How does a person perceive truth? How does a person recognize deception or falsehood? There have been philosophical debates regarding truth that span quite a contrast, but what I hold to be of importance in regards to Scripture is that we do, indeed, need to attempt to discern the original intent of the author of any particular passage or book/letter. We also need to go one step further, and derive the intent of the One who worked through the authors of Scripture, for Scripture itself claims to be God inspired; God “breathed.”
We can begin to discern God's intent by examining what Scripture reveals as God's will. What does God want of mankind, and from mankind? Does He want a bunch of brain-numbed robots who, when God commands them to jump, reply, “how high”? Does He desire mankind to exist in a condition like serfs in some feudal state with God as king, following and adhering to a long list of laws that regulate even the most minor behaviours, sometimes in what appears to be an arbitrary fashion?
All too often, man makes God over into his own image, and imagines God to be like a human king, demanding allegiance and demanding the people jump through hoops to satisfy His need to see whether we will obey His commands. It is a tenuous relationship, where a person would constantly be concerned over whether his lord and master was pleased or displeased with him and his performance. God ends up more tyrant than loving God in the minds and hearts of many.
Scripture paints a picture of the Israelites being in a relationship with God, where God is not only Lord and King, but also husband. In this scenario, we need to take into consideration what sort of wife Israel was to God.
She was a treacherous, cheating wife, and God knew it before He entered into that relationship, which was, in a sense, an “arranged” marriage due to the promises God made to Abraham and the patriarchs. So God made some “prenups” for Israel in the form of a covenant that was likened to a marriage covenant, but with conditions that were designed to expose the Israelites for what they were, while appearing to give Israel what she wanted. While Israel tried to prove herself worthy of God's “affection” all Israel managed to do was prove herself to be what she was by nature; stiff-necked and rebellious; a treacherous and cheating woman. Israel rarely admitted her true nature. When she found herself in big trouble, she would admit her faults and transgressions; God would forgive and intervene, only to watch Israel repeat this process over again. Israel was, for the most part, in denial regarding her nature and true relationship with God. Psalms 44 is a good example of Israel's denial.
Is it therefore God's will that people be kept in a condition where they will continually prove their sinful nature through acts of transgressing a law whose sole purpose is to expose the sinful nature?
Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? – Deuteronomy 31:26-27Is it God's will to be bound to rebellious people who have no real love for the husband? What then is God's desire, and what is God's will?
God desires a wife who loves Him, unconditionally, even as He loves the wife. God's relationship with Israel was conditional; one of having to command Israel to obey in order to receive blessings from her Husband, and even on this level, Israel proved herself to be untrustworthy. What lesson then is to be learned from Israel and the law she was given? That man, with his “human” (Adamic) nature, is incapable of pleasing God. It is a nature devoid of any real faith in God, unless God imparts faith to men, and this is the example of God's relationship with the patriarchs.
That law proves man to be faithless and sinful. That law imparts a knowledge of good and evil, and exposes the knowledge and understanding that man is evil. That law cannot prove a man to be good or righteous. Those who put their trust in the law, claiming we must keep the law, are like the Pharisees and religious of Jesus' time who saw the law as the standard of righteousness for them, blinding themselves to the fact they did not keep the law perfectly, as required by that law.
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. – Romans 7:10God desires we have faith in Him. God wants us to understand we cannot make ourselves acceptable to God based on our own efforts. God desires we love Him, for He loves us. God is willing to give of His nature; impart His nature to us so that we can love Him in return. But there was a danger involved, should one in possession of God's Holy Spirit not have faith in God, or reject the love of God. We have the example of king Saul in this regard.
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 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. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. – John 6:28-48
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 3:16Christ is seen as having been slain from the foundation of the world. Everything was planned out from the beginning, as well as this ultimate expression of love on the part of God.
This should not be lost on mankind. God, who is infinitely greater than man, needed to convey to man certain facts; that man in his fallen state cannot please God. A thousand lifetimes of trying to keep that law that was a reflection of God's standard would still result in a man standing condemned before God. That law pointed to the need for an atonement of man's collective and personal sins, which was accomplished through God's ultimate expression of love for His creation, by undergoing the ultimate sacrifice for God; a brutal and painful death as a man, but so much more than just a man.
God doesn't need us. God wants us. God made man in His image; a unique creation to dwell with God and exist as children of God in a loving relationship with God. This relationship was made possible by what God did and does, and not as a result of anything we did based on our own might, such as keeping a law. That law did not prove men good by keeping it; that law proved men sinners and depraved because man transgressed it, and that as a result of man's Adamic rebellious and faithless heart. It is God who gives the believer a heart of flesh to replace the stony heart we are born with. It is God who gives His Holy Spirit to those who place their faith and trust in Christ. The man needed to learn and understand that, based on his own efforts, he can do no real good, given the heart the man is born with.
God reaches down and pulls us up. We do not, and cannot, climb up to God through our own efforts, whether it be keeping that old covenant law, or through means associated with religions based on human effort. “Just jump through the proper theological hoops” and achieve nirvana, salvation, or whatever.
You might ask what this all has to do with understanding and using the proper methods of scholarship when it comes to discovering the truths of Scripture. Even ministers and theologians of Churches that have a false theology know what the proper methods of scholarship are, for the most part, and they will still ignore the proper methods of scholarship at times, and fall for using the methods of deceptions, such as eisegesis, without realizing they are doing so. One can only wonder why, and the answers lie deep within the psyches of the deceived, and how a deceived mind operates “in the dark” as it were.
False doctrines and beliefs have a common denominator, in that they are based on a belief in a false gospel. Invariably, a false gospel is the true gospel falsified through addition. For example, the gospel is a declaration of salvation through faith alone in Christ. He came and paid the ultimate price so that we could be reconciled to God. He offered Himself in sacrifice for our sins, and the sins of the world.
What then is the undeclared statement when one falsifies the gospel, by adding to the gospel something they believe must be done besides faith in Christ in order to be saved? Sabbatarian legalists believe the ten commandments must be kept in order to be saved, citing Matthew 19:17. They publicly declare salvation through faith in Christ, but hold to this belief also, and claim that you can lose your salvation should you quit keeping the ten commandments, especially the sabbath command.
The undeclared statement is this:
Faith in Christ is not enough
What is God's response to those who do not believe the gospel, but are so brazen as to falsify it with their additions to the gospel? Well, let's see, God gives the ultimate sacrifice He can give by shedding His glory, taking on the life of a servant, and dies a most horrible, painful, drawn out death that man has ever devised, thus not only paying the penalty of death for sin, but also demonstrates his boundless love for His creation, and some people don't believe it was enough, and feel they have the right to add to that gospel conditions for salvation God never intended. It is a reflection of pride and arrogance on a whole new level. It is the ultimate insult to God. It is so close to the ultimate sin as to be terrifying, once you realize you were guilty of this special sin.
Recall, if you will, what John the Baptist had to say to those religious leaders who came out to his baptism:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: – Matthew 3:7-8They were not interested in repentance. After all, they had the law, and their righteousness was tied to that law. As long as they thought they were compliant with the law, they thought they were right with God, and as a result, no need to truly repent. And by repent, I mean the act of turning to God. They thought they were already in tight with God, having been deceived by that law into thinking they were already righteous.
From my own personal experience of having believed a false gospel for over 25 years, I had to bring forth the evidence to God that I was truly trying to turn to Him and seeking him over the course of over three years of intense personal study. It took that whole three years and then some to finally get to where I was ready to understand the gospel, and I was shocked at the simplicity of the gospel, and how easily I had bought into a false gospel that clouded and darkened my understanding all those years. It is only through the boundless mercy of God I was “granted” repentance.
With all this prefaced then, we are ready to cover the proper methods of scholarship, necessary for searching out the truths of Scripture.
Some of what I cover is commonly taught in churches and religious schools, and some of it is based upon my own personal discoveries that I believe to be Scripturally sound, which I will identify as my own so that the reader can evaluate my claims in this regard.
1. Scripture is stated to be God-breathed and God inspired. As such, I conclude that no man or organization of men has the right to alter Scripture or its application in any way.
God was never careless in what He inspired to be written, therefore it is arrogant of us to alter Scripture through any rationalization, including the claim that a belief is based on the principle of Scripture when there is no actual Scripture to support a view or belief. I conclude that the Bible leaves nothing to chance; leaves nothing hanging where we have to conclude things that are not clearly stated in Scripture. Once you justify the alteration of Scripture and its application, you can justify just about anything you want.
Things in Scripture are not always what they seem to be also. God spoke to Adam and stated that he was not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; that on the day he did, he would surely die.
The serpent came along and said he and Eve would not die should they eat of that fruit, and gave a justification; a rationalization for going ahead and partaking of it. God said one thing, and the serpent said something else, but with a subtle twist in that what God meant by “die” and what the serpent meant by “die” were two different things. What then did Adam and Eve believe was meant by dying on that day they partook of that tree?
What it means though is that we should be relying on God and His Word to define things for us, and not rely on human understanding, assuming we know what things mean that have to do with Scripture.
An example of men altering the Scriptures that is commonly practiced is the Scriptural teaching and law concerning tithing. Without going into a lot of detail, the tithe was a tenth of the increase of produce and/or livestock. No one was ever commanded to tithe of their wages. Yet look at how many people just assume this is Scriptural; that this is a biblical definition of tithe. Again, can we afford to assume? The serpent (the devil) deceived Adam and Eve (or at least, Eve) and the devil is described as one who deceives the whole world. His deception was extremely subtle, revolving around the word “die.” His was a half-truth. Satan knew what God meant, even if Adam and Eve didn't. Adam and Eve didn't bother to ask God for further information as to what exactly He meant. But we have the ability to go to the Scriptures; the inspired “God-breathed” Word of God for our understanding. Or, we can rely on the definitions, or redefinitions given to us by those who claim to represent God.
Old covenant points of law were not to be introduced into Christianity or taught to (Gentile) Christians as per the instructions found in Acts chapter 15. They were inspired to write that to teach old covenant points of law resulted in a subversion of a Christian's soul.
The most common rationale for this change of Scripture and its application is to claim we no longer live in an agrarian society, and that this “principle” of tithing then changes with the times.
However, the economy of ancient Israel had plenty of Israelites who did not make their living through agricultural pursuits or animal husbandry. There were craftsmen and others who earned their living through wages. It should also be noted that when Paul wrote about the rights of those who preach the gospel being entitled to support from the churches, he did not use tithing as a justification, but rather the analogy of not muzzling the ox that treads out the grain.
Paul resorts to a rationalization in this regard. Rationalizations are very weak arguments, and often are flawed, resulting in false beliefs, but this is Paul, and Paul also stated that they had this as a command from the Lord in regards to their support being from the gospel. What needs to be emphasized is that Paul knew better than to use the old covenant tithing law as a justification, where people would then end up believing it to be mandatory, thus undermining the very nature and message of the gospel, which leads to my second point that cannot be violated:
2. The message of the gospel cannot be compromised or altered by any other belief, no matter how convincing. The message of the gospel trumps all other beliefs; salvation through faith only.
This is another of my own rules. Sabbatarians believe that it is the law of the old covenant, or specifically the ten commandments that trumps all, including the gospel. This claim of mine then is also a refutation of their claim that is derived from their teachings, which is rarely so explicitly declared by them.
What was commonly believed by many in the early church is believed today; that Christians are supposed to keep the old covenant law. To these people, the law is what trumps all else, and all things are judged from the perspective of that law, with an emphasis on the ten commandments, which is seen by many to be the immutable law of God.
That law, or more accurately, the perception of that law, and the gospel are in conflict. The gospel declares salvation through faith only, and as such, salvation is a gift. Those who hold to the law or even just the ten commandments declare that to fail to keep or comply with the ten commandments is to sin, and, as it is written, no sinner shall inherit eternal life, loosely citing I Corinthians 6:9-10 as evidence.
Those who see the law as the trump card sacrifice the gospel as a result. I have heard many a Sabbatarian legalist state that it is unthinkable for the law to be of no further consequence and that the removal of the law would, in their minds, justify people's wholesale abandonment, committing all sorts of atrocities without fear of any Godly consequences. Seeing then that in their minds, “that law” cannot terminate, all evidence to the contrary is summarily dismissed without examination of any sort. “My mind is made up; don't confuse me with the facts.”
Where this has the potential to be entertaining is to ask such a person what they would do then if indeed that law were no longer relevant; if they would go about doing the very things they claim others would do. Their claim is actually a veiled accusation. I would remind the reader that those religious people and leaders that rejected Jesus and His message did so in favor of that law also; that law they extolled yet did not keep.
Paul calls that law the ministration of death and condemnation in II Corinthians chapter three. What the legalist continually overlooks and ignores is that there is no righteousness to be found in the law. It only condemns. It only exposes the sinful nature. It provides definitions from God as to what is good and evil, and when held up before us like a mirror, it shows us to be what we are; evil.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. – Romans 7:18The claim that, should the law be done away with, people would sin with abandon, is almost ludicrous. The people who had that law managed to sin just fine with the law.
There are also general rules that are useful in one's search for truth:
a. Who is speaking, and who is being spoken to?
It is a common practice among aberrant groups to take that which was required of one person or group and assign it to another person or group. The most common abuse is assigning the law, or the ten commandments, to Christians. An examination of these passages misappropriated by legalistic groups shows that it was God speaking to, and addressing Israelites, and even then, through the medium of a covenant law to which Christians are not a legal party.
God commanded the Israelites that He led out of Egypt to keep and observe a law, the basis of which is the ten commandments, or more accurately, the “ten words.” This law was codified into a covenant; a legally binding agreement between those two parties, God and Israel. As such, no others can be required to keep the conditions of this covenant unless they complied with the only provision in that covenant that allowed those not of Israel to enter into that covenant relationship with God by undergoing circumcision. Then, and only then, was a person as one born of Israel and subject to that covenant law.
All manner of explanations and rationalizations have been put forth by those who insist on Christians keeping the conditions of this covenant law who are not party to it. Their claims, when examined properly according to the rules of evidence, fail. Yet look at the numbers of people and churches that claim Christians are required to keep the ten commandments, while telling their followers that anyone who would dare say they do not have to keep them are those who are twisting the Scriptures. I am sure that many who are reading this at this point may well be making the same accusation against the author. But let us allow the evidence to speak for itself.
Using this debate over the ten commandments, we can examine the proper methods of evidence as well as see the methods of deception employed and recognize them as such.
If someone claims we are required to keep the ten commandments, then they should be able to produce evidence to support the claim, and in so doing, not resort to the methods of deception such as inference, assumption, rationalization, substitution theology, or claims that cannot be falsified, to name a few.
Claim: Christians are required to keep the ten commandments.
Evidence to the contrary: The ten commandments are a covenant between the two parties, God and Israelites. Those not a party to a covenant cannot be held to the conditions of said covenant.
This evidence to the contrary is in itself a claim that either has Scriptural support, or has no support, or evidence to the contrary to this claim. It is the duty of the one making the original claim to refute any supposed evidence to the contrary.
In the case of this counter-claim, it should be obvious enough from a legal standpoint alone that a person cannot be held to the conditions of a covenant they are not party to. In any event, we have the following to take into consideration:
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. — Galatians 3:15-18Here we have Paul explaining a characteristic of covenants. Once they are put in force, no one can legally reject it or alter it. Would this not include an attempt to add participants to it? Of course.
This claim then regarding covenants is pretty air tight. Those who reject Paul’s witness to this and many other things will, as a result, resort to the methods of deception and disinformation in an attempt to discredit Paul. Some go so far as to reject Paul as a true minister of Christ, thereby justifying their rejection of what Paul wrote and taught all together.
The unspoken claim of those who believe we have to keep the ten commandments in this regard is that, if enough “evidence” can be produced indicating we should be keeping the ten commandments, this evidence can therefore outweigh evidence to the contrary! Given the established facts revolving around covenants, we could safely conclude that, in order for Christians to be required to keep the ten commandments, there would either have to be another covenant made to which Christians are a party to it requiring their observance, or some other declaration by either Christ or the apostles stating Christians should be keeping the ten commandments. I will state right here that no such evidence exists. If someone alleges to have evidence to this effect, then that evidence should also be subjected to the rules of evidence.
What then are some of the common claims used by those who claim we should be keeping the ten commandments? One is that the ten commandments are the “law of God” and as such, we should be keeping them as a result.
If you examine the premise, you will see that a claim is made that results from drawing a conclusion. Using this “rationalization” we are led to discard the evidence we have established as fact regarding covenants.
We also need to understand this indeed is a rationalization being employed, and rationalizations are one of the many methods of deception. Not all rationalizations are deceptions, but due to their nature, they cannot be given the same weight of evidence as evidence that does not depend upon rationalizations, assumptions, and inferences.
When we subject the claim then to the rules of evidence, what do we learn?
Is the claim falsifiable? The wording makes it nearly so. That law was a law “from” God, and that law was written in the “book of the law of God.” So in that regard, it is “God's law” but not exclusively. Those who hold to this law deny any other law of God. But that book was also called the “book of the law of Moses.” Also, the witness of Christ has Him referring to the law as the law of Moses, and credits Moses as having given the law to Israel. Legalists get around this obstacle of that law being also the Law of Moses by insisting there are really two laws as a result; one being “God's law” engraven in stone, and the rest, or the “other” law being the law of Moses. What we end up with are new claims that need to be examined properly also.
This construct creates its own set of issues: If the ten commandments are “God's law” and the rest is the Law of Moses, then why is that book of the law referred to as both the book of the law of God as well as the book of the law of Moses? Also, the law of Moses sans the ten commandments infers that Moses came up with that law without God's input or influence. Scripture refutes this.
However, the real issue is not whose law it is, but rather to whom the law was given, and who then was required to observe and keep that law.
We can further demonstrate the problem with these claims through an analogy.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was God’s tree. Can we conclude, using the same logic the previous claims make, that we should therefore be partaking of that tree? What was the fruit or end result of partaking of its fruit? Death. What was the fruit or end result of living by that law of God? According to the apostle Paul, that covenant law also resulted in death.
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. — Romans 7:10He called it the ministration of death and condemnation in II Corinthians chapter 3, and the law of sin and death in Romans chapter 7.
Can the reader see now that the premise that the ten commandments are the “law of God” does not necessarily mean we should conclude we are to be keeping it? Yet many will choose this rationalization that relies on an assumed conclusion over the hard facts surrounding covenants.
Assumptions lead to deceptions. One must always be aware of whether they are relying on an assumption, and be aware that assumptions can sound very convincing. You wouldn’t want to be convicted of a crime based upon assumptions, therefore why would you risk eternity on them? If there are facts in regards to a questioned belief, stick with the facts.
There is one other factor that needs to be taken into consideration here, and that is evidence to the contrary regarding the ten commandments being “the” law of God. That law was mediated by Moses. A mediator is one who works in between two parties in order to produce an equitable agreement between the two parties. Hence, that law became known and called, the law of Moses. It is a law that originated with God and came from God, but it was tailored for the Israelites; a stiff-necked and rebellious people, devoid, for the most part, of faith. Could it be that law served a purpose in relation to Israel that would not be served with Christians? I will leave it here as a question instead of a claim, for I do not wish to stray too far from the topic at hand.
Another claim in regards to the ten commandments is that the ten demonstrate love; love for God and love for fellow man, therefore the conclusion, once more, that we should be keeping those commandments.
The premise here is a claim that is either true or false. Do we have any evidence from Scripture that the ten commandments demonstrate love? The Two Great Commandments are often cited as supporting evidence:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. — Matthew 22:36-40Everything in the law and prophets hang on these two pivotal commandments. The claim that the ten commandments show how to love God and fellow man is actually an attempt to make everything hang on the ten commandments!
We can however apply some critical thinking to this premise/claim. The commandment to “honor” one’s parents for example: Why doesn’t the command just come out and say, “love” your parents? Why doesn’t the command that addresses killing/murder state, “love” your enemies?
We need to take into consideration the nature of the old covenant law, and to whom it applied; stiff-necked and rebellious Israelites that Jesus referred to in this context:
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. — Matthew 15:8The call of the prophets follows a major theme. The prophets addressed the Israelites over time, and called to Israel to turn back to God whenever they strayed. If they indeed had a love for God and fellow man, the law and prophets would be fulfilled. But their hearts were far from God, and far from loving their fellow man, right down to their parents. The true nature of the ten commandments revolve around the rights of God and neighbor (fellow man) in relation to the individual who was devoid of love for God and fellow man. If an Israelite despised his parents, there was this command to give them their due “honor” and respect, regardless, for it was owed them, at the least. Likewise, the first four commandments relate what the individual owed God; including the individual's time one day a week.
Paul further defines the purpose of the law in relation to Israel:
Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; . . . — 1 Timothy 1:9-10The law, according to Paul, is not there for the sake of demonstrating love for God and fellow man; the law was there because the people were devoid of love.
Then there is circumstantial evidence. Ask yourself, If you have love for God, do you need to be told not to have other gods besides God? No. If you love your fellow man, do you need to be told not to murder him? No, for people do not murder those they love. If anything, this circumstantial evidence tends to support the exact opposite of the premise/claim! Seeing as the Israelites were stiff-necked and hard-hearted, they were put under that law for that reason.
Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them. For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands. — Deuteronomy 31:26-29That law witnessed to the fact they were faithless and loveless. The law didn’t teach them love; the law exposed their lack of love and how they were devoid of faith.
b. Situation in life; Time and Place
Words change in meaning over time. What is important in word studies is to determine how any particular word was used at the time and place the text was written that contains the words or terms we seek to understand in order to better understand what message the writer was trying to convey.
This then is the practice of taking words and phrases, and examining them in the light of the times and places in which they were written. Over the course of time, words change in their meaning, sometimes coming to mean the exact opposite of what their original definitions were. As mentioned earlier, the temptation sometimes to ignore this form of context is too great. An example of abuse in this regard is the translation found in the King James Version found at I John 3:4:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
??? ? ????? ??? ???????? ??? ??? ??????? ?????, ??? ?
Every the one-doing the missing (sin) and(also) the against law is-doing and the
??????? ????? ? ??????.
sin is the against-law/lawlessness
[Sorry, the Greek text did not copy through]
The word of interest here is “anomia” transliterated “a” - against “nomia” - law. How was the word used at that time and place by those who spoke and wrote in Greek? The word was used to convey the meaning and understanding of iniquity.
The translators of the King James Version were members of the Church of England who were following the earlier Geneva Bible translation. The scholarship of the time did not always take into account the linguistics of the time of the writing of the New Testament, hence they opted for a more literal translation that, in turn, strayed into interpretation. No other English translation (of note) renders this passage as sin being the transgression of the (old covenant) law.
Was all transgression of the old covenant law sin? No, for Jesus declared that David ate the show-bread that was not lawful for him to eat, yet he was blameless; without sin in this regard. Jesus worked on sabbaths by healing people, and even admitted it was work, making a distinction between breaking the law in the letter while fulfilling the law in the spirit; a spirit of love and compassion. Those who are legalistic in their theological outlook reject Jesus actually working on sabbaths, despite Jesus' own claim that He and the Father worked on sabbaths, by making the assumptive claim that, had Jesus broken the letter of the law, it would indeed be sin, which would disqualify Jesus as Savior. They even cite the passage of Scripture above as a proof text!
What is really happening is the negation of the spirit of the law in favor of the letter of the law. The avoidance of sin and condemnation through the old covenant law takes on greater importance than the spirit of the law the apostle Paul points out as being the law that leads to life as contrasted to the old covenant law that was described as being the ministration of death and condemnation, which results with those who live(d) by that law!
Did David break the law, or not? Yes, he most certainly did. Was he convicted of sin as a result? No, he was not. Is sin therefore always the transgression of that law? No, it is not. Is sin always iniquity? Yes, it is.
Was there sin in the world before there was the old covenant law? Yes there was. In fact, Paul states that the law was added because of sin in order to make sin utterly sinful. So to translate I John 3:4 to say sin is the transgression of the law is to not only misapply the meaning of the word “anomia” it also ignores that which is established in the rest of Scripture regarding sin.
c. Proper Exegesis.
This is the practice of taking a statement of Scripture that has the potential to be misunderstood, and examine the immediate context as well as the general context. If the conclusion drawn is unrelated to the immediate context, there is probably something amiss with the understanding/interpretation of the passage in question.
One of the Sabbatarian Legalist's favorite passages is Matthew 5:17-19 where it is concluded that the legalities of the law remain inviolate even down to the strokes of the letters of the law. Even a cursory examination of the passage shows this interpretation to be flawed. The context of what Jesus was referring to was the law and prophets. In this context it should be understood that this refers to the first 5 books, commonly called “the law” and the writings of the prophets being “the prophets” as well as the context of Scripture overall. Sometimes the term, “the law” could indeed refer to the entirety of the old testament writings.
What then is found in both the law and prophets that has the potential to be fulfilled or destroyed? Prophesies. Did Jesus state He had come to fulfill the prophesies that were written about Him in the law and prophets, i.e. the old testament writings? Yes, He most emphatically did.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. – Luke 24:44What then is the excuse of the legalist for rejecting this explanation in light of Matthew 5:17? They point out that Jesus did not fulfill everything while He walked the earth in human form. Well then, what do they think the very next verse addresses? Things that were not fulfilled prophetically that are escatalogical in nature will be at that time, before heaven and earth pass away.
Let's humor the legalist a bit here, seeing as they insist this is about the legalities of the law. When then is the conclusion in regards to verse 18? When heaven and earth passes, so to passes this law after it is “filled to the full.” So the law passes away; the same law they claim is eternal. Also, if this is all about the legalities of the law being inviolate down to jots and tittles, what about the context of the same chapter where Jesus proceeds to alter points of that law way beyond jots and tittles, and even negating points of law?
Ironically, the Sabbatarian legalist understands the concept of exegesis, but the temptation to ignore the context is oft times too great when it comes to cherished beliefs.
Is the evidence of Scripture being used exegetically, taking into consideration the surrounding context, or is the evidence eisegetical in nature, lifting the passage out of context; thereby ignoring the context?
Legalistic churches will cite Romans 3:31 as evidence we are to keep that old covenant law:
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. — Romans 3:31Taken out of context and taken at face value, it certainly appears that Christians are supposed to be keeping that law. What then of the context?
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom 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; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: 30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. – Romans 3:19-311) The law served the purpose of making men guilty before God, and not righteous (v.20).
2) No one is, or shall be justified before God through the law, or specifically the deeds of the law; those points of law that required performance by one under the law. Why? Because the function of the law was to make known sin; provide a knowledge of sin, and bring the one under the law under sin.
3) Justification and righteousness is now revealed; a righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus Christ, and not through the law, that is also witnessed or attested to in the law and prophets.
4) Why righteousness through faith in Christ? Because all have sinned and come short of God's “Glory” (perfect standard); those under the law (those of the circumcision) and those not under the law (the uncircumcision).
5) We are justified; made righteous freely (nothing we did to deserve or earn it). How? Through the redemption found in Jesus Christ. How were we redeemed by or through Christ?
6) Verse 25: Through the propitiation of faith in His blood. It was by and through His sacrifice and spilled blood we are washed of our sins. Without Christ's payment of that which the law required, all would otherwise remain in sin, under condemnation, and separated from God.
7) By this God's justice is satisfied, and that God now can justify us through faith in Christ, all according to the law.
8) All boasting then in the law by those of the circumcision is negated and canceled by this “law of faith” whereby we have our righteousness and salvation, seeing as the law; the works of the law, could only result in sin, condemnation, and death otherwise. So salvation comes to those under the law as well as those not under the law, for God is the God of both Jew and Gentile, and both are justified and made righteous outside the works of the law. This justification comes about through faith for both Jew and Gentile. Both were under sin, whether they were under the law or not, but it was the law that prescribed what was necessary for the remission of sin; that perfect sacrifice of Christ's spoken of before as found in the law and prophets.
9) Is then the law voided through faith? No, for it was the law that required a sacrifice for sin, and the law was satisfied through the sacrifice of Christ. In this way, the law is forever established as that standard by which God's justice was satisfied, and men are now able to be forgiven through Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, according to that law.
Those who want to make the case the law is established as a requirement to be observed and kept ignore the context. The law was not established as a standard for mankind to keep, seeing as its purpose was not for man's justification or righteousness. Its purpose was to bring all under sin so that God could have mercy on that same all, including those not under that law, yet who were nonetheless still under sin, but whose sins needed to be blotted out also, and this was all done in accordance with that law for both Jew and Gentile. To conclude we must all therefore abide by that law; that it is established forevermore, is to establish condemnation and sin for us and on us forevermore.
Those who live by that law today (or more accurately, those who think they live by that law, when in fact they do not) boast in that law. They define Christianity as related to keeping that law, and conclude all others as false Christians who do not live by that law. A person's faith is accounted for little, if anything, whereas this passage of Scripture, and many more, attest to the over-arching importance of faith apart from, and without that law.
d. Proper Critical Thinking Skills
This is the discipline of properly evaluating a belief that is derived at, hopefully through the proper use of the tools of interpretation, with logic and a sense of Scripture overall. It is borrowed in part from the sciences as a means of examining conclusions derived from observation and experimentation. In cultic groups, people are conditioned to not think critically about their beliefs and their leadership. For the sake of simplifying the process, beliefs are referred to as claims, and Scriptures that support or refute the claims are evidence.
1) A claim cannot be so vague, or worded in such a manner so that any possible evidence to the contrary is rendered impossible. (aka falsifiability)
There are claims made by religious leaders that are designed to circumvent critical thinking. One of the most common found in cults is a leader who claims personal revelation from God, where the conclusion of the matter is that, to question the leader is to question God. It is impossible to produce evidence to the contrary, unless God is in a habit of talking directly to you!
We need to ask ourselves a few critical thinking questions as a result of such a claim:
Is this the way God works? Would He set us up in a condition where we have to resort to a “blind faith” and where we have no real way to “prove all things”? It is illogical to conclude God would use such a method which would circumvent our ability to seek out the truth. When God called men like Moses and the prophets, they were also given the means of showing evidence that supported the belief they were called of God. An exception might be John the Baptist, whose calling was to prepare the way for Another, and be witness to Christ, and not his own calling as a prophet.
Another example I would like to cite in regards to a claim that resists evaluation through critical thinking is a religious leader who claims to be infallible. How do you produce evidence that might refute the claim? You might show him (or her) to be wrong about a certain belief or teaching, but his followers would only conclude you wrong and he to be right, regardless. This claim often goes hand in hand with the first example regarding personal revelation from God. If what he says he claims came from God, then what God would say would indeed be infallible. The false prophet might even claim to be fallible, but what are you going to do about what he claims he heard from God? So in this context, a claim of being merely a fallible man, used by God, will still end up being a case of what he says as infallible. This too is common among cultic groups; a form of double talk that makes it difficult to pin him down should something he said turns up irrefutably false.
2) Is the claim logical
This does not preclude the possibility a claim can sound logical, yet be wrong. But a claim that is illogical can hardly be considered believable.
What is useful to understand in this context are claims that fall into the category of “logical fallacies” and there are a number of resources on the internet to learn of them and how they work. Normally, a claim can consist of a premise followed by a conclusion. An illogical claim would be one where the premise is flawed or even has no real bearing on the conclusion. The claim can sound reasonable, but still be flawed in logic. An example is the oft stated claim made by legalists that, because the ten commandments are written in stone (the premise) this demonstrates their permanence and the fact that we should be keeping them.
A simple critical thinking question would be, where in Scripture are we informed of this; that God wrote the ten “commandments” in stone so as to emphasize their permanence? Could we not also conclude that the law that was written with ink upon parchment would indicate their transitory nature? What do we have today? Where are the tablets of stone? If the the law engraven in stone was for the sake of showing their permanence, would we not have those stones with us today? What do we have today? That which was written in ink upon parchment, including the ten commandments. The stones are gone. The “logic” here is flawed on several levels. We also have the evidence of Scripture, where we find:
3) Evidence to the Contrary
Are there Scriptures that appear to refute the claim? If so, did the one making the claim in question address the apparent Scriptures that appear to refute the claim in order to demonstrate how those Scriptures do not refute or contradict the claim? Do the refutations themselves use the proper methods of evidence, or did he resort to the methods of deception in order to discredit the opposing Scriptures?
In the above example regarding that which was engraven in stone, the evidence of Scripture found in II Corinthians chapter 3 refutes the conclusion/belief.
4) Does there exist comprehensive, credible evidence?
One of the ploys, or methods of pushing through a false belief is to produce a flood of assumptions, rationalizations, and drawn out conclusions in order to appear as comprehensive evidence. If a belief is supported by such means; inference, assumption, rationalization, or drawn conclusions, these methods or arguments are weak at best, and methods of deception at worse. If a belief is held to be of great importance, then there should be ample, comprehensive evidence to support it that does not rely on inferences, assumptions, rationalizations, or drawn conclusions. As I like to point out, assumptions lead to deceptions.
A good example of this among Sabbatarian groups are the “proofs” they offer up to support their claim Christians are supposed to keep the sabbath. These lists often exceed 30 claims that, upon careful examination, are indeed rife with inference, assumption, rationalizations, and drawn out conclusions. What is lacking is a “thus saith the Lord” on the part of Scripture. The sabbath was such an important tenet of old covenant/testament theology that it would be impossible to miss it. Yet such evidence is painfully missing for the Sabbatarian who claims we should be keeping the sabbath in the new covenant/testament, given the importance they place upon the sabbath.
There is one more criteria useful for determining truth; A very good familiarity and understanding of the Scriptures.
All too often, it is people who have a basic belief in God who do not have a good grasp of the Scriptures that end up recruited into cults, where from then onward, their understanding and beliefs are perceived through the colored glasses of the cult. Those raised in a cult suffer the same fate. They do not know the Scriptures well, and they are unfamiliar with the proper methods of determining truths from errors. Once completely indoctrinated, it is unlikely they will find their way out of the cult in their lifetime.
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11