a Cross to defeat the wages of sin – death.  To state that His will and His way are of ‘hate’ (by secular definition) and not ‘love’ as He is demonstrated Himself from Genesis to Revelation is to attempt to tell Him how one thinks He should be, as opposed to glorifying who He is.

Keep the Faith (Gal. 3:23),


A Hostile Witness

In a court of law, any witness called to testify for the opposing party is technically considered to be a ‘hostile witness’. In other words, someone who testifies against you is a ‘hostile witness ‘. Therefore, it is presumed that all witnesses called to testify by the opposing party will be testifying in such a manner. However, on rare occasions, unbeknownst to the attorneys and otherwise, a witness who is called to testify changes their story and turns against the very person (or persons) that they were called to support. At that moment of realization, the attorney is to declare the individual as a ‘hostile witness’ to the judge. Thus, the attorney is allowed to use leading questions, as if cross-examining the witness, which they otherwise could not use with a confirming witness.
To put it simply – a hostile witness turns against you in the middle of the trial.
A June 18, 2004, Fox News poll of Americans revealed that fully 92% say they believe in God. Another poll by the Washington Post dated June 24, 2008, gave precisely the same statistic of 92% ‘believers’.
This would leave a grand question of why there is so much evidential evil and antagonism towards Christians, the church, the Bible, and any associated Christian holidays or traditions in the public sector. However, that subject is for another article. It is painfully obvious that one’s definition of God is as fickle as ‘what’s for dinner tonight’ in America. But the subject matter of this article is primarily concerned with the individuals who declare a commitment and covenant to Jesus Christ as Lord, as derived from the Holy Scriptures of the Bible.
Consider the vast variations of biblical interpretations and applications in mainline denominations alone. I’m not referring to the hairsplitting arguments either – I am making reference to serious imperatives that are nonnegotiable within the Scriptures. Doctrines are being debated in the contemporary church that would have never been heard 50 years ago. A simplest example is the controversy over the acceptance of homosexual relationships within the church. No Scripture supports this lifestyle, but in fact, speaks of it as an abomination before the Lord and the causal action when He ‘pulls away’ from sinners and allows them to suffer their own devices (Romans 1: 26ff). For example, at 1:44 PM (PT), July 15, 2009, in Anaheim, California, the Episcopal Church approved a resolution to ordain homosexual bishops. Ask any 80-year-old Episcopalian (who was raised in the church) if they ever thought they would see the day that this would occur.
These are not simply traditions that have been challenged, but direct affronts to the word of God. And a while I could pursue several angles and explain culturally how this has come about and an analysis of where it will probably go from here, the topic at hand is more specifically to do with us as individuals and our martuvrion (marturion – witness).
The word martuvrion -‘marturion’ is where we get our English word martyr While we think of this as someone who has lost their life for certain cause, its roots have more to do with the testimony of a person (than loss of life). In other words, it has to do with what you say. Those who bore a conviction so deep that their testimony cost them their lives inherited the title ‘martyr’ from those recording their history. But in the eyes of Christians, the word/action of a person inherently demands more meaning and importance than one’s death because the heartbeat is not the summation of our eternity. This is monumentally important in light of Matthew 10:32, where Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”
Contemporary Christians have a tendency to think that blasphemy is strictly a matter of the tongue, (i.e. speaking a word of disbelief against God). However, the vast majority of examples given in Scripture that relate themselves to blasphemy are to do with the actions of God’s people (cf. Numbers 15:30; Jeremiah 4:1, 2; Ezekiel 20:26, 27; Romans 2:24;). Given that they have made an affirmative statement of their commitment to the Lord, people then reveal their true heart by demonstrating their testimony in the consistency (or lack) of their actions. To attempt an alignment with the initial illustration, it is as if the people told the lawyers representing the case of their assenting testimony, yet during the trial, they ‘about-face’ and speak (through their actions) against the very One whom they reported to support.
While technically the world has no authority for judgment concerning our lives, they can be illustrated as a group of jurors that we are attempting to convince of the truth with our testimonies. The lawyer in this case is our representative, Jesus Christ. Ironically, He is the very one we are attempting to convince the jurors of His Lordship. However, when our daily lives are inconsistent with our testimony, it is as if we have changed our witness while on the stand and spoken against Christ. I can hear the exchange – So you believe in Jesus Christ as the true son of God? Well, yes, of course. Therefore you believe that His word is the truth and the will of your God? Correct, yes. Then why do you disagree and oppose with what He says in the passage of __________? Uh, what makes you think I disagree with that? The fact that you give your time, effort, energy, votes, and opinions to directly disagreeing with it- that’s what. Well, I just think that it has more than one meaning for people. So you think the meaning is derived from what people think? I thought you just said that you believe that His word is the truth. You obviously don’t know what you actually believe in do you? I guess that’s why they call it ‘the hot seat’.
God states in the preceding passage given in Ezekiel that the Israelites have “blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me.” In other words, those who call themselves ‘Christian’ (their testimony/witness) become hostile witnesses when they directly go against His will/word.
The word of God is not an option. His will is not debatable. Because He is the epitome and source of all truth, it matters not if any or all agree or disagree with Him. Truth remains regardless. And the Lord has chosen to convey His truths to us through the demonstration of His word, the Holy Scriptures.
Therefore, as Christians, we must never find ourselves in the position of becoming hostile witnesses to the Lord by denying or contradicting His word. Remember, when Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven,” proves that our confession includes our alignment with His word, as well as a life that literally demonstrates our daily testimony.
A faithful, trustworthy witness – that is your calling.
Keep the Faith.