Monthly Archives: December 2014

Was Jesus born on the 25th of December?

WAS JESUS BORN ON THE 25TH OF DECEMBER? IF NOT, SHOULD CHRISTIANS STILL CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Some professing Christians believe that we should celebrate Christmas because it commemorates Jesus Christ’s birth. Other professing Christians believe that we should not celebrate Christmas because of its pagan (non-Christian) origins and elements. In this Bible study, we will evaluate Christmas from the historical and Biblical perspectives, to answer two crucial questions—(1) Was Jesus actually born on December 25th? (2) If He was not, then should we as Christians still celebrate December 25th as though it were a legitimate Christian holiday? We will let our readers come to their own conclusion as to what they should do about Christmas. To the Scriptures we go to search and see!

Like with Easter, some Bible-believing Christians struggle in themselves whether or not to observe Christmas. As with anything religious, especially concerning the Holy Bible, there is gross, gross, gross ignorance. It is such a tragic testimony, oh how sad it is, that the average Christian cannot adequately convey what he or she believes, let alone actually point to supporting Bible verses, if his or her life depended on it! “Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:1,6).

Dear friends, if we are to answer the Bible critics with clear, sound, thoughtful statements as God Himself would have us to reply to them, we must make informed decisions and then be ready to defend them. What we need to do is study the Bible and then believe what we read; if the Bible is silent about the topic, we need to study the topic using something other than the Bible, and then we should return to the Bible and compare to it what we have learned elsewhere. The Bible never uses the term “Christmas.” (Still, that does not mean that God’s Word is completely silent about this “feast of Christendom.”) Hence, before we can see what implicit references the Bible makes to this time of year and its associated activities, we should consider the history of Christmas and then compare that to the Holy Bible. We will do just that here.

ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS

According to the “Christmas” article of The New Encyclopædia Britannica:

Christmas, Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.”

The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular [pagan, non-Christian—S.B.] holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian [actually the Roman Catholic—S.B.] church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

“A second view suggests that December 25 became the date of Jesus’ birth by a priori reasoning that identified the spring equinox as the date of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation, when the light was created, as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25). December 25, nine months later, then became the date of Jesus’ birth. For a long time the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed in conjunction with his baptism, celebrated January 6.”

The secular (non-Christian) New Encyclopædia Britannica is actually more informed about the Bible than most Christians. It clearly displays a fact that the Bible student already knows—the New Testament is completely silent about Jesus Christ being born on December 25th (this idea appeared in the third century A.D., some 150 years after New Testament times). As the Britannica indicates, Jesus’ birth being celebrated on December 25th has a widespread explanation: the Roman Catholic Church, to attract more members from paganism, cleaned up and adopted a non-Christian holiday, blending similarities wherever it could so as to minimize detection. In late December, at the winter solstice, the pagan Romans celebrated the time of the rebirth of the sun (beginning with the winter solstice, daylight hours began to slowly increase).

The History Channel’s website (www.history.com) has the following opening remarks about Christmas:

“A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan [non-Christian!—S.B.] traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts. … It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

These historians—who may not be Christians at all, and who thus would have no “Bible-believing-bias” agenda to advance—assure us that Christmas has “many pre-Christian, pagan traditions.” Not just a few, but many, non-Christian elements!

We continue reading from the History Channel’s website:

“In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

It should be pointed out that these were not Bible-believing Jews or Bible-believing Christians; these were ignorant people in paganism. The Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) led no one to believe in such superstitious nonsense.

The History Channel’s website could not be clearer about why Christmas, a once-heathen holiday, now prevails in the Christian “church:”

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced [COMPROMISE!—S.B.], but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

We find elsewhere in the History Channel’s online article about Christmas’ origins:

Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.”

“In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.”

“In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday….”

“Saturnalia”

“In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic [riotous, carousing] time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.”

“Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. [Notice how the Roman Church adopted the ancient Roman religious belief of a pagan god being born in December, and then “Christianized” it by applying the date to Jesus.] For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.”

“In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

In his classic The Two Babylons (first printed in the mid-1800s), Alexander Hislop expanded on this idea:

“The festivals of Rome are innumerable; but five of the most important may be singled out for elucidation—viz., Christmas-day, Lady-day, Easter, the Nativity of St. John, and the Feast of the Assumption. Each and all of these can be proved to be Babylonian….

“Indeed, it is admitted by the most learned and candid writers of all parties * that the day of our Lord’s birth cannot be determined, ** and that within the Christian Church no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century, and that not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance….

“How, then, did the Romish Church fix on December the 25th as Christmas-day? Why, thus: Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen, at that precise time of the year, in honour of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed; and we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition. “By us,” says he, “who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia, are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians.” Upright men strive to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the apostacy went on, till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant, was submerged under Pagan superstition. That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, “about the time of the winter solstice.” The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves—Yule-day—proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. “Yule” is the Chaldee name for an “infant” or “little child”; * and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, “Yule-day,” or the “Child’s day,” and the night that preceded it, “Mother-night,” long before they came in contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide, in the realms of Paganism, was this birth-day observed. This festival has been commonly believed to have had only an astronomical character, referring simply to the completion of the sun’s yearly course, and the commencement of a new cycle….” (pages 91–94, Bold emphasis mine.)

While much more could be said regarding the above quotes, suffice it to say that Christmas practices certainly have roots in false religion, and much of what is called “Christmas worship” is nothing more than the carryover of superstitious practices that non-Christians followed centuries and millennia ago. These pagan practices have been given a godly appearance—they have been “Christianized”—but, once we expose their superficiality, they demonstrate themselves that they have no relation to the God of the Bible and no association with Jesus Christ.

It is becoming to close this section by quoting one brief statement from the History Channel’s website: “As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday [in the 1800s], old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.”

USING THE BIBLE TO ESTIMATE CHRIST’S BIRTH-MONTH

While it is commonly estimated that the Lord Jesus Christ was born between 7 and 4 B.C., we are more interested in this study to see if the Bible says anything about the time of year He was born. Some church fathers argued Christ’s birth was May 20, others argued January 6, and still others January 10. Rather than studying the traditions of men, we will simply be Bible-believers (before we become that, we must first be Bible-students!).

Luke 2:7-8 are helpful in determining the approximate time of Christ’s birth: “[7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:7-8).

As we stated earlier, religious tradition demands December 25th is Christ’s birthday. Was our Lord Jesus really born in wintertime? This passage replies with an emphatic NO. According to the Bible, on the night of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds out in the fields watching their flock. Would shepherds be abiding outside on a cold winter’s (perhaps snowy) night? This is only one line of biblical evidence that Jesus was not born on Christmas. However, there is a biblical significance to late December.

John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias, was a priest, “of the course [order] of Abia [Abijah]” (Luke 1:5). Under King David, Israel’s priests were organized into 24 courses (1 Chronicles 24:7-19). A priest from each course served a week in the Temple ministration (and thus served one week twice a year). Israel’s calendar began with Abib/Nisan, equivalent to March 16-April 15 (Exodus 12:1,2; Exodus 13:4). Passover was observed on April 14, starting Israel’s religious calendar.

Passover week (The Feast of Unleavened Bread) lasted from April 15-21. The first course of priests served in the Temple around this time. Zacharias’ course, Abijah, was the eighth course after Passover (1 Chronicles 24:10), thus placing Zacharias’ service roughly eight weeks after Passover (or June 17-23). This was the time when the angel appeared to Zacharias to announce John’s conception (Luke 1:8-22). Once Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth leave the Temple and go home, Elisabeth conceives John (late June; Luke 1:23-25).

Six months after Elisabeth conceived John in late June (Luke 1:26), Mary conceived Jesus—in late December. Contrary to religious tradition, the birthday of Christ is not December 25. Late December is the time of Christ’s conception. The conception of Christ in Mary’s womb, not Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, is the biblical immaculate conception: it was Christ’s conception, not Mary’s, that was sinless (Luke 1:35).

If a perfect human gestation lasts 280 days (9 months), late September/early October is the time of Christ’s birth. During this time of year, recall that God had Israel observing the Feast of Tabernacles, when Jews would dwell in “booths” (tents, tabernacles) for seven days (Leviticus 23:39-44). We will take some moments to look at this in more detail.

God had commanded Israel through Moses that Jews were to celebrate many feasts year-round. One of them was the Feast of Tabernacles, observed during late September/early October. Again, during this seven-day feast, Jews were to dwell in “booths” (tents, tabernacles) (Leviticus 23:39-44; Nehemiah 8:13-18).

The Bible likens our physical bodies to “tabernacles” for our souls and spirits (2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Peter 1:13-15). Furthermore, Isaiah 40:22 says God “spreadeth [the heavens] out as a tent to dwell in:” God created the universe so He could dwell in it, specifically on a little planet… earth. When Jesus Christ was born, “the Word was made flesh [God became a man], and dwelt among us [He “tabernacled” in a human body]” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ came to tabernacle/abide with mankind on earth, to establish that earthly kingdom prophesied throughout the Old Testament!

To make the Word flesh (for Jesus Christ to be a man), God’s Holy Spirit conceived a physical body inside of the virgin Mary, a body in which Jesus’ Spirit could dwell (Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:35; Hebrews 10:5-9). Jesus was named “Immanuel,” or “God [dwelling] with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The Bible indicates that Jesus was conceivednot born—in late December. Again, Jesus Christ was actually born in late September/early October (coinciding with the Feast of Tabernacles).

So, to conclude this section, we remind you that, while Israel was observing Tabernacles in September/October, God was born as a man (Jesus Christ) of the virgin Mary, and dwelt (“tabernacled”) with them! Sadly, very few Jews paid any attention to Jesus, “Emmanuel,” “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:23; Zechariah 8:23). The rest of Israel ignored “God dwelling among them” (John 1:14).

WHY ALL THE CONFUSION?

Why there is so much confusion about pagan practices and Christian practices is simple to explain. Satan is the master counterfeiter: from Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures reveal how the devil schemes to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). Whatever God does, Satan defiles that work by introducing false doctrine, distracts mankind from God’s truth by mimicking His actions, discourages God’s people from His ministry by using incorrect thinking patterns, and so on. Why? Satan wants the worship that God alone deserves (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).

Consider Eastertime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping fertility deities and new life in early spring, near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) died for our sins and resurrected victoriously over sin, death, hell, and Satan to give us new life! Now, consider Christmastime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping the birth of the sun god in early winter—near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) took upon human flesh in the virgin Mary’s womb! (To Satan’s delight, today’s average church member is not mindful of relevant sound Bible doctrine during Christmastime and Eastertime—the devil’s distractions have never lost their efficacy!)

We see this ignorance manifested in the “Christmas” article of The New Encyclopædia Britannica:

“Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

If Santa plays the “pivotal role” at Christmastime, then Jesus Christ is pushed aside in favor of someone who does not exist! (Obviously, Satan can and does very easily dupe mankind.)

Let us now see what the Bible would have us to do.

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Christmas so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding Christmas, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).

JEHOVAH, the God of the Bible, sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who once existed as a Spirit, into the womb a sinful daughter of Adam and Eve, Mary, that He become a man so that He could shed blood and pay for that sinful human race. Through Moses who recorded them in Leviticus chapter 23, God gave Israel seven feasts to observe throughout the year, every year. One of these feast-days, called the “Feast of Tabernacles,” pictured/previewed God dwelling in a human body, personally present forever, “tabernacling” (John 1:14) with the nation Israel in her Promised Land.

Backing up nine months from that time frame of late September / early October, we find late December. The Bible believer is not at all surprised to learn that, it is highly likely that God arranged a unique schedule—Jesus Christ’s physical body would be conceived in late December, (which is why the pagans through Satanic influence would counterfeit it), and to be physically delivered from that womb of Mary in early October (the very time that depicted God tabernacling with Israel in her kingdom on Earth!).

As with the case of Easter, Christmas has both good and bad elements: we do not have to avoid either holiday altogether. Yes, the pagans may have “hijacked” this time of year for the devil’s glory, but we can disregard their ignorance: late December seems to be a very important time in the Bible, but it is about Christ’s conception rather than His birth. We can still use this season to bring the God of the Bible glory by remembering that it was around this time of year that He became one of us, a lowly human (although sinless), that, through His birth He might die, and through His death we might die, and through His resurrection we might be born of God’s Spirit! Jesus Christ humbled Himself, He left glory behind, that we might rise from the slums of sin, that we might dwell with Him in glory forever. What a thought! Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for our justification (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We can trust Him alone and pass from eternal death to eternal life.

If we do choose to “celebrate” (for lack of a better word) Christmas, we should remember not to be get distracted by the trees, the Santa Clauses, reindeer, lights, denominational rites and rituals, and so on. Let us use this time of year—a time when people are most open to “spiritual things”—to share the wonderful news of the new life we have in Christ, and the new life that they can have in Jesus Christ, too, if they trust Him alone as their personal Saviour. This is the wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God, and it alone is the life-giving message that lost people need to hear—at Christmastime and every other time!

NOTE: My own research about Christmas yielded too much information to be reproduced in its entirety here. The reader is greatly encouraged to search the internet to learn more about Christmas’s very complex history, and not take this author’s word for anything.

You may also see http://www.history.com/topics/christmas and

http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees.

Also see:
» Should I display a Christmas tree?
» What is the “Immaculate Conception?”
» How many wise men were there?

What was the “Star of Bethlehem?”

WHAT WAS THE “STAR OF BETHLEHEM?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

What was the “Star of Bethlehem?” (A more correct term would be “Star of Nazareth,” since the Star guided the wise men to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.) Was it a literal sphere of hot gas (a “star” as we commonly call it)? Was it the conjunction of two planets? Was it a comet? Was it a supernova? Or, was it something else?

The Bible says in Matthew chapter 2: “[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, [2] Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. [3] When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. [5] And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, [6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [7] Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. [9] When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. [10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. [11] And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”

Various explanations have been offered regarding the identity of the so-called “Star of Bethlehem” (from now on, we will use the term, “Star of Nazareth”). Some say it was a union of Saturn and Jupiter, others say it was a comet (ball of rock and ice burning up as it entered Earth’s atmosphere), and still others say it was a literal star exploding (supernova). These explanations are popular because they enable people to approximate the year Jesus was born (for if we could find some unusual event in astronomical history close to the beginning of the first century A.D., that year would be roughly the year of Jesus’ birth). Historians estimate Jesus’ birth to have ranged from 7 B.C. to 4 B.C.—this estimate is good enough for me, and the year is beyond the scope of this discussion anyway. What we want to understand in this Bible study is that a naturalistic explanation (a supernova, a comet, or a planetary conjunction) is unnecessary and actually not a view a Bible believer would be inclined to have. We do not have to reduce the Bible’s miracles in order to agree with human viewpoint and satisfy scholars’ questions.

WHY MATTHEW ALONE WROTE ABOUT THE STAR

A large number of modern scholars actually believe that Matthew fabricated the account of the Star of Nazareth (since Mark, Luke, and John make no reference to the event in their Gospel records, the Star is not believed to be historical fact). Dear friends, this is unbelief at its pinnacle, since the Four Gospels are not meant to read 100 percent identical (these four books read differently because they are independent witnesses of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and had they read similar, scholars would dismiss them as conspiracies). The reason why Matthew alone records the account is because the Star of Nazareth is associated with Israel’s King, and Matthew’s theme is Jesus Christ as King! Mark portrays Jesus Christ as Servant (the Star is this unnecessary in his account), Luke depicts Jesus Christ as Man (the Star is thus unnecessary in his account), and John depicts Jesus Christ as God (the Star is thus unnecessary in his account).

STARS AND ANGELS IN SCRIPTURE

In the Bible, on at least four occasions, angels are referred to as “stars.”

When Lucifer (later named Satan), the cherub, an angelic-like creature, fell into sin, the Bible says of him: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” (Isaiah 14:13). Lucifer wanted an even greater role, a grander position in heaven than what God had already assigned him; he wanted to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God.” This language is suggestive of Lucifer wanting to rule over other angelic beings in creation, angelic beings Scripture call “the stars of God.”

In reference to the Creation Week, JEHOVAH God says to Job in Job 38:3-7: “[3] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; [7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Angelic beings were present when God made heaven and earth—they watched Him working and they rejoiced, singing to and praising Him! Notice how they are called “the morning stars” and “the sons of God.”

The Prophet Daniel, when referring to the future rise of the Antichrist, the wicked world ruler of the coming seven-year Tribulation, wrote in Daniel 8:10: “And it [the antichrist] waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.” The Antichrist will be working in accordance with the power of Satan (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9), to the extent that he will influence some of the fallen angels in outer space / the second heaven (cf. Job 15:15; Job 25:5; Ephesians 6:12) to come down to earth and work their wickedness here. Notice how Daniel called these fallen angels “stars.”

In Revelation 12:4, John the Apostle elaborated on Daniel’s prophecy: “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” Again, note how John called these fallen angels “stars of heaven.” These evil spirits will be active on Earth during the latter part of the Tribulation period.

THE LIKELY IDENTITY OF THE STAR OF NAZARETH

Considering the Bible uses the term “stars” to apply to both spheres of gas and angels, the “star” of Matthew chapter 2 that the wise men saw was probably an angelic appearance. The Star of Nazareth did not behave like a celestial star, a comet, a pair of planets, or the like: a natural explanation just would not make sense. Matthew 2:9 says, “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”

The Star “went before [the wise men],” “till it came and stood over where the young child was.” It would be strange for a comet, a celestial sphere of gas, or a pair of planets, to cross the sky and pinpoint the very location of the Christ Child (who was as much as two years old). The Scriptures say that the Star actually led the wise men to the house of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem (which the wise men would not have otherwise located). This activity would be indicative of something living, something that had a mind and that could give directions—planets, comets, and stars as we normally think of them cannot do such things. An angel, however, could reason, provide directions to a house. The Bible is filled with accounts of angelic beings helping people, instructing people, revealing information to people, and so on. It is on the authority of these verses that we conclude the Star of Nazareth was an angel whom God sent to guide the wise men to the house of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth.

Even as Gentiles, the wise men had access to the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew of the prophecy in Numbers 24:17: I shall see him [the Messiah Jesus], but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” Messiah would come one day, Balaam predicted, and a Star would be associated with His coming. The wise men knew that when they saw this event in the sky during the timeframe of Daniel 9:24-27, the King of Israel had arrived, and they rejoiced to see Him finally on earth!

Also see:
» How many wise men were there?
» What is “the Immaculate Conception?”
» Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Were there really three wise men?

WERE THERE REALLY THREE WISE MEN? WHAT ARE FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “wise men” are often called “the Magi,” the Greek word translated as such in our English Bible. They are very enigmatic Bible characters because they only appear in Scripture in Matthew chapter 2. In Nativity Scenes, we see the wise men portrayed as kings—three kings to be exact. While the Bible is silent about their names, church tradition refers to them as Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. The Bible never indicates how many wise men visited the Lord Jesus either. It is assumed that, because three gifts were presented, there were three wise men. Actually, there could have a dozen wise men—it does not matter the number, what we need to guard against is saying something is in the Bible when it is not.

Furthermore, there is no definitive proof in the Bible that the wise men were royalty. Psalm 72:10, which is probably one source of this confusion, is descriptive of kings bringing gifts to King Solomon (historical) and the Lord Jesus Christ when His establishes His earthly kingdom (prophetic)—it is not a verse that applies to Christ’s First Coming but rather His Second Coming. Isaiah 60:6, another confused verse, is not descriptive of Christ’s First Coming but rather His kingdom on Earth (yet future). We will look at Isaiah 60:6 in more detail later.

From Matthew chapter 2, we learn the following eight facts about the wise men:

  1. They were from the East (Matthew 2:1)—perhaps from Babylon. The important thing to remember is that they were living east of Jerusalem when they saw the star. They were undoubtedly Gentiles (non-Jews).
  2. They saw Jesus’s star in the east—the wise men were astrologers, or what we would call today astronomers (people who study the heavens, the movements of celestial bodies). King Nebuchadnezzar had similar officials serving in his court back in Daniel’s day (Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2, 27; Daniel 4:7, 9; Daniel 5:11). Dr. Strong defines the word translated “wise men” (Magi) as “Oriental scientists; by implication, magicians:—sorcerers, wise men.” The Hebrew Bible uses this word in Jeremiah 39:3 and Jeremiah 39:13 when referring to the name of a Babylonian prince, “Rabmag.” The wise men were very educated for their time, men skilled in science (hence their name, wise men”), and, in light of Daniel, probably high-ranking officials in some foreign government.
  3. They have enough knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures to recognize that the King of the Jews is to be born, for His special star has appeared (Matthew 2:2). This star accompanying the Messiah was prophesied by Balaam in Numbers 24:17. Unlike the unbelieving Jews, the wise men believed the Scriptures and were joyful to see them fulfilled.
  4. They know to go to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, where David’s throne was, where the Messiah King of Israel should be.
  5. Unlike the Jewish people who should have joyfully accepted their Messiah (but were rather troubled), the wise men were glad of the arrival of King Jesus, and, to King Herod’s disdain, they were come to worship Him instead of Herod (Matthew 2:1-3)!
  6. King Herod, claiming that he wants to worship Him with them, sends the wise men to locate the child Jesus and report back to him (Matthew 2:8-9). They wise men do not realize Herod wants to secretly kill Jesus—a dream from God later reveals that information to them, and instructs them to sneak away back to their foreign land without convening with Herod (Matthew 2:12).
  7. Contrary to what we see in Nativity Scenes, the wise men did not visit the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem but rather went to Nazareth, to the house of Joseph and Mary. There, they found Jesus was “a young child” (Matthew 2:9,11,13,14). In fact, Jesus could have been as much as two years old here (Matthew 2:16).
  8. They brought Jesus presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and they worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11). They did not present Mary Jesus’s mother with gifts, and they did not worship and pay homage to Mary. They worshipped Jesus Christ and presented gifts to Him.

WHY THE GIFTS OF GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MYRRH? WHAT ARE “FRANKINCENSE” AND “MYRRH” ANYWAY?

Why did the wise men present gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus? Before we get to that, we will analyze what frankincense and myrrh actually are.

Frankincense is the dried sap of trees whose scientific name is Boswellia sacra. These trees are native to Yemen, Oman, and the Horn of Africa, including Somalia and Ethiopia. After being dried, the sap is burned as incense (this expensive product has a lemony, musky odor). Frankincense is thought to have several medicinal properties.

Myrrh is the dried resin of tree species known as Commiphora, trees found in Somalia, Yemen, and eastern Ethiopia. Like frankincense, it is expensive (once as valuable as gold), known for its medicinal properties, and burned as incense (often in religious settings). Myrrh is extracted by using a crushing technique. It has a rich, distinct scent—earthy and bitter. Myrrh was mixed with wine and given to Jesus just before His crucifixion, but, because it was an anesthetic, He refused it (Mark 15:23). Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus’ corpse (John 19:39). Interestingly, the city of “Smyrna” (Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:8) derives it name from the Greek word translated “myrrh” in Matthew 2:11 and John 19:39. Myrrh can also be found in the context of gifts, spices, perfume, and incense in Genesis 37:25, Genesis 43:11, Exodus 30:23, Esther 2:12, Psalm 45:8, Proverbs 7:17, Song of Solomon 1:13, Song of Solomon 3:6, Song of Solomon 4:6,14, and Song of Solomon 5:1,5,13.

Interestingly, the wise men worship Jesus, not Mary and/or the angel, and they bring Him gifts of “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Why these gifts of all things? Gold is for a King, frankincense is for a Priest, and myrrh is for a Prophet—Jesus is all three (King—Isaiah 9:6-7; Priest—Zechariah 6:13; Prophet—Deuteronomy 18:15,18). Amazingly, Isaiah 60:6, written some 700 years beforehand, even prophesied Gentiles would bring God gifts of gold and frankincense. You will notice that myrrh is absent from Isaiah 60:6. Messiah will not suffer at His Second Coming—myrrh is unnecessary here. The only gifts needed in the Kingdom, the context of Isaiah 60:6, are gold and frankincense: Christ being a King (gold; Isaiah 9:6-7) and Christ being a Priest on His throne (frankincense; Zechariah 6:13).

CONCLUSION

According to the Bible, Matthew chapter 2, an indeterminate number of wise men from the east (Gentiles) saw the star of Christ, so they traveled to Jerusalem, inquiring where to find Christ, the King of Jews (verses 1,2). King Herod and Jerusalem were troubled, and Herod summoned Israel’s religious leaders to tell him where the Messiah would be born. They told him, according to Micah 5:2, “Bethlehem of Judaea” (verses 3-6). Herod then sent the wise men to seek Jesus, hoping to find and destroy Him (lest He become king and end Herod’s reign).

The star lead the wise men to Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary lived in a “house”not the manger scene. Also, note that Jesus was not a baby when the wise men visited, but rather a “young child” (verses 9,11). He could have been as much as two years old (verse 16). By the way, according to Numbers 24:17, that star—an angel (cf. Job 38:7)—that the wise men saw signified the Messiah-King of Israel… they were wise in that they recognized and followed it! Sadly, these Gentiles had more respect for Israel’s King than Israel. These wise men recognized fulfilled prophecy… they were wise men indeed!

Also see:
» What is the “Immaculate Conception?”
» What was the Star of Bethlehem? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December?
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

What is the “Immaculate Conception?”

WHAT IS THE “IMMACULATE CONCEPTION?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

There is ever so much confusion about the meaning of the term “Immaculate Conception.” According to Sacred (Roman Catholic) Tradition, the “Immaculate Conception” applies to Mary being conceived sinless in Saint Anne’s womb. According to Sacred (Roman Catholic) Scripture, the “Immaculate Conception” applies to Jesus being conceived sinless in Mary’s womb. The question is, which is correct—was Mary conceived sinless (and thus qualifying her to be the Savior), or was Jesus conceived sinless (and thus qualifying Him to be the Savior). Let us see what the Sacred Scriptures really say. Let me be very clear that I hate no one, but I am ever so passionate about teaching the Bible, and if the Bible’s teachings offend anyone, I can do nothing to change its verses.

Lest the author be accused of misrepresenting Roman Catholic theology, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 1899 Douay-Rheims Roman Catholic Bible will be referenced in this study. For the benefit of our Protestant readers, we will quote the King James (Protestant) Bible. We will summarize with some final comments to prayerfully consider, but our readers will be left to come to their own conclusion.

HOW THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHISM DEFINES THE “IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”

Paragraph 490: “To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’ The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace.’ In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.” (This comment of “full of grace” will be more fully addressed later.)

Paragraph 491: “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary [it was not originally taught as official doctrine in the early church, but a concept that evolved over the centuries—S.B.], ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.’” (Bold emphasis mine.) (Notice how Mary’s Immaculate Conception—that she was conceived sinless in her mother’s womb in order to bear a sinless Christ—was not declared as official Roman Catholic doctrine until 1854, nearly eighteen centuries after she lived! What was the church’s prevalent view of Mary prior to 1854, we can only wonder?)

Paragraph 492: “The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.’ The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.’ (Note these verses, Ephesians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:4, are applicable to all Christians, and are not exclusive to Mary as the Catechism suggests. Father God did not bless Mary more than He did any other Christian; to say so is to pervert the verses and make the Bible say something it never said.)

Paragraph 493: “The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God ‘the All–Holy’ (Panagia) and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” (Bold emphasis mine.) (Imagine, the Roman Church actually believes that Mary never sinned even once! Why God did not choose her to die on the cross for our sins instead of Jesus, we can only wonder? Yes, it makes Jesus’ sacrifice meaningless to even sugest someone else was sinless and could die for our sins instead of Him.)

Paragraph 494: “At the announcement that she would give birth to ‘the Son of the Most High’ without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that ‘with God nothing will be impossible’: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.’ Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace: “As St. Irenaeus says, ‘Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.’ Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert… : ‘The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.’ Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary ‘the Mother of the living’ and frequently claim: ‘Death through Eve, life through Mary.’” (Bold emphasis mine.) (The Catechism does not emphasize Jesus Christ as the cause of our salvation, but rather Mary as the cause of salvation. Blasphemy!)

HOW THE ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT BIBLES DEFINE THE “IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”

Dear friends, in the famous “Canticle of Mary,” or “Magnificat,” the virgin Mary begins to rejoice in what God is accomplishing in and through her: she quotes almost a dozen Old Testament verses in Luke 1:46-55, magnifying not herself but glorifying the God of the Bible. After hearing that she will be the biological mother of the human body in which the eternal Son of God would dwell, and Elisabeth her cousin reminding her of it, Mary cannot help but joy in God’s Word. The very first words that Mary uttered in this passage are as follows: “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour (Luke 1:47, the Roman Catholic 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible and the Protestant King James Bible read the same in this verse).

Sacred Scripture is very clear that, contrary to what church tradition may tell us, Mary was certainly a sinner. Mary admitted that God was her “Saviour” (Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Saviour. If Mary were sinless, she lied when she said she needed a Saviour. Furthermore, if Mary were sinless, then Jesus could have stayed in heaven, spared Himself pain at Calvary, and God have had Mary die on the cross for our sins instead.

Saint John says if we say we have no sin, we call God a liar, the truth is not in us, and God’s Word is not in us (1 John 1:8,10)—to say that Mary is without sin is to not only lie about Mary, but to lie about God, and we thus claim that Mary lied when she needed a Saviour (thus condemning both Mary and ourselves as sinners). To say that Mary, who had a sinful biological father, lived her whole life without sinning is undoubtedly one of the most ridiculous ideas ever said. Dear friends, no wonder people are so critical of Christians—look at what some of them claim to believe!

Saint Luke was correct in quoting Mary as being in need of a “Saviour,” for Saint Luke understood that even Mary knew in her heart she needed Jesus to die for her sins. We either believe Sacred Scripture, or we believe church tradition—we cannot be inherent of both because they are mutually exclusive.

Let us see what else Sacred Scripture says about the “Immaculate Conception:”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, 1899 Douay-Rheims). “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (King James). Never once in Sacred Scripture is the virgin’s mother mentioned, never once is the virgin’s conception in her mother’s womb mentioned; the issue is the conception of the Messiah in the virgin’s womb. No one reading the Bible would ever conclude that Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb was anything abnormal or supernatural—unless of course, they had a denominational agenda to advance and God’s Word to ignore.

Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost” (1899 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible). Matthew 1:20 in the King James Bible: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”

Luke 1:35 in the 1899 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible: “ And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 is the King James Bible: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Saint Matthew testifies with Saint Luke that the Holy Ghost worked in Mary to bring about a sinless human body for Jesus’ Spirit to reside. Sinlessness in Mary was unnecessary, or Mary should have died on the cross for our sins, and Jesus should have stayed in heaven and spared Himself 30 years of misery and rejection, and six hours of humiliation and asphyxiation. According to Saints Matthew and Luke, the reason why Jesus could be sinless was, not because Mary was sinless, but because the sinless Holy Ghost worked in Mary’s womb to conceive a body that was untainted by Mary’s sinful blood. Because Jesus had God as His Father, He had no need for a human biological father; the sin nature is passed from Adam to each succeeding father, and because Jesus had no sinful biological father, He was thus spared a sin nature. Again, it is all about what God can do, not what sinners can do. Mary is constantly emphasized in religion, but, in the Bible, it is about what the God of the Bible can do for sinners and in and through sinners (Mary’s own words in Luke 1:46-55).

The Holy Ghost can even work in sinners; Mary did not have to be sinless to bear God’s Son. It is often believed that Mary had to be sinless for her to be used of God. Was King David (an adulterer and a murderer) used of God? Was Aaron (an idolater) used of God? Was Saint Paul (a murderer and blasphemer) used of God? Was Saint Peter (Christ-denier) used of God? Was Moses (murderer) used of God? Was Solomon (idolater) used of God? On and on and on we could go. God can use sinners, and Mary did not have to be sinless to be used of God. If sinlessness were necessary to be used of God, every church in the world would be destitute of God’s working. Even the Roman Catholic Church would lack even a single clergy or layman if God needed sinless people if they were be used of Him.

Even the shallowest Bible reader is aware of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God” (1899 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible) and “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (King James Bible). This would include Mary the mother of Jesus—when discussing soul salvation throughout the book of Romans, Saint Paul never once mentioned Mary as sinless. Someone would argue that this is not a blanket verse, since Jesus Christ was sinless (and it is assumed, because Jesus Christ is an exception to Romans 3:23, Mary could be another exception to the verse). This argument is utterly ridiculous, since Jesus Christ is God (as the Catholic would defend using the statement, “Mary is God’s mother, for Jesus is God”). Since Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ would be the exception to Romans 3:23, for God cannot fall short of His own glory! The only way Romans 3:23 could be non-applicable to Mary is if Mary were God, and no Roman Catholic I know of would ever say Mary was God. Romans 3:23 applies to Mary as well, and we cannot change what Sacred Scripture says.

Someone may argue, “Mary prophesied that ‘henceforth all generations will call me blessed.’ Therefore, it is not right to ignore Mary.” We agree we should not ignore Mary, but again, we should not emphasize something that God does not or overly honor someone God does not. Sacred Scripture does not place as much emphasis on Mary the mother of Jesus as religion does. In fact, after Acts 1:14, no one mentions Mary the mother of Jesus. Can we honestly say she is to be venerated, when none of the saints such as Paul, James, Peter, and John ever did it in their New Testament writings? Again, we remind you of her Canticle—Mary never exalted herself, but all she did was praise God and quote Old Testament Scriptures in Luke 1:46-55. She did not brag about her sinlessness, her goodness, she mentioned her lowliness and meekness as a servant girl, handmaiden (Luke 1:48)—the Mary of the Bible is hardly the goody-goody, sinless Mary of religious tradition. We should give just as much honor to Mary as the New Testament does—she was a human vessel of God, and God who used her is the issue not the vessel He uses (Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:5). Of all the Jewish women living at the time, Father God chose Mary to be the human mother of His Son. That was an honor, but again, Mary rejoiced in God, not in herself (Luke 1:46-55). Mary was not the issue, what God did in and through her was the issue. Mary did not become a Saviour, she merely became the vessel that God used to bring about the Saviour. It is ever so critical, dear friends, that we get it straight.

Beloved, let us see how Jesus Christ Himself viewed Mary, how the wise men viewed Mary, how the shepherds viewed Mary, and how an angel viewed Mary. This will give us a correct view of how much emphasis we should place on Mary.

HOW JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF VIEWED MARY HIS MOTHER

Jesus actually never called Mary “Blessed Mother,” “Ever Virgin,” “Queen of Heaven,” “My Lady of Mercy,” or any of those other titles we hear in religion today. In the Bible, He addressed her as “Woman” (John 2:4; John 19:26), for Mary represented the nation Israel, the “woman” of the Bible (see Jeremiah 6:2; cf. Revelation 12:1,4,6,13-17). Jesus did not praise Mary, never indicated that she was sinless, and never indicated at all that she was any different from any other human God used in history. The Lord Jesus Himself knew of the prevalent pre-Christian virgin goddesses of paganism, the virgin deities of antiquity, and He was ever so careful to make sure people did not misunderstand Mary His mother. If they did, He quickly corrected their thinking.

In Luke 11:27, we read a very interesting account: “And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck” (1899 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible). “And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked” (Luke 11:27 King James Version).

Religion encourages us to direct “special devotion” to Mary, Jesus’ mother, but slyly reassures us that Marian devotion is not equivalent to worshipping God. Is this true? What does our Lord Jesus Christ think of any Marian devotion? In the context of Luke 11:27 (verses 1-26), Jesus is teaching. One woman is so amazed at the Lord Jesus’ doctrine that she begins to praise Mary, Jesus’ mother, not Jesus! Notice that this lady exalted Mary, giving her the “special devotion” that religion gives Mary today: “blessed is the womb and blessed are the breasts of Mary!” Such a statement originates from pagan goddess worship (and accompanying fornication) of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian religions.

Notice how Jesus responds: “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (verse 28, King James and Douay-Rheims). Recognize that Jesus immediately rebuked her: He corrected her, He did not agree with her, He did not say “Amen” to the woman’s comments. Our Lord Jesus knew that Mary was being exalted to a goddess’ position, and He clearly refused it with “Yea rather….” In other words, Jesus said, “Rather than singling out Mary for special attention, recognize that all who trust in God are blessed.” Notice Jesus never designated Mary to any special position whatsoever (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21). Sacred Scripture is never wrong (paragraph 136 of the Roman Catechism); therefore the Scriptures are right in not exalting Mary in these passages.

Our dear religious family members and friends need to realize that Mary is no superhuman or goddess. Although God used her body to generate the human body of Jesus Christ, the Bible never presents Mary as an object of worship. No believer in the Bible ever prayed to Mary, no believer in the Bible ever asked Mary to pray for them either. According to the Bible, God clearly hates all Marian devotion, because it usually leads to focusing on Mary instead of on Jesus Christ. People are quick to defend Mary in religion, but very rarely will they defend Jesus Christ (I know from personal experience).

Dear friends, my precious readers, Marian devotion is blasphemous because it robs Jesus Christ of devotion. It was what God did through Mary that matters. Mary did nothing for our salvation; she was submissive to God’s working, but she did no work to bring about our salvation. She is not our mediatrix, savior, or mother, so why does she deserve devotion? According to God’s Word, she does not deserve veneration.

HOW THE WISE MEN VIEWED MARY

We read in the 1899 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible in Matthew 2:11: “And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” It reads this way in the Protestant (King James) Bible: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Did the wise men bring Mary gifts? Did they praise Mary? Did they fall down before Mary? No! They praised Jesus, they presented Jesus with gifts, and they worshipped Jesus.

HOW AN ANGEL AND THE SHEPHERDS VIEWED MARY

When the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field watching their flocks, the angel never bothered to mention anything about Mary—her goodness, her motherhood of God, her sinlessness, and so on (Luke 2:8-14). In fact, the shepherds come to Jesus just shortly after His birth, and when they leave the manger, they glorify and praise God (verse 20). Never once did they praise Mary or pay her homage.

WAS MARY REALLY THE “MOTHER OF GOD?”

Paragraph 495 of the Roman Catholic Catechism: “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord.’ In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).”

If Mary was God’s Mother, that would mean she existed before God, and who would then be God’s Father if God had a Mother? Dear friends, it makes no sense, but then again, religion never does. I remember one atheist having such trouble with “Christianity” because certain Christians told him that Mary was “the Mother of God.” Frankly, it is no wonder people want nothing to do with Christianity—they are being told that something nonsensical is “Christian” when it is certainly not Christian. To say that God would have a mother is absurd; God the Son existed long before Mary did, but He existed as a Spirit. Jesus did not lose His deity but He gained humanity when He was conceived in Mary’s womb. Jesus did not need Mary to gain or retain deity, He needed her body to gain humanity. Jesus could still live as God without Mary, thus God not needing a mother. There, that makes more sense than the concept religion offers us.

Furthermore, Saint John never called Mary “the Mother of God” but in the Catholic Bible she is called “the mother of Jesus” (John 2:1,3). Saint Luke also called her “the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14). If people who deny Mary as “God’s Mother” are “rejecters of the divinity of Christ,” Saint John must also be declared as a heretic, for he believed Mary was nothing more than “the mother of Jesus” and not the “Mother of God.” The Catechism says the Bible is without error (paragraph 136), so Saint John and Saint Luke were totally correct in calling her “the Mother of Jesus” and not “the Mother of God.” Furthermore, Elisabeth never called her “mother of God,” but “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43).

WHAT THEN DOES SACRED SCRIPTURE MEAN WHEN IT SAYS THAT MARY IS “FULL OF GRACE” (CATHOLIC) AND “HIGHLY FAVOURED” (PROTESTANT)?

Someone may argue that Mary should be honored as sinless in light of Luke 1:28: “And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Roman Catholic 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible) and “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Protestant King James Bible). It is said that such language is only reserved for someone who is sinless, someone who is already in heaven. It is argued that “any sinner would have some grace lacking, and thus could not be called ‘full of grace.’”

To exalt Mary and give her undue veneration on the basis of Luke 1:28, we would find ourselves ignorant of the Roman Catholic Bible as well as the New Testament Greek word translated “full of grace” (Catholic) and “highly favoured” (Protestant) in Luke 1:28. Keep in mind that the Greek word is kecharitomene.

Look at what Saint Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:6: “Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition Catholic Bible). In the New American Catholic Bible, it reads, “for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” The King James Bible says, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Do you know what Greek word is translated “his grace that he granted us” (NAB), “he hath graced us” (DR), and “made us accepted” (KJB)? It is the word echaritosen, and you know what it means? “Full of grace,” “make accepted,” to “be highly favored.” It shares the same root as the word in Luke 1:28.

Saint Paul believed there were people in Ephesus, Christians not in heaven and not sinless, but Christians on earth, who were just as favored of God as Mary was! What dear Roman Catholic soul praises the Ephesians as much as it does Mary? According to Sacred Scripture, they are on the same plane—Mary and the Ephesians are equal before God. That is what the Catholic Bible says in Ephesians 1:6, that is what the Protestant Bible says in Ephesians 1:6, and Sacred Scripture is never wrong (paragraph 136 of the Roman Catechism). All Christians are “full of grace!” Friend, if you must argue, you will have to argue with the Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible, but you cannot change what they say.

Someone once wrote to me, “[Mary] is the greatest of all creatures, but she is still a creature. She deserves honor, but never worship.” Again, calling Mary “the greatest of all creatures” is to praise her way too much, and it would be erroneous to ignore the Ephesians if we praise Mary as “full of grace” (remember Ephesians 1:6?). Religionists exalt Mary and not Jesus; they defend Mary and not Jesus. Their statements and their writings reflect the fact that they seem more interested in exalting Mary and defending Mary and praising Mary instead of worshipping Jesus Christ (the inherent danger of Romanism). Jesus Christ alone is preeminent in all things Saint Paul said (Colossians 1:18), and His Word is without error. On the Day of Judgment, He will hold you accountable to His words (John 12:48). Friend, I would believe the Words of God long before I would believe the words of men.

CONCLUSION

Why is there so much confusion about the meaning of the “Immaculate Conception?” It is quite simple. Satan never wants God’s Word to be clear (1 Corinthians 14:33). Some Roman Catholics believe “Sacred Tradition” while others believe Sacred Scripture; usually, Protestants just believe the Sacred Scriptures. Hence, there are varying beliefs about what the “Immaculate Conception” means.

Tradition changes over time, as the Immaculate Conception concerning Mary was not adopted as official Roman Catholic teaching until 1854. Jewish tradition was prevalent in Jesus’ day; that was why He was so anti-tradition in Mark chapter 7 and Matthew chapter 15. Considering all the corruption in the Jewish religious traditions, God would not use tradition to preserve the New Testament any more than He used tradition to preserve the Old Testament. That is why tradition is not reliable, and not a valid method of preserving history or doctrine. A written record from God is always more authoritative than church tradition passed down through history.

In order to be the Savior of man from his sins, the Savior must be sinless, not guilty of the same sins; one cannot be a Savior and also be in need of the same salvation. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is one dying for someone else’s sins because one is not in spiritual debt himself or herself. If Mary were sinless, as the 1854 dogma was officially accepted as true (1800 years after Mary was even conceived—I wonder what the official Catholic position was prior to pope Pius IX?), spared from all original sin, then she did not need salvation from sins, for she was as Adam was before the fall, and Adam did not need a Savior before the fall. If Mary were like Adam before the fall, then she could be the Savior, and Jesus had no reason to die. Why pay the bill when someone else is able? Why did sinless Jesus have to die when sinless Mary could have died instead? What prevented Mary from being the Savior, since she was sinless (or so people claim)?

And, I might add, no one has yet to answer this—if Mary needed to be conceived sinless to bear sinless Christ, Saint Anne (her mother) would have to be conceived sinless in her mother’s womb to bear a sinless Mary, but then Saint Anne’s mother would need to be sinless to bear sinless Saint Anne in her womb, and on and on, an unending cycle. Why does Immaculate Conception stop with Mary in Saint Anne’s womb when sinless conception, according to Catholic reasoning, would have to go back all the way to Eve, so as not to have one sinful conception to spoil the whole lineage?

To make Jesus’ sinlessness dependent on Mary’s sinlessness is to divert attention from Jesus’ sinlessness (who alone was sinless). Mary and Jesus, in religion, are on the same plane, the same level, since they were both spared sin nature (“original sin”). This is blasphemous, beloved, for one of the attributes of God is His sinlessness. To say that Mary is sinless is to make her equal with God, and that, dear friends, is idolatry.

What it comes down to is to (1) believe Babylonian pagan mythology about a sinless virgin goddess named Semiramis (whose attributes Rome applied to Mary of the Bible, her being born sinless), or (2) believe the Sacred Scriptures that Mary was a sinner who needed a Saviour, and the Catechism affirms the Bible is without error (paragraph 136 of the Roman Catechism). The way I see it is, if we are Christian, we are not going to believe non-Christian theology, but we are going to believe the error-free Sacred Scriptures. May we rejoice in God’s truth, His written Word!

Also see:
» Was Jesus born on the 25th of December? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Were there really three wise men? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What was the Star of Bethlehem? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Should I display a Christmas tree?

SHOULD I DISPLAY A CHRISTMAS TREE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Christmas tree is an element that some Christians struggle with at this time of year. Of course, the vast majority of professing Christians are unfamiliar with the origin of the Christmas tree; in fact, the origin of Christmas is obscure in the minds of many. Should we as Bible-believers display Christmas trees?

So there be no misunderstanding regarding our purpose in presenting this study, we will delineate it here before we even begin. Our desire is to enlighten you about Christmas trees so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding Christmas trees, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13). Now, we can begin to analyze the Christmas tree from a historical and Biblical standpoint.

The History Channel’s website (www.history.com) says the following about the Christmas tree:

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.”

Historically, evergreen trees were very special to superstitious, pagan (non-Christian) people, long before Christianity began. Note that this is said not from a Bible-believer’s standpoint; a body of scholars who probably do not even believe the Bible, are responsible for the above quote!

The History Channel’s website continues its detailing of the origin of the Christmas tree:

“In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.”

“The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.”

“Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.”

“Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout [?] Christians [?] brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.”

“Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.” (Bold emphasis mine.)

With the historians setting the stage for us, we can now see how their presentations of the Christmas tree fit with the Bible. Did you know that that people worshipped Christmas trees in Bible times, centuries before Christ came to Earth? Yes, it is a demonstrable certainty!

The Prophet Jeremiah preached the following in Jeremiah chapter 10, some 600 years B.C.: “[1] Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: [2] Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. [3] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. [4] They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. [5] They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. [6] Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. [7] Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. [8] But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities. [9] Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men. [10] But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. [11] Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.”

Currently, we see Christmas trees decked with “silver and gold” tinsel and we see ornaments commonplace. Jeremiah mentioned such an object in the first verses. We will look at them again: “[1] Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: [2] Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. [3] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. [4] They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. [5] They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”

Are you familiar with an evergreen tree that is hewn with an axe, brought into a home, set upright on a stand, and then decorated with silver and gold? God Himself called it a “heathen” practice, something that He did not encourage, something that did not honor Him. He explicitly told Israel to stay away from such a custom.

Habakkuk the Prophet wrote in his small book: “[18] What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? [19] Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it. [20] But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:18-20).

The non-Jews (heathen, Gentiles) believed that their idols of wood, stone, and metal could talk to them (see Isaiah 8:19-20)! (This is not at all “primitive ignorance;” here in the 21st century, religious people still claim that statues weep, bleed, speak to them, and so on.) God had to remind Israel not to have a part in this devil worship, this rank ignorance, reminding them that these idols were “dumb,” unable to speak (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:2). According to Jeremiah, one of these heathen idols was an evergreen tree that was cut down, brought home, fixed upright on a platform, and then decorated with silver and gold. If that is not a graphic image of a modern-day Christmas tree, we do not know what is. Most assuredly, the Bible and historians agree that the “Christmas tree” was pre-Christian, and it was nothing more than a pagan idol!

Lost Gentiles bowed and prayed to these “Christmas trees,” these wooden, worthless, mindless idols that did nothing for them… except distract them from worshipping the only true God. Sadly, Israel was just as guilty of this pagan worship, having “idols under every green tree (Deuteronomy 12:1-4; 1 Kings 14:22,23; 2 Kings 17:7-23; et al.). Like the pagan idols of old, the Christmas tree keeps people preoccupied with the wrong tree! The Christmas tree decorated with hanging ornaments and tinsel is nothing compared to Calvary’s tree decorated with the hanging body of Jesus Christ. Rather than silver and gold, it was decked with crimson red, the precious blood of God’s Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Unlike the Christmas tree, Calvary’s tree has no pagan roots. Dear friends, may we focus more on Calvary’s tree, where the sinless Son of God died for our sins, He shed His royal blood to redeem us from the penalty of sin, that we may be resurrected with Him, to walk in newness of life.

Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

We conclude this Bible study with the classic 1912 hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,” written by George Bennard (1873-1958):

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

Refrain

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

Refrain

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain

NOTE: For more information, you can see the following two websites: http://www.history.com/topics/christmas and http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees.

Also see:
» Was Jesus born on the 25th of December? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What was the Star of Bethlehem? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Were there really three wise men? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Our 100th Q&A: Does doctrine really matter?

OUR SPECIAL EDITION 100TH BIBLE Q&A: DOES DOCTRINE REALLY MATTER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Many in Christendom argue, “Doctrine divides, so we need to forget doctrine and just unite around the ‘love of Jesus.’ Jesus prayed for harmony among all His people and doctrine just hinders fellowship.” What would be the Bible believer’s answer to such comments?

(NOTE: While this is a very lengthy Bible study, much more could be written on this subject. Hence, I have determined to comment as little as possible on the verses quoted. These passages largely speak for themselves, and in order to save space, I have forgone much remarking.)

Dear friends, if we knew of no other Bible verse, 1 Timothy 4:1 answers our question as to whether or not doctrine matters: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” It may shock you to learn that Satan loves to teach doctrine, particularly Bible doctrine, just so long as that doctrine furthers his agenda rather than God’s. The Bible student will recall that Satan audaciously quoted the Bible to, of all people, Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11)—the Devil butchered the text, obviously, but he certainly preached a message from the Bible that at least sounded good. Satan took two verses (Psalm 91:11-12) out of their context and attempted to apply them to a time period to which they did not apply. Likewise, there are “spirits” (preachers’ voices) uttering vain words in many pulpits around the world today. They too are quoting Scripture, and like Satan, citing verses that have nothing to do with what God is doing at the present time. The Holy Spirit Himself speaks very clearly—some professing Christians will abandon sound Bible doctrine and embrace these “doctrines of devils!” Again, the phrase “doctrines of devils” clearly says that not all doctrine is good. Doctrine matters—the quality of doctrine matters. We want to now look at this topic from various angles.

THE SERPENT’S SUBTILTY

As King James Bible believers who understand, believe, and enjoy the Scriptures dispensationally, who rejoice in the riches of God’s grace to us in Christ, we are on the receiving end of various types of complaints (especially from professing Christians). “Why do you make such a big deal about doctrine? Why do you emphasize the Gospel of Grace so much? Why do you emphasize Paul’s ministry so much? Why do you stress the King James Bible so much? Why do you talk about God’s grace so much? Do we really need to be so nit-picky about such issues? Why are you such a ‘hair-splitter?’ As long as we are all Christians, is that not enough? Why can we not just all get along and ignore our denominational differences?” How would Father God have us reply to such questions?

In 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, we read what the Holy Spirit wrote through the Apostle Paul: “[1] Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. [2] For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. [3] But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. [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.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul knew that there were many false religious systems in the world, systems that sinful man had created, systems that Satan used to his advantage to counterfeit what God was doing. Had doctrine not mattered, it would have been a waste of Paul’s time to be so concerned about such a matter. The Holy Spirit also knew that people would even use His Word to previous generations and prior dispensations, to force onto us. They would use misquoted verses (those from Israel’s plan and program) and make us follow passages God never gave us to obey. Whether it is a religious system that man created out of “thin air,” or verses from the Old Testament that a denomination uses to promote the idea that God is still doing those things today, these religious systems further Satan’s policy of evil. Just as the Devil had deceived Eve to focus on her will instead of what God had instructed, so Satan still uses religious works to blind people as to what God wants them to do. The Devil will even use Scripture—that is, Scripture not applicable to us—to cause people to think they are in God’s will.

When compared to the doctrine God spoke in Genesis 2:16-17, did Satan and Eve tell the truth in Genesis chapter 3? We read in Genesis 2:16,17: “[16] And the LORD God commanded the man [Adam], saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Let us carefully compare this with Genesis 3:1-4: “[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die….”

Satan first questioned God’s Word. Then, Eve misquoted it (note the underlined, bolded phrases—Eve added to God’s Word, subtracted from it, and watered it down). Satan finally denied God’s Word, although he knew what God had told Adam (and what Adam had told Eve). Satan’s doctrine was not acceptable; doctrine does matter. It was false doctrine that brought down the human race, that introduced the curse of sin into the creation.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 was JEHOVAH’S warning for Israel to be vigilant regarding people who would deceive them using miraculous demonstrations: “[1] If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, [2] And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; [3] Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. [4] Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. [5] And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”

Every Bible student knows of the Pharisees’ religious activities and empty theology. The Lord Jesus’ rebuke of them is found in Matthew 23:23-26: “[23] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [24] Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. [25] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. [26] Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” We have many religious leaders today to which these woes would apply—they look so good but they are false!

We read some interesting language in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “[13] For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. [14] And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. [15] Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Yes, Satan has “ministers,” and they speak of and advocate “righteousness,” religious works that are needed to make yourself accepted before God. Again, they appear very godly, but they are not. Avoid them!

Miraculous demonstrations are not necessarily of the God of the Bible. One classic example of Satanic deception with regards to miracles, is Acts 8:9-11: “[9] But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: [10] To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. [11] And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” Jesus warned His disciples in Mark 13:21-23: “[21] And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: [22] For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. [23] But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.” We read of the Antichrist, a coming political leader who will deceive Israel and the world, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2: “[8] And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [9] Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, [10] And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

In our opening remarks, we briefly talked about “spirits” that teach error. These “spirits” are the voices of false teachers, preachers, people who claim to believe the Bible, people who quote the Bible, people who claim to be representing and speaking on behalf of the God of the Bible, but they are anything but and doing anything but. The Apostle John warned in 1 John 4:1-4: “[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. [2] Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: [3] And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. [4] Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Earlier, we read an excerpt of 1 Timothy 4:1-5. We will now read the full passage: “[1] Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; [2] Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; [3] Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [4] For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: [5] For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Do you know of any religions that forbid you from eating certain foods (fasting) and that command individuals not to marry (forced celibacy)? The Bible calls these teachings “doctrines of devils!”

The latter part of Jeremiah chapter 23 is JEHOVAH’S rebuke against the false prophets of Israel, those who had misled His people from His pure religion, who deprived His people of His Word, and they caused them to join to idols. We would do well to understand that the God of the Bible would say these same words to many church leaders today: “[16] Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. [17] They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. [18] For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? [21] I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. [22] But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. [25] I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. [26] How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; [27] Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. [28] The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. [29] Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? [30] Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. [31] Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. [32] Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. [33] And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD. [34] And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house. [35] Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken? [36] And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.”

Jesus Christ said to the Jewish assembly in Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) in Revelation 2:2: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” If there were false apostles in John’s day, we can only imagine how many false religious leaders there are today 20 centuries later. They profess to be servants of Jesus Christ but are someone else entirely! Yes, dear friends, doctrine matters!

Previously, we looked at Deuteronomy chapter 13 and Jeremiah chapter 23, passages from the Old Testament that talked about false prophets in Israel, “prophets that made [his] people err” (Micah 3:5). In light of that, the Apostle Peter warned in 2 Peter 1:19–2:3: “[2:19] We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: [2:20] Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. [2:21] 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. [2:1] But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. [2:2] And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. [2:3] And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

DOCTRINE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HATES

In the book of the Revelation, we read of two “doctrines” to which the Lord Jesus Christ clearly objects. Both of these “doctrines” affected the church of Jewish believers in Pergamos (in modern-day Turkey):

  1. Jesus Christ said, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14). Found in Numbers chapters 22-24, Balaam was a prophet whom pagan Moabite king Balak recruited to curse Israel, that her God would destroy her rather than him (Balak) having to engage in war with her (Israel was a massive nation, and Balak probably did not think he would win a war with them anyway). Balaam instructed Balak to mislead Israel using false doctrine, doctrine that was contrary to the Mosaic Law that JEHOVAH had given Israel through Moses. Israel’s men ultimately did sin against JEHOVAH by having sexual relations with the Moabitesses in Balak’s kingdom and the Jews began to worship the pagan idols of the land (Numbers 25:1-9). The book of the Revelation says Balaam played a role in Israel’s apostasy. In short, God does not want His people fellowshipping with false religion or idols (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-33).
  2. Jesus Christ said in Revelation 2:15, “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” While space prohibits an in-depth discussion of this verse, suffice it to say that Jesus Christ, in no uncertain terms, declared that He “hated” the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The term “Nicolaitanes” means, “to conquer the laity,” referencing the idea that clergy were bullying or dominating congregants—these leaders were being lords over the common people’s faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 5:3). Jesus Christ is strictly against “the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes”—interestingly, modern Bible versions omit the phrase, “which thing I hate.” In short, God does not want His people being dominated by teachings that oppressive clergy teach, particularly doctrine that gives clergy an advantage over the common Christians.

“BEWARE, BEWARE, BEWARE!”

There must be good doctrine and bad doctrine, for we read many times where the Scripture tells us to “beware.” If all doctrine were acceptable, there would be no need for such caution to be exercised.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). If doctrine did not matter, the Lord Jesus Christ was surely mistaken when He warned of false prophets. He warned His disciples about the doctrine of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Herod—surely He did not think their doctrine was sound. Doctrine mattered to Jesus Christ, so it should matter to us.

Matthew chapter 16: “[6] Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. [7] And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. [8] Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? [9] Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [10] Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [11] How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? [12] Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

In Mark 8:15, we read: “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” Beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Herod, Jesus said!

The Apostle Paul used the word “beware” in the following passages: “[1] Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. [2] Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. [3] For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3). Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

We read about Satan “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Are lies ever 100% false, or do they contain some truth? Would not Satan approach us with a little bit of truth to make it sound good, to make his lie appear true? Again, did he not quote the Bible to Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11)? Satan certainly sounded good, but he was dead wrong! Jesus Christ was certainly not fooled, however. We not should be just as wise to Satan’s schemes as Jesus Christ was.

If doctrine were not important, the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “take heed” (same as “beware”) would be completely unnecessary. In the Apostle’s mind, doctrine did matter: “[28] Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. [29] For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. [30] Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. [31] Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” If doctrine did not matter, Paul wasted three years of his life warning the Ephesian Christians to be careful about what doctrine they believed!

BEGUILED, BEWITCHED, POLLUTED, AND UNSTABLE

The Lord Jesus Christ had much to say about false religion in His own day. He knew that this spiritual wickedness led to weak souls, deceived souls, confused souls, and unstable souls. The pure Word of God was not being upheld; manmade tradition had taken preeminence in the Jewish religion, and JEHOVAH’S laws meant little to nothing to the Jewish religious leaders. There were “commandments of men” used as doctrine 2,000 years ago in the Jewish religion, and we would be naïve to think that religious tradition does not have such a stranglehold on Christianity today.

We read in Matthew 15:1-9: “[1] Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, [2] Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. [3] But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [4] For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. [5] But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [6] And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [7] Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, [8] This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (The parallel passage is Mark 7:1-13.) Do you know anyone today who rejects God’s Word for the sake of keeping a religious tradition?

That same religious system that polluted Israel would taint newly-established Christianity. Consequently, the Holy Ghost moved Paul to write to Timothy in his final epistle: Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). If doctrine did not matter, if all doctrine was equal in quality, then Paul would have no need whatsoever to encourage Timothy to firmly hold on to the doctrine he had heard from him. Again, doctrine matters.

Paul the Apostle wrote in Colossians 2:4: “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” Verse 3 says that in Christ “are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” We do not need philosophy, religious tradition, extra-biblical revelations, et cetera, to gain God’s wisdom and knowledge. We have it already in Christ. The Bible says that someone in religion will come along and try to trick us, to draw us away from that simplicity in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3), to seduce us (1 Timothy 4:1), to entice our flesh with some type of religious work (ceremony, rite, ritual, experience, et cetera). We should pay no attention to them. “[We] are complete in [Christ]” (Colossians 2:10). We do not need to work in our flesh to enhance what the Holy Spirit did in our lives (Galatians 3:3). Anytime someone wants to add to our Christianity, they are actually taking from our Christianity. They cannot add to something that it is complete.

The Apostle Peter wrote about people who corrupt the Bible, who twist God’s precious Word to fit their own denominational beliefs and church statements of faith. These people and their theology only led to unstable souls, people tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). We read in 2 Peter 3:15-17: “[15] And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; [16] As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [“twist, corrupt”], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [17] Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.”

LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN

We read of a familiar idol in Jeremiah 10:1-8: “[1] Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: [2] Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. [3] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. [4] They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. [5] They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. [6] Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. [7] Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee. [8] But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.”

JEHOVAH told Israel “learn not the way of the heathen” (verse 2). They were not to make idols of wood, trees decked with silver and gold (do these sound familiar?). JEHOVAH’S people were not to engage in pagan religious activity because they would then ignore Him and His Word to them. The “stock” (a reference to wooden idols) “is a doctrine of vanities” (verse 8)—the doctrine associated with these idols was “vanity,” emptiness! Here is another example of worthless doctrine.

The Holy Spirit moved the Apostle John to write in 1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” John admonished his Jewish brethren to guard themselves against idolatry. He was particularly warning them of the (still-future) time when the Antichrist will have a talking idol for people to worship (Revelation 13:15). Moreover, an idol does not necessary have to be a statue—it could be material possessions, man’s praise (fame), power, sex, et cetera. We too should be careful not to place anything before the Lord Jesus Christ. False doctrine will cause use to ignore Jesus Christ.

Paul’s converts in Corinth were being deceived, religious leaders were seducing them, drawing them away from the message he had preached to them earlier. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:19-21: “[19] What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? [20] But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. [21] Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” There were nearby satanic religious systems, and the Holy Spirit through Paul said He did not want these members of the Body of Christ to pollute themselves with devil worship, pagan idolatry; notice that this evil system involved a cup and a meal. Hence, Paul wrote to them that he may manifest God’s truth to them, and expose the doctrinal error. As 1 Corinthians 11:19 says, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

“[10] And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. [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.” Acts 17:10-11 shows us that the believers in Berea gladly heard the words of Paul and Silas, but these Christians “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Unlike the average Christian today, they did not believe anything and everything (doctrine obviously matters!). They even checked the Apostle’s word against the Holy Bible. If such measures were taken with apostles, how much more should be taken today when false teachers abound and apostles are absent?

Notice how Paul instructed Timothy to “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13)—doctrine matters. Timothy was to “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” There is profit in sound Bible doctrine, and studying it is the way to extract that profit that God has placed into His written Word, the Holy Bible.

“COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM”

The Ecumenical Movement is defined as, “Promoting or relating to unity among the world’s Christian churches.” In the mid-1990s, a number of prominent Evangelical (Protestant) leaders gathered with Roman Catholic leaders to sign a declaration of unity. They all promised to cooperate with each other’s ministry in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone—“Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT). The Ecumenical Movement is what we could call a “Reverse Reformation”—rather than Protestants fleeing from the Roman Church, they now want to cooperate with this seemingly innocent institution. After centuries of the Roman Church calling Protestants “heretics,” Protestants have been called “separated brethren” in recent decades.

Dear friends, Bible believers are not spiritual brothers and sisters with lost people. We are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26); those who have not placed their faith exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are not God’s children, and they are not our brethren. Under no circumstances will we discard God’s pure Word for an amalgamation of human viewpoint, church tradition, paganism, and Scripture. We honor God’s written Word, and we have no fellowship with those who do not. We pray for them to come to the truth, but we will not pollute ourselves with their gross error.

As we mentioned earlier, the Corinthians were being misled by false religious systems. Hence, the Apostle Paul wrote to them in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18: “[14] Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. [18] And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Returning to our earlier comments, the goal of the “Ecumenical Movement” is to have all “Christians” of every denomination ignore their doctrinal differences, and fellowship as though they were all servants of Jesus Christ! This passage screams against such nonsense. (Actually, the Ecumenical Movement is preparing society for the one-world religion of Revelation chapter 17.) Opposed to the ecumenical slogan, “Come as ye are, we accommodate all faiths!,” Scripture declares: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” This is actually quoting the Old Testament passages that God directed to the nation Israel! (Refer to Exodus 25:8, Exodus 29:45-46, Leviticus 26:12, Isaiah 52:10-11, and Ezekiel 37:27.) God told Israel not to mingle with the world’s (satanic) religious system, and we too are not to mix with error.

As the psalmist declared: “[4] For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. [5] For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 96:4-5). The Thessalonians abandoned their former religious life, idolatry and false teaching in religion, and they embraced the sound doctrine of “the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9), the God of the Bible, and the doctrine Jesus Christ committed unto the trust of the Apostle Paul. These pagans who came to know Christ Jesus discarded their heathen practices and assembling around false gods, and we should do the same. Doctrine matters.

SEPARATE UNTO THE WORD OF TRUTH RIGHTLY DIVIDED

Paul advised Timothy about preparing for the coming apostasy, the turning away from “the faith” (the doctrine committed to Paul) and the embracing of “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). He continued in verses 6,7,13,16: “[6] If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. [7] But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. [13] Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. [16] Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (We will come back to this passage later.)

Years later, the Apostle Paul cautioned in 2 Timothy 3:13-17: “[13] But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. [14] But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; [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. [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.” Especially in Christendom, there are “evil men and seducers,” people who will cause us to abandon sound Bible doctrine. They will use the Bible but not rightly divide the Bible. They will take Israel’s verses and make them fit us. They will cause us to leave God’s grace and they will put us under Israel’s law. Paul was careful to remind Timothy not to be deceived. He told Timothy that doctrine matters!

Romans 16:17-18 says: “[17] Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. [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.” Doctrine matters, so unity at the expense of sound doctrine is unacceptable. If we are to maintain sound Bible doctrine, sound testimonies, we must separate unto that sound Bible doctrine, and not unite in error. There were people in Paul’s day attempting to draw away his disciples by enticing them with nice-sounding words. These false teachers were idolaters—they did not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites and desires. How much more should we watch out for these phony church leaders, nearly 20 centuries after Paul!

In 2 Timothy 2:14-19, we read about some false teachers erring concerning the time of the Rapture, when the Church the Body of Christ would leave planet Earth to be caught up into heaven: “[14] Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. [15] Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [16] But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. [17] And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; [18] Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. [19] Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Surely, accepting false doctrine was to be avoided—it would lead to nothing but “ungodliness!”

Just in case we missed it in our previous passages, we will at 1 Timothy 6:3-5 now to see if doctrine matters: “[3] If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; [4] He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, [5] Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” There is “doctrine which is according to godliness” (verse 3), so there must surely be doctrine which is not according to godliness. We are commanded of God to avoid those who do not obey this passage.

Colossians 2:4,8 informs us further: “[4] And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words…. [8] Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Doctrine matters. We do not appeal to the world, to theologians, to philosophers, to tradition, for our doctrine!

We read in 2 Thessalonians 3:14: “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Again, doctrine matters; Christians should be accepting God’s Word, and the Bible says they should refuse to fellowship with those who reject it.

And 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says it all, that those—even within Christianity—will turn away from God’s truth, and embrace fiction, fairytales, opinions, manmade doctrines, et cetera: “[3] For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

While Acts 17:16-34 is an extremely large passage, too enormous to quote and thoroughly discuss here, you can read it on your own to learn how the Apostle Paul believed doctrine did matter, and his actions and words spoken in that chapter proved that heathen doctrine should be abandoned. He preached the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to rescue the pagan Athenians from spiritual ignorance, idol worship, and Satan’s policy of evil. Had doctrine not been important, Paul would have wasted his breath!

Acts 19:21-41 is another very large passage that discusses how the Apostle Paul and his ministry coworkers were the center of a riot in Ephesus, where the goddess Diana, “the queen of heaven,” was worshipped; you should read this one too in your own time. Paul was preaching that idols were nothing, and these Ephesians were thus abandoning the idols and embracing Jesus Christ as Saviour. The silversmiths who made silver shrines for Diana were worried that their incomes would plummet, so the silversmith Demetrius instigated a mob to harass Paul and his companions. The pagans believed their doctrine mattered, and the apostles believed their doctrine mattered. Obviously, neither would give in to the other. Doctrine is important.

THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH

The Bible says in Titus 1:9-16: “[9] Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. [10] For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: [11] Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. [12] One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. [13] This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; [14] Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. [15] Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. [16] They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Scripture says there is such a thing as “sound doctrine” (verse 9), implying that there is also bad doctrine, doctrine “which they ought not [teach]” (verse 11). We read that there are “many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, [especially Jews] Who mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” In other words, God Himself said that these religious leaders needed to be quiet. Surely, had they been preaching the truth, He would not have said what He did.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:15: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The local church is “the pillar and the ground of the truth.” This implies there is error, and that, if we are to remain doctrinally pure, we should have no association with error. Just as God wanted Israel to be a pure nation, free from false religion, so He wants us to be free from doctrinal error and spiritual bondage. He wants to use us to reach others with His truth, just as He wanted to use Israel to reach others with His Word. We are to be “the pillar” (supporter) and “ground” (foundation) for truth; the lost world is to come to God’s people, the Church the Body of Christ, if they want His truth. That is why we need to have His truth! That is why we need to learn sound Bible doctrine. That is why doctrine matters! This is why Bible versions matter—if the Bible translation we use is based on faulty manuscripts written and copied by apostates, we are building into our lives error. Hence, we make a “big deal” about Bible versions, and the authority of the King James Bible.

Ephesians 4:11-14 concludes: “[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: [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;” Friends, there is deceptive doctrine out there, doctrine that will hinder your spiritual growth, doctrine that you will embrace if you are not grounded in the Word of God rightly divided. May you heed the numerous warnings in God’s Word.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS WHO NEED TO HUSH

Does doctrine matter? Why do you suppose the Holy Spirit insinuated that there were religious leaders who needed to be quiet, who needed to be silenced, that they not speak their error anymore?

We read in Titus 1:9-16: “[9] Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. [10] For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: [11] Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. [12] One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. [13] This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; [14] Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. [15] Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. [16] They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Let us read Matthew 15:12-14: “[12] Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? [13] But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. [14] Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Jesus said that the Pharisees were “blind”—they were spiritually blind, they could not see His truth because they did not want to see it. Consequently, they taught wicked religious doctrine; they were not to be trusted, and they were to be left in their ignorance because they did not want to know any better.

Without commenting, we will simply quote 2 Timothy 3:1-9, another passage that proves that doctrine matters, that there are false teachers in religion, people who look good and sound good but who are not good: “[1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [6] For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, [7] Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. [8] Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. [9] But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”

It is often stated, “Doctrine divides, so we toss out it and just unite around the ‘love’ of ‘Jesus.’” Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is a God of love, but He is also a just and holy God. He is fair, and He will not permit error to remain unpunished. His justice will enforce His righteousness, and He will see to it that liars are held accountable for their deception. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned [counterfeit] words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not (2 Peter 2:3).

HOW TO RECOVER YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY

If we have peaked your interest with these verses, and you are now aware that you are caught in a religious system, the snare of the Devil, we would be eager to share with you what you can do to get out of the dilemma you are in.

We learn in 2 Timothy 2:25-26: “[25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

Lost people are living contrary to God’s will for them; they need to be saved from their sins and the everlasting penalty of their sins (eternal hellfire) by trusting exclusively the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished crosswork on Calvary. Most professing Christians are living contrary to God’s will for them; they need to be saved from false doctrine, religious teaching, and denominational systems. Denominational Christians and lost people need to be recovered out of “the snare of the devil.” Satan has taken them captive, and as long as they are not functioning on the information God has revealed to them in and through His written Word, they are fulfilling Satan’s will. Lost people need to realize their need for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. God can only save those who realize that they are lost. Christians need to be rescued from denominational teaching; they need to learn God’s Word to them, Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. They need to rescue themselves from such error. They need to acknowledge the truth, the truth of the rightly divided Word of God.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:13-17: “[13] But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. [14] But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; [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. [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.”

The “salvation” of 2 Timothy 3:15 is the “salvation” of 1 Timothy 4:16: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” If we want to be saved from false doctrine, the deception false teachers promote, we must guard the sound doctrine from corruption. We must return and continue in the grace doctrines committed to the Apostle Paul and through his epistles, Romans through Philemon, committed to us. Not only are we to use the Bible, we are also to “rightly divide” the Bible. Dispensational Bible study is the key to understanding and enjoying the Bible. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

BEING A GOOD MINISTER OF JESUS CHRIST

After warning of the coming apostasy, the departure from the faith (the doctrine committed to the Apostle Paul), the embracing of doctrines of devils, the commanding to abstain from meats and marriage (verses 1-5), Paul told Timothy, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Timothy 4:6). Nourishment is the idea of spiritual growth, strong, mature saints who will not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).

Verse 7 of 1 Timothy 4 says, “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” There is doctrine that is to be avoided: it is doctrine that is useless, worthless, profitless, and it is just as detrimental to your spiritual health as junk food would harm your physical body. Likewise, there is doctrine that will lead to godliness, godlikeness, God living in and through you; this is sound Bible doctrine, and this is what we need to embrace if we are to mature spiritually. Finally, verse 8: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Sound Bible doctrine will cause the Christian to enjoy the eternal life that they have now; they will not have to wait to die and go to heaven to have eternal life. They can know what God is doing today and they can cooperate with Him in doing it. They can know God personally today through Jesus Christ.

Paul concludes 1 Timothy chapter 4 by saying, “[13] Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…. [15] Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. [16] Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” We are to pay attention to reading the Bible, we are to pay attention to encouraging others in Christ, and we are to pay attention to doctrine. There are systems aimed at promoting the doctrines of devils listed in the opening verses of this chapter, and Paul tells Timothy to save himself and others from that false doctrine by embracing and teaching sound Bible doctrine, God’s Word rightly divided, the message of God’s grace to us in Christ, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon, and so on. If we are to be “good ministers of Jesus Christ,” we too need to warn others of doctrinal error, denominational teaching, non-dispensational Bible study, religious tradition, works-religion, and the other methods Satan uses to distract people from God’s work today. God wants all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)—this means that He wants them to avoid doctrinal error! May we share His desire to have people trust Christ Jesus and to have them see that God’s spokesman to them today is the Apostle Paul.

EDIFICATION: THE GOAL OF SOUND BIBLE DOCTRINE

The Bible says in 1 Kings 6:7: “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”

We normally associate construction sites with very loud noises—jackhammers, front loaders, drills, hammers, cranes, dump trucks, et cetera. Yet, the Bible says that the builders of Solomon’s Temple (960 B.C.) were knowledgeable about geometry and masonry to the extent that they chiseled out stone blocks at the quarry and transported them to the building’s foundation, fully knowing that these stones would fit perfectly with each other! There was no hammer or axe or other iron tool heard at the Temple Mount; JEHOVAH’S house was literally erected silently! (I wonder if any architect or construction worker today could manage such a massive project so quietly?).

The Holy Spirit says in Ephesians 2:19-22: “[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

The “preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25,26)—His death, burial, and resurrection as the fully satisfying payment for our sins (Romans 3:24; Romans 4:24,25; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4)—is the means whereby God is building a new house, a new temple. Hence, Christians are called “an holy temple in the Lord” and “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21) Notice how the Bible says that we are built in Jesus Christ—like the stones of the Temple, “fitly framed together” (meaning, “organized compactly/neatly;” cf. Ephesians 4:16).

Beginning with the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20), but throughout the Old Testament, JEHOVAH God constantly warned Israel not to pollute herself with false doctrine. He was building her into a marvelous nation, His kingdom of priests to reach the (Gentile) nations. Israel was not to sabotage that plan by forsaking Him and following pagan idols and bad doctrine.

Moses, just before dying, advised His people in Deuteronomy 4:1-2: “[1] Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. [2] Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”

Simple! Simple! Simple! Israel was not to add and not to take from God’s Word. Israel did not listen. In Exodus 34:10-17, JEHOVAH told Israel: “[12] Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: [13] But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: [14] For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: [15] Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; [16] And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. [17] Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.” There were false religious systems operating in Palestine, and JEHOVAH told Israel not to partake of them at all. There was no room for compromise at all. Israel did not listen. They partook of that devil worship, they added to God’s Word and took away from God’s Word, and He severely judged them for it.

Before we point fingers at Israel, professing Christianity has added to and taken from the revelation the ascended Jesus Christ gave to the Apostle Paul, Romans through Philemon. They are not content with God’s grace as Paul presents it; they toss that away. Instead, they prefer everything He gave Israel—water baptism, tongues, tithing, miraculous demonstrations, Sabbath day, rules and regulations, angels, and so on. They have combined the New Testament Scriptures with Judaism and pagan (non-Christian) doctrine and then they still call it “Christianity.” What a sad commentary!

The Apostle Paul, writing one final time to young Timothy, penning his farewell letter to the Church the Body of Christ, provided the key to guarding ourselves against the ravening wolves now attacking the completed Bible (and thus us): “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Not only were we to “study” that Bible—to read it, carefully consider it, and compare verses with verses—we were also to “rightly divide” it. Note that the Christian is called a “workman.” We are already saved unto eternal life, forgiven, justified, and redeemed, but God saved us, forgave us, justified us, and redeemed us for a purpose. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). There are some mighty works God wants to perform in us, and He accomplishes them when we walk by faith in His Word to us (the Bible rightly divided) (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

We read in 2 Corinthians chapter 5: “[8] We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. [9] Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. [10] For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

The quality of the doctrine we store in our inner man is either “good” or “bad,” to be evaluated when we get to heaven. We can be faithful workmen, Christians “skilled in the word of righteousness,” experienced workers as those of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:7); or we can serve denominations, traditions of men, philosophy, ourselves, the world, et cetera, and sabotage our Christian work.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 3: “[9] For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. [10] According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. [11] For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Scripture is quite clear that we need to “take heed how [we] buildeth thereupon.” Beware! Beware! Beware! The Apostle Paul is “a wise masterbuilder,” the “chief architect”—the ascended Lord Jesus Christ gave him the blueprints of what He is doing today. If we go anywhere else in the Bible but Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, we will miss God’s blueprints for today, and we will thus build something God is not building. We will be using the wrong materials, placing those materials in the wrong place, thus weakening the structure, and so on. The “preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25), He is the foundation. We only read about this “mystery” (secret information) in Paul’s epistles.

If we do not “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we will not recognize Paul’s special apostleship and ministry to us. As the builders of Solomon’s Temple were ever so careful to handle their instructions and their materials (1 Kings 6:7), we too are working. Are we following the directions God gave us through Paul? Are we using “gold, silver, precious stones?” Or, are we using “wood, hay, stubble?” Are we using God’s Word rightly divided, or worthless materials such as church tradition, human wisdom, and non-dispensational Bible verses? It will make a difference in the structure we build in our lives.

The Apostle Paul gently rebuked the Corinthians for their building pagan philosophy into their lives: “[12] Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; [13] Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. [14] If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. [15] If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

In Paul’s epistles alone we find our doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny; outside of Romans through Philemon, we find Israel’s doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny. According to the book of Proverbs (3:13-15, 8:10-11, 8:19, 16:16, and 20:15), gold, silver, and precious stones are related to spiritual wisdom, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual understanding. If we are to have spiritual wisdom, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual understanding in this the Dispensation of Grace—doctrine that is well pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ—we must go to Paul’s epistles, to the doctrine Jesus Christ spoke to him for him to then write to us.

Christendom’s constant push to “go back to Pentecost” and its persistent cry to “go by what Jesus said” (the Four Gospels), is a disregard for the new revelation that Jesus Christ gave after His earthly ministry and after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit said through Paul, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16). Now, we know Jesus Christ according to His heavenly ministry, Paul’s ministry. Will we submit to God’s current building plans, or, like the Corinthians, will we continue to do whatever we want in religion?

According to 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, we can build into our Christian lives “gold, silver, precious stones” (God’s Word rightly divided), or we can build into our Christian lives “wood, hay, stubble” (religious tradition, non-rightly-divided Bible, philosophy, denominational thinking). Verse 16 asks, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We should be careful not to defile God’s temple, our bodies. Scripture warns these false teachers who mislead the Body of Christ: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (verse 17).

We would hate to stand before God as those who stand in the pulpits and parrot nothing but the traditions of men, denominational thinking, worthless religious doctrine. All those false people are undermining God’s people, polluting them with bad doctrine, and yet, they are ever so covert that they appear to be servants of Jesus Christ and are thus rarely identified as ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Romans 16:25-26 says that God wants to “stablish” (stabilize) us using a three-fold process: “according to my [Paul’s] gospel,” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery,” and “by the scriptures of the prophets.” Paul’s Gospel is the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)—Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day. Jesus Christ according to the mystery (secret) program is revealed in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The Scriptures of the prophets is all of the Bible in light of Paul’s writings.

Since church members usually ignore dispensational Bible study, they lack spiritual stability, they are unskilled in Christian service, and they cannot function as God intended. Let us guard against the Adversary’s wiles, that we may participate in God’s silent building.

Father God’s will for us is that we grow spiritually. The Lord Jesus wants to not simply indwell us but feel comfortable, feel “at home,” in our inner man. His life will then become our life (for our Christian life really is His life!). Our identity in Christ is only in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon: the Body of Christ is described nowhere else in Scripture. To focus on and apply to life other Scripture is to ignore your identity, overlook what God is doing today, neglect what God gave you, and so on.

Not knowing your identity detrimentally impacts your life. Satan’s assault against members of the Church the Body of Christ is to have them ignore Paul’s epistles. Once they focus on all the other Scriptures and apply them to their lives, they operate apart from the identity God gave them in Christ. Satan’s system causes us to focus on Israel’s prayer promises, Israel’s baptisms, Israel’s tithing, Israel’s miracles, Israel’s earthly kingdom hope, Israel’s material blessings, Israel’s laws, Israel’s feast days, Israel’s apostles, and so on (all found outside Romans through Philemon). No wonder people go around saying we are “spiritual Israel”—claiming Israel’s verses as our own leads to no other conclusion! The only hope for the Body of Christ’s salvation from false doctrine and doctrinal confusion is to return to Paul’s epistles. Had we not left God’s Word to us, we would not claim God’s Word to others.

Religionists always emphasize seeing and hearing “God” (?) at work in circumstances—miracles, visions, angels, audible voices, and so on. However, God is not working audibly or visibly today. His Holy Spirit is working silently in each Christian, using His Holy Word rightly divided to build in them doctrine that cause them to be His house forever, vessels of His life!

In his final epistle to the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit said: “[20] But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. [21] If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20,21).

Beloved, we can either be “garbage-can Christians” or “grace-motivated Christians.” “Garbage-can Christians” are filled with garbage doctrine—the sins of the world (lasciviousness, secularism, loose living, human evil) and/or the sins of the spirit (religious tradition, non-rightly-divided Scripture, philosophies of men, human “goodness”). “Grace-motivated Christians” are filled with sound doctrine—always mindful of God’s grace to them in Christ, that He is their everything (their life, strength, Counselor, Head, righteousness, hope, and so on). One can only be a “grace-motivated Christian” if he or she is skilled in God’s grace (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon).

“Garbage-can Christians” are not living in their identity in Christ; although bound for heaven, their Master cannot use them because the Bible says they are “vessels to dishonour.” If we are to be “grace-motivated Christians,” if we are to be “vessels to honour,” able to do “every good work” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16,17), we must heed the “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness” in Romans through Philemon, that we may work with God in building His temple today.

Paul did not want ignorant Christians, spiritually impotent Christians, spiritually weak Christians—this is much of today’s Christianity, sadly. He wanted strong, mature Christians, those who could do the work of the ministry, those who would not be tossed around and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:12-14). Paul knew what the Holy Spirit knew: once the Christian gets a grip on God’s Word rightly divided, then God’s Word rightly divided gets a grip on the Christian! Christ can then dwell in our hearts by faith (us believing that sound doctrine)—our eternal life can be brought into our lifestyle!

There was a time when mankind could not know what God was doing (for God had not revealed that information). Now, with the “revelation of the mystery,” all of God’s will is revealed (Ephesians 1:8-10). God wants to fill us with His life, to one day use us in the heavenly places! It all starts when we study and believe God’s Word rightly divided, that the Holy Spirit will then build in us that edifice of sound doctrine, that dwelling place of Christ!

Throughout the Bible’s New Testament Scriptures, we read about “edification.” The word means, “to instruct or benefit; uplift.” “Edify” is derived from two roots, the first meaning, “to build,” and the second, “house, temple.” The idea is building a structure of sound doctrine inside a person’s soul. Paul and Timothy wrote, “…we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying” (2 Corinthians 12:19). “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord giveth us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (10:8).

We read in 1 Timothy 1:3-4: “[3] As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, [4] Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” Paul instructed Timothy to tell those false teachers in Ephesus to quit teaching law and start preaching grace (verse 7). The Holy Spirit wants “godly edifying,” the building inside a person’s soul sound Bible doctrine that will lead to godliness (remember our earlier comments about 1 Timothy 4:7-8). If the doctrine is not correct, then it will not lead to godliness. Yes, indeed, doctrine is important.

CONCLUSION

When you think about it, “Does doctrine really matter?” is actually an absurd question. Were it not for doctrine, Christianity would be no different from the world’s religions. Ask any Muslim, any Jew, any Buddhist, any Hindu, any person of any world religion, and they will express to you in no uncertain terms that they value and respect what they believe, and they will rarely compromise it to please you. They will never be convinced that doctrine does not matter.

In light of this, it makes no sense when professing Christians urge other professing Christians to throw away doctrine, and just fellowship around “Jesus.” How do we know one class of professing Christians is not advocating a counterfeit Christianity, a counterfeit Jesus, a system that appears to be derived from Scripture (and perhaps some of it is Scriptural), but overall, it is a system that is not entirely trustworthy? How do we know that there are no non-Christians in disguise trying to infiltrate true Christianity with non-Christian beliefs and practices? How do we know that it is the “Jesus” of the Bible, the Jesus whom the Apostle Paul preached? They could simply be using His name to preach something anti-Jesus. What did Jesus say? “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

How much respect do we hope to gain as Christians when we claim that doctrine means nothing to us? The Evolutionist will certainly not compromise his doctrine with Bible-believing Christians, but strangely, there are professing Bible believers who see no worthwhile reason to hold to a specific set of doctrines. How ridiculous! I wonder how a public school system would respond if we went into its classrooms and exclaimed, “Doctrine does not matter. Creationism is just as good as Evolutionary theory!” (They would hold on to and defend their humanistic paradigm much quicker than the average Christian would hold to and defend the Bible’s creation account!)

Again, the phrase “doctrines of devils” clearly says that not all doctrine is good. Doctrine matters—the quality of doctrine is important. We have only briefly touched on the verses here, but no one could read the Bible and honestly conclude that all doctrine was okay, acceptable, pleasing to God.

Someone might say to us, “There is a little good in all religions, a little good in all denominations.” In closing, we reply in the words of a bygone evangelist: “There is some good bread in the garbage can, but I do not want to get my bread there! I had rather go to the supermarket and buy a loaf of good clean bread than to pluck it from the garbage can from among the other garbage, even though the bread might be wholesome and good.”

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Saints, our goal this past year has been to provide you with sound Bible studies so that you can save yourself from the apostasy, the departure from God’s truth, so rampant in Christianity today. It is hope and prayer that we have been a help and an encouragement to you this past year, that you study the Holy Scriptures for yourself, and that you not take anyone’s word for it. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to continue to serve you here for years to come! 🙂

NOTE: Our Bible study, “Be Ye Separate” is another good article to which you can refer regarding this matter.

Also see:
» What is dispensational Bible study?
» How does Satan operate today?
» Do all Bible versions really say the same thing?

Is grace a “license to sin?”

IS GRACE A “LICENSE TO SIN?” Does God’s grace condone us living in the flesh?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Since I am under grace, can I now live as I please? We will search the Holy Scriptures and see how God Himself answers this question.

Opponents of the message of God’s grace often accuse us grace believers of preaching that message of total-and-forever forgiveness in Christ in order to encourage people to then “live in sin.” If we preach that complete, eternal forgiveness is offered to all the world; and that it is appropriated by one’s faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the total payment for our sins; that we are not saved by our works of righteousness or law-keeping; are we really condoning sin and telling people to get saved by trusting Christ and then “live in sin?” (Usually, this is said to introduce the necessity of law keeping.)

The most basic doctrine associated with the Apostle Paul’s ministry is the issue of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. We are saved by God’s grace, we are eternally kept by God’s grace; we are not saved by our works, and we do not have to work to keep that salvation unto eternal life. God does not give us a little forgiveness here and a little forgiveness there (as in confessing to keep “short accounts” with God). God does not save us by grace without works to then deal with us on the basis of our works. It is not our obedience that saved us, and it is not our obedience that keeps us saved. “For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Our performance does not give us a right standing before Father God—our working does not keep us from daily sins any more than our working keeps us out of hell.

We do not have to work to be accepted of God, for He has made us “accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace(Ephesians 1:6-7). God’s grace is everything that Father God can do for us through His Son, Jesus Christ: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Romans 3:24-26: “[24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

Colossians 2:6-7: “[6] As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: [7] Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” How were we saved unto eternal life? “[Our] faith in Christ” says verse 5. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is a free gift, and it is not a gift if we have to work for it! We do not work for gifts; we work for wages. What are our wages as sinful people? “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you want to work for salvation and eternal life, the Holy Bible says that only thing your works will bring is death, death, death! To accept God’s gift of salvation is to trust His Son, Jesus Christ, and His death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection. “[4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justified the ungodly, his faith in counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5). We are justified (declared right in God’s sight), saved unto eternal life, forgiven of our sins, given a home in heaven, granted fellowship and peace with God, by relying on what Jesus Christ did, not what we did in religion. Colossians 2:6-7 says that our Christian life will operate on the same basis—our faith in Christ, not our performance. This is what Romans 6:14 means when it says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

It is at this point that people object and say, “So, I do not have to keep the Mosaic Law? I do not have to obey the Ten Commandments? If I am forgiven in Christ, can I now go out and steal, kill, lie, and so on?” The Holy Spirit through Paul anticipated this response, so before we stop reading at Romans 6:14, we should read verse 15 with it: “[14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Can we continue living like lost people once we become saved people? Yes! Should we continue living like lost people once we become saved people? NO! Sin is inconsistent with who we are in Jesus Christ. It makes sense for a sinner to sin, but it does not make sense for a saint to sin.

After discussing our glorious salvation from hell and sin in the first five chapters of Romans, Paul begins chapter 6 with: “[1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [2] God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Verse 20 of chapter 5 had concluded that previous passage with, “[20] Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: [21] That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound? No! No! No! No!

We read in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “[14] For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: [15] And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.” As Christians, should we “live unto ourselves?” Should we live lives that are selfish, sinful, and ungodly? No! No! No! We “should live… unto him which died for [us] and rose again.” At Calvary, God put our sin nature to death with Jesus Christ. Romans 6:6a says, “Our old man is crucified with Christ.” Now, we have Jesus Christ’s resurrection life in us. Jesus Christ never committed any sin, so as long as we let Jesus Christ live in us, we will not commit sin either. All of Romans chapter 6 is a good passage to consider in this regard:

“[1] What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [2] God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? [3] Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: [6] Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. [7] For he that is dead is freed from sin. [8] Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: [9] Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. [10] For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. [11] Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. [12] Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. [13] Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. [14] For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. [15] What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [16] Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? [17] But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. [18] Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. [19] I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. [20] For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. [21] What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. [22] But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. [23] For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Page after page after page after page of verses from Paul’s epistles could be quoted here to prove that grace living is not about living as we please, living in rank sin, doing whatever we want, being lawless, acting no different from the rest of the world. There are several passages and dozens of verses in Paul’s epistles that make it very clear that grace is never a license to sin. Just because we are under grace, that does not mean that God does not care how we conduct our lives. Many verses have already been presented to indicate grace teaches us how to live right in God’s sight. We have been delivered from the Law, not to be free to do as we please, but to be free to be who we are in Jesus Christ! Rather than being under the strict, merciless system of law, we are under grace, God’s unmerited favor, God’s performance to make us accepted and acceptable before Him.

If you believe that grace is a license to sin, if you think that grace encourages us to live any way that we want, then you need to read the following Bible passages and verses: Romans chapters 6-8, Romans chapters 12-16, Galatians 5:13-26, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 4:17-32, Ephesians 5:1–6:9, Philippians 1:9-11, Philippians 2:1-4, Colossians 1:9-17, Colossians 3:1-4:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-23, just to name a few.

Nowhere in either Corinthian epistle did Paul ever condone their sins because they were under grace; these Christians were the worldliest, most wicked, believers in Paul’s ministry. Notice how Paul did not say about the Christian fornicator, “Let him keep living in sin, he is under grace.” Paul’s instructions were to remove the man from fellowship until he reformed himself (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Paul did not condone the Thessalonians’ sins of being busy bodies and lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). He did not approve of the fighting and bickering between Euodias and Syntyche but rather reproved them of it (Philippians 4:2). Paul never preached grace as a license to do live in sin, and if we preach grace as Paul did, we will not preach grace as a license to sin either; still, as Paul was wrongly accused (Romans 3:8), we too will be falsely accused of preaching grace as a license to sin.

Again, we should clearly see that God did not save us so we could then do whatever we wanted. We were sinning all we wanted before we heard about grace, before we trusted Christ we were already living in sin. To say that God saves us from our sins to then give us a license to sin is nothing more than foolishness, complete foolishness. People who say such things do not understand grace at all, and in fact they may be watching so-called “grace believers” living in sin (who know nothing about God’s grace either). It is also argued that to tell someone that he or she is already forgiven in Christ of all of his or her sins, it will encourage that person to go out and murder, steal, and kill. Paul was wrongly accused on that in Romans 3:8: “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” Again, to say that grace is a license to sin is a misunderstanding of grace. Someone once aptly stated, “Because it is grace it can be abused, but because it is grace it should not be abused.”

In one of his earliest epistles, Paul wrote: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Paul preached grace, and yet he never, ever advocated that we were now free to live in sin. We are not called to selfish living, but to godly living; we have been called to live like God lives (the Christian life is God’s very life!).

Titus 2:11-12 is so plain that we would have to want to miss it to miss it: “[11] For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [12] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. God’s grace does not teach us to sin; God’s grace teaches us to deny sin access to our lives. Sin is inconsistent with Christianity; it is not who we are anymore. We have a new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and that new identity is to generate good works in us.

People are so used to a strict system of religion—doing a bunch of rules and regulations to get God’s acceptance and blessings—that they naturally shrink away from the idea of God giving everything to them freely by His grace. They like to perform; the flesh loves to perform, and that is why religion is so popular. Our hearts are deceptive because they make us think that we can do enough to please God. See Romans chapter 7 in its entirety, when Paul faced the same miserable dilemma. Paul found the key to victorious Christian living in chapter 8 (more on this shortly.)

The Ten Commandments are very strict but they have no power in themselves to help us fulfill them. Grace not only gives instruction in the way of righteousness, but it also gives us the power of God to walk in those doctrines of grace. The Bible says that the law is weak through our flesh, that it is weak and beggarly. It always leaves us hopeless and begging God for more when in fact He can give us nothing on the basis of our performance but the lake of fire.

Romans chapter 8: “[1] There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. [3] For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: [4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Friends, grace gives you the information and the ability to overcome sin, but it does not force you to overcome sin. You are free to walk in your identity in Christ—you are strongly encouraged to remember that you are dead to sin, that sin does not have dominion over you, that you are alive unto God to bring glory to His name. (We read this earlier in Romans chapter 6.) God loves freedom so much that He gives you the choice to follow Him; you are not a robot.

CONCLUSION

In order to defend the strict religious system they have known most or all of their lives, religionists say that pure grace is “cheap grace” or “grace is a license to sin.” To be free from religious bondage is to be avoided, for religious bondage is all that many people know. Grace is not viewed as something free from God, but still thought of as something that must be merited through various good works. After all, in some groups, “grace” is defined as “what God can do for you after you have done the best you can.”

Dear friends, our best is not good enough and it never will be good enough before God. God is holy, just, righteous, and He can only give eternal life (heaven) to people are 100 perfect. We are not 100 perfect—that is what sin is! To have a perfect standing before God, to be declared righteous before God, is the doctrine of justification, and we are made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we trust Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, we rely exclusively on Him, that He did enough to please Father God, and that we are pleasing to Father God once we are in Christ (members of the Body of Christ).

To say that God saves us from our sins by His grace so that we can then return to our sins, is quite an absurd statement. Grace teaches us Christians that we were bought with a price (Jesus Christ’s blood), so it is only sensible that we should be useful to God in accomplishing His will, not our selfish desires, to live unto Him who died for us and was then raised again to give us resurrection life. As Paul wrote to the carnal, worldly Corinthians in 1 Corinthians chapter 6: “[19] What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? [20] For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Preaching God’s grace does not cause people to sin; their being sinners by birth is what causes them to sin. We were living in sin before we trusted Jesus Christ alone as our personal Saviour, before we learned of God’s grace to us in Christ, so we do not need God’s grace to encourage sin. Rather, we need God’s grace to stop sin from dominating us. That is what grace living is all about. If you want sin to dominate your life, the Bible says to place yourself under the law. As soon as you make your performance in religion the issue to please God, you are doomed to fail, for sinners are powerless and always fall short of God’s glory. Romans 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” God placed you under the grace system so that you could have the ability, the identity in Christ, to overcome sin, to live unto Him who died for you and rose again! Dear saint, you died with Christ, and you were raised again with Christ. You are dead to sin and alive unto God. Now, you can go live by faith in that identity! Oh, the wonderful grace of God, it not only saves us from hell, but also from daily sins! Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!

Also see:
» Does “walking in the Spirit” mean the same thing as “living in the Spirit?”
» We are saved by faith but are we blessed by works?
» Does God chasten us when we sin?