Taking a Look at Family and Ministry


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When you are young you think you know it all, when you are old you realize you don’t and when you are older you realized what is valuable. As I write these words I am disgusted in many ways and for many reasons.

         I am 50-years-old. I am not young, but not too old either. I see things, some times, beyond the surface. To have any kind of discernment or any prophetic insight these days is not easy. If I am in the Spirit I can handle what I see better; but if I slip into the flesh I become very negative and complaint about everything… that is the truth!

         There are two things that disgust me, 1) to do ministry without intimacy with God, without discipleship and without fully honoring God’s Word and 2) when folks so comfortably give up their special time with family for careers, education, hobbies, social media and everything else. They sacrifice family as if that is the right thing to do, when in reality that is in indeed the wrong thing to do. Let me briefly deal with ministry first. In Mark 16:17-18 Jesus said,  

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (KJV)

         Why is it that I have seen very little of these signs in any ministry, including mine? These signs should be a normal part of the life of any believer. Now, I hear a lot of preaching and teaching; to that the Apostle Paul stated,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. First Corinthians 2:1-5 (KJV)

         Where is our faith standing, in the wisdom of men or in the power of God? We listen to a lot of teaching; some of those teachings are actually good, well prepared sermons and long series, but when was the last time you witness the power of God?

         Let me make something clear, the Apostle Paul is not discouraging preaching and teaching, the Bible identify us as disciples; a disciple, by definition, is somebody who is learning. In our case, we are learning the ways of the Lord. However, the Apostle Paul is discouraging preaching and teaching that focus on the wisdom of men or men’s ability to put a sermon together. Preaching and teaching that only has value if the preacher has a doctoral degree or some kind of impressive title as if, that is the prerequisite to attain any kind of credibility.

         Paul is emphasizing that our faith should not stand on men’s wisdom, but in the power of God. A simple teaching is able to entertain our intellect, as we stay comfortably in our sin, as we continue to distance ourselves from our families and as we continue our prayerless lives, but the power of God is able to do something that we all desperately need and that is… to be changed.

         See beloved, not only that there are signs that should follow any believer, but we must also understand that what brings forth that power is indeed the teachings of our Lord and not this selfish and man-centered gospel we are teaching today. To this Jesus said,

“…to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” John 8:31-37 (KJV)

         We can’t even be considered disciples of Christ if we are not committed to learning and following Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ teachings are truth and it is that truth that makes us free. So the first step to deliverance is to get in God’s Word and learn the teachings of our Lord. There is no freedom, no deliverance if we remain in ignorance. When we resist God’s Word that means that there is no room in our hearts for his teachings; that means that we rather follow our own way and not the way of Christ. If the Word of God insults you check your spirit, something is terrible wrong.

         Is important to point out that a disciple is not just a student. A student goes to school, complete a degree in a particular career for a particular job or skill. A disciple focuses on how to live for Christ; we are supposed to be dying to self and looking more and more like Jesus. We are supposed to be changing, growing and going from glory to glory. If this growth and maturity is not taking place you are not experiencing the power of God.

         An effective ministry is a yoke-breaking ministry because it is anointed by God (Isaiah 10:27). The Job Description of an effective ministry is clearly stated in Isaiah 61; it is the portion of Scripture chosen by our Lord to officially start his ministry on this earth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

         Ministry is a Godly instrument for change. An effective ministry leads us to dramatic changes as we die to self and become more and more like Christ. So in conclusion, as it refers to ministry, there should be tears, there should be repentance, there should be forgiveness and there should be physical and emotional healing. In general, there should be transformations taking place. Your ministry could be financially sound, your ministry could be growing in numbers, you could have the nicest building in the whole city, but if transformation is not taking place in the lives of those you are ministering to, your ministry represents a form of Godliness, but is clearly denying the power of God (2 Timothy 3:5). That means that you have become so sophisticated that you have closed yourself to the manifestations of the Spirit of God. Here on earth you may have honor, but in heaven your ministry is obsolete.

To be continued…

 

Are You Doing God’s Will or Your Own Thing?


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There is one characteristic of a man or a woman of God that brings all characteristics together and that is to be faithful to God. To be faithful to God means that we trust Him; to be faithful to God means that we obey Him and to obey God means that we love Him (John 14:15). To be faithful to God means to learn to die to self; that is because, being faithful to God does not mean doing the same thing year after year; being faithful to God is doing what He tells us to do faithfully.

            If I consider that God’s ways are higher and different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) we most also conclude that to be faithful to God forces us to deal with one little scary thing called, “Change”. There is no way to be faithful to God and remain in our comfortable zone… absolutely no way! The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

            As we look at Abraham having to leave his hometown and his people; as we look at Moses wondering in the desert for forty years; as I see the children of Israel fighting giants to conquer the promise land and, as I look at the Old Testament prophets risking their lives every time they spoke God’s truth, I realize, very quickly, than being faithful to God will always take us out of our comfortable zone. The same can be said about the New Testament characters. John the Baptize was decapitated six months after he started his ministry announcing the coming of the Lord. All of the original disciples were murdered with the exception of John. Don’t think for a minute John got it easy, they did tried to kill him, he did suffer persecution, but most of all, the pain of seen all of his friends dying. The Apostle Paul was also decapitated.

            When I look at how comfortable many of our lives are as Christians I wonder, what are we doing wrong? We want the glory, but we don’t want to change; we want the anointing, but without having to leave our neighborhoods and our jobs. In other words, folks refuse to let go of their identity, that place where everybody knows you, where you have a degree of expertise and where you are comfortable. Very few are willing to “start all over”; they just want to continue the status quo. I am sure when they die, somebody will call them faithful for working in the same place for 20 or 30 years; my question is, did God called them to do the same thing for 20 or 30 years? I am not too sure!

            Matthew 7:21 tells us  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” It seems like we take God’s will very lightly. I remember hearing a deacon in a church stating that God follow us and bless us as we do our thing. In other words it is God following us and not us following Him? I confronted this deacon with his stupidity, but I wonder how many even noticed the heresy of his statement.

            Jesus is not only our Saviour He is also our Lord. He becomes truly our Lord when we surrender our will to his. We can’t say that He is our Lord when in reality we exclusively follow our will. There are some special words from our Father that are only reserved for a very prestige group. These words are not reserve for those who call themselves Christians, but for those who were faithful in doing God’s will. We see those words in Matthew 5:23, “…Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 5:23 (NASB) On the other hand, for those who were unfaithful to God and follow their own will and ways, they will hear a different set of words, “…I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23 (NASB) Are you doing your own thing? Beloved to do our own thing is to practice lawlessness.

 

The New Testament Canon: Manmade or Divine?


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LIBERTY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY

The New Testament Canon:

Manmade or Divine?

Submitted to Dr. John M. Landers, in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the completion of the course

CHHI 520 DO6

History of Christianity 1

by

Angel Casiano

May 2016

Table of Contents

 Introduction…………………………………3

The New Testament is Real…………..……4

The Archeological Voice……………….…….4

The Announcement of a New Covenant….5

Where do we Look First? ……………………7

Apostolic Authority and Antiquity…………..8

Catholicity……………………………………..11

Orthodoxy………………………………………12

The Rule of Faith……………………………….12

Conclusion………………………………………14

Bibliography…………………………………….15

 Introduction

            There is much argument as to the validity of the Canon in regards to whether or not it was man-made or divinely inspired. There has also been, among the catholic community, a horrendous degree of heresy with a foundation of contradictions in regards to the Canon.

            Though much of the debates over this topic may end in emotional battles or webs of fallacies, the main intent for this paper is to establish that the canon of the New Testament is not a man-made activity, but indeed a divine one. Skeptics and Catholics alike embrace a man-made approach to the Canon while disregarding basic criterion. Even as this paper is addressing the skeptics by making an effort to establish an apologetic argument concerning the authenticity of the New Testament, an effort is also made to do apologetics from within. This paper will make an effort to show that God is not only the fountain of inspiration for the Scriptures,[1] but also the force behind the establishment of his own Word.

The New Testament is Real

The Archeological Voice

            Without necessarily dealing with which books should or should not be in the Bible, archeology gives us overwhelming evidence that a manuscript called the New Testament existed in antiquity. Skeptics may argue that they’re more or less books, that some books were left out, that there are secret books still out there or whatever the new argument is. However, any person with some basic common sense cannot intelligently argue against the reality of the New Testament. So before we enter into the canonical discussion, lets listen to the archeological voice.

            Discoveries ranging from evidence for the Tower of Babel, to Exodus, to the           Walls of Jericho, all the way to the tombs of contemporaries of St. Paul, have greatly enhanced the believability of the Bible.[2] 

            The Institute for Creation Research reports that the evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament is far greater than any other document of antiquity.[3] For example,

            The New Testament was written in first century A.D. There are some 20,000        manuscripts in existence. The earliest textual evidence we have was copied 100 years after the original. In contrast:

  • Caesar’s Gallic Wars was written in the first century B.C. There are only 10 manuscripts in existence. The earliest textual evidence we have was copied 1,000 years after the original.
  • Aristotle’s Poetics was written in the fourth century B.C. There are only 5 manuscripts in existence. The earliest textual evidence we have     was copied 1,400 years after the original.[4]

            The following table gives us an impressive look at how solid the archeological evidence of the New Testament is compared to other ancient writings. Pay attention to when the book was written, the earliest copy from the original date and the time span and how many manuscripts were written during that time.

Manuscript Evidence for Ancient Writings[5]

Author Written Earliest Copy Time Span # Mss.
Caesar 100-44 B.C. 900 A.D. 1,000 yrs 10
Plato 427-347 B.C. 900 A.D. 1,200 yrs 7
Thucydides 460-400 B.C. 900 A.D. 1,300 yrs 8
Tacitus 100 A.D. 1100 A.D. 1,000 yrs 20
Suetonius 75-160 A.D. 950 A.D. 800 yrs 8
Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 yrs 643
New Testament 40-100 A.D. 125 A.D. 25-50 yrs 24,000

There is no other document written in antiquity that can come close to the New Testament in terms of authenticity. Notice that the New Testament not only has the shortest time span between the original manuscripts and the first copy, but there were also far more copies made in that time period. The more copies made in the shortest period of time, especially with the fact that the printing press wasn’t invented yet, the greater the validity and accuracy.

            The number of New Testament copies is over thirty times the number of all the documents of antiquity combined. It is astonishing how some skeptics can completely refute any possibility as to the validity of the New Testament, and yet accept the validity of other writings with far less archeological evidence. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, for we know that Satan is the god of this world’s system![6]

The Announcement of a New Covenant

            The New Testament did not appear out of nowhere. The Old Testament clearly announces the establishment of the New Testament[7]. Jeremiah 31:31 states,

            “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant        with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the           covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a   husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make  with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My  people.” (NKJV)

            The most important aspect of these verses to gather, as far as the Canon of the New Testament is concern, is a very distinct link between the Covenants. Though often times the New and Old Testaments are seen as two different books, the Old Testament prophesies unify the texts. Jesus is the ultimate link between the Old and New Testament, as He is fulfilling the climax of the New Testament by quoting the Old. The Old Testament prophesies of the New Testament are set at approximately 600 years before the New Testament manuscript was written through the Prophet Jeremiah!

            Every single word from Genesis to Revelation was already in existence. This is not just a book; the Bible represents the very essence of the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (KJV) The Logos, we can say, is beyond our time and beyond our space.

            The reality is that many Christians do not know the first thing about the canon of Scripture; however they don’t need to know to believe, they know it by the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are so overwhelmingly true for the believer because it’s far beyond any other book; it is the heart of God, the Creator of heaven and earth. This will never be enough explanation for any skeptic, but we must also remember that God has made his existence obvious to every human being according to Romans 1:18-20[8]. In reality we are not dealing with skeptics and atheists, we are dealing with suppressors of God’s truth.

Where Do We Look First

            The Bible states in Revelation 22:19, “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (NKJV) Paul declares in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (NKJV)

            Changing, twisting, adding and taking away from God’s truth are satanic strategies that can be clearly seen through church history. Satan has done a remarkable job in planting seeds of doubt concerning the reliability of God’s Word. Satan told Eve “…You will not surely die,”[9] a statement that totally contradicted God’s instructions. The Catholic Church and its traditions is not the place we should be looking first for canonical answers. As a matter of fact we should not be looking at the catholic Church for any Biblical answer; that is because they have not only added to the Scriptures itself, they have also taken the liberty of establishing other divinely inspired elements.

            Roman Catholicism denies the ultimate authority of Scriptures alone (sola scriptura) and has consequently adopted the well-known trifold authority structure      that includes Scripture, tradition and magisterium (The church’s teaching authority). The key component in this trifold authority is the Magisterium itself, which authority teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church, primarily    manifested in the popes and his bishops.[10]

            The idea that something else outside of Scripture is divine is in fact the greatest obstacle against good theology and sound doctrine. Traditions and the teachings of the church should not be ignored; they are extremely important; however those traditions and teachings must be based on God’s Word. God’s Word represents the absolute truth. These liberties taking by the Catholic Church is what led to so many lies added to God’s Word; purgatory, the praying to dead saints, praying and the veneration of Virgin Mary and the list goes on and on. There is no telling what Pope Francis will come up with next.

            In a society that increasingly rejects absolutes, where everybody is free to have their own version of truth, it is vital that the Word of God be defended as the document that carries the acceptable dogmas for life given by God through the teachings of what is righteous according to God’s standard, not in accordance to an open and never ending idea of what is right and what is wrong according to liberalism.

            Looking at the Catholic Church’s definitions of their own Canon, it is easy to see their lack of respect for sound doctrine, their theological blindness and an arrogance that precipitated their falling away from the basic truths of Scriptures. In the Catholic Church’s arrogant attempt to define the canon, “the canon has so much become the church’s book that it is unable to be God’s book.”[11]

            In a serious study concerning the canon, the Catholic Church should not be taken seriously. In finding any answer to the canon we must find true orthodoxy. That orthodoxy can only be found through the original apostles.

Apostolic Authority and Antiquity

            The canon of the New Testament seems to be a complicated thing; after all, there were many books that claimed canonicity. However, when looking deeply at the matter, it was not a hard task. The focus of the canon is found in the apostles, not in the church’s fathers, not in Marcion’s sickly ideas of the canon, and not in the arrogance of the Catholic or any other church. To be able to identify the canon of the New Testament, we must look first at who did the writing. Ephesians 2:20 tell us, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” (NKJV).

            Antiquity gave us a strong tool to begin to identify the authenticity of the New Testament canon. This meant that in order for any writing to be considered a part of the canon, it needed to have been written by an apostle or by a direct associate of an apostle.[12] Any writings after 100 AD were automatically rejected.

            As we will see, authority and antiquity are not the only criterion to determine the canon of the New Testament; but they must be the first ones. There were apostolic fathers and disciples of the original apostles that were indeed men of integrity and whose contributions were phenomenal. Nevertheless, if we engage in trying to confirm the canon based on what the fathers of the church quoted, then some will pick and chose who they consider fathers of the church; after all, Second Timothy 4:3 gives us a very human characteristic, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;” (NKJV) Very clearly this means that we can get lost in quoting men with the objective of feeding confirmation for our selfish agendas.

            Did the apostles know they were writing the heart of God? Kruger speaks of Apostolic Self-Awareness.[13] Scriptures such as, 2 Peter 3:15-16, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved     brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard   to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction,  as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (NKJV)

            Notice that Peter was aware that Paul was writing Scripture. Also notice the uniformity of Scripture, “…in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things…” The Scripture has no contradictions! Lastly, notice at the end of this portion of Scripture that the twisting of God’s Word is not new. Skeptics continue to present suppose contradictions of Scripture that when looked at further are clearly not.

            First Thessalonians 2:13 tells us, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you  who believe.” (NKJV)

            People still have the choice today to look at this book as words from men or words from God. God has given us that choice. Nevertheless there is a promise on this verse that this book will effectively work in the lives of he who believes.

            There are other verses that are able to demonstrate that Apostolic Self- Awareness that Kruger is telling us about, I want to end this portion with these verses out of First Corinthians 14:37-38, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (NKJV)

            Again, expanding from some of the points I made earlier; Paul made it very obvious that if somebody is to be considered a true prophet or a spiritual person (Born Again Believer), they would have no problem recognizing God’s Word. Not recognizing God’s Word as true is indeed a sign that we are dealing with unbelievers who are blinded to God’s truth according to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.[14]

Catholicity

            Catholicity has nothing to do with the Catholic Church, as we know it: this term simply means universal. However, we must also remember that even the Catholic Church recognizes the same 27 books of the New Testament as the Protestants recognize.

            Obviously, as we stated before, the Catholic Church has gone beyond the Scriptures and continue to make claims of other sources for divinely inspired material. F. F. Bruce made the point, concerning the book of Hebrews that, “…the Roman Church ultimately consented to receive Hebrews as canonical so as not to be out of step with the rest of the orthodox Christendom.”[15]

            As Catholicity is used as criterion, the idea of secret and lost books is thrown out the window. The Scripture was not to be in the dark, but out in the open. “A work which enjoyed only local recognition was not likely to be acknowledged as part of the canon of the Catholic Scripture.”[16] It is said, that if all of the copies of the New Testament were burned, we will still be able reconstruct the New Testament almost in its entirety, based on the many quotes of the first and second century apostolic fathers and Christian writers.

Orthodoxy

The Rule of Faith

            Each of the early churches had a Rule of Faith. This was a set of basic doctrines     learned and confessed at baptism, somewhat centered around a confession of the         Trinity (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 11).[17]

            The point that I want to make here, and it is perhaps the strongest point I would like to make, is that after we deal with the antiquity of a book written during the apostolic age, the best way to determine if that book was part of the canon is by simply assessing what that book teaches. The fact that the original apostles were fighting Gnosticism, in part, made it relatively easy to get rid of heresy. Heresy was actually made obvious to pinpoint!

            Gnosticism comes from the Greek word Gnosis, meaning knowledge. They claim that Salvation is gained not through Jesus Christ, but through special knowledge. From the pulpits of many churches during the times of the original apostles, the Gnostics presented their heresy by teaching that there is a god outside of the Old Testament God who was so pure and so perfect that he viewed all matter as evil; therefore, they presented the God who created the Universe as an evil god.[18]

            “The danger of Gnosticism is easily apparent. It denies the incarnation of God as the Son. In so doing, it denies the true efficacy of the atonement since, if Jesus is    not God, He could not atone for all of mankind, and we would still be lost in our  sins.”[19]

            So after apostolic antiquity and catholicity was established, the deal could only be sealed by the Orthodoxy brought forth by the apostles. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 allowed us to see that there was indeed an orthodox apostolic tradition, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (NKJV). “They had had to defend the Apostolic Teaching, summed up in the rule of faith, against the docetic and gnostic presentations which were so attractive to many in the climate of opinion at the time.”[20] This statement of faith expanded as heresies expanded, but it always came straight out of Scripture. We can learn so much from the work of Irenaeus.

            “The tradition that carried authority with the apostolic churches—the churches the           apostles started themselves—was the body of tradition given to them by the apostles. Those churches believed it was their job—and, more specifically, the job  of the elders—to preserve that tradition unchanged. Irenaeus, a noted bishop of the late 2nd century, explains the process as an answer to gnostic heresies:

            We refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, which is            preserved by means of the succession of elders in the churches. (Irenaeus, Against       Heresies III:2:2, emphasis mine)”[21]

            That orthodoxy includes the following nonnegotiable truths of Scripture: 1) God is the Creator of the universe. 2) God is good. 3) Because of Adam’s sins there is a need for redemption. 4) Redemption can only be found through Jesus Christ. 5) Jesus was all human and all divine. 6) Jesus’ death and resurrection was real and the foundation of our faith.

            You will be able to find a Scripture to support every single one of these and many other points.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, through the various subjects presented, it is clear that the canon of the New Testament is not a subject that can be ignored by the skeptics and twisters of the word. Archeology and the curious instances of prophesy are voices speaking to the skeptics. The Apostles are a voice to the Catholics. The canon of the New Testament is not a man-made tradition. No word from a man that is considered half of the world and half with God can challenge the true canon. No skeptic can dismiss the archeological foundation of the canon. There are firm grounds as to why the 27 books agreed upon by the Protestant Church are the true canon of the New Testament. These books have no contradictions and are verified through the apostles, who were tasked with ensuring that Jesus’ pure gospel would be released, unchanged and unaltered by the many enemies of the faith and their personal agendas.

            Oh, how much we need to go back to the rule of faith! How much we need to go back to the teachings of the apostles, to our core beliefs, to our dogmas and to the smell of blood shed by our Lord, by the prophets and by the apostles as they gave us the gift of what is right, what is perfect, what is beneficial, what is powerful, what is pure and what is… the canon of the New Testament!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Archeological Evidence, http://bibleevidences.com/archeology.htm

Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988.

Deem, Rich. Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibleorg.html

New King James Bible

Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

Slick, Matt. Gnosticism, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, https://carm.org/gnosticism

The Manuscripts. http://www.icr.org/bible-manuscripts/

http://www.icr.org/bible-message

The Council of Nicea, Part II, The Rule of Faith, http://www.christian-history.org/rule-of-faith.html

http://www.theopedia.com/marcion

 

 

[1] 2 Timothy 3:16

[2] Archeological Evidence, http://bibleevidences.com/archeology.htm

[3] The Manuscripts, http://www.icr.org/bible-manuscripts/

http://www.icr.org/bible-message

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rich Deem, Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original, http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibleorg.html

[6]

[7] Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited, 166-170

[8] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV)

[9] Genesis 3:4

[10] Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 39

[11] Ibid., 66.

[12] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 259

[13] Kruger, Canon Revisited, 184

[14] “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

[15] Ibid., 263

[16] Ibid., 262

[17] The Council of Nicea, Part II, The Rule of Faith, http://www.christian-history.org/rule-of-faith.html

[18] Matt Slick, Gnosticism, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, https://carm.org/gnosticism

[19] Ibid.

[20] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 260

[21] The Council of Nicea, Part II, The Rule of Faith, http://www.christian-history.org/rule-of-faith.html

I am Not Called to Change the World


a-peaceful-place-michael-mrozik

I believe that one of the ideas that continue to consume our pulpits is the idea that we, as Christians, are called to change the world. Many also go as far as blaming the Christians for the condition of the world.

         I have been a member of many local churches. Personally, I have been a pastor of two small congregations and I am the first to tell you that we, the church, are not where we are suppose to be. Nevertheless, part of the reason for that reality is that we are focusing on the wrong thing.

         But how do we relate to this world system? What is our responsibility?

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus announced the essence of his job description and in fact, the job description of all of us as Christians,

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (NKJV)

 

         The reasons for the anointing of God in our lives is clear: 1) To preach the gospel to the poor. 2) To heal the brokenhearted. 3) To proclaim liberty to the captives. 4) To recover the sight to the blind. 5) To set at liberty those who are oppressed. And, 5) To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. None of these reasons speak about changing the world; changing laws or the constitution.

         We will never eradicate this world system; that is because we are not called to do so. God will destroy this system in one hour! Revelation 18:10 tells us,  standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.” (NKJV)

         Beloved, we are not from here; we are citizens of heaven.[1] We are vessels of clay[2] in the hands of God. Our greatest evangelistic tool is to love one another, for the Bible tells us in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NKJV).

         We need to fix our house, get back to the pure teaching of God’s Word and sound doctrine. We need to make room and prepare our hearts to receive new disciples, teach them and equip them in the Lord and send them out so that they can do the same for others.

         We go and make disciples by going into the highways and compelling them to come.[3] We go and feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, reach out to the stranger, cloth the naked, look after the sick and minister to those in prison.”[4] We give them, not a man-made religion, but the pure and undefiled religion that does not ignore the orphans and widows in their troubles.[5]

         We need to cleanse ourselves from the mediocrity of our teaching and preaching, from our compromising views, from our political correctness, from our spiritual laziness, from our denominational worship, from our distractions and ultimately, from our lack of faith in believing that God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.

 

 

 

 

[1] Philippians 3:20

[2] 2 Corinthians 4:7

[3] Luke 14:23

[4] Mathew 25:35-36

[5] James 1:27

A Letter to an Atheist


Atheists-right

You hate me because of my faith; but deep inside that is not really the problem. At the heart of your hate is your hate for God.[1] You don’t want me to spread my message of hope; but in your hypocrisy, you fight, not only against my God, but also to spread your atheist views.

         You want to set people free from religion; I want to set them free from the consequences of sin and give them hope through Christ. We both should be able to be free to do what we think is right for the world; but you fight against my right to do so.

         You want to prove everything through science, you demand evidence; you demand a sign, but the Lord will only show you one sign, the most ridiculous one, the sign of Jonah.[2]

         For some of you, your hate will last until the very last hour, your punishment for all eternity. For all eternity you will be expressing your hate against my God back and forth, back and forth… for all eternity. For all eternity you will be drinking from the bitter cup of your rebelliousness; for all eternity you will be burning and you will feel thirst without any possibility of drinking a glass of fresh water[3]. But the words of your mouth will be evidence of the righteousness of God. The words of your mouth will be evidence against you, for some of you will refuse to repent even in your torment and pain.[4]

         God gave you the freedom to follow or reject Him.[5] Then you use that freedom to blame every evil thing on God; the matter of suffering is your issue; it is not that you need evidence of His existence. God made his existence obvious[6], He gave you morals[7], He show you His power[8] and His authority as the Godhead[9]. You know of His judgments, but not only that you go against His righteousness; you made the decision to suppress His truth and promoted your demonic agenda.[10]

         The reality of the life, dead and resurrection of Christ is your scientific answer, but you live to mock Christ and to mock the story of God’s creation. You reject God’s knowledge in exchange for your foolishness.[11] The wrath of God is upon you.[12]

         You proposed for a divorce between science and God. Romans 1:22-23 describe your foolish arrogance, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (NKJV)

         It is my prayer that my love for you overcomes your hate for me and for my God. It is my prayer that the love of God arrest your heart and that you conclude, in your heart, that my God is good[13] and that His judgments are true and righteous[14]. It is my prayer that you repent for your blasphemies.

         It is my prayers that you realize that God’s ways are higher than our ways.[15] At the end of this dimension of life only God’s people will enjoy His glory, not because we are better, but because the holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. His humiliation is the heart of our salvation.[16]

         There is an end-time revival coming, the pouring out of God’s Spirit[17]. His Shekinah glory will fill the earth[18]. The last call for his salvation will come to an end. The time will come when He will no longer be found.[19] The closing of His time of grace and the manifestation of His judgment are quickly approaching. In the mix of your hostility I give you the Gospel, the good news that it does not have to end this way. God loves you! He is the redeemer, who will make all things right, but who will also judge all things.

 

 

 

 

[1] “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18 (KJV)

[2] “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Matthew 12:38-39 (NKJV)

[3] Luke 16:14-31

[4] Revelation 16, Luke 16:24 and Mark 9:43

[5] “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NKJV)

[6] Romans 1

[7] Romans 2:14-15

[8] Romans 1

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Psalm 14:1

[12] Romans 1

[13] Psalm 136:1

[14] Revelation 19:2

[15] Isaiah 55:9

[16] John 3:16

[17] Acts 2:7

[18] Habakkuk 2:14

[19] Isaiah 55:6

The Resurrection of Our Lord: The Foundation of Our Faith


the_resurrection_day_

Beloved brothers and sisters; if you don’t know anything else know the facts surrendering the death and resurrection of our Lord. In I Corinthians 15:1-21 Paul gives  us the magnitude of the importance of the resurrection.

 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.” NKJV

         The resurrection of Christ is indeed the foundation of our faith. Without it there is no Christianity. The existence of God is clearly seen in nature according to Romans.[1] If you are a serious student of the cosmos, physics, mathematics, science in general and somebody who is able to make a simple observation of the beauty and complexity of nature, there is no way you can deny the existence of a Designer. Every human being knows that God is real; nevertheless, many chose to suppress the truth and are currently objects of God’s wrath.[2]

         It is the resurrection of Christ that seals the matter of God’s existence. Jesus was real! He impacted the world like non other. Our time was divided to before and after Him. He was the fulfillment of many prophecies; no other religion can claim that! He was never out argued; He walked in power performing many wonders, signs and miracles; no other religion can claim that! He stated that He was the Son of God; He announced his own death, He also announced His own resurrection and, guess what? His resurrection is a historical fact; only an idiot denies this amazing fact.

         His death was a public death, witnessed by believers and unbelievers. More than 500 hundred witnesses testified of his resurrection. The tomb used to bury my Lord was not cheap and was not a secret, but was the tomb of a rich and recognizable figure by the name of Joseph of Arimathea.[3] This is significant because that tomb’s location was not only known, but also heavily protected. Nevertheless, the greatest evidence we have of the resurrection is that the tomb is empty. No other religion can do claim that!

         Happy resurrection Sunday!

[1] “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” Romans 1:19-20 (NKJV)

[2] Romans 1:18

[3] Mark 15:43

Atheism and Us


hitchensanddawkins

If you, as an atheist, tell me that you hate God and religion, I believe you. If you as an atheist blame God for all death and injustices in the world, if you don’t like how God does things, if you blame him for every rape, slavery and every evil in the world, I believe you. But if you tell me that you don’t believe that God exist, you are deceiving yourself.

         Brothers and sisters of the Christian faith, you probably have not heard these terms before, but get use to because they are defining our societies. Humanism is defined as “Any system of thought or action concerned with the interests or ideals of people … the intellectual and cultural movement … characterized by an emphasis on human interests rather than … religion.” Secular Humanism is defined as, “a comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating:

  • A naturalistic philosophy
  • A cosmic outlook rooted in science
  • A consequentialist ethical system”[1]

          Beloved, this is what is happening in our nation and this is what is happening in Europe. These folks are convinced that they are great intellectuals; however, God does not agree, in Romans 1:22 the Bible tells us, about these folks, Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (NKJV).

         They subscribe to the Advancement worldview; this is a worldview that believes that we are progressing, that we are advancing as a society, without the need for God or any supernatural intervention. In this worldview the claim is that God is not real and that if he is, he is not needed, we can progress on our own.[2] Because Satan is the god of this world[3] and because his job is to move the whole world away from God and towards him, he is accelerating the growth of this worldview.

         When the focus of life is anything but God, we serve the devil. Romans 1:21 tells us, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” (NKJV) This focus on us is a clear sign of the last days; the bible tells us that “…men will be lovers of themselves…”[4]

         Later, I will give you Biblical instructions on how to deal with the new atheist. But lets us take time now and look at five biblical truths that we all know, even if we refuse to recognize them.

  1. Everybody knows of God’s existence. (Romans 1:18-20)[5]
  2. Everybody knows of God’s power. (Romans 1:18-20)[6]
  3. Everybody knows that God is the ultimate authority. (Romans 1:18-20)[7]
  4. Everybody knows of God’s judgment against evil. (Romans 1:32)[8]
  5. Everybody knows of God’s law. (Romans 2:14-15)[9]

         Let me also tell you that today’s atheist are the worst; they are not seeking truth; they are passionate about destroying any form of religion around the world. It is funny to me that the late Christopher Hitchens, a self proclaim atheist would spend so much time and energy in writing a book entitle, God is not Great: How Religion Poison’s Everything. I assure you, Christopher Hitchens new that God was real; he for sure know now!

         These atheists are changing societies; they are successfully infiltrating cultures; that is, including ours. Atheism, by far, has being directly responsible for the murderess of millions, more than any ideology in the history of humanity, that is, including the Catholic Church and Radical Islam combine. Communism is a total rejection of God; atheism shines is communist governments and societies. Now lets take a look at these horrendous statistics.

“…the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto. Communist China up to 1987, but mainly from 1949 through the cultural revolution, which alone may have seen over 1,000,000 murdered, is the second worst megamurderer. Then there are the lesser megamurderers, such as North Korea and Tito’s Yugoslavia. Obviously the population that is available to kill will make a big difference in the total democide, and thus the annual percentage rate of democide is revealing. By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his crew likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot’s rule of slightly over just over 2 to 1. In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century’s international and domestic wars. Yet the probable number of murders by the Soviet Union alone–one communist country– well surpasses this cost of war. And those murders of communist China almost equal it.”[10]

            I mention these facts because atheist love to blame us for religious crimes, but they may need to look at themselves. We as born again Christians are not perfect people; God is still working in us and through us, but we have never had a murderous agenda. Again, there were crimes committed by the Catholic Church that we get blame for, however one must understand that born again Christians were also getting killed during time.

         Now, todays’ atheists, in general, are not mass murderess. As a matter of fact, many of them are good people, according to normal society expectations. They are intellectuals and that, I admire about them. They criticize us for being ignorant, non-intellectuals, against science and so on. In part, they are right about some of these accusations. There is a wing of the Body of Christ that embraces ignorance. If you want to hear sermons about how to get rich and do things without effort go for the charismatic church. If you want to get into a deep theological topic about God and answer the tough questions you will have to go to the more orthodox wing of our family of believers.

         This secular humanism ought to encourage us to know our faith more, to study, to show ourselves approve, to rightly divide the Word of truth[11] and to basically know what we are made of. However, let me also say that there is a Biblical way to respond to this foolishness and that is, by not responding at all. We need to be aware of them, love them and pray for them, but if God gave them up,[12] what do you think we are going to gain by debating them?

         The Bible tells us that a fool says in his heart that there is no God.[13] In Proverbs 26:4-5 the Bible gives us specific instructions,

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

Lest you also be like him.

Answer a fool according to his folly,

Lest he be wise in his own eyes. (NKJV)

         The word “Folly” here has a very interesting meaning in the original language. It is the word, “anoia, meaning without understanding, senselessness, it denotes violent or mad rage, “madness.”[14] When dealing with an atheist, the first thing they want to do is to take Jesus and the Word out of the equation. Some are as ignorant as to question that the historical Jesus even existed.

         When we allow these fools to take away the Bible from us, we are indeed responding to them according to their folly. The warning for us as Christians is that we can become like them. We can find ourselves thinking that we are wise in our own opinion. When we take God’s Word and our precious testimony out of the debate, we position ourselves in a place of defending God. Does God need anybody to defend Him? When we do that we, without realizing it, we also make them wise in their own eyes.

         Nobody will come to Christ via the intellect; salvation is a gift from God given to us by grace through faith; it requires no works.[15] First Peter 3:15 tells us, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (NKJV) Notice that the Bible encourages us to be ready to make a defense; that is the word Apology, meaning verbal defense. But what is it that we are called to defend, God? Absolutely not; what we are defending is the reason for our faith to whomever takes the time to ask. The idea that we go around debating people and requesting debating this or that person is not biblical.

         You may ask, what about if they, the atheist call us for a public debate? If they ask, should we go? The question is for what? They are oppressors of God’s truth and the wrath of God is upon them; again, if God turn them over, why debate? We are dealings with debased minds.[16]

         So what do we do with these oppressors of God’s truth? We pray for them; they are objects, not of God’s love, but of God’s wrath. We pray that they may repent of their sin and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

         Lastly, I am convinced that the ministry of apologetics is biblical, is sound, and is real and necessary. This ministry defends the core values of our faith. Because of this reality I believe that we have plenty of apologetics to do from within, from within all who call themselves Christians.

         We, as Christians, are facing a greater issue amongst ourselves. An issue that is worst before the eyes of God, than the demon of secular humanism, it is call the lukewarm spirit spoken in Revelation 3:15-17,

 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— (NKJV)

          Beloved, what I see here is the prosperity gospel’s heresy that is consuming our churches. Secular humanism is a worldly thing; it is what is expected from the world, the lukewarm spirit is in our congregations, is in our pulpits, Sunday schools, etc. God is saying that He prefers that we were on fire for him, but his second option is coldness, that is what you get with these new atheists, a high level of coldness. However, it is those in the vomit zone that God despises the most; these are the ones that causes God to feel nauseated.

         I pray that we be a people on fire for God, passionate about His Word, passionate about sound doctrine, pursuing good theology, respecting our dogmas and what is unchanging… the orthodoxy of our faith. Yes, we are open for change, the change that our Lord directs; that change will never over-right God’s Word, but must, like everything else, submit to Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Council for Secular Humanism, https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/3260

[2] Russ L Bush, The Advancement: Keeping the Faith in an Evolutionary Age, Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003.

[3] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[4] 2 Timothy 3:2

[5] “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (New King James Version)

[6] Same as above

[7] Same as above

[8] “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (New King James Version)

[9] “or when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)” (New King James Version)

[10] R. J. Rummel, How Many Did Communist Regimes Murder, https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM

[11] 2 Timothy 2:15

[12] “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:24-27 (NKJV)

[13] Psalm 14:1

[14] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 245.

[15] “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

[16] Romans 1:18-32

The Resurrection of Jesus


the_resurrection_day_

12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. First Corinthians 15:12-19 (KJV)

             Like an attorney who walks back and forth in the courtroom pleading his case on behalf of his client with great confidence; knowing that he has everything necessary to win a case, similarly, we see the Apostle Paul making this powerful statement in First Corinthians 15:12-19. These verses sound like a challenge to whoever dares to question the resurrection of our Lord.

            Before we get into the resurrection discussion, I believe that first we should know some basic facts about Jesus’ existence.

            1. He existed as a man. The historian Josephus grew up in a priestly family in first-century Palestine and wrote only decades after Jesus’ death. Jesus’ known associates, such as Jesus’ brother James, were his contemporaries. The historical   and cultural context was second nature to Josephus. “If any Jewish writer were  ever in a position to know about the non-existence of Jesus, it would have been     Josephus. His implicit affirmation of the existence of Jesus has been, and still is,   the most significant obstacle for those who argue that the extra-Biblical evidence is not probative on this point,” Robert Van Voorst observes. And     Tacitus was careful enough not to report real executions of nonexistent people. 2. His personal name was Jesus, as Josephus informs us. 3. He was called     Christos in Greek, which is a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, both   of which mean “anointed” or “(the) anointed one,” as Josephus states and Tacitus implies, unaware, by reporting, as Romans thought, that his name was Christus. 4. He had a brother named James (Jacob), as Josephus reports. 5. He won over   both Jews and “Greeks” (i.e., Gentiles of Hellenistic culture), according to Josephus, although it is anachronistic to say that they were “many” at the end of his life. Large growth in the number of Jesus’ actual followers came only after his death. 6. Jewish leaders of the day expressed unfavorable opinions about him, at least according to some versions of the Testimonium Flavianum. 7. Pilate rendered the decision that he should be executed, as both Tacitus and Josephus          state. 8. His execution was specifically by crucifixion, according to     Josephus. 9. He was executed during Pontius Pilate’s governorship over Judea (26–36 C.E.), as Josephus implies and Tacitus states, adding that it was  during Tiberius’s reign.”[1]

            In making the case for the resurrection of Christ we must start by stating that Jesus spoke with great authority, that there is not one instant when Jesus was out-argued, he thought things unknown by man, he was a man of great compassion, a man of character, a worker of miracles and a man whose life was the very fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.[2] Most importantly, Jesus himself predicted his own death and resurrection.[3]

The historical facts of the death, the empty tomb, and the postmortem appearances of Jesus

      Groothuis tells us about Minimal Facts and Maximal Result: Resurrection[4]; he pointed out that Apologists such as William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas and Richard Swinburne effectively use these method. 1) Death by crucifixion: “It is a well-established fact of history that Jesus died by crucifixion in the early 30s.” As we know, crucifixion was a public death. Groothuis also points out that the public crucifixion offered biblical and extrabiblical material witnesses. 2) Burial in a known tomb: Jesus was buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.[5] This is a very important detail because that indicates an exact location for Jesus’ tomb. The Bible tells us,

“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”[6]

3) The Empty Tomb: Groothuis reminds us that all four gospels speak of the empty tomb. He also states that this testimony was given to Paul in First Corinthians 15. Paul got his information from reliable eye witness sources who were still alive during his time and who provided him with these sources within only 25 years or less of the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I have no doubts that the Apostle Paul was alive during the death and resurrection of Christ and perhaps, he grew up listening to such story; a story that he learned to hate as he himself was a persecutor of the church.[7] The story is not fictional! Lastly, all gospel accounts pointed out that the women were first in making this claim of the empty tomb. At first, this fact does not seem important. However, if this story were to be made up, they would have not used women because during that time the testimony of a woman did not have much credibility.[8]

      4) The Postmortem Appearance of Jesus: Groothuis give us 12 biblical witness accounts of folks who saw Jesus after the resurrection, starting with Mary Magdalene, other women, Peter, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, ten apostles, eleven apostles, seven apostles, all the apostles, five hundred disciples who Paul states that many were still alive during his time according to First Corinthians 15:6. Also James was an eyewitness, again all disciples saw him together one more time and then the Apostle Paul.[9]

The transformation of Jesus’ disciples

       Without a doubt there was a deep and profound transformation that took place in the character of all the disciples. Groothuis points out that among other things, neither of the disciples, but John, were there during the crucifixion. Even as Jesus alluded of his own death and resurrection, it is obvious that the disciples did not believe him. These men could not even pray for one hour.[10] However, there was an explosion that took place after the resurrection; these men were totally transformed. The National Geographic Channel “Killing Jesus” and many other sources explained in details how these original apostles died horrible death for their believe in Jesus.

      Simon was crucifies up side down, Andrew was scourged and the tied rather than nailed to a cross so that he would last longer; he died two days later; James (Son of Zebedee) was beheaded; it is said that his accuser repented, was moved by James courage and asked to be executed with James; they did tried to kill the Apostle John but he was the only one who died of all age. I guess his greatest torture was to see his friends die one by one. Phillip was also crucified, it is said that Bartholomew was either crucified or skinned alive and beheaded; Thomas was killed with spear, Matthew was stabbed in the back, James (Son of Alphaeus) was killed by stoning and hitting him in the head by a club; Jude was crucified and Simon the Canaanite.[11]

      There is no doubt that these men and many others, during that time, were radically changed; their passion was use mightily to powerfully introduced Christianity to the world.

      They’re other valuable explanations for the effect of the resurrection of Christ. 1) A passionately worship of Jesus a very unlikely thing to do for a Jew during that time. A Jew would have never worship a man. 2) Circumstantial evidence: Contrary the custom of the time of honoring the Sabbath according to the law of Moses, Christian changed the day of worship to Sundays in honor of the resurrection of Christ that took place on a Sunday. This was a constant reminder of the resurrection of our Lord; it was indeed center to their message. 3) Spiritual Experiences can be added; but this may be one more valuable for the believer than the skeptic.[12] Groothuis states,

      “When taken together, these multiple lines of evidence, both documentary and       circumstantial, lead us to a Christless tomb, a dead man found supernaturally alive          and a dynamic group of followers who turned the ancient world upside down.”[13]

Alternative naturalistic explanations

      Some of these naturalist explanations are 1) That these witness were hallucinating. However, this can be easily disproved. Groothuis explained that the disciples were shocked at the first report of the resurrection according to Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:24-26. Also, Groothuis argue that it is impossible for that many people, in different times and spaces be shocked.[14]

      Other naturalist explanations are a Christian conspiracy and that somebody stole his body. Gary Habermas, a Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman, Department of Philosophy and Theology, at Liberty University, made the point that we have less evidence to the existence of Alexander the Great that to the validity of the resurrection of Christ.[15]

Why one of the alternative naturalistic explanations presents the greatest challenge, and what you believe is the best response.

            Perhaps the greatest challenge against the resurrection by these truth oppressors is the fact that, at first there seems to be minor discrepancies in the way the story is told. However, for a truth seeker and with a little study on the matter, as Groothuis suggest, the harmony of these narratives of the story of the resurrection can be found. There are many differences stories told by different writers through history, but these skeptics seems not to have a problem accepting these stories as truth.

            Groothuis gives an excellent example of how historians have a system in place to harmonize seemingly contradictions in the account of stories, 1) The assumption of differences; the reality that the same story told by two or more writers is bound to have some differences in it, and, 2) The complexity of truth that establishes that many times the truth can be found in both seemingly contradicted stories.[16] The bottom line is that when looking at the story of the resurrection; the fact of the resurrection itself is clear in all accounts.

            I have been watching a lot of debates since I started this class and one thing is obvious, we have a new generation of philosopher, scientist, etc. who identify themselves as atheist that are not seeking the truth, but in fact oppressing it. It seems like there is no effective argument that can be presented for them to even recognize possibilities that differ from their foolish assertions. They have done a great job in disregarding and mocking the Bible as a fiction book that can’t be trusted.

            It seems to me that these arguments presented by Groothuis are very edifying and encouraging for us as Christians who already believe the truth of the resurrection of Christ. I am also aware that for serious scholars, regardless of their beliefs, these are indeed solid arguments. I am not too sure these arguments presented by Groothuis offer any meaningful objection to this generation of truth oppressors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” by Lawrence Mykytiuk originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily on December 8, 2014.

[2] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers Groove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 535

[3] John 2:18-22

[4] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 539-546

[5] “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” Matthew 27:57-61King James Version (KJV)

[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 27:57–60.

[7] For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. First Corinthians 15:9 (KJV)

[8] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 544

[9] Ibid. 546

[10] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 351

[11] Patrick J. Kiger, How did the Apostles Die, National Geographic Channel: Killing Jesus, http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/killing-jesus/articles/how-did-the-apostles-die/ February 19, 2015

[12] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 552- 554

[13] Ibid. 555

[14] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 556-558

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M

[16] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 561-562

An Enemy Called Formality


A man pushing or resisting (isolated on white)
A man pushing or resisting (isolated on white)

Today as I was taking a walk during my lunch break at work, I started thinking about one word, “Formality”. “A formality is something that follows traditional rules. Even though you knew your request for time off at work would be approved, you still went through the formality of filling out all the required paperwork. Formality also means to align with customs or etiquette. In this way, a formality is often something that’s more symbolic than necessary.” (vocabulary.com)

Formality requires a group of “experts” on the “proper way of doing things”. In the church today we have many experts on formality, but very little anointing. Formality does not promote, spontaneity, questions or discussions of any kind. Even their “fellowship” becomes filled with formalities.

One of the greatest challenges the church is facing today is indeed “formality.” The Pentecostals have their formalities, the Baptists have theirs, the Presbyterians, the Catholics, the Charismatic Black Church, the Latinos, etc. Formality is everywhere; but we should not pursue formalities; we should be organic in our relationship with God and in our relationship with one another.

For something to be organic it must derived from living organism. Have you noticed that organic foods are usually smaller? However, they are richer in substance and in taste. A formal church is usually boring and the focus becomes the order of service. An organic church is alive because it embraces a lifestyle of listening to God.

When you bring a small group of people and they spontaneously engage in conversations there is no pressure; it may start a little awkward, but if you have a group of true believers; they will always bring up the love of their lives…Jesus Christ! However, as soon as we make it look formal people gets nervous.  It becomes a public speaking event.

Jesus did it all; He spoke to large groups, in the Synagogues, to the disciples only and to individuals. But everything was organic and not formal. We never read that Jesus was the guess speaker; He just spoke.

Is amazing to me that the Bible makes reference to listening to our conversations, yet no reference to God listening to our Bible Studies and sermons!

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,

And the Lord listened and heard them;

So a book of remembrance was written before Him

For those who fear the Lord

And who meditate on His name. Malachi 3:16 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in Bible Studies where you have a few that seem to love to listen to themselves and share their great revelations, but when you catch them, “just talking” outside of Bible studies, Jesus is the last topic they chose to talk about it?

It is easy to put a Bible Study together; it is easier to just sit there and punch the clock, but if you want to see somebody’s heart, just listen to his or her conversation; that’s the real deal (Matthew 12:34). As my wife and I open our home for Bible Studies and fellowship, the challenge becomes to bring down traditions of man and enter into a place where we as God’s people can be free.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV)