July 14, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I was reading Ezekiel 33 this morning, and verses 7-9 state perfectly why I feel the need to write here at Dignoscentia.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”
As a believer in God and in God’s Law, I feel the need to share what I have learned from the Bible with others, in the hope that if they’re doing something that may be wrong, they might learn it’s wrong and turn from it. I’m not saying what I write is necessarily right — who knows, I could be wrong too — but at least I’m trying to shed light on the truth. I’ve always said that it’s each person’s responsibility to seek out the truth for themselves. It’s not about forcing people to believe in certain things or behave in certain ways. It’s about letting them make free, yet informed choices about their beliefs. If I can only get someone thinking and searching for the truth and for the right path in their life, then I’ve done my job.
Here’s how God feels about it:
“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right — if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.”
“None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.”
Those were verses 11-16 in the same chapter (33) in Ezekiel. Now isn’t that something to rejoice about?
April 11, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The byline for this psalm is “a psalm, a song for the Sabbath day”. It’s yet another mention (among countless in the Bible) of the Sabbath’s importance, and I’m not referring to the false Sabbath of Sunday, which many obstinate and misguided churches are lobbying for, but the true Sabbath, Saturday, which was sanctified by God from the creation of the Earth.
As a photographer, I couldn’t agree more with verse 5: “How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” The more time I spend in nature, seeking natural beauty, and the more I examine that beauty, the more I realize how great God’s work truly is, and how beautiful He made this Earth before we spoiled it. As for the second part of this verse, I don’t know if we’ll ever know how profound God’s thoughts can be. We are too limited to realize how He thinks, how much He loves us, and how He cares for us.
The rest of the psalm is eschatological, and includes clear references to the destruction of the wicked, and to everlasting life with God, in heaven and here on the renewed Earth:
“Though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” (verse 7)
“For surely Your enemies, O LORD, surely Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (verse 9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (verses 12-14)
Verse 15 echoes the promises made in Daniel and the Revelation, that all will realize God’s perfect nature and goodness, and will proclaim it aloud, saying: “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Not all of the promises made in this psalm are prophetic. Some are for the present. Verses 10 and 11 say:
“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.”
My Bible’s footnotes indicate the term “horn” refers here to one’s strength. The original Hebrew version is likely even clearer on that meaning. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that God sometimes blesses His faithful ones during their lifetimes, not just in heaven. He chooses the time and method, but when He pours out His blessings over them, there is no mistaking His hand. I can attest to this myself, and I’m sure many others can. When we’re in the direst of circumstances and things cannot possibly be solved by human means, He works something out miraculously and we are delivered in a way we could not have imagined if we hadn’t seen it.
Praise be to God!
February 14, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Here is a short passage from Isaiah 46, verses 6 and 7:
“Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.”
Notice the ridiculousness of the situation: a human being will create an object out of inanimate metals, set it on a pedestal in their home, and start praying to it — what’s worse, they’ll expect results.
Some may read this and say it’s no longer relevant. It’s what the ancient people did. But let’s look around the world and we’ll soon find out that this is still practiced. In some religions, people won’t bother to carve out gods from metals or stone. They’ll pray directly to stones. Or they’ll pray to the trees, or to nature itself. Then there are those religions that still pray to statues that depict human or animal likenesses, and they’re dominant in some parts of the world.
What’s worse, the practice of praying to graven images or statues isn’t limited to pagan religions. It happens right under our noses in the Western world. All you need to is to enter a Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal or Anglican church, and you’ll see statues of Jesus Christ or Mary, or the apostles, or of some saint or other, to whom the people pray and cry. They light candles to them and lay flowers at their feet, hoping in earnest for an answer when God clearly forbids it.
These people have forgotten the Ten Commandments, haven’t they? Here’s what God Himself wrote on the tablets of stone He gave to Moses:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:7-9)
When one looks at these things through the lens of God’s Word, the matter becomes very simple: you shall not do it. When human reason enter the equation, we hear excuses like “But this is only a likeness that reminds us of God. We are really praying to God, and this helps us imagine Him.” The list goes on and on.
Problem is, God won’t listen to these excuses when it comes time for the final judgment. He won’t care what you intended to do. He clearly forbids the worship of statues and graven images, and all who call themselves believers in God should obey His wishes.
November 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
During this past presidential election, I saw, beyond any doubt, how the right has managed to marry their cause to religion, and how they continually played that angle for the past couple of years. Churches and religious organizations told their members, in no uncertain terms, that they should vote for so-and-so because they’re Republican, and they’re going to stand up for “what’s right”.
It didn’t, and it doesn’t, seem to matter that’s what’s being put forth as “what’s right” isn’t necessarily what the Bible says is right. No, as long as you can marry a candidate to the church, you can rally the troops and call for jihad against the infidel that dares to go against your cause. It doesn’t even matter if that choice candidate of yours is far from being a real Christian. As long as they secure the endorsement of the right, church members are bullied into voting for them.
This is due, in part, to the two-party system that dominates US politics. When your choice for a candidate boils down to A or B, it’s incumbent upon A and B to polarize you and make your choice easier. Moderates are not what this two-party system wants. It wants frothing leftists or rightists that can be counted on for full support. Other countries where governance is shared among multiple parties tend to be more centrist, more moderate. Election winners have to build coalitions, otherwise they get nothing done. Here in the US, extreme views seem to be par for the course, and are encouraged from pulpits everywhere, particularly in the Bible Belt states.
Another reason for this governmental fallacy is the desire to bring religious views to bear upon political/public policy, when in fact the two should be kept completely separate. Sure, be a Christian in your private life. Go to church, pray to God, read your Bible, but don’t make the mistake of wanting others to do the same. Don’t force people to believe what you believe. Don’t legislate your beliefs. Civic matters should be kept completely separate from religious matters. That’s the principle of separation of church and state at work.
As a citizen of the US, I think there should be equal rights for homosexuals and they should be allowed to marry one another if they so choose. That’s because I choose to keep my beliefs to myself, and I realize that from a civic point of view, everyone is entitled to the same rights as citizens of the same country. One of the most important principles of our Christian faith is that of free will, which says everyone is entitled to choose whether to serve God or not. Unfortunately, others don’t feel the same way, and want to legislate their religion, not realizing that is one very slippery slope toward persecution and injustice on a grand scale.
Those of you who think all this has somehow gone away just because Obama won the election are in for a surprise. The past couple of years has been a warm-up exercise. There is some nasty stuff afoot, stuff that will do away with some of our most basic religious freedoms. Misguided churches are gearing up everywhere in order to polarize their members and begin what I would call a campaign of religious oppression against anyone that does not agree with they way they see life and government.
One of the things that this misguided religious right plans to get passed is a Sunday Law, under the guise of a “National Day of Rest”. This is not a new concept, but this time, its execution will be enforced more severely. The concept has been bubbling up in discussions lately, and unfortunately, no solid proof (other than opinion from groups and organizations) has emerged that something is in the works, but I, along with others, believe there are things going on that are laying the groundwork for it. You can choose to believe me or not on this one, and if I’m wrong, I’ll eat my crow, but I don’t think I am — time will tell for sure.
In the past, Blue Laws were passed to force people to worship on Sundays, and thankfully, they were repealed. Now, a whole groundswell of support is building up from Protestants and Catholics alike. What will make this attack on our collective religious freedoms more effective is they’re working together, thanks to the decades-old ecumenical movement, which I wish did not exist. Various reasons will be offered in its support, such as the economy, the environment, our societal morals, lifestyle choices, etc.
This is a small sample of sources I dug up this afternoon:
- Pope and Christian Coalition met to discuss the Sunday Law and other topics
- Some Democrats are calling for a National Day of Rest
- Christian Coalition proposes National Day of Rest
- Catholic church urges National Day of Rest (this is something that Pope John Paul said numerous times, and his successor wants to see it come to fruition)
This small sample of articles is by no means representative. I invite you to search for the terms “Sunday Law” and “National Day of Rest” on your search engine of choice and see what comes up. Or, you could do nothing but wait and see. I don’t think you’ll have to wait for long.
A few months ago, a certain number of closed-door meetings were held between high-ranking members of Protestant and Catholic churches when the Pope visited the US. No one can say what went on during those meetings, but given that both sides of the table want to see a “National Day of Rest”, it’s not impractical to assume that it was one of the items discussed there.
I for one was shocked when I heard President Bush exclaim that he “saw God in [the Pope's] eyes”. Wasn’t he supposed to be Protestant? Has he forgotten that countless people died, by sword, torture, or burning, in order to win the right to worship God apart from the Catholic Church? That’s not something you forget, unless you have a different agenda.
Some may say we shouldn’t worry about Bush, because he’s a lame-duck president. To that, I say this so-called “lame duck” is signing bill after bill while he still can, while he’s still in office. Also, let’s not forget all the stuff he did during his two terms in office. Will he try to sign some sort of National Day of Rest legislation into law before he leaves the White House on 1/20/09? I don’t know, but it is possible. Even if Bush doesn’t sign such legislation, that’s not to say it won’t happen. We have a good combination of economic, societal and religious factors that are creating a situation where a Sunday Law can pass, especially one couched in such nice terms as a “National Day of Rest”…
What bothers me in all this is that somehow forcing people to worship on Sunday is supposed to make everything better. Why? How? It’s ridiculous when you think about it.
Never mind that the Bible, when you study it, says quite clearly that Sabbath is the proper day of worship. Never mind that the Bible talks about religious tolerance. Never mind that other religions worship on the Sabbath or on Friday. Never mind that forcing people to worship the way you want them to worship never works out. Never mind that God doesn’t force people to believe in Him, but He gives them free will to choose what to do with their lives. Never mind that the US is a country whose very foundations were built on the precepts of religious freedom. No, somehow legislating a day or worship will make everything better. And of course, Sunday is picked because it is the day when most people in this part of the world go to church (or would go to church, if they did go to church) even though it is not the Biblical day of worship.
In effect, when that law gets passed, and it will get passed in the near future, because the Bible prophesies that it will get passed, what will have happened is that government will have effectively entered into an unholy marriage with religion. It means a return to the days of religious persecution that have haunted our collective histories as countries of this world. Sure, the National Day of Rest sounds good, but make no mistake about it, it is, at its core, as evil as the Inquisition. It is the start of religion once more dictating how governments will behave.
Don’t believe me? Read up on Bible prophecy and make up your own mind. I recommend the following resources:
May 2, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is troublesome to me, because it poses a difficult question for Christians. Here, a person who is down, possibly David himself, asks God to restore him. The belief at the root of the psalm is: “Yahweh protects him, gives him life and happiness on earth.”
There is no question in my mind that all true believers will be set in the presence of God for ever, as verse 12 says – in other words, make it to heaven and partake of God’s promises related to that. What I doubt is whether we are to experience life and happiness here on earth. I know this was a prominent Jewish belief, but given how many people suffered and continue to suffer daily, including many Jews, I do not know what to think. Also, let’s not forget how often Jews were persecuted throughout history. Furthermore, if we think back on all of the Bible prophets, kings and apostles who were faithful to God, we cannot say they all had good lives and happiness in their lives, all the time. As a matter of fact, many suffered, and some were martyred. And, how about all of the righteous people today, who suffer and die, for health reasons or otherwise, some even in their youth? How do we reach understanding and peace when we compare history and reality to the message of this psalm?
I don’t know that I can, with my limited understanding of God’s ways, reconcile the two sides completely. You see, I’ve never bought into the “Prosperity now!” messages that are going around these days. I don’t think there’s much Biblical foundation for them. With regards to the quandary of this psalm, what I can do is to offer some proof for the other side, then rely on faith for the rest of the equation.
What I can say is that every time a good man was down, God usually brought him back up. Job is the archetype for this situation. I truly believe the story of Job was placed in the Bible to help us realize that we may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and may not even understand why we’re in the tunnel, but we should trust in God just the same, and know that He will work it out to our advantage. What’s more, when we suffer sometimes, we are on display, and others are learning lessons from our suffering. Job’s own suffering served as encouragement in time of trouble for many, many people throughout history – I am sure of this. What’s more, it is also written in the Bible that we and our faith are to be tried and purified through fire, and it is only when we withstand that intense time of trial that we know our faith is strong. Once we do make it through, our faith becomes even stronger, and that time in our lives when we saw God’s hand work miracles serves as a strong foundation upon which we can rest and recoup in troublesome times. I wrote about this in my entry for Psalm 40.
Let us also not forget that sometimes – probably most of the time – we get in trouble because we do something wrong. Even the author of this psalm admits it: “For my part I said, ‘Yahweh, take pity on me! Cure me for I have sinned against you.’” When we do something wrong, we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves in trouble. God never says He’ll take away the consequences – instead, He says he’ll take away the sin, He’ll forgive us, then help us through.
It is thus I can explain this quandary to myself. I think we have to rely on God and our faith in Him in times of trouble, pray that He will show us where we went wrong, and get us through the difficult times. We also have to realize that sometimes we simply may not get an answer, and as difficult as it is, we have to keep going forward and obeying God’s commandments. It’s going to be very hard, but it’s the right thing to do.
I also wanted to mention that happiness doesn’t mean a big house and lots of money. Happiness shouldn’t be measured like that. Instead, a good family life, where the husband and wife love and respect each other, a home where arguments are resolved through discussion, not anger, a home where the peace of God can be felt as soon as one steps inside – that is true happiness!
March 3, 2006 § 1 Comment
I just watched this video and it was amazing! I highly recommend this to anyone in doubt about compromising their beliefs for the sake of “religious unity”. It’s important to realize that compromise comes at a price, and in the case of our religious beliefs, the price may be too dear.
October 29, 2005 § 1 Comment
There are some erroneous beliefs being paraded through the Christian denominations these days, and I wanted to address a few of them in this article. I didn’t want to point fingers toward specific denominations or people. Instead, I wanted to talk about these ideas, and let you be the judge — through comparison with the Scriptures — whether or not they are right. In the end, all of us have to make individual decisions about our relationship with God and about what we believe. We should never go along with a group or denomination simply because that’s what they believe. We should be the judge of the beliefs that will ultimately decide our fate.
Let’s go through the Bible together. I’ve always tried to adhere to the principle that I cannot take isolated Bible verses and use them to back up my beliefs, when it should be the other way around. We should let the Bible tell us what we should believe. It really all boils down to whom one considers to be the authority: is it God and His Word, or is it your own bias, popular opinion, or some pastor, church leader or majority? Who will you stick with if you really want to be saved?
One of my biggest problems is with the following motto: “Once saved, always saved!” What’s going on is that certain people believe that if you accept Christ as the Son of God and as your Savior ONCE, that is enough to save you ALWAYS. This is usually presented along with Bible verses that are interpreted to say we are saved by grace alone, that our deeds do not matter one bit. Unfortunately, what is going on is that “bad wine” is being mixed with “good wine” here. As a result, all of the wine is now spoiled. There is no scriptural basis for this kind of belief. True, it is by God’s grace alone that we even breathe, but at the same time, believing that no effort is involved on our part after accepting God’s gift is misleading. This motto couldn’t be more wrong.
Now, the folks who say these things usually do not agree with quoting the Old Testament to shed light on the matter, since they say God established a “new covenant” through Jesus Christ, and the old one, including the Old Testament, is no longer standing. Okay, let’s look at the New Testament, and examine the proof found there. Let’s start with Luke:
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
How about Paul?
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28)
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12)
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
I’ve quoted the verses above because all had the word “daily” in them. I did that because I wanted to show you that salvation isn’t a one-time thing. One cannot simply go to a church, raise their arms in the air, shout out “Lord Christ, I accept you as my savior!” — or whatever the particular phrase is at a church like that — go home about their daily life and expect to be saved, even if they continue to attend church every week. That is NOT the way to be saved. The Bible itself points to a DAILY process, where we renew our link, our connection by God and attempt to walk in His way.
There are four very important things we must do as Christians: pray, read the Bible, live out the Bible teachings and share God with others. They all go together, and without them, going to church is meaningless. Accepting salvation is meaningless. I want to underline that all four go together. One can read the Bible and he or she can pray, but if it doesn’t show in their daily life, if others can’t see the fruits of God’s working, it means nothing.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16)
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:19-21)
Apply these verses to any Christian you meet, especially to the leaders or prominent members of your churches — because they are the ones who have the most influence on others. Do they bear worthy fruits? How is their temper? How are their morals? How about their family and children? Look at the things that matter, not appearances. Then will you realize if they’ve got the right ideas or not. Do not be deceived, above all, by easy teachings. The way to salvation is still narrow and fraught with danger. Only in heaven will the streets be wide and paved with gold. While on Earth, we are still in a war, and although Jesus Christ has won it, the battle still rages for our souls. The devil would have all of us be misled and lost. Take care you are not one of the ones that God will refuse to know at the Judgment Day. Search the scriptures diligently, and find your way carefully!
But, you say, isn’t it true that we are saved by grace alone? Our deeds alone cannot save us, contrary to what some other churches believe. That is certainly true, and there is a ton of evidence in the Scriptures to support that. But, and this is a big one, after we accept salvation, through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot degrade and insult that holy sacrifice by continuing so sully our lives with dirty deeds and old habits that refuse to die. That is where our deeds matter! That is where we ourselves bear fruits that show our real nature! Do our deeds, our lives, show that we are changed men and women? Do they show us to be Christians, or do they show us to be mask-wearers, who pose as Christians when it is convenient or socially expected, and who reveal their true selves in the privacy of their homes or at clubs, parties or on dark streets and alleys? Who are we, really? The best gauge of that is still our life, the record of our daily deeds. It’s a harsh truth, isn’t it?
Okay, so you ask again, which teachings am I supposed to obey? What are the most basic tenets of the Bible? I hope, for you, that the answer is very simple and you already know it, but if it isn’t, let me try to explain as best I can. Let me ask you this one question: of all the teachings in the Bible, which ones did God Himself write with His own finger in stone? Yes, those are the ones I’m referring to. God did not take the time to do that so that we could forget about them. Let’s remember that God and His Son are of one mind. They do not disagree on anything, especially something as important as God’s Law. Those who would have you believe that we are only meant to obey one or two of those commandments, or that they were somehow combined, diluted into a single commandment are not right, and the Bible tells them so, if only they would look at it in its entirety and context. Let’s look at some of the things that are said about this particular issue. Please be patient while I lay the groundwork for what I want to convey.
Some say, “We are justified by God’s grace through faith alone. We don’t need the Ten Commandments anymore.” I agree wholeheartedly with the first part of that statement. The second part is folly. Let’s look and see what the Bible has to say about it:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
What the apostle Paul establishes here is that it isn’t works that save us, but faith, which we can’t even claim credit for, since it is a gift from God. Can we claim credit to anything? No. We have no ground to stand on. It seems that so far, all parties involved are in agreement. Let’s read further though:
“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” (Ephesians 2:15)
Many Christians take this to mean that Jesus Christ did away with the commandments, meaning the Ten Commandments. But is Paul really saying that? Let’s look at the wording of the verse. It refers to the “law of commandments contained in ordinances.” This isn’t the Ten Commandments. Ask any practicing Jew, and he or she will tell you the ordinances refer to the Mosaic law and the various other laws — better called regulations — which learned Jewish rabbis imposed upon the people according to their interpretation of the Bible. But, you say, how can Paul mean this? Well, let’s look at the context:
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made night by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)
What is Paul talking about here? I hope the context made it clear to you. He is talking about the cultural and religious barrier that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. As an example, he talks about circumcision, and how Gentiles were uncircumcised. They had no hope of salvation, since it belonged to the Jews. But Christ came to give them hope as well, through His blood. Through his flesh, he abolished the slavery of sin, even the very Mosaic laws that made it impossible for Gentiles to be part of the Jewish people, in order to reconcile all of us unto God.
Is Paul advocating doing away with the Ten Commandments? No, NO ONE CAN, not even God Himself! Does that come as a shock to you? Why else do you think that Jesus died on the cross? Was it because God could change His law? The commandments that God wrote with His finger on stone will stand ever more, unto the end of this world and through eternity. Nothing that God sets into law can ever pass away! Let’s read further into Ephesians to see what Paul thinks of this:
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:22-32)
Now, does this sound like Paul wants to do away with the Ten Commandments? Go ahead, compare this text with them, and see how close it comes to them. After that, go ahead and read Chapters 5 and 6 of Ephesians. Does anything in there sound any different than the Ten Commandments?
Let’s look at another “pearl” I alluded to some paragraphs above. Some say, “A new covenant was made. The old one [meaning the Ten Commandments] is obsolete.” The verses usually quoted to go along with this statement are Hebrews 8:12 and13. Let’s look at those verses:
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:12, 13)
Sounds like this would support the statement above, doesn’t it? But you’ve got to look at the context!
First, let’s remember that it’s Paul. Does he give any indication in his other epistles that the Ten Commandments have been done away with? I challenge you to search high and low, and you’ll find no such evidence.
We’ve got another clue. To whom is he writing? To the Hebrews, of course, that’s the name of this book! What laws did they have that even Jesus Christ himself referred to as hindering them from seeing the real meaning behind obeying God’s law? They were the yoke of the Mosaic Law and in particular, the multitude of the rabbinic laws added thereafter as further “interpretation” of God’s law and of the Torah. There were so many of them that one would need to dedicate years of study to learn them. Once they were done studying them, the simple observance of these many regulations and ordinances consumed daily existence so that one couldn’t focus on the meaning of things, he had too much to do just making sure he stayed within the bounds allowed by law.
But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at what Paul says in that very same chapter 8 of Hebrews:
“For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Hebrews 8:8-10)
This passage is just before Hebrews 8:12, 13. Does this sound like God wants to do away with His laws (the Ten Commandments)? Can you honestly say, by looking at verse 10, that God isn’t concerned with law anymore? But, you say, what is this First Covenant that God does intend to do away with? Well, just read Chapter 9, the very next chapter, and you will see exactly what the First Covenant entailed. God and Paul are referring to the Holy Temple and the sacrifices that took place there, in particular the shedding of blood that cleansed sins. That was the First Covenant,
“a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Hebrews 9:9),
but were meant to point forward to the time when Christ Himself,
“who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God [in order to help you] purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)
And lest you think that obeying the Law is a “dead work”, read on in this very same chapter:
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
Make no mistake about it! Jesus Christ died because we did not obey God’s law! Do not think for a moment that you can make light of God’s true Law and think that you will get to heaven! God intends for you to put His laws into your mind, and to write them into your hearts, not throw them to the wayside and think that grace is sufficient for your salvation. That would be the biggest mistake you could make!
Yes, it is by God’s grace that you aren’t dead for your sins, and it is by God’s grace that Jesus Christ died for you, and it is also by His grace and you have faith in Him and can ask for your sins to be forgiven, but nothing will save you if you do not obey the Law when you should know better. God was angry with the Jews because many of them obeyed the Law outwardly, and he meant the New Covenant to be a way for us all to obey the Law inwardly, which is where it counts. He never did away with His Law. How could He? If He could do that, Jesus Christ wouldn’t have needed to die for us. If God can do away with His law, that would have meant that the devil himself could get his sins forgiven, and we all know that will never be! But again, you don’t have to take my word for this. Let’s look at what Paul says:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:22-24,26,29-31)
Do you still think God’s law has been done away with, and the only commandment still left standing is that we should love each other, as some say? Does Paul give any indication of this here, or for that matter, in any of the books he has written? Let me ask you this: how do we know when we have sinned? What is the standard by which we are judged? What laws has God put down in writing that tell us how to behave on a daily basis, as a looking glass that will point out our imperfections? Answer for yourself these questions, and you will inevitably come back to the Ten Commandments.
Here is another “new” teaching: “The seal of God is not the Sabbath but the Holy Spirit”. This is what I would call a non-sequitur statement. While the first part is true, the second part doesn’t logically follow from the first part. The verses quoted to go along with this are Ephesians 1:13 and 14:
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
First, Paul says nothing about the Sabbath in these verses, nor anywhere in their context (preceding and succeeding verses). One can’t assume that simply because the Sabbath or the Ten Commandments aren’t mentioned here, they somehow don’t count or aren’t used as a measuring stick. Let’s look at another verse in the same book of Ephesians where the word “sealed” is used:
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
Now read verses 24 through 29, and 31 and 32 in that same chapter. Does it sound like the tenets of daily living stipulated by the Ten Commandments don’t count anymore? Do these verses not sound very much like the Ten Commandments? One is rebuked by his or her conscience in the face of the Bible evidence and cannot but admit the truth, however painful it is.
Some also say that we have only one or two commandments now. They quote the following verses to support that:
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:21-24)
At first sight, it would appear that we only have one commandment. But examine the verses closer. There are conflicts between the plural and the singular here. I’ve looked at several translations, and no matter how the words are translated, we still have a problem with the accord between the noun “command” and the number of commands listed after the colon. First, John says we “obey his commands”; okay, so far so good. But then he says “this is his command” — wait a minute, I thought he was talking about commands, as in plural! Going further, he lists the command [sic!]: “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” Count them; these are two commands, not one. No, you’re not slipping, and this isn’t a mistake. It occurs in about seven translations of the Bible, so it has to be intended. What could it possibly mean?
Here is what I think: to believe in Jesus Christ is a new commandment, which is in addition to the original Ten Commandments — it is the new covenant that God made with us — therefore it is referred to in singular. Remember, the Jews already obeyed, or tried to obey, the Ten Commandments, in addition to their other religious laws/ordinances. Most did it outwardly, not inwardly, and that is why Jesus found fault with them. However, that wasn’t why the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles. God chose to do that because the Jews rejected Jesus as the Son of God. John wants us to remember that in order to be a Christian, one has to believe that Jesus Christ is indeed God’s only Son, the Messiah, come to Earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and thus give us salvation (see John 3:16). I believe that’s why he refers to it as a singular commandment here.
The other command given here is to love one another, which is one of the Ten Commandments. I believe John chooses to refer to it here not because it is the only commandment that still remains — instead he does it because it is the most important commandment, and also it is the underlying theme of this epistle and the other epistles written by John. Let’s not forget the John was known as the “apostle of love”. Logically speaking, it is also impossible to know how to love each other without the Bible, and the other 9 commandments. Talking about or referring to one commandment automatically brings the others into discussion, or ought to do so. They are an unbreakable, unseparable set.
Is the phrasing of the verses a little confusing? I believe it is, and you probably agree. But I think that sometimes God allows it to be in order to get us to really think about a passage, and to help us to get our facts straight. I do not think John meant to say that only one commandment is left of the original ten. I say that with certainty, because throughout the epistle he refers to commandments, in plural. Let’s take a look at some of the other passages:
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:3-5)
I particularly like the next verse, because it ties back in to the verses I quoted a few pages back, the ones that referred to knowing true Christians by their fruits:
“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6)
Now, do these verses sound like there is only one commandment left? It would be impossible to acknowledge that. But let’s look at more evidence, also from John, from the same epistle:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)
Once again, logically speaking, is it possible to do away with the law, and be left with only one commandment? How would one know sin? The law is what points sin out to us. Look at it from God’s point of view. What standard do you believe he will use to judge people? Do you expect Him to use anything other than His own law?
Let’s let John clarify things a little further for us:
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:1-3)
If things still aren’t clear to you, I encourage to do a search on the word “commandments” in your Bible concordance or at http://www.biblegateway.com, and compare the verses that come up when you type that word in. You will find that overwhelmingly, they refer to the Ten Commandments. I hope you will not drown out the voice of your conscience, and acknowledge to yourself that they are still God’s standard, His everlasting law.
Let me give you a couple more verses to bolster this fledgling conviction you’ve started to feel:
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12, 17)
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14)
The first verse here refers to the end times, when the devil will make war with God’s remnant. Notice by what criteria they are referred to: “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Do these sound any different from the confusing verse in 1 John? They aren’t. Notice, the plural is used here, which refers to the Ten Commandments. How about the second verse? Well, that takes place after the earth is cleansed. The new earth is described here, and the criterion for entering into the New Jerusalem, God’s city, is to do God’s commandments. That, very simply put, sums up what I’ve been trying to say for most of the article. You not only have to be willing to obey God’s commandments, the Ten Commandments, but you have to show the true fruits, which come by doing them, putting them into practice in your DAILY life. The good news is that they aren’t “grievous”, as John puts it. We can do them, through the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ freely gives us by His grace.
Another point of confusion is caused by the following two passages from Matthew and Luke:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-41)
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said to him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
Some denominations interpret these passages to mean that there are really only two commandments left, that Jesus did away with the other eight. But that would be wrong. I’ve addressed many of those reasons so far in this article. Let’s just focus on the passages, and be careful with the words. There are clues in each one that will let us understand the real meaning.
Look at the beginning verses of each passage. Who is it that asks the question? It’s a lawyer. If ever there are people who like picking apart phrases and sentences, it’s lawyers. Notice why they are asking questions: to tempt Him. Their purpose is clear, and so you’d better believe that Jesus’ answer will also be as clear as possible. What does He say in the first passage? He is asked to name the great commandment of the law, yet He names two. Is that a mistake, or is it intentional? Look at what he says next: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Does it appear as if He is saying that we should do away with everything else? No, he says we can base everything else on these two commandments. In other words, they are the crux, the real meaning behind God’s laws. If you look at the other eight, everything else flows from these two. You would automatically do the others if you really took these two commandments to heart. You would have no other gods, you would worship God on the seventh day of the week, you would not blaspheme or take his name in vain, you would love and respect your parents, you would not steal, commit adultery, or covet someone else’s wife or property, and you would not bear false witness.
I’ve said throughout this article that we should look at Bible verses in context. Why did Jesus not opt to mention all Ten Commandments, and only focus on these two? Take a closer look at the passages, and at the preceding and succeeding verses. Is He focusing on two commandments, or is He really only concerned with one of them? Which commandment is it? It’s the second one he mentions in the first passage. Really, it’s the common theme for both. In Matthew, He bursts forth in a tirade against the Pharisees whose underlying theme is their lack of love for other men. Read Chapter 23 of that gospel to see what I mean. In Luke, He lets the lawyer entrap himself by mentioning love for others, and then uses that occasion to tell the famous parable of the Samaritan.
This is not a coincidence. He wanted these two lawyers, and the people who listened, to realize that while one can brag about love for God and the commandments, it is meaningless without love for humankind, for the other men and women. One can fake love for God pretty well, but it’s hard to fake love for others. It’s about bearing the right fruits. It’s why God sent Jesus to our world. God loves us. We should learn to love others as well. This doesn’t make the other commandments any less important, nor does it do away with them. Jesus simply chose to focus on the two most important commandments in order to underline the need for sincere love among those who would profess love for God.
The final item I will write about in this article is Mark 2:27. This is quoted to mean that it simply doesn’t matter what day of the week one ought to go to church. Let’s look at this verse:
“And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
You probably know what I’m going to say next. Yes, you’re right — let’s look at the context! This verse serves to exemplify the importance of looking at context. Here’s why:
“And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the Sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbred, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? — Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-26, 28)
If you were to hear only Mark 2:27, you would be tempted to agree that the day of the week doesn’t matter, and you would be wrong, because you didn’t read the context! After reading Mark 2:23-28, can you still honestly think that? [As a side note, I would encourage you to read another article I wrote on the topic of the Sabbath, entitled "The Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday?"]
In this passage, Jesus explains the meaning of the Sabbath — the day of rest — through a story about David that paralleled what his disciples were doing. The thrust is similar to other stories in the New Testament, where He heals the sick on the Sabbath and is once again attacked by the Pharisees. He wants us all to realize that He gave us the Sabbath as a day of rest, and that we are to rest in it, but we are not to forgo such necessary things as eating or healing. This is once again, a situation where the Pharisees wanted to find a reason to condemn Jesus, yet He uses the situation to remind them that He is God. He also makes it clear to them — remember, these are the folks who are obsessed with the observance of the laws but have lost the meaning behind them — that it’s important to realize the meaning of the things one believes in. It’s common sense, isn’t it? Isn’t it refreshing to find out that God isn’t interested in blind obedience, but wants us to reason through every one of His laws to get at their real meaning?
Doesn’t this revelation of our God tie in nicely with viewing things “in context”? It’s really the point I’m trying to make in this article. We can’t look at the world, and at the Bible, with horse-blinders. We have to look at the whole picture, and we really have to reason out everything we believe. We can’t simply take things verbatim and use bits and pieces from here and there to build a rather shaky foundation for our faith. We can’t hang on to catch phrases and formulaic mottos that have no Biblical basis. Rather than fearing that our beliefs will change from what we are accustomed, we should follow God’s advice, and find out what He really means to say through prayer and Bible study. We will be enriched by the experience, and we will, in the end, make God happy with the fruits we bear.