Monday, April 30, 2012

Could Corinth have ignored the Sunday giving rule

Could Corinth have ignored the Sunday giving rule as long as they had it together when Paul arrived?

Much discussion has been given regarding the instructions to Corinth and the churches of Galatia to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem by means of taking up a collection for it “every first day of the week” so that it would be ready when Paul came back by. (Note: Vincents shows that the Greek phrase means every first day of the week, and the evidence shows that this was something they were collecting every first day of the week for over a year). The text is 1 Cor.16:1-3.  Some argue that other churches could have been raising their collective funds for various collective obligations of benevolence and fellowship with preachers in the work of the gospel by gifts taken up any time (wide open as to when and how often to request and take up funds for the common work). They argue that other churches were authorized to ask for collective funds any and every day if they wanted to. So, I have asked those brethren of that persuasion if Corinth could have ignored Paul’s demand that they take up this collection “every first day of the week” until he arrived?  After all, as long as they got the funds together at any point BEFORE he arrived, what difference would it make that they limited their giving to “the first day of the week”?  Paul thought it was important to do it on that day, and that set those brethren to a pattern of giving every first day of the week until Paul arrived.  But, now, what should they have done after that point?  Should they stop that pattern of giving and think of no other needs?

 I cannot believe that pattern they got into of regular giving each first day of the week and the joy they experienced  should have done nothing less than set them in motion to keep thinking of needs to meet and keep the pattern going. If they should think and feel obligation as far away as Jerusalem, and make regular offerings for Jerusalem, should they stop and think no further about OTHER needs? I cannot believe it made them shortsighted. I believe it would make them see more and open their hearts to more.  Would Paul always have to have a personal hand in everything else they should endeavor to do? No! Paul may have done them a great favor by opening their hearts to something so far away, but Paul would not need to keep telling Corinth about things for which they should be supporting and helping.

There has yet to be a good answer from those brethren arguing that the church can use ANY convenient day to ask for collections from the members. So, this means then that the Corinthians could have ignored Paul’s instructions on WHEN to collect the funds for Jerusalem saints in need. That just does not seem right to me.  If there was no good reason to instruct the church to do this on the first day of the week, then the demand should have been open-ended: “Collect funds for Jerusalem as regularly as you can so it will be together when I come”.  That would have allowed the Corinthians and Galatians much more flexibility, and it would have accomplished the same goal. In this way they could have collected every time they came together including weekdays when they might have had daily meetings. They would be together on the first day of every week, so that would be a convenient time, but what if they met more times during the week?  The giving for this fund was to be taken only “every first day of the week”. That limits the amount of times people could have collected for this fund.

Now, let me be clear that as individuals we are not limited to giving to an individual in need on the first day of the week. As individuals we are to be ready to give as we have opportunity (Gal.6:10). That may come at any day of the week. What I am discussing is the common obligations of the collective body or local church, what the collective church should support, and how often the local church should collect from the members, and if there is a precedent for us to collectively follow?

I’ve tried to get my brethren who say that 1 Corinthians 16:1-2   is not a significant pattern for our own giving to please explain if Corinth and the churches of Galatia could have ignored the Sunday giving instructions as long as they had it (the gift) together when Paul arrived?  Now, it does not seem likely that those churches could ignore the instructions for giving on the “first day of the week”.  Now, since it was important that the giving be done every first day of the week, and it is not related to the timing of Paul’s coming; neither they nor he knew when that arrival would take place, and it is not provable that they limited all their assemblies to only the first day of the week, then it seems more than incidental that Paul made this particular demand regarding the contribution to Jerusalem from the brethren at Corinth.  It suggests a reasonable expectation that sets a regular giving precedent to a need way beyond Corinth. And, it sets a precedent for how often and when to collect for the common work and purpose a local church has to consider.

Now, some argue that we cannot make a general LAW that our giving has to be ONLY on the first day of the week.  While that may very well be true because we are not allowed to make or invent ANY law, we can and must teach brethren the joy and responsibility of regular giving. How often should we encourage giving to the common work of the church? Well, how about using “the first day of the week” as a standard?  After all, it was a fair and good standard for the Corinthians and Galatians (as far as we know it could have been standard to all churches since what Paul taught he taught in all churches -1 Cor.4:17), and we see so much abuse where some churches are always hounding the people about giving on every occasion they are together.  We can know this is “acceptable to the Lord”(Eph.5:11; Rom.12;2; 1 Thess. 5:21), and it does not abuse the principle that brethren ought to give regularly to the various needs and responsibilities of the church.  But, can you make it a LAW?   We cannot make anything a LAW.  When to meet and where to meet are not LAWS we can make, but we can choose expedient ways of abiding within principles and precedents.

Can we make it a LAW to meet Sunday morning at 9:00AM?  No! But, can we choose that time and EXPECT the church to abide within the principles and precedents of regular assembly and fellowship to the best of our ability at such a time? Yes!  So it is with the amount we give and when to give. We cannot make a LAW of how much each person is to give, but we can use the principles and precedents to encourage self-examination and generosity and regular commitment. The principle is to give cheerfully and willingly and regularly. The precedent is on the first day of the week.

Now, those principles and precedents can be proven to be “acceptable to the Lord”. But, can one prove that it is acceptable to the Lord to ask the church to give every day or on another day of the week as a regular routine?  I don’t think we can show a principle or precedent for such a demand on the church.  We can lead the church by principles and precedents that we can prove are acceptable to the Lord, but we cannot impose the doctrines and commandments of men.  A commandment of men would be something that is not based upon either principle or precedent found in God’s word.

How about ignoring a precedent such as we find in 1 Cor.16, and choosing to ask the church to give on Tuesday instead?  Well, why would anyone ignore the precedent that we KNOW is acceptable?  What about meeting on Tuesday instead of Sunday?  Well, that does not seem right either. There is acceptable precedent shown for meeting regularly on Sunday, and there does not seem to be any authority of principle or precedent to ignore meeting on Sunday. Sunday should be INCLUDED in our meetings together and never excluded. But, how about Tuesday?  Well, there is precedent for both meeting every day and not meeting every day. So, it becomes optional to the local church as to whether they will meet on Tuesday or any other day, but Sunday was not optional.  Sunday was expected, and giving on that day was expected on that day.  Is that the same as “observing days”(Romans 14).  Romans 14 is about observing special days that there was no longer an obligation of law to observe.  Well, what about Sunday?  Well, there is principle and precedent for thinking of the great things God has provided on this day, and there is principle and precedent for making sure we come together on this day and take the Lord’s Supper and give to the common work on this day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1-2).

 It seems significant that God had to command Old Testament Israel to keep the Sabbath day (which was Saturday, the 7th day), but now under the grace and truth of Jesus does not have to command, but by gracious provisions simply invites us to His feast by raising His Son on the first day, appearing to witnesses on the first day, and sending the Holy Spirit and salvation on the first day, and from then on His people celebrate His provisions on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1-2). God's true Israel distinguishes themselves by what they WANT to do together on the first day of the week. They know and appreciate the blessings God gave through Jesus’ resurrection and the sending of the confirmation of the Holy Spirit on Sunday and that by divine purpose and plan.  Does Romans 14 mean that Sunday is just like any other day?  No!  It means that people who have not learned enough to free their consciences from giving over the old sacred days of Judaism to full abolished status should not be undermined as long as they are not trying to bind those days upon others. Give them room to learn the extent of their freedom in Christ, but appreciate the fact that they are personally trying to honor God.  But, Romans 14 is not meant to suggest that Christians ought not esteem the Lord’s Resurrection day and esteem it enough to assemble with the saints regularly on this day. There is principle and precedent here as well.

Now, what about the fact that Corinth was taking this collection for the one purpose of helping the brethren at Jerusalem?  Doesn’t that limit WHY we should give? No!  Should Corinth stop all giving to other needs at the point that Paul took their gift to Jerusalem?  No!  Absolutely not!  That occasion should have only opened their eyes more to the joy and responsibility of giving to other needs.  They had not been supporting preachers and they should have (1 Cor.9; 2 Cor.11:8).  What about widows indeed (1 Tim.5:16), and elders who labored in the word (1 Tim.5:17). Well, in order to meet such common responsibilities, should they close the book on giving “every first day of the week”, or should that become a precedent for regular giving to all other responsibilities they shared together?  I cannot help but think that this giving on the first day of the week only opened their hearts and eyes to other considerations. After all, if we should think about brethren as far away as Jerusalem and give every first day of the week to meet that need, then how can we do LESS with regard to so many other needs that are ongoing?  So, would this be a precedent for all other giving?  I cannot help but believe that this only set a precedent for the Corinthians as well as all other brethren.

 Therefore, I know it is acceptable to the Lord for us to expect regular giving to many different needs here and all over the world, and that it is right and cannot be wrong to expect that regular giving should be encouraged and never discouraged on the first day of every week.  Can there be extenuating circumstances where the treasury is completely depleted and there is a pressing responsibility to take up an emergency collection on Wednesday?  That may happen, though not regularly if we give as we should on the first day of the week and the treasury is handled wisely, but the rule of principle and precedent should be that we give regularly and generously on the first day of every week, and that we do not over charge ourselves so that it becomes a regular habit of having nothing left in our treasury or money bag to meet some emergency that comes up on Wednesday.  The principle of wise stewardship of funds dictates that we see the regular needs and figure in holding enough to meet emergency needs. It would seem reckless to take up regular offerings on Sundays and spend it all before the next Sunday. We should be careful with our own funds so that we do not overspend our weekly income and we have enough to meet emergency needs too. That same principle of careful stewardship would extend to the use of the Lord’s treasury.  So, I cannot envision a church not having anything left from Sunday to Wednesday and therefore needing to take up another collection on Wednesday. If that takes place at all, it seems to me that it should be a rare exception rather than a regular rule of practice.

In conclusion let me say that the whole church bears a lot of responsibility to do what God ordained by way of supporting preachers (1 Cor.9), helping needy saints (2 Cor.8-9) all over the world, and in meeting the local obligations of meeting arrangements and facility of meeting, and helping those regularly who may be widows indeed (1 Tim.5:16) or elders who labor in the word ( 1Tim.5:17).  Thus, there is an obligation of regular giving so that all of these things can be regularly supported and sustained.  There is principle and precedent for all of this, and there is precedent and principle of meeting every first day of the week and giving every first day of the week. To think that Corinth was obligated to give to Jerusalem only and then stop and refuse to look for other such needs at home and elsewhere is to be short-sighted even to blindness. That practice of taking up collection each first day of the week was a precedent for them to begin looking around for themselves, at themselves, and within themselves. What OTHER needs might we give toward?  To think that this was only for one thing and then it all stops and no more giving to anything else on the first day of the week is a tragic way of looking at this matter.  I cannot believe that first day of the week giving would begin for them in this case and end for them after Paul assists their messenger to Jerusalem with this gift. Perhaps it was just a door-opener for their hearts and minds to consider other things they should have supported all along, but didn’t due to their carnal thinking and spiritual immaturity and blindness. Perhaps, this helped them and us to see it as a precedent to keep on meeting needs by means of a regular treasury to which we keep giving each and every first day of the week.  Brethren, let us not divide over following such a noble precedent.  It IS a good precedent to follow, and if it is GOOD and we can prove it is good and acceptable to the Lord, then let us encourage it all the more to the glory of God, the spreading of His gospel, and the good-will to needy brethren wherever we can help.

Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When Someone Charges Us with “Legalism”

When Someone Charges Us with “Legalism”

The term “legalist” or “legalism” sounds bad.  But, when I think about whether  I am to be “legal” or “illegal”, it surely seems that I should shoot for “legal” rather than “illegal”. So, it becomes necessary for those who charge someone who is trying to be “legal” with the crime of “legalism” to give a very careful and precise definition.  I have determined that I will try to be as legal as Jesus tried (and succeeded) to be. Jesus and the apostles were against “lawlessness” (illegalism). Is that good or bad? That seems good. The term “legalism” is a recent term, and it is thrown around for prejudice purposes.  Therefore, when someone throws it in my direction, I want to know precisely what is meant by the term and whether it is being applied to me accurately and fairly, and if I should repent of this apparent SIN of legalism, and how repentance of legalism will change my relationship to God and His law.

So, let me see if I can grasp this concept as it applies to Jesus and His apostles.  Jesus was legal, not illegal.  Jesus respected the Law of God and practiced it.  Jesus recognized along with Law the need for others to greatly respect God's Law, while being merciful toward some and not merciful toward others (depending on their penitence or lack thereof).  Those he was merciful toward were those who recognized failure and desired patience for their desire for improvement.  Those who did not have mercy were those who sensed no need for mercy and therefore hardened in their illegal behavior.  I would have great reservations about a concept of the "spirit of the Law" (this is wholly subjective in nature, too open-ended and allows each one to invent in their own desires what they think the "spirit of the law" is).  I would not grant that part of the definition quoted as having any validity to it.

Dictionary Definition #1 is:

1. strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, esp. to the letter rather than the spirit. 

But this implies that God does not want us to strictly adhere to His Law, but to loosely adhere to it.  But, this leaves us with the sense that there is some way for us to know how loose is OK and when we have gotten just over the line of OK.  If loose adherence is what God was after but He failed to say so, we have a law that we should not do strictly what God said, and we are in a delimma.  We are condemned for being careful and strict AND we are condemned for not being careful and strict but too loose. This also leaves us with the highly subjective idea that each man is free to judge what they think is the "spirit of the Law". In this case the adulterer can say, don't judge me according to the letter of the Law that condemns adultery because I have determined that the spirit of the Law is that we should love everyone and Mrs. Jones across the street is someone.  The homosexual can say for us not to judge him by the letter of the Law because he has determined that the "spirit of the Law" is about "love" and that is what he intends to do. I cannot agree that this definition in the dictionary can stand up to biblical tests. It leaves us being judges of the Law of God, and each man gets to use subjective feeling and desire to tell him/her what the real “spirit of the law” allows and does not allow. Everyone would be doing what is right in their own eyes and no one could say they got the “spirit of the law” wrong.

 So I see Jesus and God as legalists under definition #1 (excluding the nebulous "esp. to the letter rather than the spirit.").  In other words, if God is not a legalist, interested in the sense of "strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription" then there was no basis for striking Nadab and Abihu dead (Lev.10). Nor was there a basis for condemning Adam and Eve. Satan becomes right in saying "you shall not surely die" because God cannot judge them strictly without becoming a "legalist" and this definition implies that it is wrong to be a legalist.  If all sin is not deserving of death, and all law-violations are not "sin", then someone has to have the ability to know which law-violations are permissible and which are not. But, this forces us to be judges of the Law, not judges of our conduct under Law. This outlook is not very satisfactory at all.

Dictionary Definition #2-a is

2. Theology. a. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works. 

This is illegal, not legal.  It invents a concept never given by God, and therefore is illegal.  God never said I'll forget your law-violations if you will deserve My forgiveness by earning it. When will enough good works earn salvation and merit the removal of law-violations from the record?  This was the only option, in theory, that the Jews had who rejected Jesus and thought their law could save them.  That was an illegal concept. It was not in harmony with God's law at all.  I've never known any brethren who thought salvation is gained through good works, though I hear the accusation made frequently from misguided concepts people have. In God's plan mercy is needed to go along with high demands of holiness, and the law is holy and good (Rom.7). I'm thankful that it is not Law alone that hangs over us. Mercy is needed.  Without Law there is no need for mercy.  With Law alone there can be no mercy.  Thank God we have holy Law that is good indeed, but thank God we have mercy too. As far as the nature of God is concerned, He cannot be unmerciful in nature, nor can He be unjust in nature. Mercy is needed by us because justice and righteousness and holiness are required.  Such cannot be expressed to us and demanded of us without Law, and mercy cannot be needed without a system of law in place. No one can earn salvation from justice by doing other things already required or also required. Good works are already required. How can they pay for our law-violations?  Violations have to be paid by our death, or by the death of Jesus.  In this case, mercy is offered, and the sinner is pardoned, not by his own good works, but by the mercy obtained.  It is illegal for an absolutely just judge to ignore law-violations.  But, it is also impossible for a GOOD judge to be without mercy and ONLY interested in laws and penalties.  In a good judge, the law must be upheld AND mercy always hovers above the law to make good relationships possible.

Perhaps the definition not given in the dictionary, but the one that would be most consistent with the scriptures is that a "legalist is one who imposes law WITHOUT MERCY and penalty of law without mercy".  Conversely, an "illegalist" is one who will respect no law.  He may also promote an idea of mercy-not-needed-because-no-law-will-be-recognized.  God is not a legalist in the sense of one who imposes law without mercy, but He is a legalist in the sense of one who demands strict respect for His law.  The qualifier is in the position that mercy does or does not occupy.  But, in a sense, it is against the law of good character to be without mercy. Thus it is illegal (against the law of good character) to be unloving and merciless.  We need to be legal, but fully aware that the ONLY way we are really legal is through mercy and pardon found only in Jesus. At the same time we need to be fully aware that we do not have mercy when we become lawless or plan to continue in sin (Rom.6:1).

Dictionary Definition 2-b is:

b. the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws. 

This definition is itself too vague. It seems to imply that if God has any precise laws, God would not be legalistic and actually demand that people do precisely what He said. Further, it implies that maybe God's law is designed to always be imprecise on everything so that it becomes illegal to ever judge conduct at all because all law is imprecise anyway.  Definition 2b should not be accepted because the Corinthians SHOULD have judged precisely when that man had his father's wife (1 Cor.5) and should have judged that man's conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws of holiness. It would have us draw the wrong conclusion that Paul was being a "legalist" by so judging this man, and that such legalism is wrong or illegal.  It opens the door for people to judge Paul in terms of his conduct in writing that judgmental letter (1 Cor.5-6), but act as if the man who had his father's wife should escape the critical judgment.  If being a "legalist" is "judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws" and there was something precise about God's law that should have moved the Corinthians to judge this man's conduct as lawless or sinful, then this definition makes Paul's response to that situation at Corinth, the response of a legalist who expected all the brethren at Corinth to likewise be legalists toward that situation.  If this is so, then we must join Paul in being legalists. The only other option I can see here is to acknowledge that this definition of a "legalist" is sorely lacking in meaningful association to the biblical facts we see in such examples as 1 Cor.5.  So, I find Paul a "legalist" if we allow this definition. That does not work well at all.  If this is the right definition of a legalist, then it is precisely what Jesus and Paul were and what we too SHOULD be.

 Dictionary Definition #3 is:

"(in Chinese philosophy) the principles and practices of a school of political theorists advocating strict legal control over all activities, a system of rewards and punishments uniform for all classes, and an absolute monarchy."

This definition has no association to the nature of the law of God that went forth from Jerusalem under the headship of Jesus Christ (Isa.2:1-4). But Jesus is "head over all things to the church"(Eph.1:19f), so we do have to advocate that Jesus is to have control over all activities and every thought should be brought under His authority and obedience of faith should be given to Him.  If this principle makes us "legalists" in the same way as the chinese philosophy does, then we must be "legalists" without shame. But, this definition leaves us wondering if it is legal to apply this definition's concept to the fact of Jesus' being "head over all things to the church" and therefore having legal control over all activities? 

Wouldn't that definition imply that Jesus was/is a legalist and that the church should therefore apply the principle of Jesus' absolute headship even if it means we will be legalists? So, Definition #3 is also sorely lacking in meaningful association to the biblical facts we see in such places as Matthew 28:18-20 and Eph.1:19-22 and 2 Cor.10:5. 

Now, here is how it looks.  We apparently have the following choices before us:

1) Be legal (operating within bounds of God's Law) while recognizing the need for mercy and/or the need to extend mercy to others who mess up and regret it (are penitent). This is really the only correct course or position to take.

2) Be illegal (operating outside the bounds of God's Law) and therefore without mercy. God has no mercy upon the lawless.

3) Be a legalist - one who sternly calls for law and penalty without a place for mercy (this would be the only biblically valid usage of the term "legalist"). But, I’ve never known a legalist in this sense.

4) Be an Illegalist - one who will not recognize the place and authority for any law.

Now, of the latter two options, let us observe:

a) The legalist is not really legal (operating within bounds of God's Law), because it is illegal to misuse the Law so as to fail to see one's own sins and need of mercy. God's law does not allow judgmentalism without mercy.  But, a legalist, in this sense, is one who will not forgive because they have no room for mercy; just law and penalty. This position is not lawful because God does not allow us to impose only law and offer no mercy to the penitent. This view would also be hypocritical, because no one is in position to consistently judge others without mercy and live so as not to need mercy.  It is not legal to be judgmental (quick to judge others and harsh in judgment) and unmerciful, but it is legal and right to judge self and others by God’s word and extend mercy only to the penitent sinner.

b) The illegalist is illegal before God, because He does hold all accountable to His law even though the man thinks he is not accountable to law.  Some illegalists may also be self-deceived about there being only mercy and no law (which is self-contradicting because mercy is not needed where no law is being violated).

 So, we all need to be "legal" (which is neither a legalist without mercy nor an illegalist).  But, if we are suggesting that preachers and churches must not judge violations of God's law (such as the man who had his father's wife at Corinth) lest we be "legalists", then we have thrown out a definition or a concept that will get us in trouble with God's truth.

 Too many are throwing out that word recklessly and carelessly in a way that undermines churches that demand that we be "legal", by implying that mercy can be had without being legal.  In Christ you cannot have mercy if you are lawless. But, in Christ there is not just hard, cold, law alone. There is mercy in Christ. It is not lawless mercy. It is mercy controlling law and tempering the handling of the law. Paul could not be merciful to the man who had his father's wife at Corinth WHILE the man continued to act in illegal ways, nor should the church have ignored it.  At the same time, when that man expressed sorrow (2 Cor.2) and repentance, mercy is recognized as needed and should be extended freely to the penitent man.  But, if the man does not repent, it is not time to be merciful. It is time to make sure we are legal and that he knows he is NOT legal.

 So, I am concerned about those who imply that we need to be very loose and lenient with God's word.  We must not let them intimidate us into thinking there is something wrong with trying to be legal (making sure we are operating within bounds of God's law).  We must not let them shift the words "legalism" and "legalists" into meanings that suggest that we should shun being careful in applications of God's law.  That is a misuse of the terms and it leads to false conclusions and applications, and it criticizes the law-abiding citizen of God's kingdom unfairly and promotes a loose and lawless mindset in churches with a false assurance that such will be saved anyway. That is lawless and dangerous. It is far more dangerous than attempts to be legal (as some seem to suggest that it is wrong to try to be legal in what we do and teach).

I would encourage my brethren to define your term properly and apply it properly.  I would also encourage brethren to DEMAND a proper definition when someone is throwing out the term. It can be a subtle tool of Satan to intimidate brethren from trying to be careful followers of God’s law. We must not be intimidated in this manner.

I think Jesus was legal, not illegal when it came to doing the will of God.  If one is not legal when it comes to doing the will of God, then all I can make of this is that one is trying to be illegal.  Is there a third option?  If not, then count me in with Jesus, the legal One.  In fact, in whatever category you put Jesus and His apostles, I hope to be recognized in that camp.  Now,  Jesus said His food is to do the will of God, and His brothers and sisters are those who do the will of the Father. That sounds legal to me. Count me in!  But, if a “legalist” is someone who insists on law without mercy for the penitent, then count me out. Jesus was for law AND mercy for the penitent, law and no mercy for the impenitent.  - Terry W. Benton

Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Recognize False Teaching

How to Recognize False Teaching

Francis Chan (born 1967) is an American preacher. He is the former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA, a church he and his wife started in 1994.[1] He is also the Founder and Chancellor of Eternity Bible College. (Wikipedia)

The Cornerstone Church makes a statement about believing in “the present ministry of the Holy Spirit”, and what that is seen to mean to Francis Chan is that of getting “calls” and urges to do things that do not come from the word of God, but from within his own mind. Thus, when we try to “test the spirits” using the same standard as Chan, we cannot say the Holy Spirit was not really guiding and leading them (that is, if subjective thinking is the standard of measure). Thus, the Holy Spirit could lead two people to do and believe opposite things and no one should challenge whether the Spirit was doing the actual leading in either case. Chan is claiming special (in addition to the revealed word of scripture) Holy Spirit guidance at times as many false teachers do, and this alone would mark him out to me as a false teacher.  Gardner Hall observes some things regarding Chan’s view of Holy Spirit guidance.

* He says, "The Spirit not only inspired the Bible but also illumines it for us today." (p.23) The tricky question is how, apart from the word, does He "illumine?" Does he miraculously "illumine" Francis Chan in one way and a Catholic Charismatic in another? Does He teach him one thing and Oneness Pentecostals something else? The bottom line is that there is no shortcut to an honest and sometimes detailed analysis of the scriptures. Simply praying for the inner illumination of the Spirit regarding a text and then coming up with an interpretation is no guarantee that the interpretation is correct. Thinking that our interpretation is illumined by the Holy Spirit because "we’ve prayed for the Spirit’s guidance" results in close mindedness—"I know my interpretation is correct because God has illumined me about it." It also leads to confusion because one thinks subjectively that the Spirit has illumined him one way regarding a certain text while another subjectively thinks the Spirit illumines the text in a completely different way.

* God does not send us mysterious messages through voices in the night, or feelings about specific places to go, as Chan implies on page 90. He gives us principles and gives us the free will to make our own judgments about where to live or where to go based on those principles.

* On page 55 Chan accepts the "possibility" of God’s speaking supernaturally through people today. Though warning on the following page about such a concept being abused, he has in essence opened the door for the blaring inconsistencies of all the modern prophets vying for our attention, each claiming to be lead by the Spirit. However, the scriptures still teach that "the faith" was delivered once (Jude 3) and that we should accept no additions to it today (Rev. 22:18). Frankly, page 55 teaches false doctrine.

Then, we observe Chan talking about “How to Recognize False Teaching”, and Francis Chan has a video on this, but as I listen to it, I find that this man has some good points to make but really severely misuses Colossians 2. There is death in the pot of what Chan mixes together and serves out to untrained and undiscerning ears.  It seems that he is making an application of the cross of Jesus to ANY sin, and saying not to judge others or let anyone judge you in regard to any “rules”. Jesus died for those sins, so don’t judge anyone about their sins and don’t let anyone judge you about your sins. Is that really what Colossians 2 is saying?

 The context shows that the Law of Moses has been abolished at the cross, so don’t let anyone judge you by a standard that no longer is in force such as Sabbaths, New Moons, and Festivals, etc.  He is not saying don’t let anyone judge you in regard to the righteous standards of Christ in the New Testament.  Paul also says not to let someone judge you by self-imposed religion and doctrines of men, but Paul is NOT saying for us not to judge people such as the man at Corinth who had his father’s wife (1 Cor.5).  Chan is misapplying the point Paul was making, and that makes him a false teacher.  The danger of his logic is that people will excuse all sin and use the grace of God for license (Jude 5).  Neither did Paul use the grace of God to give himself the right to ignore the rule of expediency (1 Cor.9). There are things that are proper and improper, and the grace of God is not to be used to ignore the rules of love and propriety and modesty. In fact, the grace of God is what taught Paul to hold back at times in demanding his own rights. He would not allow someone to impose the law of Moses or the doctrines of men on the church, but he would try to win souls by measuring his behavior in how best to act with the particular people he is with. That is what the rule of love demands.  But, neither love nor grace teaches us to break God’s law which entails commandments and principles.

Now, consider that in the same book of Colossians, Paul has shown that Jesus had paid for sins that have been repented of, and that the law of Moses (the Handwriting of requirements) has been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (2:14-16). However, God’s wrath will come upon those who are “sons of disobedience”(Col.3:5-10).  Thus, sons of obedience are saved. Paul is not arguing against “rules”.  He is arguing against rules that either no longer apply (law of Moses) or never applied before or after the cross (doctrines and commandments of men).  But, there are rules of righteousness that always apply, and there are rules of conduct in Christ that apply. Paul affirms running our race according to the rules. 2 Tim 2:5  And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules .NKJV  You will never find Paul undermining “rules” per se. He will oppose someone trying to impose the rules that have been abolished and rules of human origin, but NEVER the rules of righteousness and service to Christ.  Are there rules that come to us in Christ? Absolutely! “Teach them to observe all things I have commanded you”(Matt.28:20). He that hears these saying of mine and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock (Matt.7:24ff).

The grace of God does not teach us that we are free from all “rules”, but that we are free from the bondage of sin, and bondage to the Law of Moses which did not provide the means of forgiveness, and free from the commandments of men.  But, the grace of God teaches us to deny worldly lusts and keep the commandments of God in Christ (Titus 2:11f).

John 14:15-16  "If you love Me, keep My commandments” .  John 14:21 - He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." 

John 15:10 - If you keep My commandments , you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 

1 Cor 7:19-20  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.

1 Cor 14:37-38  If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

1 John 2:3-6  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments . 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments , is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 3:22-23  And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

1 John 5:2-4   By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

Rev 22:14   Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

In all of these verses we are to judge ourselves by whether we are keeping Jesus’ commandments. Jesus did not nail our sins to the cross so that we could ignore His commandments. When someone starts using the grace of God in such a manner as to teach against “rule-keeping” in general, I know that they are misleading people.  This is a dangerous misuse of the text and context, and this is precisely what false-teachers do.  They take something true and misapply it. They seem so nice when they are doing it too.  They are wearing sheep’s clothing, but the words carry misleading ideas.  The grace of God is used to give license that God has not given (Jude 3-4). Beware brethren, because they are in churches of Christ too, not just in denominations. Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All Things Are Lawful For Me?

What does “All Things Are Lawful for Me” Mean?

This expression is used twice in 1 Corinthians, in 6:12 and in 10:23.

First, it does not mean:

1.       “I can do whatever I want to”. You can’t. Sin is not lawful. See 1 Cor.5-6.  Saying “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” and creating division was not lawful even though there had been no law that said “Thou shalt not say I am of Paul or Apollos”.(1 Cor.1:10-13).  These divisions were not lawful even before Paul wrote this letter and rebuked them. People cannot do what they want to and start and maintain any denomination.  Such is not lawful.

2.       “I can do anything that God does not specifically forbid”.  If God forbids anything at all then the statement is not really true that “all things are lawful”.  Also, there was no law that specifically said a Judean cannot be a priest (Heb.7:14).  There was a law about where to get fire to light the incense, but there was no law that specifically forbade getting fire from somewhere else.  God killed two men for taking the attitude that “I can do anything God does not specifically forbid”(Lev.10:1-10).  God rebuked David when he took that approach to God’s law. Remember that God told how to transport the ark, but he did not specifically forbid other ways of carrying the ark.  David learned that when God specifies that it automatically forbids any other option.

3.       “All things are literally lawful because we are under no law”. The law of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem (Isa.2:1-4 and Acts 2), and God has written His laws in our hearts (Jer.31:31f and Hebrews 8). We have laws that come to us from God and we are under law to Christ (1 Cor.9:21).  We are to look into the perfect law of liberty and adjust our lives to what it says (James 1:21ff).  This law of liberty requires us to “prove what is acceptable to the Lord”(Rom.12:2; Eph.5:10; 1 Thess. 5:21). We do have to “keep His commands”(1 John 2:3).

So, what does it mean?

It is probably a common argument (proverb or slogan) that some people used in that day.  Sort of like people today will often say “I can do whatever I want”.  Obviously, we cannot take the phrase at face value because all things are not lawful for any of us.  The phrase must be qualified in some way.  It is probably correct that Paul is quoting such an expression and showing that even common sense makes that idea a poor principle to live by because even supposing that it is lawful would not make everything expedient, helpful, or edifying.  The following versions put it in quotation marks because it seems to be more of a quote from men rather than a truth from God.

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is constructive. NIV

1 Cor 10:23

23 “Everything is permitted,” you say? Maybe, but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permitted?” Maybe, but not everything is edifying. CJB

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 Some of you say, "We can do whatever we want to!" But I tell you that not everything may be good or helpful. CEV

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "All things are allowed," you say. But not all things are good. "All things are allowed." But some things don't help anyone. (Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version, Revised Edition)

1 Cor 10:23-24

23  "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. ESV

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 Someone may say, "I'm allowed to do anything," but not everything is helpful. I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth.(from GOD'S WORD Copyright © 1995 by God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. All rights reserved.)

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "Everything is permissible," but not everything is helpful. "Everything is permissible," but not everything builds up.(from Holman Christian Standard Bible)

1 Cor. 10:23

23 "We are allowed to do all things," but all things are not good for us to do. "We are allowed to do all things," but not all things help others grow stronger.NCV

1 Cor. 10:23

23 "Everything is lawful," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is lawful," but not everything builds others up.(from The NET Bible)

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 You say, “Everything is permitted.” But not everything is good for us. Again you say, “Everything is permitted.” But not everything builds us up.NIrV

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.NRSV

1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.


1 Cor 10:23-24

23 "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but not everything is constructive.TNIV

1 Cor 10:23

23 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are profitable. "All things are lawful for me," but not all things build up.WEB

It seems that the expression “all things are lawful for me” was a common proverb that people used to justify themselves. It is like the proverb of 6:12,13 where some said “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods” as a way to justify also justifying sexual intercourse with whomever they wished. Robertson comments on the Greek:

 1 Corinthians 6:12  - Apparently this proverb may have been used by Paul in Corinth (repeated in 1 Cor 10:23), but not in the sense now used by Paul's opponents. The "all things" do not include such matters as those condemned in 1 Cor 5; 6:1-11. Paul limits the proverb to things not immoral, things not wrong per se. But even here liberty is not license.

(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament)

The UBS new Testament Handbook Series remarks on this verse similarly.

1 Corinthians 6:12

Commentators agree that the clause All things are lawful to me was a slogan used in Corinth at that time. It is repeated in 1 Cor 10:23, where the Greek is the same except that the phrase for me is omitted.

TEV adds the phrases "Someone will say" and "I could say" to show that these clauses in quotes are familiar to the Christians in Corinth. Translators in other languages may find it helpful to add these phrases too.

Are lawful for me: the Greek verb means "it is allowed" and therefore does not raise the question of who gives the permission. Clearly Paul is not thinking of the Old Testament Law. Probably the people who misused this saying thought that because the body did not matter, they could do anything they liked with it. All things are lawful for me may also be expressed as "It is permissible for me to do anything" or "There is no law against anything that I want to do."

(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series)

So, it seems to have been a proverb or slogan people used to justify anything they wanted to do.  But, the slogan or proverb was not an inspired proverb or slogan. Paul repeats what Corinthians were use to hearing and then cautions against the misuse of it.  Immoral things are not lawful and never are, and even in things that are not immoral there are other considerations and principles such as love and helpfulness and how to edify and build up others.

So,  I think Albert Barnes is likely correct along with all of the above testimony that:

The expression, "all things are lawful," is to be understood as used by those who palliated certain indulgences, or who vindicated the vices here referred to, and Paul designs to reply to them. His reply follows. He had been reproving them for their vices, and had specified several. It is not to be supposed that they would indulge in them without some show of defense; and the declaration here has much the appearance of a proverb, or a common saying-that all things were lawful; that is, "God has formed all things for our use, and there can be no evil if we use them." By the phrase "all things" here, perhaps, may be meant MANY things; or things in general; or there is nothing in itself unlawful.

That there were many vicious persons who held this sentiment there can be no doubt; and though it cannot be supposed that there were any in the Christian church who would openly advocate it, yet the design of Paul was to "cut up" the plea altogether "wherever it might be urged," and to show that it was false and unfounded. The particular flyings which Paul here refers to, are those which have been called "adiaphoristic," or indifferent; that is, pertaining to certain meats and drinks, etc. With this Paul connects also the subject of fornication-the subject particularly under discussion. THIS was defended as "lawful," by many Greeks, and was practiced at Corinth; and was the vice to which the Corinthian Christians were particularly exposed. Paul designed to meet ALL that could be said on this subject; and to show them that these indulgences could NOT be proper for Christians, and could not in ANY way be defended-We are not to understand Paul as admitting that fornication is in any case lawful; but he designs to show that the practice cannot possibly be defended in any way, or by any of the arguments which had been or could be used.

(from Barnes' Notes).

This proverb was a bit misleading then and brought people to false conclusions then, and we are finding that it is still being used today to bring people to false conclusions.  All things really are not lawful and never have been.  Those found making this blanket statement are NOT in agreement with Paul in any way.

Terry W. Benton

Not Under Law But Under Grace

What Does Romans 6:14 Mean?

 Rom 6:14

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

First, it does not mean:

1) You are not under law to Christ (1 Cor.9:

2) You have no commandments to keep (1 John 2:3)

3) You are not obligated to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. You are. Rom.8:1-3

What it means is:

1) Sin can have no dominion (condemning control and rule) over you (Christians) because:

a. You are not under mere law or a system where law has the only voice or say about your condition.

b. You have been pardoned by the blood of Christ offered for you by the grace of God and you entered into this grace through faith in Jesus, being baptized into His death (Rom.6:4).

c. You are under this system of grace and you left the former system where law had the only legal say about your standing before Holy justice.

d. You entered the system of grace where a legal substitute has bought your pardon.

2) Righteousness has dominion now because:

a. You have become a willing servant of righteousness( Rom.6:6ff), and

b. You have an advocate with the Father when you need further pardon at any time.

Under grace we have all the tools we need to overcome the Accuser(Rev.12:10f). Before our conversion to Jesus we were separated from God and condemned under law. Law was all we had and law does not pardon or have the power to pardon. Sin and condemnation have the upper hand, the dominion. After our conversion to Jesus Christ, we have the means of pardon and the provisions of power to deal effectively with sin and have the rule and dominion over it.

Grace provides wonderful things, but it does not allow us to continue in sin (Rom.6:1f). It frees us FROM sin, but not TO sin. Without Christ a Jew is under law. Law is all he has and mere law has no power to pardon. It only testifies against the Jew as a sinner. Sin has dominion because all the Jew has is law that does not justify but condemns. There is a way for him to leave the situation of being under law and condemnation, and come under grace. But, that is through faith in Jesus. If he does not take the way offered in Christ, he remains under law and condemnation. Without Christ a Gentile is under law. His internal law is all he has, and mere law has no power to pardon. It only testifies against him as a sinner. Sin has dominion just as with the Jew. The source and nature of law may be different in his case, but since it is all he has, it still condemns him. The only way out for him is the same as with the Jews, through faith in Jesus Christ. When one becomes a Christian, they are out from under a law-only situation. They are out from under law that points out sin and leaves us dominated with guilt and condemnation. They have entered grace that provides pardon and leaves them dominated with freedom from guilt and condemnation. They willingly become slaves of righteousness and do not desire to continue in sin. They are under grace that teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts (Tit.2:12f). Grace provides a different kind of law, a law of liberty and pardon while calling for righteous standards of behavior.

What does Galatians 3:21 mean?

Gal 3:21- Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

Law cannot give life. Law can only point out sin. Righteousness or right relation to God comes through the provisions promised in Jesus. Adam Clarke observes:

If any law or rule of life could have been found out that would have given life-saved sinners from death, and made them truly happy, then righteousness-justification, should have been by that law.

(from Adam Clarke's Commentary)

But, that is not what law does. Regarding the Greek text the UBS Handbook Series comments of this verse:

Already he has said that the Law functions as showing what wrongdoing is (verse 19), and later he takes up other functions of the Law: as teacher (verses 23-25) and as guardian (Gal 4:1 ff.). But the function of the Law is not the same as the function of the promise. The function of the promise is to bring life. If the Law could do that, then it would be competing with the promise. But the Law cannot bring life, because it was not given for such a purpose.

And also:

What Paul is saying, then, is: If there is a law that could put men right with God, then eternal life could be achieved through law. In this sense one may often translate as "could cause men really to live," or "could cause men to share the life that comes from God" (as a reference to "spiritual life").

(from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

Law does not serve that purpose and does not have that capability. Therefore, we need more than what mere law, any mere law, can provide. That is why the promise was needed. It pointed to something (someone) Who could provide what mere law could not. Jesus provides what mere law never could. Does this mean that we are without any law now? No! But, under Christ we do not have mere law. We have the provisions of pardon, forgiveness of sins, based upon the blood of Jesus Christ. Are we under law to Christ? Absolutely! Are we under mere law? Absolutely not! Are we free to sin? Absolutely not!

Terry W. Benton

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Upper Room Example

The Upper Room Example versus the First Day of the Week Example

I would like to respond to the above linked article. I am concerned for our brother and the direction of his thinking as well as the influence such thinking has on others. It concerns the matter of how to establish biblical authority and whether you can and should consider examples of what others did with God’s approval in consideration of your own practice. I believe that commands, statements, and exampless SHOULD be part of our search for authority, and that some examples help us prove what is acceptable to the Lord.  If the total evidence is consistent with the example, then the example may help us “prove what is acceptable to the Lord”(Eph.5:10; 1 Thess.5:21; Rom.12:2).

Joel ends his article by asserting: “But unless we are prepared to bind the practice of eating the Lord’s Supper in an upper room, we need to be careful of judging those who choose to eat it (the Lords’ Supper –twb) on a day other than Sunday. –JME”

TB: Now, I deny that eating the Lord’s Supper in an upper room is equal to the example of eating the supper on the first day of the week.  There is a command to eat the supper in “one place”.(1 Cor.11:20). That is the only command about where to eat the supper.

Joel responded to this part by saying: 1) 1st Corinthians 11:20 is not a command to eat the Lord’s Supper, either together or not.

TB: Excuse me. It is an approved, Spirit-guided statement that carries the force of telling the will of God about their gathering to eat the Lord’s Supper. “When you come together in one place”. If God Had wanted them to make sure the Supper was taken only in upper rooms, then He would have said “when you come together in an upper room”. He didn’t. He left the only requirement regarding the Supper is that it be held in “one place” wherever you can arrange to meet. Therefore, the two examples of taking the Supper in an upper room was circumstantial and incidental, not a uniform practice at all.

JE: 2) There is no example in the NT of anyone eating the Lord’s Supper anywhere other than an upper room.

TB: Joel is trying to make a point about examples, but his point fell apart because the total evidence is that brethren did not meet always in upper rooms to take the supper. 1 Cor.11 shows that the only requirement was to find a place where the church could come together in one place.  That common architecture of that time made many houses with a large upper room a good candidate for a place to come together in one place, does not limit “come together in one place” to always being in an upper room even in places where that was not a good candidate for a place to come together in one place. Joel did not want to lose his argument so he pretended that 1 Cor.11:20 is not a command. It may not be in the form of a command, but it is a statement that shows that God wanted them to come together in one place and eat the Lord’s Supper.

Secondly,  Acts 2:42 shows that they met at the temple for a time as the “one place” they could share the Supper.  It specifically says they were together, continuing daily with one accord in the temple. The Supper was one of the things they did together in the temple.  It is fallacious to argue that two examples of eating in an upper room dismisses all other evidence.  We do not dismiss all other evidence that brethren took the Supper on other days besides the first day of the week.  We copy the early practice because that is ALL the evidence of when to take the Supper.  Joel, wanting to dismiss all examples as authoritative, thought that he would show how inconsistent it is to follow the example of Acts 20:7 while not following the example of the upper room.  We don’t follow THAT example of meeting in an upper room simply because it was incidental (the one place they found to meet in one place) and not a purposeful pattern that characterized all meeting places. But we see that they purposely waited for the first day of the week to come around because that was when the disciples purposefully came together to break bread.

 Two examples show that a common place where a number could meet together was in an upper room. Other examples show that they also found meeting by a river or in a school and for a while at the temple was a good place to come together in one place. Therefore, the commands and examples show us that it is wide open as long as you can find “one place” to accommodate coming together in one place.  The forced conclusion from all evidence is that it is wherever the church can come together in one place.

On the topic of when to come together in one place to take the supper, all the information points to the first day of the week ( Acts 2:42 was on the first day of the week, and Acts 20:7 makes the observation while Paul waited that it was on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread).  The forced conclusion of all evidence was that the disciples commonly met on the first day of the week for the purpose of breaking bread, and this was the approved time to do so. It is therefore the approved time for us to do so. Since we are under obligation to “prove what IS acceptable to the Lord”, we can use this example to prove it is acceptable to the Lord to take the Supper on the first day of the week AND we can’t prove that I is acceptable to take the Supper on any other day of the week.  We can prove it is acceptable to meet in one place, not just upper rooms, anywhere we can find an adequate place. So, the issues are not equal as our brother would like us to think.

As for judging others, we do that by merely telling the truth and I intend to keep on doing that.  If they judge that they need not follow the divine pattern, I judge that I can have no fellowship with them in what they do. My practice is not questionable. I can prove my practice is acceptable to the Lord. If they choose to “eat it on a day other than Sunday” then let them “prove it is acceptable to the Lord”.  If they don’t or can’t, then I judge that I cannot have fellowship with them (Eph.5:8-11). Neither should others.

Joel further said: “Acts 2:42 does not mention the first day of the week. You are only assuming it must have been because of your conclusions from Acts 20:7.”

TB: No, Pentecost fell on the first day of the week, and that is when they were there after their baptism “continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers”.  We have no reason to assume a break in time has occurred.  So, here is an example of taking the Supper on the first day of the week in the temple area, not in an upper room. 

JE: No one is denying the Lord approves of believers meeting to eat the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week.

TB: That is correct because that practice can be proven to be correct.  Since everyone is obligated to prove their own practice is correct, then we have to ask those who take the Supper on some other day to prove that it is acceptable to the Lord (Eph.5:10; 1 Thess.5:21; Rom.12:2). The upper room argument Joel made is simply bad exegesis and reasoning.  Now, the examples of upper room meetings just proves that if an upper room is a good place to “come together in one place” then use it. If there are other places to come together in one place, then use them. Examples are not binding just because they are examples, but they may show an approved pattern where the total information on that topic shows a pattern of action that we know is right and cannot be wrong as we strive to “prove all things” that we do are in harmony with the will of God. If you throw out examples from consideration, you would throw out statements as well, and that would leave you with deciding which commands written to someone else applies to you. That approach is very lacking and foolish. We speak the truth in love, and hope that at least others will see the difference between the examples that are incidental and those that show purpose and give us a pattern that we know is acceptable to the Lord. And, we wish only good things for our brother consistent with the will of God.

Terry W. Benton