THIRD LETTER WITH RESPONSE IN BLUE:
My Responses will be in Blue THE ARK BUILDER article (click here)
Thank you for your prompt reply to both my letter and the PLAIN THINGS article. Thank you also for your pamphlet, THE ARK BUILDER. I have a busy life right now, and it has not allowed me the leisure to sit down and write for quite awhile. Nonetheless, the subject has never been far from my mind, and I have prayed, thought, and studied much on it since receiving your response.
I appreciate your prayer that God would help me to understand and hear you out with an open and humble mind. I need that. I want God to open my mind to truth, and I desperately need humility. The more humble a man is about his position, the less far he has too fall when disproven. Even though I believe beyond all shadow of reasonable doubt that our premise concerning the teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament is correct, yet I know that we are very fallible humans, and the arguments we make to defend that premise may fall flat on their face when exposed to the truth. I am told that one of Soren Kierkegaard’s strongest beliefs was that "God wants people to obey Him, not argue for Him." I think that's true, and I have no desire for this discussion to turn into a mere argument. When humans argue over things too high for then too fully understand, God is not honored, nobody is edified, and all we have done is made a lot of noise.
But Jude urges us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. And so, with caution, I proceed; because the faith which you are preaching, though you believe it to be the faith once delivered, was not understood by our forefathers in the faith to be the true faith once delivered.
But before going any further, I would like to acknowledge an embarrassing mistake on our part. When Aaron wrote in his introduction to my article in PLAIN THINGS that you attempt to "take us back to the God of the Old Testament," that was a very poor choice of words. We certainly believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the New, and that before Abraham was, Jesus Christ was the great "I AM." We have zero respect for the gnostic idea of a lesser god being the god of the Old Testament, while today we serve a greater God. That is ignorant foolishness, and we stand with you in condemning it. Furthermore, we believe that the two covenants harmonize perfectly, when properly understood.
However, when Aaron said what he did, he was making a point that still stands, even though his word choice was poor. You are attempting to take us to a view of God that is very Old Covenant, in many ways; although you can never be entirely in agreement with even the Old Covenant. In many ways, you are taking your readers and followers back to God as he was understood by people who lived before the coming of the Messiah and His glorious new Kingdom. You are taking them back to God as He was understood within the context of an earthly kingdom and a fleshly Israel - at least in part. But I suspect not even you yourself would be interested in entirely following the moral law of God that was revealed to them then.
I am taking people back to a view of God presented by the Old Testament Scriptures, because I say that Jesus’ teaching is consistent with Moses’ Law, and that the moral law of God is still relevant because God’s morals never change? Thanks for the compliment.
I want all the moral law of God, because in every circumstance where the moral law of God was given, it was the best thing to do under those circumstances. God’s Word is always the best thing to do when used in the proper context. Woe to the man who thinks he is smarter than God. I can’t believe the arrogance behind the statement you just made. Who revealed that moral law to them??? It was God! We are to tremble at His Word — Is. 66:2. We ought to see every decision He made and cherish it as a precious jewel of divine wisdom. Are you embarrassed by what God did in the OT? Do you think He is? Do you think if Jesus was alive in Moses’ day that He would have made different laws? Would Jesus command that city officials stone a rebellious youth whom the parents could no longer control? HE DID. Do you think Jesus would allow divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances? HE DID. Would Jesus kill two church members for giving a large sum of money to the church, but not being honest about it? HE DID. What He did was determined by what office He was holding at the time and what jurisdiction and responsibility that office contained. Think about it. If it was God who inspired Moses, then every law given is the best thing to do in that situation, and if that situation is where I find myself, then that is what I should do! God’s judgment calls never change and if the same scenario is presented, God will give the same judgment call — He is eternal and omniscient and his morality has not evolved or matured or changed — “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning”. Jesus Christ, the same YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER. Moses' words are Jesus' words.
You have just admitted that the point Aaron was making still stands, but the words were too obvious — I say this because you’ve said now that it was the Old Covenant VIEW of God that is the problem. A wrong view of God is essentially a different God, especially when that wrong view comes from the only revelation of him that existed. What else constitutes a different God? Read 2 Cor. 11:4 and tell me what constitutes a different Jesus or Gospel?
“4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
By Old Covenant you must mean Old Covenant/Testament Scriptures — what else could be meant? So, the view of God created by the Old Covenant Scriptures is a wrong view? Is that what you are saying? What else could you be saying? God revealed himself to man through the Scriptures for the first 4000 years of life on earth and it was a wrong view? Yet these Scriptures and especially the Old Covenant were supposed to be our tutor to bring us to Christ. Let’s think about this:
Mt 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,
n According to you, they would err if they did know the Scriptures — it gave a wrong view of God. A wrong view of God is essentially a different God
Joh 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
n Actually searching the Scriptures would give them a wrong view of God
Ac 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
n Why reason with them out of a document that gives a wrong view of God?
Ac 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
n What would searching the Scriptures do, but give them a wrong view of God?
Ac 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
n Paul worshipped the God of his fathers believing ALL things which are written in the law and the prophets — So maybe he was a heretic with a wrong view of God????
Ro 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
n How could the things written aforetime be for our learning, when they give us a wrong view of God? Wouldn’t this be a false hope and false comfort?
2Ti 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
n From a child poor Timothy had a wrong view of God — how could this make him wise unto salvation?
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
n ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God — was it a poor job of revealing himself???
n Paul says that it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and for instruction in righteousness — HOW COULD THIS BE IF IT GAVE A WRONG VIEW OF GOD?
2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
n Did the Holy Ghost give a wrong view of God?? Could it be that you have a wrong view of Jesus?? Could it be that you have a wrong view of Christ’s Kingdom??
It seems you are ignoring so much that has already been said on this subject. Things that have not been answered, but ignored. How do you answer the fact that both Jews and Gentiles converting to Christianity, i.e. brought into the New Covenant - were all required to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses for the first 12 years after Pentecost (were they heretics?), the meeting in Acts 15 was 20 years after Pentecost where it was still uncertain to many about the Gentiles being free from the Ceremonial laws; and then in Acts 21 we find (29 years after Pentecost) that ALL the Jewish Christians are still abiding by Moses’ Law, except that they could now receive Gentiles as brothers in the faith (were they heretics during this time?). How does this fit with your view that the Old Testament Scriptures only gave a wrong view of God?? Don’t just say “transition period”, for these men and their doctrine were to be our teachers and examples, and how then are we to know what part of the transition they were in — I guess I could just ask you? How is it that the New Covenant was made with Israel (not with Gentiles) by God writing His Laws (not new ones) on their hearts? Why is it continually stated that the Old Testament Scripture stories were written for our admonition and examples? Why is nearly every NT example of Faith, perseverance, etc. from OT people? Why are we to have the faith of Abraham if he had a wrong view of God? Why is the OT continually quoted by NT writers to validate their points — even on non-vengeance (Romans 12:19,20)? How can James declare that we are supposed to look into the perfect law of liberty and be “doers of the word”, and at the same time say that with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning — wouldn’t this conflict if the OT gives a wrong view of God?? The church is said to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; but how can our foundation be partially a wrong view of God? We could go on and on...
...Just maybe, you have a wrong view of this whole subject???
Now, about your letter to me: First of all, I was very disappointed that you did not do for the book that I sent you what you expected us to do for the books you sent us. You expected us to carefully read your books, and then respond with clear explanations of what was wrong, with them and why we disagreed. However, when I send you a book, you respond with a very short paragraph, sweeping the book under the table. A shrug of your shoulders, and the matter is dismissed. "It has chasms," you say, "lacking Scripture and common sense." But you do not bother to explain what those are.
I gave you books with Scriptural exegesis and plain verses to back up my points and demonstrated the truth of what I am proposing. You sent me a book containing a man’s perusal of history and his biased view of that history. You expect me to take each point in this history and refute it?? It wouldn’t even serve my purpose. I told you that I am also aware of all the embarrassing failures of the Amish/Mennonite peoples; but why should I enumerate these to counter this man’s exposure of protestant failures — failures which I don’t deny — nor do I wish to defend? All I care about is what the Bible actually says to us, not how other people failed to obey it, nor this man’s opinion of it. You sent a book of a man’s philosophy, not a book interpreting Scriptures, as I gave you. We can find truth by searching the Scriptures and comparing Scripture with Scripture; but not by trying to prove our points by our interpretation of history or philosophical speculations. I guess when the Scriptures don’t hold up your doctrine you are forced to seek out other sources? Yet, I will give you one example of the chasm between this man assumptions and the truth.
n On page 424, “There were some Christians in the Roman military, but some historians believe most of them were converted after promising to serve in the army and were therefore unable to be released. According to Jesus’ teaching, such persons should have stopped serving in the army and suffered whatever penalties the Roman government decided; but apparently the church of their time (after AD 180) had compromised to the point that it did not require this. It does appear that the church’s official position before AD 313 was a member who joined the military after he joined the church was to be disciplined.
Now, any judicious mind can see the incredible assumptions and false statements here. First, “some” Christians, and “one third of the army” is quite different. Where did we get this “official church position” — one or two writers? Please give me the evidence that the church before AD 180 required his misconception of Jesus’ teaching. “According to Jesus’ teaching” — What? We have and can read Jesus’ teaching and example: The Centurion who just explained to Jesus his high ranking and authoritative position in the Roman military while asking Jesus to heal his servant is said to have greater faith than what Jesus saw in Israel, and then Jesus goes on to say concerning this man, “Matt 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” Jesus taught they must step down and take whatever penalties the Roman government decided??? Where is this teaching I ask? It certainly doesn’t line up with Jesus’ example when speaking to one.
Add to this that John told the soldiers to not abuse their office and be content with their wages. He expected them to stay in the military, be just and fair, and be content with their wages and do what they were paid to do. They had asked what they must do to be acceptable to the Messiah; and John said nothing about never using force or not carrying their sword — nothing; but actually implied the opposite by telling them to not abuse their authority and be content with their wages.
Listen to what the Bible says about Cornelius: Acts 10: 1 ¶ There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
This Roman centurion then calls for a “devout” soldier, probably for their protection, and sends men to Peter who has just been told by God — “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. When Peter comes into the house of Cornelius, who tells his story, Peter declares: 34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. This refers to his life previous to meeting Peter.
In the next chapter Peter says, 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then in Acts 15 Peter says: 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
None of the Jews who questioned Peter had any issue with the man being a centurion, but only that he was a Gentile. If they were baptized, then they were IN, and ready for communion, right? The instructions about stepping down should have come BEFORE baptism if your quotes from the early church are correct and represent the “Biblical view”.
We find Jesus telling his disciples to sell their shirt and buy a sword; we find Paul telling us that the sword bearing rulers are the ministers of God to us for good; and we find many public officials being converted and baptized with no word about stepping down from their positions. In Acts 16 we have the keeper of the prison converted and baptized at midnight, but still the keeper of the prison the next day after his baptism and Paul’s preaching. We see Paul calling upon the Roman soldiers to protect him from the Jews, and finally appealing to Caesar for the same protection. Then we find Jesus in Revelation going forth to war with the armies of heaven shedding blood and destroying his enemies. Some of this is obviously symbolic, but not all of it; because listen to Jesus’ words in His own teachings:
n Lu 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
That the author’s statement in the book you sent is full of bias and assumption based on his indoctrination is the best that could be said for it. There is a big difference between “government use of force” as a principle and a particular government’s military being a dangerous and unhealthy environment for a Christian young man. YES military life in a worldly government is not a place a Christian should seek to be a part of; but that doesn’t change the fact that soldier/police action as a principle was not considered sin in itself — according to John, Jesus, and the apostles. When Jesus returns and has his enemies slain before Him, we will be his officers and soldiers in a good military environment.
And then you say that you see in him similar indoctrination as you see in me, when I state that the conclusion we reach “harmonizes with the conclusion the vast majority of true, God-fearing Christians throughout history have reached.” This statement assumes far too much, you say; and insist that I will be surprised at who were the true godly Christians through the ages. Let me just say that, if the true, God-fearing Christians throughout history were those who believed it was okay to go to war and fight for a just cause, or to resist with physical force someone who was coming against them or their loved ones, I will be very surprised indeed. If I discover that those who stubbornly held to a very literal interpretation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount were in error, and even gave their lives for that cause in vain, I will be surprised; and so will many others.
Yes, you will be surprised which side of the issue Jesus and the apostles land on, as their view of God came from the Scriptures which read: Pr 24:11 ¶ If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; 12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
Jesus said that he who breaks one of the least of the “Old Covenant” commandments and shall teach men so, the same shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven — that Kingdom you say he revealed that made all the Old Covenant view of God in error. Jesus reproved harshly those who made the Word of God (what Moses said) of none affect by their own teaching — Mark 7. Jesus surely would not do what he is reproving others for doing. Did they ever accuse Him of doing the same??
You think that your view harmonizes with the vast majority of God fearing Christians through history, yet the few you quote are known to be in error on important points. You read your views into what others say, but I will show you that you are not being consistent with your own beliefs; and the evidence is not all on one side.
You wondered if my statement about the honest student of Scripture going for help was an accusation. Let me confirm that for you: It was. You can not be an honest student of Scripture and ignore the voices of the great cloud of witnesses that cry out throughout history, voicing their understanding of the Scriptures. If you pursue an interpretation of Scripture that places you at odds with those early church fathers who sat at the feet of the apostles and learned from them, you are treading on dangerous ground. I intend to go into this at length shortly, because the early Christians provide a resounding universal witness in support of a literal, simple explantion of the teachings of Christ. Their conclusions do not harmonize with yours.
Excuse me, Joshua, but the book you sent me (quoted above) says that the church after 180 AD compromised and didn’t uphold the teachings of Jesus. This is pretty early, you know. So, whom do I believe as my great cloud of witnesses? MY beliefs are not at odds with those who sat at the apostle’s feet; but may be with later confused and erring Gentile Christians who you quote, but wouldn’t even follow yourself. To say that I must adhere to the voices of the early church fathers in order to be an honest student of Scripture is a statement based on ignorance of the subject which I will prove here shortly. First, the church fathers that “sat at the feet of the apostles” don’t teach what you are teaching; but you can find heretics later on that seem to. Some you quote are not even worthy of being called Christians when you find out what they really believed and taught. If they were alive today, you would not want to associate with them. ONLY the Scripture is preserved and inspired by God for our doctrinal foundation, and it is enough. You will indeed see that one of your fellows did support a literal explanation of the teachings of Jesus — Yes, Origen, which you will soon quote and really seem to like, castrated himself in trying to take Jesus literal. You will also learn that he was condemned by the church as a heretic by 10 and later 15 anathemas. He believed many heresies including reincarnation. There is no doubt the man was sincere in his youth; but he was not inspired and infallible.
As I told you before: if I were to take Jesus’ teachings “literal” in the way you speak of, I would only pray in my closet, I would never plan the next day, I would not work for my food, I would sell my shirt and buy a sword, I might cut off my hand or pluck out my eye, I would never own two coats, I would only wear sandals, I would go the second mile with any cause where I was asked to help (good or bad), I would never resist any evil — meaning I would never discipline myself or my children, I would yield to temptation, and would never fight against the devil, false doctrine, etc. ---- YES it would be foolish to take everything Jesus said “literal” without the proper context of the whole Word of God; which is what I’ve been trying to tell you. Jesus’ words must be taken in JESUS’ LITERAL MEANING and INTENT, not your “literal” interpretation of the words used. Jesus is the WORD made flesh and He did exactly what Malachi said he would do. Why can’t you take Malachi “literal”? Jesus’ teachings are consistent with the WHOLE WORD OF GOD, and all of the Word of God is His teaching — including Malachi. The apostles, NOT EARLY WRITERS, understood Jesus PERFECTLY, and they are the only ones we can trust to interpret Jesus for us by their examples and writings.
Before we go there, however, let's talk about your offer for a 1,000 dollar reward to anyone who can refute, with Scripture, the message of The Alien Exposed. First of all, who is to be the judge? If you are the judge, no one will ever refute the book's message. The reason? You have already interpreted all the Scriptures that will be used against you in such a way as to nullify any opposing argument, It all boils down - not, as you suppose, to Scripture- but to Scripture interpretation.
Is this why you run to Origen and friends? You don’t believe the Scriptures can be understood? Do you not realize that there are laws and rules in regards to interpreting Scripture? We can let the whole world and God judge how we use the Scripture - Yes, that would be great if we could only talk about what the Scriptures actually say. I am offering $1000 dollars to anyone who can show me from the Scriptures that my position is not what the Scripture is saying — God is the judge of my heart’s motives. Quit worrying about actually getting your $1000 and just attempt to correct me from the Scriptures. The fact is that I’ve previously left my indoctrination from childhood and college due to those who could show me in the Scripture that I was wrong. This is something you cannot say; and if you are right, you need not say it; but I’m the one challenging others to correct me, and I can show that I’m capable of being corrected on a number of points, because I have been - God knows; and your job is not to assume upon my motives, but to show me from the Scripture where I am not interpreting it properly. This means you cannot avoid the Scriptures I use, but must interpret them correctly for me. It is all being posted on the world wide web, so God and man can be the judges.
Sam Harris, a. widely known and hard-core atheist, recently made this offer: He would give 10,000 dollars, he said, to anyone who could prove to him beyond a doubt that there is a God. In the flurry of letters and e-mails and tweets and general hoopla that followed. one man offered to refund the bill dollar for dollar. He said he would give Mr. Harris back his 10,000 dollars if anyone could convince him. Why was he so bold? Perhaps partly to help encourage people to persuade Mr. Harris; but mostly, think, because he knew Harris would not be convinced. You don't win a name when your opponent sets up the board and plays according to his own rules.
As for Mr. Harris, he is doing this so he can feel good about himself. He wants to be able to tell God, on judgment day, "I gave you every opportunity to convince me, but you would not. I even begged for it, promising to pay a large sum of money; but you would not. Therefore you are at fault, not me." The problem for Sam Harris is that God is not made to play by our rules, He plays by His own rules, and He will not force anyone to believe anything. And to you, I would say this: If you are in error in your interpretation of Scripture, God will not force you to change. The evidence is always there, waiting for you to rise up and see it; but you have to want to first. Therefore, unless you are really open to seeing things in a different light, your 1,000 dollar reward will do nothing. - no matter how many clear and undisputable proofs are presented to you.
Your comparison is foolish and unjust. First, it is impossible to prove God exists. YES, there are great and powerful evidences of God’s existence for those who wish to see it and believe in it by FAITH; However, in our debate, it is possible to read plain English in the Bible and know what the document is teaching. It is possible to show what Jesus actually taught and didn’t teach if we are willing to submit to proper rules of interpretation, rather than run from them. Your job is not to falsely accuse and judge as you have done, but to put forth the message of Scripture, not quote individual heretics from history and assume theirs is the “Official Church Position”. Everyone who follows this discussion can see your continual avoidance of plain Scriptural arguments presented — I will let them and God judge who is unwilling to see so many clear and indisputable proofs.
And now let's talk about early Christians and their view of the subject. This is very important, because many of these men sat at the feet of the apostles or the personal disciples of the apostles. If they understood something as foundational as the teachings of Christ in a light different than we did, let me ask you: who is more likely to be in error? I'm not talking about the beliefs of one early Christian. I'm talking about what the early Christians believed, as a whole. Because on this particular subject, before the council of Nicaea, they are united.
You speak quite confident, but you are lacking much information. None of the men you quote sat at the feet of the apostles, and only Irenaeus was supposedly acquainted with Polycarp, but when he argues for Jesus living to 50 years old with a 20 year ministry, he betrays his ignorance of Jesus and the apostles. The Bible says if an angel from heaven preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed. Who should know better what the Bible means, me or an angel from heaven? In I John we are told to try the spirits:
n 1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
In the days when the apostles were still alive it was necessary to not believe every voice, whether angel or spirit; but to try them with what??? The Word of God. How much more important was this principle after the apostles were dead — when Paul says the grievous wolves would come in and not spare the flock. QUESTION: Are you prepared to agree with all that these exalted writers believed and wrote?? If not, then you are being a hypocrite, because you are expecting me to accept their word against Scripture on the points you like, when you are not willing to submit to all their writing and believing. Who should know better — you? or them?? If Diotrephes wrote some discourses would we care to read them? He was contemporary with the apostles! The only way we know he was bad, is because the Scriptures tell us. What if he wrote 100 years after Paul died? If there were men like him while the apostles were alive, what about 100 or 200 years later?
I do have all the Ante-Nicene, Post Nicene, and church council writings. Most of the Ante-Nicene writings are more than 100 years removed from the apostles. The one’s that are closer don’t teach your extreme and erroneous views, and the one’s farther out that you think agree with you also teach known errors. Bercot puts too much weight on the "early church fathers" and I think he has led you astray.
There is a wealth of information available on this subject, from the early church fathers. Since I do not have a set of the Ante-Nicene Fathers writings I am using Bercot's Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs as my source. I would encourage you to do some research on your own as well. Let's begin with Irenaeus, an Eastern writer who was taught by Polycarp as a boy. Polycarp was a personal disciple of the apostle John, who served as the bishop of Smyrna for many years. Just for interest's sake, I will quote this paragraph by Irenaeus:
"While I was yet a boy, I saw you in lower Asia with Polycarp..... I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and teach... together with the discourses that he delivered to the people. I can remember also, how he would speak of his familiar relations with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord. I remember how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatever things he had heard from them concerning the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp would recount them all in harmony with the Scripture - having in that manner received it from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life."
- Irenaeus, c. 180 (Dictionary, p. 526; ANF v. 1, p.569)
Irenaeus was born around 130 AD, and lived to about the year 200. At this time Christianity was still young, and people were still living who had the words of the apostles ringing in their ears. Of course, Irenaeus could have some serious misconceptions; but listen to what he says concerning the Sermon on the Mount:
"With the Lord, not only is the adulterer rejected, but also the person who desires to commit adultery. Not only is the actual murderer considered guilty of having killed another person (to his own damnation), but also the man who is angry with his brother without a reason. Jesus commanded (His followers) not only not to hate men, but also to love their enemies. He commanded them not only not to swear falsely, but not even to swear at all … He commanded...not only not to strike others, but even, when they themselves are struck, to present the other cheek... He commanded not only not to injure their neighbors, nor to do them any evil, but also, when they are dealt with wickedly, to be long-suffering.
-Irenaeus, c. 180 (Dictionary, p. 610; ANF v. 1, p. 408)
Perhaps you would agree one hundred percent with that paragraph, although I hardly see how you could. Do you not believe that there are times when we must injure our neighbors (i.e., in defense of someone else)? Yet Irenaeus does not qualify his statement or the teachings of the Lord in such a way as to allow for that kind of action.
I agree 100% with the parts that are simply paraphrases of Scripture; but do you believe that a man is “guilty of having killed another person” who is angry with his brother without a reason?? Is this what Jesus said? They may both be in danger of the judgment and not fit for heaven; but the one who is angry without a reason certainly does not have the same guilt as the actual murderer. This is not what Jesus was saying, and therefore Irenaeus NEEDS to qualify his statements. You just swallowed it because it sounded good; but I doubt you really believe what the man said. I would qualify his statements to agree with the rest of Scripture — if they don’t, then he is wrong.
Here is a quote for you.
The believer’s response to persecution is not vengeance, hate, or war, but “loving not their lives unto the death”. They overcome deception by the “word of their testimony”; and they overcome accusation by claiming the “blood of the Lamb”.
You will notice that when the apostles were arrested, attacked, etc. for the preaching of the Gospel, they didn’t gather the believers together for battle or “hole up in the barn with a shotgun” or ambush the opposition with weapons. Non-resistance is an attitude of humility and willingness to suffer for doing what is right. It is an unwillingness to lower ourselves sinfully to become no better than the hateful sinners who persecute us; and it has much to do with jurisdiction, and honoring God ordained boundaries. Even King David knew the difference between killing Goliath and avenging himself on Nabal.
It comes from my book called, “Vengeance is Mine”. You, who have not yet apologized for your false representation that I would sue the poor family of the deluded man who killed the girls at Nickel Mines, need to understand that there is a Biblical position between the extremes that you seem to only see. However, when the Amish called the police, what did they expect them to do? If the police had killed the man before he killed the girls everyone would rejoice; but this business of saying they forgave him after he was dead because they didn’t sue his poor family is ludicrous and shallow thinking at best.
Concerning the old (Mosaic) Laws and how it differs from the law we are under today, Irenaeus says this:
"The Lord also showed that certain provisions were enacted for them by Moses on account of their hardness... It was for that reason that they received from Moses this law of divorce, adapted to their hard nature."
-Irenaus, c. 180 (Dictionary, p. 218; ANF v. 1. p. 480)
Should I agree with Irenaeus’ quote? Do you know what Irenaeus believed on the subjects at hand? Let me help you in your study by giving you some quotes not found in Bercot. Concerning the quote just above, let me give you the quote in it’s context of Irenaeus’ meaning and you will see that he is not supporting what you think, but may be revealing his own heretical thinking — depending on what he is implying.
n And not only so, but the Lord also showed that certain precepts were enacted for them by Moses, on account of their hardness [of heart], and because of their unwillingness to be obedient, when, on their saying to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to send away a wife?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he permitted these things to you; but from the beginning it was not so;"(6) thus exculpating Moses as a faithful servant, but acknowledging one God, who from the beginning made male and female, and reproving them as hard-hearted and disobedient. And therefore it was that they received from Moses this law of divorcement, adapted to their hard nature. But why say I these things concerning the Old Testament? For in the New also are the apostles found doing this very thing, on the ground which has been mentioned, Paul plainly declaring, But these things I say, not the Lord."(7) And again: "But this I speak by permission, not by commandment."(8) And again: "Now, as concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."(9) But further, in another place he says: "That Satan tempt you not for your incontinence."(10) If, therefore, even in the New Testament, the apostles are found granting certain precepts in consideration of human infirmity, because of the incontinence of some, lest such persons, having grown obdurate, and despairing altogether of their salvation, should become apostates from God,--it ought not to be wondered at, if also in the Old Testament the same God permitted similar indulgences for the benefit of His people, drawing them on by means of the ordinances already mentioned, so that they might obtain the gift of salvation through them, while they obeyed the Decalogue, and being restrained by Him, should not revert to idolatry, nor apostatize from God, but learn to love Him with the whole heart.
Is he saying that God makes laws in consideration of our needs, infirmities, and abilities through his inspired writers — as in the Old Testament, so in the New? OR is Irenaeus saying that Moses and Paul were not inspired when giving these precepts? Hopefully not. Either way, he is not saying what you think, because he believes that men still have hard hearts and the New Testament makes similar rules to accommodate them as the Old — so why would he believe the Old are repealed? Now what else did Irenaeus believe about whether or not Jesus was correcting Moses?
Irenaeus book IV. CHAP.II3. But since the writings (litera) of Moses are the words of Christ, He does Himself declare to the Jews, as John has recorded in the Gospel: "If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, neither will ye believe My words."(3) He thus indicates in the clearest manner that the writings of Moses are His words. If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words], as I have pointed out. And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: "If they do not obey Moses and the prophets, neither, if any one were to rise from the dead and go to them, will they believe him."(4) ...Lest, therefore, we should incur the same punishment as these men, the Lord reveals [to us] their end; showing at the same time, that if they obeyed Moses and the prophets, they would believe in Him whom these had preached, the Son of God, who rose from the dead, and bestows life upon us; and He shows that all are from one essence, that is, Abraham, and Moses, and the prophets, and also the Lord Himself, who rose from the dead, in whom many believe who are of the circumcision, who do also hear Moses and the prophets announcing the coming of the Son of God.
Here is his belief on whether Jesus corrected Moses or was correcting the false interpreters of Moses:
Chapter XII1. For the tradition of the elders themselves, which they pretended to observe from the law, was contrary to the law given by Moses. Wherefore also Esaias declares: "Thy dealers mix the wine with water,"(6) showing that the elders were in the habit of mingling a watered tradition with the simple command of God; that is, they set up a spurious law, and one contrary to the[true] law; as also the Lord made plain, when He said to them, "Why do ye transgress the commandment of God, for the sake of your tradition?"(7) For not only by actual transgression did they set the law of God at nought, mingling the wine with water; but they also set up their own law in opposition to it, which is termed, even to the present day, the pharisaical. In this [law] they suppress certain things, add others, and interpret others, again, as they think proper, which their teachers use, each one in particular; and desiring to uphold these traditions, they were unwilling to be subject to the law of God, which prepares them for the coming of Christ. But they did even blame the Lord for healing on the Sabbath-days, which, as I have already observed, the law did not prohibit. For they did themselves, in one sense, perform acts of healing upon the Sabbath-day, when they circumcised a man [on that day]; but they did not blame themselves for transgressing the command of God through tradition and the aforesaid pharisaical law, and for not keeping the commandment of the law, which is the love of God. 2. But that this is the first and greatest commandment, and that the next [has respect to love] towards our neighbour, the Lord has taught, when He says that the entire law and the prophets hang upon these two commandments. Moreover, He did not Himself bring down [from heaven] any other commandment greater than this one, but renewed this very same one to His disciples, when He enjoined them to love God with all their heart, and others as themselves. But if He had descended from another Father, He never would have made use of the first and greatest commandment of the law; but He would undoubtedly have endeavoured by all means to bring down a greater one than this from the perfect Father, so as not to make use of that which had been given by the God of the law. 4. The Lord, too, does not do away with this [God], when He shows that the law was not derived from another God, expressing Himself as follows to those who were being instructed by Him, to the multitude and to His disciples: "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens, and lay them upon men's shoulders; but they themselves will not so much as move them with a finger."(4) He therefore did not throw blame upon that law which was given by Moses, when He exhorted it to be observed, Jerusalem being as yet in safety; but He did throw blame upon those persons, because they repeated indeed the words of the law, yet were without love. And for this reason were they held as being unrighteous as respects God, and as respects their neighbours. As also Isaiah says: "This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me: howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching the doctrines and the commandments of men."(5) He does not call the law given by Moses commandments of men, but the traditions of the elders themselves which they had invented, and in upholding which they made the law of God of none effect, and were on this account also not subject to His Word.
5. Now, that the law did beforehand teach mankind the necessity of following Christ, He does Himself make manifest, when He replied as follows to him who asked Him what he should do that he might inherit eternal life: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."(8) But upon the other asking "Which?"" again the Lord replies: "Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour father and mother, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,"--setting as an ascending series (velut gradus) before those who wished to follow Him, the precepts of the law, as the entrance into life; and What He then said to one He said to all. But when the former said, "All these have I done" (and most likely he had not kept them, for in that case the Lord would not have said to him, "Keep the commandments"), the Lord, exposing his covetousness, said to him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor; and come, follow me;" promising to those who would act thus, the portion belonging to the apostles (apostolorum partem). And He did not preach to His followers another God the Father, besides Him who was proclaimed by the law from the beginning; ...But He taught that they should obey the commandments which God enjoined from the beginning...
Irenaeus says many good things; but is not a trustworthy foundation to build doctrine upon, because he wasn’t right on every point; Yet he is not fully supporting your position either. He believed that Christians could hold any office in the government, like Joseph, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, as long as they could keep free from idolatry and unchristian practices. This principle I agree with as government office is not sin in principle; but a God ordained office that is better filled by the godly than the ungodly. He seems, though, to struggle with the fact that John baptized soldiers and Jesus accepted and commended the centurion, and reveals that his ideas are a little warped in your direction and probably for the same reasons.
And Origen fleshes this thought out a little further:
"Some of the laws were written - not as excellent - but as by way of accommodation to the weakness of those to whom the Law was given. For something of this kind is indicated in the words, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your heart, allowed you to put away your wives."
- Origen, c. 245 (Dictionary, p.219; ANF 9.510)
The early Christians saw perfect harmony between the two covenants, yet they made it clear, that laws such as the one just mentioned and more which we will get into later, were specifically for the Israelites and their earthly kingdom. Those laws were necessary for the purpose God had for Israel; but when Jesus came and brought the Kingdom of heaven, they understood quite simply, without any need to build elaborate theologies, that that age was now past along with all of those temporary laws that it takes to hold an earthly kingdom together.
Origen’s words could simply mean what I believe Jesus to have meant by these words. Jesus wasn’t saying that the Jews were hard hearted above Gentiles; but that this law was given due to man being a fallen race, not because it was God’s first will for marriage — a standard of excellence. Jesus said, if you break one of the least of these commandments and teach men so, you will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. The law of God, which God wrote on the hearts of men as the basis for the New Covenant is, as we have proved from the Scriptures, the moral law or “righteousness of the law” which applies to all men in all ages, and is necessary for our salvation — Romans 8:4-13. This law applies to church members, church leaders, people in government, etc. It is the moral principles of LOVE applied to every area of life. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hung from it, and we are still accountable to God’s inspired applications of love. Let me give you a quote that sounds a lot like what Irenaeus and Origen just said:
n “When Jesus asked them what Moses commanded, they went directly to Deut. 24 instead of Genesis -- this showed their root problem. They took one passage by itself without the tempering aspect of the other. This is where most people err today also. Upon this basis, Jesus reveals the reason why Moses tolerated divorce: because the people were sinful and hardhearted in their fallen state. The Jew’s pride was greatly deflated by the fact that their justification for their divorces was based on a part of the Law which was given, not as a righteous standard, but as a restraint and regulation for fallen sinful man. The Law was given because mankind was now a fallen race, and the Law told leaders what to do when sin happened -- how to righteously deal with sin and fallen society.”
This quote happens to be from my book on “What The Bible Really Teaches About Divorce And Remarriage”. Who would think that the Jews were the only men with hard hearts, and fallen man today doesn’t have such? Jesus even upbraided his own disciples for their hard heartedness.
There is a rather lengthy correspondence between Origen and Celsus (a pagan critic), that I will only be able to quote in part, but it's all good, and I'd encourage you to check the rest of it out for yourself:
Don’t tell me you read it all. It is very long, and you don’t even have it all — how can you say it is all good???
(Origen) "To those who inquire of us from where we come, or who is our founder, we reply that we have come agreeably to the counsels of Jesus. We have cut down our hostile, insolent, and wearisome swords into plowshares. We have converted into pruning hooks the spears that were formerly used in war. For we no longer take up "sword against nation," nor do we "learn war anymore.," That is because we have become children of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.
- Origen, c. 248 (Dictionary, p. 678; ANF 4.558)
(Celsus) "'How could God command the Israelites through Moses to gather wealth, to extend their dominion, to fill the earth, to put their enemies of every age to the sword, and to destroy them utterly?... For, on the other hand, His Son, the man of Nazareth, promulgated laws quite opposed to these. He declared that no one can come to the Father who loves power, riches, or glory. Jesus said that to anyone who has given them one blow, they should offer to receive another. So is it Moses or Jesus who taught falsely? When the Father sent Jesus, did He forget the commands He had given to Moses? Or did He change His mind, condemn His own laws, and send forth a Messenger with opposite instructions?....
(Origen's Reply:) "We would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles and with their subjection to the Roman government. On the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged if they were to embrace the gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies. Nor could they condemn those who had broken the law to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands.... In the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or other-wise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would have been to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them. For, in that case, their very laws would restrain them and prevent them from resisting the enemy. Yet, that same providence that of old gave the Law, and as now given the gospel of Jesus Christ, has destroyed their city and their temple, not wishing the Jewish state to continue any longer....However, this providence has extended the Christian religion day by day, so that it is now preached everywhere with boldness. And this is in spite of the numerous obstacles that oppose the spread of Christ's teaching in the world. However, since it was the purpose of God that the nations should receive the benefits of Christ's teaching, all the devices of men against Christians have been brought to nothing. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength."
-Origen, c. 248 (Dictionary, p. 679; ANF 4.617-621)
If we are heretics, it is not a new heresy.
You are right, it is not a new heresy (what heresy is new?); but it is still heresy, and Origen is also a heretic. The answers he gives Celsus are flaky, because like other Gentile Christians of his day, he had left the Hebraic roots of the gospel and was notorious for trying to allegorize everything. Jesus’ teaching does not in any way render the Scriptures impossible to obey or make them contradictory unless you have a heretical view like yours and Origen. The gospel Jesus preached did not make Paul’s illustrations of faith improper in Hebrews 11 where through faith “33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” The whole purpose of the New Covenant and Work of Christ through the Spirit was “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. Menno Simons knew all about the early church writings, yet he did not believe your heresy, and he was the recognized bishop of the Anabaptists for many years.
The following quotes are from The Complete Writings Of Menno Simons published by Herald Press.
“Therefore, dear sirs, take heed; this is the task to which you are called: namely, to chastise and punish, in the true fear of God with fairness and Christian discretion, manifest criminals, such as thieves, murderers, Sodomites, adulterers, seducers, sorcerers, the violent, highwaymen, robbers, etc. Your task is to do justice between a man and his neighbor, to deliver the oppressed out of the hand of the oppressor... Such rulers were Moses, Joshua, David,..0 highly renowned, noble lords, believe Christ’s Word, fear God’s wrath, love righteousness, do justice to widows and orphans....bow to the scepter of him who called you to this high service. Then shall your throne stand firm forever.” Pg. 193
‘Do not boast that you are mighty ones upon the earth, and have great power, but boast in this rather if so be you rule your land in the true fear of God with virtuous wisdom and Christian righteousness to the praise of the Lord...For if you are such kings, then you are not only kings according to the flesh, but also according to the spirit;” Pg. 206
“Be pleased, in godly fear, to ponder what it is that God requires of your Highnesses. It is that without any respect of persons you judge between a man and his neighbor, protect the wronged from him who does him wrong, even as the Lord declares, Execute judgment and justice, Assist, against the violent, him that is robbed, Abuse not the stranger, the widow, the orphan, Do violence to no man, and shed no innocent blood, so that your despised servants and unhappy subjects, having escaped the mouth of the lion, may in your domain. ...serve the Lord in quietness and peace...” Pg. 526
“Dear sirs, seek God; fear God; serve God with all your might; do justice to widows, orphans, strangers, the sad, and the oppressed; wash your hands of blood; rule your lands with wisdom and peace. Train yourselves in thought, word, and deed upon the crucified Christ Jesus, follow his steps, and then, though your sins be red as blood they shall be white as snow, though they be red as crimson they shall be as wool!” Pg. 529
“Paul says, Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil...But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil...you may understand from these Scriptures that you are called of God and ordained to your offices to punish the transgressors and protect the good...” Pg. 550-551
“He that saith he abideth in Christ, he, whether he be emperor or king, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. I John 2:6. Beloved lords, this is God’s Word. This is the prize and standard after which we should strive...We teach and direct you in the right way which you should walk if you wish to be saved...God is my witness that I desire nothing but that you all may actually be what you are acclaimed to be noble lords and Christian magistrates...” Pg. 553-554
It is obvious from the Scriptures and thoughts Menno employs that he didn’t believe what modern pacifists believe. Menno, who was chosen as head bishop over the Anabaptist movement, should be a good representation of what they believed. Is there such thing as a “Christian magistrate” who follows Jesus? Menno thought so. Did you notice that Menno’s understanding of “Do violence to no man” is simply “don’t shed innocent blood or abuse your office” (Pg. 526).
Yes, Origen was confused and maybe for the same reasons you are. We don’t believe Israel’s civil laws concerning an earthly government are for the church to execute — the church is not a civil government, but lives under other governments. The moral precept of God that says to stone the adulterer was and is for civil authorities; and when those in power choose to believe God, they will administer their office according to God’s precepts, and receive corresponding blessings for doing so.
Obviously Origen was as full of confusion and deception as we are. And here's the interesting thing: He believed the same as we do concerning the New Kingdom of Christ which makes the Old Kingdom of the Jews along with all of its national, "earthly government" laws obselete; but he had no sympathy for the gnostics. Strange! If he lived today, you wouldn't hesitate to classify him as a gnostic; but he was not accused of that by the orthodox Christians of his day.
There were many free-thinkers in Origen’s day, and Origen was not accepted by all Christians in his day, but was cast out by some, and later his teachings were condemned as heresy by the council of Constantinople on 10 to 15 counts. He believed that eventually all would be saved including Satan — he was a universalist who also believed in reincarnation. This is your man — at least he says he rejected the Gnostics; but it is obvious he was affected by them just as your doctrine is. We must listen to what it actually says and believe it, not presume upon it or try to make an allegory out of it.
"We refute those who think that the father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a different God from Him who gave the answers of the Law to Moses, or commissioned the prophets."
-Origen, c. 225 (Dictionary, p. 308; ANF 4.275)
The early Christians of the first two to three centuries after Christ saw the Kingdom of God as the central focus of their everyday lives, and the beautiful fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophets foretold.
Actually, the church was not believed to be the fulfillment of ALL the OT prophets foretold. You equate the church age with Christ’s future kingdom, which is not the case and seems to be a root of your error. Listen to Jesus
Matt 15:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
The parallel passage in Luke says: Luke 19:11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
....27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
Jesus left to “receive for himself a kingdom and to return”; when that time comes, he will slay all those who oppose him, and bring peace to the earth. We are in the time when he is gone and are supposed to “occupy till he comes”, but we are not living in the kingdom that He will receive as of yet. He has told us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. The apostles taught that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven.
n 1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
n Ga 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
n Eph 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
n 2Th 1:5 ¶ Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
n 2Ti 4:1 ¶ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
n 2Ti 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
n Heb 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
n Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
n 2Pe 1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
When Jesus reigns with a rod of iron, there will be peace, but this peace will come not by pacifism, but by war; as Jesus will conquer and reign. What have the prophets said about this?
Isa2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Micah 4:1 ¶ But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Ps. 72:1 Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2 ¶ He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
Re 17:14 ¶ These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Re 19:11 ¶ And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
More could be added, but though we are personally living under Christ’s authority, and the church is in some degree His spiritual kingdom on earth; yet it is only in type and a temporary arrangement. The beautiful prophecies of a peace that is real where people are not afraid, harmed, or in danger are due to Jesus conquering and reigning. In this scenario there will be no war, nor learning war once peace is established. At this time, according to Romans 13 there is still the need for “ministers of God” to bear the sword and execute God’s wrath on evil doers. This is what the majority of Christians have believed, including the Anabaptists during the reformation under Menno Simons who didn’t command the officials to beat their swords into plowshares, but to use them according to the Word of God with examples from the OT. How could state officials be the ministers of God who bear the sword to execute his wrath upon evil-doers if they are disobeying the command to beat their swords into plows?
If you would have accused them of being slow of heart to hear all the teachings of the prophets and obey them - scorning them for some whacky interpretation of Jesus' words which puts them at odds with Moses- they would have looked at you with compassion and said, "I see you don't understand. You, in all your zeal for Moses and the prophets, have missed the entire point of them.
We read the Law and the Prophets, and we see them all coming to glorious fulfillment in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Can't you see the beautiful fulfillment of the prophecies of a new age? Can't you see how the glorious revelation of the Kingdom of God has finally been made known to us? Once you get a glimpse of that, then the entire picture begins to come together. Suddenly the old laws of Moses and the words of the prophets make sense in a new way.
It is easy to ramble; but pray tell me the new ways in which you read the old laws of Moses? Of course they were pointing to Christ, the church, and the coming Kingdom of Christ; but your doctrine is not just seeing Moses’ law in a new way — that is dishonest at best, and nothing but a fanciful spatter of words. If you were to go to the early Christians, even those that seem to agree with you in some areas and tell them you don’t receive new converts with divorce and remarriage in their past, because you see them as living in perpetual adultery, they would look at you with compassion and say, “I see you don’t understand”. There is no evidence in history, the Bible, among Anabaptists, etc. of making new converts divorce before baptism. The closest thing would be among the Marcionites, who made people separate who had not been joined by them — they were Gnostics. There was more to Gnosticism than the one aspect you have mentioned. Is this part of the New Way you see Moses’ old laws? You know that all the Anabaptists agree with us against you on this point — Michael Sattler, Menno Simons, Leonard Bouwens, Dirk Philips, Rauff Bisch, etc. It is foolish to try and paint it up as though you just see Moses and the prophets in a new light — what light do you see Malachi in when he is telling you that Jesus came to preach against false swearers and adulterers — defined as the abuse of Moses’ Law, not as obedience to Moses’ Law? Do you not also see Jesus calling himself evil when he says, “Whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” — because you have him speaking against lawful swearing which He commanded in the Law?
They were all pointing to this! Don't you see? Sadly, in your zeal to harmonize the teachings of Christ with those of Moses, you missed the point of both of them. No, it is not us who are slow of heart to hear the prophets. We hear them and rejoice that at last they have been revealed to us. We live as if they meant what they said."
"The new covenant that brings back peace and the law that gives life have gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: ‘For out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he will rebuke many people; and they will break down their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and they will no longer learn to fight.’...These people (i.e., Christians) formed their swords and war-lances into plowshares,...that is, into instruments used for peaceful purposes. So now, they are unaccustomed to fighting. When they are struck, they offer also the other cheek.
-Irenaeus, c. 180 (Dictionary, p.676; ANF 1.512)
Irenaeus is clearly confused in some of his writings trying to reconcile Jesus’ example with his own interpretation of His words. He ignores the fact that the prophet speaks of NATIONS not individuals beating their swords into plowshares. He later admittedly departs from Polycarp on the Passover issue to side with the Roman bishops. He is not a reliable source. Tell me where in history Micah’s prophecy has been fulfilled.
Compare Micah’s prophecy with Jesus’ words and tell me where we are in all this:
Micah 4:1 ¶ But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Matt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
4 ¶ And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Luke 21: 7 And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
9 But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
10 Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
11 And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
19 In your patience possess ye your souls.
20 ¶ And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which era we are in. Obviously Irenaeus was lulled to sleep by the peace of his particular day — a peace maintained only by the sword of Rome — not the lack of swords having been made into plows. You cannot say, well there is a difference between the peaceful church and the warring world; because the prophecies both have to do with “the nations” of the earth, and the nations of the earth have never fulfilled Micah’s prophecy yet, but are indeed fulfilling what Christ said about the church age.
I have quoted just a few early Christian writers, but that is not because they are the only ones who defend this position. Nothing could be further from the truth, Hermas,
Have you ever read Hermas? Probably not, or you’d never use him for your side of anything.
Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian,
Let me quote Tertullian against Marcion for you: "But, observe, if this Christ be yours when he teaches contrary to Moses and the Creator, on the same principle must He be mine if I can show that His teaching is not contrary to them. I maintain, then, that there was a condition in the prohibition which he now made of divorce; the case supposed being, that a man put away his wife for the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, also committeth adultery," -- "put away," that is, for the reason wherefore a woman ought not to be dismissed, that another wife may be obtained. For he who marries a woman who is unlawfully put away is as much of an adulterer as the man who marries one who is undivorced. Permanent is the marriage which is not rightly dissolved; to marry, therefore, whilst matrimony is undissolved, is to commit adultery. Since, therefore, His prohibition of divorce was a conditional one, He did not prohibit absolutely; and what He did not absolutely forbid, that He permitted on some occasions, when there is an absence of the cause why He gave the prohibition. In very deed His teaching is not contrary to Moses, whose precept he partially defends, I will not say confirms. If, however, you deny that divorce is in any way permitted by Christ, how is it that you on your side destroy marriage, not uniting man and woman, nor admitting to the sacrament of baptism and of the eucharist those who have been united in marriage anywhere else, unless they should agree together to repudiate the fruit of their marriage, and so the very Creator Himself? Well, then, what is a husband to do in your sect, if his wife commit adultery? Shall he keep her? But your own apostle, you know, does not permit "the members of Christ to be joined to a harlot." Divorce, therefore, when justly deserved, has even in Christ a defender. So that Moses for the future must be considered as being confirmed by Him, since he allows divorce in the same sense as Christ does, if any unchastity should occur in the wife. For in the Gospel of Matthew he says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery." ...The Creator, however, except on account of adultery, does not put asunder what He Himself joined together....He prohibits divorce when He will have the marriage inviolable; he permits divorce when the marriage is spotted with unfaithfulness." Tertullian 3.404,405
Do I agree with Tertullian completely? NO, neither would you if you knew all he believed. Nor would you agree with Justin or Clement if you knew all they believed.
Theonas of Alexandria, Lactantius, Tatian, Athenagoras, Cyprian, Hippolytus, and Arnobius are a few more names among the many who speak out in defense of the simple, yet profound, words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. I would love to copy all their writings on the subject for you here, but it would be a big job. Still, I encourage your do the research for yourself if you have any doubts about what I'm saying. The facts are not hidden. I anticipate that you will be quick to point out obscure passages that seem to contradict the general voice of the early church in this matter, but those are precious few; and upon closer inspection they produce absolutely no proofs against the united, orthodox position of the church in this matter.
This reply of yours is shamefully empty of Scripture. I bring to you Scripture and you bring man’s writings that are full of things you’d never accept as truth. Irenaeus calls Tatian the source of blasphemy concerning the origin of the Encratites. Athenagorus says that if a man marries after his wife is dead, he is a “cloaked adulterer”. Clement of Alexandria was a universalist, like Origen. Lactantius became Constantine’s advisor and the tutor of his son, and wrote of how God appeared to Constantine and Licinius and gave them victory over their enemies. You can follow these uninspired and often heretical individuals if you wish; but I’ve presented to you the Word of God, and you have not accepted it. If most of these men were alive today, you would not let them in your church or quote them; but they are far enough away that you pick out words that seem to agree with you, and use them.
Does this make sense to you? If the early church understood the Bible as you do, we should be seeing clear teaching from writers all over explaining how Jesus' words about loving one's enemies and not returning evil for good apply strictly to interpersonal relationships; then they should go on to explain how and when it is okay to resist with force. But all we hear them saying is that it is never okay to resist with force. How strange! Did they all fall into apostasy and deception so fast? And what a strange apostasy to fall into, by people who loved the Old Testament Scriptures and quoted them continually.
You say “early church” as though they must be void of heretics; which reveals your lack of understanding on the subject. These individual writers were not the whole church. There was much controversy among writers in the early church era. The apostles were continually battling heretics even in their ministries; and just look at the churches of revelation and all their problems. The people you quote are 100 years or more removed from the apostolic churches who even had heresies in John’s day — 1Jn 4; 2 Jn; 3Jn; Rev 2-3.
Are you trying to say here that Jesus’ teaching on “resisting not evil” applies to police and government as well?? If they weren’t referring to “person to person relationships”, then they were referring to “gov. to person relationships”. Why then did the Amish at Nickel Mines call the police to resist evil? Would you call the police? I’m declaring that God’s law told the judges, not the individuals to reward “eye for eye”, and the people were using it as a guide for interpersonal relationships — person to person relationships; when it was only meant to be a rule for judges and magistrates in governing justly. The people weren’t to have an “eye for eye” attitude toward other people — that was never the point of God’s law, but an abuse of such. Surely you understood what I was saying. So now you are saying that in the law it was for person to person relationships?? Or you are now saying that Jesus meant for even magistrates to turn the other cheek to criminals? I think you are a little confused, because you also now say it is OK for soldiers to stay in the military as long as they don’t kill; but can they honestly be “content with their wages” as a soldier and then “resist not evil men” which they are paid to do? Was John telling them to receive wages to keep the peace, and yet not keep the peace by resisting evil? Can they use force to arrest and use any force short of killing? It would be good to think it through before writing.
Most of the OT they quote, they misapply. Arnobius is said to be totally ignorant of the OT and even the Jew’s way of life. Many of these Gentiles, being removed from the Hebrew roots of the Scripture began to interpret them wrong based on their Gentile views, which were sadly ignorant of the Jewish scriptures. I see many flaws when reading their arguments, which reveal their misunderstanding of the OT. Much heresy today is because of seeing the Scriptures of the New Testament apart from the Hebrew roots of the Old Testament. These men’s churches were full of innovations that were not found in scripture concerning their baptisms and services — there was much mixing of pagan rites and superstitions which is how we ended up with Roman Catholicism — it didn’t happen overnight.
Tertullian is often cited as being okay with military service, as he says in that one obscure passage, "We serve in the military with you." But I ask you to do an honest study of the writings of Tertullian and see if you still believe, when you're done, that he had any sympathy whatsoever for warfare.
"We willingly yield ourselves to the sword. So what wars would we not be both fit and eager to participate in (even against unequal forces), if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay?"
-Tertullian, c. 197 (Dictionary, p. 677; ANF 3.45) Apology
I’m sorry that your confidence is on such a wobbly foundation. Tertullian’s “obscure passage” is not obscure at all, and if you’d read the whole discourse you would see what he is saying. He is telling the emperor that Christians, as a sect or group, do not intend to join as a force against the government; but are content to live their religion under the present government without being a threat. Listen to the part that Bercot left out that goes just before and after this quote: If we desired, indeed, to act the part of open enemies, not merely of secret avengers, would there be any lacking in strength, whether of numbers or resources? The Moors, the Marcomanni, the Parthians themselves, or any single people, however great, inhabiting a distinct territory, and confined within its own boundaries, surpasses, forsooth, in numbers, one spread over all the world! We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you--cities, islands, fortresses, towns, market-places, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum,--we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods. For what wars should we not be fit, not eager, even with unequal forces, we who so willingly yield ourselves to the sword, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay? Without arms even, and raising no insurrectionary banner, but simply in enmity to you, we could carry on the contest with you by an ill-willed severance alone. For if such multitudes of men were to break away from you, and betake themselves to some remote corner of the world, why, the very loss of so many citizens, whatever sort they were, would cover the empire with shame; nay, in the very forsaking, vengeance would be inflicted. Why, you would be horror-struck at the solitude in which you would find yourselves, at such an all-prevailing silence, and that stupor as of a dead world. You would have to seek subjects to govern. You would have more enemies than citizens remaining. For now it is the immense number of Christians which makes your enemies so few,--almost all the inhabitants of your various cities being followers of Christ.
NOTE: The Christians fill “the camp” (military) as well as the senate, forum, and palace — This is not in agreement with you; but does explain that “obscure” passage, doesn’t it. Christians would rather be slain, than to slay contrary to righteousness, which is what he is referring to as we will see in his other quotes.
"Now inquiry is made about the point of whether a believer may enter into military service .....A man cannot give his allegiance to two masters - God and Caesar...How will a Christian man participate in war? In fact, how will he serve (in the military) even in peace without a sword? For the Lord has taken the sword away."
-Tertullian, c. 200 (Dictionary, p.677; ANF 3.73) “On Idolatry”
Tertullian’s ideas changed with time; and after he became a Montanist he was against the government and military service; but earlier on we find a different Tertullian: in his apology He says of the Christians: Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish.
He also adds: So we sojourn with you in the world, abjuring neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn, nor weekly market, nor any other places of commerce. We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings--even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit
If Tertullian said, “we”, who was he referring to, but the majority of Christians he knew at that time? So even after Tertullian became a Montanist (minority group), there was a majority out there still believing what he used to believe, and they all had churches and ministers who accepted them. In this apology also he brings up a story that happened previous to his time: “So far from that, we, on the contrary, bring before you one who was their protector, as you will see by examining the letters of Marcus Aurelius, that most grave of emperors, in which he bears his testimony that that Germanic drought was removed by the rains obtained through the prayers of the Christians who chanced to be fighting under him.”
It seems obvious that when Tertullian is writing public officials with an apology for the Christians that he is going to speak the truth he knows and that the public officials know about the majority of the Christians. If the majority were pacifists Tertullian could never say these things about the Christians without making matters worse — they would know he was lying. Tertullian and a few others giving their pacifist statements cannot overturn the fact that the majority of Christians at that time were not pacifists. It obviously was not the "official church position".
"Nation will not take up sword against nation, and they will no more learn to fight." Who else, therefore, does this prophecy apply to, other than us? For we are fully taught by the new law, and therefore observe these practices.... The teaching of the new law points to clemency. It changes the primitive ferocity of swords and lances to tranquility. It remodels the primitive execution of war upon the rivals and enemies of the Law into the peaceful actions of plowing and cultivating the land.
-Tertullian, c.. 197 (Dictionary, p.677; ANF 3.154) An answer to the Jews
Now, as to what Tertullian meant when he said,. "We serve in the military with you," I can only interpret in light of all the other things he said on the subject. He is supposed to have written that passage around 197, which places it right in the same time frame as all these other arguments against war or violent retaliation of any kind.
Bercot’s chronology does not fit with some other historians. Tertullian became a Montanist around 206 AD, and the Apology was placed at 197 or 198; but these later quotes from “On Idolatry” and “Answer to the Jews” are placed after he became a Montanist by some. The quote below is from the De Corona placed about 204. I don’t care about the chronology, but it seems obvious that Tertullian changed on this point as he did on many others after becoming a Montanist or he just was not consistent — he is not hear to ask, so it really doesn’t matter. When he changed, he left a majority group to join a minority group.
Later, around the year 211, Tertullian makes a statement which I believe clears up the problem:
"Of course, if faith comes later and finds someone already occupied with military service, their case is different. For example, there is the instance of those whom John (the Baptist) received for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions. I mean the centurion whom Christ approved, and the centurion whom Peter instructed. Yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of the military office, which has been the course of many - or else all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God. And Such quibbling is not allowed even outside of military service."
-Tertullian, c. 211 (Dictionary, p.682; ANF 3.100) De Corona
This quote from Tertullian proves one important aspect of his thinking at this time: That military service as a principle is not sinful; but that a heathen military will present many obstacles to a Christian that he will have to overcome in order to not offend God. If military action was justly and righteously carried out like it would be if Cornelius were your captain, then the military action itself would not offend God — otherwise John was a compromiser and what would we think of Jesus? What could be said of Luke, Peter and the Holy Ghost in their appraisal of Cornelius even before His receiving of the Holy Ghost? Righteous government and military action is pleasing to God — Romans 13. We would not want our young men to join the military or police force due to the challenging environment; but not because the office in itself or the execution of justice in itself is evil.
It is very important to notice four words: THEIR CASE IS DIFFERENT. Anyone familiar with early church writings knows they often speak of general rules and ideals; but quotes like this show that there are exceptions to things they say, and these exceptions make all the difference in the world. One example is, “What if someone was divorced and remarried before conversion?” or “What if they were divorced before conversion?” Listen to Tertullian on this point concerning his interpretation of I Cor. 7:27,28, "Thou hast been bound to a wife, seek not loosing; thou hast been loosed from a wife, seek not a wife." "But if thou shalt have taken to thyself a wife, thou hast not sinned;" because to one who, before believing, had been "loosed from a wife," she will not be counted a second wife who, subsequently to believing, is the first; for it is from the time of our believing that our life itself dates its origin."
In the Apostolic Tradition (c. 200), concerning persons coming to baptism, Hippolytus writes:
"A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate-who wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.
(Apostolic Tradition 16)
Would you like to hear this man’s views of baptism? It is very doubtful if the man Hippolytus had anything to do with this “Apostolic Tradition”, and it is now believed to be from the 3rd or 4th century Alexandrian or Syrian churches. It wasn’t even discovered until the 19th century, and the evidence is scanty. It is certainly not apostolic tradition!
“Apostolic tradition” on Baptism: They who are to be baptized shall fast on Friday, and on Saturday the bishop shall assemble them and command them to kneel in prayer. And, laying his hand upon them, he shall exorcise all evil spirits to flee away and never to return; when he has done this he shall breathe in their faces, seal their foreheads, ears and noses, and then raise them up. They shall spend all that night in vigil, listening to reading and instruction. They who are to be baptized shall bring with them no other vessels than the one each will bring for the eucharist; for it is fitting that he who is counted worthy of baptism should bring his offering at that time. At cockcrow prayer shall be made over the water. The stream shall flow through the baptismal tank or pour into it from above when there is no scarcity of
water; but if there is a scarcity, whether constant or sudden, then use whatever water you can find. They shall remove their clothing. And first baptize the little ones; if they can speak for themselves, they shall do so; if not, their parents or other relatives shall speak for them. Then baptize the men, and last of all the women; they must first loosen their hair and put aside any gold or silver ornaments that they were wearing: let no one take any alien thing down to the water with them. At the hour set for the baptism the bishop shall give thanks over oil and put it into a vessel: this is called the "oil of thanksgiving". And he shall take other oil and exorcise it: this is called "the oil of exorcism". [The
anointing is performed by a presbyter.] A deacon shall bring the oil of exorcism, and shall stand at the presbyter's
left hand; and another deacon shall take the oil of thanksgiving, and shall stand at the presbyter's right hand. Then the presbyter, taking hold of each of those about to be baptized, shall command him to renounce, saying: I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy servants and all thy works. And when he has renounced all these, the presbyter shall anoint him with the oil of exorcism, saying: Let all spirits depart far from thee. Then, after these things, let him give him over to the presbyter who baptizes, and let the candidates stand in the water, naked, a deacon going with them likewise. And
when he who is being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say thus: Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe. Then holding his hand placed on his head, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say: Dost thou believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right
hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead? And when he says: I believe, he is baptized again. And again he shall say: Dost thou believe in [the] Holy Ghost, and the holy church, and the resurrection of the flesh?
He who is being baptized shall say accordingly: I believe, and so he is baptized a third time.1 And afterward, when he has come up [out of the water], he is anointed by the presbyter with the oil of thanksgiving, the presbyter saying:
I anoint thee with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ. And so each one, after drying himself, is immediately clothed, and then is brought into the church.
That is right — Trine immersion forwards with naked applicants and deacons and others standing in the water waiting. This document is full of superstition and perversion; but you didn’t know that, you just liked it because it said something you liked. The shame of it is that John, Jesus, Peter and Paul have been shown clearly to not believe what this document says about baptizing soldiers and government officials — BUT YOU’D RATHER BELIEVE THIS PERVERTED DOCUMENT.
So, do you really think this man learned this at the feet of the apostles? Do you suppose he thought this is what the apostles did with 3000 on the day of Pentecost? I say again, these writers are not to be trusted too far.
The early Christian church was a powerful witness to people all over the empire - from wealthy slave owners to slaves to prominent politicians to quiet farmers in the country. Any man who experienced the gripping power of the gospel found himself being forced to make radical changes in the way he lived his life. Soldiers were no exception. When men who were enlisted in the imperial army felt the call of Jesus Christ, they were suddenly in a very hard spot. It seems as if they had only two options- either try to live as Christ would have you live in the military, which meant you must promise never to kill anyone and never to take an oath and to keep yourselves free from idolatry- a pretty tall order for a military ran, but not always entirely impossible, since the military during the time of the Pax Romana was rarely involved in active fighting or, the other option was to resign, knowing that you probably just signed your death sentence. Begging to be excused as a conscientious objector simply wasn't an option.
This “Pax Romana” idea is foolishness when we see all the soldier/police activity in the NT Scriptures themselves with hostile Jews, robbers, and insurrectionists like Judas of Galilee, Barabbas, Theudas, etc. There were continual insurrections which led to the Jewish wars and the destruction of the Jewish state in AD 70. It is said that between the reign of Marcus Aurelius and the beginning of Constantine’s establishment as sole emperor in 324, there were no fewer than 21 wars against foreign enemies, three major secession movements, two major civil wars, and thirteen military coups. Just police action is enough for the use of the sword just as Romans 13 spells out. We live in relative peace in the USA, but the police are actively in use of force every day. Thank God for those willing to serve the community in these jobs. They are the ministers of God to us for good, and the more of them that are converted to Christ and become Christian officers, the better for everyone.
Obviously, it appears there were mixed feelings about which option was the better one. I would tend to agree with Tertullian that staying in the military was a compromise that required lots of "quibbling" to make sure you weren't overstepping your bounds as a Christian. Still, I’m sure if their hearts were earnestly turned to God, He had grace for them. I am sure in no position to judge the decisions of my fathers in the faith of two millennia ago. I tremble sometimes to think what they might say if they were to rise up in judgment of our generation.
If you agree that the problem of staying in the military is that it would bring lots of “quibbling” to make sure you weren’t overstepping your boundaries as a Christian, then do you even understand your own position on the subject? You are supposed to believe in Non-participation in government, whether using the sword, or any other government position — isn’t that right? Isn’t that your position? You think that all in government had to step down when converted — that is what most of your people teach — whether governor, jailor, judge, police, or sheriff. If God had grace for those who stayed in their positions, as you now say, then their positions were not wrong in principle — AS I HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG! Does God also have grace for people who stay in a second marriage, because they came to faith while in it? If He does, then it is not sinful; but if he doesn’t then it is because they are living in sin, right? How then can God have grace on a man who stays in the military if being there at all is sin? Do you believe in “non-participation in government” or not? God NEVER has grace for those who continue in sin.
Your respect for “your fathers in the faith” needs to be transferred to the Holy Word of God and the clear testimony of the apostles who baptized soldiers, jailors, governors, tax collectors, chamberlains, without any word of stepping down! You need to be more concerned about what John the Baptist and Malachi said, than these fallible and often heretical men.
The point I want to impress upon you above all, is this: A child in the faith, reading the writings of those early church fathers, would have no doubts about where they stood on whether or not it was okay to use force against someone to their hurt or injury, in order to protect oneself, one's family, or one's country. The only person I know of who could read those writings and come up with a different idea is perhaps a college professor or a very learned, intelligent man with preconceptions which force him to invent explanations against the obvious. But not a child. There is too little guile in one who is a child in the faith, for them to be able to get around the simple facts.
Pray tell me where in the Word are we supposed to have the understanding of a child?? What is the benefit of reading men’s writings like a child and swallowing everything fallible men say?? This is asking for deception! You are not even supposed to read the inspired Word with the understanding of the child. Being humble as a child and being gullible as a child are very different.
Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
1Co 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Heb. 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
There was great danger due to deceivers while the apostles were alive, and you think you can just believe whatever writings you find a hundred years after they die??? This is very reckless to say the least! God has not endorsed any of these men. Who preserved the writings — the Roman Catholics? All you have to do is read more than Bercot gives you, and you will realize how unreliable they are!
If you wish to remain a child in the faith, then you should at least drink the milk of the Word, not of fallible men full of superstition and error. Look at all the “Christian authors” today and ask yourself how many represent true Christianity. There were thousands of pastors and writers whom we don’t know because their writings have perished. God has preserved His precious Word, and it is the only foundation for our Faith and Practice.
You have made me think a lot, Mark, and I thank you for that. If I had turned to the writings of the early Christians and found there a compelling witness to see the Bible as you see it, I would've had some really deep second thoughts about the way we believe. As it is, however, the witness is so overwhelmingly, compellingly in our favor that I would have to be very foolish indeed, to desire to part ways with them and adopt a new view.
And now, there are a few more things I should address that you wrote about in your last letter to me;
1. You say that Jesus, since he quoted Moses' law about stoning children who curse their parents, obviously felt this law was still valid. I say you are correct. The law was still the standard for them at that time. The old was not obselete until the new was established... And you're right also, that there was a period of several years of transition before the new was fully understood and established. Customs centuries old do not die quickly; but God in His perfect wisdom arranged the course of events perfectly, so that transition could be made. Jesus was accusing them of not keeping the law that was delivered to them. He spoke out in anger many times against those who had corrupted God's law and made it of no effect. Then He revealed to any who could receive it the Kingdom of Heaven, which brought a new standard, and a new way of life. To turn back now to the old law, after the new has been established, would be to scorn the new and say it is no better.
Ooh MY! Pray tell me how I’m supposed to know which of Jesus’ teachings are for the Old Covenant Jews and which ones are for the New Covenant Jews — and which are for Gentiles in the church 2000 years later? Is this confusion why the apostles were following Moses’ Law and only accepting converts on that basis until God gave Peter a vision 12 years after Pentecost? Were the apostles confused? Jesus said that the “law that was delivered to them” was still incumbent on everyone who wished to enter His kingdom - Matt 5:19. God said the new covenant was His laws written on our hearts! Are we Gentiles then in yet another “new covenant” different than the New Covenant the Jews had? Must we walk through all the points again? The Scriptures that existed in Jesus’ and the apostle’s days were OT Scriptures until the Apostles began to record what Jesus said and write epistles — It was the Word of God and was profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto ALL good works. The New Covenant was preached from the Old Testament Scriptures. I’m afraid you have really missed it. I’ve proved from Scripture to you that it was the ceremonial law that was done away, not the moral law — there is a clear distinction in the Written Word.
So, when was the New Covenant “fully understood and established??” Maybe with Origen? When did Peter, Paul, John and James make it through the transition and finally figure it out? In Acts 21 Paul had already written Romans, Galatians, and Corinthians — So they must not count. James had already written James — So that must not count. So, tell us all when the old was finally obsolete and the new was finally established, and what Scriptural teaching and which of Jesus’ words and examples we can follow — Please.
2. You say that the reason Jesus was not able to condemn the adulteress of John 8 was because there were no witnesses. This is a very weak argument at best. We are told that she was caught in the very act. Jesus did not tell them, "Whoever among you are the witnesses, cast the first stone." He made them all very acutely aware of their own sin in some way- perhaps by what He wrote on the ground, I don't know-whatever it was, they recognized that they were just as guilty as she was, and they crept away in shame. Jesus was showing them here a principle deeper than the principle of justice. He was not despising the law- He was showing them that there is a righteousness which goes far deeper than the letter of the law. Furthermore, we are never told in the Old Testament that the witnesses must be blameless; all we are told is that there must be more than one, and their testimony must be true.
Joshua, you really are mistaken on this point. JESUS DIDN’T SEE HER CAUGHT IN THE VERY ACT; but was talking to her accusers — witnesses. Jesus most definitely was not saying, “He that is perfectly righteous in every area cast the first stone” as though perfection were a requirement to execute law and order in society. If Jesus meant that, he would be taking the rod away from every parent, the sword away from the state, the judgment away from every judge; and anarchy would reign supreme as nobody would be fit to execute the law and bring order and justice on offenders. Listen to Jesus: “Joh 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. He wasn’t saying he didn’t condemn her SIN; but he wouldn’t condemn her to death for her sin, which is what “condemn” means in this context. The woman was caught in the very act; but WHERE WAS THE MAN? Jesus knew these men were not righteous in what they were doing; and this is not a weak argument or interpretation to those who know their Bible, but the facts of the case. When there are no witnesses, you cannot condemn someone to death. Notice even at Jesus’ trial how hard they tried to get two witnesses to agree so they could put him to death, then finally they put him under oath to answer a question that would in itself condemn him in their eyes; and he answered under oath (Matt 26).
My friend, you either contradict yourself or you never understood the point in the beginning — First you say that Jesus was pointing out their own sin which made them unworthy to witness against her and stone her; then you tell me that witness didn’t have to be blameless; but their testimony had to be true — do you understand what you are saying? Witnesses did have to be blameless in the sense of their testimony being true — “thou shalt not bear false witness”; but they did not have to be “sinless” in every area or nobody could be a witness, judge, or magistrate. THE POINT WAS THAT JESUS GAVE THE SAME JUDGMENT CALL AS GOD’S LAW — ADULTERERS SHOULD BE STONED WHEN JUST AND RIGHTEOUS WITNESSES ARE PRESENT TO CAST THE FIRST STONES. GOD HAS NOT CHANGED HIS MIND. Some gainsayer will now ask why I don’t stone adulterers. Because this was for public officials, not any Joe citizen to do at his own whim; and, though I think our public officials should do this, they are in charge and following the laws of the present government. They will give account to God for not following God’s will in this matter — I’m not responsible for doing their job. These religious leaders were also trying to get Jesus in trouble with the Romans who had taken the power of life and death away from the Jews at this time; but Jesus put it back in their lap by giving them the judgment call of the Law which required them to cast the stones if they were the true witnesses. These are simply the facts. The only reason they tried to trap Jesus this way is BECAUSE THEY KNEW HE WOULD NOT COMPROMISE THE LAW OF GOD, BUT WOULD ADHERE TO THE SCRIPTURES AT ALL COST.
3. I said that when Jesus cried out on the cross, "It is finished!" that covered a lot of things: The Old Covenant; the law and the prophets; His own teaching; and God's great sacrifice. You said the only part of that that wasn't rank heresy was God's great sacrifice. Perhaps I didn't use the right words there. I think maybe you heard me saying something different than I actually intended. What I meant to say was that the age, the dispensation of the law and the prophets was over - it was finished as in "brought to a close." The Old Covenant was finished as in "fulfilled; completed." Jesus' teaching that He gave here on earth, while in the flesh, was finished as in John 17:4: "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given he to do." I did not mean that Jesus would never continue to teach us anything, through His spirit. I meant that His own life's work as "the Son of Man," which the Father sent Him here to fulfill, was fulfilled...
Thank you for explaining how Jesus’ one word “finished” meant so many different things — the Law and the prophets are “brought to a close” — “over”; but Jesus’ teaching on earth is only finished in the sense of completed, but not brought to a close or completed in the sense of “over”; but the Old Covenant on the other hand was completed in the sense of “over” and “brought to a close”...... All from Jesus saying on the cross — “IT is finished”.
Actually, according to the context of all you said around that point in the last letter, what you seemed to be clearly saying was that because Jesus said, It is finished, that these things were over and not binding on us — BUT you lumped the Old Covenant together with Jesus’ teachings — oops! While saying that the Old Covenant was over and not binding, you included Jesus’ teachings on earth, which are binding — you didn’t clarify that “finished” meant different things. What purpose is there in this point anyway? Jesus saying “it is finished” only referred to his present life service and sacrifice on the cross, as that was the only thing DONE and OVER and FINISHED. The existing Scriptures continued their relevance, His teachings were still relevant and unfinished, and even the Old Covenant was still relevant at that point to a large degree. YES, I know that many things were finished at that point, including his heart beating, the darkness over the land, the veil being whole, and all history before those words; but that is not what Jesus is referring to. The work of redemption was not finished, nor the work of the redeemer. Just because part of the Old Covenant was fulfilled at that point, all the types were not yet fulfilled, many prophecies were not yet fulfilled, and the Holy Ghost had not been given. There is nothing in Jesus’ words that really help your position, and so this point is irrelevant to the argument at hand. Jesus’ words are not the dividing line between the New and Old Testaments, etc. etc. It was pointless, and we will let it drop as long as you understand that it really doesn’t help your argument.
... And that brings us to a very important point. Jesus was telling His Father that He had finished His work before He ever went to the cross. This is so important, because it exposes the heresy of believing that the only reason Jesus came to earth was to die for me so that I wouldn't have to go to hell. No, Jesus came to establish a Kingdom! That was His life's work, from beginning to end. He did not come to earth to bear all of God's wrath in our place, so we wouldn't have to go to hell. He came to earth to reconcile all of creation to Himself, and His death and resurrection was the seal, the crowning cap of His work; but it was by no means all of His work. Those who believe that Jesus simply came to pay the debt for their sins have missed the whole picture- they can't see the Kingdom!
I don’t know anyone who teaches that the ONLY reason Jesus came was to die so we wouldn’t go to hell; but it wouldn’t surprise me. Let’s see what Scripture says about this kingdom:
Matt 19: 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? (In the end when we are judged?)
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration (when the kingdom comes) when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (in the kingdom)
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake (for the kingdom), shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.(In the kingdom)
Notice that the kingdom is equated with “saved” and then we see that we are referring to a future kingdom and future state of being. YES, I agree that Jesus came to establish a kingdom and also to give his life a ransom — John 3:16; but His kingdom is not here now in its full sense, but only in the hearts of those waiting for that kingdom and suffering to be worthy to inherit it. We have the gospel of the kingdom — the good news of the coming King and kingdom; but we have not inherited it yet. I hope this is clear in your belief system; because as I explained earlier, this affects your understanding of the great time of peace prophesied. It seems some of the Gentile church writers which you quoted were confused on that point. Peace in Christ’s kingdom is a result of the destruction and subduing of the wicked. At this time all we can do is keep leaven out of the church.
Mt 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
2Ti 4:1 ¶ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2Ti 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Heb 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
Jas 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
2Pe 1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
WE CAN ONLY TRUST AND BUILD DOCTRINE ON THE WORD OF GOD INTERPRETED IN ITS OWN CONTEXT, CONSISTENT WITH THE WHOLE OF GOD’S REVELATION, AND CONSISTENT WITH THE EXAMPLES GIVEN. BEWARE USING FALLIBLE HUMAN INTERPRETERS FOR YOUR FOUNDATION — READ THE PLAIN ENGLISH BIBLE FOR YOURSELF WITH HUMILITY , A SOUND THINKING MIND, AND PRAYER. Everyone can see that I continually bring Scripture to you; but your case cannot be defended from pure Scripture in context. Please reconsider for the love of Christ and truth.
This letter will overlap a lot with the response we give in PLAIN THINGS, as a lot of the stuff we say there will be for a wider audience. You have my permission to post this on your website as long as you post the whole thing, word for word.
Thank you for your patience.
If you are writing another response in PLAIN THINGS, I would like a copy.
Thanks for your concern. May God help you to see the truth.
Comments From Readers
You have formerly robbed them of any Biblical defense.
You have systematically dismantled their fallacious and disconcerting logic.
And now you have removed their foundation of historical context.
They now stand firmly in mid-air, with no support whatsoever.
I wonder what they will pull out of their bag next. Typically, at this point, comes the brush-off. We'll see.
Joshua seems so concerned for the truth and not being misrepresented that he wants his letter posted in full on the website, although they do not grant you the same privilege in PLAIN THINGS, you know, space issues and all. How about if Apprehending Truth (who is more concerned about Truth than space) pays for the printing and mailing of this document, in full of course, to the entire PLAIN THINGS mailing list. Surely, they would have no problem with that, and it wouldn't cost them a penny to get their solid unanswerable argument established in their readers. Surely their readers are smart enough to see how solid their position is.
I love the content and delivery of your response.