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Then, if there is no such thing as a carnal Christians, what shall we call those who have confessed Jesus as Lord and have claimed to have been born again, but still are yielding to their fleshly lusts and desires? There are those in our churches who are that way. Are they then not Christians, but are wolves in sheep's clothing?

First, the term "carnal Christian" is purely of human origin. It is nowhere used or suggested in Scripture. If God had used the expression, there would be no question about its validity, but He did not.

Second, when dealing with those within the body of Christ who were gravitating to the flesh, the Spirit spoke plainly. "For YOU ARE STILL CARNAL. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," ARE YOU NOT CARNAL?" (1 Cor 3:3-4). When confronted unfaithful people within the church, He addressed them in this manner. "ADULTERERS AND ADULTERESSES! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself AN ENEMY OF GOD" (James 4:4). To the church in Rome, the Spirit spoke expressly about those who chose to walk after the flesh, yet keep the name of Jesus. "So then, those who are in the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD" (Rom 8:8). And again, "For if ye live after the flesh, YE SHALL DIE: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom 8:13).

As you can see, there is no ambiguity about how we are to refer to such people.

Third, it is not our place to pass eternal judgment on people. Those within the church who are "carnal" can "recover themselves from the snare of the devil" (2 Tim2:24-26). But until they do, they are "carnal," and there is no way they can please God in that state. Men may choose to speculate about their condition, but it is all a waste of time. God has spoken to this subject, and has done so strongly in order to induce repentance. He is "not willing that any perish, but that all come to repentance." That is why He is longsuffering toward such deluded souls (2 Pet 3:9). But until they do repent, they are "carnal," NOT "spiritual" (which is the appropriate comparison with "carnal").

Fourth, the expression "wolves in sheep's clothing" refers to teachers, or "false prophets" (Matt 7:15). Any and all preachers and teachers who are unable to bridle their lusts are the "wolves" to which Jesus referred. All such leaders destroy God's people rather than building them up.

Our role is simply to refer to people and things in precisely the way God did. If that causes trouble for some people, they must come to grips with why the Word of God is not in harmony with their own way of thinking. If there is a soul in all of the world who says God promises eternal life to a carnal person, or is pleased with a carnal person, or is committed to save a carnal person, let them produce a word from God -- any word -- that says such a thing. That will forever end all controversy on the matter.

It is good to hear from you again. I have often thanked the Lord for your faith and tenderness of heart. By the way, how is the family, your last child, etc.? I will be answering your question concerning tongues shortly. I have been on answering my Internet correspondence.

If someone smokes marijuana but talks about God more when they are high, is this acceptable behavior for a Christian? . . . Is there a verse's) that says that smoking weed is a Sin?

The word of God admonishes us to refrain from seeking "highs" by artificial means. It speaks of the "high" of being "drunk," which also refers to all other forms of artificial stimulus or intoxication. Here is what the Word of God says. "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but BE FILLED with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18). In this case, marijuana is a substitute for the Holy Spirit, with which we are to be "filled." Judge for yourself if such conduct is acceptable to God.

It is inconceivable that liquor, "smoking weed," or any other drug usage could move one to "talk about God" more, or more accurately, than being filled with His Holy Spirit. God simply has not made allowance for proper assessments of Himself or His will by such means.

Further, the issue is not whether a person talks about God, but whether that talk is God-honoring. Is it correct? Does it reflect personal submission to Him? Does it exalt the Son of God, declare war on sin, and promote godliness, or holiness? Is God Himself pleased with such talk? Does it assist others to understand Him more? Does draw people to the God of heaven?

The use of drugs in any form is related to what the Bible calls "drunkenness." It is the opposite of being "sober." We are commanded to "be sober," or under strict self-control (1 Peter 1:13; 5:8). Our thinking is always to be clear and without artificial stimuli or depressants.

The Bible does not mention the word "marijuana" or "smoking weed." It does, however speak about states of mind such as the ones marijuana induces. "Smoking weed" is not acceptable behavior for a Christian because it is something that does not result from faith in God and dependency upon Him. If such a person "talks about God," as you suggest, he does so under the influence of the "weed," not the Holy Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit will never lead a person to act foolishly -- "weed" will. The Holy Spirit will never lead a person to do what is wrong -- "weed" will. The Holy Spirit will bring a greater understanding of God and Christ to the individual -- "weed" will not. God urges us to be filled with His Holy Spirit -- not the effects of "weed."

If you are smoking "weed," I urge you to stop. You are not the better for doing it, nor is anyone else. It is nothing but a miserable substitute for God Himself.

There was a time when religious conservatives now known as evangelicals virtually hated the RSV. Is the RSV as bad as some have said? Also, I like the way the NRSV reads, but it uses gender-inclusive language. Is it more accurate than the RSV? Does the gender inclusive language present a scriptural problem? Does adelphoi actually mean brothers and sisters? Is the RSV or the NRSV more accurate in today's world?

The objective of the more modern translations is not accuracy, or precision, but plainness or clarity -- and there is a big difference. In some cases, the NRSV is perceived as improving on the expressions -- but that improvement is in view of modern speech and idioms.

In my judgment, however, there has been a decided deterioration in language itself, so that it tends to be more parochial and reflective of societies of people who are not noted for thought, precision of expression. This is particularly true of the Western world. If this assessment is true, reducing Scripture to the common language can be a most dangerous thing. If the speech of the people of the street, so to speak. it rooted firmly in soil of earthiness, reflecting carnal appetites and values, it is highly unlikely that such a vocabulary can even contain Divine concepts. I personally prefer etymological expressions that reflect an age of thought. The words tend to be more precise and pregnant with meaning, even though some may choose to refer to them as "old English," archaic, or the likes.

As to the meaning of the word "adelphoi," or "adelphos." it is not to be determined by a lexicon, but by Divine usage. The Spirit uses this term to refer to "brothers" in the ordinary sense of males: "Judah and his brothers" (Matt 1:12), "Peter and his brother Andrew" (Matt 4:18), "Your mother and Your brothers" (Matt 12:47), etc. But that is not the only way it is used.

This word is also used to denote all those who are in Christ Jesus -- and in Him "there is neither male nor female" (Gal 3:28). Some examples of such usage are, "Salute the brothers" (Col 4:15), "the brothers who are in Macedonia" (1 Thess 4:10), "He is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Heb 2:11), "we love the brothers" (1 John 3:14), and "unfeigned love of the brothers" (1 Pet 3:22). It is obvious these texts do not refer to only males.

I remember well the opposition to the RSV when it first came out. One of the chief objections centered on Isaiah 7:14, where the Hebrew word "almah" was translated "young woman," instead of "virgin." The irony of the case is that the RSV itself translated Matthew's quotation of that very verse as "virgin" (Matt 1:23). Of course, in Scripture, it was assumed that a "maiden," or "young woman," was single and a virgin.

The RSV, or any other version, that leans primarily toward lexical definitions of words will invariably employ some expressions that will not reflect the mind of the Spirit. That does not mean these versions are totally deficient. It does mean they must be read with a discerning mind.

In Scripture, keys words are consistently explained or expounded doctrinally, not lexically. That is, the Holy Spirit would precisely define what was intended by such words. Thus the church, or "ekklesia," is said to be "the body of Christ," even though there is nothing in the word itself that suggests such a thing (Eph 1:22-23). That circumstance, of course, requires spiritual understanding on the part of the translators, as well as academic expertise.

What is "the power of his resurrection"? "To know" means to experience. How does one experience the resurrection of Christ?"

This is the power that is devoted to all who are in Christ Jesus. Paul prayed the church would have the eyes of their understanding opened to know, or realize, "what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe." In delineating that power, he described it was "according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:19--20).

In a nutshell, this is coming back, or recovering power. It is experienced initially when we are raised from death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-4). On an ongoing basis, it is experienced when we are renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:18). It is realized when we are "struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor 4:9), or fall, yet rise again (Prov 24:16). It will ultimately be realized when we ourselves rise from, and death is swallowed up in victory. Resurrection power is having the heel bruised, yet crushing the head of the serpent anyway. It is going down in seeming defeat, yet coming back triumphantly.

I have a question about a matter that has come up a time or two out at the chapel and that is the mysteries that are hidden from the every day people that are not diligent in seeking our Lord and are caught up in mental assent to the living word.

The "mysteries of the kingdom" refer to the things God has for His people. From one point of view, they are simply the Gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16). From another, they are "the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14), or the things the Spirit reveals to us through that Gospel (1 Cor 2:10). From still another, they are the things "God has prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9). They are "the truth as it is in Christ Jesus" (Eph 4:21). These are "the things that are above" upon which we are to place our affection (Col 3:1-2). In short, they are what God is now making known to His saints (Col 1:26) -- things that were formerly hidden to the sons of men. They include God's grace, the proclamation of an "eternal inheritance," the presence of the Holy Spirit, His loving care for us, the fact that we are being conformed to the image of His Son, are more than conquerors through Him, and much more.

When Jesus confronted the multitudes, He saw their hearts -- and the sight was not good. They had no real appetite for what He came to declare -- like the Gospel for the poor, the healing of the brokenhearted, deliverance for the captives, recovering of sight for the blind, setting at liberty those who were bruised, and the time when God accepts men (Luke 4:18-19). Therefore, instead of opening the truth to them, He declared it in parables.

Those parables hid the truth, so that the hearers did not have any idea what He was talking about. That is what prompted the dialog between the disciples and Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 13:9-10. "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." Later He said it was because their hearts were utterly corrupt (verses 15-16).

The mysteries were unfolded in Christ's explanations of the parables. For example, the Lord opened up the parable of the sower to His disciples (the one that occasioned their question in the first place). He explained what the seed on stony ground meant, what the birds that ate it signified, what the seed on the stony ground meant, the seed among thorns, and the seed on good soil. These were "mysteries" because no one could possible have comprehended the parable meant that unless Jesus explained it to them.

Parables were not for those with good hearts, but for those with bad ones. They were not designed to help people see the truth, but to conceal it from them. When the disciples asked Jesus on another occasion, "Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field," Jesus opened up the mysteries (Matt 13:36-43). Those mysteries were that Jesus is dispersing the Word of God. The field in which He sows it is the world. There are false brethren who are like tares. The one who puts them here is the devil. There is going to be an ultimate gathering of all of God's children. The wicked will all be taken out of the world. The angels will accomplish both gatherings. Ultimately, the wicked will be removed totally from the scene, and the righteous will shine like the Son in the kingdom of their Father.

Such wonderful things cannot be conceived or understood by the carnal mind or the natural man. That is why men go on sinning, with no regard for the ultimate end of the world, reward of the righteous, and punishment of the wicked. At the every best, such people may know those words are in the Bible, but they cannot receive them. That is why they ignore them and live contradictory to them.

But for those with tender hearts, such things will be shown to them. The Bible calls it the opening of the eyes of our understanding (Eph 1:17-20), and comprehending (Eph 3:15-20). However, as you already know, there are no forms of human education that can bring such wonderful understanding to the sons of men. Neither, indeed, is there anyone who can arrive at such an understanding on their own. Such things are forever an unknown mystery until God makes them known -- and He always makes them known to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

When people do not repent, go on sinning, or ignore the Word of God, it is because the things of God are "mysteries" to them. When people repent, obey the Lord, and live for Him, it is because the mystery has been opened up to them, and Jesus is the one who opened it.

Perhaps the reason why God has not allowed me to worship and praise him in tongues is because I am not ready . . . Perhaps the reason why God has not allowed me to worship and praise him in tongues is because I am not ready.

A lot of mythology has arisen in the church concerning speaking in tongues. The ONLY instruction given concerning them was to a church that was less than ideal. The Corinthian church experienced all manner of fleshly intrusions. There were divisions among them (1 Cor 3:3). They conducted themselves in such a reprehensible manner around the Lord's table that God caused some of them to become sick, and even killed some of them (1 Cor 11:30). They questioned the Apostleship of Paul (1 Cor 9:1-3). Some even doubted the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:12). Some among their number did not know there was one God (1 Cor 8:6-8). There was a man among them who was living with his father's wife (1 Cor 5:1). Whatever may be said of speaking in tongues, it certainly brought no advantages to the Corinthians.

Here are some facts in the case. Tongues are never related to worship and praise -- never. That is an association men have made. On Pentecost tongues were used to declare "the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). At the house of Cornelius, they were used to "magnify God" (Acts 10:46). Among some Ephesian disciples, they were used to prophesy, or possibly in conjunction with prophecy (Acts 19:6).

The solitary reference to praying in tongues is not teaching men to do so, but showing the unreasonableness of doing so. Paul affirms that IF he did, indeed, pray in a language he did not know, "my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful" (1 Cor 14:14). Further, in this passage he strongly affirms the impossibility of edification apart from understanding. It is understanding that produces edification (1 Cor 14:4-13). Additionally, the whole context of speaking in tongues is the public assembly, not private prayer (1 Cor 14:1-6). Paul's reference to himself praying in tongues related to the public assembly, not private prayer.

Referring to himself, Paul refused to speak or sing things he did not understand. "What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will ALSO pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will ALSO sing with the understanding" (1 Cor 14:15). The word "also" links the speaking and singing with the understanding -- that is, they take place at the same time. They are not two different things. Knowing the danger of doing so, Paul refused to pray or sing in words he did not himself understand.

No believer was ever told to ask for the gift of tongues. That simply is not in Scripture. Concerning spiritual gifts, we are told to "seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church" (1 Cor 14:12). We are also told to "covet earnestly the best gifts," which are the ones that edify the brethren (1 Cor 12:31). Yet, even that is not the most noble pursuit. After telling us to covet earnestly the best gifts, the Spirit adds, "And yet I show unto you A MORE EXCELLENT WAY." That more excellent way is "love," which is opened up in the following chapter (1 Cor 13).

The fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians follows the teaching of love, or "charity," with a word to "desire spiritual gifts." However, even then, a qualification is stipulated: "but RATHER (or especially) that you may prophesy" (14:1). So that none will misunderstand what occurs in prophecy, an explanation of the effects of such a ministry is given -- and those effects all presume understanding. "But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church" (1 Cor 14:3-4). He then states that speaking in tongues is admissible in the church ONLY if what is said can be understood (14:5). If the words cannot be understood, the speaker is to "keep silence in the church," speaking to himself and to God (14:28).

Some have assumed that the person is speaking to himself and God in a language he himself does not understand, but that is not at all the case. The person speaking understands what he is saying. It is the hearers that do not understand. Therefore, the speaker is to pray that he can INTERPRET what he says to the people, not to himself (14:13). Note, he is not to pray that he may understand for himself, but interpret to the people.

Spiritual gifts are never given for the individual himself. They are given for the body of Christ -- to edify and build them up. Thus it is written, "And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one FOR THE PROFIT OF ALL" (1 Cor 12:6-7). When Paul said, "I wish you all spoke with tongues," he quickly added, "but EVEN MORE that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is GREATER than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification" (1 Cor 14:5).

Seeking to speak in tongues is NOT the best pursuit. That is a matter of revelation. The best gifts have to do with edifying the people of God. We know this is the case by priority of the gifts. "And God has appointed these in the church: FIRST apostles, SECOND prophets, THIRD teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Cor 12:28). All of the gifts are certainly legitimate. They also all have to do with ministering to others, not self. That also is something that has been plainly declared.

Those who have suggested that a superior blessing is obtained by praying in an unknown tongue have not spoken for God, but for themselves. God has said no such thing, but has rather strongly affirmed the superiority of bringing clear and understandable advantages to His people. This does not invalidate speaking in tongues. It does confirm that such a gift is not to be sought. If God desires for you to have it, He will confer it upon you. But if He does, it will be for the benefit of His people. That also has been revealed.

I know your heart is right, and that you desire to please the Lord in all of your ways. I suggest that a pursuit of some gift or ability that will comfort and edify the people of God is best -- just as God has said. In such a ministry you will find a greater blessing for yourself as well as others.

The Samaritans were not in covenant relationship with God at the time of MMLJBC, and therefore had no covenant privileges, promises or salvation from sin."

Technically this is true, but from the standpoint of the heart of God and the spirit of Jesus, it is not. Jesus said to this woman, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and HE WOULD HAVE GIVEN THEE LIVING WATER" (John 4:10). He further said that water (which He clearly offered her) would "spring up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). When the woman asked Jesus to give her this water, He did not refuse to do so (verse 15-16). He divulged to her that He was "the Christ" which she, an uncovenanted Gentile woman, knew would come (verses 25-26). When His disciples questioned Him about speaking with this woman, Jesus said He was doing the Father's will (verse 31-34). When Jesus saw the Samaritans returning with the uncovenanted woman, He said it was a field white unto harvest, and both he that sowed and he that reaped would gather fruit to eternal life, and rejoice together (verses 34-39). The Scriptures go on to say that "many of the Samaritans believed on Him for the saying of the woman." After the Samaritans asked Jesus to remain with them, He stayed with them two more days. Many more believed on Him and confessed He was "the Christ, the Savior of the world" (verses 39-42).

To me, it takes an extraordinary imagination to disassociate such a pregnant text from the forgiveness of sins, "covenant privileges, promises, or salvation from sin." Such a postulate is wholly inexcusable and reveals a serious deficiency in understanding both God and His great salvation.

<< "There is not one example of any Gentile (non-covenant person) in MMLJBC receiving the "forgiveness of sin" or "salvation from sin" from Christ. Christ did not arbitrarily, as the denominations teach, offer "forgiveness of sin" or "salvation" to anyone outside the conditions set forth in the old covenant law of in MMLJBC." >>

First, the above statement has borders that are too narrow. The theological fence that is hastily thrown up is not large enough to even contain the truth, much less expound it. It also reflects a misunderstanding of "conditions set forth in the old covenant law."

The forgiveness of sin, as announced by Jesus, was not promised under the first covenant. The various laws that mentioned being "forgiven" are contained in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They all had to do with escaping the temporary judgment of God rather than sin actually being put away. We know this is the case, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Heb 10:4). Rather than the commanded sacrifices cleansing the conscience of the sinner, they actually defiled the conscience, causing the remembrance of sin, as affirmed in Hebrews 10:1-3.

The "forgiveness of sin" as denoted by the word "salvation" did not exist under the Law. There were not provisions under the Law for such a salvation, else there would have been no need for a New Covenant. In this regard, the benefit of the New Covenant is clearly stated: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb 8:12). Such a remarkable benefit was not even incorporated within the Law. It was wholly a new provision.

Secondly, Jesus associated salvation with faith (i.e., "Your faith has saved you." -- Luke 7:50). The complication here is that the Law, or the first covenant, had nothing whatsoever to do with faith. That, of course, is precisely what is stated in Galatians 3:12. "The Law is not based upon faith" (NIV). Nowhere did the Law command faith, and nowhere did it promise anything to those who believed -- NOWHERE. Under the Law, the only means to life was found in doing, NOT believing. The promise of the Law was, "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which IF A MAN DOES, he shall live by them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5). This statement is repeatedly referenced in Scripture (Ezek 20:11,13,21; Luke10:21; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12).

Thus, the task is to find ANYONE living during the administration of the first covenant who was forgiven or saved upon any basis other than doing completely and consistently what the Law required. It makes no difference whether it was Jew or Gentile. The forgiveness of sins, as intended by the word "salvation," was never offered through the Law.

I suppose one might conjecture that the sinful woman who anointed Jesus and washed His feet with her tears was a Jew, but I do not know how that could be substantiated. Yet, of that very woman, Jesus said, "'Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, ARE forgiven, FOR SHE LOVED MUCH" (Luke 7:47). Just what portion of the Law, or old covenant, promised forgiveness because someone "loved much?" Where was such a benefit ever promised within or during the administration of that covenant?

When a certain woman was taken in the very act of adultery, her accusers reminded Jesus of the mandate of the Law. It is true, the Law demanded that both the man and woman be stoned if a man lay with another man's wife (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:21-24). If a single woman did not have "evidences of virginity," she was also to be stoned (Deut 22:20). But in no case was adultery to be passed over. Yet, Jesus plainly said to this woman, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Where did the old covenant make such a provision? And how can it be determined that this woman was also a Jew?

In the case of the woman of Canaan, Jesus plainly told her He was sent to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and that it was not appropriate to cast the children's bread "to dogs." When the woman, a Gentile, acquiesced in this statement, Jesus said "'O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (Mat 15:28). Where was such a provision given under the old covenant?

When a Gentile centurion sought for Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus immediately said, "I will come and heal him" -- even though the old covenant made no such provision for Gentile requests. Further, when that centurion said there was no need for Jesus to come to his house, that only a word from Him would be sufficient, it is written, "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 8:12). Was that a reflection of something stated within the old covenant?

Much more could be said on this matter, but this is sufficient. It is time for some to go and "learn what that means." I suppose one could choose to say these occasions had nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins and salvation, but it would certainly be foolish to do so.

You are the only one who negates the importance of speaking in tongues as an elevated method of praise and worship.  I have sought this gift because I want to please God more in my worship and praise of Him.  There are just so much more than the words Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, Thank you Jesus, etc. to my God.  He deserves so much more than what I can say.  And, if speaking in tongues will take me to that place where I can express truly how I feel about my God, then my spirit will be fulfilled. 

I deeply appreciate your desire to praise the Lord in a more thorough and satisfying manner. I will share something with you that has been of great assistance to me in this area. It is so simplistic, I marveled that it was not apparent to me when I was younger.

There are a number of prayers in Scripture -- prayers by Moses, the Prophets, Hannah, the Lord Jesus, the Apostles, the early church, and others. A significant number of these prayers are also found in the Psalms. Praise is a prominent part of these prayers. They show us how people spoke to God about Himself, as well as about their needs and desires.

One thread you will find in nearly all of these revealed prayers is language taken from Scripture -- things God has revealed about Himself. There, in Scripture are revealed expressions about God that exalt and extol Him as well as bring great satisfaction and illumination to the heart. I suggest you go through these prayers. What I have observed will at once become apparent to you. There are concrete examples of what you want to do yourself. I believe you will find it most helpful. I do not believe you will ever find in Scripture that satisfaction or glory is brought to the God of heaven by people speaking to Him without their own understanding. If an ignorance of God alienated us from Him in the first place (Eph 4:18), it will certainly not bring us closer to Him after we have been reconciled.

We are admonished to love God "with all of our understanding" (Mark 12:33). What is more, Paul prayed the Lord would open "the eyes of the understanding" of believers so they would know the magnitude of Himself and what He has for them (Eph 1:17-20). David prayed for understanding (Psa 119:34,73,125,144,169). That understanding impacted upon how he prayed and praised. It will do the same for you.

You will realize untold benefits by searching the prayers of the Bible, and asking God for understanding. Both will cause growth in your expressions to God.

So, do you not believe or do you just not recommend that people speak in tongues? Can you yourself speak in tongues and have experienced a lack thereof and that's why you are so against it? Just wondering and very curious.

I am not against speaking in tongues. I do not recommend that those who have received this gift not use it, for that would be foolish. It is God who gives this gift, so I cannot be against it. What I am against is making other people feel deficient because they so not speak in tongues, for God plainly says everybody does NOT speak in tongues (1 Cor 12:30), then tells us to seek gifts in which we can edify the body (1 Cor 12:31). There are only three examples in the New Testament Scriptures where people actually spoke in tongues (Acts 2:3-4,11, Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6). All three were heard, understand, and profited men. All three were evidences of God, and were dispensed at His will. There is one occasion of speaking in unknown tongues in the Old Testament, at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:7). The rest of the teaching on tongues is found in First Corinthians chapters 12-14. In it, there is a strong emphasis on not exalting this gift or seeking to impose it upon others. The clear instruction is to use it for the edifying of the body.

I AM against the practice of telling people they can bring greater glory to God by praying in an unknown tongue, when there is not a syllable of Scripture that suggests such a thing, nor was anyone ever commended for doing so, or reprimanded for not doing so. I am against urging people to seek the gift of speaking in tongues, telling them they will be better for it, when Scripture says they should rather seek to prophesy (1 Cor 14:1,5). But I am NOT against the individual speaking in tongues.

As to myself speaking in tongues, I have made it a practice not to speak of my own experience in this matter. That is a matter between myself and God, and will stay that way. I have done so because of the erroneous view that those who speak in tongues have somehow achieved something greater, have praised God more fully, and have been liberated in some way. I will only tell you that I know by experience that none of these things are true. It is only when the truth is KNOWN that we are made free, not when it is spoken -- particularly if it is spoken apart from the understanding.

God has given us multiple example of praying. He has given us examples of answered prayers, powerful prayers, and extended prayers. He has instructed us about prayer. Jesus Himself instructed us about prayer. In the instructions, nothing is ambiguous, and every word is straightforward. Sister Bernie, I am saying it simply is not possible to know what God Almighty has said about prayer, and feel uncomfortable or unfulfilled if one cannot pray in an unknown tongue. For such a feeling to be generated, it had to be produced by some word from man -- uninspired man. It is that kind of word that I oppose.

If God grants a person the gift of speaking in tongues, let them use it for His glory and the edifying of the body, just as He has said. If God does not give a person this gift, let them not suppose they are somehow deficient. We are plainly told that "God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased" (1 Cor 12:18). Every single person in the body HAS been given a "manifestation of the Spirit," or "spiritual gift," for the profit of all (1 Cor 12:7). Further, the Spirit has distributed these gifts according to "HIS will," not the will of the people (1 Cor 12:12). Nowhere is it suggested that spiritual gifts are distributed in accord with what the members of the body want. Those are the facts in the case. Anyone, and it makes no difference who it is, that decides to urge people to approach God with a differing agenda in mind, has not helped them.

As to your own desires, they are your own business, and I do not judge you in them. Nor am I suggesting to you that speaking in tongues is wrong. I am suggesting it is something less than wise to feel deficient because the Holy Spirit did not give you something one of your peers said you needed -- something that would better equip you for prayer, or anything else.

The Old Testament law of Moses made no provision for "proselytes." The Old Covenant made with Israel's flesh and blood could not be penetrated by the heathen Gentiles. Gentile DNA was not the same as Jewish DNA

our reasoning is not in accord with several statements of Scripture.

When Israel came out of Egypt, "Many other people went up with them" (Ex 12:38). The same mixed multitude were with them in Numbers 11:4, a considerable time after the covenant was made at Sinai. In fact, they promoted the lusting for meat that broke out among the people. When Moses reasoned with the Lord about their sin, he did not delineate between them and the offspring of Abraham.

Moses said:
"And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you." (Exo 12:49).

"The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Lev 19:34)

"And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death." (Lev 24:16)

"You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God." (Lev 24:22)

'And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.' (Num 15:14-16)

When you say, from the elders down, are you asking if there is a "chain of command" from the Lord through the apostles to the elders and then to the saints?

The question was rhetorical. It was not a request for information. I am NOT saying there is a "chain of command." If such a thing exists, then the Catholics have it right.

We already know how God placed key members in the body. It is a matter of revelation. "First Apostles, second prophets, third teachers" (1 Cor 12:28). The priority was clearly placed upon instructing and edifying the body of Christ. It is also interesting that "elders" are not particularly mentioned, and that "teachers" (Diasakos) rank in the top three gifts to the church. I understand the gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11 to include elders (i.e. "pastors and teachers"), accenting their teaching function. Further, it is clear from Scripture that all elders are to be "teachers." However, nothing in Scripture suggests all "teachers" are "elders. even though they are "third."

We also know there are no "bosses" (for what of a better term), as ordinarily perceived, among God's people. The Head of the body said, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves'" (Luke 22:26). Thus I question the concept of having "authority" over the church or any segment of it. If the Apostles themselves were denied such a role, it is certain it has not been given to any one else.

Within Christ's body, "oversight" is very real, but it is not of the world's order. If we consider those who "rule" (Heb 13:7,17,24) to be "elders" (which is not affirmed by those texts), then the rule is of a most unique order. Such individuals are those who "have spoken the Word of God to you." Their "faith" can be followed, and the "outcome of their conduct" can be perused with profit (Heb 13:7). They "watch out for your souls, as those who" (like all stewards) must give account" of their stewardship (Heb 13:17).

In my judgment, that is a far cry from directing an assembly, establishing agendas, or having people answer to them. The "rule" of elders is found in their communication of the Word of God. Like Jesus, they rule with the sword of their mouth, so to speak. Apart from that communication, they have no authority whatsoever over the people. Further, their office is not what gives them this authority, but the assignment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), their grasp and communication of the Word of God, their faith, and the effective translation of that faith into human conduct (Heb 13:7). Such people "have the rule," and are to be heeded. Those who lack these qualities do NOT have the rule, appointed by men or not.

However, as many of our churches have found out, when the EMPHASIS is placed upon "the elders" (which the Scriptures never do), there is a gravitation toward the kind of authority the Gentiles exercise, which Jesus affirmed has no place among His disciples. With Jesus and the Spirit, the issue is not who is RUNNING the church, or who is OVER it, but who is FEEDING it and CARING for it. After fifty years of intense involvement with the churches, I can tell you this is NOT what elders in our churches are generally noted for.

There is a word delivered to elders by Peter, who acknowledged himself to also be an elder. Solemnly they are told to themselves "feed the flock of God" -- not make sure someone else does so. They are admonished to do it willingly, and not by compulsion. They are to embrace their stewardship eagerly and zealously, and not for dishonest gain. They are emphatically not to lord it over the heritage that belongs to the Lord, but be "examples to the flock." They are to remember they are under-shepherds, and will be duly rewarded by the Chief Shepherd when He appears (1 Pet 5:1-4).

When we have that kind of elders, we can speak about their role, and of the brethren's obligation to them. If that is NOT the kind of elders we have, then we really have none at all, and are just philosophizing about an office. In such a case, there is other work that needs to be done -- work that has to do with maturing the people of God and realizing an environment in which the Spirit can place real overseers.

If anyone is bold enough to say these are the kind of elders for which our churches are noted, I will not be contentious about the matter. However, I will emphatically deny this to be the case. Somewhere we have gotten off the track of Apostolic reasoning on this subject. The manner in which several have spoken about the eldership is simply NOT how the Apostle spoke to the CHURCHES in Scripture -- churches among whom the Holy Spirit had no doubt placed "overseers."

The eldership is a significant issue in "our" churches. Why was it not a known issue in any of the congregations during the formative years of the church? It seems to me that would have been a time when the churches, especially Gentile churches, would have had all manner of difficulty with proper leadership. Is it that the churches addressed by the Apostles (most of which were Gentiles) had model elders? Had they achieved an ideal status in this regard?

Knowing some will misunderstand what I am saying, or that I may not have expressed myself clearly, I add the following. I am not against elders. I do affirm God has put them in the church, that they do rule, and that believers are to submit to them. I also am saying that this has exclusively to do with the communication of the Word of God to the people.

However, there are times in every congregation's life when decisions must be made about the corporate body itself. Who do you believe the NT says should make those decisions today, and how does one prevent the "authority" to do so from becoming authoritarian?

Paul asked the Corinthians if, in matters of dispute between brethren, there was "not a wise man among" them who could settle such matters (1 Cor 6:4). He made no reference to their elders. When they had to confront the presence of a fornicator among them, he told them, when they were "gathered together," with him present with them in spirit, and "the power of Christ," to hand the man over to Satan for "the destruction of his flesh" (1 Cor 5:12). There is no reference to the elders in this case.

In some decisions, as with the choosing of Matthias, there may be no one present who has the answer. The Lord must then be consulted, and some means chosen through which His will can be confirmed, as in Acts 1:6.

In other instances, the matter may need to be talked out with the mature, as with the Apostles and elders. After some discussion, James perceived the matter with clarity, correlated it with the Word of the Lord, and his saying "pleased the Apostles and elders" (Acts 15:15-22). Incidentally, I do not know that James was officially classified in either group, although he was, as Paul put it, "reputed to be a pillar." Nevertheless, it was his wisdom that moved the people, and not his position as a "pillar." His word of wisdom confirmed he was indeed a pillar, but being a pillar did not validate his conclusion.

There are numerous congregational issues that are made known in the Epistles. A few of them include the following.

1. The conflict between the understanding of novices and the more mature in matters of meats and days (Rom 14).
2. Divisions among the Corinthians, together with reprehensible conduct at the Lord's Table, suing one another at law, questioning Paul's apostleship, declaring there was no resurrection, etc.
3. The bewitchment of the Galatians, and their consequent inclination to Law as a means to justification.
4. People within the Thessalonian congregation who refused to work, choosing to wander from house to house as busybodies and talebearers.
5. The church at Philippi had two ladies, Euodias and Snytyche, who needed to be exhorted to be of the same mind in the Lord.

There is no word that suggests these difficulties were to be addressed by the elders -- although I do not question they were involved.

Then there were the deficiencies of some churches in Asia, which the Lord Jesus Himself addressed.
1. The church at Ephesus was exacting in its theological rectitude, but had left its first love, and was about to be taken away.
2. The church at Pergamos had some present who held to the doctrine of Balaam, casting stumbling blocks before their brethren, and some who also held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes.
3. The church at Thyatira was allowing a false prophetess to teach Christ's servants to teach and seduce His servants to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols.
4. The church at Sardis was dead, and what few virtues it had were ready to die.
5. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, and the Lord was about to disown it.

None of these cases made any reference to the elders resolving the difficulties -- although I do not doubt their involvement. No elders were charged with being negligent, allowing the conditions to arise, and none were admonished to meet together to resolve them. That is not how the Apostles talked, and it is not how Jesus did. That observation is not intended to move anyone to adopt an official position on the eldership.

You asked how I thought the New Testament says decisions concerning congregational life should be made. The bottom line is that the Spirit has not provided a hard and fast procedure. One might as well ask how the various congregations mentioned in the Epistles went about resolving their matters. How was the fornicator expelled? How were the spirits tested? How were novices restrained from judging those with understanding, and the mature restrained from despising the novice? How was the matter of judging one another in meats and days resolved? What procedures was set place to check the inclination to worship angels and intrude into unlawful areas, as at Colossae, checked?

In my judgment, this is where "the body" comes in. The body is not governed by authority, but by spiritual insight and contribution. It is kept alive by every member's association with "the Head." There are gifted members in the body who are not elders, yet know when and how to show serve, show mercy, exhort, and give. There are others who know when and how to teach and rule (Rom 12:5-8). Sound congregational life comes from the exercise of all of these gifts, or functions. The elders are called into a part of that ministry, but certainly not the whole of it. The various gifts of the body are not under their administration, but under the administration of the Holy Spirit, as clearly declared in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

The Spirit has specifically told us the purpose for godly leaders, some of which are the elders. After making known that such leaders are Christ's gifts to the church (Eph 4:8-11), their role is given with remarkable detail.

"for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:12-16).

I am going to wax bold and say that the difficulties experienced in our churches are largely owing to the failure to fulfill this purpose. Most of the issues with which the church deals are the result of novicehood -- whether self-imposed, or simply because the person is young in Christ. That condition will be addressed by each member of the body doing what it has been equipped to do. This occurs when each member holds fast to the Head, Christ, "from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (Col 2:19).

The elders have an indispensable role to play in that process -- but it is not the only one. If we are diligent to do this, most of our congregational problems will disappear. I do not know that you will find a single congregational problem in Scripture that was not the direct result of hardheartedness, willing ignorance, or the presence of novicehood.

It is rank apostasy for anyone to interpret any passage of Scripture to extend covenant salvation to Gentiles in contradiction to these plain statements of covenant truth.

This is a hasty statement, and reveals a gross misunderstanding of God's dealings with men, as well as the nature of the Old Covenant. The Lord's response to Nineveh, for example, contradicts the view presented in the post of reference. In fact, the writer takes much the same view as Jonah did, who objected to God showing mercy on Nineveh -- something he also thought was out of order.

Primarily, the Old Covenant was not a "covenant of salvation," as reflected in the expression "covenant salvation." Salvation as we know it was never offered under the Old Covenant. That is why it is called "the ministration of death" and "the ministration of condemnation:" (2 Cor 3:7-9). It was never intended to save anyone, but was given "that EVERY mouth might be stopped, and ALL the world become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19).

What was written on tables of stone, as a law, was intended for everyone. As a covenant, it applied to Israel in particular. However, they "broke" the covenant (Jer 31:32; Heb 8:9), which demanded total and consistent obedience, with not a single deviation allowed. Those under that covenant had to do everything it demanded, or none of its benefits could be enjoyed. That, of course, is precisely why the new covenant was given (Heb 8:7-8).

Throughout the ages, God has always honored faith -- whether in Abraham, Melchizedec, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Zaraphath, the Ninevites, or Gentiles Jesus healed, or to whom He granted their requests (The Syrophenician woman, the Centurion, the Gadarene demoniac, the Samaritan woman at the well, etc.). In fact, both Rahab and Ruth are in the genealogy of Jesus, and neither were Jews. In fact, both were in a generation that was actually cursed.

As to Gentiles being seen "as equal to Israel," that is not a proper view. Some of them were seen as actually superior to Israel in their response. How else can we account for Jesus saying Gentiles like the Queen of Sheba and the Ninevites would rise up in the judgment and condemn a generation of Jews (Luke 11:31-32)? Or how is it possible for God to be more tolerant of Sodom and Gomorra in the day of judgment than of the generation of Jews to whom Jesus came (Mark 6:11)? That is how Jesus talked.

What must I do to kill the flesh once and for all?

As long as you are in the body, the flesh, or the old man, is something with which you must contend. To put it another way, as long as there is any part of your person that is temporal, or will die, it carries with it a nature that must be crucified. That temporal part, of course, is your body, and there is a nature that is with it -- a nature that must be kept on the cross. That is part of the good fight of faith.

When the Lord changes your "vile body," giving you one like unto His glorious body (Phil 3:20-21), then, and only then, you will be free from "the body of this death" (Rom 7:25). Of course, the Lord gives "more grace" for this battle, so that we can be "more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

Who gets to decide which matters are core, and which ones are not?

We let God answer that. Core matters are what He emphasizes in His Word -- the theme upon which everything else is built. When Jesus or the Apostles addressed issues, what was the basis of their reasoning? With Jesus, He took it back to Himself, God who sent Him, and why He came. For example, in John 6:53-58, He hinged everything on a person ingesting Him. Many who heard Him were offended and left Him. Those who believed Him stayed with Him -- even though they might not have been able fully explain what He said.

With the Apostles, they took everything back to Jesus Christ, His atoning death, intercession . . . etc. Nothing is pivotal that does not have Jesus at its core. Nothing is central that does not absolutely require the death, burial, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession of Jesus. If whatever we talk about pushes those things into the background, we do everyone a favor by ceasing to speak of them. If we insist on making them critical issues, they will only stir up dust that will obscure what people need to know. Further, it is not possible to emphasize Jesus and at the same time have division, for Christ is not divided. Where division exists, someone has left Jesus on the side of the road.

There is an overriding message in Scripture -- a note that is, if you please, the melody. That note is not the church itself. It is not the role of men in the church. It is "the testimony of Jesus" that is "the spirit of prophecy" (Rev 19:10). We do not unite on "the Bible," but on Christ, of whom the Bible speaks. He is the heart and core of the Scriptures, for they "testify" preeminently of Him (John 5:39). The book of Leviticus is certainly Bible. But if Christ is not seen in its various types and ceremonies it becomes a stumbling stone.

Christ is big enough, and what He has accomplished and is presently doing at the right hand of God, is significant enough, to touch every single facet of human life. When motivating the Corinthians to give to the needs of brethren, Paul called them to consider that Jesus became poor that we might be made rich (2 Cor 8:9). When showing the total unacceptability of fornication, he declared they had been "bought with a price," and therefore belonged to God and were to glorify Him in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). You will find this same thread of reasoning throughout Apostolic writings.

If a discussion cannot be brought to a point where the Person and accomplishments of Jesus shed light upon it, it ought not to be given priority among men. As the Psalmist well said, "In Your light we see light" (Psa 49:19). If God Himself is not known (which knowledge IS eternal life, John 17:3), it becomes impossible to correctly know anything else. Arguments may be advanced that appear to be impregnable, but if Jesus is not at the heart of them, they are all intellectual chaff.

Every person that comes into Christ is at once united with everyone else that is in Him. As members of His body, their role is not to make unity, but to "KEEP the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." If they have difficulty identifying main things, the Spirit spells it out for them. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph 4:4-6). If that is not enough for them, they simply want too much. If that is too much for them, they require too little.

One word about Jesus praying for unity. I am afraid this prayer is often misrepresented, as though Jesus was praying for the organic unity of His people in the world. To be sure, that is involved, but our Lord's prayer involved much more than that. He did not stop with "that they may be one," but added "just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23). That is a unity that includes the Father and the Son, as Jesus said: "that they also may be one in Us" (John 17:21). That unity is not realized by agreement on the Bible, but by Jesus being in us, and God being in Him: "I in them, and You in Me." Jesus said the unity was accomplished by believers being in Him and the Father: "that they may be one in Us" (John 17:21).

Our Lord also explained the possibility of this unity, and did so in no uncertain words. "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one" (John 17:22). Where unity is not found, glory is also absent.

At some point Scripture itself must be held higher than interpretation -- i.e., Divine affirmation above human explanation. If people do, indeed, believe the Word of God, that does not mean they will see things exactly as we do -- at least not for the moment. However, when hearts are right, even though minds may be a bit fuzzy, God will bring the pure of heart to a proper understanding. This is seen in Paul's testimony to the Philippians concerning his own life. After outlining how he had abandoned and trashed every competing pursuit, he said his life consisted of stretching forward to lay hold on that for which Christ laid hold of him. He pressed to know Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings, and the power of His resurrection. Now that is actually the manner of the kingdom, for Jesus had already said if a person did not forsake all, he could not be His disciple (Luke 14:33). However, knowing that all souls did not yet perceive this, Paul did not form a "pressing forward" sect, leaving the others behind. Instead he urged "as many as are mature" to "have this mind" -- i.e., the mind he had just confessed he possessed. As for the others, he did not write them off, but relied upon the power of faith: "and if in any thing you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you:" (Phil 2:7-15). He then urged the people to live up to what they already knew, knowing what he had said would, in fact, take place if they did. "Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind" (Phil 3:16).

In my opinion, this is a frame of mine much to be coveted.

The following dialog was prompted by questions regarding who we should receive into our fellowship.

Ordinarily, I would not be inclined to take this discussion any further. However, I believe you have an inquiring spirit, and a desire to please the Lord in your thinking. I will tell you up front, that there are no fixed answers to your questions. The answers lie at the individual level, and in the realms of conscience, faith, and love.

It's still a bit theoretical.  While I'm guessing every one of us would agree with what you have written, we would still disagree on it's application.  For instance, it fails to answer the question about what to do when one of us accepts someone as a brother in Christ and another one of us doesn't.

It should be obvious to you that Scripture does not major on detailed applications. In fact, there are not many of them supplied at all. Such explanations were characteristic of the Law of Moses, but they are glaringly sparse, and sometimes absent in the New Covenant. It is in the activity of fellowship with Christ that our steps are directed, and truth is perceived. God has, of course, "called us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1:9). We are also specifically told that "all things that pertain to life and godliness" are appropriated "through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet 1:3, NASB). The knowledge of God, is the domain in which matters that are not spelled out in Scripture are settled -- and they are done so on an individual level, not a corporate one.

Further, issues relating to the acceptance of one another cannot be more complicated or demanding that issues relating to God accepting us. The Scriptures are clear about what is required for us to be accepted by God, both initially and on an ongoing basis. Those are the precise requirements for us accepting one another. Were these requirements provided in all manner of detailed answers to the dilemmas men create, most of us would be living on a mountain by ourselves. In addition, we would soon find that identity with God cannot be maintained on that level.

<< It fails to take into consideration that there are issues that are not directly addressed by God in the Word or that cannot be taken back to the person of Christ which we have to deal with when determining with whom we will or won't have fellowship. >>

How can issues not directly addressed by the Word of God possibly become a basis for who we will or will not include in our fellowship? In my opinion, time would be better spent figuring out the implications of that question. I think it is pointed in the wrong direction. If we are thinking about who we can or cannot fellowship upon the basis of "issues that are not directly addressed by God in the Word," we are simply wrong. We have made the criterion for fellowship with us more cumbersome than God has made for fellowship with Himself. That, to me, is an absurdity of the greatest proportions. If this is not the case, then God has left a lot of things unsaid about fellowship with Himself. If that is true, which I emphatically deny, it seems to me that the one assuming such a thing would be obligated to be silent on such issues himself -- at least as regards determining the scope of ones fellowship.

<<  It fails to recognize that the statement: "Nothing is pivotal that does not have Jesus at its core. Nothing is central that does not absolutely require the death, burial, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession of Jesus" serves as a creedal statement. >>

Perhaps I could have said it better. God is satisfied with what Jesus has accomplished (Isa 53:11). He has made everything relating to salvation, in all of its various aspects, wholly contingent upon His Son -- ALL judgment has been given to Him (John 5:22). This is the thrust of what Jesus and the Apostles taught. I could provide an exceedingly large list of texts that declare this, but you are a man of the Word and know them already. I cannot accept that there are some situations that allow for a departure from that circumstance.

<< 1)      The fella who believes in Christ, but thinks the Bible only "contains" the Word of God.  Unfortunately, you only find out about this error after he’s already become a member of the congregation you serve.  Do you then ask him to leave before he infects someone else?  How do your principles work out here? 

2)      The Elder’s wife who believes we should be compassionate to homosexuals because she believes there is a “gay gene,” but says that we should teach gays to be celibate so they won't disobey the commands of God.  (In other words, homosexual orientation is OK, homosexual behavior is not).  Will you kick her out of the church?  If not, will you allow her to teach the teenagers?  How do the principles work here?

3)      The man who comes to you from the local Assembly of God who believes that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today, but has been treated as a second-class Christian there because he doesn’t have the gift of speaking in tongues.  Are you going to treat him as a second-class Christian because he’s not a cessationist like you (provided that he agrees with you on Acts 2:38)?  How do we "let God answer that"?  How is this answered by taking it back to Jesus?

4)      The person who believes God created the world by means of the process of evolution.  Does that impinge in any way on the person of Christ and His work?  If so, how so?  >>

You are cutting out areas of responsibility for yourself that are purely self-imposed. As you are experiencing, they constitute a burden to your soul, and a yoke that is not easy to be borne. Furthermore, it is a yoke God has not placed upon you. It would be fine if such questions could be answered with such a note of finality as to dissolve all doubts, and instantly change the minds of the people. If such a thing was possible, it would have been unfolded, at least in part, in the fourteenth chapter of Romans. In that passage, there were two areas of disagreement among brethren: one relating to the eating of meats, and the other to the observance of special days. It is obvious from the text that those involved considered these things to be serious. However, rather than providing an inspired answer for the areas of contention, the parties at variance were told to refrain from judging one another or looking down on one another. They were told God had received them, not to cause one another to stumble, that they were not at liberty to judge another Man's servant, and were to be fully persuaded in their own mind. Both were told to do whatever they did unto the Lord, with a conscience to please and honor Him. They were also reminded they would give an account to God for what they did. I am sure their variances were as serious to them as the ones you have mentioned are to you. I am equally sure that Paul's sensitive heart would have preferred they did not exist at all. But they did exist, and both parties were solemnly told to get off the case of the other party and see to it that their own conduct was toward God, and with a knowledge they would eventually explain their view and life to God Himself.

The Corinthians had people in their assembly who did not even know there was one God. The assembly was instructed to avoid doing things that would lead such a person into defiling his conscience (1 Cor 8:4-13). Paul knew in the process of growth, the imperfect conscience of those brethren would be corrected. In the meantime, they were not to be drawn into damaging controversies.

This may all seem evasive, but it is not. When God does not give an answer, the question simply cannot be a basis for determining fellowship. That does not mean varying views are to be considered right. Nor, indeed, does it mean that we are to acquiesce with the views of others, or are to have none of our own. It does mean such differences are settled on a different level. They are not resolved in the area of polemics, logic, explanations, and the likes. They will be resolved in the domain of faith and love. Those are areas that open the way to the throne of grace, where help for the time of need will be dispensed -- and variance among brethren IS a time of a need.



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