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Vital Lessons From The Biblical Text (English & Chinese)

VITAL LESSONS FROM THE BIBLICAL TEXT

 

 

圣经学术译丛

 

(英汉对照)

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

 

Contained in the book are a series of articles written by various authors who have a great interest in the Word of God. The authors have many years of diligent study and teaching of the Biblical text. “Vital Lessons From the Biblical Text,” contains informative information relative to God, The Bible, Salvation and the Lord’s church. This material is printed in both English and Chinese with the hopes of helping people in different languages in their personal Bible studies.

 

Many thanks are expressed to all who helped in translating, typing, proofing, making suggestions and financially supporting of this work. May God be gloried and souls be saved and edified by these efforts. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

SECTION ONE GOD

 

SECTION TWO THE BIBLE

 

SECTION THREE SALVATION

 

SECTION FOUR THE CHURCH

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

From whence did man come? Why is he here? Where is he going? Is this life all there is to our existence, or does mankind continue to live after he passes from his earthly life?

Is there are God? If there is a God, what are some of His attributes? Has God communicated with mankind? If he has communicated, what means did He use to communicate? Can man have fellowship with God? Does man need salvation? How is man saved? Is it possible for one to be sure he is saved? Finally, did Jesus Christ build His church? If Jesus did built His church, how can one find that church today? These are some important questions this book seeks to answer. The book is divided into four small sections that will discuss these matters. It is hoped the reader will benefit from its study.

SECTION ONE

GOD

 

THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

B. B. Brother

 

 

“And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69).

 

Introduction:

 

In a world where uncertainties exist, it is encouraging to know that we can be sure about some things. In fact, it is absolutely essential that we are sure about some matters. Even in every day affairs, we need to be sure about various matters. One needs to be sure he is taking food into his body that will nourish and strengthen him rather than poison that would harm and possibly kill him. Some have taken a contradictory and absurd position that one cannot know anything for sure. To such an one advocating this position, we simply ask, “Are you sure that one cannot know anything for sure?” If he answers yes, then he has demonstrated that his position is false – because he knows that one cannot know (a contradiction). If he answers no, then he has demonstrated that he doesn’t know that his position is true, and consequently one may indeed know some things.

It is important to realize that one doesn’t have to know everything to know something. A person can know that a certain liquid is milk without knowing of the whole process of how a cow produces milk. Also one can know certain matters relative to God, His Word, Salvation, etc., without knowing everything in the Bible.

 

ONE CAN KNOW WHETHER OR NOT GOD EXISTS

 

There is nothing more important than being certain about the existence of God. Either there is a God or there is not a God. There is no middle of the road on this proposition. Atheists affirm they know there is no God. Theists affirm there is a God. Which position is correct? Can we be sure? Let’s examine some of the compelling evidences of God’s existence.

 

 

 

From where does life come?

 

There are only two possibilities to explain the existence of life. (1) Life came from dead matter, or (2) Life came from life. If one takes the position that life came from dead matter, he then has to ask, “From where did this matter come?” Is dead matter eternal? No. There are scientific evidences which prove that dead matter is not eternal (things wear out and/or run down, which proves they had a beginning and therefore are not eternal).

 

Scientifically, we know that life comes from life. The law of Bio-genesis shows that life comes only from life. Human beings, animals, and plants do not come from dead matter. There must be life for life to exist. Since life comes only from life, then life must have always existed. If there had ever been a time when life did not exist, there would be no life now. Yet, life does exist which proves that life must have always existed. When one studies “life” he realizes that not only must have life always existed, but it must have been intelligent life. For example, when one studies the complexity of the human body (its cellular makeup, respiratory system, skeleton system, circulatory system, etc., etc.), he understands that there must have been an intelligent Life that created human life.

Not only does one know that life produces life, but also life produces after its own kind. Human beings always produce human beings. Every couple depends on this law of reproduction. They know when they decide to have children that their offspring will in fact be human. Human couples do not produce cats, dogs, or other animals as their offspring. Likewise cats and dogs do not produce humans. They never have and they never will! Why is this the case? It is because everything produces after its own kind. This being true then evolution cannot be true because it requires one specie to produce a completely different specie. Dogs will never produce humans and vice versa.

The Bible gives us the answer on the origin of human, animal and plant life. It is in complete harmony with science – that life comes from life and therefore life has always existed. The intelligent Being Who has always existed is GOD. The Bible states; “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psa. 90:2). The Bible also informs us that God created all things. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1). By reading all of Genesis chapter one a person learns that God created everything in six days. The method by which He created the world is His Word – “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psa. 33:6). And,

“For he spake, and it was [done]; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:9).

God also created things to reproduce after their own kind. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:11-12).

 

 

Does every house have a builder?

 

If one were stranded on an island and came across a simple straw hut, he would know that someone had been there. Straw huts do not build themselves. A watch implies a maker. A house implies a builder. Likewise this world requires a Creator. The writer of the Book of Hebrews, expressed it this way – “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). A person can examine the amazing world in which we live and stand in wonder at this great world. Astronomers and Marine-Biologists are amazed at this great world including its universe and oceans. The writer of Psalms declared – “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (Psa. 19:1-6). The heavens above, including its sun, moon and stars declare God’s glory! This fact is universally perceived.

Paul, an apostle stated; “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). A person can look at the creation and know there has to be a Creator! This world did not create itself anymore than a house built itself.

 

Who is God?

 

There is one God – “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. ” (1Cor. 8:6). The word “God” denotes Deity. There is but one Deity. There are three persons who posses the one Divine nature. There is God, the Father (Mat. 6:9), God the Son- Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3) and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4)

 

God is omniscient (all knowing). “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it “(Psa. 139:1-6).

 

God is omnipresent (every where at the same time). “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee” (Psa. 139:7-12).

 

God is omnipotent (all powerful). “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Gen. 18:14).

 

God is holy. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1Peter 1:15-16).

 

God is love. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1John 4:8).

 

God is near to all. “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:24-27).

 

God is compassionate. “But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath” (Psa. 78:38).

 

 

God is ready to forgive those who call upon Him. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psa. 86:5).

 

CREATION

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The God of the Bible has many Divine Attributes each of which would be very worthy of our study. All people should know as much about God as He has revealed in His Word, the Bible. When one reads the very first verse of God’s Word, he learns that God is the Creator – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1–2). Immediately, God introduces Himself as the Creator. Space and matter were brought into existence by God creating (“bara”) them. The context shows that God brought material into existence and consequently it (matter) is not eternal. Only God can bring something into existence out of nothing. This is exactly what He did in the creation. Not only did God create matter, but He also “made” objects from that which He had created (example – making man from the dust of the ground which He created).

 

Genesis chapter one is God-centered. The word “God” is found thirty-two times out of the thirty-one verses in this chapter. One will notice such statements as “God created,” “God said,” “God saw,” “God called,” “God made,” etc. The very first verse of the Bible not only introduces one to God, but it also refutes many false philosophies of man.

 

(1) It refutes atheism, because the universe was created by God.

(2) It refutes pantheism, for God is transcendent to that which He created.

(3) It refutes materialism, for matter had a beginning.

(4) It refutes dualism, because God was alone when He created.

(5) It refutes humanism, because God, not man, is the ultimate reality.

(6) It refutes evolutionism, because God created all things. (Morris, 38).

 

Both the Hebrew and English words for God have the root idea of One Whom is to be worshipped. Moses wrote;

 

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:1–7).

 

“When one realizes that the word ‘Elohim in Genesis 1:1 denotes a worshipful being, the only worshipful being, a being of all dignity and honor and authority, a being able out of nothing to create worlds and man, then a feeling of appreciation fills man’s heart, and he wants to show respect and adoration toward his God. ‘Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker, for he is our God” (McCord, 11).

 

EVERY HOUSE IS BUILDED BY SOME MAN

 

In order to illustrate the greatness of Jesus Christ, the Hebrews writer stated; “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:1–4).

 

Anyone, with the ability to reason, knows the validity of the above statement – every house is built by some man. A house does not build itself and the one who builds the house is greater than the house itself. It takes intelligence and ability to construct a house. While one might enjoy and appreciate the greatness of a magnificent building, he knows that it took someone of great intelligence to draw the blueprints and formulate the construction of the building. Likewise, one should be able to see and stand amazed at the world, its order, its creatures, and know there is someone of great intelligence and ability behind the design and construction of this world.

.

Bob Winton makes the following observations:

 

There are many clear indications of design in our world, including the following:

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The delicate balance of nature.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The earth tilted to the exact degree to prevent extremes of heat and cold.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The earth being the right distance from the sun, and rotating at the proper rate.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The moon being the right distance from the earth to stir the oceans by causing tides, without allowing the tides to cover the earth.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Unlike other things, water expands when it freezes; it becomes lighter and forms on the surface of the body of water, otherwise it would sink, killing marine life. Forming at the top, it produces a layer of insulation to keep the water below from freezing, thus preserving aquatic life.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. There are many cases in nature where reproduction of certain species of life requires cooperation between individuals of different species…. A certain type of wasp will catch a grasshopper, sting it in just the right place to cause it to be paralyzed, but not dead, so it can live on as a form of food. Then the wasp will put the grasshopper in the proper place, lay her eggs beside it, so that her offspring will hatch and feast on the hopper without killing the insect upon which they feed. The mother never sees her offspring. The first wasp must have done it right the first time or else there would be none of them around today! Only through God’s design could this wasp have lived (Commentary, NP).

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1). If one were to take the time to study such things as Astrometry, Oceanology, Physiology, Microbiology, etc., he would see great design all around us. Where there is design, there is a Designer. The Psalmist again stated; “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psalms 14:1).

 

Paul and Barnabas stopped the Lycaonians from sacrificing to them by saying; “And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:15–17). Paul said that God is, “the living God” and “that He made heaven, and the earth, and the sea and all things that are therein.”

 

Likewise, to the Athenians Paul declared the “unknown God.” He stated; “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:24–30).

 

To the unbiased mind, one can know every house has a builder – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

 

THE MEANS BY WHICH GOD CREATED THE WORLDS

 

THE GODHEAD: The word “God” denoted Deity and not number. The Word of God had to inform us how many Gods. The Bible reveals to us there is but one God (Divine nature – Malachi 2:10). There are three Persons who possess this one Divine nature. There is God, the Father (John 3:16), God, the Son (John 1:1-2) and God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). All three persons were involved in the creation.

 

God created the heaven and the earth as declared in Genesis 1:1. James tells us that God is the Father of lights – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God is also the Father of our spirits – “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live” (Hebrews 12:9).

 

Jesus Christ was involved in the creation as declared by John. He wrote; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3). This Word Who made all things was made flesh and dwelled among us – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14–15). Speaking of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote; “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16–18). The Hebrews writer said; “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1–2).

 

The Holy Spirit was also involved in the creation. Moses wrote; “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1–2). The book of Job declares; “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent” (Job 26:13).

 

GOD’S WORD: God created the world by speaking it into existence. Moses stated; “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3–4). The phrase “God said” is found ten times in Genesis chapter one. Over and over God is telling us how He created the worlds. Accordingly, the Psalmist declared; “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” and “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalms 33:6,9).

 

IS THERE A GAP BETWEEN GENESIS 1:1 AND GENESIS 1:2

 

GAP THEORY: Some teach there was a big gap in time between the first two verses of Genesis 1. This, of course, is very popular for those who want to believe the earth is very old, and seek to find a place for the so-called “geologic ages.” The theory is that God created the world (Gen. 1:1), then (some teach), there was a rebellion involving Satan and a pre-adamic race one earth and God destroyed that world and then later “re-created” the present world in six literal 24hour days. So it is alleged that the world could be billions of years old (per the geological record used by the evolutionists).

 

A couple of the arguments for the “Gap Theory” are: (1) The (mis)use of the words “bara” (create), and “asah” (made). It is alleged that since the word “bara” means to create, God first created the world (Gen. 1:1), but He destroyed it, then He had to re-make (“asah”) the world. (2) It is also alleged that the word translated “was” in Gen. 1:2 should be translated “became.” They would have the verse to read “And the earth became without form,” indicating a perfect creation at first but then a destruction.

 

 

Gap Theory Refuted: First, the words “bara” and “asah” are used interchangeably when used of God. God said “let us make man….” (Gen. 1:26), yet God “created man…” (Gen. 1:27). God did not “create” Adam, then destroy him and “make” him again. The same is stated regarding the heavens and the earth. God “created” the heavens and the earth, yet He “made” the heavens and the earth – “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). The words are used interchangeably when used of God. Second, there is nothing in the context that suggests a “gap” between the verses (or the ones following for that matter). Notice the word “and” in verse two, which shows a continuation of the previous words in verse one. No one would conceive of a “gap theory” simply by reading the text. Third, there are no scholarly translations that translate the word “was” as “became” in verse two. Fourth, Exodus 20:11 clearly states that everything that was created was created in the six days of Genesis one – “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Fifth, Jesus stated , “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). Male and Female were made “from the beginning.” Obviously, Jesus did not believe a gap existed – a long period of time – between these two verses.

 

HOW LONG WERE THE DAYS OF GENESIS

 

Day Age Theory: Again some evidently not satisfied with simple Biblical truth, look for long periods of time for creation. The “Day Age Theory” affirms that the six days of Genesis one could have been long periods of time.

Day Age Theory Refuted: We agree that the days could have been long periods of time, if that is what God wanted. However, God tells us of what the day consisted – the evening and the morning, a 24hour period. Second, the Hebrew word for day (yom), when preceded by a numeral always means a 24 hour period in a non-prophetic usage. Third, Adam was created on the sixth day. If a day was thousands of years, we ask – “Did Adam live to see the seventh day?” Fourth, the Jewish observance of the Sabbath day shows that the days of Genesis one were 24 hour days. Moses wrote; “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exod. 20:8-11). The Jews were to start observing the sabbath day because the Lord observed a day of rest at the end of His creation week. How long did they rest? Whatever amount of time the Jews were to rest, would be the same amount of time of the seventh day of the creation week. Since they rested 24 hours, the seventh day of creation week must have been 24 hours.

 

 

 

MAN CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

The apex of the creation came on the sixth day when God created man. Man was created vastly different than all the rest of God’s creation. Man is the only creature created in the very image of God! The Bible says; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26–28). What a thought – what a privilege to be created in God’s own image!

 

The part of man created in God’s image is not man’s physical features, for God does not have flesh and bone. God is a spirit. Consequently the part of man created in God’s image is his spirit. Man’s spirit survives the death of his body and returns unto God – “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Paul wrote; “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

 

Consequently, man is not from the slime (evolution), but from the sublime (God). Man is not a little higher than the apes, but rather a little lower than God. The Psalmist exclaimed;

 

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:1–9).

 

In exclaiming the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God, David stated;

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee (Psalms 139:13–19).

 

CONCLUSION

 

God is the Creator. It is in Him that we live, move and have our being. It is by God that all things consist. He is worthy of our worship and adoration. Isaiah recorded; “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” (Isaiah 40:28).

 

Man’s first obligation is to God. “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” (Matthew 22:37–39).

 

Our God is a faithful Creator. We can commit to Him the very keeping of our souls. Peter wrote; “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

 

May we do as admonished by Solomon – “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

 

WORKS CITED

 

Morris, Henry. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976.

 

McCord, Hugo. Getting Acquainted With God. Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publication, No Date.

 

Winton, Bob. Commentary on Hebrews CD. 2007.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

B. B. Brother

 

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalms 89:7).

 

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psalms 111:9).

 

God is to be reverenced. Understanding some of God’s attributes will help us have a better understanding why we indeed should stand in awe of God. This will help one in his attitude of worship and conduct before Jehovah God.

 

GOD IS ALL POWERFUL (OMNIPOTENT). God is declared to be “Almighty” – “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). His power is demonstrated by His creation. He (God) spoke this world into existence – “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalms 33:6). “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalms 33:9). He (Jesus), upholds all things by the word of His power – “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:3). We are dependant upon God for our very being – “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). We should be humbled realizing that we are in the presence of “ALMIGHTY GOD

 

GOD HAS ALL KNOWLEDGE (OMNISCIENT).He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:4-5). Can you imagine attempting to number the stars. God can and even calls them all by their names. God knows us intimately – “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).

 

GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. He fills heaven and earth! Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24). Read also Psalm 139:7-12.

 

GOD IS JUST. “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4). God will reward the righteous and He will punish the disobedient. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (II Thessalonians 1:6-10).

 

GOD IS LOVE. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (I John 4:8). Because of man’s sin man deserved to die. But God still loved man. Justice says that someone must pay the penalty, but love desired man’s salvation. The answer is found in the following – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

GOD IS ALSO A GOD OF WRATH. God can be moved to anger. His anger is a righteous anger. His anger is against the wicked – “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalms 7:11). Those who do not repent will suffer the wrath of God in the judgement – “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” (Romans 2:5).

 

GOD IS A GOD OF MERCY. The word “mercy” denotes pity. God is merciful toward man. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). Man should truly be thankful that God is merciful toward us in extending His mercy to us. God desires that each of us be saved and live with Him in heaven eternally.

 

GOD IS LONGSUFFERING. In the verse above it stated that the Lord God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. The word longsuffering indicates God’s patience toward us. Although we have done wrong, God is longsuffering. This should not be taken as tolerance. God will hold us accountable for unforgiven sins. But he desires that we be forgiven and He has been longsuffering with us toward that end.

 

Let us appreciate God and His great attributes. Are you God’s child? He desires your salvation. He wants to bless you. Will you obey Him today? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

The Bible: King James Version. Glasgow: Collins, 2008. Print.

 

 

WHY IS CHRIST CALLED “THE BRANCH?

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins (Isaiah 11:1-5).

 

My appreciation is expressed to the eldership, deacons, preachers, and the fine congregation of the Southaven Church of Christ for hosting this lectureship on the Major Prophets. This volume will be a fine addition and companion to the previous Power lectureship on the Minor Prophets. I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss the wonderful topic of “Christ, the Branch.” It is hoped that this lesson will be such that will bring glory to God and edification to the church.

 

THE WORDBRANCH

 

All are familiar with the word “branch.” It is used in the Bible both in a literal and in a figurative sense. It can be used as a literal shoot from a vine or tree that puts forth a branch. It is also used in the sense of a descendant. The Word of God figuratively uses this word to describe the prosperity of putting one’s faith in God; “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch” (Proverbs 11:28). It is used to describe God’s people as they came out of Egypt and were planted as a vine in the land of Canaan (cf. Psalm 80:7-12). Christ states that He is the vine and His disciples are the branches (John 15:1-ff), illustrating how disciples must have fruit in Him or be cut off. (Interestingly, some think that the word “Nazarene” is from the root of the Hebrew word “hetser” translated branch in Isaiah 11:1.)

 

But this word also describes the Christ that was to come into the world. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah all speak of Christ as “the Branch” (see Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15, Zechariah 3:8. 6:12-13).

 

WHY IS CHRIST CALLED THE BRANCH?

 

There can be no doubt that the branch is a reference to Christ, because Paul, in Romans 15:12, quotes Isaiah 11 and applies it to the Gentiles coming into Christ. “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust” (Romans 15:12).

When a New Testament writer quotes an Old Testament prophesy and shows its fulfillment, that is the end of the matter. Isaiah is speaking about Christ!

As seen in our text the background of Isaiah 11:1 goes back to Jesse. He (Isaiah) said that a rod (or “shoot” ASV), would come forth out of Jesse and a “Branch” would grow out of his roots. Jesse is the father of David, (Ruth 4:17) and God had made a promise to David that out of his seed would come a king who would establish His kingdom.

 

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever (II Samuel 7:12-13).

 

At times the house of Israel would become very small. It looked like it might even be destroyed. In Isaiah chapter 10, God is showing the destruction of Assyria (Israel’s enemy), yet there would be a remnant of Israel that would be spared. These would put their trust in the Lord.

 

 

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness (Isaiah 10:20-22).

 

Although the forest of Assyria would be destroyed, there would come forth a shoot out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of His roots (cf. Isaiah 11:1). God’s spirit would rest upon Him and would rule with righteousness and equity.

 

Because of the sins of Israel, she would lose her power. In fact the earthly kingdom of Israel would end with Coniah. Jeremiah in his writings speaks of this.

 

Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? Is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah (Jeremiah 22:28-30).

 

Note carefully that the Lord said Coniah would be childless, and that he would not prosper in his days. He then makes this prophecy: “for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” Thus the earthly kingdom of Judah comes to a close.

Keep in mind, however, that God promised to King David, that one from his seed (a descendant), would live and set up a kingdom. How could this be if the earthly kingdom of Judah came to a close with Coniah?

Interestingly, Jesus Christ is of the lineage of Coniah (cf. Matthew 1:12 “Jechonias” is the same as “Coniah”). One must remember that Jeremiah stated that no one of Coniah’s seed would prosper, sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah (emp. mine B.B.) Jesus Christ, descendant of Coniah is not ruling in Judah, He reigns from heaven, where He sits on the right hand of God.

 

For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:25-36).

 

Although Judah and Israel had been reduced to seemingly nothing because of sin, God would spare a remnant through whom the Branch would grow and bless His people. Amos, God’s courageous prophet, speaks of this in his book.

 

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this (Amos 9:11-12).

 

 

This prophecy is quoted by James in Acts 15:16-17 and is applied to the New Testament age and in particular to the system set up by Jesus Christ, (i.e. Christianity). James then makes this remarkable and thought provoking statement: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

 

Isaiah, the messianic prophet, shows that out of the remnant of God’s people, there would come a “shoot” out of Jesse and a “branch” would grow out of his roots. He would bless the world and give us peace. This peace is described by the figurative usage of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the kid (goat), etc. The vicious animals would be tamed and their diets changed from carnivorous to being strictly vegetarian (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9).

 

This peace which the Messiah would bring is fulfilled in Christ. Paul spoke of this peace in Ephesians 2:13-17.

 

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh 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: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (Ephesians 2:13-17).

 

When Jesus was born, an angelic host appeared to shepherds abiding in a field and sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:!4). This peace is fulfilled in Christ.

 

 

Jeremiah speaks of Jesus being “the righteous branch” that would grow up unto David (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15). Zechariah, likewise, speaks prophetically of Christ, as “the Branch” in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12-13. When this branch would come, God would remove the iniquity of that land in one day, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

 

To understand this passage, one should know something of its background. Israel, because of her sins, had been carried into Assyrian captivity. Judah, the lower two tribes, did not learn from the mistake of Israel, and continued in her sins. Because of her sins, she likewise was carried into Babylonian captivity. Her first carrying away was in 606 B.C., then again in 597 B.C., then finally in 586 Babylon destroyed the temple and completed taking Judah into her captivity. After Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C., Babylon had a series of weak rulers. In 549 B.C. Cyrus, a Persian, had defeated the Medes and united the Medes and Persians. In 539 B.C. Cyrus entered into Babylon and took the city. Isaiah had earlier prophesied that Cyrus would allow the Jews to return to their homeland (cf. Isaiah 44:24-45:7). Upon their return in 536 B.C., the Jews restored the altar and laid the foundation of the temple, which had been earlier destroyed. However, the work ceased for a period of sixteen years and God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir up the hearts of the people for the purpose of encouraging them to complete their work. Haggai asked the question, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?” (Haggai 1:4). Zechariah, who was contemporary with Haggai, prophesied of a temple that would be built by “the Branch.” God’s people and purpose would endure and “the Branch” would grow up out of His place.

 

Zechariah mentions at least six things regarding “the Branch.”

 

1) The Branch would grow up out of His place (v 12). Isaiah had prophesied, “For He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Here Christ is compared to “a tender plant” and as a “root out of a dry ground.” Attention is here given to the fact that He would grow out of a “dry ground.” There was nothing about the surroundings of Christ that added to His greatness. In fact, Israel was not a world power but was herself under subjection to Rome. Yet out of this dry ground, the Christ would come. There have been times when a person thought that a plant was dead and would start to uproot the plant only to discover there was a “shoot” coming from this plant which might grow into a mighty tree. Christ is the mighty branch that came up out of His place.

 

2) He shall build the temple of the Lord (v 12). Solomon’s temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Under Zerubbabel’s leadership the Jews had returned from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild this temple. Zechariah stirs up the hearts of the people to complete this work. Zechariah foretells that the Branch will also build the temple of the Lord. This temple which the Lord would build is the church of Christ. Writing to the church of God in Corinth Paul states: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (I Corinthians 3:16-17).

 

In his second epistle to them, he shows how the temple is to be kept holy and separate from idols.

 

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (II Corinthians 6:14-18).

 

This same apostle will write to the Ephesians, impressing upon their minds that they are the temple of God.

 

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22).

 

The temple under the Old Testament foreshadowed and gave way to the temple of the Lord in the New Testament. Other institutions fade in comparison to the glorious temple of the Lord. Interestingly, Paul doesn’t even mention to the Ephesians the temple of Diana, though it came to be one of the seven wonders of the world. It cannot compare to God’s holy temple. We are to remember that “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).

 

3) He shall bear the glory (v 13). Jesus Christ is the builder of this temple and He likewise bears its glory.

 

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

 

The church of Christ is indeed a glorious church and will be presented as such to Christ upon His second coming. It is in the church of our Lord that we glorify God. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Notice is here given that one is to glorify God “in the church,” and not out of the church. It is sad that many do not see the true greatness of the church. Denominations have so confused the minds of the mass, that they think one is saved and glorifies God out of the church as easily and scripturally as one glorifies God in the church.

 

The church glorifies God in that it shows His manifold wisdom. “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

 

Jesus Christ, the Branch, is the head of a great body, called the church. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

 

4) He shall sit and rule upon His throne (v 13). One notices that this “BRANCH” is a king. In fact, he is the only Potentate, the king of kings and Lord of Lords (I Timothy 6:16). He, today, sits and rules upon His throne. The Hebrew writer presents Him presently as king. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:3). He has His throne and rules with a sceptre of righteousness. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8).

 

Sadly, some would like to dethrone the Christ and have Him reigning on some future date as an earthly king. They think that He is now on the Lord’s throne but will one day come back and occupy David’s throne. The simple truth is, David’s throne is the Lord’s throne. A comparison of I Kings 2:12 with I Chronicles 29:23 will reveal that while Solomon sat on David’s throne, he was sitting upon the Lord’s throne. They are one and the same.

 

Jesus Christ was promised to sit upon the throne of David and this has been fulfilled. In the context of II Samuel 12, David was assured; “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: Thy throne shall be established forever” (v 16). This promise was reverberated in Luke 1:32-33. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

All of this was fulfilled at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Again, Peter settles this in Acts 2:30-33.

 

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

 

Daniel by inspiration of God, had foreseen this event.

 

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

 

Jesus Christ does sit and rule upon His throne today. May all willingly submit to His rule.

 

5) He shall be a priest upon His throne. Under the Old Testament system, people made sacrifices through a separate priesthood known as the Levitical priesthood. Over the priesthood of that day was a high priest. Today Christians comprise a “royal priesthood,” and thus there is no separate priesthood. Jesus Christ serves as the Christian’s High Priest.

 

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

 

But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:24-25).

 

Zechariah informs us that Christ has a double function or office. He is a priest while He is on His throne. Thus Jesus is prophet, priest, and king. This is the greatness of the one called “the Branch.”

 

Jesus Christ is not an high priest after the lineage of Aaron, rather, He is an high priest after the order of Melchizedek. This had been foretold by the Psalmist in the long ago. “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalms 110:4). The Hebrew writer quotes the Psalmist and makes application to Christ. “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6).

 

6) The counsel of peace shall be between them both (v 13). The Branch that would grow up out of His place and build the temple of the Lord and bear the glory and sit and rule upon His throne gives the counsel of peace between his priesthood and kingship.

 

The world is ever seeking for lasting peace. Some turn to drugs, worldly (sinful) pleasures, etc. looking for peace and happiness. Jesus Christ offers peace to a troubled world. He is termed as the “Prince of Peace.”

 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

 

Again, note the connection between peace and the kingdom in the above passage. Remember that Zechariah had stated that “the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

 

The book of Ephesians shows that true peace is to be found in only in 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 2:14-16).

 

If one is to have peace with God, he must be “in Christ.” Jesus said; “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

 

THE PREMILLENNIALIST ABUSE OF THESE PASSAGES

 

Premillennialism teaches that the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament has not yet been established. In spite of the multitude of scriptures which show that the kingdom has been established (Matthew 16:18; Colossians 1:13-14; John 3:3-5; Hebrews 12:28, etc.), premillennialism states that when Jesus returns, He will establish a kingdom in the city of Jerusalem and reign a literal one thousand years.

 

But, if premillennialism is true (which it is not), why didn’t Jesus set up His kingdom when He came the first time? The premillennialist answers, “the Jews rejected it.” The kingdom then, according to them, had to be postponed.

 

In accordance with this speculative theory, Scofield says this chapter is a prophetic picture of the glory of the future kingdom. This is the kingdom announced by John the Baptist as “at hand.” It was then rejected, but will be set up when David’s son returns in glory Note the impact of Scofield’s comments. John announced this kingdom as at hand, but he was wrong! (That is according to the premillennialist).

 

In similar fashion, W.E. Blackstone says, “Surely nothing is more plainly stated in the scriptures” than that the Israelites are to be restored to Canaan, and Jerusalem rebuilt. He uses (misuses B.B.) Isaiah 11:11 as one of his proof texts.

 

The major problem for those writers (and other premillennialists), is that the inspired writers of the New Testament quote these very passages and show their fulfillment in Christ. Paul, in Romans 15:12 quotes Isaiah 11:10 and shows its fulfillment in Christ. The peace described in Isaiah 11:6-ff is fulfilled in Christ recorded in Ephesians 2:14-16. The nations mentioned in Isaiah 11:11 are mentioned in Acts 2:9-11.

 

Rather than establishing premillennialism, Zechariah 6:12-13 disproves its theories. Zechariah states that Jesus will be a priest while He is on His throne. Yet Hebrews 8:4 says He will not be a priest while on the earth (remember the priests came from the tribe of Levi and Christ came from the tribe of Judah). If Christ will be a priest while on His throne, but will not be a priest on earth, then His throne will not be on the earth.

 

There are many other ways the prophets disprove man’s theory of premillennialism, but that is the subject of another writer of this book. The above are simply offered to show how the system of premillennialism does not fit with the passages dealing with “the Branch.”

LESSONS LEARNED

 

There are many valuable lessons for us from the writings of the prophets. Below a few of them are stated as related to the subject of “Christ, the Branch.”

 

1) God is true to His promise. He promised that Christ would come through the lineage of David. (see II Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 11:1, Amos 9:11-12). God was true to His promise.

 

2) God’s care for His people. Although God’s people turned from Him, He still loved them and left a remnant. When man truly repented of his sins, God allowed him to come back into His fellowship.

 

3) The greatness of the church is seen in that it is the Lord’s temple. “The Branch” that was to come would build the Lord’s temple. This temple is the church of God (I Corinthians 1:1-2, 3:16-17).

 

4) Jesus Christ rules in righteousness. Jeremiah states: “In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). The Hebrew writer says He rules in righteousness. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Hebrews 1:8-9). America, and all the world, need to love righteousness and hate iniquity.

 

5) Christ is exalted. Zechariah states that the Branch would bear the glory of the Lord’s temple. May we glorify God in the church (Ephesians 3:20-21).

CONCLUSION

 

Although God’s people had turned away from Him and gave in to idolatry and been greatly reduced, a rod or shoot did come out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch did grow out of his roots. The world has been blessed by this Branch. Today, He offers salvation to all that come to Him. One day, He will return to receive the church unto Himself (Ephesians 5:25-27). May we love Him, honor Him, and obey Him.

 

ENDNOTES

 

William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies; (Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, N.D.), 48

 

William Edward Biederwolf, The Millennium Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 59

 

W.E. Blackstone, Jesus Is Coming, (Old Tappen, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1932), 162

Ibid, 167

SECTION TWO

THE BIBLE

 

THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

 

The Bible has greatly influenced the world. It has found its way into the homes of the small and the great, to the unlearned and the highly educated. It has comforted more people in the time of sorrow than any other words from mankind. It serves as a moral compass for those weary of sin. Those who heed its message find a life filled with purpose and spiritual happiness. It truly has blessed mankind. Yet, it also sends out stern warnings to those who disobey its teachings. “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor. 2:16).

 

The Bible is different from any other book because it is the inspired Word of God. What is meant by the phrase “the inspiration of God?” Let’s look a little closer.

 

DEFINITION OF INSPIRATION

 

The word “inspiration,” comes from the Greek word “theopneustos” and literally means, “Divinely breathed in.” (Strong) In fact the English words, “given by inspiration of God,” found in 2 Tim. 3:16, come from the one (compound), Greek word “theopneustos.” This wonderful Book, called the Bible (biblos cf. Mat. 1:1), has come to us from God (Deity). It is not the literary work of a man or group of men. The Hebrews’ writer expressed it this way – “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb.1:1–2). God has spoken. The Bible is the result of God speaking.

 

THE SCRIPTURES CLAIM TO BE INSPIRED

 

“The starting point in the discussion of the inspiration of inspiration is the claim of the Scriptures themselves. It is only proper that the Bible should be permitted to witness about its own nature. Once the claim is understood clearly, the character and credentials should be checked carefully; but the Scriptures should not be denied the opportunity to testify on their own behalf (Geisler & Nix 33)

 

The writers of the Bible claimed that the words they were speaking (or writing), did not originate with them. The phrase “thus saith the Lord” (and its equivalents, i.e. “God spake” and/ or “God said”), appears literally hundreds of times in the Bible. The writers and speakers of the message were thereby claiming their messages did not originate with themselves, but from God Himself. Additionally, the Scriptures explicitly claim to be Divinely inspired. As noted earlier, Paul stated; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”(2 Tim. 3:16–17). Though Paul, in this verse does not explain how the Scriptures are inspired, he nonetheless claims they are inspired. Likewise the Apostle Peter stated; “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20–21). Peter is affirming that the scriptures did not come about as the result of man’s private interpretation. If they did not originate by man’s private interpretation, then how did they come to us? “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” These are some of the many passages, which explicitly claim inspiration for the Scriptures.

In addition to the implicit and explicit claims of the inspiration of the Scriptures, one also finds a illustration of inspiration. Luke records Peter’s statement regarding Judas, “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus” (Acts 1:16). Notice that “the Scripture” which was fulfilled was the results of “the Holy Ghost” speaking by the “mouth of David.” What David spoke was from the Holy Spirit (recorded in Psalms), and is called “Scripture.” This is a clear illustration of “Divine inspiration.”

 

HOW ARE THE SCRIPTURES INSPIRED?

 

False Views:

 

When discussing “inspiration” one must realize that what he means by “inspiration” may not be what the next man means, although he uses the same term. Modernism teaches the Bible is a compilation of men writing history and rejects much (or all) of the Divine revelation. Such false views as above leaves man to direct his own steps, which Jeremiah affirms that man is not capable of doing. Jeremiah wrote; “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jer.10:23).

 

Biblical View:

 

The Bible not only claims to be inspired (God breathed), it also tells one how it is inspired.

 

Verbal: The Scriptures claim to be verbally inspired, meaning God gave the writers the very words He wanted them to say. Both the Old and New Testaments claim verbal inspiration. David affirmed; “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). God’s Word was in David’s tongue. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah stated; “Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9). Jesus promised the apostles when they went forth preaching His word, and when they were brought before those in authority, that they (inspired men) would be given the very words to say. Jesus said:

 

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you (Mat.10:16–20).

 

One should take note of the fact that the words would be given to these inspired men. It was not they who spoke, “but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” The apostle Paul claimed verbal inspiration, as seen in the following: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12–13).

 

Authoritative: Jesus, the apostles, and all faithful disciples looked to the Word of God as their authority. When Jesus was tempted, He appealed to the authority of the Scriptures. When Jesus was questioned by His critics, He appealed to the Scriptures (cf. Mat. 22:29-46). Even a causal reading of the Scriptures show how the apostles and others looked to God’s Word for their authority. Paul wrote; “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17).

 

Plenary: The Scriptures are full and completely inspired. Paul wrote; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Likewise, Jesus stated; “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:17–18). “The ‘jot’ was the smallest Hebrew letter, and the ‘tittle’ was the projection on certain Hebrew letters.”(Thompson and Harris, 132). Jesus taught the Scriptures were plenarily inspired!

 

Complete: The Scriptures are complete. The Old Testament foretells the New Testament and the New Testament fulfills and confirms the Old Testament. Jesus placed His endorsement on Old Testament events such as the creation (see Mat. 19:1-6), the flood (see Mat. 24:37-ff), Lot (see Luke 17:28), and many others. He placed His stamp of approval on the complete Old Testament (see Luke 24:27, 44). The New Testament is likewise complete. Prior to Jesus ascension back into heaven, He promised the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them “into all truth.” John records; “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Peter wrote that God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness – “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet 1:3).

 

The Scriptures are the verbally, inerrant, plenary inspired Word of God. Strong warnings are placed near the beginning, the middle and end of the Divine revelation relative to adding to, taking away or altering the Word of God. Near the beginning of the Bible, Moses wrote; “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Near the middle of the Scriptures, the Proverbs writer stated; “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Pro. 30:5–6). Then near the end of the Divine Book, John warned; “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18–19). Likewise Paul stated that a curse from God would be upon anyone who altered the Divine message. He wrote; “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8–9).

 

EVIDENCES OF INSPIRATION

 

ITS UNITY: The Bible is an amazing Book. Though written over a period of some 1600 years, by about 40 different human writers, living in different times and different places, it has a remarkable unity. George DeHoff observed:

 

The Bible consists of sixty-six books written by forty different men over a period of sixteen hundred years. It was written by kings, soldiers, shepherds, farmers and fishermen. It was begun by Moses in the lonely desert of Arabia and finished by John on the Isle of Patmos. Some of it was written in king’s palaces, some in shepherds’ tents, some beside still waters and part of it was written in prison. Part of the Bible was written by highly educated men and part of it was written by unlearned fishermen. It was written in different languages and different countries. Yet, when all the books of the Bible are brought together they blend into one great whole. They are a unit, hence The Book. There are no contradictions; there is no discord. It is never necessary to rewrite the Bible and bring it up to date. It is always up to date and was free from error from the beginning. These men could have written such a book only by divine guidance. Just as the materials for Solomon’s temple joined perfectly together because they were prepared under the direction of a great architect, so the books of the Bible blend harmoniously because they were written under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God (DeHoff 102,103).

 

Prophecy and Fulfillment: Prophets were God’s inspired spokesmen. They were both forth-tellers and fore-tellers. The work of the prophet was not always to foretell future events. They, at times, in fact much of the time, were forth-tellers of God’s Word, calling on the wayward to repent and encouraging the faithful. However, sometimes they did foretell things were to transpire many years later. A study of the various types along with their antitypes aid in the proving the inspiration of the Bible. A classic example, although we will not go into detail here, is the tabernacle as a type of the church and even heaven itself. The Passover lamb typified the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. In addition to the types and antitypes, there are the more familiar passages of Scriptures that foretell certain events and/or persons. Cyrus, for an example was mentioned by name over one hundred years before he was born and it was prophesied that he would allow the Jews to return to their homeland Israel. This was prophesied in Isaiah chapters 44 and 45 and was fulfilled during the time of Ezra (cf. 2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1). Even secular historians refer to Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. Isaiah prophesied of this over one hundred years before Cyrus was even born! Then there are the hundreds of Scriptures that foretold the events of Jesus’ live and death. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies minutely. Lest one says Jesus simply read about these prophesies and then made them come to pass, it should be observed that it would be impossible for one to choose the place where he is to be born (Bethlehem cf. Micah 5:2, Mat. 2:5-6). Neither could Jesus have chosen the things that would happen to Him after He was put to death! Yet these things were prophesied and fulfilled to the letter (no bone being broken, the piercing of His side, burial with the rich, His resurrection on the third day, etc., etc.).

 

Historical & Geographical Accuracy: Dealing with the historical accuracy of the Book of Acts, Wayne Jackson noted:

 

In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable in view of the fact that the political-territorial situation of his day was in a constant flux. How does one account for Luke’s precision? Inspiration! (Jackson 27,28).

 

 

Scientific Accuracy: While it is true that the Scriptures were not written as a Science textbook, it is true that when the Scriptures speak of scientific matters it is always accurate. While in times past, people thought the world was flat, the Scriptures did not follow popular erroneous opinion. Isaiah wrote; “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isa 40:22). God knew the earth is round and the only way Isaiah could have known it is God told him. Man had all sorts of false theories as to what holds up the earth. Job, however, made this true pre-scientific statement – “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). How did Job know that God hangs the earth upon nothing? Inspiration! After reading Psalm 8:8, Matthew Fontaine Maury discovered there are in fact “paths of the seas,” just as the Psalmist declared. While Science books have to be corrected from time to time, the Scriptures are always scientifically accurate.

 

RAMIFICATIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES BEING INSPIRED OF GOD

 

What are the ramifications of the Scriptures being the inspired Word of God? If the Scriptures are in fact inspired of God, then God exists, His Word is true, there is an objective standard of right or wrong, it is true that man has sinned and is in need of a Savior, that God has provided that Savior whose name is Jesus, there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

It is not enough to believe the Scriptures are inspired of God. One must submit to their teachings. In so doing he will believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of his sins (Luke 13:3), confess the Christ (Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:10), and be immersed in water for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). The Lord will add him to “the church” (Acts 2:47), of which Jesus is “the head” and its “Savior” (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23).

 

CONCLUSION

 

What a remarkable book, the Bible! It is unique! It alone is the verbally, plenary, inerrant, complete Word of God. In its rich pages one learns the answers to life’s most intriguing questions: (1) From whence did I come, (2) Why am I here, and (3) Where am I going?

Read it to be wise. Obey it to be saved.

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

All Scriptures references are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Bert Thompson and Brad Harrub, Investigating Christian Evidences, Montgomery, AL, Apologetics Press, 2003.

 

George W. DeHoff, Why We Believe The Bible, Murfreesboro, TN, DeHoff Publications, 1990.

 

Norman L. Geisler, William E. Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible,” Chicago, IL, Moddy Press, 1986.

Wayne Jackson, The Bible on Trial, Stockton, CA, Christian Courier Publication, 2009.

 

Strong’s Lexicon, Accordance Bible Program

 

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE

 

The Bible is a very big book.  Actually, it is a library of 66 different books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. These books are all joined together because they have one common theme.  This theme is God’s plan to save man from his sins through Jesus Christ.  The first 39 books, the Old Testament, tell us that “Christ is coming.”  The first four books of the New Testament tell us that “Christ has come.”  The last 23 books of the New Testament tell us that “Christ is coming again.”
 In order to understand the Bible properly, one needs to ask five questions as he reads: (1) Who is speaking? (2) Who is spoken to? (3) When is he speaking? (4) What type of language is the speaker using? (5) What are the circumstances or conditions under which he is speaking?  If one can answer these five questions correctly, it will help him to understand the Word of God clearly.

 

Who is speaking?

 

     Everything in the Bible was written by men who were inspired by God. However, these inspired writers sometimes recorded by inspiration the words of evil men.  Even the words of Satan are found in the Bible (See Job 1:9-11; 2:4,5; Matthew 4:3,6,9).  These words are accurately recorded, but they are not recommended for us to follow today.  If one asks, “Who is speaking?” it will help him to know whether the words he is reading are words he should obey.

 

Who is spoken to?

 

     In Genesis 6:14, we have the following commandment of God: “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.”  Is it necessary for us today to build a ship out of gopher wood in order to please God?   No, God does not want us to do this.  This command was given to Noah.  It was necessary for him to obey it in order to be saved from the great flood which God was going to send on all the world.  But this command does not apply to us today.  If we answer correctly, “Who is spoken to?” we will see this command was meant only for Noah.

 

When is the Bible writer speaking?

 

     Is the writer speaking to people such as Abraham and Isaac who lived in the Patriarchal Age when God revealed His will directly to the fathers?   Or, is he speaking to the people of Israel who lived under the Law God gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai?   Or, is he speaking to people today who live under the Law of Christ, which is the New Testament?
In the days of the Law of Moses under which Israel lived, animal sacrifices, sabbath keeping, special feast days, instrumental music and choirs and a special priesthood were all a part of required worship (Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 23; 1 Chronicles 25; 2 Chronicles 29:25; Psalm 150).  But Jesus fulfilled the Law, Psalms, and Prophets [the Old Testament] (Luke 24:44).  He has taken it away (Colossians 2:14).  Today, all men live under the Law of Christ, which is the New Testament (Hebrews 8:6-13).  If we ask, “When is he speaking?” it will let us see that these Old Testament laws of worship are not for us.  We must go to the New Testament to find how God wants us to worship Him today.

 

What type of language is the inspired writer using?

 

     All human languages have two types of speech:  literal and figurative. Literal language is the type which is found in the historical books of the Bible such as Genesis and Exodus, the book of Acts, etc. It is fact. Literal words must be understood to have their actual meaning.  In literal language, if a sheep is mentioned, it means a four legged animal which has wool on its back.
Figurative language is different. Words are used to represent ideas or  thoughts which are different from the actual meaning of the word.  For example: a sheep or lamb may be spoken of, but an animal is not meant. It is being used to represent something else which has some of the qualities of a sheep or lamb. Jesus was a man.  He is the Son of God.  But in figurative language in the Bible, He is sometimes spoken of as a lamb.  John the Baptist said of Jesus: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Lambs were used for sin offerings under the Law of Moses. John did not mean that Jesus was an actual lamb. But he meant that Jesus would be the offering for our sins.

 

 

 

What are the conditions or circumstances in which this writing is given?

 

     If we know the circumstances surrounding the writer at the time he writes, it will help us to understand what he is saying.  For example:  many people have great difficulty understanding the book of Revelation.  But if we know the circumstances under which the book was given, it will help us to understand its message. The writer of Revelation was John, the apostle.  He had been imprisoned by the Roman government on a rocky island called Patmos. This was done because he was a Christian. The heathen Roman government was persecuting the church of Christ near the end of the first century (about A.D. 95  to 100). The things which were revealed to John were “things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1). The book of Revelation was intended to encourage those Christians who were being persecuted in the first century (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5, 12, 21). Any time that Christians are persecuted, they can gain great encouragement from studying the book of Revelation.
The Bible is God’s inspired Book. It is His revelation to mankind.  But in order for us to understand the Bible, we must learn how to study it properly. We must “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we will ask these five simple questions as we study, we will find that we can indeed understand God’s Book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth For The World

WWW.TFTW.ORG

 

THE BIBLE INFORMS ONE OF

GOD’S CREATION OF HEAVEN, EARTH, AND THE SEA (1:1 – 2:25)

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

David exclaimed; “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou has ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him” (Psm. 8:3-4). David, being a shepherd, would have had many occasions to gaze upon the host of heaven (the moon and the stars), at night and behold its beauty. Upon contemplation of the heavens, he recognized they were the product of God’s creative handiwork. David realized the magnificence of God and of His creation. This same man penned; “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handy-work” (Psm. 19:1). Each person should stand in awe of God as he considers God’s creation. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psm. 139:14).

 

Genesis chapters one and two record the creation of the world. Someone has observed that the Bible is the only Book that can inform man of three very important bits of information; (1) From whence he came, (2) Why he is here and, (3) Where he is going. One’s attitude toward these three questions will determine his actions. If one believes that he came from slime rather than the sublime, he will act accordingly. If, however, he genuinely believes there is a Creator and that there is a divine purpose in life, then he will seek out that purpose and have meaning in his life. Genesis chapters one and two reveal God as our Creator.

 

Regarding Genesis one, Franklin Camp observed,

 

Perhaps a good title for this chapter would be “God-Centered.” The name of God is specifically referred to thirty–two times in this chapter. We read in verse one that “God created,” in verse two that “God moved,” in verse 3 that “God said,” in verse 4 that “God saw,” in verse 4 that “God divided (sic) in verse 5 that “God called,” in verse 7 that “God made,” in verse 17 that “God set,” in verse 21 that “God created,” and in verse 22 that “God blessed.” The phrase that “God said” is used ten times in Genesis 1.

 

The book of Genesis serves as the foundation for the rest of the Bible. If it is not true, then the rest of the Bible falls dues to its faulty foundation. If, on the other hand, Genesis is true then we have, as this Lectureship’s theme states, “Foundational Truth and the Unfolding of God’s Plan of Redemption.” Some have asserted that Genesis (especially chapters one through eleven), is not literal nor an historical record. Some would have people believe that Genesis is myth, allegorical or a poem. In refutation of this, Bert Thompson listed several reasons why Genesis is an historical, literal account and not mythical or a poem.

 

1. The style of these early chapters does not suggest such.

2. Jesus viewed them as historical (Matt. 19:4-6, John 5:46-47, Matt. 5:18, 23:35)

3. The inspired writers of the New Testament regarded the events of Genesis as historical.

4. Because of Genesis’ relation to the human redemption (man’s fall and God’s redemptive acts).

5. Because of the importance that Genesis plays in presenting and tracing the Messianic seed–line through history (Gen. 3:1-15).

 

Regarding the historicity of Genesis, Keil and Delitzsch observed;

 

The account of the creation, its commencement, progress, and completion, bears the marks, both in form and substance, as a historical document in which it is intended that we should accept as actual truth, not only the assertion that God created the heavens, and the earth, and all that lives and moves in the world, but also the description of the creation itself in all its several stages.

 

Genesis one and two are literal and historical. They record for us the creation of all things. In these two chapters one will find the foundation for the rest of God’s inspired revelation to mankind. It indeed is an interesting and valuable study.

 

THE CREATION OF THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH (1:1-2)

 

As one opens his Bible he reads a very concise, but powerful statement – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

 

Genesis sets the stage for the method and the manner of the teaching of the Bible. Note its simplicity and its breadth. It is simple enough for a child to understand and yet covers the whole matter of creation. This is an indication of the inspiration of the Bible. Man would never have conceived of stating, in such a simply way, things that have to do with creation, the introduction of God to man, and the discussion of creation as is set forth in this chapter. And yet, while it is stated in simple terms, it also has breadth that covers all that men will ever need to know concerning the matter. The first conception that one forms of God is based on Genesis 1. Since this is true, one can understand why this chapter is so important. A false conception of Genesis 1 leads to a false conception of God.

 

God is back of all things. He is eternal and is the First Great Cause (Psm. 90:2). When the beginning, began, God was already there. Guy N. Woods stated it the following way; “He who was in the beginning, did not begin, when the beginning began.” The beginning has reference to the creation of all things, including time, as we know it.

 

“In the beginning” is supported by scientific principles, which demand that there be a beginning. Matter is not eternal. The only two ultimate alternatives to explain the existence of the universe is (1) matter created itself, or (2) God created it. It is illogical and unscientific to affirm the first; it is both logical and scientific to affirm the second alternative.

 

The word “God” is from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” This word is plural in form. However, the text is not affirming there are three gods. There are many passages that affirm there is but “one God” (cf. Mal. 2:10). However, there is more that one person in the Godhead. The Bible teaches there are three distinct personalities in the Godhead. There is God, the Father (John 3:16), God, the Son (John 1:1-3), and God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). The word “God” denotes Deity and not number. There is one God (Divine nature), but three persons who possess this one Divine nature.

 

“Created” is from the word “bara.” Only God is able to create in the strictest sense. Only He can bring into existence something out of nothing. God “created” and “made” this world. He brought material into existence out of nothing, and also shaped the material that was brought into existence. Man cannot “create” material, he can only reshape such.

 

The heaven and the earth is that which God created. The heaven (heavens A.S.V.), refers to space, and the earth refers to the land (matter). Herbert Spencer noted five scientific principles that are contained in Genesis 1:1 – (1) “in the beginning” – time, (2) “God” – Force; (3) “created” – motion, (4) “the heaven” – space, (5) “earth” – matter.

 

At this point the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Light had not yet been created and the earth was “waste and void” (A.S.V.). The earth was without arrangement at this point. The “deep” has reference to the waters. The Spirit of God moved (or brooded), upon the face of the waters. The Spirit of God would brood upon the face of the waters throughout the entire creation days to bring about order and completion. “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent” (Job 26:13). The Bible teaches that all three persons of the Godhead were active in the creation. Two persons of the Godhead have already been noted in the text (the Father and the Spirit). John also informs us that Jesus, was active in the creation – “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).

Gap Theory: Some teach there was a big gap in time between the first two verses of Genesis 1. This, of course, is very popular for those who want to believe the earth is very old, and seek to find a place for the so-called “geologic ages.” This would “harmonize” the “differences” between Genesis and Geology. The theory is that God created the world (Gen. 1:1), then (some teach), there was a rebellion involving Satan and a pre-adamic race one earth and God destroyed that world and then later “re-created” the present world in six literal 24 hour days. So it is alleged that the world could be billions of years old (per the geological record used by the evolutionists).

A couple of the arguments for the “Gap Theory” are: (1) The (mis)use of the words “bara” (create), and “asah” (made). It is alleged that since the word “bara” means to create, God first created the world (Gen. 1:1), but He destroyed it, then He had to re-make (“asah”) the world. (2) It is also alleged that the word translated “was” in Gen. 1:2 should be translated “became.” They would have the verse to read “And the earth became without form,” indicating a perfect creation at first but then a destruction.

 

Gap Theory Refuted: First, the words “bara” and “asah” are used interchangeably when used of God. God said “let us make man….” (Gen. 1:26), yet God “created man…” (Gen. 1:27). God did not “create” Adam, then destroy him and “make” him again. The same is stated regarding the heavens and the earth. God “created” the heavens and the earth, yet He “made” the heavens and the earth – “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4). The words are used interchangeably when used of God. Second, there is nothing in the context that suggests a “gap” between the verses (or the ones following for that matter). Notice the word “and” in verse two, which shows a continuation of the previous words in verse one. No one would conceive of a “gap theory” simply by reading the text. Third, there are no scholarly translations that translate the word “was” as “became” in verse two. Fourth, Exodus 20:11 clearly states that everything that was created was created in the six days of Genesis one – “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Fifth, Jesus stated , “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). Male and Female were made “from the beginning.” Obviously, Jesus did not believe a gap existed – a long period of time – between these two verses.

THE FIRST DAYCREATION OF LIGHT (1:3-5)

 

Here is the first recording of God speaking. Illustrated here also is the power of God’s word. The world came into existence by God speaking it into existence. The Psalmist declared; “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psm. 33:6). And, “for he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psm. 33:9). God brought light into existence and then separated it from the darkness, thereby creating the first day. There is a period of light and a period of darkness. The earth must be rotating on its axis at this time. God defines His terms of morning and evening as “the first day.”

 

Day Age Theory: Again some evidently not satisfied with simple Biblical truth, look for long periods of time for creation. The “Day Age Theory” affirms that the six days of Genesis one could have been long periods of time.

Day Age Theory Refuted: We agree that the days could have been long periods of time, if that is what God wanted. However, God tells us of what the day consisted – the evening and the morning, (a 24 hour period). Second, the Hebrew word for day (yom), when preceded by a numeral always means a 24 hour period in a non-prophetic usage. Third, Adam was created on the sixth day. If a day was thousands of years, we ask – “Did Adam live to see the seventh day?” Fourth, the Jewish observance of the Sabbath day shows that the days of Genesis one were 24 hour days. Moses wrote; “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exod. 20:8-11). The Jews were to start observing the sabbath day because the Lord observed a day of rest at the end of His creation week. How long did they rest? What ever amount of time the Jews were to rest, would be the same amount of time of the seventh day of the creation week. Since they rested 24 hours, the seventh day of creation week must have been 24 hours.

 

THE SECOND DAYCREATION OF THE FIRMAMENT (1:6-8)

The firmament is a “expanse of atmosphere .” “One the second day of creation, the waters covering the earth’s surface were divided into two great reservoirs – one below the firmament and one above, the firmament being the expanse above the earth now corresponding to the troposphere.” Curtis A. Cates writes;

 

Please notice that the waters below the firmament were divided from the waters which were above, not in, the firmament. One must not confuse this firmament [the atmosphere] with the firmament where the stars exist (1:16,17); or with the intermediate state, where Lazarus went (Luke 16:19-31); or with the heaven of heavens, where God’s throne exists (John 14:1-3; I Kings 8:27). The firmament is where the birds fly.

 

THE THIRD DAYDRY LAND, SEAS, AND CREATION OF VEGETATION (1:9-13)

 

God now called for the waters to be gathered together into one place and the dry land appeared. This could have been done by depression and elevation. Regarding the water being gathered together into one place and the seas (plural), Coffman observes;

The waters were gather together into one place. An examination of a world map shows that all the seas are connected. Literally in one place; yet there are divisions which make it possible to correctly use the plural (seas). This is one of the many indications of the divine inspiration of the account given by Moses. Neither Moses, nor any other writer of that ancient time, had personal knowledge that could have led to such a statement.

 

We, of course, must keep in mind that since the time of creation there has also been a catastrophic event – the universal flood. God’s creative acts were good (verse 10).

 

After caused the dry land to appear, He then created vegetation. This is the first life on earth. It is interesting to notice that life first appeared on the dry land and not in the water (as claimed by the evolutionist). God put within the plants the ability to reproduce. Each plant life would produce seed “after his kind.” God, however, placed limitation in reproduction. Although mutations can occur within its “kind,” it is always harmful rather than helpful. Again, this is contrary to the teaching of evolution!

 

In verse 11 occurs the first mention of both “seed” and “kind.” Implanted in each created organism was a “seed,” programed to enable the continuing replication of that type of organism. The modern understanding of the extreme complexities of the so-called DNA molecule and the genetic code contained in it has reinforced the Biblical teaching of the stability of kinds. There is a tremendous amount of variational potential within each kind, facilitating the generation of distinct individuals and even many varieties within the kind, but nevertheless precluding the evolution of new kinds! A great deal of “horizontal” variation is easily possible, but no “vertical” changes.

 

Everything was created full grown. Therefore, even though plant life would be only one second old after creation, the apparent age would be quite different.

 

THE FOURTH DAYCREATION OF SUN, MOON, STARS (1:14-19)

 

An interesting question arises from an observation of the light that was created on the first day and two great lights which God made on the fourth day. What was the light on the first day? It was observed earlier that there was a morning and an evening which equaled a “day.” This light must have been universal. Henry Morris explains;

 

On the first day, He said: “Let there be light!” (Hebrew or). On the fourth day, He said: “Let there be lights” (or light-givers, Hebrew ma-or). Intrinsic light first, then generators or light later, is the both logical and the Bible order. The chief purpose of both the light of the first three days and the light-givers of all later days was to “divide the light from the darkness” (verses 4, 18). The duration of the days and night was the same in each case, and the directions of light of light emanation on the earth from space must have been the same in each case.

 

In other words, God created light instantaneously, as though it emanated from the sun on the first day and then created the generator (sun) for it on the fourth day. God did not set up so sort of temporary light for the first three days and then destroy it to make the “other light” on the fourth day. Curtis A. Cates stated;

 

…Might not God have created localized light to come to earth as if from the sun and then three days later to create the sun, when he created the other stars, whereby he could keep the electro-magnetic radiation coming and thus be able to “walk off and leave it?” When one realizes that God created the stars, the host of heaven, on day four for man’s benefit, to be “for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years,” “to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:14,15), he sees the necessity of God’s having created the stars as well as the light for those stars as if the light had emanated from them for billions of years. Else, Adam would have seen very, very, few stars. An appropriate question is, “What would be most difficult for God” Create the sun first, the light first, or both at the same time? Which is less difficult for God? … The light created on day one must have been of the same nature and in the same degree as that produced by the sun on day four. The sun would simply be God’s method of giving the light permanence, producing and governing the light through the laws of nature.

 

These lights were for the purpose of “signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” “Signs” perhaps indicates the various star groupings. The seasons would be the various times of the year. Even it the canopy idea is true (and that it provided a much warmer climate universally), there could still be slight various of seasons in the year. Then, of course, there are the “days” and “years.”

 

THE FIFTH DAYTHE CREATION OF FISH AND FOWL (1:20-23)

 

Where the King James Version has “let the waters bring forth,” the American Standard Version records, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures.” Waters are now swarming with life. The amount of life found in a single drop of water is staggering to the mind. How small this life is, yet it is life! Not only are the bodies of water swarming with fish and living creatures, the heavens now have the various winged fowls flying in them. Again it is noted that everything was made “after their kind.” “And God saw that it was good.”

 

THE SIXTH DAYCREATION OF ANIMAL AND MAN (1:24-31)

 

The sea and the air now being filled with life, God next created the land animals, both small and great. After this, something remarkable is stated; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Man is distinct from the rest of God’s creation in that he is created in God’s image. Notice that God said “let us…” indicating the other two persons of the Godhead are active in creation.

 

Man is the offspring of God – “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29). While our physical bodies come from our parents, with some likenesses to them, it is God that forms the spirit within man (Zech. 12:1). God is called “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). Consequently, man has a spirit that survives the death of his body. Man’s spirit will exist eternally either in heaven or in hell. When the spirit departs from the body, the body dies, but the spirit continue to live. James wrote; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

Man, being in the image of God, is a moral being. He has the ability to choose right or wrong (Josh. 24:15). He has the ability to worship his Creator. This is an observable universal trait and is uniquely human. Wherever mankind has lived, there have been evidences of his worshiping some higher being. Animals do not have this sense of “ought,” as does man. Not only was man created in the image of God, but he was given dominion over the creation. He also was commanded to be fruitful and multiple and replenish the earth. The word “replenish” is from an Hebrew word which means “to fill or be filled.” Man and animals were told to eat of every herb bearing seed. After the flood, man will begin to eat meat, in addition to the herbs.

 

Chapter one ends with this observation – “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Gen 1:31).

 

SUMMARY OF CREATION (2:1-3)

 

Moses records the summary of the creation week and states that God “rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.” The word “rested” simply means to “cease.” God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it He “had rested.” It should be remembered that Moses is writing history. Also, one should notice that the blessing and the sanctifying of the seventh day did not take place the same time of God resting. The text says that God blessed it and sanctified the seventh day because in it He “had rested.” God rested on the seventh day of the week of creation and then later He blessed it and sanctified it. The word “sabbath” occurs the for the first time in Exodus 16:23 and is limited to one dispensation (the Jewish – or Mosaic – dispensation). The Jews were given the sabbath due to their rest from their Egyptian captivity. It was made known to them on Mount Sinai (Cf. Deut. 5:2,3,15; Neh. 9:13,14; Ezek. 20:10-13). Consequently, the sabbath was not observed from creation (as claimed by the Sabbatarians), but from the time of Mount Sinai.

 

ARE THERE TWO CREATIONS ACCOUNTS?

 

Liberal critics assert that Genesis has two creation accounts. From this it is argued that there are two different authors. Wayne Jackson reviews these critics by stating;

 

The two records are supposed to involve Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25. One author has written: “… it is evident that the Pentateuch cannot be the continuous work of a single author. This is shown by the existence of two differing accounts (doublets) of the same event: thus e.g. the story of creation in Gen. 1 and 2:4-ff….”

 

What these critics fail to realize is that Chapter two is a sequel to chapter one and gives more details in certain areas. It is not a contradiction or a different creation account by another author. One brother likened it to an “instant replay,” where the cameraman allows the viewer to go back and see an event in greater detail.

THE GENERATIONS OF THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH (2:4-7)

 

The word “generation” (toledoth), occurs ten times in the Book of Genesis. “Generation” is simply a heading to indicate the history of a people or event. The ten generations indicating the ten sections found in Genesis are as follows:

 

1. Generations of Heaven and Earth: 2:4 – 4:26

2. Generations of Adam: 5:1- 6:8

3. Generations of Noah: 6:9 – 9:22

4. Generations of the Sons of Noah: 10:1 – 11:9

5. Generations of Shem: 11:10 – 26

6. Generations of Terah: 11:27 – 25:11

7. Generations of Ishmael: 25:12 – 18

8. Generations of Isaac: 25:19 – 35:29

9. Generations of Esau: 36:1 – 37:1

10. Generations of Jacob: 37:2 – 50:26

 

As stated in the text, it had not rained, but a midst went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. Just how long this condition lasted cannot be stated with certainty. However, it might be argued that such a condition lasted until after the flood, due to the fact that a rainbow was used a sign, which may indicate that it was seen following the flood for the very first time. Verse seven tells us that man was created from the dust of the ground and God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul (animated). The reference here is not to man’s eternal spirit, but to the life principle. Breath of life is also affirmed of the lower animals (1:30, 7:22). Man, of course, does have a spirit that continues after death (as previously noted).

 

THE GARDEN OF EDEN (2:8 – 17)

 

God prepared a “paradise” for the man whom he had created. It is seen from this that God desires to bless man. When man arrived on the earth, everything was ready for him. The location of this garden is uncertain. God had all things prepared for man, including the food that he was to eat. Two particular trees are mention in the text; (1) the tree of life and, (2) the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was a source of life for those that would eat of it. Since the fall of man, he no longer has access to this tree but it is found again in heaven (Rev. 21-22). Man could eat of every tree, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Man was told that in the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die. Man was not created immortal for he had to eat of the tree of life in order to stay alive, and this would not be true if he were immortal by nature. Also, he would die as a result of being separated from the tree of life. Man, from his very creation, had the ability to choose. He was commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and was informed of the consequence if he did eat of it.

 

Adam must have known between good and evil since God told him not to eat of the forbidden tree. He must have been able to distinguish between knowing to eat of the tree or not to eat of the tree. However, Adam did not know evil in the sense of participating in such. Once he ate of it, he knew of good and evil in another sense (a practical sense, having violated God’s law).

 

A river went out of Eden to water the garden and then it parted and became four heads. The four rivers are “Pison,” “Gihon,” “Hiddekel,” (or Tigris), and the “Euphrates.”Of all these rivers, the Euphrates is the most familiar to Bible students. The Pison and Gihon rivers cannot be located with any certainty, while it is thought that the Tigris and Euphrates can be located generally, although one should keep in mind that time and the flood have changed things.

 

Adam was placed in the garden with the charge of dressing and keeping the garden. It is worthy of notice that God did not intend for man to be lazy. God did not do for man, what man was capable of doing for himself. Man was to work even before sin entered into the world. Consequently, work in general is not a punishment for man sinning (although after the fall his work would be much more difficult cf. Gen. 3).

 

What death is indicated by the phrase, “for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die?” Although, there are good, sound brethren who disagree, it is my studied opinion that this death is spiritual in nature. The death indicated here would be separation from God’s fellowship. Sin is that which separates us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). Those who live in sin are said to be “dead” while they are alive (I Tim. 5:6). The Ephesians had been those who were dead, but had been made alive (Eph. 2:1-3). Paul states that death has passed upon all men, for all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). Some, however, have died physically who have not sinned (i.e. babies). Paul wrote; “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The death in this passage is in contrast to eternal life (spiritual), therefore the death must be spiritual. Some hold that God meant physical death. It is true that physical death is a consequence of sin, since we are separated from the tree of life. Since both spirit death and physical death are consequences of sin, this writer sees no violation done to the text with either view, but my personal view is that the death contemplated in Genesis 2:17 is spiritual death.

 

GOD MAKES AN HELP MEET FOR ADAM (2:18 – 25)

 

“This verse gives the background to the creation of Eve and introduces the narrative of her beginning.” God said it was not good for man to be alone and He would make an help meet for man. Man is a social creature. The word “help meet” is the idea of someone who is helpful to him. They (man and woman), would be suitable to each other.

 

Adam was given the responsibility of naming every creature. This indicates Adam is a very intelligent being. Adam could see that every living creature had a mate, but there was not found an help meet for him. God puts Adam to sleep and takes one of his ribs and from such makes a woman. She is brought unto him and Adam states that she is “… bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). The time of this context must have been on the sixth day of creation.

 

Recorded here is the divine origin of marriage. Man is to leave his parent’s home and cleave unto his wife. Obviously, more than Adam and Eve are contemplated here in that Adam had no father and mother to leave. Husband and wife are to be “one flesh.” “One flesh” indicates a closeness, a togetherness. Jesus endorsed this account as recorded in Matthew 19:4-6.

 

Adam and Eve originally were naked and unashamed in the garden of Eden. This was before they sinned. One of the side effects of sin is a sense of shame. Later, God would clothe them, not to keep them warm, but to cover them due to their shame.

 

CONCLUSION

 

A study of the book of Genesis is a rich and rewarding study. It is a book of beginnings. It sets the stage for the rest of God’s divine revelation. Jesus and the apostles often referred to the events of this book as both historical and literal. If Genesis is the foundation for the rest of the Bible (and it is), then one can readily see the importance of the first two chapters of the first book of the Bible. “In the beginning, God….”

ENDNOTES

Franklin Camp, Outline on Genesis, unpublished notes, p. 5.

 

Bert Thompson, Essays in Apologetics, vol. 1 (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics press, 1984), pp. 148 – 152.

C. F. Kiel and F. Delitzch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), p. 37.

 

Camp, p.5

 

Bob Winton, Outlined Commentary on Genesis, (Gallipolis, OH: Bob Winton, 1987), p.9.

 

Winton, pp. 9 – 10.

 

Ibid, p. 11

 

Curtis A. Cates, The Noahic Flood, (Olive Branch, MS: Cates Publication, 1994), p. 39. I recommend this book for a further discussion of the Water Vapor Canopy.

Winton, p. 12.

 

Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record,(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), p.63.

Ibid, p. 65.

Curtis A. Cates, “And God said, Let There Be Light,” Gospel Advocate Periodical, cxxv, (November 3, 1983), p. 644

 

Wayne Jackson, “Are There Two Creation Accounts In Genesis?,” Reason and Revelation, XI, (March, 1991), p.9.

 

Personal conversation with Curtis A. Cates.

 

Winton, p. 26.

 

THE BIBLE AND EVIDENCES FOR A GLOBAL, CATASTROPHIC FLOOD

Curtis A. Cates

 

Introduction

 

The foundation of Christianity has been attacked viciously for two millennia and its Book divine assailed most ruthlessly; BUT, “…the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35)! In spite of the vehement attempts to chase the Creator out of His universe, “…there is [still] a God in heaven” (Dan. 2:28).

 

Not unexpectedly since Genesis 1-11 is the very bedrock of the case for Christianity, an avalanche of criticism has come upon 1) the creation, 2) the temptation and the fall, 3) the promise of the Messiah born of the virgin, and 4) the universal flood. Amazingly, though, the very arguments used against Christianity become among the most formidable foes against atheistic, and so-called “theistic” [though this is a misnomer] evolution, and among the great evidences of Christianity. The author knows of no arguments against Christianity which are not, in fact, rather some of the strongest of the defense that, “Thou art Jehovah, even thou alone; thou has made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, and the earth and all things that are thereon, the seas and all that is in them, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee” (Neh. 9:6). One sees this very clearly in “the evidences for a global, catastrophic flood.”

 

The Issue

 

Absolutely insurmountable for the evolutionist is the problem of the origin of the universe. For many years, he felt secure in his supposition that matter [the universe, or cosmos] is eternal and that “the present is the key to the past,” an unscientific philosophy and hypothesis known as uniformity. The scientific laws of thermodynamics, et al., explode the myth that the universe is eternal. Indeed, science is at a complete loss to make pronouncements regarding the origin of the universe.

The evolutionist, who practices his religion of Humanism [which includes atheism and evolution], must depend upon his faith in uniformity; that is, he postulates that present processes can be extrapolated into the past. In spite of the fact that the atheistic scientists claim to be objective and that they boast of the “proofs” and the “fact” of evolution, many evolutionists admit that they are very subjective, that they ignore the implications of “true science,” and that they practice “the religion of science.” Indeed, the “religion” of secular Humanism is being taught in public schools and universities at taxpayers’ expense, whereas one is absolutely forbidden to teach scientific creationism in the schools. The greatest farce [deception] being palmed off on youth is that God does not exist, that man is but a graduate beast, and that there are no moral absolutes!

 

In the “religion of science,” the uniformitarian claims to have developed an historical geologic timetable, a method of dating the rocks, and an evolutionary history of all life [from its springing into being from non-living matter to man], both plant and animal.

 

Of course, the above is in absolute conflict with the Bible. On the other hand, no conflict exists between scientific truth and Biblical truth. It exists only between scientism and the truth of the Word of God. The same Author of the Bible is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Truth is absolutely harmonious. The Bible speaks of catastrophism, that which accounts for great changes over a short period of time. Naturally, this is ruled out arbitrarily by the atheists [as they rule out God], for it does not fit their preconceived assumptions. Nonetheless, catastrophism is exactly what one sees in the geologic history of the earth!

 

The false religion of uniformity is exposed by Peter thus: “…in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation [uniformitarianism]. For this they willfully forget that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished [catastrophism]” (2 Pet. 3:3-6). If there is a God [and there is] who created the universe from nothing, creation ex nihilo [and He did], He can dip into the universe with catastrophic events anytime He wishes to suit His purposes [and He has]. When He sent the universal flood of Genesis 6-8, more destruction took place and more scientific implications developed than most have ever imagined. Though questions still exist in numerous areas, the discussion of the flood which follows seems to fit observed scientific data [not suppositions] and fits Biblical truth. Indeed, it explains amazingly many otherwise unanswered questions regarding such things as the age of the earth, the fossil record, the origin of coal and oil, the demise of the huge dinosaurs, the radical decrease in the age of man after the flood, the ice age, the Grand Canyon, etc.

 

The Fact of the Flood

 

The Psalmist wrote, “Bless Jehovah, O my soul…. Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved forever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a vesture; The waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away (The mountains rose, the valleys sank down) Unto the place which thou hadst founded for them. Thou has set a bound that they may not pass over; That they turn not again to cover the earth. He sendeth forth springs into the valleys; They run among the mountains” (Psa. 104:1, 5-10 ASV). When did the deep cover the earth, standing above the mountains? When did the mountains rise and valleys sink down? We know that on the third day of creation a great geologic upheaval took place, for God caused the dry land to appear on an earth earlier covered with the “deep.” The land must have been raised, the valleys correspondingly sinking (Gen. 1:9-13). Was this the occasion described above? Evidently not, for this would have ruled out the universal flood; please observe that God forbade the waters again to pass over the earth.

 

The flood was universal, though the evolutionists deny this catastrophe. A few of many evidences of the universal flood follow.

 

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The purpose of the flood was to kill every human being and all animals that lived on land and breathed air.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The depth of the flood was sufficient to cover all the high hills under the whole heaven. And, this level [fifteen cubits above the tallest mountain; a hole in the bottom of the ark would have thwarted the purposes] was maintained for five months. Inasmuch as liquid water cannot be stacked [as ice can] and since water seeks its own level, it had to cover the whole earth—hydrolics. The height of Ararat alone, where the ark landed, is 17,000 feet, over three miles elevation.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The duration of the flood included forty days of heavy rain, another 110 days in which the fountains of the great deep remained open, and a total length of time in the ark before they could disembark of a year and ten days.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The geology of the flood includes another tremendous geologic upheaval, for “…on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep [same word as in Genesis 1:2] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11)—subterranean waters. Notice—“all the fountains of the great deep”! This was not a few localized isolated volcanoes.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The size of the ark was no less than 450×75×50 feet [calculating 18 inches per cubit; could be as large as 22-1/2 inches], three storied, with square footage of no less than 100,000 and volume of no less than 1,500,000 cubic feet, excluding the timbers, and with displacement tonnage of 24,000 tons. It likely floated one half depth—fifteen cubits, its carrying capacity equaling 550 to 600 standard railroad boxcars, a very large vessel. Not for another 4,500 years would another be built that size [1884]. Shaped like a box or chest or coffin [it was not going anywhere, therefore not pointed at the ends], the Hebrew for “ark” was used only twice, the other being the container in which Moses floated in the Nile. Testing on the shape [six times as long as wide] has shown it to be very stable, able to right itself from tilts of just less than 90 degrees, naturally heading into waves rather than being caught sideways in the troughs, and able to survive over 200 foot waves. The ark had a “light,” tsohar, not used elsewhere (Gen. 6:16), which was ventilation and light, being a space of one cubit left at the top of the ark’s walls and likely under an overhang in the ark’s roof. The Bible does not detail whether the ark’s roof was gabled or flat, likely gabled. The ark had one window, challon, which Noah opened and closed. And, the windows, arubbah, of heaven were opened when it rained—thus, three words for “window” in the context of Genesis 6-8. The ark was well braced by the three stores and the rooms, or nests. Some, viewing ancient people as “cavemen,” have questioned Noah’s ability to contruct the ark. Consider Stonehenge, the pyramids, and the exploits of the Phoenicians. Could Noah and his sons build it? Indeed. And, no doubt Noah had been blessed with riches [Cf. other patriarchs, as Job and Abraham]; they could have hired other builders; this writer has seen atheists build church buildings.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Why was the ark needed at all? With 120 years of warning, they could have marched around the world to escape a localized flood. Why have the animals on the ark for a year? They could have escaped. How long did it take Lot to escape Sodom?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Lord testified that the flood came and “took them [those who lived at the time of Noah] all away” (Matt. 24:39); it is likened to the final destruction when Christ returns. Luke records, “…the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27). God’s moral purpose was to wipe out sin from the earth—not just a part of sin, not just a portion of the human race.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Peter’s testimony is that only eight souls were saved from that catastrophe (1 Pet. 3:20). He believed in the universal flood, stating that the world, “being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Pet. 3:6). He placed the flood in the same category of the universal creation and of the universal destruction of the last day, “stored up for fire” (v.7).

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The covenant of the rainbow which God made with Noah promised that the same kind of destruction would never occur again. It was made with every man and with “every living creature” (Gen. 9:8-17). Has God violated this covenant with every local flood? He has if the skeptics are correct.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The flood was not geographically local but anthropologically universal. With the evidence very clear that there could easily have been one billion people who inhabited the earth at the time of the flood and countless billions of animals, it is hardly credible that all the animals and men tarried in the Mesopotamian Valley.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Hebrew mabbul, “the flood,” applies only to the Genesis flood, as is true of the Greek kataklusmos, for “flood” (2 Pet. 2:5), which spared not the old world, Greek kosmos.

Since the flood was universal, the Psalmist must have been describing the implications of the flood. What saith the Scriptures and the facts of science?

 

The Earth’s Ante-Deluvian Condition

 

The conditions on earth prior to the flood were drastically different from the post-deluvian conditions. When God created the heaven and the earth, the earth was waste, void, and covered with darkness. Water [the “deep,” tehom] covered the whole earth. On day one, God also created light [for the nature of that “light,” please see the author’s article, “And God Said, ‘Let There Be Light,’” Gospel Advocate, November 3, 1983).

 

On day two, “God made the firmament [this firmament is where the birds fly, the atmosphere], and divided the waters which were under the firmament [on the earth’s surface, per the above] from the waters which were above [please note, not “in”] the firmament; and it was so” (Gen. 1:6-8). The waters above the firmament are significant; they are not in place now. What was their nature? What happened to them? How does this relate to the flood? What are their implications to pre-flood and post-flood conditions?

 

The earth must originally have been surrounded by a canopy of water (H20). Since water is found in three states—solid (ice), liquid (including droplets), and gas (vapor)—and since the canopy continued floating on the firmament and since ice and liquid are opaque in increasing thicknesses (Adam saw the sun, moon, and stars created on the fourth day), then the canopy must have been water vapor. Vapor is invisible, it is lighter than the atmosphere (a molecule of water has a molecular weight of only 18, whereas the atmosphere is composed mainly of Nitrogen ([N2=28], oxygen [O2=32, etc.), it would remain aloft until condensing and falling in the form of rain, hail, snow, etc. Since vapor must have particles on which to condense [nuclei of condensation], it would remain until such time that these nuclei were thrust into the canopy. The two most common sources of nuclei are sodium chloride, salt [NaC1] crystals, and volcanic dust. Thus, since vapor weighs but two/thirds as much as dry air, the canopy would not fall until condensation took place.

The scientific implications of such a canopy some 20,000 feet above the earth’s surface would include: 1) no rain prior to the flood [the mist went up “from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Gen. 2:5,6)]; 2) rivers and seas different [“a river went out of Eden to water the Garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads” (Gen. 2:10), the opposite to present rivers, which flow from tributaries into the main rivers]; 3) the temperature of the atmosphere higher (the greenhouse effect) over all the surface of the earth, from pole to pole and from one side of the equator to the other—a veritable tropical paradise [water vapor would retain much of the electromagnetic radiation from the sun which is normally reradiated back to space, a characteristic known as albedo]; 4) protection from the ultraviolet [short wave-length] radiation from the sun, which causes skin cancer, aging, mutations of the R.N.A., the vapor canopy acting as a screen from harmful solar radiation, [random change is nearly always bad; consequently, in agriculture, as in medicine, the professionals go to a great extent to combat such (this in spite of the fact that the evolutionists have gone very reluctantly to mutations as the modus operandi of evolution)], explaining why the strain was relatively pure in the ante-deluvian world, and why Cain and Abel, et al., married sisters as well as partially why the average life span was over 900 years; and 5) increased atmospheric pressure, veritable natural hyperbaric oxygenation.

 

The Noahic Deluge

 

Noah’s flood was a major, universal catastrophe—the greatest single physical occurrence since creation. It has an extremely important place in the history of the world; to ignore the deluge—either ignorantly or prejudicially [willfully]—is incredibly to shut one’s eyes to amazing, phenomenal, powerful pressures, erosion, and destructive activity of the breakup of the fountains of the deep and of the waters covering all the high mountains for one-half year. Of course, this produces various types of neuroses in the atheist, the uniformitarian, for it destroys the very foundation of his religion. But, for the unprejudiced, it explains the existence of very many of the verities of science.

 

While the Holy Spirit was striving with man while Noah was preparing the ark (Heb. 11:7), God was preaching through Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” to the antediluvian world, pleading for them to repent (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:18-21; 1:10,11). At the end of 120 years (Gen 6:3), God caused the animals to “come unto thee, to keep them alive” in the ark (Gen. 6:20); Noah did not have to round them up. Edible food was also taken on the ark (Gen. 6:21). The additional number of clean animals taken on the ark was for the purpose of offering sacrifices, eating after the flood, etc. [Notice that various “kinds,” not “species,” were saved. The term “kind,” min, represents any major group of animals (or plants), which can reproduce. If two animals can breed, they are in the same kind. The Lord programmed in the D.N.A. many variations within the kinds (sometimes by evolutionists misleadingly called “microevolution”), but not “leaps” between the kinds, that is from one kind to another (called “macroevolution”). Many articles in the “learned” scientific journals debate between “lumpers” and “splitters” as to which animals belong in which species. Bible believers do not equate Biblical “kinds” with species. Noah did not save the countless species but rather the major groups of animals. The “kinds” are permanent, as they were created (1 Cor. 15:38,39).

After God shut Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark and after seven days, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Gen. 7:11,12). God through His omniscience was prepared in His original creation for judgment upon man, in the case of man’s great wickedness. And, as always, God would practice the Law of Parsimony in bringing about this judgment, thus the use of very many natural phenomena, as well as the necessary miracles.

 

What caused the breaking up of the fountains of the deep has been the subject of much speculation; likely, it was set off miraculously. Notice that this began a chain reaction. The fountains throughout the earth were “cleaved open,” broken up, thrusting out huge amounts of magma and water. A vast subterranean water system must have existed prior to the flood, as is implied by the earlier flow of the rivers (Gen. 2:10-14). The vast quantities of volcanic ash and salt crystals thrust from the volcanoes and from the oceans would then have penetrated the vapor canopy. That, combined with the cooling effect of expanded gases, would cause the vapor to begin becoming liquid through condensation or solid (snow) through sublimation, then coalescing and falling in the form of rain, etc. It would rain elephants and dinosaurs, not “cats and dogs,” for forty days and nights. Interestingly, there is only about two inches of water in the atmosphere today. When the “floodgates,” or “sluiceways” were opened, a huge downpour [geshem in the Hebrew] came down.

Before the end of the forty days, all of the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered—and, the level of the water was maintained for another 110 days. How was this possible? The fountains of the deep were not closed for 150 days after they were broken up (Gen. 8:1-3). Only after they were closed did the waters begin to assuage (Gen. 7:24). Volcanoes are actually water generators. The writer and his family flew over Mount St. Helens and drove along the Toutle River and the Columbia River, observing the tremendous devastation of the pumice, ash, and millions of tons of water produced by this rather small volcano, May 18, 1980. It spewed its emissions well above ten miles into the atmosphere; the chickens in Yakima, Washington, went to roost because of the darkness, though it was noon on Sunday. Mount Etna produced 4,600,000 gallons of water per day over 100 days. Imagine the water thousands of volcanoes throughout the world could produce; no wonder the waters maintained their level for another 110 days after the canopy was rained out.

One can but begin to imagine the tremendous process of erosion, the upheavals of the earth’s crust, the tectonic activity, the transporting of huge amounts of sediment—rock debris, plants, animals, etc., the heat generated by magma being exposed at the surface, the uprooting of the plants and trees, the world-wide depositing of debris, et al.

Dear reader, was the ante-deluvian world overflowed with water, as Peter wrote? The fact that the universal flood took place is a major watershed between creation and evolution—catastrophism and uniformitarianism.

 

The Earth’s Post-Diluvian Condition

 

The condition of the earth after the flood was drastically different. The old world had been destroyed, with every land animal. The surface of the earth, for a first thing, now contained materials which had been deposited during the flood. These strata are universal and were water laid. What the uniformitarians believe were produced over hundreds of millions of years by local floods, or some such, were laid down during the year of the flood. Abundant is the scientific proof that each stratum is a discrete unit, laid down by water, within generally a short period of time, upon which other strata were immediately layered out. Worldwide conformity in the strata bespeaks a worldwide depositional period. This fits exactly with the Genesis flood, but not with atheistic uniformity. The evolutionary geologist has variously calculated the geologic column [the strata of sedimentary rock, such as one sees in a “cut” along a highway in hills or mountainous areas] to have been slowly deposited at an average rate of one foot per 2,000 years or less [over a period of from 600,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 years]. When one observes what is found in the geologic column, the layers of sedimentary deposit in the earth’s crust [averaging one mile in thickness over all the earth], he must be impressed with the case from the flood. The evolutionist preaches that while the layers of sediment were being deposited over the one billion years or more, evolution was taking place. Life had just been spontaneously galvanized into activity from dead matter [in clear contradiction to and violation of the law of biogenesis]; now it began its long upward journey by chance and accident [in clear violation of the principle of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics], evolving from a single-celled animal and red algae through the Line of Descent [protozoa—primitive metazoa—worms—fish—amphibians—reptiles—birds and mammals—man] to human beings. Thus, they say, the geologic column is the record of man’s evolution from the single cell. Indeed, the authorities among evolutionists proclaim that paleontology offers the only direct, historical, documented “evidence” of evolution. Thus, dear reader, if the geologic column can be shown to have been laid down in the Noahic flood, the evolutionary hypothesis collapses like a house of cards. [But, without even considering the flood, the study of the fossil record constitutes the strongest proof in science against evolution, for the forms of life which are fossilized in the strata do not evolve, they are unaltered, they appear suddenly as they will always appear, and there is not the slightest hint that one major group of animals evolved into another major group of animals—or plants. The museums are absolutely destitute of fossil “evidence” of evolution? AND, the evolutionists admit it, yet still arbitrarily rule out God and creation.]

 

Please notice the problems with the so-called “geologic timetable,” described above. First, it depends upon “index fossils,” preferably marine and extinct, by which certain periods might be dated. After Lyell and his followers formulated the timetable, numerous “index fossils” have been discovered today—living, not extinct at all (examples include the tuatara [extinct 135,000,000 years], the coelacanth [extinct 70,000,000 years], the Neopilena galathaea mollusk [extinct 280,000,000 years]). Interestingly, they are called “living fossils,” refuting the timing of the uniformity hypothesis.

 

Second, it depends upon the fossils in the strata moving from very simple life forms in the lower strata to increasingly complex life forms as the strata move to the upper levels. [Note: in no place on earth can a hollow-core drill be sunk through the strata in which the “geologic timetable” is found; instead, many of the strata are missing, countless ones are out of sequence, “million of years” (as the doctrine of uniformity calculates it) of old strata have been thrust on top of young strata, and “millions of years of strata” are inverted, a true problem for the evolutionist].

 

Third, it depends upon no complex forms being found in the lower strata, but such is not the case. Instead of seeing the evolutionary sequence presumed by the evolutionists, many very complicated forms of life are found also in the lowest strata. [Note: the uniformitarian paleontologist uses a very subjective method of dating; the fossils are dated by the stratum in which each is found—and the stratum is dated by the fossils found within it, a clear example of circular reasoning.]

 

Fourth, it depends upon the absence of polystrate fossils [fossils of petrified trees and very large animals which extend through more than one, sometimes many sedimentary strata]. Were the strata to be laid down very slowly [ruling out the catastrophe of the flood], the animals and trees would have long rotted before being covered with sediment over many thousands of years. However, tree trunks through tens of strata, representing supposedly thousands, perhaps millions of years are very common, countless numbers of which are horizontal and even upside down. Most of the limbs are missing, as well as many of the roots; they were not deposited in situ.

 

Fifth, it depends upon the absence of many other evidences in the strata of a rapid burial, such as ripple marks, rain drop prints, and tracks and trails left by birds, worms, dinosaurs, and reptiles, and man. Such required that the layers which capped the imprints cover them quickly after they were produced. These phenomena abound universally in the geologic column.

 

Sixth, it depends upon the absence of numerous substances, such as coal, dolostone, evaporites, conglomerate, greywacke, chert, etc., which evidently depend upon a catastrophe such as the flood to explain their existence in the strata. For example, coal has not been shown to be forming today anywhere on earth in fresh water peat bogs [more about coal to follow]. Of course, these substances are abundant in the strata.

 

Can the universal flood answer the above problems and explain the existence of these phenomena? Indeed! One, as the canopy was rained out at a catastrophic rate and as the fountains of the great deep were broken up, tremendous volumes of debris-laden flood waters transported and deposited multiplied tons and tons of plants, animals, and rocks. One can but imagine the indescribable numbers of trees uprooted from the earth, for example [the author has been amazed at seeing the violent destruction and vast wasteland left by a flash flood on Mt. LeConte the Great Smoky Mountains and by the eruption of Mount St. Helens]. This water-transported debris would be deposited according to the scientific principles of hydraulics.

 

Two, as the debris was being laid out in sediments by the flood waters, it would tend to be deposited in layers, with the sediments and organisms which were picked up by the waters first being deposited deepest in the sequence. This would include marine organisms and marine substances. Next would follow simple organisms, and those of greater density. The degree of the organisms mobility would influence their places in the strata, for those more mobile and larger, including man, could move more rapidly to higher ground, thus for a time escaping the onslaught of the flood waters. They would be in the less deep strata. Many, perhaps most of them would thus escape being laid down in the sediment, rather decaying on the surface or being devoured by scavengers in the sea. This explains the moving—in the main—from the simpler to increasingly complex animals in the strata, but it also explains—which uniformity fails to do—the presence in the lower strata of very complex life forms. Many may well have been trapped or sick and thus unable to motivate to higher levels. At times, one finds a fossil graveyard, containing fossilized remains of many animals naturally antagonistic to each other; evidently the catastrophe of the flood found them isolated together, transporting and burying them in one deposit. [Space will not permit discussing all the stratigraphy factors involved in the forming of the strata, such as lamination, cross lamination, ripple lamination, graded bedding, cross bedding, et al. One can easily observe debris being layered out as to degree of turbidity of currents, direction of currents, density and size grades of loads carried, etc., etc., on a small scale when he observes the layers of sediment which will be deposited by rain overnight in his garden. Very clear are the evidences of sorting which the transporting water accomplished.] Additionally, the reader must not get the idea that fossilization takes place every day under ordinary circumstances—an impression which the evolutionists would like to leave with people. Fossilization takes place under very special conditions, rarely occurring. Fossilization universally, simultaneously taking place, required by what is found in the strata, is not occurring today and is not possible under uniform conditions required by atheistic evolution.

 

Three, as the strata were formed, the trees which had been uprooted and transported by the rushing seas would be deposited, sometimes leaving huge lengths of their trunks exposed, around which other layers of sediment would be deposited as the direction and speed of flow changed [The speed of flow would influence the density, shape, et al. of the sediments laid out]. Since the root end of the stumps were heavier, they would tend to be deposited floating upright. However, the thickness of the sediment borne along by the water would sometimes cause a tree to be buried inclined or upside down. Dear reader, have you ever grown a tree upside down—through SOLID ROCK? The same principle applies to the huge, polystrate animals. [Note: before the solidification of the strata which were deposited during the flood, the forces of orogeny, or mountain-building, pushed the many strata up to great heights. The strata had not yet hardened into solid rock and thus bent and twisted, rather than being cracked and shattered as solid rock would be. The flood, not uniformity, explains this phenomenon and explodes the theory of uniformity.

 

Four, as the layers of sediment were being deposited, the flood caused conditions which formed the huge coal beds throughout the world. Coal is composed, in the main, of the carbon from plant debris, which beds cover continuously many thousands of square miles, compose beds of fifty feet or more thick, and are found in as many as one hundred strata in one given location. The uniformitarian explanation of coal’s formation is the autochthonous theory [fresh water peat bog origin], whereas the allochthonous process [water-transported origin] is held by those believing in Biblical catastrophism. The former fails to fit the facts of science, whereas the latter seems to explain what is known about coal. 1) Beds of coal are immediately above and below strata containing marine fossils and rocks—that is, deposits from the depths of the ocean, not fresh water. 2) Marine fossils and salt-water substances are prevalent in coal seams. 3) The tree trunks preserved in coal strata are sometimes found in horizontal and upside down positions, clearly water transported and deposited. 4) The hundreds, even thousands of feet of plant debris necessary for thick coal beds to be produced is not possible under uniformitarian conditions, only by its being transported in en masse. 5) Thick boulders in coal beds show transportation is by water rather than naturally occurring there, in situ. 6) No fresh water peat bogs have been shown to be producing or to have produced coal. 7) Coal does not require millions of years to be produced, as the theory of uniformity would preach. The allochthonous process fits the scientific facts and the Biblical flood.

 

The religion of uniformity has been unable to come up with an acceptable mechanism for oil’s origin; but, the flood accounts for the layering out of organic matter in the presence of water, and gives the explanation of the pressure and heat necessary for its change into petroleum. Involved in this process are the necessary chemicals being present and its buoyancy in water. And, more is being learned, from recent sediments of organic material, about the transformation into hydrocarbons taking place in just thousands, perhaps hundreds of years—not millions.

 

For a second thing, the tremendous and rapid cooling of the earth when the flood started answers the riddle of the frozen mammoths in the glaciers and permafrost of the Arctic regions—beasts so quickly frozen that their meat is still edible; tropical plants readily identifiable, undigested in their mouths and stomachs; and ivory tusks which have retained their animal matter [which makes them valuable]. This is proof, number one, of the universal tropical paradise prior to the flood, from pole to pole and, number two, of the ice age’s rapid onslaught. What precipitated such inundation of freezing temperatures and ice? The uniformitarian is without viable explanation.

 

When the fountains of the great deep were broken up, the ash which was thrust into the atmosphere reduced the amount of solar radiation which hit the earth. Meanwhile, the rainfall was especially heavy over areas of volcanic activity, causing reduced pressure in those areas. Thus, winds would have rushed from high pressure to low-pressure areas, causing storm areas of extremely cold air, hail, and snow. Since lower pressures cause air to expand and thus to cool, the surface temperature would drop very quickly to tens, perhaps hundreds of degrees below zero Fahrenheit, thus accounting for flower petals, poppies undigested and preserved in huge animals in what are now frozen wastelands.

 

For a third thing, not only does the canopy’s absence resulting from the flood account in part for a steady shortening of the lifetime of man—and animals—after the flood [from 900 to 70 years average], because it did very, very well then what the ozone [O3] layer does now quite well [ultraviolet rays deteriorate the D.N.A. and shorten life spans], but it also helps likely to explain the longer age span in another way. The atmospheric pressure with the canopy in place must have been at least double the present pressure, thus increasing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Compare this with the effects of treating patients in hyperbaric chambers today; scientists are learning more about the slowing of the aging process in hyperbaric oxygenation. Also interesting is the implication regarding the dinosaurs. The bones in reptiles, unlike in other animals, continue to grow all their lives—longer lives, greater the sizes. Further, the lungs which the dinosaurs seemed to have could have oxygenated their huge bodies with the greater abundance of oxygen in the atmosphere [increased atmospheric pressure] but not in the decreased amount of oxygen, post-flood. Still further, the dinosaurs evidently could not endure the cooler temperatures and terrible winters after the flood, and could not find sufficient food to feed their huge bodies after the earth was no longer the tropical paradise [yes, Noah took dinosaurs on the ark, baby ones, but they could not endure the new climate], thus becoming extinct.

Space fails to show the many other scientific implication of the universal flood, such as the periods of vast glaciation, the origin of the Great Lakes and the Grand Canyon, the refutation of the dates assumed and dating processes used by the uniformitarians, the much more nearly accurate dating processes which show a young earth, the change of the animals from vegetarians to meat eaters at the time of the flood, the impossibility of the existence of the alluvial plain of the Mississippi River [except by the flood], the existence of the higher sea level and the continental shelves, the mountain building processes brought about by the flood, etc., etc.

 

Conclusion

 

Much work and study is still being done by the flood scientists and by others who believe that God sent the flood of Genesis 6-8. Though this chapter has been very brief, it is hoped that the reader’s faith is enhanced and that the youths [both older and younger] will see that the so-called “scientific” hypothesis concerning the earth’s geologic history is not the only possible “explanation.” Let Bible students be very slow in redefining and rejecting Bible truth in the attempt to getting it to “harmonize” with uniformity, evolution and Humanism. “The heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7).

 

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE

FIGURES OF SPEECH

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

God has communicated His will to mankind by means of words. David stated; “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2). Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah wrote; “Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth (Jer.1:9). The New Testament also claims to be verbally inspired. Paul wrote;

 

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:11-13).

 

The Holy Spirit gave the very words that God wanted revealed unto mankind. By these “words” one can know the mind of God as far as much has been revealed.

 

Although God could have chosen a different method to communicate with us, He has chosen the method of “words.” Since God has chosen the “word method,” the rules of language apply to the Bible as they do to any other literary work. God has adapted His word to man’s intellect and ability so that man can understand His word. What is meant by the previous sentence is that man, as he is, can understand the Bible, as it is. God does not have to send the Holy directly upon the written word, nor directly upon the heart of man in order for man to understand God’s word. It is note worthy that the “common people” heard Jesus gladly (cf. Mark 12:37). They understood the spoken words of Jesus. We, likewise, can understand the written word of God. Paul stated to the Ephesians;

 

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (Eph 3:1-4).

 

When the Ephesians read Paul’s inspired words, they could understand. Later, in the same epistle, he encouraged them; “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). If mankind appreciates the fact that he can understand the word of God, he will be more inclined the study the precious word. By God’s word one can learn many wonderful things, such as “from whence he came,” “Why he is here,” and “where he is going.” He also can learn what he must do in order to be saved from his sins and have the blessed hope of heaven in the after awhile. David observed; “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psa. 119:130).

 

DEFINITIONS OF TERMS

 

It is important to have a correct understanding of the meanings of terms. Without such an understanding, there is confusion. Consequently, a little space is taken here to define three expressions. This particular chapter comes under the section of the book, “Hermeneutics And Exegesis.”

 

Hermeneutics: The word “hermeneutics” simply means “The science of interpretation.” Hence “Sacred hermeneutics is the science of interpretation of the scriptures” (Dungan,1).

Exegesis: The word “exegesis” comes from a compound Greek word meaning to “leading out” (Dungan, 1). Man is to bring out of the text what God placed into the text. The problem is that man is prone to read “into the text” what God did not place into the text. Such is known as “eisegesis” (leading into the text), rather than “exegesis” (leading out of the text). When a passage of Scripture has been properly exegeted, it is not, as some argue, “just your interpretation.” A passage is God’s word and should be properly exegeted by man. Correctly done, man’s inference is what God has stated (whether by direct statement or by implication).

Figures of Speech: “Figures of speech” has been defined as;

A mode of expression in which words are used out of their literal meaning or out of their ordinary use in order to add beauty or emotional intensity or to transfer the poet’s (or writer’s BB), sense impressions by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning familiar to the reader. Some important figures of speech are: simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole and symbol (Angelfire, np).

 

Milton Terry observed that figures of speech suggest divine harmonies. He stated; “May we not safely affirm that the analogies traceable between the natural and spiritual worlds are part of a divine harmony which is the noblest mental exercise to discover and unfold” (Terry, 244).

 

We all use “figures of speech” in everyday language. Hardly ever, however, do we use some of the figures, such as parables or fables, in our normal conversations, but we do use similes, metonym, and metaphors profusely. Consequently, we are not totally unfamiliar with “figures of speech.” Neither should it surprise us that the Bible, (God’s word to man), often uses various figures of speech.

The various figures of speech of the Bible aid us in coming to a clear grasp of what God intends for us to understand and obey. With this in mind, attention is now given to some of the various figures of speech found in the Bible.

 

VARIOUS FIGURES OF SPEECH

 

Parables: Perhaps one of the most familiar figures of speech to Bible students is the parable. Jesus was the master of parable usage! He often illustrated heavenly trues by these earthly symbols or figures. The word “parable” comes from the Greek “Parabole” (which is a compound word coming from “para” – “beside” and “ballein” – “to throw). Hence the word means to “throw beside.” Dungan observed; that a parable is “a placing beside or together, a comparing, comparison: a story by which something real in life is used as a means of presenting a moral thought” (Dungan, 227). Thayer, in his Greek lexicon gives a definition as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning” (Thayer, NP).

 

Both the Old and New Testaments contain parables, but their usage is much more in the New Testament. Jesus tells us the purpose (“why”) He spoke in parables.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (Mat. 13:10-15).

The Master taught in parables to cause some to understand and others (who rejected and even abused His message) to not understand. The fourfold purpose of a parable is (1) to reveal the truth, (2) to conceal the truth from those who would abuse it, (3) to embalm the truth in the hearts of those who hear it, and (4) to cause assent or agreement with the truth, at times even before they understand it applies to their situation). The actors in a parable are real. What is meant by this that the events depicted in a parable could in fact happen (Dungan, 228 – 231). Sometimes Jesus explained the parable and at other times the meaning and inferences are to be clearly drawn by the reader.

One of the most commonly known parables in the Bible is Jesus’ parable of the sower. Matthew’s account of the parable is as follows:

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mat. 13:3-9).

After giving the parable of the sower, Jesus then gives the following explanation:

Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Mat. 13:18-23).

Anyone who has ever been around gardening, agriculture or even learned of it in any fashion, clearly understands this parable. Jesus takes that which is known (the scattering or sowing of seed and the landing of the seed in the various types of soil) and throws it beside that which is unknown (the types of hearts and their reception or rejection of the word of God), and causes one to clearly understand the nature of people either rejecting or receiving God’s word. Other parables include the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Tares, as well as many, many others, all of which are great teaching and help us understanding the word of God.

FABLES: One of the definitions given to the word fable is “a short story with a moral, typically featuring animals as characters” (Oxford Dictionary). Likewise, Webster defines a fable as; “A fictitious story meant to teach a moral lesson: the characters are usually from the animal world” (Webster). It should, however, be noted that the characters are also from the inanimate world as well as the animals. The fable is not to be confused with a parable. Regarding the difference between the fable and the parable, Rod Rutherford stated;

Whereas fables are fictitious stories using animals and inanimate objects as actors to speak and perform in a way that they cannot possibly do in real life in order to set forth some useful truth or precept, parables are always based on reality. The actors in parables never do anything which they cannot actually do. The setting of parables is always in the real world. For example, the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 conveys a truth based upon the common practice in Palestine of broadcasting seed by hand in a plowed field. It is possible that such a sower was within sight of Jesus and the multitude as He taught this parable by the shores of Galilee (Rutherford).

The fable, as used in Hermeneutical figures of speech, are not to be confused myths and/or wives’ fables.

The word “fable” occurs in the New Testament in the ASV and KJV in five places I Tim. 1:4; 4:7; II Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:14; II Pet. I: 16). It is used in these instances by the apostles, Paul and Peter, to indicate false teaching coming into the church. The particular nature of the false teaching designated by the word “fable” is difficult to determine. It may have reference to Gnostic tales or legends based upon, but certainly not a part of, Old Testament accounts, or it may refer to tales from the Apocrypha. Whatever its nature, it is condemned by the inspired apostles. The word translated as “fable” is the Greek word “muthos” from which we get our English word “myth.” It would perhaps best be rendered as “myth” in these passages (Rutherford, 257-258).

An example of the fable (as used in figures of speech), is seen in the Book of Judges.

And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem. And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian: And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother (Judg. 9:6-21).

This fable is an obvious figurative account that teaches a vital lesson. Dungan observed that the teaching of this fable is “those least competent and worthy are the most ready to assume responsibilities and take command” (Dungan, 246). Another Biblical example of a fable is Jehoash’s fable found in 2 Kings 14:8-10.

Simile: One of the most often used figures of speech anywhere is the “simile.” A simile is simply when a thing of action or relation is liken to something else and uses the words “like” or “as.” Milton Terry helps our understanding of the simile by stating; “When a formal comparison is made between two different objects, so as to impress the mind with some resemblance or likeness, the figure is called a simile” (Terry, 254). We get the English word “simile” from the Latin “Similis” which means “like”. (Webster).

A few Bible examples illustrate the usage of similies. Luke, by inspiration recorded the events of the day of Pentecost:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

Peter stated there was “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” He did not affirm there was a “rushing mighty wind” present on Pentecost, rather he affirmed there was a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind. He also said there appeared over the apostles “cloven tongues like as of fire.” Again, he did not affirm there was fire present on the day of Pentecost, but cloven tongues “like as of fire.” With the usage of simile, one can get a mental image of the scenes on that important day.

Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives – “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Eph. 5:28). Here one sees the comparison made by the usage of the word “as.” Husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies.

Jesus gave strong rebuke to the Pharisees with the use of similes. He stated;

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Mat. 23:27-28).

Jesus did not say the Scribes and Pharisees were whited sepulchres (or tombs), but said they were “like unto” whited sepulchres. They appeared righteous outside, but were full of corruption inside, just as whited sepulchres appears beautiful on the outside, but within are full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness.

Similitude: A similitude is an extended simile frequently containing its own explanation. Dungan says of it that it is “a drawn–out or prolonged simile. It differs from an allegory in that it is constituted of similes, and not of metaphors. It differs from the parable, in that it is made from statements, but not woven into a story” (Dungan, 249). In a similitude the comparison is extended. The following is an example of a similitude:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Mat. 7:24-28).

The Psalms, as they contain much poetry, are filled with the usage of similitudes. The reader should keep in mind that the usages of figures of speech are not necessarily exclusive. What is meant by this is that the parables may contain similes and/or similitudes. While they are distinct from each other in definition, they are not exclusive of each other in their usage.

Metaphor: A metaphor is “an implied comparison, a word applied to something it is not, to suggest a resemblance” (Raystedman). It is a comparison made with the sign “like” or “as” specifically stated. The usage of a metaphor is seen in the following statement by Jesus;

The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected (Luke 13:31-32).

No one thinks that Jesus thought Herod was a literal fox. The word is used metaphorically of Herod. Herod is compared to a fox without Jesus using the words “like” or “as.” The meaning is implied, but not specifically stated.

Again, Jesus when instituting the Lord’s Supper used metaphors.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Mat. 26:26-28).

It is obvious the apostles did not believe they were eating the literal body of Jesus neither were drinking His literal blood. Christian do not eat the literal body of Jesus nor drink His literal blood. Jesus was still in His body and His blood was still coursing through His body. Jesus used what is termed as “metaphors.” The bread and the fruit of the vine (the cup), represented His body and His blood.

Jesus is compared to many things metaphorically. He is a Physician, a Shepherd, the Bread, the Way, the Door, the Vine, the Head, the Bridegroom, etc. (Monsor, 320).

Metonymy: Concerning the word “metonymy” Jerry Moffitt, wrote; “It is from the Greek compound word, metonumia, from meta (change) and onoma (a name or noun). Bullinger defines it thusly: “Metonymy is a figure by which one name or noun is used instead of another, to which it stands in a certain relation” (Moffitt, 186-187). An example of this is in the case where the word “Moses” is put in the place of his writing.

Dungan (and others) list four types of metonymy. There is metonymy of the cause. The cause is stated but the effect is intended. An example is; “But ye have not so learned Christ” (Eph. 4:20). Christ is stated but His teaching is what is meant. There is Metonymy of the effect. This is when the effect is put for the cause. Jesus stated; “I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:30). The cause of the resurrection and life is Jesus, but the effect is named. Then there is the metonymy of the subject. The subject is named but some property pertaining to it is meant. Such as the container put for that which it contains. The cup in the Lord’s Supper is put for the contained – the fruit of the vine (cf. Mat. 26:28-29). The world is put for its inhabitants – “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Finally, there is Metonymy of the adjunct . The subject is intended, but the adjunct is specifically named – “circumcision” and/or “uncircumcision” are stated but Jews and/or Gentiles are what is meant – “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith” (Rom. 3:30), (Dungan, 271 – 300).

Allegory: An allegory is a figurative application of real facts. “The distinction in Scripture between a parable and an allegory is said to be, that a parable is a supposed history, an allegory a figurative application of real facts” (Dungan, 259). An allegory has also been described as an extended metaphor (Terry, 302).

The apostle Paul used an allegory to the Galatians to teach one is no longer under the law of Moses. He wrote:

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free (Gal. 4:21-31).

Paul (by inspiration) uses historical facts and makes a figurative application. He uses Sarah and Hagar, Mount Sinai and Jerusalem, Issac and Ishmael (real facts) and makes a figurative application of those facts. As Sarah was told to cast out the bondwoman and her son, the old law was also taken away. Notice again his application– “Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Gal. 4:30-31).

Synecdoche: This word come from the compound Greek word, “sunekdokh,” (sun – “together” and ekdekhesthai “take up”). It is “a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in England lost by six wickets (meaning the English cricket team)” (Oxford Dictionary). Luke records the words of Demetrius saying; “So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth” (Acts 19:27). Obviously the whole world did not worship Diana, but is so stated as a whole for the part.

Another usage of the synecdoche is when time is put for a part of the time. “Everlasting” does not always mean an eternity. Moses recorded; “He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:13). Yet circumcision is not to be religiously practiced today. It was “an everlasting covenant” throughout the appointed time. There are many more usages of the synecdoche, but this should give the general idea.

Proverb: Most all Bible students are familiar with the book of Proverbs. A proverb is “a short, pithy sentence, containing a complete and valuable thought” (Dungan). Both Old and New Testaments contain proverbs. Luke records a proverb stated by our Lord, though we have no direct statement found in the words of Jesus. Paul stated; “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The words “It is more blessed to give than to receive” are short but full of valuable content. Peter illustrated to how repulsive it is for a child of God to turn away from God and go back into the world. He said; “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:22).

Irony: Irony is when one thing is said yet the opposite is meant. It often carries a kind of ridicule. Job’s so–called “friends” offered Job much advice relative to reason why he (Job) was suffering. They said that he must have sin in his life for him to be in so much pain and anguish. Job’s answer to them was, “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (Job 12:2). Job was using a form of irony. He did not believe that they were the people and no one would have any wisdom when they died! He stated one thing and the very opposite is meant. He is simply saying they did not know whereof they spoke!The soldiers who crucified Jesus, mocked Him with the use of irony.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews (Mat. 27:27-29)!

When they stated “Hail, King of the Jews” they were using irony (which perhaps had even grown into sarcasm) and said this in a form of mockery or ridicule.

Sarcasm: The word “sarcasm” comes from the Greek “sarkasmos, from sarkazein ‘tear flesh’, later ‘gnash the teeth, speak bitterly’” (Oxford Dictionary). It differs from irony in its severity. I sometimes tell students that “Sarcasm is irony with its stinger out!” It is meant to sting or cut. Elijah used sarcasm on the false prophets of Baal. “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked” (1Kings 18:27).

Hyperbole: Hyperbole literally means to “throw beyond.” It is an “intentional exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis, or magnifying beyond reality” (Raystedman) Jesus used a hyperbole when He stated;

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Mat. 5:29-30).

Jesus does not intend for us to literally pluck out our eyes nor cut off our right hands. This is an exaggeration for the sake of emphasis.

Personification: is when inanimate objects or beings are spoken of as having human characteristics. This could involve feelings as well as actions. The earth opening her mouth and swallowing is personification (cf, Num. 16:31-32). Paul uses personification when describing Biblical love. He wrote;

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love took on the nature of human characteristics. If we want to see if we are loving individuals, we can use our names in the place of “charity” and see how we measure up to God’s definition of love.

Apostrophe: is when the speaker turns away from the real audience and addresses another. The word comes from the Greek apo, from, and strephein, to turn, a turning away from or away from (Dungan, 322). Paul used apostrophe when writing on the topic of the resurrection. He wrote; “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Cor. 15:55)? Likewise, David used apostrophe when he was in bereavement over his son Absalom. The Bible states; “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Sam.18:33). He was speaking to Absalom, but Absalom was not present and David knew it when He cried out “O my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.”

Prolepsis: Prolepsis is when objects are spoken of in anticipation. It comes from the Greek “pro” (before), and “lambanein” (to take), hence to take before hand (Dungan, 329). In the Bible Eve is called the mother of all living, yet at the time she was named she wasn’t the mother to anyone. Yet she would be the mother of all living in that all others would come from her (cf. Gen 3:20). We may speak of President Bush when he was a little boy, yet when he was a little boy, he wasn’t President. One may say he married his wife on a certain date. However, she was not his wife until he married her! When things are spoken of in the sense of anticipation it is prolepsis.

Anthropomorphism: is when human characteristics are attributed to God. We sometimes sing; “Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” Yet, God is a spirit and as spirit doesn’t have flesh and bone. The Bible often speaks of God’s hands, eyes, arm, etc. These expressions helps us grasp the unknown with the known. None of us know, express the very nature of God, yet we know that he is not human. He is Deity. Yet we come to know God through human concepts and/or expressions.

CONCLUSION

Figures of speech are very beautiful and help us by providing word pictures (concepts) of things which we are reading. Words of humility and exaltation are expressed through figures of speech in the form of metaphors, hyperboles, etc. Things are compared to other things with the use of similes so we can obtain a clear concept of what is being spoken. Parables help us understand and retain what we have learned with much greater ease. We have God’s Divine revelation given to us in literal and figurative language. God has communicated to us with words. Words are vehicles of communication. “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psa. 119:130)

WORKS CITED

Bible, King James Version

Dungan, D. R. , Hermeneutics, Gospel Light Publishing Co. Delight AR, ND

Oxford University Press Dictionary, Corel WordPerfect, version 10

Moffitt, Jerry in Rightly Dividing the Word, Vol. 2, 5th Annual Shenandoah Lectures, Editor Terry Hightower, 1991

Monsor, J. W. , Types and Metaphors of the Bible, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, TN 1955

Rutherford, Rod, Rightly Dividing the Word, Vol. 2, 5th Annual Shenandoah Lectures, Editor Terry Hightower, 1991

Terry, Milton, Biblical Hermeneutics, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapid, MI, ND

Thayer, Henry E-Sword Electronic Bible

Webster’s New World Dictionary, World Publishing CO. Cleveland and New York, 1957

WWW. Angelfire.com/ctr/evenoki/poetry/figuresofspeech.html

WWW.Raystedman.org/leadership/smith/ch7.html

SECTION THREE

SALVATION

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JESUS IS OUR SAVIOR

 

A ship loaded with passengers was sailing across the ocean. One night the ship began to sink. As the ship slowly sank into the water, its crew prepared the passengers so they would be saved from drowning. Some of the passengers believed the crew and obeyed what the crew told them to do. Others did not believe the ship was sinking and went back to sleep. All the people were in danger. All needed to be saved. But only those who believed the warnings and obeyed the instructions were saved. The rest drowned! Who was to blame for their drowning? They were to be blamed because they refused to accept the only message which could save them.

It is easy for us to see the need of salvation for people on a sinking ship. But we may miss the need for salvation from our own sins. All of us are in great danger because of our sins. One day we will all be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27). We will be judged according to our works (Revelation 20:12). None of us live a perfect life. We all make mistakes. We often do things we know are wrong. The Bible says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When we refuse to obey the will of God, we are guilty of sin (James 4:17). When we break the law of God, we are also sinning (1 John 3:4). Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2). All who are still in their sins on Judgment Day will be cast into Hell (Matthew 25:46; 2 Peter 2:4-9).

All through the Bible, God has warned us of our need to be saved from our sins. God punishes all who die in their sins, but He has also provided a way out of our sins so that we can be saved from Hell. God sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died as an offering for our sins (1 Peter 2:24,25; 1 John 2:2).

Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins. Sin is so bad and the debt is so heavy that the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son was the only thing that could pay the price. Jesus not only died for our sins, but He also rose from the dead to prove that death has no power over Him (Revelation 1:18).

By His resurrection, Jesus abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10). Those who believe in Him and obey His Gospel will one day be raised from the dead to eternal life.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news which tells of what the Savior did for us. It also tells how to accept the Savior so that we can be saved (Hebrews 5:8,9). We must believe in Him (John 8:24). We must repent of all our sins (Luke 13:3). We must confess our faith that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 10:32,33; Acts 8:37). We must be baptized so that our sins will be washed away (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4).

If we do not listen to the warnings in God’s Word, we will be lost! If we believe God’s warning and obey His will, we will be saved. Jesus Christ is man’s only Savior. Will you not accept Him today by believing in Him and obeying His will?

 

 

 

 

Truth For the World

 

SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN CHRIST

B. B. Brother

 

Throughout history it has been important to be in God’s appointed place at God’s appointed time. In Noah’s day it was important to be in the ark. “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (I Peter 3:21). They had to be in the ark. In Moses day it was necessary for the Israelites to be in the house with the blood on it (see Exodus 12:21-23). Today, to receive spiritual blessings one must be in Christ.

 

ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSING ARE IN CHRIST: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3). Thus, there are NO spiritual blessing out side of Christ!

 

WE ARE CHOSEN IN CHRIST: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4).

 

WE HAVE THE ADOPTION OF CHILDREN BY JESUS CHRIST: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5).

 

WE ARE ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

 

REDEMPTION IS IN CHRIST: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7).

 

ALL THINGS ARE GATHERED TOGETHER IN HIM: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” (Ephesians 1:10).

 

WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE IN CHRIST: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Ephesians 1:11).

 

ONE IS SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE IN CHRIST: “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,” (Ephesians 1:13). One is approved by the Holy Spirit by means of the word.

 

Truly, one in Christ is rich! How does one get into Christ? “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Are you “in Christ”?

 

 

FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD

B. B. Brother

 

INTRODUCTION

 

It is important to know that one can please God. If one thinks of God as One Who is always angry and he must in someway appease God’s wrath, after awhile he may simply “give up” and conclude. It is impossible to please our heavenly Father. Jesus did not have such a misconception of the Father. He stated; “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). Jesus did always those things that pleased the Father. While none is perfect, as is Jesus, and pleases God always in everything we do (for all of us sin), yet surely we do some things that please God! Not only did Jesus say He pleased the Father, but the Father Himself said that He was pleased with Jesus. Mathews records; “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Mat. 17:5). The Father was “well pleased” with Jesus.

 

We too can be pleasing unto God. Paul admonished Timothy, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim 2:3-4). We can please Him Who has chosen us to be a soldier. God wants us to serve Him in confidence. Every good father desires his children to have confidence in him. If a child grows up thinking he can never please his father, after awhile he may quit trying. He certainly doesn’t desire to be around a father who is always angry and displeased with him. Likewise, if a child of God erroneously concludes that his heavenly Father is always angry with him and he can never please Him, he will not desire to be in His presence and may even quit trying to please Him. One reason the Israelites failed to inherit the promised land was they had a faulty concept of God. Their lack of faith in God caused them to say that God even hated them. Moses recorded; “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God: And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us” (Deu. 1:26-27). Rather than exemplifying strong confidence in Jehovah they murmured that God hated them and that is why He brought them out of Egypt and led them into the hands of the Amorities that they should be destroyed! Yet, there were those that believed God and knew that God was true to His Word! Joshua and Caleb did exemplified faith and confidence in God. They knew that God would give them the promised land. But the congregation grew discouraged and would not go up to possess the land. As a result, none of that generation would enter the promise land, except Caleb and Joshua!

 

Hebrews chapter eleven demonstrates that Christians can please God! It shows us how we can be pleasing unto God. There are, however, conditions to pleasing God. He is not pleased with us when we lack confidence in Him and walk contrary to His Word. We must have faith to be pleasing unto God. The Hebrews writer noted; “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). The following discussion informs us what this “faith” is and how it is demonstrated in the lives of those who please God.

 

EXEGESIS AND EXPOSITION OF HEBREWS 11:1-7

 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:1–7)

 

11:1 Faith defined: The Hebrews’ writers tells us; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Paul had just previously stated; “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:38-39). Paul had confidence that his brethren would not draw back but “believe unto the saving of the soul.” He now defines what “faith” is. It is the “substance of things hoped for.” The word “substance” means “a setting or placing under” (Thayer). Faith then is the under-girding. It is the catalyst that motivates us to go forward toward things that are “hoped for.” Regarding “hope,” Paul stated to the Romans; “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:24-25).

Hebrews continues by stating, “the evidence of things not seen.” From this, one learns that faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not the case that one walks so far based on evidence and then takes a leap into the dark because there is no more evidence. The reader should note that the Hebrews’ writer did not say, “by assumption Able offered,” or “by probability Noah built,” rather he stated “by faith Able offered,” and “by faith Noah built.”

 

There is evidence of things that are “not seen.” Simply because one has not seen something doesn’t mean that it does not exist. There other types of evidences other than eye-witness accounts. A person may see a house and know that someone built the house though he may not have ever met or seen the builder. Yet, there is evidence that someone existed and that this person or persons built the house. Biblical faith is based upon the Word of God. One must keep in mind that Biblical faith is not the same as assumption. Some may assume something is pleasing to God. He may believe this with all his heart. However, it can be contrary to God’s will and God is displeased with the action. Paul tells us, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When God, through His Word, tells us to do something, and we do it, that is an act of faith. The simple truth of the matter is that we must have a “thus saith the Lord,” for all that we do, otherwise such is not a matter of faith and is unauthorized. To the Christians in Colosse, Paul wrote; “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). Unfortunately, many do things in word and in deed NOT in the name of the Lord Jesus, and simply assume that God is pleased!

These will learn in the judgment, if not before, that it was not pleasing unto God. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

 

11;2-3: Faith illustrated: God uses “the elders” as a illustration of faith. He states; “For by it the elders obtained a good report” (Heb. 11:2). Concerning these “elders”, Adam Clarke observed; “By the elders are meant ancestors, forefathers, such as the patriarchs and prophets, several of whom he afterwards particularly names, and produces some fact from the history of their lives” (Clarke).

 

“The worlds” are used as another illustration of faith. The record states; “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). It is an axiom that the worlds (including the planetary systems, etc.), did not (and could not), create themselves. How did the worlds come into existence? They were framed by the Word of God. How does one know this? Was any human present at the time of the creation of the worlds who can give an eye witness account of their formation? Obviously not! By faith we know that the worlds were created by the Word of God. Again there is ample evidence for this. One doesn’t simply assume that this is the way the worlds were created.

To the Romans Paul affirmed; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20). It is interesting that Paul states in a paradox that the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen. These things are understood by the things that are made. One can see the eternal power and Godhead (divinity). Consequently, mankind is without excuse. Some time ago, it was my privilege to visit a university campus in China. Speaking with some of the students on the campus, the subject of God and creation came up. One question asked me was, “Who created God?” The answer given was “No one created God because God is eternal.” This, of course, led to a discussion of origins. I asked him what he learned about life in Biology? Does life come from nothing, or from life? He stated that life came from life. I then stated to him, that this being true, then life has always existed, because if life comes from life, and there was ever a time when life did not exist, then there would be no life now. I then proceeded to explain that it was logical to believe in God and that it is also scientific to believe in God (cf. Biology).

To the Romans, Paul is stating that from the visible things one should conclude there is a creator. A design (the world) implies a Designer (God). Earlier in Hebrews, Paul stated; “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). Likewise, the Psalmist wrote;

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. (Psa. 19:1-6).

 

One is able to look at the creation and correctly conclude there is a Creator. However, it takes another revelation (the Word of God), to tell man what the Creator would have him do. Consequently, the Psalmist continued;

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Psa. 19:7-11).

 

The world and the Word tell us there is a God. It is the Word that tells us Who God is and what His will is for our lives. When one opens the Bible, the first words from God that he will read are; “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The Psalmist informs us of the power and quickness of this action when he stated; “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” and “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:6,9). God created the worlds in a literal six, twenty-four hour days.

To the Jews, Moses commanded;

 

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exo. 20:8-11).

 

The Jews understood they were to keep the sabbath on the sixth day. A day that consisted of twenty-four hours. From the above analogy one learns that the creation days likewise consisted of twenty-fours. We know, by faith, how the worlds came into existence.

 

11:4-5,7 Faith demonstrated: It is always helpful to have a demonstration of a principle so one can emulate that example. God gives us several examples of the faith with which He is pleased. The first demonstration of a pleasing faith is Abel. The record states; “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). The occurrence of this action is recorded in Genesis chapter four. Both Cain and Abel brought an offering unto the Lord. The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering but he had no respect for Cain’s. Why is this? The answer is found in the reading of Genesis four, Hebrews 11 and the principle stated in Romans 10:17. Able offered his sacrifice “by faith.” The Bible informs us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Consequently, to offer a sacrifice by faith is to offer it based upon the Word of the Lord. By inducing the evidence from the passages mentioned, the simply fact is that Able listened and obeyed God whereas Cain did not. Able obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. As a result of his faith, though he is dead, he still speaks today. Thus in the very first recorded acts of worship, we have a record both of true worship and false worship. Able did not walk by assumption or by probability. He did not take a “leap into the dark.” He listened to God and did as God required.

 

The next demonstration of a faith that pleases God is the faith that was found in Enoch. The text says; “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). This remarkable event is recorded for us in Genesis 5:22-24. It states; “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen 5:21-24). Enoch, like Elijah, did not have to experience death. God simply took him? Why did God take him? Because he pleased God. How did he please God? By faith. The account in Genesis tells us that he “walked with God.” To walk with God is to walk in harmony with God. He, like Able mentioned before, listened to and obeyed God. It is interesting to note from the text that the Bible states that “he was not found.” The implication is that some must have sought for Enoch after his translation, but Enoch was not found. The reason is, “God had translated him.” A story is told that a little child was once asked by his Bible class teacher, what happen to Enoch? The child replied; “Enoch was a man who walked with God and he walked with God for a long time. Finally, God said to Enoch, “Enoch you have walked me for a long way, why don’t you go home with me? And, he did!” While the illustration of the teacher and the child is most likely fictitious, it illustrates a truth – If one walks with God, God will one day take him home with Him.

 

The other demonstration of a pleasing faith is the faith that is found in Noah. The Bibles states; “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7). Most all people are aware of this historic event. Because people had turned away from God, “and GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen. 6:5-6). God declared that He would destroy the world – “And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (Gen. 6:7). God sent a universal flood that destroyed every living creature that breathed. “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die (Gen. 6:17). Yet, there was a man who would not die in the flood. The Bible stated; “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8). Why did Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? The record continues;

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Gen. 6:9-18).

 

It is stated that Noah was a “just man and perfect in his generations and Noah walked with God.” Noah was instructed to build an ark and that he and his family would be saved in the ark. The Hebrews’ writer stated that he prepared the ark “by faith” (Heb. 11:7). Obviously, Noah and his family did not build the ark by faith alone! In fact, Moses wrote; “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). “Faith only” advocates cannot find any support for their false position in Noah (nor any other passage in the Word of God). According to the Bible Noah was saved by many things. He was saved by God (Gen. 6). He was saved by grace (Gen.6:8), by faith (Heb. 11:7), by water (I Peter 3:20), by the Word of God (Gen. 6), by obedience (Gen. 6:22), by the love of God (Gen. 6), etc.

All of the above examples demonstrate that the faith that is pleasing unto God is a faith that takes God at His Word and responds in faithful obedience. There is a faith, however, that is not pleasing unto God. James explains;

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead (Jam. 2:14-20)?

 

 

He further explained;

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (Jam. 2:21-26)

 

“Faith only” is a dead faith and does not please God. Even the devils believe and tremble. Some of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, believe on Him, but they would not confess him. John stated; “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Obviously their faith in Jesus was not a saving faith! They would not even confess the Christ lest they should be put out of the synagogue. Someone has observed that the “devils believed and confessed they knew that Christ is the Son of God. Hence the chief rulers who refused to confess Christ didn’t even have enough faith to make a good demon!” The faith that pleases God is the faith that obeys from the heart.

 

11:6 Faith demanded: As stated at the beginning of this chapter, we should all desire to please God. After stating that Enoch pleased God, the Hebrews’ writer noted; “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). In order to please God, we must have faith. What is included in this “faith?” First, one must believe that God is. One must believe that God exists. In reality, God exists, whether one believes it or not. However, if one doesn’t believe God exists, he obviously is not going to attempt to walk in harmony with His will. However, one must not only believe that God is, but, second, one must also believe that God is a “rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Reader friend, do you believe that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him? Do you have confidence in God even when times get tough? The problem with some who may believe in the existence of God is they really do not give true devotion to Him. Do they believe that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him? Why is it that some come to services only on Sunday mornings? Is He not the God of Sunday and Wednesday evenings also (Heb. 10:25, Mat. 6:33)? A good question to ask those who come only on Sunday mornings is, “why do you even come on Sunday mornings?” Is one present at services on Sunday mornings thinking maybe by doing so, one will not have to go to hell? This illustrates that one doesn’t really care about pleasing God, he just doesn’t want to go to hell. What if hell were not in the picture? How many would quit “serving” God completely?? In reality, there is a hell and those who disobey God are going there (Mat. 7:13-14, 21-24). Yet, God doesn’t want any to go to hell ( I Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)? God doesn’t want us to serve Him only out of the fear of being lost. He is a loving Father who desires our devotion and respect. Those who genuinely love Him and serve Him will be rewarded greatly! There is a heaven to gain. Heaven is a place where there is no more death, no sorrow, no pain, no crying. It is a place of eternal fellowship with God and the redeemed

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The faith that is demanded of us is an active obedient faith. We must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This faith will not only cause one to be at all the services in worship to God, but will also demonstrate itself in every action of obedience. Paul stated the faith of the Roman brethren was spoken of throughout the world. He wrote; “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Then he later stated; “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Rom. 16:19). Their faith was seen, it was spoken of throughout the world. Their obedience was come abroad unto all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

What a blessing to know that we can please God and that He can be pleased in us. At times we sing the song “Blessed Assurance.” One can have this blessed assurance. Paul wrote; “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Likewise the apostle John wrote; “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. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1John 2:3-6). Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He stated; “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

 

In this chapter, we have seen faith defined, faith illustrated, faith demonstrated and faith demanded. May each of us so walk as to be pleasing to God.

 

REPENTANCE

 

The word “repent” in its various forms occurs more than 100 times in the Bible.  This shows the great importance of repentance. Nearly every church requires repentance from sin of those who wish to be members. However, repentance is a greatly misunderstood command of God. It is also a very difficult command.  Some have said it is the most difficult command in the Bible.

What is Repentance?

     Sometimes the best way to learn the meaning of a word is first to look at what it is not before looking at what it is.  Many people think repentance is just being sorry for one’s sins.  This is not what repentance is!   The apostle Paul wrote:    For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted;  but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).   If one is sorry for the sins he has committed, it will cause him to repent of them.  On Pentecost Day, the Jews who heard Peter preach Christ were cut to the heart.”  This shows they were very sorry for their sin of crucifying Jesus, but their sorrow for sin was not repentance.  Peter still had to tell them to Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37, 38).
If repentance is not being sorry for one’s sins, then what is repentance? According to all the teaching of the Bible, repentance is a change of one’s mind toward sin.  It is produced by godly sorrow for one’s sins. The result of this change of mind toward sin will be a change of life. A good example of what is involved in repentance is a parable that Jesus told: But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went (Matthew 21:28,29).  The son disobeyed his father. When he regretted (was sorry) for his disobedience, he changed his mind about his decision. He then did what his father had asked him to do. 
Repentance involves restitution. “Restitution” means that we will make right the things we have done wrong in so far as possible. If one has murdered another person, he can not restore that person back to life.  He can, however, help the widow and children of the man he has killed. If one has stolen money from another person, when he repents, he must return the money he has stolen. John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees: Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Who Should Repent?

     Those who are not Christians must repent of their sins in order to be saved.  Jesus commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem[” *] (Luke 24:47).     Paul told the people of Athens that God []now commands all men everywhere to repent[] (Acts 17:30).  On Pentecost Day, Peter told the Jews who heard the Gospel and had cried out, [][*What shall we do?] to Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins(Acts 2:37, 38).
Christians who have sinned also need to repent. When Philip preached in Samaria, Simon, who had been a sorcerer, became a Christian. When he saw the apostles giving the gifts of the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on the Christians, he wanted to buy this power. But Peter said to him, Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!  You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you (Acts 8:20-22).

Why Should One Repent?

     We have already learned that godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). In Jesus’ parable of the two sons, we learned that the son who refused to obey his father regretted his decision.  Therefore, he changed his mind and did his father’s will.  His regret (godly sorrow for his disobedience) caused him to repent and obey his father’s command (Matthew 21:28, 29).  One will repent if he is sorry for his sins. One will also repent of his sins when he understands God’s goodness toward him.  Paul asked, Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).  God loves us and sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Romans 5:6-8).  God’s goodness should make us want to repent of our sins against Him. One will also repent of his sins because the Day of Judgment is coming.  Paul told the idolaters in Athens: Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed  a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30, 31).  Christ is now ruling from the right hand of God in Heaven, but one day He will come again to raise the dead and judge the whole world (Acts 1:9-11; John 5:28, 29 ).  Everyone who is living and who has ever lived will be judged (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).  We must repent of our sins so that we will not be condemned at the Judgment!

When Should One Repent?

The Jews on Pentecost repented the same day they heard the Gospel.  They were then baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37, 38, 41).   Since one can not be saved without repentance, then one should want to repent as soon as possible (Luke 13:3).  Life is short and uncertain (James 4:13-15).  Death is certain and will come to each one of us sooner or later (Hebrews 9:27).  We are going to be judged for our sins at the Last Day.  Therefore, we should repent immediately! The apostle Peter wrote:[*   “]The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance[”*] (2 Peter 3:9). Dear Reader, what about you?  Have you repented of your sins?  Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins?  If not, please do so today so that you will be prepared to meet the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRUTH FOR THE WORLD

 

DOES BAPTISM SAVE?

 

Many honest, sincere religious people believe man is saved by grace alone. Others teach that man is saved by faith alone. Both of these groups deny that baptism (immersion in water) has anything to do with being saved from sins. What does the Bible say?

The Bible teaches that:(1) All spiritual blessings are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3);(2) Grace, faith, and love are found in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:1; )(3) Salvation is found only in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10); (4) Those who are sanctified are in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2); (5) Eternal life is found only in Christ Jesus (1 John 5:11,12); (6) Baptism puts one into Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27).

Any reasonable, honest person will have to admit that if all spiritual blessings, grace, faith, love, salvation, sanctification, and eternal life are found in Christ Jesus, and if baptism puts one into Christ Jesus, then one must be baptized in order to enjoy these blessings. This plainly shows that baptism is essential (required) in order to be saved. To deny it is to deny the Word of God!

The Bible does not teach that baptism alone saves! However, it does teach that man is saved by baptism. Many religious people think, “He who believes is saved and should be baptized.” But Christ Jesus said: He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Some teach, “Baptism does not save us.” But the inspired apostle Peter wrote: “There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism” (1 Peter 3:21)! Which should we accept – the teaching of men, or the plain statements of the Word of God (John 12:48)?

In order to be saved, one must obey Christ Jesus (Hebrews 5:9). We are commanded to believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). But we are also commanded to be baptized (Acts 10:48). Therefore, one must believe and be baptized in order to be saved. This is exactly what the Lord Jesus stated in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” If one refuses to be baptized in order to be saved, he is denying the Word of God!

Certainly it is true that man is not saved by works of his devising (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5), nor is he saved by the works of the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:10-12). But man is saved by obeying the works of God (John 14:15; Hebrews 5:9). Belief (faith) is a work of God (John 6:28,29). Baptism is also a work of God (Mark 16:16). The same loving Savior who spoke the words of John 6:28,29 also spoke the words of Mark 16:16. If one denies this, he denies Christ Jesus Who spoke them.

We are saved by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9). Christ shed His blood in His death on the cross (John 19:34). We come into contact with the blood of Christ when we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3). Without baptism, one cannot contact the saving blood of Jesus Christ. How can we deny this?

What is necessary to save man from his sins? It takes God’s part which is grace (Ephesians 2:8), mercy (Titus 3:5), Christ Jesus (Matthew 1:21); His life (Romans 5:10); His blood (Romans 5:9); and the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). It also takes man’s part which is faith (Romans 5:1); works (James 2:24); calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13); hope (Romans 8:24); our effort (Acts 2:40); and being baptized (1 Peter 3:21). The Bible does not teach that man is saved by anything alone! God, through His Word, the Bible, says it takes ALL of these things to save us from our sins. To deny such is to deny the Word of God!

Does baptism save? Yes, one must be baptized to be saved! If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 8:24), and are willing to repent of your sins which separate you from God (Isaiah 59:1,2; Luke 13:3), and are willing to confess your faith in Christ as God’s Son (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10), then why not be baptized into Christ now (Acts 16:33)? If you do, you will receive all the spiritual blessings which are found only in the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

Truth For The World

 

THE NEW BIRTH

Garland Elkins

 

In this material we are studying about The New Birth as described by Christ in John 3.

John 3:3 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Then in John 3:5, Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!”

 

Now the devil knows that there is no difference in these two statements. We know it too if we believe the Scriptures. The devil knows, as well as anyone else, that no man is ever saved until he is born again. He also knows that no man is ever born again until he is buried in water in the name of Christ for the remission of sins.

 

We are commanded to, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

 

Christ said, “and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

 

He also said, “Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me” (John 5:39).

 

And in Acts 17:11 we read, “Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.”

 

At this time, I call to your attention John 3:1-12: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things?

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?’”

 

I want us to analyze carefully the passages – especially John 3:3 and John 3:5. Our Lord pointed out the absolute necessity of the new birth when He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Since water refers to baptism in this passage, Christ is simply saying that “except a man be baptized.” Of course, it includes the part that the Holy Spirit plays through His law, the New Testament. The Spirit uses His sword, “which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Christ, in verse 3, points out the necessity of the new birth. And, in verse 5, He points out that it has two component parts – “water” and “of the Spirit.”

 

I have heard denominational preachers act as if it would choke them even to quote John 3:5 correctly. I have heard them via radio quote it time and again and pervert it by leaving water out and saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” completely leaving water out of the quotation. They observed, as it were, the “passover.” They just passed right over the word water, and left it out. The truth is, the word water means water. If it does not mean water, how are they always so sure that the word Spirit means Spirit? I have never heard any of them in my life who doubted that fact. Spirit means Spirit. Well, if water does not mean water, how do they know that Spirit does not mean something else? If water means something else, then Spirit means something else. The truth is, water means water and Spirit means Spirit.

 

Let us look at three passages that are parallel. They are John 3:5, Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5.

 

Let us first quote them. Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!” (John 3:5). “That he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

 

Note in John 3:5 that Christ points out the new birth consists of two parts. One must be “born of water and of the Spirit.” This is a good place to point out also that no one has been born again if he has had water sprinkled or poured upon him. This would be an utter impossibility. One cannot be born of that which is smaller than one’s self. It is admitted by all that a thimble full of water is too little to affect a birth. Therefore, one could not be born of water when he has had a little water sprinkled or poured on him. Now I want to prove this. Paul said in Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

 

Our Lord died and was placed in a borrowed tomb. On the third day He burst the bars of death and hell; that He came forth victorious and led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men when He ascended on high. Our Lord died, and was buried, and was covered from sight. A great stone was rolled against the door of the tomb.

 

Please note this carefully. Did you know that our Lord’s resurrection from the tomb is referred to as a birth? Some years after this wonderful event, Paul wrote about it in the words of Colossians 1:18. Note the expression, the firstborn from the dead. Our Lord, when dead, did not have just a little dirt sprinkled or poured on Him. He was put into Joseph’s new tomb; He was buried out of sight and a great stone was rolled to the mouth of the grave and on the third day He came forth, and the Bible says that was a birth from the dead. Therefore, one, when born of the water, is immersed, is buried, as was our Lord. In fact, Paul says that baptism is a burial. “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).

 

Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. Born of water, therefore, of necessity, requires an immersion in water for the remission of sins.”

 

Let us now look again at John 3:5. Christ says that when one is born again he is born of the Spirit. In John 3:8 he adds, “The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit”

.

We are “born of water and of the Spirit. “ Now, the Holy Spirit operates, of course, through His law. This is taught in Romans 8:2. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”

 

In James 1:21 we read, “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

 

Therefore, the Holy Spirit participates. The word from which we get the word Spirit occurs 386 times in the Greek New Testament. 384 times it is translated Spirit or its equivalent, Ghost. One time it is translated “life” (Rev. 13:15). In John 3:8 it is translated “wind.” Some translations, including the Living Oracles translation, renders it this way, “The Spirit breathes where he will and thou hearest the report of him.” Well, how does that report come to us? In Romans 10:17 we read, “So belief cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Sometimes there are those who read this statement and imagine that when the Holy Spirit speaks that He speaks miraculously, directly, and mysteriously. They even have a song they sing which states, “something got hold of me.” I do not doubt something got hold of some of them, but it was emotionalism and misguided zeal, though I do not doubt their sincerity in many cases.

 

I want to raise this question, and hope you will remember the answer to it. How were the voices of the Old Testament prophets heard every Sabbath day? Here is the answer, “For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him” (Acts 13:27).

 

Now, what did he say? He said the voices of these prophets were heard every Sabbath. Well, how did they speak? They spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as stated in 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.”

 

But Acts 13:27 says that when their writings were read and when the prophets heard them read, these were the voices of the prophets that were heard each Sabbath. Therefore, we do not deny that the voice of the Holy Spirit is heard. But the question is, how? The Bible says that it is by His law in Romans 8:2.

 

Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”

 

I might cut down a tree with an axe. Now, the axe did not do it by itself, and I would not attempt to do it with my bare hands. There are two things true in this illustration. Number one, an axe was used; that was the instrument. Number two, there was someone on the other end of that axe exerting a force and bringing that force to bear on the tree. I want to make this especially clear, because sometimes people do misunderstand.

 

I want to make the point very clear that no person has ever yet been converted nor ever shall be converted without the participation of the Holy Spirit in that conversion. Let me emphasize that point again, I do not know how many people that I have heard say, “Oh, you don’t believe in the Holy Spirit, do you?” In every case, when a man is converted the Holy Spirit operates. But how does He do so? In Ephesians 6:17, Paul says, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. “

 

That is the way He operated upon the hearts of the people on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:37 we read, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?”

 

The Holy Spirit was using His sword, His word, through Peter, the gospel preacher, and when they heard the powerful and convincing words they were “pricked” or “cut” in their hearts. The Holy Spirit always participates in the conversion of an alien sinner, but He never operates in any fashion other than in using the New Testament, His word, the sword of the Spirit. Now, someone might say, “I would like for you to prove that.” I repeat a passage that I have already referred to which is James 1:21. “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

 

Note that he said the word is “able” to save your souls. I asked a preacher this question some time past: “Since the Bible says that the word is able to save, why do you say that the Holy Spirit must operate independent of, and distinct from the word of God and in a mysterious, better felt than told fashion?” I could never get him to answer and I know why. He would have had to give up his doctrine or deny the Bible.

 

Why then are we to be born of the water and of the Spirit? It is in order that we might enter into the kingdom of God. It is an amazing thing to me that there are so many people who are teaching what they call premillennialism. That is just another way of saying another false doctrine. There are multiplied thousands of people who argue that the kingdom has not yet been set up. But I have never seen anyone contend for false doctrine who did not contradict their own false doctrine. These same people argue that they believe in the new birth. Now, if the kingdom has not been established, then there has never been anyone born of water and of the Spirit, because when one is born of water and of the Spirit, he enters the kingdom. He becomes a citizen of the Kingdom by the same process by which he is born of water and of the Spirit.

 

Another thing, if the kingdom has not been set up, then no one can partake of the Lord’s Supper scripturally. Christ said in Luke 22:29-30: “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” Even a premillennialist will go through the motion of taking the Lord’s Supper now and then. He, therefore, admits that the Lord’s Supper is to be taken during this Christian dispensation. But our Lord said, “My supper,” the Lord’s Supper, will never be participated in until it is taken in the kingdom. In 1 Corinthians, chapter eleven, we learn that when the church came together they partook of the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, the church and the kingdom are one and the same institution. The truth is that we are born of water and of the Spirit in order to enter into the kingdom of God.

 

Christ says that to enter the kingdom, one must be born “of water and of the Spirit,” Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-26 there is “the washing of water.” He is pointing out how these Ephesians entered the church of Christ. And he says, “having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word.” So, there is the “washing of water.” Christ says one must be “born of the Spirit.” Paul tells us how it is done. He says it is “by the word.” Christ says when one is “born of water and of the Spirit” he then “enters into the kingdom of God.” Paul says one is “cleansed.” The statements mean the same thing.

 

Let us now examine Titus 3:5. “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Now observe that Christ says in John 3:5, “born of water,” Paul says in Ephesians 5:26, “washing of water,” and in Titus 3:5 Paul says this is “the washing of regeneration.” What does the word “regenerate” means? It means to be born again; to be made new. Christ said we must be “born of water” while Paul says it is “the washing of water” and “the washing of regeneration.” But regeneration means to be born again. It is the washing that is characteristic of the new birth.

 

I raise the question and I want you to think seriously about it: Can you think of any act, any condition, any step in the plan of salvation for our being saved or entering the Church—which is the kingdom of Christ—that has water in it other than baptism? You may think and search until you are as old as Methuselah—969 years old—and you would never find where there is water in any of the conditions of pardon for the alien sinner except in baptism. There is no water in faith, at the point of faith; there is no water at the point of repentance; there is no water at the point of confession; but there is water in the act of baptism. Paul said that it is that washing that pertains to the new birth

or regeneration.

 

Let me give you a passage that says our bodies are to be washed with pure water. The element is water. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and our body washed with pure water.”

 

I want you to note that the sprinkling is an allusion to the blood being applied to the heart while the washing is an allusion to being baptized.

 

In Hebrews 10:22 Paul says that our body is washed with “pure water” while in Titus 3:5 he refers to it as the “washing of regeneration.” So, the truth of the matter is that it can refer only to baptism. Baptism is the only act in the conditions of pardon for the alien sinner that has any water in it.

 

The truth is consistent and will stand. The only condition of pardon that has water in it is baptism. Let us condition some statements by various scholars on this subject. These statements do not, of course, have the authority the scriptures have, but I do think that it will be of value to read them. Some people think that those of us who are members of the church of Christ are the only people who have ever thought that water in John 3:5 refers to baptism. Many denominational scholars have given the correct meaning of John 3:5 because they valued their scholarship, although in their religious lives they may have practiced something else. William Wall, a reliable church historian of the Church of England, affirms that all writers from the time of Christ to the days of John Calvin said to be “born of water” means to be “baptized.”

 

Nicodemus was evidently confused by the knowledge that he had been born by a fleshly birth into covenant relation with God under the Old Dispensation and was therefore a citizen of the only kingdom he knew anything about. He apparently looked for a restoration of the “old Kingdom” to its ancient glory and thought that he must, as a citizen, share in the benefits of the only kingdom he anticipated-an earthly one! It came as a surprise to him that he must be “born again” to be in the kingdom of which Jesus spoke. He failed to understand the spiritual nature of the New Covenant and the spiritual nature of the New Kingdom and thus the need of being “born again.”

 

Now, born of water,” “washing of water,” and “washing of regeneration” refers to baptism. “Born of the Spirit,” “by the word“ this is the instrument that the Spirit uses-and “the renewal of the Holy Spirit”- are one and the same thing. Enter the kingdom,” “cleansed,” and “saved” refer to the same thing.

 

Many people say that when Christ told Nicodemus “ye must be born again,” that He was saying you have already been born of your mother, and the water of that birth was the water to which He alluded. They claim that He was telling him to be born of the Spirit and that there is no water involved. But, remember that Nicodemus asked Him the question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Christ points out to him that He is not speaking of a physical birth-but of a spiritual one. He was not speaking of a child being born physically, but of the spiritual birth of a man.

 

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

 

Thus, he was speaking of the birth of a man-not a baby. Nicodemus, you are a man and I am not speaking of your being born again physically, but this is a spiritual birth and it consists of two elements, “water” and “Spirit.” “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God

 

There are some who may say this means that the Holy Spirit will come in a mysterious way like the wind. I showed from Acts 13:27 that when the voices of the prophets were heard on the Sabbath, the writings of these men were being read. They heard their voices only in the sense that they read their writings. That is the only way the Spirit operates-through His word (Eph. 6:17; Rom. 8:2). Now you cannot see the wind but you can see the effect of it. I had a friend who, at one time, had been a drunkard, a dope addict, and in a denomination all at the same time. But this man, through the influence of the gospel, quit all of them, turned his back to all of them and became a Christian and later a gospel preacher. I may not be able to explain how God was able to put that much power in the gospel but He did, and it, the gospel, is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). I, therefore, accept the gospel as God’s power.

 

I have said from the beginning that I was going to prove that being “born again” referred to baptism. In Acts 2:9-11 a number of nationalities are mentioned. Among them were people from Pontus, Judea, Cappadocia, Asia, and Phyrgia. When various ones from these places and others were “pricked in their heart” they asked Peter and the rest of the apostles, “men and brethren, what shall we do?” “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).”

 

Now these people were baptized “for the remission of sins.” As you know, about three thousand people obeyed the gospel that day (Acts 2:41). Peter, some years later, wrote to these very people and he names some of them. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodicia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). And in 1 Peter 1:23 he says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”

 

These people wanted to know what to do to be saved and Peter told them “repent and be baptized” and pointed out that this was “for the remission of sins.” Some years later Peter addressed them and called some of them by name. He said you were “born again.” Therefore, when he told them to be baptized for remission of sins, and when they did so, they were “born of water and of the Spirit.” They were born again-but they were baptized. Therefore, baptism is a part of the new birth and water, in John 3:5, refers to baptism.

 

Our Lord died for you. “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4).

 

You can never be saved from your past sins until you hear the gospel and believe it (Acts 15:7), repent of your sins (Acts 17:30), confess your faith in Christ. (Rom. 10:10; Acts 8:37), and are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), for remission of your sins (Acts 2:38). As an erring child of God you need to repent and confess your sins and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:20-23; James 5:16; Rev. 2:5).

 

YOU CAN BE SURE ABOUT SALVATION

B. B. Brother

 

And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living

God” (John 6:69).

INTRODUCTION:

 

Among the things of which one should be sure, none is more important than salvation. Mankind has a soul that will survive the death of his body and will exist eternally in heaven or hell. Where one exists eternally depends on how he responds to the all important question; “what must I do to be saved?”

 

Jesus emphasized the soul’s importance when He stated; “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)? As profitable as it might seem to “gain the whole world,” it is not as important as saving “his own soul.” You have a soul. It is very important. There is nothing of more value to you than your soul. Unfortunately, many do not value their souls very highly. People often times neglect their souls. The Bibles warns; “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him (Hebrews 2:3). Also, many do not make sure that their soul is saved. Perhaps they listen to some preacher or priest and never check with the word of God. In this lesson, we want to address the all important subject, “you can be sure about salvation.”

 

THE NEED OF SALVATION

 

When we are born into this world we are sinless. We do not inherit sin. God, through the prophet Ezekiel stated; “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20). Jesus likens those who would enter into His kingdom to little children. The Bible records “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4). Again, showing the spiritual purity of children, the Bible states; “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14). Jesus would not tell us to become as little children and “such is the kingdom of heaven,” if they were sinners or totally depraved.

 

People become sinners, in need of salvation, after they sin. But what is sin and how do we become sinners? God says; “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4). Sin is defined as “the transgression of the law.” It is going beyond the limits or boundaries of God’s law. Again sin is defined as “unrighteousness.” John wrote; “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1John 5:17). Unrighteousness is failing to do what is right. In the above two passages, sin is seen as act of commission (“transgression of the law,”) and sin of omission (“all unrighteousness is sin”). Likewise James stated; “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). From God’s definition of sin, one learns that sin is either something one does or fails to do, it is not something one inherits.

 

The Bibles teaches us that all of us at one time or another have sinned. We have transgressed God’s law and left undone what should be done. Consequently all have sinned. The book of Romans teaches the need of Jesus having come into this world to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the world. After showing that both Gentiles and Jews (all humanity) had sinned (Romans chapters 1 and 2), Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The good news is that Christ came into the world to take away sin. When John saw Jesus, he declared; “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). God doesn’t simply overlook sin, but He will forgive sin. God is just, which means he cannot simply overlook our transgression. We would not respect human judges that simply overlooked the breaking of our laws. But even though God is just, he is also our “Justifier.” Paul wrote; “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).

 

God desires our salvation. He wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (cf 1 Timothy 2:4). God sent Jesus into the world that we might be saved. John records; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

HOW ARE WE SAVED?

 

There is both a Divine side and human side to our salvation. God’s side of salvation includes such wonderful attributes as mercy, grace, love, the sacrifice of Christ, longsuffering, etc., etc. We could not be saved without these attributes of God. However, there is a human side to salvation also. If we did not have to do anything to be saved, then all people would be saved, for that is God’s desire, but yet not all men are saved. Jesus says there is something we must do. He stated; “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Whom did Jesus say would enter into the kingdom of heaven? “He that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven.” What must we do to be saved?

 

One must HEAR the Word of God to be saved. Paul wrote; “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit or some experience one has in life. God draws us through the process of hearing and learning. Jesus stated; “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:44-45).

 

One must also BELIEVE in Christ in order to be saved. Jesus said; “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Additionally, all must REPENT of their sins in order to be saved. Jesus said; “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3). Paul told the Athenians; “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a change of heart that will result in reformation of life. God has also said that one should CONFESS the Christ in order to be saved. Paul wrote that confession is unto salvation – “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). A Bible example of this confession is seen in Acts 8:37, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:37). The final act that places one “into Christ” is BAPTISM. When the Gospel was preached in the city of Jerusalem the ones who crucified Jesus realized their sin. They asked; “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The inspired answer is found in the following verse; “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). These who believed in Jesus were instructed to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins remitted (sent away). Earlier Jesus had instructed; “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Jesus stated that belief and baptism were essential to salvation. One can understand why baptism is essential to salvation when he realizes that it is in baptism when God places us “in Christ.” Paul wrote; “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

 

Salvation is found only in Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Paul said; “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Since salvation is found only in Christ, it is imperative that one be in Christ. Also, if one is in Christ, he can be sure of his salvation.

 

 

SECTION FOUR

 

THE CHURCH

HOW TO FIND THE TRUE CHURCH

B. B. Brother

 

 

And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living

God.[”(John 6:69)]

 

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say I the Son of man am? And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ the son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:13-18).

 

In the above scripture, Jesus stated “I will build my church.” There are many religious groups in the world all claiming a connection with God. How can a person know for sure which way is the right way? Is it possible to know which way is correct? Indeed it is! Jesus Christ has a church. It can be identified from the pages of God’s word. There are certain identifying marks of the church that belongs to Christ. If a person were to lose his automobile, he would look for it by looking for certain identifying characteristics. He would know the model, the color, the size, vehicle identification number, etc., of his automobile. While there might be some similar features of his automobile with other automobiles, he could know his from all others. Another automobile might be the same color as his, but not the same size or model or number. He would know that it is not his. Likewise, there are some churches that are similar to Christ’s church, but are not His! What are some identifying marks of Christ’s church?

 

Its Builder

 

Jesus Christ is the builder of His church. He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Any church that has a builder other than Jesus Christ is not the church that belongs to Christ. Denominations are founded upon men other than Jesus Christ (i.e. John Calvin, John Wesley, etc.). These churches were not built by Jesus Christ, and therefore do not belong to Him. The church of Christ (which is not a denomination) was built by Christ as recorded in Matthew 16:18.

 

Its Head

 

Any church that has any other person than Jesus Christ as its head cannot be the church of Christ. The Bible affirms that Jesus is the only head of His church. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). No Pope, Patriarch, nor any other man, is the head of Christ’s church. Christ is “the head.” He has all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18).

 

Its Place and Time of Establishment

 

The church of Christ was established in the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord’s house (the church) would be established and the law of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will work in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

 

In addition to citing the city where the Lord’s house would be established, Isaiah, likewise, foretold the time of its establishment. He said it would happen “in the last days.” Peter identifies the “last days” as having begun on the day of Pentecost, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16-17).

 

The Christian age or dispensation is the last days. It is called the last days because it is the last dispensation of time. At the end of the Christian dispensation, Christ will come, the judgement will take place, the wicked will go into everlasting punishment and the saved will enter into life eternal (Matthew 25:46).

 

Luke, in Acts chapter two, records the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The apostles were commanded to wait in Jerusalem until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:46:49). Consequently, they received this power on the day of Pentecost and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The church (the Lord’s house), was established on this day and the word of the Lord went forth from the city of Jerusalem, as prophesied by Isaiah. The church of Christ was, therefore, established on the day of Pentecost (A.D.33), in the city of Jerusalem. Any church that had its beginning in any other city and at any other time cannot be the church of Christ.

 

Its Name

 

When one reads his Bible, he will learn that the church is identified by various designations. Jesus identified it as “my church” (Matthew 16:18). It is called “the church of God” in I Corinthians 1:2. When speaking of various congregations, Paul referred to them as “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). One should keep in mind that there were not differing churches or denominations, but rather the church of Christ in different geographical locations. One does not read of denominational names in the Bible. There were no Baptists, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventist churches, etc. in the Bible. There are no Russian Orthodox Churches or Roman Catholic Churches in God’s word. God says “if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). One must speak in scriptural terminology. It is not scriptural to call the church something other than what God calls it. Any church that wears man’s name and /or has a name based on man’s doctrine is not the church of Christ. The church of Christ, however, is a scriptural designation, “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16).

 

 

 

 

Its Worship

 

“God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God says that all who worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth. To worship God in truth is to worship Him according to God’s word. Jesus identified the truth as the word of God – “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The word of God is to be our standard of how we worship God.

 

The New Testament reveals that there are five acts of worship in which we are to be engaged upon the first day of the week. We are to preach (or teach) God’s word (Acts 20:7), give as we have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2), pray (I Thessalonians 5:17), sing, (vocal music-no mechanical instruments Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:16), and partake of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, Acts 20:7). These are to be observed on each first day of the week, also known as “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). Any church that does not observe these items or adds to these items of worship, is not worshiping God according to the divine pattern.

 

Its Organization

 

God established His church exactly the way He wanted it. Man, however, has departed from God’s organization and has established churches different from the divine pattern. As stated earlier, Jesus Christ is the only head of the church (Ephesians 1:20-21). Each local church, is to be overseen by men known as elders (Acts 14:23). Other names for these elders are “overseers” (or “bishops”) and “pastors” (Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:11). Each congregation is autonomous, serving Christ under its local eldership. Never was there a man, or a group of men over a number of churches. There are also special servants in the church of Christ known as “deacons” (Philippians 1:1). The qualifications for the elders and deacons can be found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. All Christians in the local church (including the preacher and the deacons), serve under the oversight of the elders. The elders are never to make any laws for God, nor change any existing law, they simply oversee the local church, making sure things are done scripturally. They are to shepherd the flock of God committed to their care (I Peter 5:1-4).

 

Its Terms of Entrance

 

How does one become a member of the church of Christ? According to the Bible, one was to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). A person had to repent (turn away) from his sins. Again, Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). One had to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 8:37, Romans 10:10), and then be immersed in water for the purpose of remission (forgiveness) of sins. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). When one obeyed his Lord in these five acts, he was added to the church by the Lord. “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

 

Likewise, today we must (1) hear God’s word, (2) believe in Christ, (3) repent of our sins, (4) confess the Christ, and (5) be immersed in water for the remission of sins. When we do this, the Lord will add us to His church.

 

Conclusion

 

The church of Christ is very important. Jesus purchased His church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). When He returns, He will take His church to heaven (Ephesians 5:23). If you have found yourself in some religious group other than the church of Christ, why not return to the Bible as your standard. One may identify the church of Christ by its builder, its head, its place and time of establishment, its names, its worship, its organization, and its terms of entrance. Many people have already come out of religions and churches not authorized of God. The Bible records, “But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13).

If you have never obeyed God, may we encourage you to do the things listed above. Remember, these are God’s steps of salvation for all who would be saved.

 

“COME AND SEE

ABOUT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

Garland Elkins

 

The above statement, “Come and see” (John 1:39), was made by Jesus Christ in response to a question directed to Him by two of John’s disciples. The two accepted the Lord’s invitation to “Come and see” and as a result they left John to follow Jesus!

 

The church of Christ urges you to “Come and see” whether or not the church of Christ today is identical to the “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) of Paul’s day in its name, membership, worship, unity, organization, practice and mission. Following the New Testament completely is that which makes the true church of Christ.

 

The Lord added the saved to the church that Christ built (Acts 2:38-41, 47). There was no other church in existence. The same process of obedience that saved them caused the Lord to add them to His church (Acts 2:47).

 

Not until hundreds of years later was there a single denomination for one to join! Now there are hundreds of man-made churches but there is no reason to join any of them! Why not be just a Christian? A member of the Lord’s church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; Romans 16:16; Acts 26:28; I Peter 4:16)?

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WAS FOUNDED BY CHRIST

 

Christ promised to build but one church, when He said: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Paul tells us that Christ died for but one church: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). The words “the church” mean but one. The pronoun “it” can refer to but one. So Christ loved one church; He died for one church; He built one church. Therefore He is the owner of but one church. The plural form “churches” is never used in the New Testament except in reference to a number of local congregations in a certain section of the country, as “the churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16), “the churches of Judea” (Galatians 1:22).

 

TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST WAS FOUNDED IN JERUSALEM

 

It was founded in Jerusalem, on Pentecost, the first one after the resurrection of Christ. This is shown by a number of things. A short time before our Lord died He put the origin of the church in the future when He said: “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Students of language know that “will build” is future tense of the verb and shows that the church had not been built when Jesus made this statement. However, beginning with this Pentecost the church was always referred to as present. It was on that day that “there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41), “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Never after Pentecost of Acts 2 was it referred to as something to be built. This proves that the church of Christ was established on Pentecost day of the second chapter of Acts. In fact, Peter declares that this was the beginning (Acts 11:15).

 

CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

 

Christ is the head of it, the sole head. Paul says: “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22, 23). “And He is the Head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). These passages make it clear that when the New Testament speaks of the body of Christ, reference is not made to His physical but to His spiritual body, which is His church. Observe please: (1) Christ is the head of His church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23); (2) All that are in Christ are in His body (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:15); (3) All Christians are in Christ (Romans 6:3; II Corinthians 5:17); (4) Therefore, all Christians are in Christ’s church. Jesus came into the world to establish one, and only one institution through which to save mankind (Ephesians 3:10, 11, 21).

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST HAS NO GUIDE BOOK

BUT THE BIBLE

 

The church of Christ refuses to accept any human creed in religion. We definitely refuse any uninspired man’s statement, or system of statements, as our rule in religion. Articles of Religion, Confessions of Faith, Disciplines, Church Manuals and Creeds formulated by men are rejected. The word of God and the word of God alone — we accept as our standard. The following scriptures show this to be the only safe course: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16.17). Again Peter says: “According as His divine power Hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3). The same apostle said: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion forever and ever Amen” (I Peter 4:11). Therefore, we implore all to go back to the Bible. Remember the Bible is right!

 

The church of Christ has no creed but the Christ, the son of God. It pleads for the unity of all believers in Christ on the simple plan of speaking where the Bible speaks and by remaining silent where it is silent, by wearing Bible names and by doing Bible things in Bible ways. It seeks to obey the divine injunction given by Paul in I Corinthians 1:10: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Our aim is to fulfill the Lord’s prayer for unity as stated in John 17:21. We seek to plant New Testament churches through out the world after the New Testament pattern.

 

TO BE ADDED TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST ONE MUST COMPLY WITH GOSPEL REQUIREMENTS WHICH ARE:

 

Belief in Christ (Acts 16:31); repentance of sins (Acts 17:30); confession of faith in Christ (Acts 8:36, 37); and baptism (Acts 2:38, 41, 47; Mark. 16:16; Acts 22:16). Peter declared “Baptism doth also now save us” (I Peter 3:21). We are saved by the blood of Christ which was shed in the death of Christ; but no accountable person ever contacts that blood until he is baptized into his death (Romans 6:3). Salvation is in Christ, (II Timothy 2:10) but one cannot get into Christ except by baptism (Galatians 3:27).

 

THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS SCRIPTURAL

 

The items of worship are: Teaching (Acts 2:42; II Timothy 2:2); Praying (Acts 2:42); and Giving (I Corinthians 16:1, 2). Giving is an act of worship that must be done on a certain day of the week. As the original language clearly states, it was done on the first day of every week. Raffling contests and other such methods of raising money for the church were not practiced by the congregations under the direction of inspired men of the first century, and those who do such things today are not identical with congregations of the first century. Partaking of the Lord’s supper is another act of worship (I Corinthians 11:23-29). Does the New Testament specify a certain day for the observance of the Lord’s supper? Yes! The day is clearly pointed out in Acts 20:7. The only day anyone can partake of the Lord’s supper with the Lord’s approval is the first day of the week! A certain day of a certain month is never mentioned in connection with it. So it cannot be a yearly service. Neither is a certain day of the month mentioned. It cannot, therefore, be a monthly service. Singing is another act of worship (Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 2:12). We are not just commanded to have music, but rather we are commanded to have a certain kind of music, that is singing. In Hebrews 2:12 we are told, “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” To add instrumental music to the singing is to go beyond Christ’s doctrine (II John 9-11). Any church that employs mechanical instruments in its worship is not identical with the New Testament church. But the true church of Christ limits its music to singing just as the church of the first century. The five acts of worship discussed above were the only acts of worship that the early church practiced. We search in vain for any other acts of worship enjoined upon Christians today.

 

DOES HONESTY MAKE ERROR TRUTH?

 

Since early childhood I have heard people say that it does not make any difference what we believe, that if we are honest and sincere about it, God will save us anyway. Have you ever made such a statement? Most likely you have heard your preacher say the same thing. If he has, ask him for the verse in the Bible. You may have made this kind of statement because you have heard preachers make it, and naturally you thought it must be so. But if your preacher has been making it, he must have some reason for it since he claims to be following and teaching the Bible. He should make such statements providing the Bible says so. And if the Bible does say so, he will know where to find it. So ask him to give you the book, chapter, and verse.

 

Notice this scripture from II Thessalonians 2:11, 12: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This indeed is a very plain statement. It positively says that some would “believe a lie.” Certainly there is a vast difference between believing a lie and believing the truth. The truth is recorded in the word of God. If it is not taught in the word of God, it must be a lie.

 

Does it make any difference which of these one believes? The general idea is that it does not matter, provided one is sincere. Of course, he could not believe anything unless he is sincere. A person might pretend to believe a thing and be insincere about it. But if he actually believes it, he must be sincere. So the Bible speaks of men who are sincere, for it actually says they will “believe a lie.” But what of their sincerity? Will that atone for their mistake? Will God save them anyway, just because they are honest about it? Is that what the Bible said? No, that is not the way it reads at all.

 

Observe verse 12 again: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth.” Notice the word “damned.” This means the very opposite of “saved.” Yet we are told that certain men would be damned. But who were to be damned? All those who believed a lie or believed not the truth. It does make quite a difference what a person believes! For if one is to be saved, he must believe the truth. To believe something else will result in damnation—regardless of how sincere a person might be.

 

In II Timothy 2:5 we read this: “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” When people say it makes no difference what we believe, they often add: “We are all striving for the same place anyway.” And evidently this is true. We are striving to reach heaven at last. But is striving the only thing that is necessary in order to reach that glorious reward? This is all that would be necessary if it makes no difference what we believe.

 

The Bible continues to tell us that striving alone is not sufficient—that a man may strive and still not be crowned, except he strive lawfully. The crowning referred to is the eternal reward in heaven—the crown of glory that fadeth not away. But yet a man may strive and still fail to receive the crown. Why? Because he may not strive lawfully. No person can reach that crown unless he strives lawfully! What does it mean to strive lawfully? It means to strive according to the law of the Lord. So if we strive contrary to that law we will not be crowned, regardless of how sincere we may be.

 

The law of the Lord is revealed in the New Testament. If we strive to go to heaven by some other way, we are not striving lawfully, and will not reach the destination we desire. These truths in the Bible clearly indicate that it does make a difference what a person believes and practices in religion.

 

SINNERS WERE NOT INSTRUCTED TO PRAY

FOR PARDON OF SINS

 

With the Bible as our rule of faith and practice, containing as it does, the revelation of God’s will to us, we should be very anxious to do just the things it authorizes. This is especially true since we are saved from our past sins and become Christians only if we obey the truth (John 8:32; John. 17:17). Also we are to be judged by the word of the Lord (John 12:48). Where does the Bible say, “that inspired men ever invited alien sinners to the altar to pray for salvation?”

 

In Acts 22:16, we read of an alien sinner, engaged in prayer when the Lord sent a preacher to tell him what to do. Saul, who had been one of the worst enemies Christianity ever had, became convinced of the error of his way. He asked the Lord what He would have him to do (Acts 9:6). Jesus told him to go to Damascus and there he would be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). So he went to the city and waited for that information. Ananias, a gospel preacher, was sent to tell him what to do. When Ananias arrived he found Saul, the sinner, engaged in prayer. Many modern preachers would have told Saul to “pray on until you pray to pardon.” Did Ananias tell Saul to pray on? He did not! However, he told Saul exactly what God wanted him to do! He stopped Saul from praying and said: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). To “Arise,” means “to get up.” So Ananias told Saul to get up from his praying and do something else—to be baptized and wash away his sins. Has it ever occurred to you that the average preacher of our day would not tell an alien sinner what Ananias told Saul to do? That is, to “Arise,” and to “be baptized and wash away thy sins.” When one is thus baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38), he is obediently “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16; Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46).

 

THE LORD’S CHURCH OF ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE

 

We place value upon a thing by what is paid for it. It is obvious that God places the highest value upon the church since he was willing to give His only begotten Son for it (John 3:16; Ephesians 5:25). Christ not only loved the church enough to die for it (Ephesians 5:25), but His church is the only institution where the lost can find salvation (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 5:23).

 

We are dedicated to the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Won’t you lend your influence to this worthy goal? We are neither Catholic nor Protestant. We are simply Christians (Acts 26:28; I Peter 4:16). Isn’t this sufficient?

The Bible is God’s word. Please “Come and see” and then “Go and tell” others.

THE LORD’S CHURCH IS DIFFERENT

Garland Elkins

 

Do you ever ask: “In what direction must I go to find eternal bliss? Since eternity is forever, it is the most important thing in the world for us to do the will of God. This chapter is intended to point you to the Bible where we are told what we must do to inherit eternal life.

 

Twenty-first century technology is noted for its change. Each day, it seems, we have new and better ways of production, transportation, therapy, communications, etc.

 

But in this changing world, we still find that life, even at its very best, is full of trouble. And, a basic fact still faces us: it is appointed to man once to die; then the judgment. (Heb. 9:27.)

 

It is our purpose and plea to urge all men to go back to the Bible. We seek to “speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent.” (I Peter 4:11.)

 

The time that you use in reading this material may be the best way you could possibly use the same amount of time. The few minutes spent in reading this material could conceivably enhance your hope of an eternity in heaven.

 

You can be just a Christian without being a part of any denomination. In these days of many sects and conflicting teachings isn’t it marvelous that one can be a Christian, a member of the Lord’s church, therefore saved from his past sins; yet not a member of any denomination or sect? There can be no doubt that all Christians of the first century were members of the Lord’s church. (Acts 2:47.) Yet they were members of no denomination for none existed.

 

Peter, Paul and all Christians belonged to the church; yet they belonged to no denomination. Question: “Why should any person claiming to be a Christian belong to a denomination today?”

 

 

THE LORD’S CHURCH IS UNDENOMINATIONAL

 

People generally have become so accustomed to thinking of the church in terms of denominationalism that, in the minds of some, it is almost impossible to disassociate the church of the Lord from denominationalism. Yet when we read of the Lord’s church in the New Testament, very few, if any, think it is a denomination. I use the word denomination in the sense in which it is used in religion to refer to a sect or party. The world has a right and certainly a need to know wherein the Lord’s church is different.

 

NEITHER CATHOLIC NOR PROTESTANT

 

Churches of Christ have a distinctive plea. The plea is: be neither Catholic nor Protestant but a simple Christian. First century disciples were neither Catholics nor Protestants for none of these denominations existed and did not until hundreds of years later. A person can be an American without joining any political party, Democrat, Republican, etc. Even so, one can be a Christian without joining any sect. In our day many think of the word “church” as synonymous with the word “denomination.” It is extremely difficult to get people to see that they can be Christians without being a part of any sect. In our country alone there are between two and three hundred sects; but the church of Christ is not a sect. Paul, though a member of the Lord’s church, denied that it was a sect. (Acts 24:5, 13, 14.)

 

 

THE LORD’S CHURCH SUPERIOR TO DENOMINATIONS

 

The church for which our Lord gave His blood is far superior to any and/or all denominations. All denominations have been started by human rather than by divine authority.

 

It is a fact, both from the Bible and history, that the church of Christ was established and existed in the world for several centuries before Catholicism or Protestantism were known, and before the followers of Christ divided into various denominations. (Acts 2:22-47; Rom. 16:16.)

 

Preaching the same gospel and urging obedience to the same conditions of salvation will reproduce the church of Christ in any given community today. The seed of the kingdom is the word of God. (Luke 8:11.) The good soil is the “honest and good heart.” (Luke 8:15.) When the word of God was planted in the first century, it produced Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28), and churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16.)

 

Since seed always produces after its kind (Gen. 1:11, 12; Gal. 6:7, 8), it will produce in this century what it produced in the first century. If not, why not?

 

THERE IS ONE CHURCH

 

First, I want to show that there was one and only one church in the first century. The New Testament, of course, will be the standard to which we must turn for our evidence.

 

The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” and simply means the “called out.” The church of the New Testament was composed of people — people who were called out of darkness, by the gospel, into the light of the Son of God. (II Thess. 2:13, 14; Col. 1:13.)

 

Such a group of “called out” people in any community was called the “church” in that community. Therefore we read of “the church which was in Jerusalem.” (Acts 11:22.) Also, the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2), and the church at Thessalonica. (I Thess. 1:1.)

 

The congregations were spoken of as “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16), “the churches of Judea” (Gal. 1:22.), “The churches of Macedonia” (II Cor. 8:1), and “the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2.) The plural form “churches” is never used except in reference to a number of local congregations in some section of the country.

 

When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he said: “The churches of Christ salute you.” (Rom. 16:16.) In the area from which Paul was writing there were a number of congregations sending their greetings to the church in Rome.

 

Hence, Paul said: “The churches of Christ salute you.” It is a certain fact that if a number of congregations were called “Churches of Christ,” each individual congregation would be “a” church of Christ.

 

In I Corinthians 1:2, Paul addresses “the church of God which is at Corinth.” He wrote to Timothy after this fashion. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15.) Here reference is made to “the church of the living

God.” These similar phrases are not proper names, but descriptive expressions which show how the church is related to Christ and his Father.

 

 

 

IS ONE CHURCH AS GOOD AS ANOTHER?

 

Perhaps no statement has been made more often by religious people than that “one church is as good as another.” However, this is not true, for the Bible teaches that there is but one church. It is recorded, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” (Eph. 4:4.) This passage clearly states that “there is one body.” In our day there are hundreds of conflicting religious bodies. It goes without saying that one body cannot mean hundreds of bodies.

 

But what does the Bible mean by “one body”? In Ephesians 1:22 and 23, we read, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body.” Note “. . . the church, which is his body.” So, the church is “the body,” and there is only “one” body.

 

Not only does Paul tell us that the church is the one body and that the body is the church (Col. 1:18), he further declares “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (I Cor. 12:20.) Since there is one body, then there is but one church of the New Testament. Furthermore, when Jesus promised to build the church he said, “… upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18.) He promised to build only one — His church, and not churches! We know the Lord built only one because that is all He promised to build. Then if He built but one, somebody else must have built all the others. Who will say that a church some man built is as good as the one that the Lord built? That is what a person would be forced to say if he contends that one church is as good as another.

 

In Colossians 1:18 it is declared: “And he is the head of the body, the church.” Note it does not say: “He is the head of the bodies, the churches.” There are the same number of churches as there are bodies, and the same number of bodies as there are heads. How many heads? He is the head! That means just one head, doesn’t it? So there is one head, one body, one church. And, since Jesus is the head of only one, somebody else must be the head of all others.

 

Do you believe that a church of which some man is the head is as good as the church of which Jesus is the head?

 

Further, we read that, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.” (Eph. 5:25.) The words “the church” mean but one. The pronoun “it” can refer to but one. So Christ loved one church; he died for one church; he built one church. Hence, he is the owner of but one church — the church we read about in the New Testament.

 

SALVATION IS WITHIN THE CHURCH

 

It is an admitted fact that salvation can be had outside man-made churches, but salvation is not offered apart from the Lord’s church. The fact that it is generally admitted by those who advocate denominationalism that a person can be saved outside the membership of their church proves the uselessness of such churches! The Bible teaches that the true church is the family of God, the body of Christ, the kingdom of God. (I Tim. 3:15: Col. 1:18; Col. 1:13.) No person could expect to be saved outside of the family of God, the body of Christ, for Paul declares: “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (I Cor. 12:18.) And, the Lord sees to it that all the saved are in the church. (Acts 2:47.)

 

Through the cross Christ reconciles men unto God “in one body” (Eph. 2:13-16), and that “one body” is the church. (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18; I Cor. 12:20.) To contend that the Lord’s church is not essential, since it was purchased with the blood of Christ, is to take the position that the blood of Christ is non-essential! If one can be saved outside of Christ’s church, then one is forced to the position that Christ’s death was useless. Any doctrine which minimizes and belittles the death of Christ is false doctrine. Therefore, the doctrine that salvation can be enjoyed outside of the Lord’s church is false doctrine.

 

Popular statements relative to the church are: “We want people to be saved, and then let them join the church of their choice”; or, “One church is as good as another; the church does not save you.” When a person makes those kind of statements he thinks of the church simply in terms of denominationalism and, therefore, in terms of the doctrines and commandments of men. If one has reference to being saved outside of any and/or all denominational churches, that of course, is a different matter. It is true that one not only does not need to be in a denomination; in fact he should stay out of all denominations. A very good question is: “Can a person be saved in a denomination?” There is no doubt that a person can be saved outside of all of the Catholic and Protestant denominations, but the important question is: “Can a person be saved in a denomination?” One cannot be saved outside of the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47), therefore, to be in the Lord’s church is essential to salvation; but one never reads of anybody during the first century being in any denomination. In fact, Paul denied that the Lord’s church was a sect, and denied that anyone could prove that it was.

(Acts 24:5, 13, 14.) We must go deeper than emotional appeal if we would penetrate to the full significance of the question, “Can people be saved outside of the Lord’s church?”

 

Let us consider the question from another angle, (1) If a person can be saved outside of the Lord’s church as well as in it, that is equivalent to saying that he can be saved without the blood of Christ; for the Lord gave His blood to purchase the church and therefore only in the church does the blood save. (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25.) When one contends that he can be saved outside of the Lord’s church, he is saying that he has absolutely no need for the blood of Christ. (2) The Bible teaches that the church and the kingdom are the same institution (the disciples were to partake of the Lord’s

supper in His kingdom in Luke 22:18 and 19), but we learn that they did this in the church (I Cor. 1:1, 2; 11; 18-34); therefore, the church and the kingdom are one and the same institution! If a person could be saved outside of the church, that would mean he could be saved outside of the kingdom of God; that is he could be saved without submitting to God. But since there are but two kingdoms on earth — i.e., the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, it follows that if a man can be saved outside of the church, he can be saved in the kingdom of Satan, and that would deny plain Bible teaching. (3) The New Testament teaches that the church of Christ is the family of God. (I Tim. 3:15.) If a man can be saved outside the family (or church) of God that would be equivalent to saying that one can be saved in the devil’s family. There are only two families on earth. Question: “Where is salvation? In the Lord’s family (the church) or in the devil’s family?” There are only two families on earth. Another question: “Does God have any children outside of His family? Can a man be saved while yet in the family of Satan?” These questions must be dealt with by every honest person when they are reaching a conclusion as to the necessity of membership in the Lord’s church.

 

DOES THE CHURCH SAVE YOU?

 

The statement has been made many times that “the church does not save you.” Of course, we know that the church is not the savior. Jesus is the Savior (Matt. 1:21); but Jesus saves the church (Eph. 5:23), and the saved are in the church (Acts 2:47.) You can see that the statement “the church is not necessary to salvation,” when applied to the Lord’s church, is false.

 

We read, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23.) If you will read the verses that follow in this chapter, you will readily see the term “body” refers to the church. So Christ is Savior of the church. This statement could not be true if men are saved out of the church, and before they enter the church. If such were true, then Christ would be the Savior of men out of the church, and therefore, while in the world, but not the Savior of men in the church. Yet Paul says that Christ is the Savior of the church.

 

If the Lord saves people out of the church, every person who goes into the church would be saved before he enters. We know that this is definitely not true, for Ephesians 5:23 shows us that the Lord saves those who enter the Church — not those on the outside! While the church is not the savior, it is the saved! Men must be in the church in order to be saved. (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23.) Their membership in the Lord’s church is an absolute necessity in order to be saved.

 

THE LORD’S CHURCH IS DIFFERENT IN TERMS OF ENTRANCE

 

Surely no one would doubt the right of Christ to make the terms of admission into the church, since the church belongs to Him and all authority is given to Him. Hence, our interest should be: What does He require? He is the door, and we must enter in harmony with His will.

 

FAITH IS REQUIRED

 

Jesus said: “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (Jno. 8:24.) He also said, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mk. 16:16.) We must believe, for “without faith it is impossible to please him (God).” (Heb. 11:6.) Faith is the first step toward righteousness (Rom. 10:10), and, necessarily, the first step toward the church.

 

 

 

REPENTANCE IS COMMANDED

 

Christ requires that we must “repent” or “all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3.) Repentance is a change of will (Mt. 21:28-31) and leads to life. (Acts 11:18.) God “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30.)

 

CONFESSION OF CHRIST IS NECESSARY

 

Christ made the good confession before Pilate. (I Tim. 6:13.) Peter made the good confession which is, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16.) This caused Christ to pronounce a blessing upon him. (Mt. 16:17.) Christ has promised that “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32.) Confession with the mouth leads to salvation (Rom. 10:10) and must, therefore, precede the saved state.

 

BAPTISM IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO BE SAVED

 

No one can be saved from his past sins until he has been baptized according to our Lord’s statement in Mark 16:16. These were among our Lord’s last instructions to His apostles before leaving the earth. Our Lord said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Faith and baptism, in this passage, are joined by the coordinating conjunction and. Coordinate conjunctions join or unite elements of equal rank. Faith and baptism are thus joined in this sentence to obtain the same result — salvation. He that believeth (item No. 1) and is baptized (item No. 2) shall be saved (item No.3).

 

Paul taught that baptism is essential to salvation in Romans 6:3-4, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

 

Note that the statement made here by Paul is to the effect that men are baptized into Jesus Christ and that they also are baptized into His death.

 

If men can be saved without baptism, they can be saved out of Christ, because in this passage Paul declares that men are baptized into Christ. Can men be saved out of Christ? If men cannot be saved out of Christ, then they cannot be saved without baptism, because Paul says baptism puts people into Christ. Not only so, but we note that it was in the death of Christ that His blood was shed. We must, therefore, contact that blood in order to receive the benefits of His blood. Since the blood was shed in His death, we must reach the death of Christ in order to share its benefits. In Romans 6:3, it is affirmed that “we are baptized into his death.” We reach the death of Jesus Christ when we are baptized, not before we are baptized; and thus reach His blood and the benefits of His blood at that point. Since we are baptized into the death of Christ, and thus into the blood of Christ, then baptism is essential to the forgiveness of sins which is made possible by the blood of the Son of God.

 

Also, this passage shows that we walk in the newness of life, or that the new life comes after baptism. Observe please in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Here is a burial and a resurrection. Paul tells us that, as Christ was raised from the dead, so we are raised to walk in newness of life. Many present-day preachers contend that we walk the new life before baptism, but Paul says that we are raised to walk in newness of life. The newness of life comes after baptism!

 

It is further seen that water baptism is essential to the salvation of the alien sinner from Galatians 3:26, 27, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Note that Paul points out two things: (1) We are children of God by faith. (2) We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Let us carefully study what Paul said. Paul, did you say, “We are children of God by faith” and stop with that? No. Did you say, “We are children of God by faith only?” No. Well, did you say, “We are children of God by faith out of Christ?” No! What, then, did you say? “Ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Friends, one must be in Christ Jesus in order to be saved. It is significant that the very next verse informs us how to get into Christ: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Friends, you will never learn how to get into Christ in any other

way. You must be in Christ to be a child of God by faith. You can get into Christ only by being baptized into Christ!

 

Please consider honestly the necessity of baptism from these standpoints. 1. Baptism stands between the sinner and the salvation of his soul. (Mk. 16:16.) 2. Baptism stands between the sinner and remission of sins. (Acts 2:38.) 3. Baptism stands between the sinner and becoming a child of God. (Gal. 3:26, 27). 4. Baptism stands between the sinner and having his sins washed away. (Acts 22:16.) 5. Baptism stands between the sinner and getting into Christ. (Rom. 6:3.)

 

BAPTISM IS A BURIAL

 

The word baptize comes from the Greek word “baptizo” and literally means “to dip, to immerse, to plunge.” Immersion was practiced by the church in apostolic times. Paul tells us that there is “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), and he informs us in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4 that baptism is a “burial.” This was water baptism, for Christ promised that He would be with them as long as time continues in the practicing of the baptism that He commanded. (Mt. 28:19, 20.) The only baptism the apostles and other Christians of the first century ever administered was water baptism. (Acts 10:47, 48;

Acts 8:35-40.)

 

The New Testament very clearly declares that baptism is a burial. History and statements from uninspired men (some of whom were founders of sects which practice sprinkling and pouring) with one voice admit that the New Testament teaches that baptism is a burial. These statements concur with the New Testament statements:

 

“And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.” — Bible, Acts8:38,39.

 

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” — Bible, Romans 6:3, 4.

 

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” — Bible, Eph. 4:5.

 

“Novation, as before shown in the histories quoted, had water poured all over him in a bed. This happened not earlier than A.D. 251, probably 253. (Eusebius, p. 114) About eighty years after this time, when other sick and feeble persons were preferring this method introduced by Novation, so far as all authentic records inform us, a decree was issued, called ‘the 12th canon of the Council of Neocaesarea,’ against such pourings, inhibiting persons so poured upon from any participation in the honours of the ministry or priesthood.” — Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 191.

 

Mosiem’s Ecclesiastical History — 1st Century: “The sacrament of baptism was administered in this century, without the public assemblies, in places appointed and prepared for the purpose and was performed by immersion of the whole body in the baptismal fount.” — Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 186.

 

Wesley’s remark on Romans 6:4: “We are buried with him . . . alluding here to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion.” — Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 143.

 

In the 5th of the Smolcald articles drawn up by Luther, he says, “Baptism is nothing else than the word of God with immersion in water.” — Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 144.

 

Calvin: “the word baptizo signifies to immerse, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.” Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 145.

 

THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS DIFFERENT

 

We cannot have just anything in our worship and still please God. The component parts of worship are stated by Christ in John 4:24. They involve:

 

1. Worshipping the right object — “God.”

2. Worshipping with right attitude — “in spirit.”

3. And, worshipping according to the will of the Lord — “in truth.” (Jno. 17:17.)

We are instructed how to worship after the church was established on the day of Pentecost. The early church taught in worship. (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7.)

 

Prayer is another item of worship in the Lord’s church. (Acts 2:42.) Christians are told to “continue in prayer”; (Col. 4:2) and to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thess. 5:17.) Prayer is to be addressed to God, not Mary or some saint; and prayers are to be prayed in the name of Christ. (Eph. 5:20.)

 

The congregations in the days of the apostles gave their contributions as the Lord had prospered them, on the first day of every week. (I Cor. 16:1, 2.) This was a free-will offering. Though many Christians give more than ten percent, yet the tithe is not bound upon the church of the New Testament. The New Testament church is not bound by the Old Testament law of tithing. (Heb. 7:12.) Personally, I would not think of giving as little as ten percent; this is of my choosing (II Cor. 9:6-8) and not because I am bound by the Old Testament law of tithing.

 

The Lord’s church does not resort to raffling contests, socials and other such methods of raising money for the church. Such was not done by the congregations under the direction of inspired men of the first century, and those who do such things today are not identical to congregations of the first century. The church of the first century sang as an act of worship. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16.) We read in Hebrews 2:12, “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” Note please, “… in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto

thee. “ Nowhere are Christians authorized “in the midst of the church will I sing and play praise unto thee.”

 

The early Christians were limited in their making of music to vocal music — that is, to singing. They did not use organs, pianos, banjos, guitars or other mechanical instruments in their praise to God. They sang — they did not play. Any church today that employs such mechanical instruments in its worship is not identical to the New Testament church. The true church of Christ now limits its music to singing just as the church of the first century.

 

FAITHFUL RESTORERS REJECTED INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

 

The scriptures are our standard of authority, and by them we “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thess. 5:21.) However, it is profitable and encouraging to benefit from the study of faithful gospel preachers of the past, and to know that they also respected the scriptures, and therefore, rejected the use of instrumental music in the worship of the New Testament church.

 

No church can be a true church of Christ that corrupts its worship with the use of mechanical instruments of music! The faithful pioneers of the effort to restore New Testament Christianity, on the premise of speaking where the scriptures speak, and being silent where the scriptures are silent, correctly rejected the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship, as a relic of popery, and therefore wholly unauthorized in Christian worship. Alexander Campbell said, “To all spiritually minded Christians such aids would be as a cowbell in a concert.” Robert Milligan affirmed

that instrumental music in Christian worship “is wholly unwarranted by anything that is either said or taught in the New Testament.” Jacob Creath said that the scriptures say no more about instruments of music “than they do of infant baptism.” Benjamin Franklin said: “Neither Christ nor the apostles authorized instrumental music, and no one used it in Christian worship till the man of sin was fully developed, and there was a full-grown pope. He is the gentlemen to whom we are indebted for the use of the organ in worship.” J. W. McGarvey said: “I hold that the use of the instrument is sinful, and I must not be requested to keep my mouth shut in the presence of sin, whether committed by a church or an individual.” Moses E. Lard declared: “The question of instrumental music in the church of Christ involves a great and sacred principle — that principle is the right of men to introduce innovations into the prescribed worship of God. That right we utterly deny — the churches of Christ will be wrecked the day the adverse side triumphs.”

 

“As a people we have from the first, and continually to the present, proclaimed that the New Testament, and that alone is our only full and perfect rule of faith of practice. We have declared a thousand times and more that whatever it does not teach we must not hold; and whatever it does not sanction we must not practice. He who ignores or repudiates these principles … has by the act become an apostate from our ranks; and the sooner he lifts his hand high, avows the fact, and goes out from amongst us the better, yes, verily, the better for us.

 

“Now in the light of the foregoing principles what defense can be urged for the introduction into some of our congregations of instrumental music? The answer which thunders into my ears from every page of the New Testament is NONE. Did Christ ever appoint it? Did the apostles ever sanction it? Or did any one of the primitive churches ever use it? Never. In what light then must we view him who attempts to introduce it into the churches of Christ of the present day? I answer, ‘An insulter of the authority of Christ, and as a defiant and impious innovator on the simplicity and purity of the ancient worship.’ In no other light can we view him, in no other light should he be viewed.” Moses E. Lard further commented: “But what shall be done with such churches? Of course, nothing. If they see fit to mortify the feelings of their brethren, to forsake the example of the primitive churches, to condemn the authority of Christ by resorting to will worship, to excite dissension, and to give rise to general scandal, they must do it. As a body, we can do nothing. Still we have three partial remedies left to us to which we should at once resort. 1. Let every preacher in our ranks resolve at once that he will never, under any circumstances or on any account, enter into a meeting house belonging to our brethren in which an organ stands. We beg and entreat our preaching brethren to adopt this as an unalterable rule of conduct. This and like evils must be checked, and the very speediest way to effect it is the one here suggested. 2. Let no brother who takes a letter from one church ever unite with another using an organ. Rather let him live out of the church than to go into such a den. 3. Let those brethren who oppose the introduction of an organ first remonstrate in gentle, kind, but decided terms. If their remonstrance is unheeded, and the organ is brought in, then let them at once, and without even the formality of asking for a letter, abandon the church so acting; and let all such members unite elsewhere. Thus these organ-grinding churches will in the lapse of time be broken down, or wholly apostatized, and the sooner they are in fragments the better for the cause of Christ. I have no sympathy with them, no fellowship for them, and so help me God never intend knowingly to put my foot into one of them. As a people, we claim to be engaged in an effort to return to the purity, simplicity, freedom from ostentation and pride, of the ancient apostolic churches. Let us, then, neither wink at anything standing in the way, nor compromise aught essential to this end. The moment we do so our unity is at an end, and our hopes are in the dust.” (Lard’s Quarterly, Vol. I, pg. 331-333.)

 

A GREAT SCHOLAR OF OUR DAY SPEAKS

 

During the past thirty years, Guy N. Woods has become one of the best qualified scholars alive. He is a Bible scholar of national recognition. He has authored twelve religious books, including commentaries on the Books of John, Peter, James and Jude. One of his latest books is a self-teaching text on New Testament Greek. He is a lawyer, but instead of engaging in the practice of law, he has chosen to dedicate his life to the study and teaching of the Bible. His background in the study of law is demonstrated in his ability to present truth very clearly and concisely. His scholarship and many lectures in Bible themes put him in good standing when extemporaneously answering religious questions.

 

In his commentary on the Book of James, in discussing the last part of James 5:13, he makes the following timely comments: Let him sing praise.—(Psalleto, present active imperative of psallo, “in the New Testament to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song,” (Thayer, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.) Literally, “Let him keep on singing.” The word occurs in I Cor. 14:15; Rom. 15:9; Eph. 5:19. It has had a varied meaning through the years. It has signified the act of plucking out the hair, snapping a carpenter’s string, twanging the strings of an instrument; and, in the New Testament, to sing. Its basic meaning, to pluck or twang, is thus metaphorically seen in its New Testament usage, in that the chords of the heart are to be “twanged” or played upon: “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual song, singing and making melody (psallo) in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:19.) There are those who, in an effort to justify the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship today, point to earlier meanings of the word, and urge that such significance should be assigned to it today. But those who thus do are unable to follow their own argument to its conclusion. It is conceded by the most avid defender of instrumental music in worship that one may acceptably approach God in public religious devotion without it; that its use is a matter of personal choice; and is, therefore, in the realm of expediency. But, if the instrument inheres in the word and to psallete is to use a stringed instrument, it follows that one cannot psallete without it. The instrument is either in the word, or it is not. If it is in it, one cannot worship God without an instrument of music; if it is not in it, then the argument fails. If it be urged that the instrument inheres in the word, the following conclusions irresistibly follow: (1) it is impossible to psallete, without an instrument of music; (2) since each individual is commanded to psallete, each must personally twang the strings of a mechanical instrument in worship to be acceptable; (3) to prepare people to worship acceptably would necessitate assisting them in such use; (4) only stringed instruments might properly be used, inasmuch as these are the only type which may be twanged or plucked. This would eliminate all wind instruments such as organs, horns, etc. In view of the fact that not one of the advocates of instrumental music in worship is willing to accept these obvious conclusions, it follows that they

have little respect for the argument they make.

 

Dozens of the world’s most profound Greek scholars, including all of those which have produced the major English translations, have borne witness to the fact that the New Testament meaning of the word does not include the use of a mechanical instrument; and that its meaning today is simply to sing. An interesting and significant side-light on this is the fact that the Greek Orthodox Churches—whose members are for the most part, Greek speaking people—have never used instrumental music in their worship. Those desiring to pursue the meaning of the word further will find a wealth of exceedingly valuable material in “Instrumental Music In Christian Worship,” by M. C. Kurfees, published by the Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee.

 

The use of such instruments in the Jewish order characteristic of the Old Testament period falls far short of justifying their use in Christian worship today. The burning of incense, the offering of animal sacrifices were a part of the worship in the former dispensation; we do not thence conclude that the burning of incense in Jewish devotions justifies an incense burner in the church today. Advocates of the doctrine of infant church membership attempt to sustain their position in precisely the same fashion. Were not infants a part of the Jewish economy? Ought they not therefore to be in

the church today? Those who so contend make out a case for church membership for babies as successfully as do those who seek to justify instrumental music in the church today in the same fashion. The truth is, God has ordained neither infant membership nor instrumental music in the church today, and those who practice either go beyond that which is written. (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18,19.) It is a well established historic fact which may be confirmed by consulting any reliable encyclopedia that instrumental music in so-called Christian worship was first used, in this dispensation, in A.D. 670, when introduced in to the Church of the Great Apostasy; and, it created such a furor therein that it was speedily removed to avert a split; and, it was not until about A.D. 800, that it came to be common in that ecclesiasticism. Our Lord never authorized it, no apostle ever sanctioned it, no New Testament writer ever commanded it, no New Testament church ever practiced it. It was born in the bosom of the apostasy, and is used with no greater sanction than the burning of incense, the counting of beads, the sprinkling of babies.

 

We walk by faith and not by sight (II Cor. 5:7); and, faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17.) It follows, therefore, that we are at liberty to do, in Christian worship, only those things specifically commanded; and, inasmuch as the New Testament is silent regarding the use of instrumental music in worship, we dare not use it. We are, however, commanded to sing and to make melody in our heart (not on an instrument!) and we are assured that such practice is acceptable to Him who commanded it. Authorized items of worship, to be performed on the Lord’s day—the first day of the week—are, teaching, singing, the contribution, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. (Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:19; I Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7.)

 

(Quoted from the Commentary from the Book of James, published by The Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee. Used by permission of B. C. Goodpasture, Editor and President) The early church, in addition to engaging in prayer, teaching, giving and singing, also partook of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7.) Let us observe:

 

1. The fact that Jesus commanded His disciples to partake of the supper. (Mt. 26:26-28; Lk. 22:19.) Paul mentions the same thing in I Corinthians 11:24, 25. It is therefore clearly revealed that the Lord commanded His people to eat of His supper.

 

2. Not only so, but the Lord’s people are commanded to assemble. (Heb. 10:25.) This command implies that some day is necessary. There could not be an assembly without some time for the assembly on some day. But what is the connection between eating the Lord’s supper and the assembly?

 

3. Simply this: The disciples ate the Lord’s supper when they assembled. (I Cor. 11:20.) They were perverting the institution by making a full meal out of it, and thus they were reprimanded for that. But the passage does reveal God’s will in the matter. This was not an eating at home, but when they came together into the, assembly to worship. When

they came together into one place (verse 20.)

 

4. Therefore, Christians came together for the purpose of eating the Lord’s supper. (I Cor. 11:33.) They were not to come together in public assembly to eat common meals — they were to eat such meals at home. (I Cor. 11:34.) Bear in mind the fact that the Lord’s supper is the only thing God has ever required Christians to eat in an assembly.

 

5. Now, if we can find when Christians assembled—or came together to eat the Lord’s supper we will know what day we are required to partake of the Lord’s supper. Here is the passage: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7.)

 

No one can scripturally partake of the Lord’s supper on any day other than “the first day of the week,” yet there are those that take it on a Thursday or some other day of the week. When they do so it is without any Bible authority. The Bible plainly teaches that it must be done on the first day of the week.

 

This cannot mean a yearly service or a monthly service. We never refer to an event that recurs annually as coming on a certain day of the week. We say that Independence Day comes on the fourth of July. We never say it comes on the first day of the week, though it may sometimes fall on that day. So it was with the passover of the Old Testament. It came on the 14th day of the first month, and that day was set aside as an annual religious service. If a certain day of the month had been mentioned it would have made it a monthly service. As the 14th day of the first month would designate an

annual service, and as the 10th day of the month would point out a monthly service, so the first day of the week specifies a weekly service.

 

The early church partook of the Lord’s supper on a weekly basis upon the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7.)

 

Since every week had a first day in it this means that they ate the Lord’s supper every first day of the week. This makes the Lord’s supper a weekly observance. I ask you, my readers, the following questions:

 

1. Do you partake of the Lord’s supper?

2. At what time do you partake of it?

3. How often do you partake of it?

4. Upon what scripture do you base your practice?

 

THE LORD’S CHURCH UNDERSTANDS THAT MIRACLES CEASED WHEN THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS COMPLETELY REVEALED

 

The Holy Spirit does not operate in a direct fashion upon the heart of a sinner to save him. He always operates through the preaching and teaching of the word. (I Cor. 1:21; Jas. 1:18, 21; Eph. 6:17.) Faith comes, not through a direct operation of the Spirit upon the heart, but through the word of God, for Jesus prayed for “them also which shall believe on me through their word.” (John 17:20.) Faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Rom. 10:17), not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. Folk can believe as a result of what is written (Jno. 20:30, 31.). One does not need the Holy Spirit to convict him in a direct way before he can hear and understand. In Acts 4:4, we are told: “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed.” They believed as a result of hearing and not a result of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts. The Gentiles’ faith came as a result of preaching and not as a result of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 15:7-9.) We read in Romans 10:13-14: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard” showing that faith results from preaching and not by direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It is written in Luke 8:12 that the devil removed the word from the heart lest the man should believe and be saved. The devil knows that a man is saved by the word of God and not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon his heart. The gospel, not a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, is God’s power to save. (Rom. 1:16.) Paul said to the Corinthians, “I have begotten you through the gospel.” (I Cor. 4:15)—note, it was not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Faith is not produced in the heart of sinner or saint by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Faith is produced in both saint and sinner by the word of God. (Acts 15:7, Gal. 3:2.)

Now a few thoughts concerning miracles: Real miracles such as done by apostles ceased by the time the New Testament was written. (Eph. 4:8-13.) “The faith” is here put for the truth of the New Testament. Paul preached: “The faith which once he destroyed.” (Gal. 1:23.) “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3.)

 

“Till the unity of the faith” means till all parts of the faith or New Covenant could be revealed. Then miraculously endowed men ceased. Miracles and signs were for the purpose of revealing and confirming the word. When the word was all given and confirmed, they were no longer needed thus ceased. (Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:3,4.) We are now to believe in Christ because of written miracles. (John 20:30, 31.) It is not a question of what God can do, but what he wills to do. It was never God’s purpose to have miracles continue in the church. Miracles were to “fail” “cease” and “vanish away. “ (I Cor. 13:8, 13.)

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST HAS A DIFFERENT CREED

 

The church of Christ has no human creed. We are bound by no uninspired man’s statement, or system of statements, as our rule in religion. Church manuals, Confessions of Faith, Disciplines, Articles of Religion, and all creeds formulated by men are rejected. The word of God alone—we accept as our standard.

 

The Bible is the inspired word of God. (II Peter 1:21; I Cor. 2:13; I Thess. 2:13.) It contains all necessary information for our salvation and is perfect. (II Pet. 1:3; II Tim. 3:16, 17.) Why would anyone desire any other standard in religion?

It is the aim of the church of Christ to speak “as the oracles of God.” (I Pet. 4:11.)

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS SCRIPTURAL IN ORGANIZATION

 

The church of Christ is scriptural in organization. Following the New Testament pattern each congregation is autonomous. There is no council, association, conference, synod or other unscriptural body to dictate to the congregations. Jesus Christ is the only head of His church (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18.) He has all authority in heaven and on earth. Popes and all clerical hierarchy which presume to head the church on earth fall under condemnation. (Mt, 28:18; Eph. 5:23; Acts 3:23.)

 

In each congregation when men can meet the qualifications from among the members elders are to be appointed. These men are charged with the oversight of the flock. (Acts 20:17, 28; I Pet. 5:1-4.) Paul appointed elders in the various churches which he established on his first missionary journey. (Acts 14:23.) Paul instructed Titus to remain in Crete that he might set in order the things that were lacking and appoint elders in every city. (Tit. 1:5.) The qualifications of elders are listed in I Timothy, chapter three, and in the first chapter of Titus.

 

The jurisdiction of elders does not extend beyond their home congregation. Modern ecclesiastical machinery finds no support in the New Testament. It rests upon the doctrines and precepts of men, and all such religion is vain. (Mt. 15:7-9.)

 

Assisting the elders are the deacons. Their qualifications are recorded in I Timothy 3:8-12.

 

CLAIMING TO BE A CHURCH OF CHRISTNOT ENOUGH

 

As long as they follow the Bible, churches of Christ are the same all over the world. However, when you find a congregation claiming to be a church of Christ but using instrumental music in their worship (from a study of the New Testament it is easily seen that that particular congregation is worshipping in error), it is not true to the teaching of the New Testament. John affirms that those who go beyond the doctrine of Christ have not God. (II John 9-11.) He also affirms that those who bid “God speed” to those thus transgressing are also “partakers” of their “evil deeds.”

 

Where did any of the apostles ever command a congregation of Christ to use instrumental music in their worship? Which congregation of the first century used instrumental music in their worship? Where is the passage? Who can

find a passage and read it without comment that authorizes the instrument in the worship of the church of Christ? The New Testament is as silent as the tomb as far as giving any authority to use the instrument in the worship of the church!

 

The goal of every true congregation of Christ is to follow the New Testament completely in name, unity, practice, membership, worship, organization and mission. Following the New Testament pattern completely is that which

makes the church of Christ different. Members of the church of Christ make no claim of being right, except as they follow the Bible!

 

Even though a group of people are in error there is no way to prevent them from appropriating the scriptural designation church of Christ. However, if they use mechanical instruments of music in their worship to God it is easy to show those who respect the New Testament that they are not the true church regardless of what their claims may be!

 

A FINAL PLEA

 

The aim of true churches of Christ throughout the world is to restore Christianity as it was in the first century A.D. Our distinctive plea is for Christianity in its primitive purity — free from human names, creeds and traditions.

 

During the days of the apostles the Lord’s church existed as one united body, following the divine pattern as revealed by the apostles. (Mt. 28:20; Acts 4:32.) The “seed” or word of God (Lk. 8:11) was scattered far and wide, and wherever honest hearts received the word the fruit was always the same — just Christians. There was no such thing as “different kinds” of Christians for denominationalism was unknown. No one was ever asked, “Are you Protestant or Catholic?” — for such did not exist. No one ever asked, “To which faith do you belong?” — for there was only one faith. (Eph. 4:5.)

 

In a divided religious world the plea of true churches of Christ everywhere is for a complete restoration of the Lord’s church. We plead for people to go back over all the dark ages of corruption, to discard man-made names, creeds, doctrines, and commandments of men in the plan of salvation and worship, and barriers of every kind which divide men, and restore the Lord’s church as it was in the beginning. This is the only way that true religious unity can be obtained!

 

If you are desirous of finding the church that Jesus built (Matt. 16:18), how would you identify it? Here are some distinctive features: It claims Jesus Christ as its only head (Eph. 1:22-23); it wears his name and repudiates all human names a Cor. 1:10-13; Rom. 16:16; Acts11:26; 26-28; I Pet. 4:16); it is governed by New Testament teaching and has no manmade creed or discipline (II Tim. 3:16-17; I Pet. 4:11; Heb. 9:15-17). The Lord adds people to His church (Acts 2:47) as they are saved by obeying the gospel (II Thess. 1:7-9). Obedience to the gospel consists in believing (Mk. 16:16), repenting (Acts 3:19), confessing Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and being baptized (immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The worship of the church consists of singing without mechanical accompaniment (Col. 3:16-17). prayers (Acts 2:42), teaching or doctrine (Acts 2:42), the Lord’s supper upon the first day of every week (Acts 20:7), and giving as prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Its works consists in helping the needy (Jas. 1:27). self-edification by the word (Eph. 4:12), and preaching the gospel to all the world (Mk. 16:1516). Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it (Eph. 5:25).

 

We plead with all to follow the scriptures- to accept the evidence which proves that the God of the Bible exists, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that truth is both absolute and attainable, that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that the Bible is an objective body of truth. Therefore, we accept and we urge all people to accept the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice (I Pet. 4:11; Phil. 4:16). The New Testament teaches that the church of Christ is the blood-bought body of Christ, purchased with his precious blood (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27). We urge all to obey the gospel (I Pet. 4:17-18) and to worship God according to the New Testament pattern (John 4:24; Acts 2:42). We plead for the restoration of New Testament Christianity, and every honest and accountable person can be a part of this great Bible plan (I Thess. 5:21). The Bible only makes Christians only, therefore, the only Christians! The New Testament teaches that there is one body (Rom. 12:4-5; I Cor. 12:13, 20; Eph. 2:16; 4:4; Col. 3:15). Three times we are informed that the body and the church refer to the same institution (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24). Not only are we told that there is one body, but we are told that there is only one body (I Cor. 12:20). The mission of the church in the twentieth century, simply stated, is the same as it was in the first century. From the beginning the church followed the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). The Lord intends the church to be the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Jesus is Lord and Christ was the subject of apostolic preaching (Acts 2:22, 36; II Tim. 2:2; 4:1-5; Gal. 6:14; I Cor. 1:23-24). To proclaim Christ correctly is to preach the truth relative to the kingdom (which is the church), the name (authority) of Christ, and baptism (Acts 8:5, 12). We must preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on all subjects. We must teach the truth relative to New Testament worship, organization, and the necessity of living the Christian life. Let us ever remember that Christ came "to seek and to save the lost" (Lk. 19:10). Even so, it is the mission of the church to take His saving gospel to a lost and dying world that they may obey the gospel, and thus the Lord will add them to the church wherein is salvation (Acts 2:3841, 47; 20:28; Eph. 5:23). Once we are in the Lord's church, we must add the Christian graces, and if we will do this and remain faithful to the end, heaven will be ours (II Pet. 1:5-11).

 

THE GREATNESS OF THE CHURCH

B. B. Brother

 

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

 

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

 

The church of Christ is indeed a great institution. It was founded by Christ Himself. Perhaps if people would take a closer look at God’s Word relative to the church they would come to appreciate it more and be an active member of it. Let us note some reasons why the church is great.

 

IT WAS PURCHASED BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST. Notice again the scripture reference above *“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you ove*rseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). This ought to show the value that God places upon her!

 

CHRIST IS HER HEAD. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Christ is not the head over various fraternal orders, etc. He is the head of the church. The church must look to Him for directions. The church must not operate according to its own way of operation, but rather the way Christ wants it to operate. Christ is its “head” which gives it direction.

 

THE CHURCH IS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST. Paul stated to the church at Rome, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4). See also Ephesians 5:22-33. In marriage two people become one or united. Likewise Christ and his bride are one. The church truly is great because she is married to Christ.

 

RECONCILIATION UNTO GOD IS IN THE ONE BODY (THE CHURCH). “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” (Ephesians 2:16). A person that would be reconciled (be on friendly terms) unto God must be in the place where Christ reconciles him unto God. The Bible affirms that this is in the church.

 

For the above reasons (plus multiplied others), the church is great. Are you in the Lord’s church? “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13).

 

 

 

 

 

人从哪里来?人往何处去?人现今的状况为什么会是这样?人生为什么如此短暂,人死后他的生命是否还在延续?

上帝存在吗?如果有上帝,那他有哪些属性呢?上帝能跟人交流吗?如果他能跟人交流,那他用什么方式跟人交流呢?人能跟上帝友好交往吗?人需要被拯救吗?人如何得到救恩?人有可能确信自己是得救的吗?最后,耶稣基督有没有建造自己的教会?如果耶稣基督已经建造了他的教会,那么,今天的人如何找到基督的教会呢?这些重要的问题正是这期杂志所选文章要回答的。所选的文章分成四个方面来作研讨。希望读者从中受益。

 

第一部分

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论上帝

 

 

上帝的存在

B.B.Brother文

罗 敏 译

 

前言

“我们已经信了,又知道你是基督,是永生上帝的儿子。(约6:69;太16:16)

世界上存在着许多不确定的因素。当我们知道有些事能够确信时,我们还是很受鼓舞的。事实上,有些事我们是要必须知道。甚至在日常生活中,各种各样的事,我们都要搞清楚。对我们吃的食物,要确定对身体有利,是否增加营养和力量,而不是含有毒素,对身体有害,甚至可能引起死亡。有些人接受那些自相矛盾的观点;还有一些人,他们坚持荒唐的看法,认为人对任何事物都不可知。对坚持这种观点的人,我们只要问:“你能确定人对任何事物都不可知吗?”如果他作肯定回答,就表明他的认识是错误的——因为他知道人不可知这一自相矛盾的论点。如果他的回答是否定的,那就表明他不知道他的看法否正确。因此,有些事物,人是可以知道的。

人能够认识到他不可能全知,但不是一无所知,这很重要。人能知道某种饮料是否是牛奶,但他虽然不知道一头奶牛产奶的过程。人也能知道某些关于上帝的事,比如上帝的话、上帝的救恩等,虽然不可能知道圣经中所提到的一切事。

 

人能知道上帝是否存在

没有那件事要比确认上帝的存在再重要不过了。就是说到底有没有上帝。在这个命题上,没有中间之路。无神论者断言没有上帝。这个命题对不对呢?我们能肯定嘛?让我们对有神论者所列出的引人注目的证据作一些检验。

 

生命从哪里来?

解释生命的起源只有两种可能。一、生命从死亡之物产生;二、生命来自生命。如果认为生命从死亡之物产生,那么有人就会问:“这死亡之物从何而来?”既是死亡之物,就不可能是永恒的。科学早就证明死亡之物不具备永恒性(就是说事物在渐变,在衰亡。它们有一个开始,但不是永恒的)。

科学观认为,生命来自生命。生命基因科学也表明生命只从生命而来。人类、动物、植物不是从死亡之物产生。它必须是来自于事先存在的生命体。因为生命只从生命而来,所以生命必然是早已存在的。如果有一个时期没有生命存在,那么现今也就不会有生命之物啦。因此,现今生命的存在也就证明了先前必有生命的存在。当我们研究‘生命’,我们就会发现生命不仅早已存在,而且是高智商的生命。比如说,我们在研究人体(由细胞组织、呼吸系统、骨骼系统、循环系统等所构成)的复杂结构时,我们就会明白为什么说必然有一个更高智商的生命体创造了人类。

我们不仅知道只有生命才能产生生命,而且还知道生命的产生是各从其类。人类永远只产生人类。一对夫妇按照生殖法则产生后代。因此他们深知当他们决定要生孩子时,他们的孩子一定是人。人类夫妇绝对不会生出猫、狗,或别的动物。反之,猫、狗也决不会生出人类。先前没有,以后也绝不会有。为什么情况会是这样呢?因为万事万物都各从其类。这是事实,而进化论却找不到事实根据,因为只有物种才能产生物种。狗不可能生出人,反之也然。

圣经告诉了我们关于人类、动物、植物等生命的起源。这和科学毫不矛盾。因为生命只来自生命,最初的生命早就已经存在。这极具高智商最初生命乃是上帝。圣经声称:“诸山未曾生出,地与世界你未曾造成,从亘古到永远,你是上帝。”(诗90:2)圣经也告诉我们万物都是上帝创造的:“起初,上帝创造天地。”(创1:1)将《创世记》1章整章读完,我们得知上帝在六天里创造了万事万物。可上帝是用他的话(道)创造天地万象的——“诸天藉耶和华的命而造,万象藉他口中的气而成。”(诗33:6)又说:“因为他说有,就有;命立,就立。”(诗33:9)实际上,就连上帝自己的创造也是按照各从其类的法则。“上帝说,地要发生青草,和结种子的菜蔬,并结果子的树木,各从其类,果子都包着核。事就这样成了。于是地发生了青草,和结种子的菜蔬,各从其类,并结果子的树木,各从其类,果子都包着核。上帝看着是好的。”(创1:11-12)

 

 

房屋能自行建造吗?

如果某人搁浅在某个海岛上,看见一间小草屋,他就知道岛上有人。因为草屋不能自行搭建。手表暗示制表人;房屋表明建筑师。同理可知,这个世界必有创造者。《希伯来书》的作者曾这样论说此理:“因为房屋都必有人建造。但建造万物的就是上帝。”(来3:4)我们一个普通人在观看这个我们生活和居住的世界时,会发出赞叹,感到好奇。天文学家和海洋生物学家同样会对宇宙和海洋的广漠和深邃深感惊讶。《诗篇》作者曾这样赞叹:“诸天述说上帝的荣耀,穹苍传扬他的手段。这日到那日发出言语。这夜到那夜传出知识。无言无语,也无声音可听。他的量带通遍天下,他的言语传到地极。上帝在其间为太阳安设帐幕。太阳如同新郎出洞房,又如勇士欢然奔路。他从天这边出来,绕到天那边。没有一物被隐藏不得他的热气。”(诗19:1-6)诸天包括太阳、月亮和星星,都在述说上帝的荣耀!这是个举世公认的事实。

使徒保罗说:“自从造天地以来,上帝的永能和神性是明明可知的,虽是眼不能见,但藉着所造之物,就可以晓得,叫人无可推诿。”(罗1:20)一个人只要看看眼前所创造的一切,就会知道必有创造者。这个世界不可能是自行创造的,何况一所房屋都不能自行建造。

 

上帝是谁?

只有一位上帝——“然而我们只有一位上帝,就是父,万物都本于他,我们也归于他。并有一位主,就是耶稣基督,万物都是藉着他有的,我们也是藉着他有的。”(林前8:6)“上帝”一词指上帝具有神性和惟一性。他是一位含有三个位格的神,即天父(太6:9)、儿子耶稣基督(约一1:3)和圣灵(徒5:3)

上帝是无所不知的(即全知)。“耶和华阿,你已经鉴察我,认识我。我坐下,我起来,你都晓得。你从远处知道我的意念。我行路,我躺卧,你都细察,你也深知我一切所行的。耶和华阿,我舌头上的话,你没有一句不知道的。你在我前后环绕我,按手在我身上。这样的知识奇妙,是我不能测的。至高,是我不能及的。”(诗139:1-6)

上帝是无所不在的(即同时同在)。“我往那里去躲避你的灵。我往那里逃躲避你的面。我若升到天上,你在那里。我若在阴间下榻,你也在那里。我若展开清晨的翅膀,飞到海极居住。就是在那里,你的手必引导我,你的右手,也必扶持我。我若说,黑夜必定遮蔽我,我周围的亮光必成为黑夜。黑暗也不能遮蔽我使你不见,黑夜却如白昼发亮。黑暗和光明,在你看都是一样。”(诗139:7-12)

上帝是无所不能的(即全能)。“亚伯兰年九十九岁的时候,耶和华向他显现,对他说,我是全能的上帝。你当在我面前作完全人。”(创18:14)“耶和华岂有难成的事么?到了日期,明年这时候,我必回到你这里,撒拉必生一个儿子。”(创18:14)

上帝是圣洁的。“那召你们的既是圣洁,你们在一切所行的事上也要圣洁。因为经上记着说,你们要圣洁,因为我是圣洁的。”(彼前1:15-16)

上帝就是爱。“没有爱心的,就不认识上帝。因为上帝就是爱。”(约一4:8)

上帝就在众人附近。“创造宇宙和其中万物的上帝,既是天地的主,就不住人手所造的殿。也不用人手服事,好像缺少什么,自己倒将生命气息,万物,赐给万人。他从一本造出万族的人,(本有古卷作血脉),住在全地上,并且预先定准他们的年限,和所住的疆界。要叫他们寻求上帝,或者可以揣摩而得,其实他离我们各人不远。”(徒17:24-27)

上帝是怜悯人的。“但他有怜悯,赦免他们的罪孽,不灭绝他们。而且屡次消他的怒气,不发尽他的忿怒。”(诗78:38)

上帝乐于饶恕求告他的人。“主啊,你本为良善,乐意饶恕人,有丰盛的慈爱,赐给凡求告你的人。”(诗86:5)

 

上帝是造主

B.B. Brother文

孔凤云 译

 

前言

圣经里的上帝具有多种神的属性,每一种都值得研究。所有人都应该尽可能多地从上帝的话语,即圣经所揭示的上帝来进行了解。当人阅读圣经第一节时,便得知上帝是创造主——“起初,上帝创造天地。”(创1:1–2)。即时,上帝以创造主的身份介绍他自己。上帝创造(“bara”)空间和万物,使它们得以存在。上下文背景表示,上帝使原料变成存在物,因而它(物质)不是永恒的。唯上帝使虚无产生有并使之存在。这正是他在创世中的作为。不仅上帝创造物质,而且他也从他的创造物中再“制造”客体(例如——人就是从他创造的大地泥土中再造出来的)。

《创世记》1章是以上帝为中心的。“上帝”一词在这章31节经文中竟然出现32次。人们将关注诸如“上帝创造”、“上帝说”、“上帝看”、“上帝称”、“上帝造”等这样的表述。圣经的第一节不仅向世人介绍了上帝,而且也反驳了一些错误的人为哲学。

1、它驳斥了无神论,因为宇宙上帝创造的。

2、它驳斥了泛神论,因为上帝超越他所创造的一切。

3、它驳斥了唯物论,因为物质有一个初始。

4、它驳斥了二元论,因为当他创世时,他是独自唯一的存

在。

5、它驳斥了人道主义,因为上帝不是人,而是终极实在。

6、它驳斥了进化论,因为万物都是上帝创造的。(Morris,38)

希伯来语和英语中上帝一词的词根含有受敬拜对象的意思。请看摩西德记载:

上帝吩咐这一切的话说,我是耶和华你的上帝,曾将你从埃及地为奴之家领出来。除了我以外,你不可有别的上帝。不可为自己雕刻偶像,也不可作什么形象彷佛上天,下地,和地底下,水中的百物。不可跪拜那些像,也不可事奉它,因为我耶和华你的上帝是忌邪的上帝。恨我的,我必追讨他的罪,自父及子,直到三四代;爱我,守我诫命的,我必向他们发慈爱,直到千代。(出 20:17)

“当一个人意识到《创世记》1章1节中的‘耶和华’一词含有受敬拜之本体,乃唯一受敬拜之对象,满有尊严、荣耀和权柄,又从无创造出世界和人时,他的心会充满感恩。他会顿时向他的上帝表示尊敬和崇拜。‘哦!来吧,让我们屈膝敬拜他,在耶和华我们的创造主面前跪下,因为他是我们的上帝。’”(McCord,11)

 

房屋必有人建造

为了说明耶稣基督的伟大,《希伯来书》作者写道:“同蒙天召的圣洁弟兄阿,你们应当思想,我们所认为使者,为大祭司的耶稣。他为那设立他的尽忠,如同摩西在上帝的全家尽忠一样。他比摩西算是更配多得荣耀,好像建造房屋的比房屋更尊荣。因为房屋都必有人建造。但建造万物的就是上帝。因为房屋都必有人建造。但建造万物的就是上帝”(来3:1-4)。

任何人只要稍微有点推理能力,都知道上面的标题是正确的——每座房屋都是一些人建筑的。房屋不会自身建造,建造房屋的人比房屋本身伟大,因为建造房屋需要智慧和能力。一个会欣赏和赞美房屋的宏伟和堂皇的人,就知道建造房屋需要大量智慧设计蓝图和规划结构。同样地,人应该看看这个世界,将会为之瞠目。它的秩序、它的万物,无疑会认识到设计和建造这个世界的背后必有某种伟大的智慧和能力。

鲍勃•温顿(Bob Winton)作过以下观察:

我们的世界具有明显的设计标志,包括以下内容:

1、自然界微妙的平衡。

2、地球精确的倾斜度防止出现极端的冷和热。

3、地球和太阳保持适当的距离,以正常的速率旋转。

4、月亮和地球保持适当的距离,以潮汐形式搅动大海,没有让潮汐淹没地球。

5、水结冰时膨胀,不像其它事物,它变得更轻,水体表面成型,不然将下沉,危害海里面的生命。顶部结冰,产生一层冰与下面的水隔离,以免下面的水冻结,因此保存了水生物。

6、自然界有一些情况,某种物种的生命繁衍需要不同物种个体间合作……。有一种黄蜂需要抓住一只蚱蜢,在适当的位置蛰它,将它蛰麻,但不至于死,使它以食物形式存留活着。黄蜂再把蚱蜢放在适合的位置,将自己的卵放在旁边,这样她的后代孵化后将享受这个没有杀死的蚱蜢,靠它为生。蜂母从不看见她的后代。第一只黄蜂起先必定准确无误地这样做,否则今天就不会有黄蜂存在了!唯有通过上帝的设计这个黄蜂才能存活(Commentary,NP)。

“诸天述说上帝的荣耀,穹苍传扬他的手段。”(诗19:1)如果有人花时间学习天体测量学、生理学、微生物学等,他将看到我们周围充满伟大的设计。哪里有设计,哪里就有设计师。《诗篇》的作者再次说道:“愚顽人心里说,没有上帝。他们都是邪恶,行了可憎恶的事。没有一个人行善。” (诗14:1)

保罗和巴拿巴这样说:“诸君,为什么作这事呢。我们也是人,性情和你们一样。我们传福音给你们,是叫你们离弃这些虚妄,归向那创造天、地、海和其中万物的永生上帝。他在从前的世代,任凭万国各行其道。然而为自己未尝不显出证据来,就如常施恩惠,从天降雨,赏赐丰年,叫你们饮食饱足,满心喜乐。”(徒14:15-17) 保罗说上帝是“创造天、地、海和其中万物的永生上帝。”

同样地,保罗对雅典人公开宣称“未识之神”,他说道: “创造宇宙和其中万物的上帝,既是天地的主,就不住人手所造的殿。也不用人手服事,好像缺少什么,自己倒将生命、气息、万物,赐给万人。他从一本造出万族的人,住在全地上,并且预先定准他们的年限和所住的疆界。要叫他们寻求上帝,或者可以揣摩而得,其实他离我们各人不远。我们生活、动作、存留,都在乎他,就如你们作诗的,有人说,我们也是他所生的。我们既是上帝所生的,就不当以为上帝的神性像人用手艺、心思所雕刻的金、银、石。”(徒17:24-30)

对于没有偏见思想的人来说,都能明白房屋必有人建造——“自从造天地以来,上帝的永能和神性是明明可知的,虽是眼不能见,但藉着所造之物,就可以晓得,叫人无可推诿。” (罗 1:20)

 

上帝凭籍什么方法(或谁)创造诸世界

神性:“上帝”一词表示神性,不可数。上帝的道必然告诉我们有多少位上帝。圣经向我们揭示只有一位具有神性的上帝(玛2:10)。这位上帝具有三个位格,三个位格共享一个神性,即父上帝(约3:16)、子上帝(约 1:1-2)、圣灵上帝(徒 5:3-4)。上帝的三个位格都参与了创世。

上帝创造天地,如《创世记》1章1节里所讲。雅各告诉我们上帝是众光之父,“各样美善的恩赐和各样全备的赏赐,都是从上头来的。从众光之父那里降下来的。在他并没有改变,也没有转动的影儿。”(雅1:17) 上帝是我们万灵的父。——“再者,我们曾有生身的父管教我们,我们尚且敬重他,何况万灵的父,我们岂不更当顺服他得生吗。”(来12:9)。

耶稣基督参与了创世。如约翰所记:“太初有道,道与上帝同在,道就是上帝。这道太初与上帝同在。万物是藉着他造的。凡被造的,没有一样不是藉着他造的。”(约1:1-3) 万物创造者的道成了肉身,且住在我们中间——“道成了肉身住在我们中间,充充满满的有恩典有真理。(我们也见过他的荣光,正是父独生子的荣光。”(约1:14-15) 论及耶稣基督,保罗写到:“因为万有都是靠他造的,无论是天上的,地上的,能看见的,不能看见的,或是有位的、主治的、执政的、掌权的,一概都是藉着他造的,又是为他造的。他在万有之先,万有也靠他而立。他也是教会全体之首。他是元始,是从死里首先复生的,使他可以在凡事上居首位。”(西1:16-18)《希伯来书》作者说:“上帝既在古时藉着众先知,多次多方地晓谕列祖,就在这末世,藉着他儿子晓谕我们,又早已立他为承受万有的,也曾藉着他创造诸世界。”(来1:1-2)

圣灵也参与了创世。摩西写到:“起初上帝创造天地。地是空虚混沌。渊面黑暗。上帝的灵运行在水面上。”(创1:1-2)“藉他的灵使天有妆饰,他的手刺杀快蛇。”(伯26:13)

上帝的话: 上帝借着他的话创造了世界,并使之立定。摩西写到:“上帝说,要有光,就有了光。上帝看光是好的,就把光暗分开了。”(创1:3-4)“上帝说”一词在《创世记》1章出现十次。上帝反反复复地告诉我们他怎样创造了世界。因此,《诗篇》的作者宣称说:“诸天藉耶和华的命而造,万象藉他口中的气而成。……因为他说有,就有。命立,就立。”(诗33:6,9)

 

《创世记》1章1节和1章2节之间有间隔吗?

间隔论:有人教导说,在《创世记》1章1、2两节之间有极长的时间间隔。当然,这对一些相信地球是非常古老的,试图为“地质年代”之说找一席之地的人是深受欢迎的。这个理论是,上帝创造了世界 (创1:1), 那么(一些人教导),因撒旦和地上前亚当人类的背叛,上帝毁灭了世界,后来以每天24小时共6天时间“再创造”当今的世界。因此据说世界可能存在了数亿年(进化论者每每使用的地质学记录)。

因“间隔论”展开的一组讨论如下:(1) (错误)使用词语“bara”(创造)和“asah”(造)。辩解:因词语“bara” 意思是创造, 上帝首先创造世界(创1:1),可是他又毁灭了,后来他不得不再造(“asah ”)世界 (2) 再次辩解:在《创世记》1章2节里翻译过来的过去分词“是”本应该为“变成”。他们可能把这节理解为“地变成空虚混沌”,表示起初是完美的创造,后来遭到毁灭。

间隔论的反驳: 第一,上帝是交替使用词语“bara”(创造)和“asah”(造)的(创1:27),上帝说“我们要……造人”(创1:26),接着“上帝就……造人,……。” (创1:27) 上帝没有“创造”亚当,也没有毁灭他,更没有再“造”他。这同样可以说明天地的创造。上帝“创造”天地,他还“造”天地——“创造天地的来历,在耶和华上帝天地的日子,乃是这样。” (创2:4) 上帝交换使用这些词语。 第二,上下文没有暗示两节经文间有“间隔”(或一件事紧跟着下一件事)。注意经文第二节中的“and”(译者按:汉语译本没有翻译。可译“和”或“而”),表明是对前面第一节经文中词语的延续。直接地看这经文,没有人会产生“间隔论”的感觉。第三,没有按学术译法把第二节经文的“是”字译成“变成”。第四,《出埃及记》20章11清楚地陈述道,万物是在创世六日内造成的——“因为六日之内,耶和华造天、地、海和其中的万物,第七日便安息,所以耶和华赐福与安息日,定为圣日。”第五,耶稣表明,“但从起初创造的时候,上帝造人是造男造女。”(可10:6) 男人和女人在起初就被造。显然,耶稣不相信间隔的存在——在这两节经文之间——存在一个较长的时期。

 

《创世记》1章的日指多久?

一日千年论: 同样也有一些人显然不确信圣经真理,他们为创造寻找漫长的时间尺度。“一日千年论” 宣称《创世记》1章的六日创造可能会是一个很长的周期。

一日千年论反驳: 如果那是上帝所想的,我们同意创造时间可能是一个漫长期,然而,上帝告诉我们一日的持续时间——白天和晚上(24小时一个周期)。 第二,希伯来人一天时间(犹太日),以非预言用法用数字表示总意味着24小时。第三,亚当在第六天被造出,如果一天是一千年,我们会问“亚当能活着看见第七天吗?” 第四,犹太人遵守安息日显示,《创世记》一章里的一日是24小时。摩西写到:“当记念安息日,守为圣日。六日要劳碌作你一切的工,但第七日是向耶和华你上帝当守的安息日。这日你和你的儿女、仆婢、牲畜,并你城里寄居的客旅,无论何工都不可作。因为六日之内,耶和华造天、地、海和其中的万物,第七日便安息,所以耶和华赐福与安息日,定为圣日。”(出20:8-11) 犹太人开始遵守安息日因为上帝观察到安息日是在他创造日的结束。他们安息多久?曾经犹太人安息的时间将与创造日第七天的时间一样。因为他们安息24小时,创造日的第七日必定是24小时。

 

人是照上帝的形像受造的

第六天上帝创造人,创造的高峰出现。人是远远不同于上帝创造的其它物。人是唯一按照上帝的形象被造的。圣经说:“上帝说,我们要照着我们的形像,按着我们的样式造人,使他们管理海里的鱼、空中的鸟、地上的牲畜和全地,并地上所爬的一切昆虫。上帝就照着自己的形象造人,乃是照着他的形象造男造女。”(创1:26-28) 多么伟大的想象——领受了照上帝形象受造的特权!

按照上帝的形象被造的部分不是指人的身体形像,因为上帝没有肉没有骨。上帝是个灵。因此,按照上帝的形象被造的部分是指他的灵。人的身体死后,人的灵要回到上帝那里——“尘土仍归于地,灵仍归于赐灵的上帝。”(传12:7) 保罗写到:“我们原知道,我们这地上的帐棚若拆毁了,必得上帝所造,不是人手所造,在天上永存的房屋。”(林后5:1)

因此,人不是从低级(进化)而来,而是从高级(上帝)而来。人不是稍微高于猿猴,而是少许低于上帝。《诗篇》作者惊呼道:

耶和华我们的主阿,你的名在全地何其美。你将你的荣耀彰显于天。你因敌人的缘故,从婴孩和吃奶的口中,建立了能力,使仇敌和报仇的,闭口无言。我观看你指头所造的天,并你所陈设的月亮星宿,便说,人算什么,你竟顾念他。世人算什么,你竟眷顾他。你叫他比天使微小一点,并赐他荣耀尊贵为冠冕。你派他管理你手所造的,使万物,就是一切的牛羊、田野的兽、空中的鸟、海里的鱼,凡经行海道的,都服在他的脚下。耶和华我们的主啊,你的名在全地何其美。(诗8:1,9)

大卫惊呼地喊道全能全知、无所不在的上帝:

我的肺腑是你所造的。我在母腹中,你已覆庇我。我要称谢你,因我受造,奇妙可畏。你的作为奇妙,这是我心深知道的。我要称谢你,我在暗中受造,在地的深处被联络。那时,我的形体并不向你隐藏。我未成形的体质,你的眼早已看见了。你所定的日子,我尚未度一日(或作我被造的肢体尚未有其一),你都写在你的册上了。神啊,你的意念向我何等宝贵。其数何等众多。我若数点,比海沙更多。我睡醒的时候,仍和你同。(诗 139:13-18)

 

结论

上帝是创造主。我们生活、动作、存留都在乎他,靠着上帝万物得以组成。他是值得我们敬奉和崇拜的。以赛亚记载:“你岂不曾知道吗?你岂不曾听见吗?永在的上帝耶和华,创造地极的主,并不疲乏,也不困倦。他的智慧无法测度。”(赛40:28)

人的首要义务就是敬畏上帝。“耶稣对他说,你要尽心、尽性、尽意,爱主你的上帝。这是诫命中的第一,且是最大的。其次也相仿,就是要爱人如己。”(太22:37-39)
我们的上帝是千真万确的造物主。我们能委托他看顾我们的灵魂。彼得写道:“所以那照上帝旨意受苦的人,要一心为善,将自己灵魂交与那信实的造化之主。”(彼前4:19)

也许我们应该按照所罗门的教训来行——“你趁着年幼,衰败的日子尚未来到,就是你所说,我毫无喜乐的那些年日未曾临近之先,当记念造你的主。”(传12:1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

参考文献

 

1.Morris, Henry. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976.

2.McCord, Hugo. Getting Acquainted With God. Murfreesboro,TN: DeHoff Publication, No Date.

3.Winton, Bob. Commentary on Hebrews CD. 2007.

 

上帝的属性

B.B. Brother文

孔凤云 译

 

“他在圣者的会中,是大有威严的上帝,比一切在他四围的更可畏惧。”(诗89:7)“他向百姓施行救赎,命定他的约,直到永远。他的名圣而可畏。”(诗111:9)上帝是值得称颂的。认识上帝的一些属性将有助于我们更好地理解为什么我们应该敬畏他, 有助于在耶和华上帝面前树立正确的敬拜态度和行为。

上帝拥有能力(全能)

上帝被宣称为“全能的上帝”—— “在亚伯拉罕九十九岁时,上帝向他显现,对他说,我是全能的上帝,你当在我面前作完全人”( 创17:1)。 他的能力已经被他的创世证明了。他(上帝)用话语命定世界存在——“诸天借耶和华的命而造,万象借他口中的气而成。”(诗33:6)“ 因为他说有,就有。命立,就立。” (诗33:9) 他(耶稣)凭他有能力的话托住万物—— “他是上帝荣耀所发的光辉,是上帝本体的真像,常用他权能的命令托住万有,他洗净了人的罪,就坐在高天至大者的右边”(来1:3)。我们因依靠上帝而得以存在——“我们生活,动作,存留,都在乎他,就如你们作诗的,有人说,我们也是他所生的。” (徒17:28) 我们应该谦卑地认识到我们在“全能的上帝”面前。

上帝充满智慧(全知)

“他数点星宿的数目,称它的名,我们的主为大,最有能力。” (诗 147:4-5) 你能想到可以数星星吗?上帝可以,甚至都能给命名。上帝对我们一清二白——“就是你们的头发,也都被数过了。”(太10:30)

 

上帝无所不在

他充满天地!“我岂为近处的上帝呢?不也为远处的上帝吗? 耶和华说,人岂能在隐密处藏身,使我看不见他呢? 耶和华说,我岂不充满天地吗?”(耶23:24) 再看《诗篇》139篇7-12行。

 

上帝是公义的

“他是磐石,他的作为完全,他所行的无不公平,是诚实无伪的上帝。又公义,又正直。”(申32:4) 上帝将赏善罚恶。“上帝既是公义的,就必将患难报应那加患难给你们的人。也必使你们这受患难的人,与我们同得平安。那时,主耶稣同他有能力的天使从天上在火焰中显现,要报应那不认识上帝,和那不听从我主耶稣福音的人。他们要受刑罚,就是永远沉沦,离开主的面和他权能的荣光。这正是主降临要在他圣徒的身上得荣耀,又在一切信的人身上显为希奇的那日子。我们对你们作的见证,你们也信了。”(帖后1:6-10)

 

上帝是爱

“没有爱心的,就不认识上帝。因为上帝就是爱。”(约一4:8) 人因为有罪本该死。但上帝仍然爱人。 按照公义必有人得报应,但上帝的爱渴望人得救赎。这个答案在下面可以找到——“上帝爱世人,甚至将他的独生子赐给他们,叫一切信他的,不至灭亡,反得永生。”(约3:16)

 

上帝也是愤怒的

上帝可能被激怒。 他的愤怒是正义的愤怒。他的愤怒是针对罪的——“上帝是公义的审判者,又是天天向恶人发怒的上帝。”(诗7:11) 不悔改的人将在审判中遭受上帝的烈怒——“你竟任着你刚硬不悔改的心,为自己积蓄忿怒,以致上帝震怒,显他公义审判的日子来到。”(罗2:5)

 

上帝是怜悯的

“怜悯”一词表示同情之意。上帝怜悯人。 “耶和华在他面前宣告说,耶和华,耶和华,是有怜悯有恩典的上帝,不轻易发怒,并有丰盛的慈爱和诚实。为千万人存留慈爱,赦免罪孽、过犯和罪恶,万不以有罪的为无罪,必追讨他的罪,自父及子,直到三四代。”(出34:6-7) 人应该真诚地感恩上帝对我们宽大的仁慈。上帝希望我们每个人得救和他永远在天堂。

 

上帝是忍耐的

上面的经文已经提到了耶和华,是有怜悯有恩典的上帝,有丰富的仁爱和真理。“忍耐”一词表示上帝对我们的容忍。虽然我们已经做错了,上帝却忍耐我们。这不应该被当作容忍 ,因上帝要就不可饶恕的罪问责我们,但他希望我们得到赦免,所以一直对我们宽容。

 

让我们颂赞上帝和他的伟大。你是上帝的孩子吗?他希望你得救。他想祝福你。你今天愿意顺服他吗?“所以你们因信基督耶稣,都是上帝的儿子。你们受洗归入基督的,都是披戴基督了。”(加3:26-27)

 

为什么称基督为“枝子”?

B.B. Brother文

孔凤云 译

 

前言

“从耶西的本必发一条,从他生的枝子必结果实。耶和华的灵在他身上,就是使他有智慧和聪明的灵、谋略和能力的灵、知识和敬畏耶和华的灵。他必以敬畏耶和华为乐。行审判不凭眼见,断是非也不凭耳闻。却要以公义审判贫穷人,以正直判断世上的谦卑人。以口中的杖击打世界。以嘴里的气杀戮恶人。公义必当他的腰带,信实必当他胁下的带子。”(赛11:1-5)

由衷地感谢南海文基督的教会(Southaven Church of Christ)的长老、执事、教师和良善的会众,让我一直主讲小先知书。这册是对以前小先知书讲义上的教师职务权柄主题的很好补充和指导。再次感谢有这样的机会讨论“基督,枝子”这个极好的主题。希望这篇文章能荣耀上帝并造就教会。

 

枝子”词语

大家都熟悉的“枝子”一词,在圣经的使用中,既作为字面意思又作为象征意思。在作字面意思使用时,指从葡萄藤或树发芽长成的枝子,也意指子孙后代。圣经以象征手法使用这个词来描述人们信仰上帝的兴旺。“依仗自己财物的,必跌倒。义人必发旺如青叶。”(箴11:28)用这个词来形容上帝的子民,他们逃出埃及,然后像葡萄树一样移植在迦南地。(参见诗80:7-12)基督曾声明他是葡萄树,门徒是枝子 (约15:5),并说明门徒如何在他里面结果子,不然就被剪掉。(有趣的是,有人认为“拿撒勒人”一词来自希伯来单词“hetser”的词根,该单词在《以赛亚书》11章1节中被译成枝子。)

但是这个词也形容基督降生来到这个世界。《以赛亚书》、《耶利米书》和《撒迦利亚书》都把基督说成“枝子”。(参见赛11:1;耶23:5;33:15;亚3:8;6:12-13;有时也译作“苗裔”)

 

为什么称基督为枝子?

毫无疑问,枝子是指基督,因为在《罗马书》15章12节保罗引用了《以赛亚书》11章,用于外邦人进入基督的意思。“又有以赛亚说,将来有耶西的根,就是那兴起来要治理外邦的。外邦人要仰望他。”(罗15:12)

当新约作者引用旧约预言时,表明预言的实现,也就意味着这件事结束了。以赛亚所说的就是基督!

看《以赛亚书》11章1节的上下文再追溯到耶西。他(以赛亚)说权柄(ASV版本是“根”)将从耶西而发,从他生的枝子必结果实。耶西是大卫的父(路4:17),上帝应许大卫从他的后代将出一王建立他的国。

你寿数满足,与你列祖同睡的时候,我必使你的后裔接续你的位。我也必坚定他的国。他必为我的名建造殿宇。我必坚定他的国位,直到永远。(撒下 7:12-13)。

但那时以色列族的人数变得很少,似乎要被亚述国灭尽。在《以赛亚书》10章,上帝表示要消灭亚述国(以色列敌人),而只饶恕以色列剩余的人,因这些人深信上帝。

到那日,以色列所剩下的,和雅各家所逃脱的,不再倚靠那击打他们的,却要诚实倚靠耶和华以色列的圣者。所剩下的,就是雅各家所剩下的,必归回全能的上帝。以色列啊,你的百姓,虽多如海沙,惟有剩下的归回。原来灭绝的事已定,必有公义施行,如水涨溢。(赛10:20-22)

虽然亚述国的森林将被毁坏,但从耶西的本会产出根,再长成枝子。 (参见赛11:1) 耶和华的灵必住在他身上,以公平公义治理国。

因为以色列的罪恶,她将丧失她的政权。实际上以色列王国在哥尼雅手中就结束了。耶利米在他的文中这样说道:

哥尼雅这人是被轻看,破坏的器皿吗?是无人喜爱的器皿吗?他和他的后裔为何被赶到不认识之地呢? 地啊,地啊,地啊,当听耶和华的话!耶和华如此说:“要写明这人算为无子,是平生不得亨通的,因为他后裔中再无一人得亨通,能坐在大卫的宝座上治理犹大。”(耶22:28-30)

圣经很详尽地记载了,耶和华说哥尼雅将无子,在他日子不得亨通。后来又这样预言:“因为他后裔中再无一人得亨通,能坐在大卫的宝座上治理犹大。”因此,地上的犹大国行将结束。

然而,还记得上帝应许大卫王,他的子孙(后裔)将存活并建立王国。如果哥尼雅结束地上的犹大,那这个又怎么说呢?

有趣的是,耶稣基督是属于哥尼雅的家族。(参见太1:12,耶哥尼雅即哥尼雅)人们必定记得耶利米说哥尼雅后裔中再无一人得亨通,能坐在大卫的宝座上治理犹大。耶稣基督是哥尼雅的后代,没有在犹大掌权,而他在天上作王,他在天上坐在上帝的右边。

大卫指着他说:“我看见主常在我眼前,他在我右边,叫我不至于摇动。所以我心里欢喜,我的灵(原文作“舌”)快乐。并且我的肉身要安居在指望中。因你必不将我的灵魂撇在阴间,也不叫你的圣者见朽坏。你已将生命的道路指示我,必叫我因见你的面,(或作“叫我在你面前”)得着满足的快乐。”弟兄们,先祖大卫的事,我可以明明地对你们说,他死了,也埋葬了,并且他的坟墓,直到今日还在我们这里。大卫既是先知,又晓得上帝曾向他起誓,要从他的后裔中,立一位坐在他的宝座上。就预先看明这事,讲论基督复活说:“他的灵魂不撇在阴间,他的肉身也不见朽坏。”这耶稣,上帝已经叫他复活了,我们都为这事作见证。他既被上帝的右手高举,(或作“他既高举在上帝的右边”)又从父受了所应许的圣灵,就把你们所看见所听见的,浇灌下来。大卫并没有升到天上,但自己说,主对我主说:“你坐在我的右边, 等我使你仇敌作你的脚凳。”故此,以色列全家当确实地知道,你们钉在十字架上的这位耶稣,上帝已经立他为主、为基督了。(徒2:25-36)

因为罪,犹大和以色列民已经减少,将近灭亡,上帝通过枝子生长宽恕余剩的人和恩待他的民。阿摩司,上帝勇敢的先知,在他的书中这样说:

“到那日,我必建立大卫倒塌的帐幕,堵住其中的破口。把那破坏的建立起来,重新修造,像古时一样。使以色列人得以东所余剩的,和所有称为我名下的国。”此乃行这事的耶和华说的。(摩9:11-12)

雅各在《使徒行传》中引用了这个预言(徒15:16-17),并在新约时代加以广泛运用,尤其涉及到耶稣基督建立的信仰体系(即基督教)。接下来雅各又作了非同寻常、发人深省的陈述:“这话是从创世以来,显明这事的主说的。”(使15:18)

弥赛亚的先知以赛亚表示,出自上帝的余民,将从耶西产生一“根”以色列,他的后代将长出“枝子”。他将赐福世界,并给我们和平。这和平是以豺狼与羊共居现象象征地表达出来的,还有豹子与小山羊(羊羔)同卧等。各种动物都被驯服,他们的饮食习惯发生变化,从食肉性变成完全的素食性。(参见赛11:6-9) 弥赛亚带来的和平要在基督身上实现。保罗在《以弗所书》中论说了这种和平。

你们从前远离上帝的人,如今却在基督耶稣里,靠着他的血,已经得亲近了。因他使我们和睦,(原文作“因他是我们的和睦”)将两下合而为一,拆毁了中间隔断的墙。而且以自己的身体,废掉冤仇,就是那记在律法上的规条。为要将两下藉着自己造成一个新人,如此便成就了和睦。既在十字架上灭了冤仇,便藉这十字架,使两下归为一体,与上帝和好了,并且来传和平的福音给你们远处的人,也给那近处的人。 (弗2:13-17)

当耶稣出生时,天上的天使向旷野里的牧羊人显现并赞美:“在至高之处荣耀归与上帝,在地上平安归与他所喜悦的人。”(路2:14) 这种和平在基督身上实现了。

耶利米说基督是专为大卫兴起的“公义的苗裔”。(“苗裔”即“枝子”,耶23:5;33:15) 同样,撒迦利亚在《撒迦利亚书》中预见性地说基督为“苗裔”。(亚3:8;6:12-13) 当苗裔长成时,上帝会在一日之间除掉地上的罪孽:“对他说,万军之耶和华如此说:看哪,那名称为大卫苗裔的,他要在本处长起来。并要建造耶和华的殿。他要建造耶和华的殿,并担负尊荣,坐在位上掌王权。又必在位上作祭司,使两职之间筹定和平。” (亚6:12-13)

为了明白这段经文,应该知道有关此段经文的背景。因为以色列人犯罪,被掳到亚述囚禁起来,越来越少的两个支派之一的犹大支派,没有从以色列错误中吸取教训,继续重蹈覆辙。因为犹大支派的犯罪,同样被掳,这回却是被掳到巴比伦。第一次被掳在公元前606年,公元597年再次被掳,最后是公元前586年,巴比伦人来毁坏圣殿,完全占领犹大地。公元前562年尼布甲尼撒二世死后,巴比伦连续出现软弱无能的统治者。在公元前549年,波斯人居鲁士击败米堤亚,统一了米提亚和波斯。公元前539年,居鲁士入侵并占领了巴比伦。以赛亚很早就预言居鲁士将允许犹太人回归故土。(参见赛44:24-45:7) 直到公元前536年,犹太人回归,捣毁拜偶像的祭台,修缮早期被毁的圣殿台基,然而,修缮工作停了十六年,上帝派先知哈该和撒迦利亚激发人心,鼓励他们完成工作。哈该向以色列民提出这样的问题:“这殿仍然荒凉,你们自己还住天花板的房屋吗?”(该1:4) 撒迦利亚与哈该是同时代人,预言圣殿将由“苗裔”建造,上帝的民和旨意将继续,“苗裔”将从本处长起来。

《撒迦利亚书》至少在六处论述“苗裔”:

1、苗裔将在本处长起来(12节)。以赛亚早已预言“他在耶和华面前生长如嫩芽,像根出于干地。他无佳形美容,我们看见他的时候,也无美貌使我们羡慕他。”(赛53:2) 这里,基督比作“嫩芽”和作为一个“出于干地的根”。注意,这里给出他将出于“干地”的事实。 关于基督,没有什么背景来增添他的伟大形象。 事实上,以色列不仅不是世界上的强国,而且还服在罗马的权下。然而基督就是要来到这样的干地上。曾经有一段时期人们认为,枯萎的植物连根拔起,仅仅发现这个植物发了一颗“芽”,也许哪天它会生长成参天大树。基督就是从他的本处发出的茂盛的枝子。

2、他将建造上帝的殿(12节)。所罗门时代建造的圣殿早已被巴比伦人毁坏了。在所罗巴伯的领导下,犹太人从巴比伦首都回来,重建圣殿。撒迦利亚激发人心,完成了这项工作。撒迦利亚预言苗裔将建造上帝的殿。那将被建造的殿就是基督的教会。在《哥林多前书》中,保罗论到上帝的教会时说:“岂不知你们是上帝的殿,上帝的灵住在你们里头吗?若有人毁坏上帝的殿,上帝必要毁坏那人。因为上帝的殿是圣的,这殿就是你们。”(林前3:16-17)

在他写给哥林多人的第二封书信中,表示了上帝的殿要怎样保持圣洁和远离偶像。

你们和不信的原不相配,不要同负一轭。义和不义有什么相交呢?光明和黑暗有什么相通呢?基督和彼列(“彼列”就是撒但的别名)有什么相和呢?信主的和不信主的有什么相干呢?上帝的殿和偶像有什么相同呢?因为我们是永生上帝的殿。就如上帝曾说:“我要在他们中间居住,在他们中间来往。我要作他们的上帝,他们要作我的子民。”又说:“你们务要从他们中间出来,与他们分别,不要沾不洁净的物,我就收纳你们。我要作你们的父,你们要作我的儿女。这是全能的主说的。”(林后6:14-18)

还是这位使徒在写信给以弗所人时,强调了众弟兄姐妹就是上帝的殿的观念。

并且被建造在使徒和先知的根基上,有基督耶稣自己为房角石。各(或作全)房靠他联络得合式,渐渐成为主的圣殿。你们也靠他同被建造成为上帝藉着圣灵居住的所在。(弗2:20-22)

旧约之下的圣殿是新约中上帝的殿的预表,如今已经应验。其它任何机构在与上帝荣耀的殿作比较时,顿时逊色。有趣地是,保罗甚至没有提及《以弗所书》中的狄安娜庙,尽管它逐渐成为世界七大奇迹之一,可它还是不能与上帝的圣殿相比。我们记得“创造宇宙和其中万物的上帝,既是天地的主,就不用人手服侍。”(徒17:24)

3、他将担负尊荣(13节)。耶稣基督是这个殿的建造者,同样他拥有殿的荣耀。

你们作丈夫的,要爱你们的妻子,正如基督爱教会,为教会舍己。要用水藉着道,把教会洗净,成为圣洁,可以献给自己,作个荣耀的教会,毫无玷污皱纹等类的病,乃是圣洁没有瑕疵的。(弗5:25-27)

基督的教会真是荣耀的教会,在基督第二次降临的时候,将奉献给基督。我们在主的教会中荣耀上帝。“上帝能照着运行在我们心里的大力,充充足足的成就一切超过我们所求所想的。但愿他在教会中,并在基督耶稣里,得着荣耀,直到世世代代,永永远远。阿们。”(弗3:20-21) 注意这里提出,人要求“在教会里”荣耀上帝,不是在教会外面。悲哀的是,一些人没有明白教会的伟大。各宗各派已经迷惑了大众的思想,他们认为在教会外可以得救,也能荣耀上帝,既简单又符合圣经,就如同在教会中赞美上帝一样。

然而在教会荣耀上帝,可以彰显上帝百般的智慧。“为要藉着教会使天上执政的、掌权的,现在得知上帝百般的智慧。这是照上帝从万世以前,在我们主基督耶稣里所定的旨意。”(弗3:10-11)

作为枝子的耶稣基督,“他也是教会全体之首。他是元始,是从死里首先复生的,使他可以在凡事上居首位。” (西1:18)

4、他将坐在位上掌王权。(弗1:20-23)有人注意到“枝子”是王。事实上,他是唯一的君王,万王之王,万主之主。(提前6:15)今天,他坐在他的宝座上掌权。《希伯来书》作者索性把他当作王描写。“他是上帝荣耀所发的光辉,是上帝本体的真像,常用他权能的命令托住万有,他洗净了人的罪,就坐在高天至大者的右边。” (来1:3) 他已掌权,带着公义的权杖统治。“论到子却说,上帝阿,你的宝座是永永远远的,你的国权是正直的。”(来1:8)

令人遗憾的是,一些人想要废黜基督,希望他将来像地上的王一样掌权。他们认为他现在位于上帝的王位上,有一天会回来,接任大卫的王位。而真理却是,大卫的王位就是上帝的王位。将《列王记上》2章12节与《历代志上》29章23节作比较,结果显示,所罗门所坐的王位就是大卫的王位,就是上帝的宝位。他们所坐的王位都是一样的。

应许耶稣基督坐到大卫的王位上,现在已应验。查考《撒母耳记下》12章上下文,上帝向大卫应许:“你的家和你的国,必在我(原文作“你”)面前永远坚立。你的国位也必坚定,直到永远。”(撒下7:16)《路加福音》回应了这个承诺:“他要为大,称为至高者的儿子。主上帝要把他祖大卫的位给他。他要作雅各家的王,直到永远。他的国也没有穷尽。”(路1:32-33)

所有应许的应验在耶稣基督复活升天的那一刻都实现了。此外,彼得在《使徒行传》里曾这样定位:

大卫既是先知,又晓得上帝曾向他起誓,要从他的后裔中,立一位坐在他宝座上。就预先看明这事,讲论基督复活说:“他的灵魂不撇在阴间,他的肉身,也不见朽坏。”这耶稣,上帝已经叫他复活了,我们都为这事作见证。他既被上帝的右手高举,(或作“他既高举在上帝的右边”)又从父受了所应许的圣灵,就把你们所看见、所听见的浇灌下来。(徒2:30-33)

上帝曾启示但以理,预言这事:

我在夜间的异象中观看,见有一位像人子的,驾着天云而来,被领到亘古常在者面前,得了权柄、荣耀、国度,使各方、各国、各族的人都事奉他。他的权柄是永远的,不能废去。他的国必不败坏。(但7:13-14)

的确,耶稣基督今日坐在他的位上掌权。愿所有的人都愿意顺服他的统治。

5、他必在位上作祭司。旧约下,以色列人通过利未人专职祭司献祭。那个时代统管祭司的是大祭司。今天,基督徒组成了一个“皇家祭司团队”,因此就不需要专职的祭司。基督已经担任基督徒群体的大祭司。

我们既然有一位已经升入高天尊荣的大祭司,就是上帝的儿子耶稣,便当持定所承认的道。因我们的大祭司,并非不能体恤我们的软弱。他也曾凡事受过试探,与我们一样。只是他没有犯罪。所以我们只管坦然无惧的地来到施恩的宝座前,为要得怜恤,蒙恩惠,作随时的帮助。(来4:14-16)
这位既是永远长存的,他祭司的职任,就长久不更换。凡靠着他进到上帝面前的人,他都能拯救到底。因为他是长远活着,替他们祈求。(来7:24-25)

撒迦利亚告诉我们,基督具有双重的负担或职责。他坐在王位上,也是大祭司,然而他又是预言家、执事和王。这其中还有一个伟大的称谓便是“枝子”。

按亚伦家族,耶稣基督不算大祭司,然而,他却是按麦基洗德的标准为大祭司的。很早以前,《诗篇》作者就已经预言,“耶和华起了誓,绝不后悔,说:‘你是照着麦基洗德的等次永远为祭司。’”(诗110:4)《希伯来书》作者引用《诗篇》作者所言,并用到基督身上。“就如经上又有一处说,你是照着麦基洗德的等次永远为祭司。”(来5:6)

6、使两职之间筹定和平(13节)。苗裔即在本处长起来,并要建造耶和华的殿,担负尊荣,坐在位上掌王权。又必在位上作祭司,使两职之间筹定和平。

世界一直致力于寻求持久的和平。一些人转向麻醉剂、世俗的(犯罪的)娱乐等,以此来替代和平与快乐。耶稣基督给这个纷乱的世界带来了和平。他被称谓“和平的君”。

因有一婴孩为我们而生,有一子赐给我们。政权必担在他的肩头上。他名称为奇妙、策士、全能的上帝、永在的父、和平的君。他的政权与平安必加增无穷。他必在大卫的宝座上治理他的国,以公平公义使国坚定稳固,从今直到永远。万君之耶和华的热心,必成就这事。(赛9:6-7)

另外,注意上面经文中的和平与国之间的联系。记得撒迦利亚说道“使两职之间筹定和平。”(亚6:13)

《以弗所书》揭示,真正的和平只有在基督中才能找到。

因他使我们和睦,(原文作“因他是我们的和睦”)将两下合而为一,拆毁了中间隔断的墙。而且以自己的身体,废掉冤仇,就是那记在律法上的规条。为要将两下,藉着自己造成一个新人,如此便成就了和睦。既在十字架上灭了冤仇,便藉这十字架,使两下归为一体,与上帝和好了。(弗2:14-16)

如果一个人与上帝和平,他必定“在基督里”。耶稣说:“我将这事告诉你们,是叫你们在我里面有平安。在世上你们有苦难。但你们可以放心,我已经胜了世界。” (约16:33)

 

千禧年论者滥用这些经文

千禧年论者教导旧约关于上帝国的预言还没有应验。尽管大量的圣经经文显示上帝的国已经建立 (太16:18;西1:13-14;约3:3-5;来12:28等),千禧年论者却说要等耶稣再来的时候,他将在耶路撒冷城建立一个上帝的国并统治将近一千年。

但是,假如这是正确的(实际上这是不正确的),那他为什么在第一次来的时候没有建立上帝的国呢?千禧年论者回答说,“犹太人拒绝了”,因此,这国不得不被延迟建立。

根据这种理论推断,斯格菲尔德(Scofield)说这一章所叙述的正是预言未来上帝国荣耀的图景。施洗约翰宣称上帝的国“近了”时,却遭到了拒绝。 但当大卫的子孙从荣耀中回归时,上帝的国将被建立。 诸位要特别注意斯格菲尔德错误论述所产生的影响。显然他是根据千禧年理论而下的论断。

类似的情况还有布莱克斯督(W.E.Blackstone),他说:“以色列人将要回归迦南地,重建耶路撒冷,圣经中肯定没有什么比这些陈述更明确了。” 他其实是在谬用《以赛亚书》11章11节作为他的论据。

这些作者(以及其他千禧年论者)的主要问题是,新约作者受上帝启示,引用这些特定的经文,表示应许已在基督身上应验。保罗在《罗马书》15章12节中引用《以赛亚书》11章10节,声称应许已在基督身上兑现。从《以赛亚书》11章6节往后所叙述的和平景象可见,这应许已经在基督里实现,并记载在《以弗所书》2章14-16节。《以赛亚书》11章11节涉及的国家在《使徒行传》2章9-11节中再次提及。

并不是建立什么千禧年国度。《撒迦利亚书》6章12-13节反驳了这一理论。撒迦利亚说,当耶稣在位时他将是祭司,还有《希伯来书》8章4节说他在地时不任祭司(众所周知,祭司来自利未家族,而基督出自犹大家族)。假如基督作王时将作祭司,而在地上又不会任祭司,因此他的王位不在地上。

还可找到许多先知们的有关论述,来反驳人为的千禧年理论。也有作者专门写书论述了这个主题。我在这篇文章中只是简单地提及千年国度怎样不符合与“枝子”相应的经文。

教训举要

先知书中有许多有价值的教训。下面一组陈述都和“基督,枝子”主题相关:

1、上帝确实兑现了他的应许。他应许基督将出自大卫的家族。(参见撒下7:12-13;赛11:1;摩9:11-12)上帝真的兑现了他的应许。

2、 上帝关心他的百姓。尽管上帝的民背离了他,他仍然爱他们,留有余数。当他的百姓真正为罪悔改时,上帝应许他们恢复与他的关系。

3、 教会的伟大有目共睹,因为他是上帝的殿。“枝子”降临建造了上帝的殿,这殿就是上帝的教会。 ( 林前1:1-2;3:16-17)

4、 耶稣基督施行公义。耶利米说道:“当那日子,那时候,我必使大卫公义的苗裔长起来。他必在地上施行公平和公义。”(耶33:15)《希伯来书》作者说他按公义管理,“论到子却说,上帝啊,你的宝座是永永远远的,你的国权是正直的。你喜爱公义,恨恶罪恶。所以上帝,就是你的上帝,用喜乐油膏你,胜过膏你的同伴。”(来1:8-9) 不仅美国,全世界都应该热爱真理,恨恶罪恶。

5、基督是值得称颂的。撒迦利亚说道,苗裔(枝子)将担负上帝的殿的荣耀。愿我们在教会中荣耀上帝。(弗3:20-21)

 

结论

尽管上帝的百姓已经离开上帝转向偶像崇拜,人数大大减少,但根芽却真的来自耶西家族,苗裔从他本处发出。世界已经因这枝子得福。今天他给所有来到他面前的人提供了救赎, 有一天,他将回来接他的教会到自己的住处。(弗5:25-27)希望我们爱他,敬拜他,顺服他。

 

注释

 

1 William Wilson.Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies. Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, N.D., 48.

2 William Edward Biederwolf.The Millennium Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964, 59.

3 W.E. Blackstone. Jesus Is Coming. Old Tappen, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1932, 162.

4 Ibid, 167.

 

 

第二部分

论圣经

 

的启示

B.B. Brother文

方 进 译

 

 

前言

“圣经都是上帝所默示的,于教训、督责、使人归正、教导人学义,都是有益的,叫属上帝的人得以完全,预备行各样的善事。”(提后3:16-17)

圣经深深地影响着世界,无论大小家庭,无论是没有受过教育的还是受过高等教育的人们,都深受圣经的影响。它比世界上任何从人来的语言更足以安慰那些忧伤的人。它是那些深受罪恶所困的人们的道德指南。那些听到好消息的人从此找到了生命的目标和充满灵性的快乐。圣经给人类带来了真正的福气。然而,圣经也给那些不遵守上帝教诲的人严厉的警告。“在这等人,就作了死的香气叫他死;在那等人,就作了活的香气叫他活。这事谁能当得起呢?”(林后2:16)

圣经不同于其他任何一本书,因为圣经是上帝所启示的话。那“上帝的启示”又是什么意思呢?让我们来做进一步的了解。

 

启示的定义

“启示”一词来源于希腊语“theopneustos”,字面意思是“上帝所发出的气息”。《提摩太后书》3章16节中“圣经都是上帝所默示”的英文其实也是来源于同一个希腊语“theopneustos”。这部伟大的书,称为圣经(biblos),是上帝赐给我们的(是具有灵性的),而不是一个人或一群人写的文学作品。《希伯来书》的作者曾这样表述:“上帝既在古时藉着众先知多次多方地晓谕列祖,就在这末世,藉着他儿子晓谕我们,又早已立他为承受万有的,也曾藉着他创造诸世界”(来1:1-2)。在这里上帝已经告诉我们了,圣经是上帝说的话。

 

圣经经文见证它源于上帝的启示

探讨圣经是否源于上帝的启示应该首先从圣经经文本身出发。首先,应该允许圣经本身去为自身的属性作见证。找到明确的经文表述其源于上帝的启示这一属性,然后再去详细考查其是否具备这一属性并对这一属性加以证明;不管怎么讲,都不能剥夺圣经自身证明的机会。(Geisler & Nix 33)

圣经的作者皆称他们所说的(所写的)都不是从他们自己来的。“主说”(类似的表达比如“上帝说”)这样的字句在圣经中出现过成百上千次。因此,那些口头或书信传达信息的人宣讲他们的所说和所写都不是从他们自己来的,而是从上帝来的。另外,圣经中有明显的经文表明其是从上帝的启示来的,正如前面已经提到,保罗在《提摩太后书》3章16节中这样写道:“圣经都是上帝所默示的,于教训、督责、使人归正、教导人学义,都是有益的,叫属上帝的人得以完全,预备行各样的善事。”尽管在这段经文中,保罗没有解释圣经是如何受上帝启示的,但已经明确指出圣经是上帝所默示的。同样,使徒彼得写道:“第一要紧的,该知道经上所有的预言没有可随私意解说的;因为预言从来没有出于人意的,乃是人被圣灵感动,说出上帝的话来。”(彼后1:20-21)彼得在这里证实圣经不是出自于人的私意解说,那么如果圣经不是源于人的私意,那它又是如何产生的呢?“乃是人被圣灵感动,说出上帝的话来”。还有很多这样的经文,明确指出圣经是上帝所启示的。

除了这些隐含或明显的表述证明圣经乃上帝的启示外,可供推出圣经受上帝启示的例证也不难找到。路加对彼得关于犹大的论述记录如下:“弟兄们,圣灵藉大卫的口,在圣经上预言领人捉拿耶稣的犹大,这话是必须应验的。”(徒1:16)注意,这里“必须应验”的“圣经上预言”是指“圣灵藉大卫的口说的”话。大卫所说的话是来自圣灵的(记载在《诗篇》中),在这里被称为“圣经”。这就清楚地证明了圣经是上帝所启示的,是人被圣灵感动,说出上帝的话来。

 

圣经是如何被启示的?

错误的观点

论到“启示”,要知道,上帝所说的启示与任何其他人所说的启示都不一样,尽管他们也使用同样的字眼。现代派认为圣经只是人类历史的记载,部分甚至完全否定圣经是受上帝启示的。以上错误的观点将人类引向了自己的道路,先知耶利米早就说过人是不知道自己的道路的,“耶和华啊,我晓得人的道路不由自己;行路的人也不能定自己的脚步。”(耶10:23)

圣经的观点

圣经不仅是上帝所启示的(上帝所发出的气息),而且圣经也告诉我们上帝是如何启示的。

话语:圣经藉着话语被启示,意思是说上帝把自己想说的话逐字逐句地告诉作者。新旧约都提及作者领受上帝话语的启示。大卫证实道:“耶和华的灵藉着我说,他的话在我口中。”(撒下23:2)原来上帝的话在大卫的口中。同样,先知耶利米写道:“于是耶和华伸手按我的口,对我说,我已将当说的话传给你。”(耶1:9)耶稣也曾应许使徒,他们出去传道的时候,若被带到君王诸侯面前,必赐给他们当说的话。耶稣说:

“我差你们去,如同羊进入狼群;所以你们要灵巧像蛇,驯良像鸽子。你们要防备人,因为他们要把你们交给公会,也要在会堂里鞭打你们;并且你们要为我的缘故,被送到诸侯君王面前,对他们和外邦人作见证。你们被交的时候,不要思虑怎样说话,或说什么话。到那时候,必赐给你们当说的话。因为不是你们自己说的,乃是你们父的灵在你们里头说的。”(太10:16-20)

我们应该注意到这个事实,即上帝把话赐给受启示的人,并不是他们自己在说,“而是父的灵在人的里面说话。” 使徒保罗同样认为圣经是藉着话语启示的,如下所示:“我们所领受的,并不是世上的灵,乃是从上帝来的灵,叫我们能知道上帝开恩赐给我们的事。并且我们讲说这些事,不是用人的智慧所指教的言语,乃是用圣灵所指教的言语,将属灵的话解释属灵的事。”(林前2:12-13)

权柄:耶稣、使徒和所有忠心的门徒都将上帝的话视作权柄。当耶稣受试探的时候,他求助于上帝的话。当那些批判耶稣的人提问刁难他的时候,他也同样求助于圣经。(参见太22:29-46)翻开圣经,随处可读到使徒以及门徒是如何将上帝的话奉作权柄的。保罗写道:“无论做什么,或说话,或行事,都要奉主耶稣的名,藉着他感谢父上帝。”(西3:17)

成全性:圣经是完全从上帝的启示来的。保罗写道:“圣经都是上帝所默示的,于教训、督责、使人归正、教导人学义,都是有益的,叫属上帝的人得以完全,预备行各样的善事。”(提后3:16-17)同样,耶稣也说到:“莫想我来要废掉律法和先知;我来不是要废掉,乃是要成全。我实在告诉你们:就是到天地都废去了,律法的一点(jot)一画(tittle)也不能废去,都要成全。”Jot是指希伯来文中最小的字母,“tittle”是指希伯来字母上的小符号。”(Thompson and Harris,132)耶稣在这里教导圣经是完全从上帝启示来的。

完整性:圣经是完整合一的。旧约预言了新约,新约应验并证明了旧约。旧约记录了很多事件都是新约耶稣的预表,比如创世(参见太19:1-6)、洪水(参见太24:37)、罗得(参见路17:28),还有很多其它的事件。耶稣曾为旧约的完整性作见证(参见路22:27,44)。新约同样也是完整的。耶稣升天之前,应许使徒必有圣灵将“引导他们明白一切的真理”。约翰记道:“只等真理的圣灵来了,他要引导你们明白一切的真理,因为他不是凭自己说的,乃是把他所听见的都说出来,并要把将来的事告诉你们。”(约16:13)彼得说上帝已经将一切关乎生命和敬虔的事都赐给我们了——“上帝的神能已将一切关乎生命和虔敬的事赐给我们,皆因我们认识那用自己荣耀和美德召我们的主。”(彼后1:3)

圣经是藉着话语,完全准确无误的从上帝的启示来的。圣经的开篇、中间和结尾都警告我们,不要随意加添、删减和更改上帝的话。摩西在圣经的开篇写道:“所吩咐你们的话,你们不可加添,也不可删减,好叫你们遵守我所吩咐的,就是耶和华你们上帝的命令”(申4:2)。《箴言》作者在圣经中写道:“上帝的言语句句都是炼净的,投靠他的,他便作他们的盾牌。他的言语,你不可加添,恐怕他责备你,你就显为说谎的。”(箴30:5-6) 约翰在圣经的结尾也给我们警示:“我向一切听见这书上预言的作见证,若有人在这预言上加添什么,上帝必将写在这书上的灾祸加在他身上;这书上的预言,若有人删去什么,上帝必从这书上所写的生命树和圣城,删去他的份。”(启22:18-19)同样,保罗也曾提到上帝会咒诅那些随意更改所传信息的人,他写道:“但无论是我们,是天上来的使者,若传福音给你们,与我们所传给你们的不同,他就应当被咒诅。我们已经说了,现在又说,若有人传福音给你们,与你们所领受的不同,他就应当被咒诅。”(加1:8-9)

 

启示的证据

圣经的合一性

圣经是一部令人惊异的书。整本圣经的完成历时1600多年,虽然是由40多位不同时代不同地域的作者写成,但其内容与精义却一致的惊人。乔治·德豪夫(George DeHoff)写道:

“整本圣经共66卷,历时1600多年,由40多位作者写成。圣经的作者有君王、士兵、牧羊人、农民,还有渔夫。第一卷书是摩西在阿拉伯的旷野写就,最后一卷书是使徒约翰在拔摩岛上完成。有些书卷是在国王的宫殿里写的,有的是在牧羊人的帐篷里写的,有的在水边写的,而有些是在监狱里写的。圣经的作者有些是受过高等教育的,也有些是目不识丁的渔夫。圣经是在不同的国家和地区写成的,写作圣经的语言也不尽相同。然而把这些书卷拿到一起的时候,他们却彼此相合,融为一个整体,就成了圣经。各书卷之间没有矛盾,也不存在不一致的地方。有些人可能认为随着时代的变化,有必要重写圣经,而这完全是多此一举。圣经永远都不会落伍,也从来都没有错误。因为圣经的作者是按照上帝的启示写成的。就像所罗门建造圣殿所用的材料能完美的契合在一起,成为如此宏伟壮丽的圣殿,因为所有的一切都在一位伟大的建筑师的指挥下完成。圣经的各个书卷能够彼此相合,成为一体,因为是在上帝的灵的指示下写成的。” (DeHoff 102,103)

预言与应验

先知受上帝的启示,是上帝的代言人。他们既传达上帝当下的旨意,又预言未来的事。先知的工作不仅仅是预言将来要发生的事,有时候甚至多数时候,他们是在传达上帝当下的旨意,让人们悔改,激励人们对上帝抱有信心。然而,有时候他们的确会预言一些很多年以后才会发生的事。研究这些预言的原型以及象征意义,有助于证明圣经是上帝所启示的。一个经典的例子就是旧约中会幕这个原型象征着新约的教会、天国,在这里就不作赘述。旧约逾越节的羔羊象征新约要除去世人罪的上帝的羔羊。除了这些例子以外,圣经中还有很多章节预言了某些事件或者人物,比如说居鲁士,早在他出生100年前,他的名字就在圣经中提到了。预言说居鲁士将允许犹太人归回他们的家乡以色列。《以赛亚书》44章和45章出现了这一预言,到以斯拉的时代这一预言就应验了。(参见代下36;拉1)甚至世俗的历史学家们也曾提到居鲁士释放犹太人回耶路撒冷的事件,而以赛亚在居鲁士出生一百多年前就已经预言了这一事件的发生。圣经中还有几百处的经节预言了耶稣在地上的生活与耶稣的死,耶稣的生平也完全应验了这些预言。恐怕有些人要说了,耶稣是读过这些预言,按照预言所说的去做,才让预言应验的。但是有一点不要忘记,任何人都无法选择自己的出生地(伯利恒,参见弥5:2,太2:5-6)。同样耶稣也是无

法选择他死后会发生什么的。然而所有这些都被预言了,并且完完全全地应验了(没有一根骨头折断,拿枪扎他的肋旁,带着贵重物品埋葬,第三天复活,等等)。

历史与地理的准确性

瓦勒·杰克森(Wayne Jackson)对《使徒行传》的注解显示出该卷书的历史精确性。在《使徒行传》中,路加提到了32个国家、54个城市、9个地中海岛屿。他还提到了95个人,虽然其中有62人没提名。他所使用的背景材料都是有据可查的,也是准确无误的。在路加所在的年代,政治局势不稳,区域划分也变化不断,能做到这一点几乎是不可能的。在这种混乱的情况下,路加是如何做到如此精确的呢?那就是上帝的启示!(Jackson 27,28)

科学的精确性

尽管圣经不是一本有关科学的书籍,但谈到科学的问题时圣经也总是正确的。过去,人们总是认为地球是平的,但圣经没随大流,没有接受这个错误的观点。以赛亚写道:“上帝坐在地球大圈之上,地上的居民好像蝗虫。他铺张穹苍如幔子,展开诸天如可住的帐棚。”(赛40:22)上帝知道地球是圆的,以赛亚知道这一科学事实的唯一方式就是上帝告诉他。对于是什么在支撑着地球这一问题,人们有各种错误的看法,但约伯却给出了科学的解释:“上帝将北极铺在空中,将大地悬在虚空。”(伯26:7)约伯怎么知道地球是悬在太空的呢?那肯定是他得到了上帝的启示! 摩利(Matthew Fontaine Maury)读到《诗篇》8篇8行时,发现的确有“海道”。随着时间的推移,科学的书籍要不断地更新修改,但圣经却是永恒的真理。

 

上帝启示圣经的目的

既然圣经是上帝启示的,那会衍生出什么呢?如果圣经是上帝启示的,那上帝就是存在的,上帝的话就是真理,是客观判断是非的标准。人犯了罪,需要一个救主,上帝给我们安排了一个救主,就是耶稣。将来必有一个永远的天堂或者地狱。

仅仅相信圣经是上帝的启示还是不够的,我们应该遵守圣经里上帝的教训。相信耶稣是上帝的儿子(约8:24),悔改认罪(路13:3),承认耶稣是基督(徒8:37,罗10:10),浸入水中受洗,使罪得赦。(徒2:38)上帝便将得救的人天天加进“教会”(徒2:47),耶稣基督是教会的“头”,也是教会的“救主”。(弗1:22-23;5:23)

 

总结

圣经是一部奇书,是唯一一部藉着话语,完完全全地出自上帝启示的书。在它丰富的内涵中我们能找到生命里那最引人深思的问题的答案:我从哪里来?我为什么在这里?我将往何处去?

阅读圣经使人有智慧,谨守教训便能得救!

 

 

参考文献

 

1.Bert Thompsonand Brad Harrub. Investigating Christian Evidences. Montgomery,AL,Apologetics Press,2003.

2.George W. DeHoff. Why We Believe the Bible. Murfreesboro, TN, DeHoff Publications, 1990.

3.Norman L. Geisler. William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible”. Chicago, IL, Moddy Press, 1986.

4.Wayne Jackson. The Bible on Trial, Stockton. CA, Christian Courier Publication, 2009.

5.Strong’s Lexicon. Accordance Bible Program.

 

 

如何学

谢同侠 译

 

圣经是一部伟大的著作。事实上,它是由66部不同书卷组成的文集。它由39部旧约和27部新约构成。这些不同的书卷之所以可以编辑在一起是因为它们有一个共同的主题。这个主题就是上帝通过耶稣基督把人类从罪恶中拯救出来的救赎计划。前39卷,也就是旧约,告诉我们“耶稣要来”;新约的前4卷书告诉我们“耶稣已经来了”;新约的后23卷书告诉我们“耶稣还要再来”。为了正确理解圣经,我们在阅读的时候应该关注五个方面的问题。一、谁在说话?二、对谁说话?三、作者说话的时间?四、作者用哪种语言说话?五、作者在什么环境或条件下说话?如果我们能正确地回答以上方面的问题,那将对我们清楚地理解上帝的话大有帮助。

 

谁在说话

圣经的一切都是人被圣灵感动而纪录下来的。然而,那些受圣灵感动的作者,有时候因着圣灵的感动把恶人的话也记载下来了,甚至连撒旦的话也出现在圣经中(参见伯1:9-11;太4:3,6,9)。他们把这些话准确地记录下来,但不是要建议我们今天去遵行。我们只要问“谁在说话?”就会帮助我们了解是否要按照正在读的话去遵行。

对谁说话

在《创世记》6章14节中,我们看到如下一条上帝的诫命:“你要用歌斐木造一只方舟”。今天我们还有必要用歌斐木造一艘船来取悦上帝吗?断没有必要,因为上帝不要我们做这个。这个命令是下给挪亚的。挪亚为了从上帝即将带给全世界的大洪水中解救出来,遵行这个诫命就非常有必要。但是这个诫命对今天的我们就并不适用了。如果我们能够正确回答“对谁说话?”,我们就会明白这条诫命只是针对挪亚的。

圣经作者说话的时间

作者是在对生活在族长时代的亚伯拉罕、以撒说话吗?在那个时代,上帝将他的旨意直接启示给先祖们。或者说他直接对生活在律法之下的以色列人说话呢?律法是上帝在西奈山赐给摩西的。或者说他直接对生活在基督律法之下的现代人说话?基督的律法就是新约。生活在摩西律法之下的以色列人,用动物祭祀,守安息日和特殊的节期,唱诗时用乐器伴奏,设立了特定的祭司制度等,这些都是敬拜上帝所要求做到的一部分。(出20:8-11;利23;代上25;代下29:25;诗150)耶稣虽然完全了摩西的律法、先知的预言(旧约)和诗篇上所记的(路24:44),但他又将它们撤去,涂抹了。(西2:14) 今天的人都生活在基督的律法之下,也就是生活在新约时代。(来8:6-13) 如果我们提出“他说话的时间”这样的问题时,我们就会明白旧约律法下的敬拜不适合我们新约时代的人。我们必须拿起新约,从中找到上帝对我们今天怎样敬拜他有什么要求。

受圣灵感动的作者用哪种语言说话

人类所有的语言都有两种表达方式,即字面的和比喻的。字面的语言可以在圣经历史书卷中找到,像《创世记》、《出埃及记》、《使徒行传》等。它是事实。字面的语言必须按照实际的意思去理解。在字面的语言中,如果提到羊,那就意味着羊是一种有四条腿、背上有羊毛的动物。比喻的语言则不同。比喻的文字用来表达思想或主意的,这些文字与它本来的意思有所不同。比如:提到羊或羔羊,就不是意指动物,而是用来表达其它具有羊或羔羊特性的事物。耶稣是人。他同时也是上帝的儿子。但圣经用比喻的语言,有时称耶稣为羔羊。施洗约翰曾这样提及耶稣:“看哪,上帝的羔羊,除去世人罪孽的。”(约1:29)按摩西的律法,羔羊是用作赎罪的供物。约翰并不是说耶稣是真正的羔羊,他的意思是耶稣是为我们的罪而献给上帝的祭。

这话是在什么环境或条件下说的

如果我们知道作者写作时所处的环境,这将帮助我们理解他所说的话。比如:许多人很难理解《启示录》。但是如果我们知道这部书卷是在什么环境下写作的,那将帮助我们理解书中所传达的信息。《启示录》的作者是使徒约翰。他被罗马政府监禁在荒凉的拔摩岛上。他之所以被关押就因为他是基督徒。异教的罗马政府在接近1世纪末的时候迫害基督的教会(约公元95年-100年)。启示给约翰的事都是必要成的事。(启1:1)《启示录》这卷书的写作目的是鼓励那些在1世纪受迫害的基督徒(启2:7,11,17,26;启3:5,12,21)。任何时代受迫害的基督徒,通过学习《启示录》都能获得巨大的鼓励。圣经是上帝启示人类的书。但是,为了理解圣经,我们必须学习如何正确地研读圣经。我们必须“按着正意分解真理的道。”(提后2:15)如果我们在学习的时候按上述的五个方面提出简单的问题,我们就会发现我们的确能够理解上帝的著作。

 

 

从圣经《创两章看上帝的

B.B.Brother文

孔凤云 译

 

前言

大卫称颂道: “我观看你指头所造的天,并你所陈设的月亮星宿,便说,人算什么,你竟顾念他。世人算什么,你竟眷顾他。(诗 8:3-4) 大卫是个牧羊人。他可能经常在夜晚仰望苍天(月亮和星星)的主人,凝思星空,看着它的美,认出这些都是上帝亲手创造的产品,意识到上帝的伟大和创世的非凡。他又写到:“诸天述说上帝的荣耀,穹苍传扬他的手段。”(诗19:1) 面对上帝的创造物,每个人都应该敬畏他。“我要称谢你,因为我受造奇妙可畏。你的作为奇妙,这是我心深知道的。”(诗139:14)

《创世记》1、2章记载了万物的创造过程。有人已经看出圣经是向人们提供三个重要信息的唯一的一本书:(1)人从哪里来 (2)人为什么存在 (3)人将往何处去?人对这三个问题的看法将决定他的行为。如果一个人相信他是泥土造的而不是进化演变的,他将依此而行。然而,如果他真正相信有一个造物主,那他的生活就会有一个神圣的目标,他会寻求这个目标,使他的人生有意义。《创世记》1、2章揭示了上帝是人类的造物主。

在论及《创世记》1章时,富兰克林•坎普(Franklin Camp)观察到:

也许“以上帝为中心”是这章的好标题。在这章明确地提到上帝的名字有32次, 我们来看,1节“上帝创造”;2节“上帝运行”;3节“上帝说”;4节“上帝看”;“上帝分开”;5节“上帝称”;7节“上帝造出”;17节“上帝摆列”;21节“上帝造出”;22节“上帝赐福”。“上帝说”短语在《创世记》1章里使用了10次。 1

《创世记》是圣经其它书卷的基础。如果它不真实,圣经其它书卷就不成立,因为根基出了问题。从另一方面看,如果《创世记》是真实的,那么我们就有“真理的根基,且是借着上帝的救赎计划展开的”。有人已经宣称《创世记》(特别是1章到11章)既不是逐字记叙,也不是历史的记录。也有人总让人相信《创世记》是神话、寓言或诗章。为了反对这一说法,伯特•汤普森(Bert Thompson)列出以下几条理由来说明为什么《创世记》是史学、文学记述,而非神话、诗章。

1、前几章的写作风格没有这样提示。

2、耶稣将它们看作史实。(太 19:4-6;约 5:46-47;太 5:18;23:35)

3、受圣灵启示的新约作者认为《创世记》是基于史实的。

4、因为《创世记》关系到上帝拯救人类(人的堕落和上帝的救赎)。

5、因为《创世记》起到提供和追踪弥赛亚子孙脉络的重要作用。(创3:1-15)^2^

关于《创世记》的史实性,凯尔(C.F.Kiel)和德里奇(F.Delitzch)评论说:

记述创世的开始、过程和完成,在形式和内容上都有标记,像历史文献里面的,有意要求我们应该把它当作真实事实接受,不仅明确肯定上帝创造天地、世界以及存在于世、活跃于世的万物,而且描述了创造本身共有七个阶段。^3^

《创世记》1、2章是逐字的记叙和历史的记录。它为人类记录了万物的创造。这两章是上帝启示人类的其它书卷的基础。学习这两章真的是一件有趣且有价值的事。

 

天地的创造 (创1:1-2)

翻开圣经就能读到一个非常简明却有力量的陈述——“起初上帝创造天地。”(创 1:1)

《创世记》为学习圣经的方法和方式作了铺垫。注意它的简朴和广度。非常简朴以致小孩子都能看懂,同时仍涵盖整个创造事件,也暗示了圣经受圣灵的启示。人类从不会以这样简单的方式构思叙述,不得不处理创造有关的事物。向人类介绍上帝、创造的议论,都将列入本章作详细解释,然而,用简介的词语叙述,这里内容广泛,包括人类将永远需要认识与此相关事件的种种。基于《创世记》1章,上帝的一格第一个概念确立,既然是真理,所以能明白为什么这章非常重要。若对《创世记》1章理解有误,就导致对上帝产生错误的观念。^4^

上帝在万物的背后。他是永恒而首要的伟大动因。(诗 90:2) 起初,上帝已经存在。盖伊•伍兹(Guy N.Woods)这样说道:“万物之始,他已开始,他本身没有开始。”起初乃指万物的创造,包括时间,如我们所熟知的。

用科学的方法证明“起初”,要求有开始。物质不是永恒的。只有两种选择解释宇宙的存在:(1)物质自我创造,或者(2)上帝创造。肯定第一种显然不合逻辑且不科学。认定第二种则既符合逻辑而且科学。^5^

“上帝”一词来源于希伯来词Elohim(耶和华)。形式上,这个词是复数。可是,经文没有确认有三位上帝,许多经文肯定“只有一位上帝。”(参见玛2:10) 然而,一位上帝有多个位格存在。圣经里教导的上帝存在三个明显的位格:上帝-天父(约 3:16),上帝-儿子(约 1:1-3),上帝-圣灵 (徒5:3-4)。“上帝”一词表示神性,不可数名词。只有一位上帝(神的属性),但三个位格都拥有一位上帝的神性。

“创造”来自“ 巴拉”(bara)一词。唯有上帝能以最严格的意思施行创造。唯有他能从无创造有。上帝“创造”和“造”这个世界。他从无造出原料,也对原料进行加工塑造,制造实在的物质,以实体物存在。人类不可能“创造”原料,他仅仅再生存在物。

天地都是上帝创造的。天(在ASV版本里,“天”用的是复数)就是天空,地就是陆地(物质)。赫布特·斯宾瑟(Herbert Spencer)注意到《创世记》1章1节包涵五个科学根源:(1)“起初”——时间;(2)“上帝”——力量;(3)“创造”——动力;(4)“天”——空间;(5)“地”——物质。^6^

此时地是空虚混沌,渊面黑暗。 光还没有被创造,地是“空虚混沌”(ASV版本)。这时地还没有被整好。“渊”指大片的水。上帝的灵运行(或思考)在水面上。自创造的整个日子到出现完整秩序和结束,上帝的灵一直运行在水面上。“藉他的灵使天有妆饰,他的手刺杀快蛇。”(伯 26:13) 圣经告诉我们上帝的三个位格活跃在创造的过程中, 在该篇中上帝的两个位格已经记载了(父和灵)。约翰也告诉我们,耶稣也活跃在创造中——“万物是藉着他造的。凡被造的,没有一样不是藉着他造的。”(约1:3)

间隔论

有人教导说,在《创世记》1章1、2两节之间有个极长的时间间隔。当然,这对一些相信地球是非常古老的,试图为“地质年代”之说找一席之地的人来说是受极受欢迎的。这将“调和”《创世记》和地质学之间的“不同点”。这个理论宣称,上帝创造了世界 (创1:1), 那么(一些人教导),因撒旦和地上前亚当人种的背叛,上帝毁灭了世界,后来以每天24小时共6天的时间“再创造”了目前的世界。因此还说世界可能是数亿年(进化论者每每使用的地质学记录)。

“间隔论”的两个辩解:(1) 关于“bara”(创造)和“asah”(造)两个词语的使用问题。他们断言,因词语“bara”的意思是创造, 上帝首先创造了世界(创1:1),可是他又毁灭了那个世界,后来他不得不再造(“asah”)了一个世界;(2)他们又提出这样的理由:《创世记》1章2节里翻译过来的过去分词“是”本应该为“变化”,这节应该理解为“地变为空虚混沌”,表示起初是完美的创造,后来遭到毁灭。

 

间隔论的反驳

首先,上帝是交替使用词语“bara”(创造)和“asah”(造) (创 1:27),如上帝说“我们要……造人”(创1:26), 上帝就“造人……。” (创1:27) 上帝没有在“造”亚当后,毁灭他再“造”。就拿天地的创造来说也一样,上帝“创造”天地,他还“造”天地——“创造天地的来历,在耶和华上帝造天地的日子,乃是这样。”(创 2:4) 上帝交换使用这些词语。 第二,背景里没有暗含两节经文之间存在“间隔”(或一件事紧跟着下一件事)。注意第二节经文中的“和”,表明是对前一节经文中词语的延续。直接地看这经文,没有人会产生“间隔论”思维。第三,第二节经文没必要学究性地把“是”字翻译成“变化”。第四,《出埃及记》20章11节清楚地陈述,万物在创世六日内造成——“因为六日之内,耶和华造天、地、海,和其中的万物,第七日便安息,所以耶和华赐福与安息日,定为圣日。”
第五,耶稣表明,“但从起初创造的时候,上帝造人是造男造女。” (可10:6) 男人和女人在起初就被造。显然,耶稣不相信间隔的存在——一个较长的时期——存在于这两节经文中。

 

第一日——创造光(创1:3-5)

这里是上帝发话的最初记录。这里也说明了上帝的话大有能力。 世界的存在乃因上帝的话。诗篇作者宣称“诸天藉耶和华的命而造,万象藉他口中的气而成。”(诗33:6) 又说“因为他说有,就有。命立,就立。”(诗33:9) 上帝造光,接着分开黑暗,这是第一日。 有白天和黑夜,地球必定在此时旋转它的轴。上帝用“第一日”定义早晚的时间。

一日千年论: 有些人明显不确信圣经的真理,寻找创造的时间跨度。“一日千年论”宣称六日创造天地可能是一个很长的时间期。

一日千年论反驳: 如果那是上帝所想的,我们便同意创造时间可能是一个长时间期,然而,上帝告诉了我们一天的持续时间有多长——白天和晚上,即24小时一周期。 第二,希伯来语“白天”(yom),在前面加上个数字总意味着一天24小时。第三,亚当在第六天被造出来,假设一天是一千年,我们会问,“亚当能活着看见第七天吗?” 第四,犹太人守安息日显示,《创世记》里的“日”表明一天是24小时。摩西写到:“当记念安息日,守为圣日。六日要劳碌作你一切的工,但第七日是向耶和华你上帝当守的安息日。这一日你和你的儿女、仆婢、牲畜,并你城里寄居的客旅,无论何工都不可作。”(出20:8-11) 犹太人所守的安息日是上帝在他创世六日后定下的安息日。他们要安息多久?乃创造周的第七天整日安息。因为他们安息24小时,所以创造周的第七日必定是24小时。

 

第二日——创造天空(创1:6-8)

天空是一个“广阔的大气层”,“创造的第二日,覆盖在地球表面上的水被分在两大储存区——一个在天空之下,一个在天空之上,天空变得广阔,在大地之上,与现在的对流层相符。”7 库提斯·凯茨(Curtis A. Cates)写到:

请注意:天空下的水与天空上(不是之间)的水分离。务必不能把大气的天空(大气层)与星星所在的天空(创1:16,17),或拉撒路去的中间地带(路16:19-31),与上帝宝座所在的天堂相混淆(约14:1-3; 王上8:27)。这里大气层的天空指鸟儿飞翔的地方。^8^

 

第三日——创造干地、海、植物(创1:9-13)

现在上帝命令水聚拢在一起形成一地,干地显露出来,但这可能要在洼地和高原出现后才能完全达到。至于聚在一起的水形成一地和海(复数)。考夫曼(Coffman)这样论述:

水聚在一处。查看世界地图显示,所有的海是相连的。确切地说是一块地,但有分割,这也确保使用复数的可能。这是摩西记载的众多的神圣的启示之一。这既不是摩西,也不是古代任何别的作家,仅凭个人的知识就能表达这样的陈述。^9^

当然,我们必须记住,创世以后发生了一次世界级的大灾难——全地发洪水。但上帝创世行为本身是美好的。(创1:10)

后来干地形成。上帝接着创造蔬菜,这可谓地球上第一个生命。有趣的是,这第一个生命出现在干地而不在水里(按照进化论者所述)。上帝赋予植物自我再生的能力。每个植物的生命按“各从其类”结种子,然而,上帝使植物的再生进行限期。尽管可以在“类”中发生变异,但变异总是百害而无一利。这正与进化论相反!

在11节第一次出现了“种子”和“类”,每一个被造的生物体里面都植入了“种子”,设定具有自我继续复制的程序,现代人认识的极其复杂的称作DAN微分子,就包含着遗传基因,充分地证实了上帝在圣经中关于物种稳定性的教导。每个物种里都包含着大量的变异的可能性,促进了不同的个体产生,甚至形成物种相同的多样性,但不管怎样,都排斥新物种的进化。大量“水平”的变异是非常可能的,但“垂直的”改变是不可能的。^10^

一切的创造都是完全成熟的,因此,即使被创造的植物只有一秒钟的生命期,但表面年龄还是完全不同的。

 

第四日——创造太阳、月亮和星星 (创1:14-19)

观察第一天创造的光,第四天创造的两大光体,一个有趣的问题出现了,第一天的光指什么呢?我们根据前面的观察得知,早晨加晚上等于一“天”。 这个光肯定是照耀全宇宙的。亨利·莫里斯(Henry Morris)解释道:

第一天,上帝说:“要有光!”(希伯来语or),到了第四天,他说:“要有光体”(或发光体,希伯来语ma-or)。首先是内在的光,随后是发光体或光体,都符合逻辑和圣经的命令。第一天的光和三天后的光体目的是“分别光暗”(创1:4,18)。在任何情况下,白天和晚上的持续时间是一样的,空中发光体的方向是一样的。^11^

换句话说,上帝瞬间创造光,仿佛第一天从太阳那发射光,接着第四天为光造发光体(太阳)。上帝没有设立这样短暂的光维持三天,三天后毁灭它,第四天再造“其他光”。凯茨(Curtis A. Cates)说:

上帝是不是已经创造了局部的光透射到,好像从太阳向下发射,三天后创造其它星体时才造了太阳,凭此保持磁电波延续,因此能“离开和留下它?”当我们明白,第四天上帝造了星星、即日月星辰,乃为了人类的利益,为的是“作记号,定节令、日子、年岁,”让光“普照在地上”(创1:14,15)。我们能明白上帝造众星和为众星造光体的必要性,似乎从它们身上发射的光已经有数亿年。否则,亚当只能看到很少很少的星星。一个贴切的问题是,“对上帝来说最难的是什么?”先创造太阳,还是光或两者同时?对上帝而言哪个困难少一点?第一天创造的光必定和第四天用太阳产生的光规律一致,亮度等同。太阳仅是上帝通过自然律使其产生、受控,以及永久发射光的手段。^12^

造这些光体的目的在于“作记号,定节令、日子、年岁”。“记号”可能标明众星的类别,定节令可能指一年中有不同的时期。即使苍穹的观念正确(即苍穹普遍提供一个比较温暖的气候),一年中的季节分别还是不太明显,所以就有“日复一日”、“年复一年”。

第五日——鱼和飞鸟的创造(创1:20-23)

圣经《英钦定译本》写到“要有多多的水”,《美国标准译本》记载:“水要多多滋生有生命的物。”现在知道水是滋养生命的。一滴水珠里含有大量的生命,令人惊讶。生命无论多么微小,但它仍然是生命!不仅水中充满了鱼和生物,而且天空中有翼羽各异的鸟飞翔着。需要再次强调的是,万物“各从其类”受造,“上帝看是好的。”

 

 

第六日——创造动物和人(创1:24-31)

海和天空充满着生命,紧接着上帝创造了地上的动物,小的和大的都有。过后,记载了一件不寻常的事:“上帝说,我们要照着我们的形象,按着我们的样式造人,使他们管理海里的鱼、空中的鸟、地上的牲畜和全地,并地上所爬的一切昆虫。”(创1:26) 上帝使人区别于其它创造物,因为人是按照上帝的形象造的。请注意,上帝说:“我们要……”,表明上帝的两个位格在创造活动中起到了积极的作用。

人是上帝所生的——“我们既是上帝所生的,就不当以为上帝的神性像人用手艺、心思,所雕刻的金、银、石。”(徒17:29) 虽然我们的肉体身躯出自我们的父母,像他们几分,但是上帝造了人里面的灵。(亚12:1) 上帝被称为“万灵的父”。(来12:9) 因此,人的身体死后他的灵仍活着。人的灵永远存在着,或在地狱或在天堂。当灵分离他的身体时,身体死了,但是灵仍然活着。雅各写到:“身体

没有灵魂是死的,信心没有行为也是死的。”(雅2:26)

人,以上帝的形象存在,有道德的生命体。人有能力选择正确或错误。(书24:15) 有能力敬拜他的造物主,这是显而易见的普遍特点,这只存在于独特的人类中。不管人类住在哪儿,都有人类敬拜比他更高的存在物的证据。动物不像人类,动物没有“应该”意识。上帝不仅按照自己的形象造人,而且给了人管理其它创造物的权柄。上帝也命令亚当要生养众多,遍满地面。“遍满”的希伯来词意思是“充满或布满”。上帝又告诉人和动物,一切结种子的菜蔬都可以吃。洪水后,人除了吃菜蔬外,还开始吃肉。

第一章以这样的观察法结束——“上帝看着一切所造的都甚好。有晚上,有早晨,是第六日。”(创1:31)

 

创世总结 (创2:1-3)

摩西记录了创世日子的总结,写到“在第七日歇了他一切的工”。 词语“歇了”简意“停止”。上帝赐福给第七日,定为圣日,因为在这日他“安息了。”应该记得摩西记载的是历史。另外,赐福第七日和定为圣日与上帝歇工不是同时发生的。这节说上帝赐福第七日和定圣日因为在这日上帝“安息了”。上帝在创造一周的第七日歇了工,后来才赐福第七日将其圣化。“安息日”一词第一次出现在《出埃及记》16章23节,这日限定于人的食物分配量(犹太人-或摩西-分配)。 给犹太人定安息日是为他们脱离了在埃及受的奴役。这个命令在西奈山向犹太人颁布。(参见申5:2,3,15;尼9:13,14;结20:10-13) 因此,安息日不是从创世中开始遵守的(如守安息日派所声称的),而是从在以色列民到达西奈山时开始的。

 

 

关于两次创世记载

自由派的批评家宣称《创世记》里有两次创世记载。以此得出有两个不同作者的结论。韦恩•杰克逊(Wayne Jackson)以陈述的方式作了验证,回应了这些批评家。

两处记录的推测根据在《创世记》1章1节-2章3节和2章4-25节之间。某作者写道:“……显然摩西五经不可能是单个作者写的连续作品。”有证据标明,同一个事件作了两个不同的记录(一举两得):此乃《创世记》1章和2章4节及其后的创世叙述。^13^

批评家没有意识到的是,第二章是第一章的续篇,在某些方面以详细的描述跟进,并不是相矛盾或由其他作者作的或不同的记录。 有个弟兄形象地将其比喻为“即时回放”。摄影师允许观众回顾和更详细地观看某段情节。^14^

创造天地的来历 (创2:4-7)

词语“后代”(toledoth,也译作“来历”)在《创世记》这卷书中出现十次。“后代”一词仅仅作为标题表示人或事件的历史,以下列出《创世记》中出现十次“后代”的例子:

1、创造天地的来历(2:4-4:26)

2、亚当的后代(5:1-6:8)

3、挪亚的后代(6:9-9:22)

4、挪亚儿子的后代(10:1-11:9)

5.闪的后代(11:10-26)

6、他拉的后代(11:27-25:11)

7、以实玛丽儿子们: 25:12-18

8、以撒的后代(25:19-35:29)

9、以扫的后代: 36:1-37:1

10、约瑟的后代(37:2-50:26)

 

如经文所叙,当时的世代天还没有下过雨,但是中间的部分从地面上升,整个地面潮湿,只是这种状态持续多久没有明确地陈述。然而,这样的情形可能被认为一直持续到洪水之后,因而把彩虹作为标志来使用,可能表明洪水后首先看见的是彩虹。第七节告诉我们,人是用地上的尘土造的,上帝将生气吹在那人鼻孔里,那人就成了有灵的活人(生命的气息)。这里提到的生命的气息不是指人永远的灵,而是指生命的规律。低等动物也有生命的气息。(创1:30;7:22) 当然,人有灵,死后继续存在(如前所述)。

 

伊甸园 (创2:8-17)

上帝为他创造出来的人准备了一个“乐园”。由此可见,上帝是想赐福与人的。当人出现在地球时,一切都已为他准备好了。园子的位置不太确定。上帝为人类准备了万物,包括人吃的食物。在这段里提到了两个特别的树:(1) 生命树。 (2) 分别善恶的树。生命树是生命的源泉,人可以吃。但因人的堕落,不再允许接近这树,等进入天堂就能找到。(启21-22) 人可以吃各样树上的果子,只是分别善恶树上的果子,不可吃,人被告知吃的日子必定死。人不是一造下来就是永活的,因为他不得不吃生命树上果子维持生命,如果人天生就不朽那么这就错误了。同样,他与生命树分开的结果就是死亡。因为人来自独特的创造,有能力做出选择。上帝命令他不要吃分别善恶树上的果子,并告知吃的后果。

亚当必定知晓好歹,因为上帝命令他不要吃禁果。他必定能辨别吃和不吃的常识,然而,从某种意义上看,亚当不知道参与此事就是犯罪。从另一个意义上看,他一旦吃了,便能认清善与恶(而其实际意义就是对上帝律法的触犯)。

有河从伊甸流出来,滋润那园子,从那里分为四道,即四条河流。它们是“比逊河”、“基训河”、“西底结河”(即底格里斯河)、“幼发拉底河”。在这几大河流中,幼发拉底河是大多数学圣经的学生最为熟悉的。比逊河和基训河的位置难以确定,但一般认为底格里斯河和幼发拉底河还是能大致确定位置的,尽管人们也得牢记时间和洪水已经改变了事物。

耶和华上帝将亚当安置在伊甸园,使他修理看守。值得注意的是,上帝不希望人懒惰,在人能做的事情上,上帝就无动于衷。在罪进入世界前,人是准备工作的。因此,正常情况下,工作不是对人犯罪的惩罚(虽然堕落后人的工作更为艰辛,参见创3)。

 

短语“你吃的日子必定死”表示的是什么的死呢?我认为,这里的死是指灵性的死,表示将与上帝的关系脱离。虽然有一些信仰虔诚而坚定的弟兄持不同意见。罪孽使我们与上帝隔绝(赛59:1-2),活在罪中的人仍是“死的”,尽管他们是活着的(提前5:6),以弗所人曾是死人,死在过犯罪恶之中,但活了过来。(弗2:1-3) 保罗说死临到众人,因为众人都犯了罪。(罗5:12)可是,有些人的肉体死了但没有犯罪(如婴儿)。保罗写道:“因为罪的工价乃是死。惟有上帝的恩赐,在我们的主基督耶稣里乃是永生。”(罗6:23)《创世记》在这里提及的死是与永生生命(灵魂)相对照的,因此,死必定是指灵魂的死。有人认为上帝的意思是指肉体的死亡。肉体死亡是罪的结果没有错,但那是因为离开了生命树。而肉体死亡和灵魂死亡都是犯罪的结果,笔者看不出这与经文的观点有任何相悖。因此我个人的观点是,《创世记》2章17节的死是指灵魂的死。

 

上帝造一个配偶帮助亚当 (创2:18-25)

这节交代了创造夏娃的背景,介绍她起源的故事。^15^ 上帝说,那人独居不好,我要为他造一个配偶帮助他。男人是社会人,“配偶”的意思是指这人是他的帮手。他们(男人和女人)将彼此适应。

分配给亚当命名每种动物的任务,足以表明亚当是非常聪明的,亚当看到一切生物都有配偶,只是他还没有遇见配偶帮助他。上帝使亚当沉睡,从他身上取了根肋骨,造成一个女人,领她到他跟前,亚当说“这是我骨中的骨,肉中的肉,可以称她为女人,因为她是从男人身上取出来的。”(创2:23) 从上下文可以确认那个时间必定是创造世界的第六日。

这个记载表明起初婚姻的神圣性。人要离开父母与妻子连合,二人成为一体。显然,后来人要比亚当夏娃考虑的更多,因为亚当没有父母得以离开。丈夫和妻子是“一体”,一体显示亲密无间,和睦相处。按照《马太福音》19章4-6节的记载,耶稣支持这个表述。

起初亚当和夏娃在伊甸园是赤身露体的,且不感到羞耻,这是发生在犯罪之前。罪的一方面反应是羞耻感。后来,上帝给他们穿上衣服,不是为了保暖,而是遮羞,源于他们的羞耻感。

 

结论

《创世记》这卷书,蕴含丰富的内容,非常值得研究和学习。它是圣经的开始,为上帝的其它预言启示作铺垫。耶稣和门徒常常引经据典地提及这卷书上的事件,如果《创世记》是圣经其它书卷的基础(本来就是),那么很容易看出圣经第一卷书前两章的重要性 , “起初,上帝……。”

注释

1.Franklin Camp.Outline on Genesis. Unpublished Notes,p.5.

2.Bert Thompson. Essays in Apologetics . Vol.1. Montgomery, AL: Apologetics press,1984. pp.148-152.

3.C.F.Kiel and F.Delitzch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol.1. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991. p.37.

4.Camp. p.5

5.Bob Winton. Outlined Commentary on Genesis. Gallipolis, OH: Bob Winton,1987. p.9.

6.Winton. pp.9-10.

7.Ibid. p.11

8.Curtis A.Cates. The Noahic Flood. Olive Branch, MS:Cates Publication,1994. p.39.

9.Winton. p.12.

10.Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Record. Grand Rapids,MI:Baker Book House,1992. p.63.

11.Ibid. p.65.

12.Curtis A. Cates.“And God Said, Let There Be Light”. Gospel Advocate Periodical. CXXV,November 3,1983. p.644.

13.Wayne Jackson,“Are There Two Creation Accounts In Genesis?,”Reason and Revelation,XI, (March,1991),p.9.

14.Personal Conversation with Curtis A. Cates.

15.Winton, p.26.

 

圣经中全地灾性洪水考据

Curtis A. Cates

方 进 译

 

前言

基督教的根基,尤其是圣经的神圣性,已经遭遇了近两千年的恶意攻击。但是“经上的话是不能废的!”(约10:35)尽管有些人竭力地要把宇宙的创造者从自己的地盘赶出去,但“……只有一位在天上的上帝。”(但2:28)

《创世记》1-11章反映了基督教的基本原则。毋庸置疑,该卷中各章的诸多事实必然引来无数批判:1)上帝的创造 2)诱惑与堕落 3)弥赛亚从童女而出的预言 4)全地洪水。但奇怪的是,正是那些用来驳斥基督教的论调反而成了推翻无神论以及所谓的“神导进化论”(尽管这是个错误的称呼)最强有力的证据,也成了基督教最有力的证明。作者所知道的用来反对基督教的论证无一不强有力地捍卫了这一真理:“你,唯独你,是耶和华!你造了天和天上的天,并天上的万象,地和地上的万物,海和海中所有的,这一切都是你所保存的;天军也都敬拜你。”(尼9:6)通过本文对全地毁灭性洪水的论述,我们能更清楚地看到这一点。

 

争论点

进化论者无法解决的问题就在于宇宙的起源。多少年来,他们一直都陶醉在他们假设的理论中,即,物质世界(宇宙万物)是永恒的,“现在是通往过去的一把钥匙”,即一种非科学的哲学性假设:“均变论”。热力学等许多的科学法则都推翻了宇宙永恒性这一论说。实际上,对于宇宙的起源问题,科学界一直是茫然而不知所措的。

践行着人本主义宗教(包括无神论和进化论)的进化论者,在立均变论的基础上,认为根据现在可以推测出过去的情况。尽管无神论科学家们声称他们是客观的,其实他们是在吹嘘进化论的“证据”和“事实”确凿,因为仍有很多科学家认为他们是非常主观的。他们忽视了“真正科学”的内涵,所践行的不过是种“科学宗教”。大大小小公立的小学、中学和大学,拿着纳税人的钱,向公立学校的孩子们和大学的学生们灌输这种世俗的人本主义宗教,而真正的科学创造论却被拒之门外,禁止讲授。他们教授年轻人,没有上帝存在,人类不过是种高级动物,也没有绝对的道德标准存在。这可是对年轻人最大的欺骗啊!

均变论者们在这种“科学宗教”的理论下声称,他们已经找到了地质历史时间表,一套追溯岩石年代的方法,也是整个生命(包括动物和植物)的进化史(从产生到非生命体,再到人类)。

当然,以上观点与圣经是完全背道而驰的。但是,圣经与真正的科学真理本是没有冲突的。而上述观点的冲突只存在于上帝的话与所谓的“科学主义”之间。圣经的作者,同时也是宇宙的创造者和支撑者。真理是完全和谐统一的。圣经中谈到了大灾难,这一点解释了短时间内发生的巨大变化。显然,无神论者很武断地排除了这一点,因为他们排除了上帝,最重要的是这和他们的预先假设相冲突。然而,地球的整个地质史证明了圣经中所提到的大灾难。

使徒彼得早就揭示了均变论的错误性,“第一要紧的,该知道在末世必有好讥诮的人,随从自己的私欲出来讥诮说:‘主要降临的应许在哪里呢?因为从列祖睡了以来,万物与起初创造的时候仍是一样。’他们故意忘记,从太古凭上帝的命有了天,并从水而出、藉水而成的地。故此,当时的世界是被水淹没就消灭了。”(彼后3:3-6)如果存在一个上帝(确实存在),他能从无到有,创造世界(他也确实这么做了),那他就能随时随地使用任何灾难性的事件来毁掉整个宇宙,只要这与上帝最终的目标一致。《创世记》6-8章所记载的全地洪水的破坏性以及背后隐含的科学影响已经远远超出了人们的想象。尽管在许多领域还存在许多疑问,但是下文有关洪水的论述与已观测的科学数据(并非假设)非常吻合,也符合圣经真理。实际上,洪水惊人地解释了很多无法解释的问题,比如地球的历史、化石记录、煤和石油的来源、恐龙的灭绝、洪水后人类寿命的极速下降、冰河时代以及大峡谷的形成等。

 

洪水的事实

《诗篇》的作者写道:“我的心哪,你要称颂耶和华!……将地立在根基上,使地永不动摇。你用深水遮盖地面,犹如衣裳,诸水高过山岭。你的斥责一发,水便奔逃;你的雷声一发,水便奔流。诸山升上,诸谷沉下,归你为它所安定之地。你定的界限,使水不能过去,不再转回遮盖地面。耶和华使泉源涌在山谷,流在山间。”(诗104:1,5-10)什么时候深水遮盖地面,高过山岭?又是什么时候诸山升上,诸谷沉下?我们知道,在创世的第三天,地质史上的剧变发生了,上帝让天下的水聚在一处,使原先被水覆盖的旱地显露出来。地被升高,山谷下沉。(创1:9-13)均变论者们在上面提过这种情况了吗?显然没有,因为他们根本就没把全地洪水考虑在内。请注意上帝已经禁止使水再次泛滥全地了。

尽管进化论者一再否认这次灾难,但洪水的的确确是淹没全地的。证据如下:

1、洪水的目的是要除灭地上凡有气息的人和动物。

2、洪水水势浩大,天下的高山都淹没了,这样的水势(水势比山高过十五肘)在地上维持了五个月的时间。因为液态的水是流动的,往低处流,自然要覆盖整个地面(水力学)。亚拉腊山高17000英尺,海拔超过3英里,方舟却停在了亚拉腊山的山顶上。这一点足以证明洪水是覆盖整个地面的。

3、整个洪水期包括四十天大雨,一百一十天大渊的泉源裂开,另外还有挪亚一家待在方舟里的一年零十天。

4、洪水期间引发了另一个巨大的地质变化,“二月十七日那一天,大渊(参见创1:2)的泉源都裂开了,天上的窗户也敞开了”(创7:11)——地下水。注意——“泉源都裂开了”!这可不是局部地区孤立的火山。

5、方舟长不少于450英尺,宽不少于75英尺,高不低于50英尺(1肘相当于18英寸),分上、中、下三层,建筑面积超过10,000英尺,体积达1,500,000立方英尺,排水吨位24,000吨,船身吃水过半。它能承载相当于500到600个标准火车车厢的重量,相当庞大。就算再过4500年,也造不出另一个这样的庞然大物。方舟的形状类似箱子、盒子或棺材的样子。因为方舟并非用来远航,所以方舟的两头不呈尖状。“方舟”这个词希伯来人只用过两次,另外一次是指漂在尼罗河上藏摩西的蒲草箱。方舟的形状结构(长是宽的6倍)非常结实坚固,能在不到90度的倾斜处平稳船身。它在与波浪抗衡时,不会为波浪吞噬,甚至能顶得住高达200英尺波浪的拍打。方舟上边有个透光处(创6:16),希伯来语叫tsohar,这个词是不会随随便便用在其它地方的。这个透光处是用来通风透光的,在方舟顶部的壁上留下大约1肘之地,大概在船顶突出部分的下边。圣经没有详细介绍舟顶是呈隆起的三角墙型还是平坡状,但很可能是呈三角墙型的。方舟有一个窗户,希伯来语叫challon,,是挪亚关闭的也是挪亚打开的。另外,希伯来语arubbah指天上的窗户,敞开了,就会下雨。所以,在《创世记》6-8章中,有三个词用来表示“窗户”。方舟分三层,其中包括很多的房间,这一切构成了如此完美的方舟。有些人认为远古人都是穴居人,开始提出质疑,挪亚能建成这样的方舟吗?想想巨石阵、金字塔和那些腓尼基人的壮举吧。挪亚和他的儿子们能建成方舟吗?无疑挪亚得到了上帝所赐的财富(比如还可以参考其他几位先祖,像约伯和亚伯拉罕)。他们很可能是雇人来造方舟的,我曾见过盖教堂的工人中有许多是无神论者。

6、为什么要建造方舟?警告发了120年,人们可以奔走世界各地来逃避当地的洪水。为什么动物要在方舟里呆上一年?他们可能都跑光了。罗得逃离所多玛花了多少时间?

7、主看着洪水来临,“把他们(生活在挪亚时代的人)全都冲去。”(太24:39)预表基督再来时的最后毁灭。路加记载:“洪水就来,把他们全都灭了。”(路17:27)上帝的目的是要将罪从全地除掉,不是除去部分罪,也不是只除去人类的部分罪。

8、彼得见证只有八个人从洪水中得救。(彼前3:20)他相信当时的洪水是覆盖全世界的,“当时的世界被水淹没就消灭了。”(彼后3:6)彼得认为洪水与宇宙的创造以及末日宇宙的毁灭一样,都是指全世界而言的,只不过后来的毁灭是用火焚烧。(彼后3:7)

9、上帝与挪亚立了彩虹之约并应许永不再用洪水毁坏地了。这个约是与每一个人、“每一样活物”所立的约。(创9:8-17)那局部地区的洪水算是上帝违背自己的约吗?如果怀疑论者的观点是对的,那上帝就是背约了。

10、无论从地质学上还是从人类学上,洪水都是全球性的而非地区性的。有证据显示洪水时代地球上大约有十亿人口和数不清的动物。不可能所有的人和动物都滞留在美索不达米亚流域这一个地区。

11、“洪水”一词,希伯来语叫mabbul,只用来表示《创世记》中的洪水;希腊语用kataklusmos来指洪水(彼后2:5),而希腊语古词是kosmos

既然洪水是全地的,那《诗篇》的作者肯定描述了洪水的隐义。圣经是怎么说的?科学事实又是如何展示的呢?

 

洪水前的地球

洪水前后地球的境况是完全不同的。起初上帝创造天地,地是空虚混沌,四处黑暗,全地都被水(希伯来语用tehom,英语用deep)覆盖。第一天,上帝创造了光。^1^ 第二天,上帝创造了天空(这里的天空就是飞鸟飞翔的地方,也就是空气),将空气以下的水(指地球表面上的水)、空气以上(注意,不是空气里的水)的水分开了,事就这样成了。(创1:6-8)空气以上的水是非常重要的,只是现在已经没有了。空气以上的水是什么性质的?发生了什么?和洪水有什么关系?又是如何影响洪水前后地球的状况的?

地球起初是被厚厚的水蒸气层所包围。水有三种形态:固态(冰)、液态(包括水滴)和气态(水蒸气)。包住地球的那层水要一直浮在空中,而冰和液态的水随着厚度的增加就不透明(而亚当看到的太阳、月亮和星星是上帝在第四天创造的)。所以包住地球的那层水必须是气态的水。水蒸气肉眼看不到,而且比空气轻(一个水分子的重量是18克,而空气主要是由氮气和氧气组成,一个氮分子的质量是28克,一个氧分子是32克)。这些水蒸气一直悬浮在空中,除非凝结成雨、雪、冰雹降落。气态的凝结需要借助于一些颗粒(即凝结核)。只有当这些凝结核进入水蒸气层,水蒸气才能凝结形成雨雪降落。两种最常见的凝结核物质是氯化钠(也就是食盐)和火山灰。总之,气态水的质量只有干燥空气的三分之二,除非遇凝结核凝结,这些水蒸气是不会降落的,而是浮在空中。

离地球表面20,000英尺的那层水蒸气,显示了如下的科学内涵:1、洪水之前没有下过雨,但有雾气从地上腾,滋润遍地。(

创2:6)

2、河海的流向与今天的不同,“有河从伊甸流出来滋润那园子,从那里分为四道。”(创2:10)这和今天的河流的流向完全相反,今天的河流是由支流汇聚到主流。

3、地球表面,从南极到北极,从赤道这头到那头,气温比今天要高(温室效应),是个名副其实的热带天堂。水蒸气可以拦截大量从太阳来的电磁辐射,然后反射到空中。

4、防止来自太阳的短波紫外线的辐射,这种紫外线能引发皮肤癌、皮肤老化以及核糖核酸突变。而包裹地球的这层水蒸气则是天然的屏障,保护地面免受这种太阳辐射的伤害,这也解释了为什么在洪水前的时代菌株要更纯净;为什么亚伯和该隐那代人可以与自己的姐妹结合成婚;为什么当时人的寿命可以长达900多岁。

5、强大气压,形成天然的高压氧环境。

 

挪亚时代的洪水

挪亚时代的洪水是一次全球性的大灾难——也是地球自创世以来发生的唯一一次最大的物理变化,在人类历史上占据重要地位。忽视洪水的事实,无论是有心还是无意,就等于无视深渊泉源裂开,大水涌出,淹没地球高山一年半时间等一系列的破坏。当然,这也让那些无神论者,均变论者神经紧张,极其不安,因为这几乎摧毁了他们信仰的整个根基。但对那些没有成见的人来说,洪水解释了很多科学真理。

挪亚蒙上帝的指示预备方舟。(来11:7)上帝藉挪亚传义道,叫洪水前时代的人悔改。(彼后2:5;彼前3:18-21;1:10, 11) 在最后的120年里(创6:3),上帝让各样动物到挪亚那里,各从其类,保全生命(创6:20),不需要挪亚自己去聚拢它们。各样食物也都准备妥当。^2^(创6:21)额外一些动物带到方舟上用于献祭,作洪水后的食物等。在科学类的学术杂志上,统合派和分割派经常就某个动物属于哪个物种发生激烈的争论。挪亚拯救的不是无数的物种,而是主要的动物群。“类”是永恒,也是上帝创造的。(林前15:38, 39)

上帝将挪亚一家人和动物关进方舟七天后,“当挪亚六百岁,二月十七日那一天,大渊的泉源都裂开了,天上的窗户也敞开了。四十昼夜降雨在地上。”(创7:11, 12)因上帝无所不知的属性,所以就在起初的创造中准备了对将来行恶的人施行惩罚,和平常一样,上帝会借助自然界的现象来实施自己的审判,有时候也会使用神迹奇事。

人们一直在思索大渊的泉源怎么会突然打开,这很可能就是个神迹。注意,这引发了一连串的反应。地球的泉源裂开,喷射出大量的岩浆和地下水。洪水之前,就存在庞大的地下水系统,早期的河流也表明了这一点。(创2:11-14)来自火山和海洋的大量的火山灰和晶体盐喷射到水蒸气层,遇上冷空气,这些水蒸气凝结成液态的雨或形成固态的雪,降落到地面。四十昼夜的倾盆大雨,而不是毛毛细雨。有趣的是,今天的空气中只有两英寸的水。当洪水的闸门打开,大雨倾盆(希伯来语称geshem)而下。四十昼夜大雨结束之前,天下的高山都淹没在大水中,这样的水势又持续了110天。这怎么可能呢?水势浩大,在地上共150天。(创7:24)只有渊源和天上的窗户闭塞了,水势才渐渐消退。(创8:1-3)实际上,火山是水的源泉。作者曾与家人乘飞机越过圣海伦斯火山,驾车沿着图尔特湖和哥伦比亚湖行驶,亲眼见证了1980年5月18日圣海伦斯火山喷发所带来的巨大破坏,大量的浮石和火山灰冲向高空,撒落到地面,造成河流堵塞,道路埋没;这样一个小小的火山爆发竟然产生了上百万吨的水。火山爆发的烟云冲向了10英里的高空,遮盖了附近的天空,一片黑暗,甚至中午时光,华盛顿附近的雅集瓦人的家畜都进笼中栖息。埃特纳火山在超过100天的时间里每天喷发出4,600,000加仑的水,想象一下,全世界成千上万座火山会喷发多少水,难怪天上大雨停了,地上的水势还能持续110天。

可以想象火山喷发对地质地貌的影响有多大:巨大的水力侵蚀、地表的隆起、地质板块的移动、大量的岩屑、动植物等沉积物运移、岩浆热量铺于地表、各种植物树木被连根拔起、全球性泥石流沉积等。

亲爱的读者,洪水前的时代真如彼得所写的洪水泛滥吗?全地洪水是创造论和进化论,灾变论与均变论的主要分歧。

 

 

洪水后的地球

洪水后的地球发生了巨大的变化。洪水后,地球上的每寸土地、每种动物,都遭到了摧毁。首先,由于洪水的冲积作用,地球表面产生了很多沉积物,形成了新地层。洪水造成的地质变化是全球性的。均变论者认为这些地质剧变是几千至几万年时间里由于局部地区的洪水或者之类的一些自然活动而形成的。大量的科学事实证明,每一层地层都是独立的单元,一层接着一层,是由水的冲积作用在短时间内形成的。全球地质层的一致性表明有一个全球性的沉积期。这与《创世记》中的洪水论相一致,而与无神论者的均变论背道而驰。进化论地质学家多方面分析地质柱状图(沉积岩层,比如在山区可见的沿着公路的山体切面),计算出地层是以每英尺2000年左右的速度形成的(整个过程大概需要600,000,000到1000,000,000年)。观察地质柱状图地壳中的沉积岩层(整个地球的沉积岩层平均厚度大约是1英里),就会发现洪水的证据。进化论者宣扬沉积岩是在一亿多年间形成的,在此期间物种发生着进化。那些无生命的物质就这样“被进化”成有生命的物质(这完全违背了生物起源论),踏上漫长而偶然的进化路程(这完全违背了熵原则,即热力学第二定律),从一个单细胞动物或藻类进化成人类(原生动物——原始后生动物——蠕虫——鱼类——两栖动物——爬行动物——鸟类和哺乳动物——人类)。因此,他们认为地质柱状图记录了人类由单细胞生物进化而来的过程。很多进化论权威专家也声称古生物学为进化论提供了直接的、历史性的证据,并且为进化论提供了文献证据。因此,亲爱的读者,如果能证明地质柱状图所反映的都是在挪亚洪水时期形成的,那进化论的所有理论假设就会像多米诺骨牌般顷刻崩塌。^3^

请注意上文提到的所谓“地质时间表”。

1、这个“时间表”主要依据“标准化石”来确定,主要是海洋生物和已经灭绝了的物种,通过这些物种来追溯其所在的地质年代。自从莱尔爵士和他的追随者们制定出这个年代表后,今天也发现了很多“标准化石”——至今还存活没有灭绝的物种(比如大蜥蜴、腔棘鱼、软体动物)。有趣的是,正是这些所谓的“活化石”却驳斥了均变论者所提出的地质时间表。

2、该时间表主要依据各地层的化石。随着地层由低到高,生物从简单生命形式向复杂生命形式转变。但是,地球上却找不到岩芯钻能够穿透地层的地方,相反,许多地层遗失,次序被打乱,“几百万年来”(如果按照均变论者的推算),许多老地层挤到了年轻的新地层之上,形成地层相互顺序颠倒等现象。这些都成了进化论者需要解决的问题。

3、根据进化时间表,低地层是没有复杂生命形式的,但事实并非如此。与进化论者推测的进化顺序相反,在最低的地层中,也发现了很多复杂的生命形式。(注意:均变论的古生物学家推测时间的方法是相当主观的,化石的时间是根据其所在的地层时间来推测的,而地层的时间又根据其中的化石时间来推测,形成典型的循环论证)。

4、该时间表否定多元地层化石的存在(石化树和某些大动物的化石跨越不止一个地层,有时甚至是众多的沉积岩层)。动植物的尸体要经过几千年的腐烂才能被一些沉积物覆盖(排除洪水),地层要这样慢慢地一层一层地形成。一些树干(化石横跨十几个地层)腐烂形成化石需要几千年甚至几百万年是很正常的,有的是水平的,有的是颠倒的。很多枝桠连同树根也都不见了。这些树木并非原地沉积。

5、它依赖于地层中那突然掩埋动植物痕迹证据的缺失,比如波痕雨滴、飞鸟、蠕虫、恐龙、爬行动物和人类留下的痕迹。这种地层迅速掩埋,并保留痕迹的要求,使得全球地质堆积柱产生很多这种现象。

6、它依赖于大量物质的缺失,比如说煤、白云岩、蒸发岩、砾岩、杂砂岩、角岩等。这些物质的存在只有类似洪水这样的灾难才能解释。比如,在今天淡水泥潭沼泽中是无法形成煤的(下文会详细介绍到煤)。当然,这些物质大量存在于地层当中。

那全地的大洪水能解决上文提到的问题并解释这些现象存在的原因吗?当然!

1、包围地球的水蒸气圈以倾盆之势下落,地下水的泉源也开了,大量含有砂质的洪水冲走了无数的动物、植物和岩石,形成了许多沉积物。人们无法想象有多少大树被连根拔起,(比如,作者曾亲眼所见大烟山和圣海伦斯火山爆发引发的突发性洪水所造成的巨大破坏)。根据水力学,这些靠洪水搬运的残骸会形成沉积岩。

2、这些残屑随着洪水的冲积成为沉积物,混着洪水带过来的其它沉积物和一些生物沉积在最深的地层中。这其中主要包括海洋生物和简单生物。生物的移动性决定了他们在地层中的位置,因为那些移动性较强、体积较大的生物,比如人类,能迅速地移到高地,以逃过洪水的吞噬。这些生物就可能出于最上面的地层,他们中的大部分可能不会被洪水冲积形成沉积物,而是在地表腐烂或者为海中的食腐动物所吞食。这就解释了为什么随着地层由低向高,生命形式由简单到复杂。同时也解释了为什么在一些低的地层中也发现了复杂的生命形式(均变论者无法做到)。因为有些复杂的高等动物可能被围困了,有的病了,无法逃往高地避难。比如有些人发现一个化石墓地,这个墓地竟然有很多天生是对头的动物的化石残骸。很明显,这是洪水的做工,洪水将这些原本孤立的动物经过搬运冲积埋葬在一处了。另外,读者千万不要误解,认为化石可以在任意条件下无时无刻地形成,这完全是进化论者的误导。化石的形成需要特殊的条件,是很难发生的。化石的形成需要我们在地层中发现的条件,而不是无神论的进化说所讲的统一的条件。

3、那些被连根拔起的大树随着湍急的水流漂移沉积在某一地层,有时大树的树干裸露在地表,而随着水流速度和方向的改变,在树干的周围形成了新的沉积地层(水流的速度会影响沉积地层的密度、形状等)。因为树桩根部比树梢要重,所以这些树木经常是正浮着沉积起来。然而,沉积层的厚度常常会导致一棵树倾斜着甚至颠倒过来被掩埋起来。亲爱的读者,您可曾栽种过这样本末倒置的树——还是穿过石头的?同样的原则适用于其它巨型多地层动物。^4^

4、洪水造成大量的沉积物堆积形成沉积地层,为全球庞大的煤床的形成创造了条件。煤主要由植物残骸中的碳组成,成片的煤床覆盖成千上万平方英里,厚达50英尺甚至更深,在特定的地点,多达一百个地层中都发现了煤层。对于煤的生成,均变论者解释为原地自生理论(源于淡水泥炭沼),而相信圣经的灾变论者认为煤是外生的(源于水的迁徙)。前者违背了科学事实,而后者解释了什么是人们所知道的煤。1)煤床中含有海洋化石和海洋岩石——来自深海的沉积物,而非来自淡水。2)煤床中普遍存在海洋化石和咸水物质。3)煤床层中发现的大树通常是水平的或者是颠倒的,明显是洪水运动沉积的痕迹。4)形成厚厚煤床所需要的几百甚至几千英尺的植物残骸只能是大面积洪水迁徙而至,按照均变论,这是不可能形成的。5)煤床层中发现的卵石也证明了煤层的形成是洪水迁徙的结果,并非原地自生。6)淡水泥炭沼不能生成煤。7)煤的形成并不是像均变论者所宣扬的那样需要几百万年时间。煤的外生符合科学事实,也与圣经中的全地洪水这一事实相吻合。

均变论者也无法提出一个合理的原理来阐释石油的产生。但洪水却解释了有机物在水中的分离,以及在高温高压下可转化成石油。此过程中当然还包括一些必须的化学物质和水的浮力。而且,最新研究表明,有机物转化为碳氢化合物只需要几千年甚至几百年就够了,根本不像均变论者所讲的需要几百万年时间。

另外,洪水暴发时地球表面迅速大幅度冷却揭开了冰川中冰冻猛犸象和北极地区永久冻土的谜团。野兽们迅速被冰冻,甚至他们的肉尚可食用。它们嘴里、腹中的热带植物尚未消化,清晰可辨。这便是证据。首先,洪水前地球从南极到北极到处是一片热带天堂景象,其次,冰川时代是突然来袭的。那又是什么造成了极寒的气温和冰川的泛滥呢?均变论者无法给出合理的解释。

当大渊的泉源打开,散落到空气中的灰烬降低了照射地球的太阳辐射。同时,在那些火山活动比较活跃的地区,雨水甚大,导致这些地区气压降低。尔后,风从高压区域吹向低压区域,从而形成极端的冷空气、冰雹和降雪,导致多区域风暴。气压的降低导致了空气扩散和冷却,使得地球表面气温迅速下降到零下10度甚至华氏零下几百度。这解释了冰冻荒地里的巨型动物腹中今天还保存着未消化的花瓣、罂粟种子等。

另外,洪水导致了包裹地球的水蒸气层的消失,使人类及动物寿命缩短(平均从900岁到70岁),因为消失的水蒸气层就像今天的臭氧层一样,保护着地球。水蒸气层的消失,使紫外线直射地球,使DNA恶化,缩短了人及动物的寿命。如果水蒸气层没有消失,地球表面的气压至少是现在的两倍,从而增加了空气中氧气的含量。今天人们曾试用这种方法在高压氧舱中治疗病人。科学家对于运用这种方法来延缓人的衰老过程的研究也越来越深入了。关于恐龙,有一点很有趣,爬行动物的骨骼不像其它动物,他们的骨骼一直在生长,也就是说,活的越长,骨骼越庞大。而且,恐龙的肺部因为有大气中的大量氧气供给,能够氧化他们庞大的身躯,但这在洪水过后低压的环境下是做不到的。而且,很显然恐龙无法忍受洪水后的低温和寒冬,也找不到足够的食物来供给自己庞大的身躯,因为洪水后的地球不再是一个热带天堂(挪亚带恐龙进方舟时,带的只是小恐龙,它们根本无法适应新的气候环境),最后恐龙就彻底灭绝了。

宇宙太空虽然没有过多地向世人展示全地洪水导致大冰川时代的产生、五大湖区和大峡谷的形成所包含的科学内涵,但却驳斥了均变论者所推算及使用的地球纪年法,提出了更精确的地球年代表,从而推算出地球是个年轻的星球。动物从食素转为食肉也是在洪水期间。要不是洪水引发了造山运动,就不可能形成密西西比河广阔的冲积平原,也不可能存在如此之高的海平面和大陆架。

 

总结

研究洪水的科学家们以及那些相信《创世记》6-8章上帝降洪水的人们仍在继续探索和研究。此文虽然篇幅短小,但却希望能坚定读者的信心,更希望年轻人能明白有关地球地质史所谓的“科学”假设并不一定是唯一的“解释”。学习圣经的学生们不要急于重新定义或者否定圣经真理,更不要尝试让圣经真理与均变论、进化论及人本主义“和谐”相处。“但现在的天地还是凭着那命存留,直留到不敬虔之人受审判遭沉沦的日子,用火焚烧。”(彼后3:7)

 

 

注释

 

1 Curtis A. Cates. “And God Said, ‘Let There Be Light,’” Gospel Advocate, November 3, 1983.

2 就算不考虑大洪水,化石的研究也能提供强有力的科学证据以证明进化论的错误,因为生命形式在地层中形成了化石,没有发生进化,他们是永恒不变的。这些生物都是突然出现的,没有一丝痕迹证明一种动物能进化成另一种动物或者植物。博物馆实在找不到能证明进化论的化石证据,进化论者自己也承认这一点,却仍专横地反对上帝和创造论。

3 注意,得以保全生命的是“各类”的动植物,而不是各“物种”。“各类”指任何主要的能繁殖或再生的动植物群。上帝允许这些动植物之间存在DNA上的细微变化(有时进化论者将其误解为所谓的“种类进化”),但不存在物种的跳跃,不可能从一个种类变成另一个种类(种外进化)。

4 注意:在这些沉积地层还没有固化之前,造山运动产生的压力使得很多地层隆起到很高的高度。这些地层因为还没有固化成坚硬的磐石,只是受力弯曲形成褶皱,而不是像岩石受力会断裂破碎。洪水解释了这一现象并粉碎了均变的错误理论。

 

通过修辞理解圣

B.B. Brother文

方 进 译

 

前言

上帝藉着话语与人类交流他的旨意。大卫写道:“耶和华的灵藉着我说,他的话在我口中”(撒下23:2)。同样,先知耶利米也写道:“于是耶和华伸手按我的口,对我说,我已将当说的话传给你。”(耶1:9)。新约也是受上帝话语的启示。保罗写道:

“除了人里头的灵,谁知道人的事?像这样,除了上帝的灵,也没有人知道上帝的事。我们所领受的,并不是世上的灵,乃是从上帝来的灵,叫我们知道上帝开恩赐给我们的事。并且我们讲说这些事,不是用人智慧所指教的言语,乃是用圣灵所指教的言语,将属灵的话解释属灵的事。”(林前2:11-13)

圣灵将上帝想说的话逐字逐句地传达下来,使人可以通过这些“话”,尽可能多地了解上帝。

尽管上帝可以选择别的方式与我们交流,但是他选择了“话语”这种方式。既然上帝已经选择了“话语”这种方式与我们交流,那适用于其它文学作品的语法规则也同样适用于圣经。上帝根据人的知识和能力水平来与我们交流,使人能理解圣经。也就是说,人按照已有的知识和能力是可以读懂圣经的,不需要圣灵直接运行在已经写出来的文字上或人的心中。值得注意的是,“普通大众”都喜欢听他(可12:37),他们听耶稣说话能听得懂。同样,今天我们也可以理解上帝的话。保罗对以弗所人说:

“因此,我保罗为你们外邦人作了基督耶稣被囚的,替你们祈祷。谅必你们曾听见上帝赐恩给我,将关切你们的职分托付给我。用启示使我知道福音的奥秘,正如我以前略略写过的。你们念了,就能晓得我深知基督的奥秘。”(弗3:1-4)

以弗所人能听明白保罗受启示说的话。后来,在同一卷书中,保罗激励他们说:“不要作糊涂人,要明白上帝的旨意如何”(弗5:17)。如果人类能承认可以明白上帝的话,那他就会去思考研究前面的话。藉着上帝的话,我们可以明白许多奇妙的事情,比如“他从哪里来”,“为什么而来”,“要到哪里去”。也能明白如何除罪得救,有上帝所赐进天国的盼望。大卫写道:“你的言语一解开就发出亮光,使愚人通达。”(诗119:130)

 

专业术语的解释

正确理解一些术语的含义很重要,否则会造成误解。在此花一点笔墨就以下三个专业术语的表达作一解释。

解经学(Hermeneutics):这个词原意为“解释学”,“神圣的解释学就是解经学”(Dungan,1)

诠释学(Exegesis): 这个词源于一个复合希腊语词汇,意思是“导出”(Dungan,1),指人把上帝放在文本中的涵义引导出来。问题是人们总是容易带着自己的思想去研读上帝的话,而不能正确地理解上帝的话。这叫着“随私意诠释”(将自己的意思带进文本中),而不是“按文本诠释”(将文本的意思诠释出来)。如果正确诠释,就不是像有些争论所说的“这只是你的诠释。”圣经是上帝的话,应该得到合理正确的诠释。如果正确诠释,人们的推论就会顺着上帝的意思(不管是直接说明还是隐含表达)。

修辞(Figures of Speech): 这个词是指“修辞”:一种语言表达方式,增强感情和美感,使得词汇超越字面含义和常用含义;或者将诗人或作者抽象的感情化作读者熟悉的概念。常用的重要修辞手法有:明喻、暗喻、拟人、夸张和象征。(Angelfire,NP)

泰勒(Milton Terry)认为修辞手法能更好地揭示上帝创世的和谐。“自然界与精神世界的类似性恰巧证明了上帝所创造的世界是和谐一致的,这一点也是最值得揭示和思考的。(Terry,244)

在日常生活中,我们也常常会用到“修辞”。但是,在我们的日常交流中,有些修辞我们很少用到,比如说寓言故事。而有些修辞手法,比如说明喻、借喻和暗喻,我们会经常使用。所以,我们并不是对所有的“修辞”都很陌生,自然,对圣经(上帝对人类的说话)中出现的各种各样的修辞手法也不会很奇怪。

圣经中出现的各种修辞手法可以帮助我们清楚地理解上帝所要告诉我们的话以及上帝要我们遵守的真理。带着这种想法,下面我们来看看圣经中出现的各种修辞手法。

 

各种修辞手法

比喻(Parable):也许研读圣经的学生最熟悉的修辞便是比喻了。耶稣是个比喻大师。他经常藉属世的事物来解释属灵的涵义。“比喻”这一词语源于希腊语“Parabole”。(这是个复合词,“para”是旁边的意思,“balleir”是扔的意思。) 所以这个词是“扔到旁边”的意思。敦甘(D.R.Dungan)认为比喻就是“故事和真理并排:借助可见的物质世界讲述一个故事,揭示抽象的道理。”(Dungan,227)泰耶(Henry Thayer)在他的希腊语词典中给出这样的解释:“属世的故事,属灵的涵义。”(Thayer,NP)

新旧约都有比喻故事,但使用更多的是在新约里。耶稣也告诉我们他为什么要用比喻讲话。

门徒进前来,问耶稣说:“对众人讲话为什么用比喻呢?”耶稣回答说:“因为天国的奥秘,只叫你们知道,不叫他们知道。凡有的,还要加给他,叫他有余;凡没有的,连他所有的也要夺去。所以我用比喻对他们讲,是因他们看也看不见,听也听不见,也不明白。在他们身上正应了以赛亚的预言,说:“你们听是要听见,却不明白,看是要看见,却不晓得;因为这百姓油蒙了心,耳朵发沉,眼睛闭着;恐怕眼睛看见,耳朵听见,心里明白,回转过来,我就医治他们。”(太13:10-15)

耶稣这位大师用比喻来教导,有的人能明白,而有些人(那些拒绝甚至诽谤他所传信息的人)就不能晓得。使用比喻的四层目的主要是:

1、揭示真理;

2、将真理对那些拒绝的人隐藏起来;

3、让听见的人将真理铭记于心;

4、让人认同真理,甚至还没明白之前,就已经将真理应用在自己的生活中了。

比喻中的故事都是真实的,也就是说,比喻中描述的事件是

会真实发生的。(Dungan,228-231)有时候,耶稣自己解释比喻的涵义,有时候让听者自己推理。

圣经中最广为人知的就是撒种的比喻。马太这样记载:

“他用比喻对他们讲许多道理,说:“有一个撒种的出去撒种。撒的时候,有落在路旁的,飞鸟来吃尽了。有落在土浅石头地上的,土既不深,发苗最快, 日头出来一晒,因为没有干了;有落在荆棘里的,荆棘长起来,把它挤住了;又有落在好土里的,就结实,有一百倍的,有六十倍的,有三十倍的。凡有耳可听的,就应当听!”(太13:3-9)

耶稣讲完撒种的比喻,接着就给出了解释:

“所以,你们当听这撒种的比喻。凡听见天国道理不明白的,那恶者就来,把所撒在他心里的夺了去,这就是撒在路旁的了。撒在石头地上的,就是人听了道,当下欢喜领受,只因心里没有根,不过是暂时的,及至为道遭了患难,或是受了逼迫,立刻就跌倒了。撒在荆棘里的,就是人听了道,后来有世上的思虑,钱财的迷惑,把道挤住了,不能结实。撒在好地上的,就是人听道明白了,后来结实,有一百倍的,有六十倍的,有三十倍的。”(太13:18-23)

任何人只要接触过园艺,种过庄稼,哪怕是听说过,都能看懂这个比喻。耶稣藉着已知的事物(撒种和落在不同土壤的种子)来揭示未知的道理(不同的心态以及他们对上帝话语的接受和拒绝)。这个比喻清楚地揭示了人的不同本性,要么接受上帝的话要么拒绝。还有很多其它的比喻,比如说“好撒玛利亚人”、“稗子的比喻”等,都是很好的教导,帮助我们更准确的理解上帝的话。

寓言(Fable):对于寓言,其中有个解释,即“通常以典型动物作为主人公,讲述小故事,阐明大道理”(牛津词典语)。同样,韦伯斯特给出了这样的定义:“把深刻的道理寓于简单的故事中,主人公常是一些典型动物”(韦伯斯特语)。但是,寓言的角色也可以是一些无生命的东西。寓言和比喻很容易混淆,对于两者的区别,路德福得(Rod Rutherford)认为:

“寓言是一些虚构的故事,假托有生命的或者无生命的物质,讲述现实生活中不会发生的故事,来阐明有用的道理。而比喻通常都是以现实生活为基础的,讲述的都是现实生活中确实会发生的事情,其背景总是立足于现实世界。比如《马太福音》13章“撒种的比喻”就是根据巴勒斯坦人在犁过的田地里撒种的事实,来阐明深刻的道理的。有可能耶稣在加利利海边教导他们的时候,人们就可以看到这一景象。”(Rutherford,250-251)

寓言在解经学修辞的运用里,千万不要和神话或老妇荒谬的话语相混淆。

“Fable”这个词在《美国标准译本》(ASV)和《英钦定译本》(KJV)的新约中只在五个场景中出现过(提前1:4,4:7;提后4:4;多1:14;彼后1:16)。这在当时都是使徒们使用的。保罗和彼得用“寓言”这个词,指进入教会的假教训。用“寓言”来界定所指的“假教训”的特性有点难。它可能指灵智的传说,也有可能指一些杜撰的传说。“fable”这个词源于希腊语“muthos”,意义相当于英语的“myth”一词,指神话传说。在以上的经文中使用“myth”可能更合适。(Rutherford,257-258)

寓言作为修辞手法的一种,可举《士师记》9章6-21节的典型例子来作参考。

示剑人和米罗人都一同聚集,往示剑橡树旁的柱子那里,立亚比米勒为王。有人将这事告诉约坦,他就去站在基利心山顶上,向众人大声喊叫说:“示剑人哪,你们要听我的话,上帝也就听你们的话。有一时树木要膏一树为王,管理他们,就去对橄榄树说:‘请你作我们的王。’橄榄树回答说:‘我岂肯止住供奉神和尊重人的油,飘摇在众树之上呢?’树木对无花果树说:‘请你来作我们的王。’无花果树回答说:‘我岂肯止住所结甜美的果子,飘摇在众树之上呢?’树木对葡萄树说:‘请你来作我们的王。’葡萄树回答说:‘我岂肯止住使神和人喜乐的新酒,飘摇在众树之上呢?’众树对荆棘说:‘请你来作我们的王。’荆棘回答说:‘你们若诚诚实实地膏我为王,就要投在我的荫下。不然,愿火从荆棘里出来,烧灭黎巴嫩的香柏树。’“现在你们立亚比米勒为王,若按诚实正直善待耶路巴力和他的全家,这就是酬他的劳。从前我父冒死为你们争战,救了你们脱离米甸人的手。你们如今起来攻击我的父家,将他众子七十人杀在一块磐石上,又立他婢女所生的儿子亚比米勒为示剑人的王。他原是你们的弟兄。你们如今若按诚实正直待耶路巴力和他的家,就可因亚比米勒得欢乐,他也可因你们得欢乐。不然,愿火从亚比米勒发出,烧灭示剑人和米罗众人,又愿火从示剑人和米罗人中出来,烧灭亚比米勒。”约坦因怕他弟兄亚比米勒,就逃跑,来到比珥住在那里。(士9:6-21)

这一寓言显然是通过修辞的手法在讲述一个很重要的道理。敦甘认为这个寓言教导我们:“那些看上去最没有能力和价值的人往往更有可能是上帝所预备来承担重任的。”(Dungan,246)

另一个圣经寓言的例子可参见《列王记下》14章8-10节。

明喻(Simile):另一个十分常用的修辞手法是明喻。明喻就是将一个事物比作与这个事物相似的另一事物,用“好像”、“比如”这样的词连接。泰勒这样表述来帮助我们理解:“用于有相似性的两个不同主体之间,这种修辞即明喻”。(Terry,254) 英语的“simile”一词源于拉丁语“similis”,意思是“像”。(Webster,1089)

也有一些圣经中的例子解释了明喻的用法。路加,藉着启示,记录了五旬节当天所发生的一切。

“五旬节到了,门徒都聚集在一处。忽然,从天上有响声下来,好像一阵大风吹过,充满他们所坐的屋子。又有舌头如火焰显现出来,分开落在他们各人头上。他们就都被圣灵充满,按着圣灵所赐的口才说起别国的话来。”(徒2:1-4)

路加说“从天上有响声下来,好像一阵大风吹过”。他并不是说在五旬节当天有一阵大风,而是说从天上传来响声,好像一阵大风。他还说“有舌头如火焰显现出来,分开落在各人头上”,同样的,彼得并不是说五旬节当天有大火发生,而是说有舌头分开像火焰一般。藉着明喻这一修辞手法,人们对五旬节当天发生的整个过程有了一个形象清晰的了解。

保罗劝诫丈夫去爱他们的妻子——“丈夫也当照样爱妻子,如同爱自己的身子,爱妻子便是爱自己了。”(弗5:28) 这里我们可以看到作比较的词汇“如同”。丈夫爱自己的妻子要像爱自己的身体一样。

耶稣斥责法利赛人时也使用了明喻。他这样说道:

“你们这假冒伪善的文士和法利赛人有祸了!因为你们好像粉饰的坟墓,外面好看,里面却装满了死人的骨头和一切的污秽。你们也是如此,在人前,外面显出公义来,里面却装满了假善和不法的事。”(太23:27-28)

耶稣不是说文士和法利赛人是粉饰的坟墓,而是说他们像粉饰的坟墓。他们表面上公义,内心却充满了肮脏,就像粉饰的坟墓,外面看上去很漂亮,里面却都是死人的骨头和污秽。

比拟(Similitude):比拟是明喻的一种延伸用法,通常有其自己的解释。敦甘认为“比拟是明喻的延伸和扩展。它不同于比方,因为它是由明喻,而不是隐喻所组成。它又不同于比喻,因为它所言为事实,而不是编造的故事”(Dungan,249)。在比拟这一修辞手法中,比较得以延伸。下面就是一个比拟的例子:

“所以,凡听见我这话就去行的,好比一个聪明人,把房子盖在磐石上。雨淋,水冲,风吹,撞着那房子,房子总不倒塌,因为根基立在磐石上。凡听见我这话不去行的,好比一个无知的人,把房子盖在沙土上。雨淋,水冲,风吹,撞着那房子,房子就倒塌了,并且倒塌的很大。耶稣讲完了这些话,众人都稀奇他的教训。”(太7:24-28)

《诗篇》以诗作为主,大量使用了比拟的修辞手法。读者应该记住修辞手法是不排外的,也就是说,同一个比喻中可以同时包括明喻和比拟两种修辞手法。尽管它们在定义上有所区别,但在用法上并不是相互独立的。

隐喻(Metaphor):隐喻是“一种隐含的对照”(Raystedman,233)。通常本体与喻体之间没有直接的比喻词“像”或“比如”来连接。下面是一个隐喻的例子:

“正当那时,有几个法利赛人来对耶稣说,离开这里去吧,因为希律想要杀你。耶稣说:“你们去告诉那个狐狸说,今天、明天我治病赶鬼,第三天我的事就成全了。”(路13:31-32)

没有人认为这里耶稣是认为希律真的是一只狐狸。这里就是隐喻的用法。在此,希律被比作一只狐狸,而没有使用“好像”或“比如”这样的词汇。这里的意思是隐含的,而不是直接指出来的。

而且,耶稣也使用隐喻来解释主的晚餐。

他们吃的时候,耶稣拿起饼来,祝福,就擘开,递给门徒,说:“你们拿着吃,这是我的身体。”又拿起杯来,祝谢了,递给他们,说:“你们喝这个,因为这是我立约的血,为多人流出来,使罪得赦。”(太26:26-28)

显然,使徒不是说真的要吃耶稣的身体,喝他的血。基督徒也不是真的吃耶稣的身体,喝他的血。耶稣的身体仍然在那里,他的血液在他的身体里。这里耶稣使用的就是“隐喻”,饼和杯就是代表耶稣的身体和他的血。

藉着隐喻,耶稣被比作医生、牧羊人、饼、道路、门、葡萄汁,头、新郎等。(Monsor,320)

借代(Metonymy):关于“借代”,莫菲特(Jerry Moffitt)写道:“借代来自希腊语复合词metonumia,而meta是改变的意思,onama指一个名称或名词。” 布林格(Bullinger)这样定义:“借代是指用一个名词来代替另一个,两者之间有一定的关联性。”(Moffitt,186-187)

敦甘等学者列出了四种借代形式:1、原因借代(metonymy of the cause),即说出原因,表明结果。比如:“你们学了基督,却不是这样。”(弗4:20)说出了基督,但意指他的教导。2、结果借代(metonymy of the effect),即用结果来指代原因。耶稣说:“复活在我,生命也在我。”(约11:25)复活和生命的原因是耶稣,但这里却在阐明结果。3、主体借代(metonymy of subject),即用事物来指代相关的特征。比如用容器来指代里面所盛放的物品。主的晚餐的杯就是用来指代杯中所盛放的葡萄汁。(参见太26:28-29)世界就是指代世上的人——“上帝爱世人”(约3:16)。4、附属借代(metonymy of adjunct),目的在于主体,却提出附属物,比如用“受割礼”和“未受割礼”来指代犹太人和外邦人,“上帝既是一位,他就要因信称那受割礼的为义,也要因信称那未受割礼的为义。”(罗3:30)(Dungan,271-300)

比方(Allegory):比方是对真实事件的一种修辞应用。“圣经中比喻和比方的区别在于,比喻是假定的历史事件,而比方是对真实事件的修辞应用。”(Dungan,259)比方也可以理解为延伸的隐喻。(Terry,302)

使徒保罗在教导加拉太人已不在摩西律法之下时,运用了这一修辞法。他写道:

你们这愿意在律法以下的人,请告诉我,你们岂没有听见律法吗?因为律法上记着,亚伯拉罕有两个儿子:一个是使女生的,一个是自主之妇人生的。然而那使女所生的,是按着血气生的;那自主之妇人所生的,是凭着应许生的。这都是比方,那两个妇人就是两约。一约是出于西奈山,生子为奴,乃是夏甲。这夏甲二字是指着亚拉伯的西奈山,与现在的耶路撒冷同类,因耶路撒冷和他的儿女都是为奴的。但那在上的耶路撒冷乃是自主的,她是我们的母。因为经上记着:“不怀孕、不生养的,你要欢乐。未曾经过产难的,你要高声欢呼,因为没有丈夫的,比有丈夫的儿女更多。”弟兄们,我们是凭着应许作儿女,如同以撒一样。当时,那按着血气生的,逼迫了那按着圣灵生的,现在也是这样。然而,经上是怎么说的呢?是说:“把使女和她儿子赶出去,因为使女的儿子不可与自主妇人的儿子一同承受产业。弟兄们,这样看来,我们不是使女的儿女,乃是自主妇人的儿女了。(加4:21-31)

保罗在这里就藉着历史事实使用了一个修辞手法。他用撒拉和夏甲、西奈山和耶路撒冷、以撒和以实玛利这些真实的事件,运用一种修辞手法来阐述自己的观点。就像撒拉被告知要赶出使女和她的儿子一样,旧的律法同样也要废弃,“然而经上是怎么说的呢?是说:‘把使女和她儿子赶出去!因为使女的儿子不可与自主妇人的儿子一同承受产业’。弟兄们,这样看来,我们不是使女的儿女,乃是自主妇人的儿女了。”(加4:30-31)

提喻(Synecdoche):这个词来源于希腊语复合词“sunekdokh”(sun是一起的意思,ekdekhesthaishi 是占据的意思)。提喻是一种修辞手法,用部分来代表整体或以整体代表部分。路加记录底米丢的话:“这样,不独我们这事业被人藐视,就是大女神亚底米的庙也要被人轻忽,连亚西亚全地和普天下所敬拜的大女神之荣威也要消灭了。”(徒19:27)显然,并不是全世界都敬拜亚底米,这样说是用整体来代表部分。

另一个提喻的使用是用整体时间来代表部分时间。“永远”并不总指向永恒。摩西记载:“你家里生的和你用银子买的,都必须受割礼。这样,我的约就立在你们肉体上,作永远的约”(创17:13)。但是今天的教会不再施行割礼了。那是在特定的时间段里作“永远的约”。还有很多其它关于提喻的用法,这里只是作概括介绍。

谚语(Proverb,也译作箴言、俗语):大部分学习圣经的学生应该比较熟悉《箴言》。谚语是“短小精悍的句子,但包含完整有价值的思想”(Dungan,211)。圣经新旧约全书都有很多谚语。尽管在耶稣的话语中没有找到直接的表述,但是路加还是记录了一句主耶稣说过的谚语。保罗说:“我凡事给你们作榜样,叫你们知道应当这样劳苦,扶助软弱的人,又当记念主耶稣的话,说:‘施比受更有福。’”(徒20:35)“施比受更有福”这句话很简短,但内容却深刻而有价值。彼得在解释上帝的儿女离开上帝,回到世界中去是多么可恶时,这样说:“俗语说的真不错,狗所吐的,它转过来又吃,猪洗净了,又回到泥里去滚。这话在他们身上正合适。”(彼后2:22)

反语(Irony):反语就是说这指那的意思,常带有揶揄讽刺的意味。约伯所谓的“朋友”给他提出了很多建议,来解释他为什么遭遇不幸。他们说肯定是约伯犯了罪才会有如此痛苦的遭遇,约伯对他们的回答是:“你们真是子民哪,你们死亡,智慧也就灭没了。”(伯12:2)这里约伯就在用反语,实际上他根本就不认为他们就是上帝的子民,他们死了,智慧也就灭亡了,真实的涵义正好相反,他只是指出他们根本就不知道自己在说什么。

将耶稣钉在十字架上的士兵也曾用反语嘲笑过耶稣:

巡抚的兵就把耶稣带进衙门,叫全营的兵都聚集在他那里。他们给他脱了衣服,穿上一件朱红色袍子;用荆棘编作冠冕,戴在他头上,拿一根苇子放在他右手里,跪在他面前,戏弄他说:恭喜,犹太人的王啊!”(太27:27-29)

当他们说“恭喜,犹太人的王啊!”时,就是使用了反语,甚至是讽刺。

讽刺(Sarcasm):这一词汇来源于希腊语“sarkasmos”,有“撕皮赖脸、咬牙切齿、挖苦讽刺”之意(牛津辞典)。讽刺在程度上与反语不同。我经常告诉学生,“讽刺就是带刺的反语”,有刺痛的作用。以利亚讽刺假先知巴力:“到了正午,以利亚嬉笑他们,说:‘大声求告吧!因为他是神,他或默想,或走到一边,或行路,或睡觉,你们当叫醒他。’”(王上18:27)

夸张(Hyperbole):这一词汇的字面意思是“扔的超过了范围”。夸张是“为了强调,有意的夸大或者是对超越事实的放大”(Raystedman,244)。耶稣说话也使用夸张的手法:

“若是你的右眼叫你跌倒,就剜出来丢掉,宁可失去百体中的一体,不叫全身丢在地狱里。若是右手叫你跌倒,就砍下来丢掉,宁可失去百体中的一体,不叫全身下入地狱。”(太5:29-30)

在这里耶稣并不是要我们真的剜出我们的眼,或者砍下我们的手。这是为了强调而作的夸张。

拟人(Personification):指赋予无生命的事物人的特征,包括感觉和行为。地张开口吞下一切,就是拟人的用法(参见民16:31-32)。保罗在描述属上帝的爱时,也用到了拟人的手法:

“爱是恒久忍耐,又有恩慈;爱是不嫉妒。爱是不自夸。不张狂。不作害羞的事,不求自己的益处,不轻易发怒,不计算人的恶,不喜欢不义。只喜欢真理;凡事包容,凡事相信,凡事盼望,凡事忍耐。”(林前13:4-7)

爱呈现了人的特征和属性。如果我们想看看我们是否是爱的个体,那就把我们的名字换成“爱”,然后用上帝对爱的定义来衡量我们自己。

呼语(Apostrophe):当说话人避开现有的观众而称呼另外的人们时,常使用呼语。该词来源于希腊语“apo”(出自的意思)和“strephein”(转开的意思)。(Dungan,322) 保罗在论述复活时,使用了呼语的手法:“死啊,你得胜的权势在哪里?死啊!你的毒钩在哪里?”(林前15:55)同样的,大卫在痛失爱子押沙龙的时候,也用到了呼语:“王就心里伤恸,上城门楼上去哀哭,一面走一面说:‘我儿押沙龙啊!我儿,我儿押沙龙啊!我恨不得替你死,押沙龙啊,我儿!我儿!’”(撒下18:33)他在和押沙龙说话,而押沙龙却不在身旁,当大卫哭喊“我儿押沙龙”的时候,他也知道这一点。

预叙(Prolepsis):当对事件表示期待时而使用的一种修辞手法,来源于希腊语“pro”(之前的意思)和“lambanein”(拿取的意思),合在一起就是提前发生的意思。(Dungan,329)圣经中,夏娃被称作众生之母,可是在她取名的时候,还不是任何人的母亲。可是她将成为众生之母,因为一切都将从她而出(参见创3:20)。比如说在布什总统小的时候,我们说他可能会成为总统,可那时候他还只是个孩子,还不是总统。再比如说一个人说他将要在某天迎娶他的妻子,可这件事情还没有发生。所以,当表示期待未来发生的事情,就是一种预叙。

拟人论(Anthropomorphism):就是将人的性情特征赋予上帝。我们经常这样唱:“抓住上帝不变的手”。可是,上帝是灵。灵无躯体也无骨肉。可圣经常说上帝的手、眼、胳膊等。这些表达都是帮助我们藉着已知理解未知。没有人知道如何确切的将上帝的属性表述出来,我们只知道他不是人,他是神,我们可以通过人类的观点和表达来认知上帝。

 

总结

修辞手法很美妙,将文字勾勒出画面,帮助我们更好的理解所阅读的文字。谦虚和得意可以藉着隐喻和夸张等手法将其表达出来。 运用明喻,可以将一个事物比作另一事物,以帮助我们更清楚的理解该事物。比喻让我们轻松地理解我们所学到的知识。上帝通过字面和修辞的语言给予我们启示。上帝藉着话语与我们交流,因为话语是交流的媒介。“你的言语一解开就发出亮光,使愚人通达。”(诗119:130)

参考文献

1.Bible, King James Version.

2.Dungan,D.R., Hermeneutics.Gospel Light Publishing Co. Delight AR,ND.

3.Oxford University Press Dictionary,Corel WordPerfect, Version 10.

4.Moffitt, Jerry. Rightly Dividing the Word, Vol. 2, 5th Annual Shenandoah Lectures, Editor Terry Hightower,1991.

5.Monsor,J.W.,Types and Metaphors of the Bible,Gospel Advocate Co.,Nashville,TN,1955.

6.Rutherford,Rod, Rightly Dividing the Word, Vol.2,5th Annual Shenandoah Lectures,Editor Terry Hightower,1991.

7.Terry,Milton, Biblical Hermeneutics, Zondervan Publishing House,Grand Rapid,MI,ND.

8.Thayer,Henry, E-Sword Electronic Bible.

9.Webster’s New World Dictionary, World Publishing CO. Cleveland and New York,1957.

10.WWW.Angelfire.com/ctr/evenoki/poetry/figuresofspeech.html

11.WWW.Raystedman.org/leadership/smith/ch7.html

h1={color:#000;}.

第三部分

论救恩

 

耶稣是我的救主

徐 林 译

 

一艘满载乘客的船在海上航行。有一天晚上,这艘船突然开始下沉。当它缓慢沉入水中的时候,船员说他们为乘客们做好了救援的准备措施,即便落水也不会淹死。有些乘客相信了船员的话,并且照着船员的话去做。另一些人不相信船会沉没,他们回去继续睡觉。事实上,全体人员都处于非常危险的地步。所有的人都需要拯救。但是只有那些相信警告并遵守命令的人获救了,其余的人淹死了。谁应该为他们的死负责任?他们自己负责,因为他们拒绝接受这唯一的能使他们得救的消息。

我们自然而然地认为只有沉船上的人需要拯救,但是我们可能会忽略,我们自己的罪也需要拯救。我们每个人因为自身的罪都处于非常危险的地步。有一天我们都将被上帝审判。(来9:27)我们要照着我们所行的受审判。(启20:12)没有一个人有完美无瑕的人生,我们都会犯错误。我们常常明知故犯。圣经说:“世人都犯了罪,亏缺了上帝的荣耀。”(罗3:23)当我们拒绝遵守上帝的旨意时,我们就犯罪了。(雅4:7)当我们违背了上帝的律法时,我们就犯罪了(约一3:4)。我们的罪使我们与上帝隔绝。(赛59:1,2)那些仍在罪中的人,在审判的日子将会被丢进地狱。(太25:46;彼后2:4-9)

纵观圣经,上帝早已警告我们,我们都需要从罪中被拯救出来。上帝惩罚那些沉溺在罪中的人,但他也为我们提供了一条出路,使我们不犯罪,从而避免下地狱。上帝差遣了一位救世主,耶稣基督,为我们的罪做了挽回祭,钉死在了十字架上。(彼前2:24, 25;约一2:2)

耶稣来到世上为了我们的罪而死。罪是那样可恶,它的工价是那么沉重。只有上帝独生子的牺牲才能偿还罪的工价。耶稣不仅为我们的罪死了,并且从死里复活了,以此证明死亡对他来说没有权柄。(启1:18)

耶稣藉着复活废去了死亡。(提后1:10)所有那些相信他并遵守他福音的人,有一天也会从死里复活进入永生。

耶稣基督的福音是好消息,他告诉我们救世主为我们做了什么,他也告诉我们怎样接受福音,以此得救。(来5:8,9)我们必须相信他。(约8:24)我们必须为我们所有的罪悔改。(路13:3)我们必须承认我们的信仰“耶稣是基督,是永生上帝的儿子。”(太10:32,33;徒8:37)我们必须受洗,洗去我们的罪。(可16:15,16;徒2:38;罗6:4)假如我们不听上帝的警告,我们将会迷失堕落!如果我们相信上帝的警告并遵行他的旨意,我们将会得救。耶稣基督是全人类的唯一的救世主!你难道今天还不接受他,相信他,遵行他的旨意吗?

基督里的属灵福气

B.B.Brother文

罗 敏 译

 

 

纵观历史,按上帝所指定的时间,在上帝所指定的地点,顺服上帝的安排,是尤其重要的。在挪亚时代,最重要的事就是进入方舟。“就是那从前在挪亚预备方舟,上帝容忍等待的时候,不信从的人。当时进入方舟,藉着水得救的不多,只有八个人。这水所表明的洗礼,现在藉着耶稣基督复活,也拯救你们。这洗礼本不在乎除掉肉体的污秽,只求在上帝面前有无亏的良心。”(彼前3:21) 那个时代的人必须进入方舟。摩西时代的以色列人必须呆在涂血的房屋里。(参见出 12:21-23) 今天,人必须在基督里才能得到属灵的福气。

所有属灵的福气都在基督里:愿颂赞归与我们主耶稣基督的父上帝,他在基督里,曾赐给我们天上各样属灵的福气。(弗1:3) 因此,基督之外没有属灵的祝福。

在基督里蒙拣选:就如上帝从创立世界以前,在基督里拣选了我们,使我们在他面前成为圣洁,无有瑕疵。(弗1:4)

藉着耶稣基督得儿子的名分:又因爱我们,就按著自己意旨所喜悦的,预定我们,藉着耶稣基督得儿子的名分。(弗1:5)

上帝在他爱子里赐人救恩:使他荣耀的恩典得著称赞。这恩典是他在爱子里所赐给我们的。(弗1:6)

人在基督里得蒙救赎:我们藉这爱子的血,得蒙救赎,过犯得以赦免,乃是照他丰富的恩典。(弗1:7)

一切都在基督里同归于一:要照所安排的,在日期满足的时候,使天上地上一切所有的,都在基督里同归于一。(弗1:10)

在基督里得基业:我们也在他里面得了基业,(得或作成)这原是那位随己意行作万事的,照著他旨意所预定的。(弗1:11)

在基督里受所应许的圣灵为印记:你们既听见真理的道,就是那叫你们得救的福音,也信了基督,既然信他,就受了所应许的圣灵为印记(弗1:13) 我们接受圣灵的检验,就是接受上帝话语的检验。真的,一个人在基督里是富有的!那一个人怎样进入基督呢?“你们受洗归入基督的,都是披戴基督了。”(加3:27) 你“在基督里”吗?

 

论讨上帝喜悦的信心

B.B.Brother文

罗 敏 译

 

前言

一个人要知道讨上帝喜悦的重要性。如果一个人想到上帝一直在生气,那就必须寻找某种方式来消除上帝的愤怒。而且不能做做就放弃,不然他就不可能讨上帝的喜悦。耶稣没有误解天父。耶稣说:“那差我来的,是与我同在。他没有撇下我独自在这里,因为我常作他所喜欢的事。” (约8:29) 耶稣总是做一些讨天父喜悦的事。因为除了耶稣,世上没有哪个人是完全的,所以我们做每件事都要讨上帝的喜悦(因为我们都在罪中)。然而可以肯定地说,我们做的有些事的确蒙上帝喜悦。并不仅仅耶稣自己说他得上帝的喜悦,而天父自己也说他喜悦耶稣。马太记载说:“说话之间,忽然有一朵光明的云彩遮盖他们。且有声音从云彩里出来说,这是我的爱子,我所喜悦的。你们

要听他。”(太17:5) 耶稣深受天父的喜悦。

我们也可以讨天父的喜悦。保罗曾告诫提摩太说:“你要和我同受苦难,好像基督耶稣的精兵。凡在军中当兵的,不将世务缠身,好叫那招他当兵的人喜悦。”(提后2:3-4) 我们能讨上帝喜悦,因为他已经招了我们当他的兵。上帝要我们满怀信心地侍奉他。好父亲总是希望他的孩子对他充满信心。孩子长大后,如果不想得父亲的喜悦,那他根本就不会作任何尝试。这样一来,他也就不愿意亲近父亲,如果父亲好发脾气,又不喜欢他,情况就会更糟。同理,如果上帝的儿女总是错误地以为上帝在惹他生气,就不愿意面对上帝,也就不可能得上帝的喜悦,甚至主动放弃讨上帝喜悦的努力。以色列人未能守住应许之地的理由之一就是他们对上帝所持的观念发生了偏差。他们对上帝缺乏充足的信心这一点致使他们认为上帝一直在忌恨他们。请看摩西的记载:“你们却不肯上去,竟违背了耶和华你们上帝的命令,在帐棚内发怨言说,耶和华因为恨我们,所以将我们从埃及地领出来,要交在亚摩利人手中,除灭我们。”(申1:26-27)他们没有对耶和华表示充足的信心,反而在窃窃私语,说上帝因为恨他们,才将他们从埃及地领出来,要交在亚摩利人手中,除灭他们。然而,毕竟还有信上帝的人,他们深知上帝是信实的,说话算数的。约书亚和迦勒便是对上帝持充分信心的杰出代表。他们深知上帝会领他们进入应许之地。但是以色列全会众正在逐渐丧失信心,不敢上去夺取那地。最终的结果表明,除了迦勒和约书亚外,以色列全会众没有人进入上帝的应许之地。

《希伯来书》11章充分说明基督徒完全可以讨神喜悦。这卷书告诉我们如何做到这一点。当然,讨上帝喜悦是有条件的。当我们对他缺乏信心时,当我们偏离他的话语时,我们就不可能讨他喜悦。我们必须向上帝有信心,才能讨上帝喜悦。《希伯来书》作者指明:“人非有信,就不能得上帝的喜悦。因为到上帝面前来的人,必须信有上帝,且信他赏赐那寻求他的人。”(来11:6)

下面是我们所做的讨论,这种讨论向我们指出了“信”的实质,以及想讨上帝喜悦的人如何在生活中将它发挥出来。请看《希伯来书》11章1-7节的阐述和说明:

信就是所望之事的实底,是未见之事的确据。古人在这信上得了美好的证据。我们因着信,就知道诸世界是藉上帝的话造成的。这样,所看见的,并不是从显然之物造出来的。亚伯因着献祭与上帝,比该隐所献的更美,因此便得了称义的见证,就是上帝指他礼物作的见证。他虽然死了,却因这信仍旧说话。以诺因着信被接去,不至于见死。人也找不着他,因为上帝已经把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已经得了上帝喜悦他的明证。人非有信就不能得上帝的喜悦。因为到上帝面前来的人,必须信有上帝,且信他赏赐那寻求他的人。挪亚因着信,既蒙上帝指示他未见的事,动了敬畏的心,预备了一只方舟,使他全家得救。因此就定了那世代的罪,自己也承受了那从信而来的义。(来11:1-7)

 

信的定义(来11:1)

《希伯来书》作者保罗说:“信就是所望之事的实底,是未见之事的确据。”他在前一章就已经明确地指出:“ 只是义人必因信得生。他若退后,我心里就不喜欢他。我们却不是退后入沉沦的那等人,乃是有信心以致灵魂得救的人。(来10:38-39)令保罗深信不疑的是他的弟兄不会退后,而是有信心以致灵魂得救。至此,他就给“信”下了一个定义,即“所望之事的实底。” 名词“实底”的意思是“在底部设定” (Thayer),因此,信心就是从底部得到支撑。它促使我们对所盼望的采取积极的行动。所谓“盼望”,保罗曾在写给罗马人的书信中有所论及:“我们得救是在乎盼望。只是所见的盼望不是盼望。谁还盼望他所见的呢?但我们若盼望那所不见的,就必忍耐等候。”(罗 8:24-25)

《希伯来书》作者继续讨论“信”,即“未见之事的确据。”从这一点上,我们得知,“信”并非轻举妄动。这并不是说只要有根有据,人就可以走极端,也不是说无视确据,而轻举妄动。我们应该关注《希伯来书》作者所说的:“亚伯因信献祭”,或“挪亚因信造舟”,并没有说“亚伯凭假设献祭”,或“挪亚凭概率造舟”。

“未见”之事总有确据。有些事情只是因为人们没有看见,也就以为不存在。谈及确据,除了眼见的确据之外,还有其它形式的确据。人们看见一间房屋,就知道这房屋为人所造,虽然没见过造房子的人。也就是说要证明房屋的建造者是容易的,因为房屋总是人建造的。圣经上所说的信是建立在上帝的话之上的。我们必须记住圣经上的信不能等同于假设。有些人可能会用假设来讨上帝的喜悦。然而,那却是与上帝的旨意背道而驰的。这样做不会讨上帝喜悦。保罗说:“可见信道是从听道来的,听道是从基督的话来的。”(罗10:17) 当上帝借着他的话语要求我们做什么或怎么做时,我们就怎么做,这才是信的行为,反之,就谈不上什么信心,也就毫无权柄。保罗在写给歌罗西教会的信中说:“无论作什么,或说话,或行事,都要奉主耶稣的名,藉着他感谢父上帝。”(西 3:17) 遗憾的是,许多人说话行事并没有奉主耶稣的名,而仅仅以为在讨上帝喜悦。但这不可能蒙上帝喜悦的事实,如果之前没有向他揭示的话,就必在将来审判时,让他彻底明白。因为“信就是所望之事的实底,是未见之事的确据。”

 

信的阐明(来11:2-3)

上帝用“古人”来阐明信。上帝说:“古人在这信上得了美好的证据。”(来11:2)关于这些古人,亚当·克拉克(Adam Clarke)是这样论述的:“这里的古人指的是先祖们,比如族长和先知。神在他们当中特别提到一些人,并用他们的生平事例来阐明事实。”

上帝又用“诸世界”来加以阐明。上帝说:“我们因着信,就知道诸世界是藉上帝的话造成的。这样,所看见的,并不是从显然之物造出来的。”(来11:3)众所周知,诸世界,包括星际系统,不可能是(也决不是)自行产生的。那么诸世界是怎么来的呢?诸世界是藉上帝的话造成的。那人怎么能知道呢?当诸世界被造的时候,有人在场亲眼看见创造的过程吗?显然没有。我们因信,才知道是上帝藉他的话创造了诸世界,这个确据也是充分的。人们不能简单地假设诸世界是怎么造成的。

保罗在《罗马书》中曾这样断言:“原来上帝的忿怒,从天上显明在一切不虔不义的人身上,就是那些行不义阻挡真理的人。上帝的事情,人所能知道的,原显明在人心里。因为上帝已经给他们显明。自从造天地以来,上帝的永能和神性是明明可知的,虽是眼不能见,但藉着所造之物,就可以晓得,叫人无可推诿。”(罗1:18-20) 有趣的是,保罗在此使用了悖论的方式,将人眼所不能见的事物,藉着所造之物显明出来,让人对上帝的永能和神性明明可知,结果叫人无可推诿。前不久,我有幸走访了一所中国的大学。在校园里与几位大学生的闲聊中,我们谈到了上帝与创世的话题。有一个学生这样问我:“上帝是谁创造的?”我的回答是:“没有谁创造上帝,因为上帝是永恒的。”显然,这么回答就引来了一场关于万物起源的话题。我问他对生物的起源了解多少。生命是起源于无?还是来自生命?他说生命来自生命。接下来我就向他解释说,生命来自生命,这话没错。但那是在生命已经存在的前提下。因为如果生命来自生命,那必须有一段时期世上没有生命,不然现在就不可能有生命。我进一步向他解释信上帝并没有违背逻辑思维,也符合科学规律(可参见生物学原理)。

保罗对罗马人说,人们可以从所见之物得出创造主存在的结论。一张设计图(世界)可以暗指设计者(上帝)。保罗在《希伯来书》中早就阐明:“因为房屋都必有人建造。但建造万物的就是上帝。”(来3:4)而《诗篇》作者同样说道:

诸天述说上帝的荣耀,穹苍传扬他的手段。这日到那日发出言语。这夜到那夜传出知识。无言无语,也无声音可听。他的量带通遍天下,他的言语传到地极。上帝在其间为太阳安设帐幕。太阳如同新郎出洞房,又如勇士欢然奔路。他从天这边出来,绕到天那边。没有一物被隐藏不得他的热气。(诗19:1-6)

我们在这里看到了上帝的创造,并正确地得出上帝就是创造主的结论。而且,我们还可以从上帝的话语中得到启示,阐明创造主对人的要求。因此,《诗篇》作者继续说道:

耶和华的律法全备,能苏醒人心。耶和华的法度确定,能使愚人有智慧。耶和华的训词正直,能快活人心。耶和华的命令清洁,能明亮人的眼目。耶和华的道理洁净,存到永远。耶和华的典章真实,全然公义。都比金子可羡慕,且比极多的精金可羡慕。比蜜甘甜,且比蜂房下滴的蜜甘甜。况且你的仆人因此受警戒。守着这些便有大赏。(诗19:7-11)

世界的被造和上帝的话语都向我们阐明上帝就是创造主。特别是上帝的话语,不仅向我们说明上帝是谁,而且还将上帝对人所定的旨意以及对人生所作的规划告诉人们。每当翻开圣经时,就会看到上帝对人说的第一句话:“起初上帝创造天地。”(创1:1)《诗篇》作者在论述上帝创造的大能和迅速时这样说道:“诸天藉耶和华的命而造,万象藉他口中的气而成。因为他说有,就有。命立,就立。”(诗33:6,9)上帝创造诸世界只用了六日,而一日是24小时。摩西在向犹太人颁布上帝的诫命时说:

当记念安息日,守为圣日。六日要劳碌作你一切的工,但第七日是向耶和华你上帝当守的安息日。这一日你和你的儿女、仆婢、牲畜,并你城里寄居的客旅,无论何工都不可作,因为六日之内,耶和华造天、地、海,和其中的万物,第七日便安息,所以耶和华赐福与安息日,定为圣日。(出20:8-11)

犹太人完全理解他们为什么要在星期六守安息日。一日是24小时。综上所述,我们可以类推得知上帝在创世时所用的一日就是24小时。因此,我们因着信就知道诸世界是怎么存在的。

信的榜样(来11:4-5,7)

对一个原理进行演示,总是很有帮助的,因为它可以为我们树立榜样。上帝给我们列举了几个讨他喜悦的信心榜样。第一个榜样是极具讨上帝喜悦信心的亚伯。圣经记载说:“亚伯因着信献祭与上帝,比该隐所献的更美,因此便得了称义的见证,就是上帝指他礼物作的见证。他虽然死了,却因这信,仍旧说话。”(来11:4) 这个事件记载在《创世记》4章里。该隐和亚伯都各自带着供物献给上帝。上帝看中了亚伯和他的供物,却看不中该隐和他的供物。为什么会这样呢?答案不仅仅在《创世记》4章里,还需要结合《希伯来书》11章以及《罗马书》10章17节的原则作深入的分析。亚伯献祭是因着信。而圣经教导说信道是从听道来的,听道是从上帝的话来的。因此,因信献祭就是按上帝的话献祭。根据上面所引用的几段经节,我们便可得出这样的结论,即亚伯听见上帝的话并且顺服了,而该隐根本就没听上帝的话。因此,亚伯便得了称义的见证,就是上帝指他礼物作的见证。他虽然死了,却因这信,至今还在说话。这也是关于敬拜标准的最早记载。这个记载向我们表明敬拜有真意的敬拜和假意的敬拜。亚伯的行为举止不是凭着某种假设或某种可能性,也不是贸然而为的轻举妄动。他听上帝的,并按上帝的要求来做。

第二个可举的榜样是满怀讨上帝喜悦信心的以诺。圣经说:“以诺因着信被接去,不至于见死。人也找不着他,因为上帝已经把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已经得了上帝喜悦他的明证。”(来11:5)这一非凡的事件为我们记载在《创世记》5章21-24节。请看:“以诺活到65岁,生了玛土撒拉。以诺生玛土撒拉之后,与上帝同行三百年,并且生儿养女。以诺共活了365岁。以诺与上帝同行,上帝将他取去,他就不在世了。”以诺,还有后来的以利亚,都没有经历死亡。只是上帝将他取去。为什么上帝要将他接去?因为他讨上帝喜悦。他是怎样讨上帝喜悦的呢?是因着信。《创世记》的解释告诉我们那是因为他与上帝同行,也就是与上帝保持一致。以诺,和前面提及的亚伯一样,听上帝的话,并且顺服上帝。圣经的记载向我们透出了一个有趣的话题,那就是:“人也找不着他”。这显然是在暗示我们,有人在以诺被上帝接去之后一定搜寻过他,只是找不着。而理由就是“上帝改变了他的形状”。某故事说有个主日学小孩被圣经老师问到以诺上哪儿去了。小孩回答说以诺跟上帝一起走了,他们走了很长时间,后来,上帝对以诺说:“以诺,你跟我走了这么远的路,为什么不跟我一起回家呢?”就这样,以诺跟上帝一起回家了。这里举的小孩和老师的例子很可能是虚构的,但它却阐明了一个事实——如果有谁愿与上帝同行,那么上帝总有一天会带他一起回家。

第三个可举的榜样是因信而讨上帝喜悦的挪亚。圣经说:“挪亚因着信,既蒙上帝指示他未见的事,动了敬畏的心,预备了一只方舟,使他全家得救。因此就定了那世代的罪,自己也承受了那从信而来的义。”(来11:7)大多数人都知道这段话的历史背景。那时,人开始背离神,“耶和华见人在地上罪恶很大,终日所思想的尽都是恶。耶和华就后悔造人在地上,心中忧伤。”(创 6:5-6) 上帝宣告说他要除灭这个世界。“于是耶和华说,我要将所造的人和走兽,并昆虫,以及空中的飞鸟,都从地上除灭,因为我造他们后悔了。”(创6:7)上帝降下大雨,发起洪水,将地上一切有气息的生物都除灭了。“看哪!我要使洪水泛滥在地上,毁灭天下。凡地上有血肉,有气息的活物,无一不死。”(创6:17) 但有一人却没有死。圣经说:“惟有挪亚在耶和华眼前蒙恩。”(创6:8)为什么挪亚在上帝眼前蒙恩呢?圣经继续阐明:

挪亚的后代记在下面。挪亚是个义人,在当时的世代是个完全人。挪亚与上帝同行。挪亚生了三个儿子,就是闪、含、雅弗。世界在上帝面前败坏,地上满了强暴。上帝观看世界,见是败坏了。凡有血气的人,在地上都败坏了行为。上帝就对挪亚说,凡有血气的人,他的尽头已经来到我面前。因为地上满了他们的强暴,我要把他们和地一并毁灭。你要用歌斐木造一只方舟,分一间一间地造,里外抹上松香。方舟的造法乃是这样,要长三百肘,宽五十肘,高三十肘。方舟上边要留透光处,高一肘。方舟的门要开在旁边。方舟要分上、中、下三层。看哪!我要使洪水泛滥在地上,毁灭天下。凡地上有血肉,有气息的活物,无一不死。我却要与你立约,你同你的妻,与儿子、儿妇,都要进入方舟。(创6:9-18)

圣经明确指出挪亚是个“义人,在当时的世代是个完全人。挪亚与上帝同行。” 挪亚受上帝指示建造方舟,以致他和他的家人好在方舟里保全生命。《希伯来书》作者说他预备方舟是“因着信”。(来11:7)显然,挪亚和他全家造方舟并非“单因着信”。而事实却正如摩西所说:“挪亚就这样行。凡上帝所吩咐的,他都照样行了。”(创6:22)而“单因着信”的鼓吹者不可能为他们的错误观点在挪亚身上找到任何支持(其实在整本圣经里也找不到任何支持的章节)。圣经表明,挪亚得救有如下几种原因:在上帝眼前蒙恩(创6:8);因着信(来11:7);藉着水(彼前3:20);听上帝的话(创6:13-21);顺服上帝的吩咐(创6:22)等。

上述事例旨在阐明,讨上帝喜悦的信心是那种建立在听上帝的话,并且相信顺服上帝的话的基础上的信心。然而,的确存在一种不能得上帝喜悦的信心。请看雅各的阐述:

我的弟兄们,若有人说,自己有信心,却没有行为,有什么益处呢?这信心能救他么?若是弟兄,或是姐妹,赤身露体,又缺了日用的饮食,你们中间有人对他们说,平平安安的去吧,愿你们穿得暖吃得饱。却不给他们身体所需用的,这有什么益处呢?这样信心若没有行为就是死的。必有人说,你有信心,我有行为。你将你没有行为的信心指给我看,我便藉着我的行为,将我的信心指给你看。你信神只有一位,你信的不错。鬼魔也信,却是战兢。虚浮的人哪,你愿意知道没有行为的信心是死的么?(雅2:14-20)

他继续阐述:

我们的祖宗亚伯拉罕,把他儿子以撒献在坛上,岂不是因行为称义么?这就应验经上所说,亚伯拉罕信上帝,这就算为他的义。他又得称为上帝的朋友。这样看来,人称义是因着行为,不是单因着信。妓女喇合接待使者,又放他们从别的路出去,不也是一样因行为称义么?身体没有灵魂是死的,信心没有行为也是死的。(雅2:21-26)

“单因着信”是不能讨上帝喜悦的,这种信心是死的。甚至鬼魔也信,却是战兢。耶稣时代的一些宗教领袖们也相信耶稣,只是不愿公开承认。约翰指出:“虽然如此,官长中却有好些信他的。只因法利赛人的缘故,就不承认,恐怕被赶出会堂。这是因他们爱人的荣耀,过于爱上帝的荣耀。(约12:42-43)显然,他们对耶稣的信心不是得救的信心。他们只是担心被赶出会堂而不承认基督。有人曾经论述说:“鬼魔也信,甚至承认基督是上帝的儿子。而犹太人的官长们却拒绝承认基督,他们的信心连鬼魔的都不如!”

 

信的需要(来11:6)

正如本文一开头所倡导的,人人都应该得上帝的喜悦。《希伯来书》作者在论述完以诺如何蒙上帝喜悦后,笔锋一转,说:“人非有信就不能得上帝的喜悦。因为到上帝面前来的人,必须信有上帝,且信他赏赐那寻求他的人”(来11:6)人必须有上帝,才能蒙上帝喜悦。那这里的“信”包含哪些要素呢?首先,人必须相信有上帝,就是相信上帝的存在。其实,不管你信不信,上帝都是存在的。可是,一个不相信上帝存在的人,不可能指望与上帝的旨意保持一致。然而,人必须信有上帝,而且还要相信上帝会赏赐寻求他的人。请问读者朋友,你相信上帝会赏赐寻求他的人吗?你对上帝有充分的信心吗?甚至在患难中。问题是有些人的确信有上帝,只是不能真心实意地寻求他。难道他们不相信上帝会赏赐那寻求他的人吗?为什么有人只在星期天上午到教会做礼拜?难道上帝只是星期天才在,其它时间就不在吗?(参见来10:25;太6:33)对那些只在星期天上午到教会做礼拜的人,有一个值得提出的问题:“你为什么只在星期天上午来教会?是不是星期天上午不来教会做礼拜就会下地狱?这也就说明,他仅仅是怕下地狱才来教会,而不是寻求如何讨上帝喜悦。要是没有地狱的概念,那恐怕有许多人就不会“侍奉”上帝了。而事实上,地狱是有的,而那些违背上帝的人会下地狱。(太7:13-14;21-24)可是,上帝不愿意让任何人下地狱。(提前2:4;彼后3:9)上帝也不愿意让人因为害怕被丢弃而侍奉他。上帝是满心爱人的父,他需要我们对他尊重和忠心。那些爱上帝且真心侍奉上帝的人,将会领受上帝的极大赏赐,还可以进天堂——那是不见死,没有悲伤,没有痛苦,没有哭泣的地方。在那里,蒙恩得救的人永远与上帝同在。

这是一个要求我们产生顺服行为的信心。我们必须信有上帝,且信他赏赐那寻求他的人。这样的信心不仅引导人全方位地侍奉上帝,而且每一个行为都表明出自对上帝的顺服。保罗在谈到罗马人的信心时,曾这样说:“第一,我靠着耶稣基督,为你们众人感谢我的上帝。因你们的信心传遍了天下。”(罗1:8)后来他又说:“你们的顺服,已经传于众人,所以我为你们欢喜。但我愿意你们在善上聪明,在恶上愚拙。”(罗16:19)他们的信心传遍了天下,他们的顺服已经传于众人。

 

结论

知道如何讨上帝喜悦的人是有福的。每当我们唱起“有福的确据”这首赞美诗时,我们就会感受到这种确据所带来的祝福。保罗曾说:我们原知道,我们这地上的帐棚若拆毁了,必得上帝所造,不是人手所造,在天上永存的房屋。”(林后5:1)使徒约翰也说:“我们若遵守他的诫命,就晓得是认识他。人若说我认识他,却不遵守他的诫命,便是说谎话的。真理也不在他心里了。凡遵守主道的,爱上帝的心在他里面实在是完全的,从此我们知道我们是在主里面。人若说他住在主里面,就该自己照主所行的去行。(约一2:3-6)耶稣来,使我们可以得生命,甚至得的更丰盛。约翰说:“盗贼来,无非要偷窃、杀害、毁坏。我来了,是要叫羊(或作人)得生命,并且得的更丰盛。”(约10:10)

综上所述,我们讨论了信的定义、信的阐明、信的榜样和信的需要。最后愿我们每一个基督徒都能在寻求讨上帝喜悦的道路上向前迈进。

 

 

悔改

徐 林 译

 

“悔改”一词在圣经中以不同的形式出现了一百多次。这表明悔改十分重要。几乎每个教会都要求那些想进入教会的人为罪悔改。但作为上帝命令的悔改却倍受误解。同时悔改也是个遵行起来有难度的命令,有些人说悔改是圣经中最难遵守的命令。

 

什么是悔改?

有时候学习一个词语意思的最佳方法是先不要看它的意思是什么,而是先看它的意思不是什么。许多人认为悔改仅仅是为罪感到难过,这并不是真正的悔改!使徒保罗写到:“因为依着上帝的意思忧愁,就生出没有后悔的懊悔来,以致得救;但世俗的忧愁是叫人死。”(林后7:10) 假如一个人为他所犯的罪感到难过,这会引导他懊悔。在五旬节那天,犹太人听到彼得宣讲基督,“觉得扎心”,这表明他们为钉死耶稣这样的重罪感到十分难过,但是他们的忧伤难过不是悔改,彼得仍旧告诉他们说:“你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦。”(徒2:37,38)

如果说悔改不是因罪感感到难过,那什么是悔改呢?根据圣经所有的教训,悔改是一个人对罪懊悔而产生心意改变,这使得我们因为罪的原因,依着上帝的意思感到懊悔,对罪产生心意的改变将导致人生的改变。耶稣设了一个比喻讲了悔改的榜样:“一个人有两个儿子,他来对大儿子说:‘我儿,你今天到葡萄园里去做工’,他回答说: ‘我不去’,以后自己懊悔,就去了。”(太21:28,29) 这个儿子一开始不听他父亲的,当他为他的不顺从感到后悔(难过)时,他改变了他的决定,然后按照父亲吩咐的去做了。悔改涉及到修复或赔偿(restitution),意味着我们尽可能改变以前做错的事情。假如一个人谋杀了另一个人,他不能使死者复活,但是他能帮助死者的妻子和孩子们。假如一个人偷了另一个人的钱,当他悔改时,他必须把偷的钱还给人家。施洗约翰告诉法利赛人和撒都该人说:“你们要结出果子来,与悔改的心相称。”(太3:8)

 

谁应该悔改?

那些还不是基督徒的人,必须为罪悔改,以致得救。耶稣命令说:“并且人要奉他的名传悔改、赦罪的道,从耶路撒冷起直传到万邦。”(路24:47) 保罗也告诉雅典人民:“如今却吩咐各处的人都要悔改。”(徒17:30) 五旬节那天,犹太人听到福音后觉得扎心,他们喊着说:“我们当怎样行?”彼得说:“你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦。”(徒2:37,38)基督徒犯罪后也应该悔改。当腓利在撒马利亚传福音的时候,西门曾经是个术士,后来成了基督徒,当他看到使徒按手在基督徒身上,便有圣灵的恩赐降下,他便想花钱买这能力,但是彼得对他说:“你的银子和你一同灭亡吧!因你想上帝的恩赐是可以用钱买的。你在这道上无分无关,因为在上帝面前,你的心不正。你当懊悔你这罪恶,祈求主,或者你心里的意念可得赦免。”(徒8:20-22)

 

为什么人要悔改?

我们已经知道,因为依着上帝的意思忧愁,就生出没有后悔的懊悔来。(林后7:10)在耶稣的两个儿子的比喻中,我们知道大儿子拒绝遵行他父亲的旨意,后来为他的决定后悔了,因此他改变了他的心意,并按他父亲的旨意去做。他的懊悔(为他的不顺从依着上帝的意思懊悔)使他悔改并遵行他父亲的命令。(太21:28,29) 假如一个人为他的罪感到难过他就会悔改。一个人明白了上帝对他的恩慈他也会悔改。保罗问道:“还是你藐视他丰富的恩慈、宽容、忍耐,不晓得他的恩慈是领你悔改呢?”(罗2:4)上帝爱世人,甚至将他的独生子赐给我们,为我们的罪而死(约3:16;约一4:10;罗5:6-8)上帝的恩慈使我们为自己的罪悔改。一个人要为自己的罪悔改,因为审判的日子快到了。保罗告诉那些雅典的拜偶像者:“世人蒙昧无知的时候,上帝并不监察。因为他已经定了日子,要藉着他所设立的人按公义审判天下,并且叫他从死里复活,给万人作可信的凭据。”(徒17:30,31)基督现在坐在上帝宝座的右边,但是有一天他会再来,使死人复活,并且审判全世界(徒1:9-11;约5:28, 29)我们每个活着的人以及曾经活过的人都将被审判。(罗14:12;林后5:10)我们必须为我们的罪悔改以免我们在审判的日子被咒诅!

应该什么时候悔改?

犹太人在五旬节听到福音后,当天就悔改了,然后他们受洗以致罪得赦免。(徒2:37,38)因为一个人若没有悔改,就不能得救。所以应该尽可能早的悔改。(路13:3)人生短暂飘渺(雅4:13-15),死亡却必然或早或晚临到众人。(来9:27)在末日我们将会因我们的罪受审判,所以我们应当立即悔改!使徒彼得写到:“主所应许的尚未成就,有人以为他是耽延,其实不是耽延,乃是宽容你们,不愿有一人沉沦,乃愿人人都悔改。”(彼后3:9)亲爱的朋友,你该怎么办呢?你为自己的罪悔改了吗?你奉耶稣基督的名受洗以致罪得赦免了吗?假如没有,请你今天就做,这样你将预备好,与主相遇。

受洗与得救的关系

 

章 亢

 

许多虔诚的宗派信徒认为得救是单本乎恩。还有一些教师教导说得救是单凭着信。持这两种观点的人都否定了受洗(浸)与赦罪有任何关系。但圣经是怎么教导的呢?

圣经的教导如下:(1)所有的属灵福气都在耶稣基督里。(弗1:3)(2)恩典、信心、爱心也都在耶稣基督里才能找到。(提前1:14;提后2:1)(3)救恩只在耶稣基督里才能找到。(提后2:10)(4)只有在耶稣基督里人才能成圣。(林前1:2)(5)人在耶稣基督里才能得到永生。(约一5:11-12)(6)只有受洗才能使人进入耶稣基督里。(加3:27)

任何有理性、诚实的人都会承认,所有的属灵福气,像恩典、信心、爱、救赎、成圣和永生等都只在基督里才能找到。如果受洗使人归入基督,那人就必须受洗,以便得到上述的属灵福气。这很清楚地表明,受洗乃得救的最基本的要求。否定受洗就是否定上帝的教训!

但圣经从来没有教导说单凭受洗就能得救。然而,圣经教导说人要得救,必须受洗。许多宗派领袖认为:“相信就已得救,受洗只是应该做的事情。”可是基督却说:“信而受洗的人才能得救。”(可16:16)也有人教训说,“受洗不能救人。”但使徒彼得受圣灵带领写下了这样的教导:“这水所表明的洗礼,现在籍着耶稣基督复活也拯救你们。”(彼前3:21)那我们应该接受谁的教导呢?——人的教导?还是上帝的教导?(约12:48)人要想得救,必须顺从耶稣基督。(来5:9)我们曾这样受命相信。(约3:16;徒16:31) 我们也曾受命要受洗。(徒10:48)因此就说,人为了得救必须相信和受洗。这是主耶稣基督在《马可福音》所下的明确的命令,即“信而受洗的必然得救。”(可16:16)人如果拒绝受洗,就是否定上帝的教训!

当然,真理教导说,人得救不是依靠自己设定的行为(弗2:8,9;多3:5),也不是遵行摩西的律法。(加3:10-12) 但人必须做上帝的工。(约14:15;来5:9) 相信基督就是做上帝的工。(约6:28-29)受洗也是做上帝的工。(可16:16)记载在这两卷书上的教训(约6:28-29;可16:16)乃出自同一位爱我们的救主,没有分别。人如果否定这一点,那他就是否定基督向他所发的命令。

我们得救是靠基督的宝血。(罗5:9)基督在十字架上受死、流血。(约19:34)我们在受洗归入基督死的时候,就表明我们接触到基督的血。(罗6:3)人不受洗,就不能接触到基督救人的宝血。人怎能否定这一点呢?

人必须凭什么才能使罪得赦呢?在上帝那一边,就是人必须依靠上帝的恩典(弗2:8)、上帝的怜悯(多3:5)、耶稣基督(太1:21)、基督的生死 (罗5:10)、基督的宝血(罗5:9)、基督的福音 (林前15:1-4); 而在人这一边,就是人必须凭信心(罗 5:1)、行为(雅2:24)、求告主的名(罗10:13)、盼望(罗8:24)、努力(徒2:40)、受洗(彼前3:21)。圣经从来没有教导说单凭什么就可以得救!上帝,籍着他的话语——圣经,教导说要凭上述的全部才能使我们脱离罪恶。否定这一点,就是否定上帝的教导!

那么,受洗与得救的关系密切吗?是的,人必须受洗才能得救。如果你相信耶稣基督是上帝的儿子(约 8:24),愿意为那使我们与上帝隔绝的罪悔改(赛59:1,2;路13:3) ,并且愿意公开承认你信上帝的儿子耶稣基督(徒 8:37;罗10:10),那你为什么还不就现在受洗归入基督呢?(徒16:33) 如果你这样做了,那么你就可以得到那些只能在主耶稣基督里才有的一切的属灵的福气!

 

新生

Garland Elkins文

敏 译

 

我们现在所研究的新生这个话题正是约翰在《约翰福音》3章所描述的:“耶稣回答说,我实实在在的告诉你,人若不重生,就不能见上帝的国。”(约3:3)耶稣接着又回答说:“我实实在在地告诉你,人若不是从水和圣灵生的,就不能进上帝的国。”(约3:5)魔鬼知道这两句话的意思完全一样,如果我们相信圣经的话,我们也知道是一样的。魔鬼很清楚,人要得救,必须重生,而且他还进一步地知道,一个罪人必须要先奉耶稣基督的名下水、埋葬、赦罪,然后才能重生。

上帝教导说:“你当竭力,在上帝面前得蒙喜悦,作无愧的工人,按着正意分解真理的道。”(提后2:15)基督说:“你们必晓得真理,真理必叫你们得以自由。”他接着又说:“你们查考圣经。(或作应当查考圣经)因你们以为内中有永生。给我作见证的就是这经。”在《使徒行传》17章11节,我们读到:“这地方的人,贤于帖撒罗尼迦的人,甘心领受这道,天天考查圣经,要晓得这道,是与不是。”

这时,我们回过头来看《约翰福音》:“有一个法利赛人,名叫尼哥底母,是犹太人的官。这人夜里来见耶稣,说,拉比,我们知道你是由上帝那里来作师傅的。因为你所行的神迹,若没有上帝同在,无人能行。耶稣回答说,我实实在在的告诉你,人若不重生,就不能见上帝的国。尼哥底母说,人已经老了,如何能重生呢?岂能再进母腹生出来么?耶稣说,我实实在在的告诉你,人若不是从水和圣灵生的,就不能进上帝的国。从肉身生的,就是肉身。从灵生的,就是灵。我说,你们必须重生,你不要以为希奇。风随着意思吹,你听见风的响声,却不晓得从那里来,往那里去。凡从圣灵生的,也是如此。尼哥底母问他说,怎能有这事呢?耶稣回答说,你是以色列人的先生,还不明白这事么?我实实在在的告诉你,我们所说的,是我们知道的,我们所见证的,是我们见过的。你们却不领受我们的见证。我对你们说地上的事,你门尚且不信,若说天上的事,如何能信呢?(约3:1-12)

让我们来仔细分析一下这段话,特别是3节和5节这两句话。耶稣在论述新生的绝对必要时,强调指出:“我实实在在地告诉你,人若不重生,就不能见上帝的国。”

因为这段经文中的水指的是受洗,所以基督的意思就是人若不受洗就不能进上帝的国。当然,这还要包括圣灵借着上帝的律法,即新约圣经来工作。圣灵所使用的宝剑,就是“上帝的道。”(弗6:17)基督在3节指出新生的必要性;在5节就进一步指出新生所要求的两个要素——“水”和“圣灵”。

我听说宗派的传道人在碰到3章5节这段经文时,特别是要引用这段经文时,他们总是把其中的“水”字拿掉,使这句经文变成:“我实实在在地告诉你,人若不是从圣灵生的,就不能进上帝的国。”而事实是原句经节上水的意思就是水。如果水是别的意思,那圣灵也是别的意思吗?而圣灵的意思就是圣灵,这个事实无人否定。如果水有别的意思,那圣灵就也有别的意思。而事实是,水的意思就是水,圣灵的意思就是圣灵。

让我们来把下面三句经文进行比较:“耶稣说,我实实在在地告诉你,人若不是从水和圣灵生的,就不能进上帝的国。”(约3:5)“要用水藉着道,把教会洗净,成为圣洁。”(弗5:26)“他便救了我们,并不是因我们自己所行的义,乃是照他的怜悯,藉着重生的洗,和圣灵的更新。”(多3:5)

注意:在第一句经文里,基督提出了新生的两个要素。那就是人必须“从水和圣灵重生” 在此,耶稣也就从侧面指出“点水”或“洒水”都不符合“从水重生”的标准要求。一泼水或几滴水是绝不可能生出一个完整的人体的。下面我要来证明这一点。保罗论述说:“他也是教会全体之首。他是元始,是从死里首先复生的,使他可以在凡事上居首位。”(西1:18)

耶稣死了,埋葬了,被人用细麻布包裹了,又被人安放在一座没有葬过人的新坟墓里,又滚过一块石头来挡住墓门。这一切众人都看见了。第三天,耶稣冲破死亡和地狱的捆锁,复活升天,得胜掌权,将来必要降临,赏赐跟随他的人。

至此,我们要特别注意:你有没有注意到耶稣从坟墓里的复活涉及到一次出生。这件奇妙的事发生若干年后,保罗在《歌罗西书》中曾这样论述:“他是从死里首先复生的。”耶稣死后,并不是被人用一拨土从头洒洒,而是被人安放在一个叫约瑟的新墓里。他全身掩埋在黑暗的地底下,又滚过一块大石头挡在墓门,可是第三天,他却复活了。圣经明确地说,耶稣从死里首先复生了。因此,我们说的下水受浸,就是埋葬,像主耶稣被埋在坟墓里一样。保罗指出,受洗就是埋葬。“你们既受洗与他一同埋葬,也就在此与他一同复活。都因信那叫他从死里复活上帝的功用。”(西2:12)保罗又在《罗马书》里对这个真理作了进一步阐述:“所以,我们藉着洗礼归入死,和他一同埋葬,原是叫我们一举一动有新生的样式,像基督藉着父的荣耀从死里复活一样。”(罗6:4)

让我们回过来再看《约翰福音》3章5节。基督说人是从圣灵重生的。他接下来补充说:“风随着意思吹,你听见风的响声,却不晓得从那里来,往那里去。凡从圣灵生的,也是如此。”(约3:8)

而今天圣灵是籍着基督的律法来工作的。这一教导在《罗马书》里作了阐明:“因为赐生命的圣灵的律,在基督耶稣里释放了我,使我脱离罪和死的律了。”(罗8:2)

在《雅各书》1章21节,我们都到这样的论述:“所以你们要脱去一切的污秽,和盈馀的邪恶,存温柔的心领受那所栽种的道,就是能救你们灵魂的道。”

因此,我们看到了圣灵是怎么参与上帝的救恩工作的。圣灵一词在希腊文原版新约圣经中出现的次数是386。翻译的版本几乎都直接翻译成“圣灵”,但只有一次翻译成“生气”(启13:15),还有一次翻译成“风”。(约3:8)当我们读到“可见信道是从听道来的,听道是从基督的话来的。”(罗10:17)这句经节时,就会认为基督的话是神秘的,出口就是神迹。

我想提个这样的问题,也希望你们不要忘记回答。以色利人在安息日是怎么听见旧约先知的声音的?答案乃是:“耶路撒冷居住的人,和他们的官长,因为不认识基督,也不明白每安息日所读众先知的书,就把基督定了死罪,正应了先知的预言。”(徒13:27)这节经文是怎么说的呢?他们每安息日是怎么听见先知的声音呢?先知们是怎么说话的呢?他们说话乃是凭圣灵给他们的感动。“因为预言从来没有出于人意的,乃是人被圣灵感动说出上帝的话来。”(彼后1:21)

《使徒行传》3章27节说每安息日诵读众先知的书,应验了先知的预言。因此就不能否定听见圣灵的预言。但问题是,如何让人听见?按《罗马书》8章2节的理解,则是靠着圣灵的律法。《以弗所书》6章17节上说:“并戴上救恩的头盔,拿着圣灵的宝剑,就是上帝的道。”比如说:我可以拿一把斧子砍到一颗树,但斧子本身不能砍树,可我又不想用手砍树。这个例子里有两样真实的要素要弄明白。一是用了斧子,作为工具;二是,在斧柄的那头人在给力,也就是说借着斧子把力施在树上。

但我想要强调的一点是,一个罪人的悔改归正不可能没有圣灵的参与。让我再强调一遍,我不知道到底有多少人常常听到这样的论说:“哦,难到你不相信圣灵吗?”事实肯定是,每一次罪人的悔改归正,都是圣灵的工作。只是要知道圣灵怎么工作?让我们再回头看看保罗的提醒:“圣灵的宝剑,就是上帝的道。”(弗6:17)

五旬节那一天,圣灵正是用这样方式使听道的以色列人觉得扎心。所以我们在《使徒行传》2章37节才能读到这样的记载:“众人听见这话,觉得扎心,就对彼得和其余的使徒说,弟兄们,我们当怎样行。”圣灵用他的剑(斧子),就是他的道,通过彼得(斧柄),就是传道(福音)人,向听道的以色列人(树)传福音(发力砍树),使他们听了相信,觉得扎心(被砍倒)。圣灵永远都参与罪人的悔改归正,永远都使用一种方式,就是他所默示的新约,就是他的道,也称圣灵的宝剑。至此,有人可能会说:“我想请你给我证明一下。”我就再一次引用《雅各书》1章21节来作回答:“所以你们要脱去一切的污秽,和盈余的邪恶,存温柔的心领受那所栽种的道,就是能救你们灵魂的道。”注意雅各在这里提出道“能”救灵魂。我曾就此问题向一位传道人发问:“既然圣经说道可以救人,那你们为什么非要说圣灵是独立工作的呢?为什么圣灵要避开上帝的道,以一种神秘的方式来工作,而不让人听见,而非要让人感觉呢?”我并不是向他要答案,因我知道他回答不了。他们要么放弃自己的教义,要么拒绝圣经。

那为什么我们非要从水和圣灵重生呢?因为我们要进上帝的国。另一个令人惊讶的是,许多人都在教导所谓的前千禧年。这又是一个假教训。成千上万的人甚至认为,上帝的国尚未建立。而这些人同时也认为他们相信新生。那么我们就要分析一下了。假如说上帝的国还没有建立,那任何人也就不可能从水和圣灵得重生。因为要想成为上帝国的公民,人必须采取从水和圣灵得重生的方式。从另一方面看,假如上帝的国没有被建立,那基督徒就不可能在属灵的意义上参与主的圣餐。在《路加福音》22章29-30节,基督说:“我将国赐给你们,正如我父赐给我一样。”接受前千禧年教义的人,他们也经常参与主的圣餐。因为他们承认领受圣餐是主的教训。难道他们不知道参与主的圣餐就是与主同进晚餐吗?主曾说过他不再参与“他的晚餐”,直等到上帝的国来到。(参见太26:26-29;路22:15-20;可14:24-25)我们从《哥林多前书》11章中得知,教会聚会时,弟兄姐妹都参与主的圣餐。由此可知,教会就是上帝的国。它们是同一个组织机构。真理再次表明,为了进入上帝的国,人必须生于“水和圣灵。”更何况这是基督的直接命令。

保罗在《以弗所书》5章26提到的“用水藉着道,把教会洗净,”乃是说以弗所的弟兄姐妹是如何进入基督的教会的。基督的命令是人必须“从灵生。”(约3:6)那人怎样做呢?于是保罗解释说“藉着道。”基督说人必须“从水和圣灵而生”,他才能“进上帝的国。”(约3:5)而保罗却用“水”来解释。这两种表述其实指的是同一件事。如果再查看一下《提多书》3章5节:“他便救了我们,并不是因我们自己所行的义,乃是照他的怜悯,藉着重生的洗,和圣灵的更新。”这里“水”和“重生”(就是新生)的本质联系就更加清楚了。

我之所以提出这个问题,是想让大家对这个问题有个严肃的思考。让我们想一想“水”、“受洗”和“救恩”或进入教会(基督的国)有什么必然的关系。是得救的行为吗?条件吗?步骤吗?我们可以思想并追溯到寿命最长,活到969岁的玛土撒拉,也绝对找不到一个罪人得救的条件里有水。我们的信仰不需要水;悔改不需要水;承认也不需要水,但是受洗却要用水。保罗说受洗涉及到重生或新生。让我们再看一段经文,来理解水洗的意义:“并我们心中天良的亏欠已经洒去,身体用清水洗净了,就当存着诚心,和充足的信心,来到上帝面前。(来10:22)我们要注意的是“洒去”暗指基督的血已触及我们的心;“洗净”暗指受洗。保罗在这里用“清水”,在《提多书》里说“重生的洗”(多3:5),所以事实的真相只能说 “受洗”涉及到水。而受洗也是罪人得饶恕唯一要采取的行为。

真理之所以站得住脚是因为它的一致性。罪人得饶恕的条件里唯一含有水的就是受洗。学者们对这个问题都作过陈述。虽然他们的陈述不像圣经那样含有权威性,但还是值得一读。有些人认为只有基督的教会成员才认为《约翰福音》3章5节所涉及的水指受洗。其实许多重视学术研究的宗派学者对这节经文的认识也是正确的。比如值得信赖的英国圣公会教会史专家威廉·沃尔(William Wall)曾声明说自基督时代至加尔文年代所有学者都认为“从水生”中的“水”指“受洗”。

尼哥底母的困惑明显在于他只知道肉身的出生,以及他在上帝盟约的关系下也是因他的肉身而成为上帝国的公民。显然,他所渴望的必然是“古王国”荣耀的复兴,而且,作为这国的国民,他也必然会得到他所期待的该国所给他的福利。可令他惊讶的是,耶稣竟然向他提出他必须“重生”,才能进入耶稣所说的上帝的国。他没能理解新约和新王国的属灵本质以及必须重生的意义。

现在,我们明白了。“从水生”、“用水”、“重生的洗”都指“受洗”;“从灵生”、“藉着道(圣灵的宝剑)”、“圣灵的更新”都是相同的一个概念;“进上帝的国”、“洗净”、“得救”也指同一件事。

许多人认为基督对尼哥底母说“你必须重生”,是说他已经从他母腹生出,而从水生的水只是一种暗指。他们声称耶稣强调的是要他从灵生,压根儿就没涉及到水。但我们肯定记得尼哥底母是怎么问耶稣的:“人已经老了,如何能重生呢?岂能再进母腹生出来么?”耶稣立即回答说:“我实实在在地告诉你,人若不是从水和圣灵生的,就不能进上帝的国。”耶稣对他说的不是从肉身生的,而是从灵生的。耶稣指的不是像婴孩那种肉生,而是指成人的灵生。这个灵生包括两个要素:“水”和“灵”。

有些人或许会说,圣灵会像风那样以神秘的方式降临。这就是我为什么要举《使徒行传》13章27节来加以说明。以色列会众听到先知的话,是通过阅读先知的书。也就是说众人在读先知书的时候仿佛听见了先知的声音。圣灵传达指令的唯一方式乃通过他的话语。(弗6:17;罗8:2)我们不可能看见风,但我们能看见风吹过所产生的效果。

我有一个朋友,曾经有段时间是个醉鬼和瘾君子。同时他也去宗派教会听道。通过福音的影响,他戒掉了这两个恶习。他开始信主入教,后来还当了传道人。我或许不能解释上帝用了多少能量借着他听福音让他悔改归正。但是我们早就应该知道“这福音本是上帝的大能”(罗1:16),所以认信福音就是接受上帝的大能。

我在一开始向各位证明的“重生”涉及到受洗。在《使徒行转》2章9-11节里,提到各族人,他们来自犹太、加帕多家、本都、亚西亚、弗吕家等地。当众人听见彼得的教训,觉得扎心,就问彼得和其余的使徒:“弟兄们,我们当怎样行?”彼得就对他们说:“你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦,就必领受所赐的圣灵。”(徒2:38)于是,那些领受他话的人就都受了洗,“罪得赦免。”众所周知,那一天顺从福音的人约有三千。(徒2:41)彼得几年后在给这些人写书信时又提到那些地名:“本都、加拉太、加帕多家、亚西亚、庇推尼”(彼前1:1),还说“你们蒙了重生,不是由于能坏的种子,乃是由于不能坏的种子,是藉着上帝活泼常存的道。”当这些人想知道如何做才能得救时,彼得就对他们说:“悔改,受洗”,并特别指出这样行才能“罪得赦”。所以,彼得叫他们受洗的目的是要罪得赦免。他们受了洗,就表明他们是“从水和圣灵生的”,就表明他们重生了。所以说,受洗是新生的组成部分;而《约翰福音》3章5节所涉及的水就指受洗。

基督是为我们舍己。“基督照我们父上帝的旨意为我们的罪舍己,要救我们脱离这罪恶的世代。”(加1:4)

直到我们听见福音之道,并且相信(徒15:7),否则我们就不可能蒙恩得救,使我们过去所犯的罪得赦。为我们的罪悔改(徒17:30),认信耶稣基督(罗10:10;徒8:37),受洗归入基督(加3:27),使罪得赦。(徒2:38)

我们虽然已经成为上帝的儿女,但我们仍然会犯错,因此我们需要悔改,认罪,还要祷告上帝求饶恕。(徒8:20-23;雅 5:16;启2:5)

 

 

得救的确据

B.B.Brother

章 亢 译

 

前言

“我们已经信了,又知道你是上帝的圣者。”(约 6:69) 一个人在人生的万事要确定,再没有比得救更重要的事啦。人的肉体死亡后,人的灵魂还活着,而且是永远地活在天堂里或地狱里。人在哪儿永远活着,是根据他对一个重要问题做出的回应:“我必须做什么才能得救?”

耶稣在强调灵魂的重要性时曾说:“人若赚得全世界,赔上自己的生命,有什么益处呢?人还能拿什么换生命呢?”(太16:26) “赚得全世界”看上去是那么的有利可图,而使“灵魂”得救好像并不那么重要。你有灵魂,这很重要。任何东西都不及你的灵魂有价值。不幸的是,许多人没有高度重视自己的灵魂。人们甚至加倍地忽视自己的灵魂。圣经警告说:“我们若忽略这么大的救恩,怎能逃罪呢?这救恩起先是主亲自讲的,后来是听见的人给我们证实了。”(来 2:3)

另外,还有许多人,对他们的灵魂是否得救不能肯定。也许他们只是听信某个讲道人或牧师的话,从不查考上帝的话。在此,我要传达一个重要的话题:“得救的确据”。

 

得救的需要

我们出生降世本是无罪的。我们既不遗传也不继承罪。上帝借先知以西结的口说:“惟有犯罪的,他必死亡。儿子必不担当父亲的罪孽,父亲也不担当儿子的罪孽。义人的善果必归自己,恶人的恶报也必归自己。”(结18:20) 耶稣把那些愿意进入他王国的人比作小孩子。圣经记载“当时门徒进前来,问耶稣说,天国里谁是最大的。耶稣便叫一个小孩子来,使他站在他们当中,说,我实在告诉你们,你们若不回转,变成小孩子的样式,断不得进天国。所以凡自己谦卑像这小孩子的,他在天国里就是最大的。”(太18:1-4) 接着,为表明孩子的属灵纯洁性,圣经又说:“那时有人带着小孩子来见耶稣,要耶稣给他们按手祷告。门徒就责备那些人。耶稣说,让小孩子到我这里来,不要禁止他们。因为在天国的,正是这样的人。”(太19:13-14)

人犯罪后,成了罪人,就需要拯救。但罪是什么?我们又是怎样成为罪人的呢?上帝说:“凡犯罪的,就是违背律法。违背律法,就是罪。”(约一 3:4) 罪被定义为“违背律法”,就是人的行为举止超出了上帝律法所规定的范围和界限。罪也被定义为“不义”。约翰说:“凡不义的事都是罪。”(约一 5:17a) 不义就是碰到正确的事而没有做。在上述的两段经文中,罪被看作是一种触犯的行为(违背律法)和过失冒犯(“凡不义的事都是罪”)。雅各也说:“人若知道行善,却不去行,这就是他的罪了。”(雅4:17) 根据上帝对罪所下的定义,我们得知罪就是该做的事没做,不该做的事做了。

圣经教导说所有的人都在某个时候犯过罪。我们要么就是违背上帝的律法,要么就是碰到应该做的事而没有做。所以,所有的人都犯过罪。《罗马书》教导说这个世界需要耶稣来为这罪恶的世界献上赎罪祭。保罗在指出外邦人和犹太人(全体人类)都犯了罪 (罗1;2) 之后,接下来说:“因为世人都犯了罪,亏缺了上帝的荣耀。”(罗3:23)福音是指耶稣来到世界,除人罪孽。当约翰看见耶稣时,便宣告:“看哪,上帝的羔羊,除去(或作背负)世人罪孽的。”(约1:29b) 上帝绝不会简单地忽略罪,但却要赦免罪。上帝是公义的,是指他不会简单地忽略我们的过犯。我们不尊重法官是因为他们简单地忽略人的犯罪。但即便上帝是公义的,他也是我们的“辩护者”。保罗写道:“如今却蒙上帝的恩典,因基督耶稣的救赎,就白白的称义。上帝设立耶稣作挽回祭,是凭着耶稣的血,藉着人的信,要显明上帝的义。因为他用忍耐的心,宽容人先时所犯的罪。好在今时显明他的义,使人知道他自己为义,也称信耶稣的人为义。”(罗3:24-26)

上帝渴望我们得救。他愿意人人明白真道,蒙恩得救。(参见提前2:4) 上帝将耶稣赐给世人,让世人可以得救。约翰记载说:“上帝爱世人,甚至将他的独生子赐给他们,叫一切信他的,不至灭亡,反得永生。”(约3:16)

 

如何得救

我们得救要依靠两个事实,一方面靠上帝,一方面在于我们自己。上帝拯救人是凭着上帝自己奇妙的属性——怜悯、恩典、爱以及基督的受苦、受难。要是没有上帝的这些属性,没有基督的奉献作为,我们就不可能被拯救。然而,在得救上,人自己这方面也要起作用。如果我们什么也不做,只是等着得救,那人人都可以得救了,何况那正是上帝所渴望的,可事实上,并不是人人都得救。耶稣说我们自己必须做些事情。他明确地指出:“凡称呼我主啊,主啊的人,不能都进天国。惟独遵行我天父旨意的人,才能进去。”(太7:21) 耶稣说谁能进天国呢?“惟独遵行我天父旨意的人,才能进去。”那我们必须

做什么才能被拯救呢?

人要想得救必须听上帝的话。保罗写道:“可见信道是从听道来的,听道是从基督的话来的。”(罗10:17) 相信是从听见上帝的话来的,不是圣灵的直接做工,也不是人凭着自己的某些人生经历而得。上帝通过让我们经历听道和学习这样的过程来吸引我们。耶稣曾这样阐明:“若不是差我来的父吸引人,就没有能到我这里来的。到我这里来的,在末日我要叫他复活。在先知书上写着说,他们都要蒙上帝的教训。凡听见父之教训又学习的,就到我这里来。”(约 6:44-45)

为了得救,人还必须相信基督。“所以我对你们说,你们要死在罪中,你们若不信我是基督,必要死在罪中。”(约 8:24) 此外,人要想得救还必须认罪悔改。耶稣说:“我告诉你们,不是的。你们若不悔改,都要如此灭亡。”(路13:3) 保罗曾对雅典人说:“世人蒙昧无知的时侯,上帝并不监察,如今却吩咐各处的人都要悔改。”(徒17:30) 悔改是指人的内心发生改变,从而使人生发生改善。上帝又说人要想得救还必须承认基督。保罗记载了承认跟得救的关系——“因为人心里相信,就可以称义。口里承认,就可以得救。”(罗 10:10) 圣经记载的一个关于公开承认的典型事例是在《使徒行传》8章37节。 “腓利说,你若是一心相信就可以,他回答说,我信耶稣

基督是上帝的儿子。”(徒8:37) 然而,为了得救要做的最后一件事是受洗。当耶路撒冷那些将耶稣钉十字架的人听到福音开始意识到他们的罪孽时,他们大声问道:“弟兄们,我们当怎样行?”彼得激动地回答说:“你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦,就必领受所赐的圣灵。”(徒2:38) 那些相信耶稣的人便按着要求悔改、受洗、使罪得赦(除去罪)。起先,耶稣曾这样教导过:“他又对他们说,你们往普天下去,传福音给万民(万民原文作凡受造的)听。信而受洗的必然得救。不信的必被定罪。”(可16:15-16) 耶稣在此阐明了相信与受洗是得救的两个基本要素。当一个人意识到只有在受洗中上帝才把他“归入基督”时,他才算明白为什么受洗是得救的基本要素。保罗写道:“你们受洗归入基督的,都是披戴基督了。”(加3:27)

然而得救只在基督里起效应。“耶稣说,我就是道路,真理,生命。若不藉着我。没有人能到父那里去。”(约14:6) 保罗说:“所以我为选民凡事忍耐,叫他们也可以得着那在基督耶稣里的救恩和永远的荣耀。”(提后 2:10) 正因为得救只在基督里起效应,所以在基督里就成为势在必行。换句话说,一个人只要在基督里,他就能确信是否得救。

 

第四部分

论教会

 

如何找到真教会

B.B.Brother文

罗 敏 译

 

“我们已经信了,又知道你是上帝的圣者。 (约6:69)

“耶稣到了该撒利亚腓立比的境内,就问门徒说,人说我人子是谁?”他们说:“有人说是施洗的约翰;有人说是以利亚;又有人说是耶利米或是先知里的一位。”耶稣说:“你们说我是谁?”西门彼得回答说:“你是基督,是永生上帝的儿子。”耶稣对他说:“西门巴约拿,你是有福的。因为这不是属血肉的指示你的,乃是我在天上的父指示的。我还告诉你,你是彼得,我要把我的教会建造在这磐石上;阴间的权柄,不能胜过他(权柄原文作门)。”(太16:13-18)

耶稣在上述的经文中声明说:“我要建造我的教会。”世界上有许多宗教团体都宣称与上帝有联系。一个人怎么能知道哪一条路是正确的路呢?知道哪条路是正确的,这种可能性是存在的吗?的确,这种可能性是存在的。耶稣基督有一个教会。他的教会可以通过一页页地查考神的话来得以证实。这个属于基督的教会有一些具体的标志可以辨识。如果一个人丢了轿车,他就会通过一些可以识别的特征去寻找轿车。他车子的样式、颜色、大小以及车身号等,他都了如指掌。尽管他的汽车与其他人的汽车有一些相同的特征,他也能从其他人的汽车中认出他的车子来。即便有辆车子的颜色和他车子的颜色相同,但车的样式、大小、车身号却不可能一样。他知道那辆车不是他的。所以说,世界上有一些教会是很像基督的教会,但却不是他的教会。那么,基督的教会有哪些明显的标志呢?

 

建造者

基督的教会的建造者是耶稣基督。他说:“我要建造我的教会。”(太16:1)任何一个教会,只要建造者不是耶稣基督,那就不是属基督的教会。各宗各派的建造者都是人(比如约翰·加尔文、约翰·卫斯理等),不是耶稣基督。那些教会不是耶稣基督建造的,所以也就不是属他的。正如《马太福音》16章18节所记,基督的教会(不是宗派)是基督建造的。

 

元首

任何一个教会,只要教会的元首不是耶稣基督,而是别的什么人,那这个教会就不可能是基督的教会。圣经确认耶稣是他教会的唯一元首。“又将万有服在他的脚下,使他为教会作万有之首。教会是他的身体,是那充满万有者所充满的。”(弗1:22-23) 基督的教会元首不是教皇,不是长老,也不是其他任何人。基督才是“元首”。他拥有天上、地下所有的权柄。(太28:18)

 

建立的地点和时间

基督的教会是在耶路撒冷城建立的。以赛亚预言主的家(教会)将会建立,主的律法要从耶路撒冷发出。“末后的日子,耶和华殿的山必坚立,超乎诸山,高举过于万岭。万民都要流归这山。必有许多国的民前往,说:“来吧,我们登耶和华的山。奔雅各上帝的殿;主必将他的道教训我们,我们也要行他的路,因为训诲必出于锡安,耶和华的言语,必出于耶路撒冷。”(赛2:2-3) 以赛亚除了引证主的家要在哪座城建立之外,还预言了建立的时间。他说那要发生在“在末后的日子。” 彼得证明“末后的日子”是从五旬节那天开始的,“这正是先知约珥所说的。上帝说:在末后的日子,我要将我的灵浇灌凡有血气的,你们的儿女要说预言,你们的少年人要见异象,老年人要作异梦。”(徒 2:16-17)

基督教时代和罪得赦免都在末后的日子。为什么称作末后的日子,因为指最后得大赦的时候。基督要来,审判会发生。恶人要往永刑里去,得救的人要往永生里去。(太25:46)

路加在《使徒行传》2章,记载了以赛亚预言的应验。使徒们受命在耶路撒冷等候,直到他们领受圣灵的洗。(路24:46:49) 结果,他们就在五旬节那天领受了这个能力并开始传扬耶稣基督的福音。教会(主的家),就在那一天建立,主的话便从耶路撒冷发出,正如以赛亚所预言的。由此可知,基督的教会,是五旬节那天(公元33年),在耶路撒冷城建立。任何在其它城市、别的时间建立的教会,都不可能是基督的教会。

名称

我们在阅读圣经时,会知道教会靠各种各样的名称来识别。耶稣用“我的教会”作鉴别。(太16::18)它在《哥林多前书》1章2节里被称作“上帝的教会”。当论及各个地方的聚会点时,保罗用“基督的众教会”来称呼。(罗16:16)我们应该记住本来就没有分别的教会和宗派,而只有地理位置不同的基督的教会。在圣经中,我们看不到宗派的名称。圣经中没有浸信会、卫理公会、基督复临安息日会等。在上帝的话里,找不到俄罗斯东正教会或罗马天主教会。上帝说“若有讲道的,要按着上帝的圣言讲。”(彼前 4:11) 开口讲道,必须依据圣经用辞。其实不是圣经怎么称呼教会,而是上帝怎么称呼教会。

任何一个套用人名或者按照人的学说来称呼的教会就不是基督的教会。不管怎么说,基督的教会是圣经上的称呼。“基督的众教会都问你们安。”(罗16:16)

 

敬拜

“上帝是个灵,所以拜他的,必须用心灵和真理拜他。”(约4:24) 上帝说,凡敬拜他的人,必须用心灵和真理拜他。用真理敬拜上帝,就是根据上帝的话来敬拜他。耶稣确定上帝的话就是真理。“求你用真理使他们成圣。你的道就是真理。”(约17:17) 上帝的话语是我们敬拜上帝的标准。

新约启示我们要在每周的第一日按五个程序敬拜上帝。我们要传讲(或教导)上帝的话(徒20:7),要按着自己的进项奉献(林前16:1-2),要祷告(帖前5:17),要唱诗(声唱,不用无生命的乐器,弗5:18-19;西3:16)以及分享主的晚餐。(太 26:26-28;徒20:7)这些都是要在每一个七日的第一日,也就是主日(启1:10)遵守的。

任何教会在敬拜时若不遵守这几样程序,或者在这些程序上作些加添,就不是按照神圣的模范来敬拜上帝。

 

组织

上帝是完全按照他自己想要的方式来建立他的教会的。无论如何,人所建立的教会,总是与上帝的体制有距离,和上帝的模范有差异。如前所述,耶稣基督是教会的唯一元首。(弗 1:20-21) 监督各个地方教会的人称作长老。(徒14:23) 他们也称“监督”(或“主教”)和“牧师”。(徒20:28;弗 4:11) 每一个聚会点都是自治的,在当地长老的领导下侍奉基督。绝不是某个人,或一群人管理若干个教会。基督的教会里也有一些称作“执事”的专职侍奉者。(腓 1:1)

长老和执事的任职资格可以在《提摩太前书》3章和《提多书》1章中找到。地方教会的全体基督徒(包括讲道人和执事)都在长老的监督下进行服侍。长老绝不允许以神的名义制定法规,决不允许改变既定的律例。他们只做监督地方教会的工作,并要确保各项工作都能按照圣经的标准。他们务要牧养神的群羊,按着上帝旨意照管他们。(彼前5:1-4)

 

 

入会条件

一个人怎么成为基督的教会的成员呢?依据圣经,一个人要相信耶稣基督是上帝的儿子。“所以我对你们说,你们要死在罪中,你们若不信我是基督,必要死在罪中。” (约 8:24) 一个人必须为罪悔改(转变)。耶稣又说:“我告诉你们,不是的。你们若不悔改,都要如此灭亡。”(路 13:3) 一个人必须承认耶稣是基督,是上帝的儿子。(徒8:37, 罗10:10) 然后为了罪得赦免而下水全身受洗。“彼得说,你们各人要悔改,奉耶稣基督的名受洗,叫你们的罪得赦,就必领受所赐的圣灵。”(徒2:38) 当一个人顺服上帝的这五项命令时,主就把他加添到自己的教会。“赞美上帝,得众民的喜爱。主将得救的人,天天加给他们。”(徒2:47) 今天我们同样必须(1)听上帝的话(2)相信基督(3)为我们的罪悔改(4)承认基督,然后(5)下水受洗,使罪得赦。

当我们这样做的时候,主就把我们加添到他的教会。

 

结论

基督的教会是非常有地位的,因为这个教会是耶稣用自己的血买来的。(徒 20:28) 当耶稣再临时,他要把他的教会接到天上。(帖前4:1-17) 如果你发现自己不在基督的教会里,而在某个宗教团体中,那为什么不返回来以圣经为标准呢?一个人可以凭建造者、元首、建

立的地点和时间、名称、敬拜、组织以及加入的条件来识别基督的教会。已经有许多人从宗教团体或不被上帝认可的教会里走了出来。请看圣经:“耶稣回答说,凡栽种的物,若不是我父栽种的,必要拔出来。”(太15:13)

如果你还没有这样顺服上帝,那我们就要鼓励你按上述的步骤去做。切记,这可是上帝为所有愿意得救的人所制定的得救阶梯。

 

 

你们来看”——论基督的教会

Garland Elkins

罗 敏

 

标题“你们来看”(约1:39)是耶稣回答约翰的两个门徒向他直接提问时说的。这两个门徒接受了主向他们发出的“你们来看”的邀请,结果就离开了约翰,跟随了耶稣。

基督的教会也同样发出了“你们来看”的邀请,不管今天的基督的教会在名称、资格、崇拜、合一、组织、实践以及使命上跟保罗时代的“基督的教会”(罗16:16)是否一样,完全遵行新约圣经才是检验真假基督教会的标准。主将得救的人加给基督建立的教会。(徒2:38-41,47)当时还没有别的什么教会存在。主便将那些同样信而顺服的人加添到他自己的教会。(徒2:47)

几百年以后,出现了一个宗派教会,要求人人加入。而如今,人所设立的教会约有成百上千,其中没有哪一家能拿出充分的理由邀人加入。那你为什么不加入主的教会,成为基督的教会的一员呢?(太16:18;徒2:47;罗16:16;徒 26:28;彼前4:16)

 

基督的教会是基督建立的

基督应许要建立一个教会时,曾这样说:“我还告诉你,你是彼得,我要把我的教会建造在这磐石上,阴间的权柄(权柄原文作门),不能胜过他。”(太16:18)保罗在论述曾为这个唯一的教会舍了自己“你们作丈夫的,要爱你们的妻子,正如基督爱教会,为教会舍己。”(弗5:25)教会的性质是惟一的,所以代词用单数。因为基督只建立了这个教会,所以他是教会的主,所以他专爱教会,为他的教会舍身。虽然教会的性质在新约圣经中不是复数的,但由于集会可能会在不同的地区各自发起,所以就出现了保罗按地方来看的说法,如“基督的众教会”(罗16:16)和“犹太信基督的各教会”。(加1:22)

 

基督的教会是在耶路撒冷建立的

基督的教会是在耶路撒冷建立的,时间是在基督复活后的第一个五旬节那一天。有一些证据可考。比如基督在受难前不久,曾说:“我要把我的教会建造在这磐石上。”(太16:18)它的意思就是把建立教会这件事推到将来。我们学语言的人都知道“要建立”用的是动词的将来时态,也就表明耶稣在发表这项声明的时候,教会还没有建立,所以等教会从五旬节那天建立时就开始使用现在时了,比如说“那一天,门徒约添了三千。”(徒2:41)以及“主将得救的人天天加给教会。”(徒2:47)而在《使徒行传》2章的五旬节之后,再也不见提出要建立什么。这就足以证明基督的教会正如《使徒行传》2章所说,是在五旬节那一天建立的。其实,彼得有句话也是很好的说明。(徒11:15)

基督是基督的教会的元首

基督是教会的头,是教会惟一的元首。保罗论说:“又将万有服在他的脚下,使他为教会作万有之首。教会是他的身体,是那充满万有者所充满的。”(弗1:22, 23) 又说:“他也是教会全体之首。他是元始,是从死里首先复生的,使他空已在凡事上居首位。”(西1:18)从这两段经文,我们可以清楚地看到,新约圣经所论述的“基督的身体”,不是指着基督的肉体说的,而是指着基督的灵体所言,而这个灵体就是他的教会。请看:(1) 他是教会全体/万有之首(西1:18;弗1:22, 23);(2) 归入基督就是归入他的身体 (加3:27;西3:15);(3)基督徒都是归入基督的(罗6:3;林后5:17);(4) 所以,基督徒都应该是在基督的教会里。因为耶稣来到世上只建立了一个,也是唯一的一个拯救人类的机构。(弗3:10,11,21)

 

圣经是基督的教会的指导手册

基督的教会拒绝接受任何人定的宗教教义以及教会的指南,也就是说坚决杜绝没受圣灵感动的人所制定的或发表的任何声明或陈述作为教会的准则。我们所接受的标准只是上帝的话。下面这段经文给我们提供了我们认信的安全保障:“圣经都是上帝所默示的,(或作凡上帝默示的圣经)于教训、督责、使人归正、教导人学义,都是有益的。叫属上帝的人得以完全,预备行各样的善事。”(提后3:16-17)彼得论述说:“上帝的神能已将一切关乎生命和虔敬的事赐给我们,皆因我们认识那用自己荣耀和美德召我们的主。”(彼后1:3)彼得又论述说:“若有讲道的,要按着上帝的圣言讲。若有服事人的,要按着上帝所赐的力量服事。叫上帝在凡事上因耶稣基督得荣耀。原来荣耀权能都是他的,直到永永远远。阿们。”(彼前4:11)因此,我们为万人恳求,回归圣经。

基督的教会没有教义或信经,只遵从上帝的儿子基督的话。这就要求所有的信基督的人达成一个共识,那就是圣经上所说的,我们说,圣经上没有说的,我们就不说。按照圣经的方式对待圣经上的名称和行事作为。正如保罗所要求的,即凡事遵循上帝的圣言。“弟兄们,我藉我们主耶稣基督的名,劝你们都说一样的话。你们中间也不可分党。只要一心一意彼此相合。”(林前1:10)我们的目标就是要实现记载在《约翰福音》17章的那段主为众门徒的合一所作的祷告。因此,我们只按照新约圣经中教会的模式来复制基督的教会。

 

 

人必须遵从福音的要求才能加入基督的教会

那就是:心里相信基督(徒16:31);悔改自己的罪(徒17:30);口里承认基督(徒8:36-37);下水受洗(徒2:38, 41, 47;可16:16; 徒22:16)。彼得曾宣告:“这水所表明的洗礼,现在藉着耶稣基督复活。也拯救你们。”(彼前3:21)我们得救是靠基督死而流出的血,而人只在受洗归入基督的死时才接触到基督的血。(罗6:3)因为救恩只在基督里(提后2:10),但不受洗就不能进入基督。(加3:27)

 

遵从圣经是基督的教会的敬拜标准

基督的教会所遵循的敬拜程序是:讲道(徒2:42;提后2:2);祈祷(徒2:42);捐钱(林前16:1-2);领圣餐(林前11:23-29);唱诗(弗5:19;来2:12)。捐钱是敬拜的一项内容,必须在一周所定的日子来施行。按照早期的记载,捐钱是在七日的第一日。一世纪那些受圣灵带领的人指导各地方的众教会,不以抽彩或鼓励大家竞争的方式来募捐。参与领圣餐是敬拜的又一项内容。新约圣经有没有指定哪一天领主的晚餐呢?有。就在《使徒行传》20章7节。基督徒只在七日的第一日参与领取主的晚餐。因为没有特别指明是某个月的某一天,所以也就不可能是一年一次,又因为也没有特别指明就这个月的某一天,所以也就不可能是一月一次。在会中唱诗也是敬拜的一项内容(来2:12)我们虽然没有接到必须使用音乐的命令,但却接到必须使用某种特定音乐的命令,那就是歌唱。《希伯来书》2章12节教导说:“在会中我要颂杨你。”但歌唱时如果使用乐器,那就是越过基督的教训了。(约二9-11)任何在敬拜中使用机械乐器的现象都是违背新约教会的。真正的基督的教会只用歌唱敬拜上帝,正如一世纪的教会那样。这里所讨论的在敬拜中所进行的五项程序,也是早期教会所执行的。今天的基督徒同样也要这样遵循才是。

 

虔诚会使人偏离真理吗?

小的时候,我就常听人说,我们信什么都没关系,只要我们为人诚实正直,上帝就会拯救我们。你后来也是这么认为吗?大都数情况下,牧师可能也会这么说。但是,如果他真的这么说过,那你就请他找出圣经的经节。如果牧师常常这么说,你就有可能这么相信,甚至你会自然而然地认为就是这么回事。有时候牧师会编出一些理由来,甚至会说这是圣经所教导的,是符合圣经的。他说这些话,就应该提供圣经根据。如果这是圣经所教导的,那他就应该知道在圣经的哪个地方能找到,因此,就问他是那卷书?在哪一章?第几节?

让我们来关注一下这段经文:“故此,上帝就给他们一个生发错误的心,叫他们信从虚谎。使一切不信真理,倒喜爱不义的人,都被定罪。”(帖后2:11,12)这里的表述非常明确,就是叫他们“信从虚谎”。信从虚慌和信从真理两者之间的差距极大。真理来自上帝的话;虚慌不出自上帝的话,乃是谎言。

这两种相信有什么不同呢?相信本身没有太大的区别,无非就是在程度上有些差别,比如,某种相信可能更加虔诚。当然,相信如果不虔诚,也就不叫相信。一个人可能会假装虔诚,其实是不相信。但如果他真的相信,那他就必定虔诚。因此,圣经上所指的这些虔诚人,实际上是指他们会“信从虚慌”。那他们的虔诚指什么呢?上帝会因为他们虔诚救赎他们吗?圣经是这么说的吗?圣经当然没这么说。

再仔细看一下12节:“使一切不信真理,都被定罪。”注意“定罪”一词,它与“得救”的意思是相反的。然而,这里说的是只有某些人要被“定罪”。那这有些人指的是哪些人呢?这指的是那些信从虚谎,不信真理的人。这样看来,一个人究竟信什么,区别很大。因为对一个得救的人来说,他所信的必定是真理。而信从别的,最终要被定罪,不管他是多么的诚实正直。

在《提摩太后书》2章5节,我们读到:“人若在场上比武,非按规矩,就不能得冠冕。”当人们认为信什么是无关紧要的时候,他们经常会接着说:“我们都在朝一个目标努力。”这的确是事实,就是说为了将来进天堂,我们都在努力。那是不是说单单只靠努力,人就能得到那荣耀的奖赏呢?当然人还得依靠正确的信仰。

圣经的意思是,单靠努力,不能得冠冕,除非他按着规矩来。这里的冠冕,指的是荣耀的、属天的永恒奖赏。一个人拼命努力,最终也不一定能得到这个冠冕。为什么呢?因为他没有按着规矩来努力。而不按规矩,就不能得冠冕。那按着规矩努力是什么意思呢?意思就是一个人努力没有错,但他必须按着上帝所制定的规矩。如果我们违背上帝所定的规矩,就得不到上帝所赐的冠冕,无论我们是多么的虔诚。

上帝所制定的规矩启示在新约圣经里。如果我们不是努力地按着上帝的规矩来努力,而是想通过其它的途径,那我们就不可能进天国,就不可能达到我们所渴望的目的地。圣经上的真理已经明确地表示,一个人的宗教信仰和他的行为举止可能完全不同。

 

 

没有启示说罪人只要祷告便可罪得赦免

作为我们信仰规范和行为准则的圣经,记载了上帝的旨意,所以我们应该渴慕这些旨意,按着圣经的要求来做。人只有顺从上帝的真理,才能脱离我们过去的罪,而成为基督徒。(约8:32;17:17) 况且,审判世人的标准正是上帝的话。(约8:32;12:48) 圣经哪里提到“一个被圣灵充满的人曾经邀请罪人来到祭坛凭祈祷就使罪人蒙恩得救。

在《使徒行传》22章16节,我们读到,当上帝看见一个罪人正在求告时,上帝就打发一个传道人去告诉这个罪人下一步该怎么做。那个最跟基督教作对的扫罗,终于认识到自己走错了路。当扫罗求告上帝想知道他下一步该做什么时,耶稣就告诉他往大马士革去,当作的事,必有人告诉他。(徒9:6)扫罗就这样进了大马士革城,等待那个信息的兑现。上帝就拣选了传道人亚拿尼亚,打发他去迎接扫罗,向他转达上帝的旨意。当亚拿尼亚到达扫罗那里,发现这个罪人正在祈祷。要是现代传道人碰到这种情况,就会鼓励扫罗继续祈祷,直到祈祷被上帝听见而蒙宽恕。亚拿尼亚又没有鼓励扫罗继续祷告呢?可是亚拿尼亚没有这么做,而是明确地把上帝的要求转达给扫罗。他打断了扫罗的祈祷,对他说:“现在你为什么耽延呢,起来,求告他的名受洗,洗去你的罪。”(徒22:16)“起来”意思是“站起来”,当时扫罗一定是在跪着祷告,可亚拿尼亚却叫他起身去做别的事——去受洗,洗去他的罪。你有没有碰到这样的情况?一个平庸的传道人不会像亚拿尼亚那样传达上帝的旨意,不是要罪人“起来受洗,洗去你的罪。”当一个罪人为了罪得赦免而像这样受洗(徒2:38),他就是“求告上帝的名受洗。” (徒 22:16;太 7:21;路 6:46)

 

主的教会的绝对重要性

我们常按所付出的代价来评判价值。众所周知,上帝之所以如此高度地评价主的教会,是因为他愿意为教会付出他的独生爱子。(约3:16;弗5:25)这教会不仅仅为基督所爱,愿为它舍己(弗5:25),而且这教会是失丧的人能够寻找救恩的唯一机构。(徒2:47;弗5:23)

我们努力复兴新约的教会。你也愿意为这个有价值的目标努力吗?我们既不是天主教徒,也不是新教徒,我们只是基督徒。(徒26:28;彼前4:16)难道是基督徒还不够吗?

圣经是上帝的话。“你们来看”,然后“去告诉”其他人。

 

主的教会与教派的不同性

Garland Elkins

谢同侠 译

 

我们是否曾问过:“我必须朝哪个方向才能寻找到永远的福气?”因为永生是永恒的,所以对我们来说,活在世上最重要的事就是遵行上帝的旨意。这篇文章意在告诉大家圣经是如何教导我们获得永生的。

21世纪的科学技术改变了世界,几乎每天都有新的技术产生,如生产方面的、运输方面的、医疗方面的、通讯方面的等。

而在这个日新月益的世界,我们发现,生活,即使处在最佳的状态,也是充满烦恼的。我们人人都必须面对一个基本的事实:按着定命,人人都有一死,死后且有审判。(来9:27)

为此我们恳请人们都能回归圣经。我们努力做到“按着上帝的圣言讲,上帝没有说的我们也不说。”(参见彼前4:11)

请你花上几分钟时间来阅读这篇文章,也许这几分钟就有可能提高你盼望进天堂得永生的信心。

你可以只做基督徒,而不参加任何教派。今天,很多宗派都会惊讶,一个人不参加某个教派或宗派,怎么可以做基督徒,成为主的教会的一员,罪得赦免呢?毫无疑问,1世纪的基督徒都是主的教会的成员(徒2:47),却不属于任何一个教派,因为那时候还没有教派。

彼得、保罗和他们那个时代的所有基督徒都是属上帝的教会的,他们不属于任何教派。可问题是:“为什么今天一个人宣称是基督徒,就必须隶属于某个教派呢?”

 

主的教会不是教派

人们已经习惯把教会和教派混为一谈。在有些人的意识中,把主的教会和教派主义分开几乎是不可能的。然而当我们阅读新约圣经关于主的教会的描述时,根本就不认为那是教派。我所使用的“教派”一词取意于该词在宗教学上的意义,指的是一个宗派或党派。我们有权也有必要知道主的教会和教派在哪些方面具有本质的区别。

 

主的教会不是天主教也不是新教

基督的教会有一个与众不同的信条,那就是他们“既不是天主教徒,也不是新教徒,只是普通的基督徒。”1世纪时,门徒既不是天主教徒也不是新教徒,因为那时候还没有教派,因为教派是在几百年后才出现的。一个人可以只是一个普通的美国公民,而不需要加入任何政党,不管它是民主党还是共和党。一个人同样可以只是个基督徒,而不需要参加任何宗派。今天,人们把“教会”和“教派”混为一谈,想让人们意识到要想成为基督徒而不加入一个宗派则是极其困难的。单在美国一个国家,就有200到300个宗派,但基督的教会不是宗派。保罗,作为主的教会的一员,坚决否定把主的教会看作宗派。(徒24:5,13,14)

 

主的教会超越一切宗派

主的教会,是主用自己的血换来的,超越一切人间的宗派。所有的宗派都是人创办的,而不是来自上帝的权柄。

我们无论是根据圣经记载还是依照历史记录,都可以得知这一事实,即主的教会早在天主教和新教出现几个世纪前,就已经建立并存在了,后来才在基督的跟随者之间分出了各种派别。(徒2;22-47;罗16:16)

今天,在任何地方,如果宣讲同样的福音,劝导人们顺服同样的得救之法,就能复制基督的教会。上帝国的种子就是上帝的话(路8:11),好土就是“诚实善良的心。”(路8:15)在1世纪,当上帝的话种在这样的心里,就产生了基督徒(徒11:26;26:28)和基督的教会。(罗16:16)

因为万物都各从其类,人种的是什么,收的也是什么。(创1:11,12;加6:7,8)因此本世纪完全能结出与1世纪一样的果子,如果不能,那倒要问问是为什么?

 

只有一个教会

首先,我想说的是在1世纪,只有也仅有一个教会。新约圣经当然是我们的标准和证据。

“教会”一词来源于希腊语ekklesia,意思是“被呼召”。新约圣经中提到的教会是由人组成的,这些人都是被福音从黑暗中呼召出来,进入上帝儿子的光中的。(帖后2:13,14;西1:13)

在某个地区“被呼召”出来的人就被称为该地区的教会。所以,就有耶路撒冷教会(徒11:22)、哥林多教会(林上1:2)、帖撒罗尼迦教会(帖前1:1)等。

各地会众可被称为“基督的众教会”(罗16:16)、“犹太信基督的各教会”(加1:22)、“马其顿众教会”(林后8:1)、“加拉太的各教会”(加1:2)等。“教会”一词从不使用复数形式,除非是用来表示某国某地区若干个地方的会众。

当保罗写信给在罗马的教会时,他说道:“基督的众教会都问你们安。”(罗16:16)在保罗写信的地方,有若干个地方会众要向罗马教会表达他们的问候。所以,保罗说:“基督的众教会都问你们安。”如果各地区的会众可以称作“基督的众教会”,那么单个地区的会众就称作“一个”基督的教会。

在《哥林多前书》1章2节,保罗称呼“在哥林多上帝的教会。”他也用这种称呼给提摩太写信:“倘若我耽延日久,你也可以知道在上帝的家中当怎样行。这家就是永生上帝的教会,真理的柱石和根基。”(提前3:15)这里提到“永生上帝的教会”,这一短语并非名称,而是用来描述教会与基督和他的父之间的关系。

 

主的教会和其它教会差不多一样吗?

我们经常会听到这样的论调:“主的教会和其它教会差不多是一样的”,这是不正确的。因为圣经告诉我们只有且仅有一个教会。圣经这样记载:“身体只有一个,圣灵只有一个,正如你们蒙召是同有一个指望。”(弗4:4)这段经文清楚地表明“只有一个身体”,而今天,却有成千上百个的相互矛盾的宗教团体,不用说,一个团体就是一个身体,不能代表成百上千个身体。

圣经中所说的“一个身体”到底是什么意思呢?在《以弗所书》中,我们读到:“又将万有服在他的脚下,使他为教会作万有之首,教会是他的身体,是那充满万有者所充满的。”(弗1:22,23)注意,教会是他的身体,但只是一个身体。

保罗不仅告诉我们教会就是那唯一的身体,他的身体就是教会(西1:18),而且进一步强调:“但如今肢体是多的,身子却是一个。”(林前12:20)因为只有一个身体,也就只有一个新约的教会。而且,当耶稣应许要建立教会时,他说:“我要把我的教会建造在这磐石上。”(太16:18)他只应许建立一个教会——他的教会,而不是许多教会! 我们知道主只建立了一个教会,因为那是他应许建立的。如果他只建立了一个教会,那别的所谓的教会应该都是人所建立的。谁能说人建的教会和主建的教会差不多一样呢?我想如果谁坚持认为上帝所建的主的教会和其它教会差不多一样,那他可能是被逼无奈。

《歌罗西书》1章18节说:“他也是教会全体之首”。注意,这里并不是说他是很多身子、很多教会之首。一般说来,有多少教会,就有多少身子,有多少身子,就有多少头。到底有多少头呢?可只有他是全体之首!那只有一个头,不是吗?所以,只有一个头、一个身子、一个教会。既然基督是一个教会的头,那其它教会的头肯定是别人。

你认为人作头的教会和耶稣作头的教会差不多一样吗?而且,在圣经中我们读到:“基督爱教会,为教会舍己。”(弗5:25)这里的教会指的就是那个属上帝的主的教会。原文用的也是单数。基督爱他的教会,为他的教会舍己。他只建立了一个教会。因此,他是新约圣经中提到的这唯一教会的主。

 

救恩只在主的教会里

事实是,救恩决不在人造的教会里,也就决不在主的教会之外。那些宣传宗派主义的人甚至认为,一个人不加入他们的教会也可以得救,这不恰好证明了这些教会的无用嘛!但圣经教导我们真正的教会是上帝的家,是基督的身体,是上帝的国。(提前3:15;西1:18,13)没有人可以指望在上帝的家以外,在基督的身体以外获得拯救,因为保罗说:“但如今,上帝随自己的意思,把肢体俱各安排在身上了。”(林前12:18)因此上帝提醒众人,救恩只在主的教会里。(徒2:47)

基督藉着十字架,使人与上帝和好,两下归为“一体”(弗2:13-16),这“一体”就是教会。(弗1:22,23;西1:18;林前12:20)重要的不是只承认主的教会,因为这个教会是主用自己的血买来的!如果有人可以在基督的教会以外得救,那就是认为基督的死是无用的。任何弱化基督的死的教训都是错误的教训。因此,在主的教会以外可以得救的教训也是错误的。

关于教会,现在有很多流行的说法:“我们让人先得救,然后再让他们选择加入教会”;有时候又会这样说:“教会差不多都是一样的,更何况使你得救的不是教会”等等。当某人这样说的时候,他只是从宗派主义或人的教训来理解教会的。当然,如果有人提到在教派之外可以得救,那又是一个不同的问题了。人们不仅不需要加入任何宗派,甚至已经加入的人应该从这些教派中走出来。下面有个问题提得不错:“人在教派里能得救吗?”毫无疑问,人能够在天主教、新教等所有这些教派以外得救,但问题的重要性是:“人在教派里能得救吗?”人在主的教会以外无法得救(徒2:47),因此,要想得救,就必须在主的教会里。我们知道在1世纪还没有任何教派。保罗认为主的教会根本就不是一个宗教派别。(徒24:5,13,14)如果我们想深入了解“人在主的教会以外能得救吗?”这样的问题,就应该作更深入的思考,而不仅仅限于情感上的诉求。

让我们从另一个角度来考虑这个问题:(1)如果一个在主的教会以外的人能和在主的教会里的人一样得救的话,无异是说没有基督的血人也可以得救;可是主的教会是基督用自己的血重价买来的,因此,人只有在基督的教会里,靠基督的血,才能得救。(徒20:28;弗5:25)如果有人认为自己可以在主的教会以外得救,那就是说他的得救绝对不需要依靠基督的血。(2)圣经教导我们教会和上帝的国是同一个机构,比如1世纪时耶稣要求门徒在他的国里领受圣餐(路22:18,19),但我们知道门徒们却是在教会里领圣餐的(林前1:1,2;11:18-34),所以,基督的教会和上帝的国是一回事,它们是同一个机构。 如果一个人在主的教会以外可以得救,那也就是说他在上帝的国以外可以得救,这也就意味着,他可以不顺服上帝的旨意就可以得救。世上只有两种国——上帝的国和撒旦的国。如果认为在基督的教会之外可以得救的话,那就是在撒旦的国里可以得救。这是明显违背圣经教训的。(3)新约教导说基督的教会就是上帝的家(提前3:15),如果一个人可以在上帝的家(教会)以外得救,也就是说他可以在魔鬼的家里得救。地上只有两个家。问题是:“救恩在哪里?在上帝的家还是在魔鬼的家?”世上只有两个家。但又产生了这样的问题:“上帝在自己的家以外还有孩子吗?在撒旦的家里也可以得救吗?”当诚实的人们正在考虑有没有必要成为主的教会的一员时,这些问题必须要得到解决。

 

教会能拯救你吗?

经常有这样的论述说,“教会并不能拯救你。”当然,我们知道,教会不是救主,基督才是救主。(太1:21)但耶稣拯救他的教会(弗5:23),他把得救的人加给他的教会。(徒2:47)你会发现,“救恩不需要教会”的论述对于基督的教会来说,完全是错误的。

我们读到:“丈夫是妻子的头,如同基督是教会的头,他又是教会全体的救主。”(弗5:23)如果你读到圣经中本章后面的经节,你就会发现,身体是指教会,所以,基督是教会的救主。人在进入教会之前就已得救或在基督的教会之外可以得救的说法,显然都是错误的。如果这样的说法正确,那基督就成了教会以外的人,也就是世界上的人的救主了,倒不是教会里的人的救主了。可是保罗说基督是教会的救主。

如果主能在教会以外拯救人,那么每个人在进入主的教会之前就已经是得救的了。我们知道这肯定是不对的,因为《以弗所书》5章23节告诉我们主拯救那些进入教会的人,而不是在教会外面的人。教会不是救主,教会是得救的人。人要想得救,就必须到主的教会来。(徒2:47;弗5:23)人要想得救,就必须成为主的教会的一员!

 

进入主的教会方式不一样

毫无疑问,基督有权柄让人进入教会,因为教会是属他的,一切的权柄都赐给了他。因此,我们很感兴趣:他需要什么条件?他是门,我们必须要按他的旨意进入他的教会。

 

要相信

耶稣说:“你们若不信我是基督,必要死在罪中。”(约8:24)他还说:“不信的必被定罪。”(可16:16)我们必须要相信,因为“人非有信,就不能得上帝的喜悦。”(来11:6)信心是迈向“称义”的第一步(罗10:10),当然,也是迈向教会的第一步。

 

要悔改

基督要求我们必须“悔改”,否则“都要如此灭亡”。(路13:3)悔改是意志的转变(太21:28-31),最终得生命。(徒11:18)上帝“如今却吩咐各处的人都要悔改。”(徒17:30)

 

要承认基督

基督在彼拉多面前作过美好的见证。(提前6:13)彼得也公开承认基督:“你是基督,是永生上帝的儿子。”(太16:16)这让他得到了基督赐给他的福气。(太16:17)基督也曾这样应许:“凡在人面前认我的,我在我天上的父面前也必认他。”(太10:32)口里承认,就可以得救。(罗10:10)承认基督让人离得救更近了一步。

 

要受洗

根据《马可福音》,一个人必须要受洗才能从过去的罪中得拯救。这是主离地前交给使徒的最后的使命。主说:“信而受洗的,必然得救。”(可16:16)在这里,一个“而”字将信心和受洗结合在了一起。“而”这个连词连接的是两个并列的要素。在这句话中,信和受洗合在一起,最终获得一个相同的结果——得救。那些有信心(NO.1)并且受了洗(NO.2)的人,就能得救(NO.3)。

保罗在《罗马书》6章中曾教导,得救必须要受洗。“岂不知我们这受洗归入基督耶稣的人,是受洗归入他的死吗?所以,我们藉着洗礼归入死,与他一同埋葬,原是叫我们一举一动有新生的样式,像基督藉着父的荣耀从死里复活一样。”(罗 6:3-4)

注意,保罗在这里的论述大意是受洗归入耶稣基督的人也是归入他的死。

如果人不受洗就可以得救,那就是人不需要基督也能得救。保罗以上述的经文,告诉我们受洗是归入基督。人能在基督之外得救吗?如果人在基督之外不能得救,那么要想得救就必须经过受洗,因为保罗说受洗使人归入基督。不仅如此,我们还要知道,基督只有受死才能流血。而我们必须要接触到他的血,才能获得这血所带来的功效。正因为基督受死才流血,而我们要分享这个功效,就必须接触基督的死。《罗马书》6章3节说:“我们受洗是归入他的死”。我们在受洗之时,而不是在受洗之前,才接触到基督的死;只有这时才接触到他的血,才获得他血的功效。因为我们受洗是归入基督的死,也正是这样归入基督的血,因此,受洗就成了我们藉着上帝儿子的血赎罪的基本要素。

另外,这段经文提出要我们一举一动都有新生的样式,这新的生命是受洗之后才有的。请看《罗马书》6章4节:“所以,我们藉着洗礼归入死,和他一同埋葬,原是叫我们一举一动有新生的样式。”

这里也提到埋葬和复活。保罗说,就像基督从死里复活一样,我们也要复活有新生的样式。今天,很多传道人认为人在受洗之前就可以有新的生命,但是保罗说我们要复活,要有新生命,这新生命是受洗之后才有的。

除此以外,我们可参考《加拉太书》,进一步了解水洗对罪人赎罪的必要性,“所以,你们因信基督耶稣都是上帝的儿子。你们受洗归入基督的都是披戴基督了。”(加3:26-27)注意保罗在这里提出得两个要点:(1)我们做上帝的儿女是凭着信,(2)我们做上帝的儿女是因为信基督耶稣。

让我们仔细思考保罗说话的要点。保罗是不是只说“我们凭着信就可以做上帝的儿女呢?”当然不是。他是不是说“我们单凭着信就可以做上帝的儿女呢?”也不是。“那我们凭着信在基督之外可以做上帝的儿女吗?”肯定不行。那怎么办呢?那就是“我们必须凭着信在基督里才能做上帝的儿女。”所以,朋友们,我们必须在耶稣基督里才能得救。这段经文非常重要,因为它告诉我们如何才能进入基督耶稣:“你们受洗归入基督的都是披戴基督了。”朋友们,你们知道还有没有其它的方法可以进入基督呢?我们知道必须在基督里凭着信才能做上帝的儿女,但只有籍着受洗才能进入基督。

请从以下几个角度认真思考受洗的必要性:1、受洗出现在罪人和他灵魂得救之间。(可16:16) 2、受洗出现在罪人和赦罪之间。(徒2:38) 3、受洗出现在罪人和成为上帝的儿子之间。(加3:26-27) 4、受洗出现在罪人和洗罪之间。(徒22:16) 5、受洗出现在罪人和归入基督之间。(罗6:3)

 

受洗是埋葬

“受洗”一词来源于希腊语baptize,字面意思是“浸泡”、“沉浸”、“跳进”。使徒时代,教会施行浸洗。保罗说只有“一浸”。(弗4:5)他在《歌罗西书》2章12节和《罗马书》6章4节指出,受洗是一种“埋葬”,是水洗。基督曾应许使徒他们若教训人们遵守所有他吩咐的,并给人施洗,他就常与他们同在。(太28:19-20)水洗是1世纪的使徒和其他的基督徒施行的唯一的洗礼。(徒10:47-48;8:35-40)

新约圣经清楚地声明受洗是埋葬。无论从历史,还是从未受灵感之人(这些人中有些是发明洒水礼、浇水礼等宗派的领袖)的言论看,都一致认同新约圣经关于受洗是埋葬的教导。请参见如下经文:

“于是,吩咐车站住,腓力和太监二人同下水里去,腓力就给他施洗。从水里上来,主的灵把腓力提了去,太监也不再见他了,就欢欢喜喜的走路。”(徒8:38,39)

“岂不知我们这些受洗归入基督耶稣的人,是受洗归入他的死吗?所以,我们藉着洗礼归入死,和他一同埋葬,原是叫我们一举一动有新生的样式,像基督藉着父的荣耀从死里复活一样。”(罗6:3-4)

“一主、一信、一洗。”(弗4:5)

正如之前引用的史书所述,诺瓦替安派用水给躺在床上的人倒遍全身。这件事发生的时间不会早于公元251年,大概在公元253年。(Eusebius,114)大概80年后,一些病人和身体虚弱的人更喜欢诺瓦替安派的这种方法。到目前为止,正如所有可信的记载所称,一项叫做“新该撒利亚会议准则第12条”颁布了,反对这样的倒水法,禁止人们在任何神圣的司牧职场使用这种施洗方式。^1^

摩斯埃(Mosiem)的《一世纪基督教会历史》曾这样记载:“洗礼是在1世纪施行的,不是在公共场合的集会上,只是在指定的和事先准备好的地方施行,在洗礼泉里使整个身体浸没水中”2

卫斯理(John Wesley)对《罗马书》6章4节的评论如下:“我们与他一同埋葬,这里提到了古时完全浸没的洗礼。” 马丁·路德(Martin Luther)引用5世纪斯摩卡尔德(Smolcald)的文章说:“受洗就是上帝所说的完全浸没在水中。”加尔文(Calvin)说:“Baptizo这个词的原意就是浸没,而且1世纪的教会的洗礼就是完全浸没在水中。” 3

 

基督教会的敬拜与宗派的敬拜不同

我们不能按自己的意思来敬拜上帝,还想取悦他。基督在《约翰福音》4章24节告诉我们应当如何敬拜:

1、敬拜的对象要正确——“上帝”。

2、敬拜要有正确的态度——“用心灵”。

3、敬拜要按照上帝的旨意——“用真理”。(约17:17)

关于如何执行正确的敬拜是在五旬节教会建立以后开始的。我们可以从早期教会的敬拜活动中学会具体的操作。(徒2:42;20:7)

祷告是主的教会里的另一项敬拜方式。(徒2:42)保罗教导基督徒要“恒切祷告”(西4:2),“不住地祷告”。(帖上5:17)祷告的对象是上帝,而不是马利亚或者某个圣人,而且要奉主耶稣基督的名。(弗5:20)

使徒时代的基督徒按照上帝的教导,在七日的第一日到教会捐钱。(林前16:1,2)这是一种自由的奉献,尽管很多基督徒都奉献超过所得的10%,但十分之一的规定对新约之下的人是没有约束的。新约下的教会不受旧约律法约束。(来7:12)就我个人而言,我不会只奉献10%那么少,但这是我个人的选择(林后9:6-8),而不是因为我受到旧约的约束。

主的教会不会通过抽奖比赛、社交活动等类似的手段来为教会募集资金。1世纪的基督徒没有这样做,今天的教会如果这样做就是与1世纪的基督徒背道而驰。

1世纪的教会也用唱诗来敬拜上帝。(弗5:19;西3:16)我们在《希伯来书》中读到:“说,我要将你的名传于我的弟兄,在会中我要颂扬你”。(来2:12)请注意这个要点,“在会中我要颂扬你。”

早期基督徒唱诗的音乐形式是受限制的,只用人声口唱。他们不用风琴、钢琴、班卓琴、吉他及其它任何乐器赞美上帝。他们只唱不奏。今天在敬拜上帝时任何使用乐器奏乐的教会都不是新约圣经中基督的教会。真正的基督的教会遵照1世纪教会所行的,只用口唱来颂扬上帝。

 

信心坚定的复兴者反对使用乐器

圣经经文是我们的标准。我们通过圣经,“但要凡事察验。善美的要持守。”(帖前5:21)但是,从过去信心坚定的福音宣讲者身上,我们也能学到很多东西。我们知道他们也是在尊重圣经文本的基础上,拒绝在新约教会的敬拜中使用乐器。

敬拜上帝时使用乐器的教会不可能是真正的基督的教会!那些致力于恢复真正新约基督教的信心坚定的先驱们,坚持“圣经说的,我们说,圣经没说的,我们不说”的原则。他们依据圣经,反对在基督的教会的敬拜中使用乐器,因为在敬拜中使用乐器不是来自上帝的权柄,却是教皇的遗产,所以绝对不许使用。坎贝尔(Alexander Campbell) 说:“对于用心灵敬拜上帝的基督徒来说,这种乐器的伴奏无异于一场音乐会中夹杂了牛颈铃的响声”。米利甘(Robert Milligan)也证明说,敬拜中使用乐器“在新约圣经中是找不到任何根据的。”柯瑞士(Jacob Creath )说圣经中没有提到乐器,也没有提到婴儿洗礼。弗兰克林(Benjamin Franklin)说:“基督和使徒都没有提到可以用乐器来敬拜,而且也没有人在教会的敬拜中使用乐器,直到一个罪人出现,就是教皇,而对于在敬拜中使用乐器,我们倒真要感激这位先生。”迈克伽威(J.W.McGarvey )说:“我认为在敬拜中使用乐器是犯罪的,在罪面前,我是不会闭口不言的。”拉德(Moses E.Lard )说:“在教会敬拜中使用乐器关系到一个很神圣的原则问题——那就是人有没有权利将自己的发明创造加进上帝既定的敬拜中去呢?我认为人没有这个权利。认同乐器敬拜一方的胜利之日,就是基督的教会受创之时。”

他接着论述说:“从1世纪一直到今天,我们都坚持只有新约圣经是我们行为的全部准则。我们无数次地说圣经没有教导的,我们不要随私意空想,圣经没有批准的我们坚决不去做。那些无视或者否认原则的人的所作所为已经显明,他们是我们当中的背叛者,这些人越早举起他的手臂,公开承认他们所认为的,或从我们中间出去,对我们越好。通过前面的原则介绍,有什么可以支持在教会敬拜中使用乐器的论调呢?新约圣经的每一章每一节都告诉我没有。上帝这样说过吗?使徒这样吩咐过吗?还是早期的教会这样行过吗?从来没有。那我们怎样看待今天那些试图将乐器加到教会敬拜中的人呢?要我说就是,‘这些人是对基督权柄的亵渎,是对古时简单纯粹的教会敬拜的蔑视和不敬虔。’除此以外,我们要怎样看待这些人呢?他们要我们怎么看待他们呢?”

拉德进一步点评道:“对待这样的教会,我们要怎么做呢?其实,我们什么也不用做。如果他们完全不考虑弟兄的感受,想要通过自由敬拜而抛弃古时教会的榜样,亵渎基督的权柄,激起纷争,引发公愤,那他们肯定会这么做的。我们作为肉体的人,又能怎么样呢?但我们还是应该立即采取三个补救措施:1、让我们当中的每一位讲道者坚定决心,无论在任何情况下,绝不进入有乐器的教会敬拜。我们恳切乞求讲道的弟兄务必坚定不移地持守这一原则。这个方法可供考察,但它也是最快产生效果的方法。2、不让任何有学问的弟兄与使用乐器敬拜的教会接触。宁愿让他少来教会,也不使他陷入困境。3、让那些反对使用乐器敬拜的弟兄先用温和但坚定的语气来规劝那些教会,如果他们的规劝无人过问,乐器还是带到了敬拜中,规劝他们立刻放弃,离开教会。这样一来,那些教会就会很快瓦解。他们为基督的缘故,越快分崩离析就越好。我对他们没有同情,更不会跟随他们,求上帝帮助我,叫我永不会踏入这样的教会。我们要竭尽全力恢复1世纪教会的那种纯粹、简单、不虚浮、充满荣耀的特质。让我们不停脚步,少受干扰,也绝不对任何事物妥协,一直坚持到最后”4

 

当今的大学者如此说

在过去的30年间,伍兹(Guy N. Woods)是尚在世的最杰出的学者之一。他是著名的圣经学者,著有12本宗教书籍,包括对圣经中《约翰福音》、《彼得前后书》、《雅各书》和《犹大书》的评论。他最近的一本书是关于希腊语版本新约的自学手册。他的本职工作是律师,但他却不从事律师事务,而是将毕生精力奉献给了圣经的研究和教学。他法律学的学术背景让他陈述事实清楚、明了、准确。他的圣经学识及丰富的圣经主题演讲能使他轻松应对面临的宗教问题。

他在《雅各书》的评论中,讨论到该书5章13节的最后部分。他评论说:“让他唱诗来赞美”(Psalleto,祈使句用 psallo),在新约中的意思就是唱诗赞美上帝。^5^ 而这里的字面意思也就是“让他不住的唱诗赞美上帝。”这个词还出现在《哥林多前书》14章15节、《罗马书》15章9节和《以弗所书》5章19节中。随着时间的推移,它的意思在不断地发生着变化。起初,它有弹拨头发的意思,也指木匠的拉线,或者拨乐器的弦,而在新约中,就是歌唱的意思。新约圣经用了该词的比喻意义,指弹拨人心里的弦,“当用诗章、颂词、灵歌,彼此对说,口唱心和地赞美(psallo)主。”(弗5:19)那些竭力想证明在教会敬拜中可以使用乐器的人,提出psallo这个词的原意用法,认为该词的原意也应该用到今天的教会中去。但是这些人的论证却并没有结论。那些最热心于在敬拜中使用乐器的人认为,在公共的宗教敬拜中,不用乐器,人也可以接近上帝,乐器的使用是个人选择的问题,因此在方便的时候才使用。如果乐器存在于这个词语中,psallete就是指使用弦乐器,那没有乐器人就不能psallete了。乐器要么在这个词语之中,要么不在。要是在的话,没有乐器,人就不能敬拜上帝,如果不在的话,那这个争论就不攻自破了。如果这个词意中含有乐器的话,那就可以得出以下的结论:1、没有乐器,敬拜上帝就不可能。2、因为上帝要求每个人都要赞美他,那每个人都要在敬拜的时候弹拨一件乐器的弦。3、要帮助敬拜的人用这种方式敬拜。4、只可以使用弦乐器,因为只有弦乐器是可以弹拨的,要排除所有吹奏的乐器,如管风琴、喇叭等。鉴于以上事实,没有哪个结论是那些鼓吹乐器敬拜的人乐于接受的,自然他们的论调也就不攻自破了。

很多著名的世界级希腊学者,包括已经有过主要的英语翻译作品的大师们都亲眼见证了新约中该词不包括使用乐器的意思,它今天的涵义就是口唱。有一个很有意思也很重要的趣闻说到希腊正教。虽然这个教会的成员大部分都说希腊语,但他们敬拜的时候从来不使用乐器。如果想继续深入研究这个问题,可以参考柯菲斯(M. C. Kurfees)的《基督徒敬拜中的乐器音乐》^6^ 一书,且能发现很多有价值的材料。

旧约中的犹太人使用乐器敬拜这种模式已经不适用于今天的基督徒敬拜了。焚香、献祭都是旧约赎罪敬拜的一部分,我们不能因此就说今天我们在教会仍然要像犹太人那样焚香、献祭。同样,有人用同样的逻辑来宣扬婴儿可以加入教会。婴幼儿不是犹太人的一部分吗?那他们今天不应该加入教会吗?这些人又用宣扬乐器敬拜那样成功的老伎俩来宣扬婴幼儿进入教会。但真理却是,上帝已经命定婴幼儿不能入会,教会敬拜不能使用乐器。所有这样做的人都是违背了圣经。(申4:2;箴30:6;启22:18,19)查阅任何可靠的百科全书都可知道在所谓的教会敬拜中,第一次使用乐器是在公元670年,进入大背叛,引起了不小的公愤而被迅速取消,避免了一次分崩离析,直到公元800年才在教会中普及开来。我们的主没有赋予这样的权柄,作为新约圣经作者的众使徒也没有这样命令过,新约中的教会更没有这样实行过。它和刑法制裁、焚香念珠、婴儿洒水一样,都是在离经叛道者的胸中生成的。

我们行事为人是凭着信心,并不是凭着眼见(林下5:7),信道是从听道来的。(罗10:17)因此,在基督徒的敬拜中,我们只要按照上帝所命令我们的去做就行了。因为新约圣经没有说到在敬拜中使用任何乐器,我们就不要使用。圣经要求我们口唱心和地赞美主(而不是使用乐器)。我们也确信,这才是上帝所喜悦的敬拜,因为这是他命定的敬拜。在上帝所命定的日子里,也就是七日的第一日,按上帝所指示的项目去敬拜:教导、唱诗、奉献、掰饼、祷告。(徒2:42;弗5:19;林前16:2;徒20:7)^7^

早期的教会,在七日的第一日,除了祷告、教导、奉献、唱诗,还领主的晚餐。(徒20:7)让我们一起来看看如下的事实:

1、耶稣吩咐他的门徒领受圣餐。(太26:26-28;路22:19)保罗也在《哥林多前书》11章24-25节中提到了同一件事。显然,主命令他的门徒领受圣餐。

2、不仅如此,主还要求门徒聚会。(来10:25)这个命令意味着有必要定个时间,没有特定的时间也就不可能有聚会了。但是吃主的晚餐与聚会又有什么联系呢?

3、简单地说:门徒在聚会的时候吃主的晚餐。(林前11:20)但他们把教会当作了吃饭的地方,受到了上帝的训斥。这段经文揭示出上帝对这个问题的意旨,这不是在家里吃喝,而是聚到一起来敬拜。(林前11:20)

4、因此,基督徒聚集到一处来吃主的晚餐。(林前11:33)他们聚集到一处不是普通地吃饭,这样的饭他们可以在家里吃。(林前11:34)记住,主的晚餐是上帝唯一要求基督徒在聚会的时候吃的。

5、现在,如果我们知道基督徒什么时候聚会,我们就知道我们什么时候应该领受圣餐。下面是相关经文:“七日的第一日,我们聚会掰饼的时候,保罗因为要次日起行,就与他们讲论,直讲到半夜。”(徒20:7)

按照圣经,除了七日的第一日,其它时间不可以领受圣餐,可是今天,我们见到有星期四领的,还有其它各个时间领的。凡是这样做的,都是不符合圣经的。圣经只是简单明白地告诉我们在七日的第一日领受圣餐。

当然,更不用说,圣餐可以一年领一次,或者一个月领一次。我们从不会把一年发生一次的事说成是每周内某天发生的事。比如我们说美国的独立日是7月4日,我们决不会说是在每周的第一天,尽管有时候它可能真的出现在某周的第一天。旧约中的逾越节也是同样的道理。它是在第一个月的第14天,这一天确定为一年一度的宗教节日。如果月份里的某一天是特定的日子,那就是一个月一次的活动。而一周的第一日就是一周一次的活动了。

早期的教会在每七日的第一日领受圣餐。(徒20:7)

因为每周都有第一天,也就是说,他们每七日的第一日都吃主的晚餐,就是一周一次。亲爱的读者们,我要问大家几个问题:

1、你领主的晚餐吗?

2、你什么时候领?

3、你多久领一次?

4、你这么做所依据的是哪段经文?

 

主的教会认为新约启示已经完全,神迹已经停止

圣灵不再直接运行在罪人的心中来拯救他,而是藉着上帝的话来起作用。(林前1:21;弗6:17)信心不是圣灵直接运行在人的心中产生的,而是藉着上帝的话得来的,因为耶稣祷告说,“也为那些因他们的话信我的人祈求。”(约17:20) 信道是从听道来的(罗10:17),而不是圣灵直接运行在人心中的结果。人因记在书上的而信。(约20:30-31)在一个人听道和理解真道之前,不需要圣灵直接运行在他身上,在《使徒行传》4章4节,我们读到:“但听道之人有许多信的”。他们信是因为听到了真道,不是圣灵直接的工作。外邦人的信心是因为宣教士传福音之道所产生的果效,而不是来自圣灵直接在他们心中作工。(徒15:7-9)我们在《罗马书》10章13-14节读到:“未曾听见他,怎能信他呢?”说明信心是来自于听见福音之道,并非来自于圣灵直接的作工。

《路加福音》8章12节说魔鬼从听道的人心里把道夺了去,恐怕他们信了得救。魔鬼知道人得救是因为上帝的话而不是圣灵的直接作工。福音不是圣灵的直接作工,而是上帝的大能,要救一切信的人。(罗1:16)保罗对哥林多人说,“我用福音生了你们”,注意,不是圣灵的工作生了你们。不管是罪人还是圣徒的信心都不是从圣灵直接作工来的,而是藉着上帝的话来的。(徒15:7;加3:2)

下面是有关神迹的一些观点:真正的神迹到新约写成时就已经停止了。(弗4:8-13)“信”(the faith)在新约圣经里指真道,比如保罗说:“他原先所残害的真道。”(加1:23)还有《犹大书》3节说:“要为从前一次交付圣徒的真道竭力的争辩。”这里“真道”的原文用的都是“信”(the faith)。

“直到真理的合一” (“Till the unity of the faith”)的意思是新约所有的真理都被揭示出来之后,神迹就完全停止了。神迹奇事的目的是为了揭示并证明真道。当真理已经显现并被见证,就不再需要神迹奇事了。(可16:20;来2:3,4)我们今天可以因圣经中所记的神迹信基督。(约20:30,31)这不是上帝能不能做什么的问题,而是上帝要不要做什么的问题。让神迹奇事继续在教会中存在绝不是上帝的目的,所以,神迹早已停止、消失并归于无有了。(林前13:8,13)

 

基督的教会的教义不同

基督的教会没有人的信条教义。我们不受任何未受启示的人的言论约束,也不会把什么理论体系作为我们的教义准则。我们不需要任何教会手册、准则、宗教行文和信条。上帝的话才是我们唯一的标准。

圣经是上帝所启示的(彼前1:21;林前2:13;帖前2:2:13),包括所有救恩的信息,所以圣经是完全的。(彼后1:3;提前3:16,17) 为什么还需要什么人为的宗教标准呢?基督的教会的目的就是要“按照上帝的圣言讲。”(彼前4:11)

 

基督的教会的组织结构是符合圣经要求的

基督的教会的组织结构是符合圣经要求的。按照新约圣经的要求,每个地区教会都是自治的。不设什么委员会、协会、联盟或者其它圣经没有提到的组织机构来管辖各地区教会。耶稣基督是教会的头。(弗1:22,23;西1:18)他拥有天上地下所有的权柄。教皇和所有神职人员自封作地上教会的头,而这样做必要落入上帝的刑罚中。(太28:18;弗5:23;徒3:23)

在各个地区教会中,可选择符合条件的人来担任长老,这些人主要负责监管教会。(徒20:17,28;彼前5:1-4)保罗在第一次宣教旅程中,为他建立的很多教会设立了长老。(徒14:23)保罗叫提多留在革哩底,是要他将那没有办完的事办齐了,并在各城设立长老。(多1:5)长老的任职资格可参见《提摩太前书》3章和《提多书》1章。

长老的权力不能逾越他所在的当地教会。可是今天的教会体制根本就找不到任何圣经根据,完全是依据人的观念而设制的。持守这样的宗教信仰简直是徒然。(太15:7-9)

执事协助长老,他们的任职资格可参见《提摩太前书》3章8-12节。

 

声称是基督的教会远远不够

全世界基督的教会只要遵守圣经,就都是一样的。可是,有些教会声称是基督的教会,但却发现他们在敬拜的时候使用乐器(通过圣经学习,我们很容易知道这个教会的敬拜是不正确的),这和新约的教导是不一致的。约翰说越过基督教训的就没有上帝。(约二9)他还说若有人传的教训与基督的教训相悖,不要接待他,因为问他安的,就在他的恶行上有份。(约二10-11)

是哪位使徒又是在哪里吩咐过基督的教会使用乐器敬拜呢?1世纪的哪个教会使用过乐器敬拜呢?又有哪段新约经文说到敬拜的时候要使用乐器呢?新约圣经只字未提!

真正的基督的教会的目标就是要在名称、合一、行事、敬拜、身份、组织和使命上完完全全地遵守新约圣经的教导,也正是这一点上,基督的教会与其它任何所谓的教会完全不一样。基督徒只有遵循圣经的教导,才能说是正确的。

尽管有一些人陷在错误之中,我们也没有办法阻止他们不偏离圣经。然而,只要他们使用乐器来敬拜上帝,那就很容易看出他们不是主的教会,无论他们怎么声称他们是多么尊重新约圣经。

 

最后的希望

全世界基督的教会的目的在于重新恢复公元1世纪的基督教。我们希望恢复基督教原本的单纯——不受人名、教义和传统的影响。

在使徒时代,主的教会像一个身体一样存在着,按照上帝指示使徒的教导运行。(太28:20,徒4:32) 把“种子”或者“上帝的话”(路8:11)撒遍全地,落到诚实的心里,结出一样的果子——基督徒。那时候还没有不同派别的基督徒,因为宗派还没有产生。没有人会问“你是新教徒还是天主教徒?”,因为这些根本就不存在。也没有人问“你的信仰属哪一派?”因为只有一信。(弗4:5)

在这个宗教派别四分五裂的世界,基督的教会所希望就是能在全世界完全恢复主的教会。我们希望人们能抛弃人的观念,拒绝分门别类,恢复起初主关于救恩和敬拜的命令,恢复起初主的教会。这是唯一能真正实现宗教合一的途径。

如果你渴望找到耶稣所建造的教会(太16:18),那你如何辨认呢?这里列举几个基督的教会的特点:基督的教会认为基督是唯一的头(弗1:22-23);基督的教会以基督的名字命名,拒绝一切人的名称(西1:10-13;罗16:16;徒11:26;26-28;彼前4:16);基督的教会以新约圣经为标准,不用其它人造的信条律例(提后3:16-17;彼前4:11;来9:15-17);当人听从福音得救的时候(帖后1:7-9),基督把他加进自己的教会(徒 2:47);听从福音包括相信(可16:16)、悔改(徒3:19)、承认基督是上帝的儿子(徒8:37)、受洗(徒2:38),指浸入水中,使罪得赦。基督的教会的敬拜还包括(不用乐器)唱诗(西3:16-17)、祷告(徒2:42)、证道(徒2:42)、(七日第一日)领圣餐(徒20:7)、奉献(林前16:1-2)。教会的工作包括帮助穷人;基督徒藉着上帝的话语自我提升;向全世界传讲福音。(可16:15-16)基督爱自己的教会,为教会舍己。(弗5:25)

让我们共同恳求人人都能遵守圣经的教导,认同圣经中的上帝是存在的,知道耶稣基督真是上帝的儿子,认识到真理是完全的,也是可以得到的,明白圣经是上帝启示的话语,是真理。因此,我们接受并劝慰所有人接受圣经作为信心和行为的标准。(彼前4:11;腓4:16)新约圣经教导我们基督的教会是基督用他的宝血重价买来的。(徒20:28;弗5:25-27)我们力劝人人都顺从福音(彼前4:17-18),按照新约圣经来敬拜上帝。(约4:24;徒2:42)我们期盼新约基督教的恢复,希望每一个诚实而有责任感的人都能加入到伟大的圣经计划的行列中来。(帖前5:21)只有圣经生出基督徒,独一无二的基督徒!

新约圣经说只有一个身体。(罗12:4-5;林前12:13,20;弗2:16;4:4;西3:15) 圣经中有三处地方表明这个身体指的就是教会。(弗1:22-23;西1:18,24)圣经说身体只有一个。(林前12:20)

简单地说,20世纪教会的使命,和1世纪教会的使命是一样的。从一开始,教会就遵守使徒的教训。(徒2:42)主的旨意是要让教会成为真理的柱石和根基。(提前3:15)

耶稣是主,基督是使徒传道的主体。(徒2:22,36;提后2:2;4:1-5;加6:14;林前1:23-24)。传扬基督就是宣讲上帝国(教会)的真理、基督的名(权柄)、受洗(徒8:5,12)等有关的真理。我们必须传讲全备的真理、新约的敬拜、组织结构和基督徒的生活准则。

让我们记住基督来是“寻找拯救失丧的人。”(路19:10)所以,教会有责任把上帝拯救的福音带给这个失丧的、正要灭亡的世界,让人们听从福音,得到救恩,这样主就会将得救的人加添给教会。(徒2:38,41,47;弗5:23)我们进入主的教会,乃是蒙基督的恩。只要我们如此持守信心到底,就必与天堂有份。(彼后1:5-11)

 

 

注释

 

1 Christian Baptism, Campbell, p. 191.

2 Ibid.p.186.

3 Ibid.p.143-145.

4 Lard’s Quarterly, Vol. I, pg. 331-333.

5 Thayer, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.

6 M. C. Kurfees.Instrumental Music In Christian Worship. The Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee.

7 Quoted from The Commentary from the Book of James, published by The Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee. Used by permission of B. C. Goodpasture, Editor and President.

 

教会的

B.B.Brother

徐 林 译

 

“我还告诉你,你是彼得,我要把我的教会建造在这磐石上,阴间的权柄(权柄原文作门),不能胜过他。”(太16:18) 圣灵立你们作全群的监督,你们就当为自己谨慎,也为全群谨慎,牧养上帝的教会,就是他用自己血所买来的(或作救赎)。(徒20:28) 但愿他在教会中,并在基督耶稣里,得著荣耀,直到世世代代,永永远远。阿们。(弗3:21)

基督的教会的确是一个伟大的机构。它是基督自己建立的。也许说,人们如果仔细看看上帝的话中有关教会的论述,他们就会越来越领会,就会成为该机构的积极分子。让我们注意基督的教会之所以伟大的几个理由:

 

教会是基督用自己的血买来的

再注意圣经对上述观点的论述:“圣灵立你们作全群的监督,你们就当为自己谨慎,也为全群谨慎,牧养上帝的教会,就是他用自己血所买来的(或作救赎)。”(徒20:28) 这应该是在表明上帝赋予它一种价值。

 

基督是元首

“又将万有服在他的脚下,使他为教会作万有之首。教会是他的身体,是那充满万有者所充满的。 (弗1:22-23) 基督不是各宗各派的头。他是教会的元首。教会必须从方方面面留心关注他的指示。教会不应该根据自己的运作方式来进行运作,而是要按照基督想要的方式来运作。基督是指引方向的“元首”。

 

 

教会是基督的新妇

保罗对罗马的教会说“我的弟兄们,这样说来,你们藉着基督的身体,在律法上也是死了。叫你们归于(原文是嫁给)别人,就是归于(原文是嫁给)那从死里复活的,叫我们结果子给上帝。”(罗7:4) 再看《以弗所书》5章22-33节。在婚姻上,两人成为或连成一体。同样,基督和他的新妇也是一体。教会之所以伟大是因为她嫁给了基督。

 

人只有在一体(教会)里才能与上帝和好

“既在十字架上灭了冤仇,便藉这十字架,使两下归为一体,与上帝和好了。”(弗2:16) 一个人必须在基督与上帝和好之地才能与上帝和好。圣经确认这个地方就是教会。

结论

上述的理由(当然远不止这些)足以说明,教会是伟大的。你在主的教会里吗?“我们不拘是犹太人,是希腊人,是为奴的,是自主的,都从一位圣灵受洗,成了一个身体。饮于一位圣灵。”(林前12:13)


Vital Lessons From The Biblical Text (English & Chinese)

  • ISBN: 9781370500475
  • Author: Billy Bland
  • Published: 2016-10-08 19:21:10
  • Words: 63978
Vital Lessons From The Biblical Text (English & Chinese) Vital Lessons From The Biblical Text (English & Chinese)