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Lessons from Ahab for an Undiscerning Church December 9, 2013

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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In the book of 2 Chronicles 18 the story is told of how Ahab the king of Israel wanted to go to Ramothgilead to make war with Syria. Ahab had made an alliance with Jehoshaphat the king of Judah and he invited him to go up to Ramothgilead with him. However, though Jehoshaphat agreed in principle he asked Ahab to first inquire what the word of the Lord said concerning the matter. So what did Ahab do? Ahab gathered together no less than 400 prophets to ask them if he should go to do battle. Everyone of them agreed that he should go up to Ramothgilead and that he would prevail as the Lord would deliver it into his hands. Not satisfied however, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there weren’t any other prophets of the Lord aside from the 400. Ahab replied that there was another prophet by the name of Micaiah but that he hated him because he never prophesied anything good to him except evil.

To cut a long story short we see in verse 11 where the 400 prophets declared that the Lord said Ahab should go to the war and that he would prosper. The messenger who when to fetch Micaiah told him that all the other prophets had prophesied good to the two kings and that he should prophesy good tidings likewise. However, being a true prophet of God, Micaiah prophesied the truth to Ahab that Israel would be defeated if they went to battle. Ahab would not listen however because he did not like what he was hearing especially when he had the backing of the 400 other prophets so he threw Micaiah in jail. Needless to say he went to battle and met his destruction because he refused to heed the truth from the true prophet of God. Instead he yielded to the message that appealed to his flesh, a message from lying spirits that deceived the 400 prophets.

This story of Ahab is an important lesson for the church today. Today the church, like Ahab, fails to discern the true voice of the Lord but instead yield to a message that appeals to their flesh – word of Faith, seed faith, prosperity doctrines and the like. They measure truth by the number of people speaking the same message instead of applying themselves to the study and application of the Word. Afterall if 400 prophets on TV or in the mega churches are speaking the same message then it must be true, right? But like Ahab this message with lead many to destruction. Many church folk don’t want to hear the message of the local church anymore even if it is the true word of God. Instead they want to hear a message that appeals to their flesh. Today the church heap to themselves teachers (prophets) that tell them what their itching ears want to ear instead of hearing the truth of God’s Word coming from a seemingly unlikely source.

The demise of Ahab however should serve as a warning that we should seek to listen to the solitary voice of the Lord even if the message is tough to hear instead of the 400 prophets who tell us the things we want to hear.

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Should we have female Bishops? November 28, 2012

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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One of the great controversies affecting the Anglican Church today is the issue of whether or not female bishops should be appointed in the church. Recent proposals supporting this was put to a vote at the General Synod but was voted down not by the clergy, interestingly enough, but rather by the laity. The surprising thing is not that this was voted against by the laity, creating as some say a dilemma for the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, but rather it is the huge media focus that has been drawn, which has turned the subject into a political debate, with the Prime Minister David Cameron, no less, wading into the debate. Likewise many non-Christians have jumped unto the bandwagon to vent criticism at the Church expressing the view that it needs to change to reflect the changing times. In their view the church should embrace the principles of equality and appoint female bishops alongside men. The overarching question here though is whether the Christian faith should conform to the attitudes and views of society or whether this should be the other way around. It is not surprising of course that non-Christians should be advocating to make changes within church particularly from the standpoint that it is seen as a registered body who’s ministers and bishops are employees. Within this construct the argument can be levied that the church as a recruiting body should comply with the equality laws of the state.

The main point that non-Christians are missing however is that the church is not and should not be equated with other social organisations whose directives are handed down by their supervisory bodies or by the state in terms of function and governance. Indeed the church as with any members of society must observe the laws of the state but the church is subjected to a Higher Authority on ecclesiastical and doctrinal matters and that Authority is God’s Word. The state should therefore not interfere with this authority otherwise the church will cease to be a church.

So what is the position of the Word of God on the matter of female bishops? The qualifications of a Bishop is defined in 1 Tim 3 as follows:

1This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)</strong> 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. [Emphasis Added]

We see from the verses of scripture here that such an office does NOT extend to women. Some will say here that these are sexist and outmoded views but if we are the church then the church should be standing on the word of God however uncomfortable the truth makes us feel. We need to be uncompromising on the Word of God and that is why I say well done to the laity for voting against the proposals to allow women to become bishops.

Bearing one another’s burdens May 21, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)

 

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matt 5:7)

 

A number of years ago I was faced with a situation where a sister from another church, someone I worked with at the time, needed financial assistance. I asked the sister if she would not approach her church for assistance. She said that whilst there was a welfare office in the church she did not feel comfortable approaching it for assistance because of how she would appear to her fellow church members and she felt she would be stigmatised.  The question I would like to raise is why should church members that are in difficulty and in need feel uncomfortable to approach their church for help? Could it be because the church today, unlike the early church, does not foster a culture of sharing and caring for one another within their congregation?

 

The church today is not short of teachings and admonitions to “give generously” or “give sacrificially” but what exactly is the church being asked to give to? What I do not witness is admonitions to the church members to give to those around them who are in need. When was the last time you heard a sermon on giving to the poor and the needy? In fact when asked, some preachers tell their members that they cannot give their tithes to other causes aside from the church but that “the whole tithe” must be brought into the “storehouse” – the church building. Has the church stopped teaching the law and commandments of Jesus Christ? It is a mistake to think that we are fulfilling the law of Christ in giving to the church (the administrative structure), which will in turn give some of the takings to a charity. Jesus said in Luke 6:30 “give to everyone who ask you” and He is speaking to individuals here. But what the church mainly teach today is to give to “the work of the church” whether it be the local church or ones in distant lands appealing for funds on TV. They encourage you to “prayerfully consider partnering” with them but never do they teach the church to fulfil the law of Christ in bearing each other’s burdens. How can we declare then that we are the called of Christ yet we do not fulfil His law by helping one another? Does this not undermine our credibility? The problem with giving to the church in tithes and offerings is that one may easily get into a mindset where they feel that they have done their duty already (in “giving to God”) and therefore the portion of their income which remains is theirs and they can’t afford to give away anymore. Many may therefore be ignoring Christ’s commands to give to everyone who asks of them, because in line with what they have been taught it is up to the church to distribute to those in need. Sometimes I do wonder however if it is the case that people do not really believe we need to observe Christ’s teachings to the full. Did Christ not say that we should not only be hearers of the word but doers of the word? Have we become like the Pharisees who, instead of honouring their fathers and mothers instead say that whatever help they would otherwise give them is a gift devoted to God (Matt 15:4-5)? Perhaps it should be said that we cannot be doers of the word if it is not being preached to us and we are not hearing it.

 

Many people today pay their tithes not necessarily because they believe they are fulfilling God’s will but because they have been led to believe that this is the way to access the blessings of God. But Christ says, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. We need to show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ but not only they for we are also called to love our neighbour as ourselves. Paul in Gal 6:10 also encourage us to do good unto ALL men. What surprises me therefore is how little emphasis is placed on such teachings today and even the world is showing us a better example today. To cite an example, the Evening Standard newspaper ran a campaign over the last few years to highlight the extent of poverty that many people are faced with here in Britain but more in London. They found that more than half of children in London lived below the poverty line. Despite the fact that Britainis a very rich developed country there are still a lot of people in abject poverty but it is usually not visible to most of us. I am sure that a lot of these poor people do go to church too. What are our churches doing to alleviate the plight of these poor? One church body in the UK reported total income from parishes to over £800 million in 2009. This church’s expenditure however amounted to almost the figure that was raised with only £50 million going to charitable causes. There are established churches in the UK that own and control vast wealth, namely in property and other assets yet people are still suffering in poverty. To cite another example from Greece, the Telegraph newspaper reported that the church have amassed wealth of over £700 billion Euros and this amounts to twice the national debt (1).

 

How can the church retain such vast wealth whilst people the world over are living in extreme poverty? Surely the church should be doing more in terms of giving away most of what they collect to those in need instead of hoarding it. The church members themselves are also guilty of helping to maintain this status quo by mindlessly giving their money to churches that hoard it, instead of heeding the scriptures in bearing each other’s burdens. What will the church do with such wealth on judgement day when Jesus Christ shall put in His appearance? This is the question that every church body that stores wealth should be considering very seriously.

 

(1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8790126/Wealth-of-churches-vs-the-wealth-of-people.html

In tithes we trust February 13, 2012

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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The modern church has come to be reliant upon “tithes and offerings” which are regarded as essential to financing the Gospel. Proponents of the tithe in particular have claimed that God purposed for the tithe to be used to finance the Gospel, i.e., the church structure/organisation. In this regard it is argued that Jesus Christ never abolished the tithe, and to support the arguments scriptures are cited which suggest that tithing was before the Law. Whatever the arguments though, “tithes and offerings” are the mainstay of most churches in Christendom today and forms the main source of income to meet the various needs of the church.

 

The question should be asked however as to whether tithing (in particular) meets the standard of New Testament giving. The term “tithing” here is used rather loosely to refer to the practice of giving 10 percent of one’s income to the local church. It should be pointed out therefore that though this modern form of tithing is not identical to the biblical practice it is usually the case that scriptures which pertains solely to the Law (the Old Covenant) are used to support the practice in the church today. So where exactly are we? Are we still under the Law or has the Law been set aside or perhaps we are partially still under the Law?

 

Perhaps the most overused scripture in “enforcing” tithing in the church is Mal 3:8-12. This portion of scripture appears to have the most currency because it drives fear in a believer’s heart in that they are robbing God if they do not give a tenth of their income and consequently they will be cursed as God will not rebuke the devourer. Of course none of us would like to be considered as robbing God and we certainly would want to escape from any curses imposed by God. One of the main justifications for tithing therefore is that the tither either believes or is lead to believe that they are insuring against this dreaded curse and are also “investing” for future blessings when they tithe. The fact that the church has to rely on this biblical injunction to raise funds demonstrates two things. Firstly, it demonstrates that the church has failed to recognised that the injunction in Mal 3:8-12 was not given to the Church but was said at a time when Israel was still under the Law and that since Christ fulfilled the Law it is no longer in force. Secondly, it demonstrates that both the church leadership and the followership have misplaced their faith by trusting in the tithe instead of putting their trust in God who is the source of all blessings. The church leadership demonstrate a lack of faith when they have to resort to using the Law to “encourage” giving in the New Testament age. Likewise the followership also demonstrates a lack of faith by putting their trust in the tithe as their insurance policy rather than to trust solely in God.

 

Under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood we are called to walk by faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11) and as such giving is an act of faith (Jam 2:14-18). Tithing however, contrary to what some have believed, is not an act of faith but an instruction or commandment given under the Law. Furthermore, attempting to “prove God” by tithing as a result of the enticement of “the windows of heaven” blessings again is not an act of faith. If God will bless us because of our contributions to the church then all we need to do is take Him at His words. It is for this reason that Mal 3:8-12 should not be used to stir a believer’s conscience in donating money to the local church. It is important to note here that before faith came the Law was in force (Gal 3:23) and the Law therefore acted as a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24). Furthermore Paul tells us in Gal 3:12 that the Law is not based on faith. Injunctions such as Mal 3:8-12 therefore demonstrates the nature of the Law in its capacity as a schoolmaster – it emphasizes the benefits (merits) if you obey and the punishments (demerits) if you do not. Does this injunction typify our new position in Christ? Is this a demonstration of how faith works in the current church age? Are we as foolish as the Galatians in thinking that we are justified by obeying the tithing Law?

 

Whilst the income generated from “tithing” (of one’s income) may serve a useful purpose in contributing to the spread of the Gospel, the ends do not justify the means. According to James 2:10, if we seek to observe the Law but fail in on one point we are guilty of the whole Law. If we then are guilty of the Law then are we under a curse. But thankfully Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law having been made a curse for us (Gal 3:13). The very curse therefore referred to in Mal 3:8-12 is the same curse that Christ hath redeemed us from. Why then do ministers continue to use Mal 3:8-12 to convict their church members to tithe of their income? Are they so fearful that if they do not instruct tithing that they won’t have any money to finance the church and are the members so lacking in faith that they can’t give unless they are faced with threats?

 

It is interesting to note that there are many church goers who help to propagate the myth that “tithing works”. By this they mean that when they pay their tithes they are blessed as this is usually followed by promotions at work, salary increases, unexpected gifts of money and general stability in their finances. On the reverse some claim that when they do not tithe all sorts of problems befall them so from this standpoint alone many put their trust in tithing to ward against the evil devourer that seeks to upset their finances. The simple truth however is that whether you tithe or don’t tithe you will have problems in your life including your finances. The Psalmist understood this fact only too well when he declared: Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all (Ps 34:19). Jesus also tells us in John 16:33 that we shall have many trials and sorrows in this world and Paul declared that through much tribulation must we enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). If you purpose in your heart to give 10 percent of your income to your church that is fine. However, tithing is not an insurance policy against the evil day and the church should not teach tithing as if this is the case. You should instead put your faith and your trust in God alone who is able to help you to overcome all the challenges in this life.

Financing the Gospel December 21, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Supporters of tithing often make the claim that God intended for the church (i.e., the Gospel) to be financed through the mechanism of the tithe. In establishing this doctrine they cite Old Testament scriptures to support their claim. However, did God really intended for the church to be financed through the tithe? This is the question I hope to answer in this short study.

 The apostle Paul has laid down some clear guidelines on “financing the gospel” that the church should follow. For instance, Paul made the following declaration in 1 Cor 9:

 13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

 

The central question here however is whether tithing was the means by which the Lord ordained those who preached the gospel to live of it? After all, aren’t pastors living of the gospel when they collect their stipend and other forms of remuneration and aren’t they doing so from the tithes and offerings? It should be noted here that some churches teach that the tithe is strictly for the pastor’s enjoyment. So what examples do we glean from scriptures of people who lived of the gospel?

 I believe as the church and the body of Christ, our starting point should always be to look at Christ’s example as after all He is the Chief Shepherd (or Chief Pastor) of His church (1 Pet 5:4). In the early stages of the Gospel going forth, Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to deliver the good news to the lost sheep. Interestingly, Jesus told them not to take money or even a change of clothes or shoes with them yet he assured them that “the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt 10:10). This was the first example shown to us in scripture of people who preached the gospel being fed by it and this was the same principle that Paul alluded to in 1 Cor 9:14 quoted earlier and also in 1 Tim 5:18. After the disciples returned from their travels however, Jesus asked them if they lacked anything whilst they journeyed to preach the message of the Kingdom and they replied they lacked nothing (Lk 22:35). All their needs were met by some of the people they came into contact with. What we do not see however is a commandment from Jesus to the disciples to go out and as they preached to collect tithes. What a contrast to today’s churches that declares that the work of the Lord cannot be done without “exacting” tithes?

 Christ went about establishing the church and wherever He went preaching, great multitudes gathered to Him yet we do not see a single example of Christ collecting tithes and offerings from the multitudes. What we see however is that there were some dedicated women who ministered to Him out of their own means (Lk 8:1-3). The early church also demonstrates in Acts 4:32-34 how that the church ministered to one another, including the apostles, so that everyone’s needs were being met. Verse 32 is particularly important in answering the question of whether or not the early church tithe. The verse says:

 32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

 Here we see in this verse that the believers in Christ did not take ownership of the things they possessed but shared it commonly with their brethren. Within such a construct it is clear that tithing could not have been practicable because this would imply that they gave a tenth part and kept the rest for themselves but this is not what was observed.

 The final example we may draw on comes from Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians concerning ministering to the saints in 2 Cor 9:1-7 (which actually is a continuation from 2 Cor 8). Here Paul was collecting gifts in order to distribute to the poor saints in Jerusalem but what we noticed is that he did not over-burdened the church but ask them to give according what each man had purposed in his own heart.

 The system we have in churches today is indicative of the Levitical system, whereby the pastors now assume the office of the Levite priests in the temple and are sustained by tithes. This construct is however foreign to the Gospel of Christ as the early church did not demonstrate these traits. The collection of monetary gifts and the like were strictly for meeting the needs of everyone in the church who had a need, not just the pastors’. One did not simply pay their tithes and offerings from their limited resources and go home despairing as to where the next meal was going to come from or how they were going to pay their rent. Certainly the poor in the church weren’t being told that if tithe faithfully, God would open up the windows of heaven.  Contrarily, everyone’s needs, including those of the apostles, were met from the proceeds of what was gathered. This was the means by which those who preached the Gospel were to live of it and not through a crudely reconstituted Levitical system.

 Will the church stop propagating the lie that God intended the gospel to be financed through the tithe?

Should Pastors Be Salaried? July 5, 2010

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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This question of whether a pastor should be salaried is quite an interesting one as it throws up many controversial issues; nevertheless, it is a valid question which should be asked in Christendom today. In looking at this question we could equally ask, should “workers” in the church be paid for their services also? Should the choir be paid for serenading us with good music?  Should the ushers, the Sunday school teachers, the people who make the tea and do the washing up be paid as well? But more importantly, what of the other elders such as the deacons, bishops, apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, should they be paid also?  Evidently if all were to be paid for their services this would put an immense strain on the churches finances especially if the church is relatively small. In most modern churches there is one man or woman at the head who is the pastor and beneath him are the deacons and elders and the other “workers” but only the pastor draws a salary. But why should one group of people (the pastors) receive a wage for their services yet another group (the elders and workers) do not! Surely this status quo is not equitable?

 My personal experience of the Baptist church is that usually a Baptist pastor/minister would be in ministry fulltime and as such he would be given a monthly stipend decided upon by the deaconate. This would usually be a modest amount of money that would be considered reasonable to meet his needs and that of his family. The church may also provide a manse for the pastor and his family to live in, the expenses of which would be dealt with by the church. On retirement or resignation the pastor would evacuate the premises and find other accommodation, and the manse would be prepared for the new pastor. In my opinion this arrangement is reasonable and I have no problems with this at all. After all the scriptures do allow for those who minister at the altar to eat from the altar or in other words those who minister the gospel should be fed from the gospel. Where I have a problem however is where the role of a pastor is treated as any other profession and where he is expected to attract the market rate that other positions of a “similar level” do. One of the reasons why this problem arises is because when a pastor studies for four years or so to earn an M Div or higher qualification he is then seen as on par with other master’s level graduates who may attract significantly high salaries. Thus the role of a pastor is in some churches is seen somewhat as that of a professional in their field. Perhaps this is why the pastor is salaried and the other elders of the church who did not attend seminary do not receive payment.

In truth I am not advocating that any of the elders or workers should be paid a salary. However the church has a responsibility to meet the needs of those in their midst who are in need and this includes the whole church, not just a select few individuals. If we look at the church in Acts 2 and Acts 4 this is exactly how they operated. The people would bring their gifts and lay it at the apostles’ feet and this would in turn be distributed to the congregation according to everyone’s needs so that none lacked. Today however we have the opposite scenario where the pastor gets the lion’s share of the takings (tithes and offerings) and some who are in need do not get anything and are still expected to pay tithes as well. Whilst this might not be the case with the traditional churches like the Baptist, this is certainly the case with the mega-churches.

When Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to minister the gospel, He told them specifically to freely give that which they also received freely (Matt 10:8). They were forbidden from collecting a wage although it was reasonably expected that those they came in contact with would meet their needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Likewise the gift of “pastoring” is a free gift which should be used/exercised in the church freely along with all the other gifts. However what we have done with organised religion is to create a system whereby one man stands at the head and speaks to a congregation for a fee on Sundays. Confidence is invested in such an individual because he has the requisite qualifications and therefore considered as a “professional” and in like fashion a suitable remuneration package is decided upon. However all this is foreign to the gospel message. I pray we may return to the truth of God’s word.

By what title do you address your pastor? June 25, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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In Christendom today it is quite customary for church ministers, pastors and certain elders to append titles to their names to perhaps signify rank and authority. For example, today we have pastor with titles such as, Senior Pastor, General Overseer, Apostle, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, Rt Reverend, Patriarch, Metropolitan, Father, Abbot, Dr, etc. All of these different titles enable a system of hierarchy within the church and enables individuals to be exalted and venerated above their congregations as if they are somehow different or superior. The question I would like to ask though is whether any of this is biblical? Why have we become so besotted with lofty titles in the church? Does the Gospel support this milieu?

In attempting to answer the aforementioned questions we may note what Jesus said:

 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:8-12)

From verse 1 of the passage we note that Jesus was speaking to both the multitude gathered before Him and His disciples when He uttered these words. Jesus has made it plain here that we should not seek to appropriate titles unto ourselves as Christians but rather that we should see each other as brothers and sisters. Jesus fully well knew of man’s lust of the flesh for power and recognition and this can be seen from His description of the Pharisees and scribes in the previous verses. Are we not therefore disobeying Christ by maintaining this hierarchical system along with its associated titles? Howbeit that man’s heart has become so haughty to the point where he can claim to be a follower of Christ but blatantly ignore His position on this issue? It is interesting to note that even the disciples suffered from this haughtiness when they came to Jesus and asked who is greatest in the Kingdom (Matt 18:1-4)? Jesus’ response however was that unless one humbles himself as a little child he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it clear also in Matt 23:11 that the greatest amongst “you” would be “your” servant. It is clear then that this system of hierarchical structures and associated titles are an affront to the Gospel to say the least.

It goes without saying that in our church structures today those that assume lofty positions certainly do not act as servants but are rather treated in a lot of cases as demigods. Instead of them being servants to the church they are instead served by the church in a relationship akin to sovereign and subjects thus creating a system of government with the church. The idea of priest vs laity for example is promulgated throughout the church yet scripture has made it know to us that in Christ we are all priests (1 Peter 2:9). If we also look at the example of the early apostles like Paul, we note that he addressed the Thessalonians for example as brothers as opposed to lauding it over them as General Overseer. This was the example given to him by the Lord Jesus, and this was the example that he followed.

Peter also laid down the standard of how the elders who “pastor” the flock should conduct themselves:

1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5) Emphasis added.

It is clearly laid out here that pastors/elders should not be “lording” it over the flock (God’s heritage) but should instead display a sense of humility in their character. Why then has the modern church become so far removed from these examples? Have we become so wise in our conceit? I pray the church would return to the truth of scriptures concerning this area.

The Modern Church: A Replica of the Levitical System? June 23, 2010

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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In many respects the modern church seems to be a reproduction of the Levitical system which was operated in Israel under the Old Covenant. Today the pastors seem to occupy the office of High Priest whilst the deacons, junior pastors and elders form the rest of the “priestly” class. Thus there is a division of “labour” between those who are part of the priesthood (the Levites) and those who form the laity (the other 11 tribes).  This importation from the Levitical system seems to be the generally accepted method of “doing church” across the whole of Christendom today. One of the main practices which has been brought along with this system is the paying of tithes to the Levites. Indeed in attempting to justify the tithe many Christians argue that the pastors and leaders do indeed represent or stand in the place of the Levites and thus should be given the tithe. Along with the tithe the Levitical priests would also accept offerings from the people, which they would then present before God their behalf, a practice that is carried on in the church today. Although in today’s terms the symbols of the tithes and offerings have changed (from goods to money) the practice is nevertheless the same, whereby the priest/pastors take the tithes and offerings to the altar and offer them before God. Only the mode, such as burnt offerings, seems to have changed.

The main question here therefore is whether such importations from the Levitical system are Biblical in the context of the New Testament church. Is the church model we have today founded in the New Testament scriptures? For one thing the Levitical system was abolished along with the Old Covenant which decays and vanishes away (Heb 8:13) through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Why then should we even think to seek to try and re-establish a system that has long been abolished? Could the main motive be to guarantee the churches’ finances? And or to establish a system of authority and control?

In looking at the first question aforementioned scripture tells us that in our Gospel we have one High Priest (Heb 3:1, 8:1-2) who is Jesus Christ and who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). Furthermore in the light of the Gospel all who are in Christ are priests (1 Pet 2:9) and whereas the old priesthood offered tangible items as sacrifices we are required to offer Spiritual sacrifices unto God through our High Priest Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:5). This is in stark contrast to the Levitical system in which sacrifices of tangible items were given to the priest to make propitiation for the sins of all Israel. The modern church system however seems to have appropriated this system into the new church as a way of ensuring the church coffers are kept fed. Some churches have even gone to the extreme of blatantly suggesting that the church today should observe certain religious dates in the Hebrew calendar, such as the Day of Atonement, and to bring the associated offerings (translated into money of course) to be offered before God. Of course all of this is simply preposterous in light of the Gospel message.

 Under the Levitical system the high priest had a lot of sway in directing the affairs of the tabernacle or temple. His authority derived not only from his senior rank but perhaps also from the fact that only he could enter in to the Holy of Holies to stand before God and as it were “advocate” on behalf of the people of Israel. In today’s churches however many pastor appropriate lofty titles such as, senior pastor, general overseer, bishop in order to establish their rank and authority in much the same way as the high priest. To add to this the vestry (or sacristy) is treated as some kind of Holy of Holies from which the pastor/priest emerges to deliver his sermon and this in turn adds to an air of mystique about the pastor/priest.

 None of these associations with the Levitical system are however biblical. Perhaps it should be said that one of the reasons the traditional churches aren’t growing is because a lot of them have moved away from the examples shown to us in the New Testament scriptures and instead sought to institute man-made structures and organisation based off a defunct system.

Who are the ‘elect’? April 20, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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8 comments

There seems to be much confusion particularly amongst pre-tribulation rapturists concerning the identity of the “elect” in Matt 24:

 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 Could the elect mentioned here be Israel as some ministers teach? Indeed in we know from the scriptures that Israel God’s elect:

 4 For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. (Isaiah 45:4)

 So clearly under the Old Covenant, at least, Israel was very much God’s elect. But under the New Covenant dispensation is it only Israel that constitutes God’s elect? According to the scriptures the answer to that is no. Here are some scriptures which defines God’s elect as pertaining to the New Covenant:

 1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; (Tit 1:1)

 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Rom 11:7)

 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (Col 3:12)

 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 1:10-11)

 We can now see from the above scriptures that the faith of God’s elect is the gospel of salvation which Paul was made an apostle of. We also see that we can only obtain this faith through the election of grace and we are called to put on the fruits of the spirit (mercy, kindness etc) as God’s elect and give due diligence in making our calling and election sure. It is clear then that the elect as pertaining to the New Covenant is the church, which includes a remnant of Israel but who are no longer regarded as Jews (see Rom 11). We should remember here that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11). The elect which are mentioned in Matt 24 which Jesus will gather at His coming are therefore the church. There can be no doubt about this since the Old Covenant decays and vanishes away and under the New Covenant there is neither Jew nor Greek (or Gentiles).

Busting the Pre-tribulation Rapture Myth! April 18, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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79 comments

As I read the scriptures the more I find evidence which completely destroys the pre-tribulation rapture “theory”. Though I would not call myself a student of eschatology nor have I conducted much study on the subject, my excursions into this area has opened me up to certain truths that have been missed by students who have been studying this subject area for years. One of those simple truth is that if there were going to be a pre-tribulation rapture or even a mid-tribulation rapture then the disciples doesn’t seem to have been aware of it. The Apostle Peter for example, who was with Jesus from the time of His early ministry doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of a pre-tribulation rapture when he wrote the following passage:

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 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, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:10-16)

What do we learn from this passage then? From verse 10 we learn that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (Matt 24:43, 1 Thess 5:20). It should be noted here that pre-tribulation supporters are agreed that “the Lord coming as a thief in the night” is the same day of the rapture which the unsaved will not be aware of due to the fact that Jesus comes hidden in the clouds and only those that are caught up with Him will see Him. As a result everyone else that are “Left Behind” will be here to face the tribulation during the anti-christ’s reign. However we also learn from verse 10 of the above passage that at the day when the Lord comes as a thief in the night, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” John describes the same event though in slightly different language in Revelations 6:12-17. This picture therefore does not fit with the pre-tribulation rapture theory then because every one on earth will be able to see that the heavens have dissolved and departed. So then it is either this day which Peter speaks of is the day when Jesus visibly returns to earth or there is another separate day in which Jesus comes to perform the pre-tribulation rapture then comes visibly to earth. However, there is no such day that can be found in scripture anywhere. From the prophets of old through to the present the day of the Lord has been spoken of as a single day and not two days. Here is the clincher. Peter says in verse 12 that “we” should be “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God”.

Question: If the rapture takes place before the day of God, a day in which the heavens are dissolved or depart as a scroll why is Peter admonishing “us” to look for and haste unto the coming of this day? This of course would be irrelevant if the church would not be around (on earth) to witness this day. So what he should have said then is that “we” should be looking for and hasting unto the coming of the rapture – but he did not say that.

Question: If “we” (the church) are looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, will this day happen before the tribulation or after the tribulation spoken by Jesus in Matt 24:21? The answer can be found here in the following scripture:

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:29-31)

In conclusion, we have therefore learn that the day of the Lord, which comes as a thief in the night will occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days”. This is the same day spoken of by Paul in I Thess 5:2. So in spite of Peter being privy to all the epistles which Paul had written to the church (see verses 15-16); privy to the Olivet Discourse prophesies since he was there in person; privy to the scriptures of Daniel; he seems to demonstrate a distinct lack of knowledge concerning a pre-tribulation rapture. The implication then is that neither Paul’s epistles nor the scriptures in Luke or even Daniel can be used to support the pre-tribulation rapture position. Where then is the evidence for the pre-tribulation or even mid-tribulation position?

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