Orthorexia in the Church [aka The Heresy of Diet-ism]

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things.

For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. [Romans 14:1-4*]

More and more frequently, I am encountering an incursion of an ancient heresy I shall call for the sake of this blog, “Diet-ism.” Those who deal with eating disorders have a new name for it, “orthorexia.” It is a disorder in which people have a compulsion/obsession with only eating certain foods deemed to be correct.

It is nothing new in the experience of the church. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it in the form of Judaizers in Antioch and Galatia who attempted to teach believers that they had to abide by the kisruth laws in the Mosaic code. They had to deal with it in the church of Rome because vegans were seating themselves in the judgment seat of Christ asserting their moral superiority over those who were not vegans, while the non-vegans were looking down their noses at the vegans for not enjoying their freedom in Christ.

“Diet-ism” takes many contemporary forms. One form, experienced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [aka, the Mormons] follows a dictate from their founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., which dictates that, “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” [Doctrine and Covenants 89:9, Utah Edition]ŧ With this command, that group deems it inappropriate for members to drink coffee or tea. While some believe this is because coffee and tea contain caffeine, the rule specifically states “hot drinks,” and is inconsistently applied. For example, there is no prohibition against consuming other beverages served hot, such as cocoa, herbal teas, Postum [a coffee substitute made from roasted grain and chicory], or hot spiced apple cider. Nor is it caffeine which is cited as the reason for the prohibition because there is no proscription against drinking carbonated beverages which contain caffeine [such as most cola drinks, Doctor Pepper, Mountain Dew, and even some fruit-flavored carbonated beverages]. This leads to an interesting [yet trivial] conundrum for Mormons: since the proscription specifies “hot drinks” and not caffeinated beverages, could a Mormon consume iced tea or frappecino without violating their moral code?

And while Mormons may not be excommunicated for failing to follow these provisions, strict adherence to the provisions is a requirement if one wishes to participate in their temple ceremonies. Failure to participate or being banned from participation in temple ceremonies means one will not experience deification–at least according to their view.

Another form of “Diet-ism” is found in Sabbatarian sects like the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Church of God, and the Worldwide Church of God, all of which espouse avoidance of pork, shellfish, and other meats deemed unclean under the Old Testament law—in a revival of the Judaizing which Paul condemned at Antioch and Galatia. Many Seventh Day Adventists go even further by insisting that ALL meat should be avoided and that God only approves of a vegan diet.

This latter form of the heresy is now surfacing in the “evangelical” church. Rick Warren, that guru of the gospel of self-actualization, now promotes what he calls “the Daniel Plan,” a plan he developed in partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft, Dr. Mahmet Oz.ŧŧ

Warren’s partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft directly disobeys New Testament teaching [2 Corinthians 6:14-17]–but disobedience to Scripture commands and teaching is nothing new for Warren since his entire ministry is built on promoting a thoroughly unbiblical view of man and the Person and Work of Christ.

But where Warren’s brand of diet-ism becomes heretical is the fact that he uses this man-made plan as a means for determining who is to be accepted as a “serious” [aka “spiritual”] believer—presumably those who do not participate are deemed to be unspiritual.

It is this latter view which makes Warren’s practice even more heretical. He places himself as a judge of others over the issue of food—a practice specifically prohibited by the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul in Romans 14:1-4, and again in Colossians 2:16: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.

Yet another manifestation of diet-ism is the more recent view which claims people should only eat organic foods or should eschew any foods which might contain GMO ingredients. Proponents of this view make unfounded claims that organic/non-GMO foods are “better” [i.e., healthier] for people than non-organic/GMO foods.

There are two basic problems with this view. The first is that there is no objective, peer-reviewed research following accepted protocols which justifies the claims that foods grown/processed according to organic “standards” are nutritionally superior to non-organic foods. Nor is there any research to substantiate the claims that GMO foods are dangerous for human consumption. What is presented as “research” is anecdotal evidence which is non-verifiable, non-replicable, and cannot prove even a statistical correlation between health and consumption of organic/non-GMO foods vs. inorganic/GMO foods, let alone causation. And the so-called “experts” cited in such “studies” are not trained scientists in fields such as biochemistry, genetics, or other accepted disciplines—but instead have “doctorates” in such fields as “spiritual nutrition” and “zen biology” from diploma mill schools. The fact that Doctor Oz, the so-called “health professional” who advances this nonsense, is a noted practitioner of Reiki [a form of witchcraft], besides the fact that he also relies solely on anecdotal evidence, completely invalidates any statement he might have on the issues. As noted earlier, Doctor Oz is also the main architect behind the “Daniel Plan” being shilled by another huckster of occult name-it/claim-it nonsense, Rick Warren.

So what do we do when we are confronted by “believers” who promote orthorexia as an indication of Christian orthodoxy?

The first thing we must do is recognize that until and unless one has irrefutable scientific proof [not mere speculation or suspicions because one is truly ignorant of the science involved], that non-organic/GMO foods are toxic, the people touting any form of orthorexia are speaking in opposition to our liberty in Christ.

Jesus Himself spoke to the issue: So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” [Mark 7:18-19]

Of course, the argument could be made that Jesus was only referring to the issue of meat from animals previously deemed unclean—but that ignores the fact that orthorexics are, by and large, vegans. And I have encountered many such who vilify those of us who see no moral problem with consuming meat.

Paul went further to state in the passage cited above from Romans that those who are vegans are not to place themselves in judgment over those who choose not to be. And those who are not vegans are not to look down on those who are.

Unfortunately, orthorexics do just that. At a recent church family camp, I overheard one orthorexic telling people that GMOs are poisonous and anyone who eats GMO foods is killing themselves [and by implication–such people are sinning]. Now this person has no formal training in any scientific discipline—having only a high school education—and her knowledge is not based on any peer-reviewed research which supports her statements. Except for one study, all peer-reviewed research shows that GMOs are safe for human consumption—the only study which shows GMOs to be “possibly toxic” was rejected by the British Academy of Science because it was procedurally flawed, thereby rendering the conclusions worthless since the results have never been replicated.

Basically, the people who fall prey to this type of nutritional paranoia are scientifically illiterate and prone to gullibility when it comes to conspiracy theories. They hear or read something which fuels their paranoia, look up some articles via Google which support their paranoid conspiracy theories, and then build a pseudo-theological framework to rationalize their paranoia.

An example of this paranoia can be found at websites such as http://www.responsibletechnoloy.org, which regularly posts hysterical warnings of the dangers of GMO foods. The problem is that the person who operates this website, one Jeffrey Smith, has no scientific credentials, and the “evidence” he claims to support his paranoid conspiracy theories is undocumented and therefore unverifiable. The problem is compounded by the fact that this self-proclaimed expert is then the one cited as authoritative by the other conspiracy theorists to support their paranoia. Such paranoid thought processes steeped in conspiracy theories and presented in hysterical, apocalyptic tones are reminiscent of the King James Only cultists like Peter Ruckman and Tex Marr.

Contrary to the beliefs of orthorexics and those who promote orthorexia in the church—people like Rick Warren and Doctor Oz–eating meat does not make a person less spiritually mature, nor does eating a vegan diet bring one closer to God. [1 Corinthians 8:8]

If anything, the practice of orthorexia become in and of itself a sin, because it divides the body of Christ in a manner not justified in Scripture.

I cannot repeat this enough: As believers, we are commanded in Scripture not to hold in contempt or judge as unworthy anyone whose dietary practices differ from ours.

Those same people claim otherwise, but let me demonstrate how subtly the process works:

In 1 Corinthians 10:25-28, the principle is laid out that if we are invited to someone’s house for a meal, we are not to kick up a fuss about the source of the food. Paul’s specific reference here is to meat offered up as a sacrifice to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. But there is an application here for the “I only eat organic/non-GMO foods” cult: when someone invites you to their home for a meal, you do not ask whether or not the host/ess is only going to prepare organic/non-GMO foods. Now as a host, I would want to make certain there are no medical dietary restrictions such as whether or not a guest might have GIRD, Coeliac Disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance or food allergies, and plan accordingly. For friends who are vegans, I would of course, prepare a vegan meal—but I am not going to strain my bank account and consume massive amounts of time and energy to make sure every single item I prepare has been certified as organic and non-GMO just to assuage someone with orthorexia. My view here is, eat what’s set before you without question, or just don’t bother to come over.

Paul goes even further to say that those who promote orthorexia in the church are promoting a doctrine which originated with demons, not Scripture. [1 Timothy 4:1-5].

This means that when we are not under any compulsion to limit our diets to suit the orthorexics, who, by definition of Scripture, are manifesting a form of immaturity. However, we do not judge them or despise them, but we call them to respect our liberty in Christ.

*Unless otherwise noted, all passages are from the Holy Bible: New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧTo be distinguished from the “Independence Edition,” followed by the Community of Christ [formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]

ŧŧDr. Oz practices an occult art called “Reiki” in which he invokes a familiar spirit to control his body in order to diagnose diseases and perform surgeries.

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Defining Essential Doctrine

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,

he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,

usesless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.   [1 Timothy 6:3-5]#

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  [2 Timothy 1:13]

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned to fables.  [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

For a bishop [elder, pastor] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,

but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,

holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.   [Titus 1:7-9]

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine….   [Titus 2:1]

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded,

in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  [Titus 2:6-8]

It is a disgrace to the Church in the twenty-first century that in many congregations, the leadership is an abysmal failure in promoting sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? It is that body of teaching which the Church has understood to be the body of apostolic teaching [and the necessary inferences derived from those teachings] which have been consistently taught since the first century. Basically, the issues of sound doctrine center around five questions:  (1) What do we understand the nature of God to be?  (2) Who do we say Jesus is?  (3) What do we understand the Bible to be?  (4) What do we say about the nature of man?  (5) What must one do to be saved [or be in right relationship with God]?  While there are other doctrines which are important, the answers for these questions are definitional for believers.  If anyone has an incorrect understanding of any of these doctrines, all of their doctrine is built on a very unstable foundation.

In answer to the first question we say that we believe in one God who has revealed Himself as three distinct Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We affirm that the Father is God [John 20:17;  1 Corinthians 8:6;  Ephesians 4:6], the Son is God [John 5:23;  1 John 2:23], and the Holy Spirit is God [Acts 5:3-4].  Each is co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existant. However, while God is One in His essential being, He is not one in Personhood.  Scripture affirms this distinction of Persons in three ways:  Firstly, there is the simultaneous manifestation of all three Persons in the Trinity at the same instant in Matthew 3:16-17.* Secondly, Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, draws a distinction between Himself and the Father.##  Thirdly, Jesus draws a distinction between the Holy Spirit and Himself [John 14:16-17, 26;  15:26;  16:7-8, 13-15;  Acts 1:8].  Finally, Jesus draws a clear line of distinction between the Father and the Holy Spirit [John 14:16, 26;  15:26].  Therefore, we cannot say that the Father is the same as the Son and both Father and Son are the same as the Holy Spirit — because in so doing, we would be stating an ancient heresy called modalism, not the doctrine of the Trinity.  This is important because I recently had the misfortune of hearing a Southern Baptist pastor proclaim a modalistic view of God in a Wednesday evening Bible study when he stated that the members of the Trinity are each the same Person.

Do you see the doctrinal confusion which results when one does not carefully express what he believes, or states it in a manner which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture?  The whole concept of modalism is fraught with such confusion:  If the Son and the Father are the same, to whom was Jesus praying in John 17?  If the Father and the Son are the same, who died on the cross and who forsook Jesus on the cross [Matthew 27:46]?

Of course it goes hand in hand with the doctrine of the Trinity that we also affirm that Jesus Christ was fully God Incarnate — as is taught in Scripture.§  This is in distinction from such errant views which would claim that Jesus was merely a man who was adopted as the Son of God [adoptionism—a heresy now advocated by liberals and those who identify their theology as “neo-orthodox”], or that Jesus was some form of semi-divine being who while called the Son of God, was less in majesty and rank than God [a heresy called subordinationism — its most prevalent form was called Arianism and is currently promoted by the Jehovah’s Witness cult].  We also affirm that He was fully human—in contrast to such views which teach that He only appeared or seemed to be human.  These two natures are distinct, yet conjoined in what is called “hypostatic union.”

These are crucial issues because if one denies either the Trinity, or the full Deity and humanity of Christ, one is preaching a different gospel.  And Scripture says anyone who preaches a different gospel is to be considered accursed [Galatians 1:8-9].  If anyone wishes to take exception to this remark and accuse me of being “judgmental” — I would remind them that this is the judgment of God and clearly stated in His word — not my mere personal opinion.

Another area where false teaching deviates from historic Christianity concerns the nature of Scripture.  The historic view of the Church has been, from apostolic times, that Scripture is the very Word of God.  In other words, on any matter about which Scripture has spoken, we are to take what Scripture has said as God’s word on the matter.  It is plenarily [fully, completely, totally] inspired by God [as opposed to the view that it is merely the writings of men and what they thought about God].  It is inerrant [without any error] in the autographs [original writings] in all that it affirms, either propositionally or by necessary inference.  It is totally sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes for us without resort to “natural wisdom.”  While I could say more, I have addressed these issues in other blogs and refer the reader back to them.¶

Typically, those who deny the primacy of Scripture may deny it in different ways.  First, they may deny the inspiration of Scripture, claiming that it is merely words about God, not the Word of God, or that it “contains the word of God, but is not the word of God.”  Another form of denial comes in the form of denying its inerrancy.  Both of these denials are common from those who have embraced some form of liberalism or neo-orthodoxy.

More insidious than either of the first two forms of denial, is that which affirms the inspiration of Scripture, and its authority, but equivocates on the issue of the canon of Scripture.  Liberals do this by asserting that the canon of Scripture, those books which have historically been recognized as the comprising the Bible, was not “determined” by any godly process — but is solely of human origin.  The other extreme claims that the canon of Scripture, while adequate for its time, is no longer adequate and needs to be supplemented by more up-to-date revelation [the view of cults such as Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and the New Apostolic Reformation].  The same Southern Baptist pastor who denied the Trinity, on that very same evening, denied that the Bible as we know it to be sufficient.  His statement was that the Bible as protestants know it was determined politically and that there are books which are included in the Bible which should have been omitted, and other books which have been omitted which should have been included.  In other words, this so-called “Christian” pastor told his congregation that liberalism has a better view of the nature of Scripture than almost two thousand years of church history.

It is sufficient to say that the pastor has a somewhat uninformed [if not theologically illiterate] view of Scripture.  Had he actually studied the issue [and it was evident that he had no knowledge to speak on the subject intelligently], he would have found that his statements had been thoroughly rejected by scholars of more ability and godliness than he, with better grounded explanations on how the canon of Scripture was recognized [not determined].ŧ  Regardless, his statements made to those for whom he is charged with teaching sound doctrine are such that he is leading them astray.

If I was stunned by such comments made to a small group gathered on a Wednesday evening, what was said from the pulpit on Easter morning of this year went beyond mere heresy into blasphemy.  In his Easter sermon, this same pastor stated.  “There is within all men [and women, I presume] an innate desire to seek God and please Him.”  Why is this blasphemous?  It is one thing to make a theological statement based on poor inferences.  It is another thing entirely to utter from the pulpit a statement which not merely contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture, but, by inference, also calls God a liar.

Let me state it plainly:  There is nothing in man which innately seeks God.  Romans 3:10-11 states:  “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands;  there is none who seeks after God.” [emphasis added]  Jesus stated:  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….” [John 6:44, emphasis added]  Paul is saying that we [in our natural, unredeemed state] do not seek God.  Jesus further states that we have no capacity to seek God — except He draws us.  Jesus went even further and stated that only those who are drawn by God will come to Him. [John 6:37, 45] So, if we agree with the pastor in claiming that man is innately drawn to God, we infer that Paul writing under the inspiration and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, was lying.  More than that, if one agrees with the pastor, one is, by inference, calling Jesus a liar.  What is being taught by this pastor is an ancient heresy called Pelagianism. It is a different gospel.

The problem with this pastor’s wrong view of the nature of man stems from a view that denies the doctrine of total depravity and the sovereignty of God in electing whom He wills to salvation.  The emphasis in such proceedings is not upon the sovereign grace of God, but on man’s capacity to autonomously decide for himself whether or not to accept God’s grace — as if man is doing God an immense favor in deciding to follow Him and therefore has “earned” grace by his decision.  Contrary to the word of God [John 1:13], this view of salvation makes man the measure of salvation, not the will of God.

Such a view is not surprising, however, last Wednesday night, this same pastor called the doctrines of man’s depravity and God’s sovereign grace, “a false gospel.”

It comes as no surprise that in this congregation, even the other leaders have no idea what salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone means.  One of the Sunday School teachers told his class on that day that Christians must do good works to prove they are “worthy” to enter heaven.  This emphasis on works righteousness has also been taught by the pastor in his Wednesday night “discipleship” training, where he taught that unless one performs certain actions [tithing, regular attendance, soul winning] one isn’t really a Christian and will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  To compound the error, the pastor then leveled a false accusation against all who follow reformed doctrine because one person he claims is a Calvinist supposedly told him that Calvinists have no need to engage in evangelism or mission work.  I know this to be false because I have two acquaintances who are firm in their convictions of reformed soteriology, yet are engaged in mission work.  And these are not the only ones.  One can point to such past Calvinists as George Whitefield, David Brainard, Jonathan Edwards, Cotton and Increase Mather, and Charles Spurgeon who promoted missions and evangelism.  In our time we can point to such people as Cornelius van Til, Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, R.C. Sproul, James R. White, and John MacArthur as Calvinists who promote evangelism and mission work.

The sad part of this saga is that the pastor really believes he is teaching the truth, when what is really being taught is riddled with so many misconceptions, distortions, and outright slander that it really is a false gospel.  Unfortunately, the congregation is proof of what the late Jim Strauss said about churches who promote growth via programs and promotions:  “What you win them with is what you win them to.”


# Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* This was also manifested at the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17] and again during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry in John 12:27-30.

## Matthew 10:32-33; John 5:17, 19-23, 26-27, 36-37, 43, 45; 6:27, 29, 32, 37-40, 44; 7:28-29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29; 10:15-18, 25-30, 32-38; 11:41-42; 14:24, 28, 31; 15:9-10, 15, 16, 23, 26; 16:10, 27-28, 32; 17:1-26; 18:11.

§ Matthew 26:63-64; John 8:58; John 20:28; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1.







ŧ See Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 203-317. See also Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 20-32, 56.


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Untwisting Scripture #2: Psalm 105:13-15 (The problem with Charismaniacs)

And they wandered about from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people.

He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes:

“Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”[Psalm 105:13-15]*

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. [James 4:11]

This is a prime example of how some pentecostals, charismatics, and third wavers twist and distort Scripture.  I use a term I learned from the late Chuck Smith to describe such people: charismaniacs.  He used this term to denote those in the pentecostal/charismatic movement who elevated subjective experience over the propositional truth of Scripture. One of the marks of charismania is that whenever one of their own is placed under the scrutiny of Scripture to determine whether what is taught is accurate and true, they immediately trot these passages out to squelch any discussion of the matter.

The underlying premise they operate from is that teachers have a “special” anointing from God and therefore their pronouncements and dictates, no matter how far out in left field they seem to be coming from, are to be accepted on a par with Scripture without question and must be regarded as inerrant, infallible, and authoritative—regardless of whether or not those statements align with Scripture. And in the event of a clear-cut contradiction between Scripture and so-called “new revelational truth,” Scripture is relegated to second-class status.

The charges which are leveled at anyone who dares to question is that they have a “critical spirit.”  In other words, the charismaniacs are saying any believer who dares to question their form of popery or who states, or even hints, that some teachers are not teaching the word of God accurately, is demon possessed.  I had that very charge made to me by some woman on facebook who has never met me and who doesn’t know anything about me simply because I told her in a thread that her understanding of Scripture was not accurate.

In order to understand the depth of Scripture twisting engaged in by charismaniacs when they haul out these two passages, it is highly crucial that we look at the passages in their historical and grammatical contexts.  We cannot simply state that because this is what a passage says in an English translation and because certain teachers [who are usually involved in the name-it/claim-it heresy] say it means such-and-such, that such an  interpretation is accurate or true.

In the instance of the passage I cited from Psalm 105, two questions arise:  (1) Who are “the anointed ones?” and (2) Is it accurate to apply this passage to a specific class of believers in this dispensation?  In the first place, I charge charismaniacs of ignoring not only the historical context of this passage, but the immediate context as well.  In verses 8-12, the writer makes it abundantly clear that those “anointed ones” are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the passage is not a reference to believers in this dispensation.

But let’s assume for the purpose of this discussion that “anointed ones” could refer to believers in this dispensation, the next question would be, does this refer to a special class of believers?

The answer to that question would be a resounding “NO!”  There is no elevated class of believers who are to be regarded as “anointed,” while there exists a second-class group of believers who are not.  All who follow Christ are to be considered “anointed ones” according to Romans 8:9-11;  1 Corinthians 12:3;  1 John 2:20, 27.  Those who perpetrate charismania on the basis that there is a special class of believers who are anointed and a second class of believers who are not are promoting false doctrine and directly contradicting the word of God.

Let’s also examine their other pet passage for “refuting” those who would call them out on their heresy—James 4:11.  They claim it is a sin to “speak against” [the NKJV says “speak evil of”] a brother. But what does this mean?  According to the promoters of charismania, to “speak against” means to place any of their so-called special prophets and teachers under the scrutiny of Scripture to evaluate their teachings, and when those teachings are found to be in error—to call them out on it.

This is twisting Scripture again because it is reading into the passage a meaning which was foreign to the intention of the appointed writer—and by extension, the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scripture.

The Greek word rendered as “speak against” is καταλαλέω [pronounced “kah-tah-lah-LEH-o”].  According to the lexical section found in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, the primary meaning of the word is “to traduce, to slander.” [p. 2198].  I find no discussion of the term in either Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, or the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament.  The Biblical Illustrator gives the primary meaning of the term to mean a willful false accusation.  John Gill, in his exposition of the Bible, states that it is “raising false reports, and bringing false charges.”

It is therefore an egregious twisting of Scripture to apply a word that objectively means “to traduce,” which Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, defines as “to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation,” and say that it means any form of disagreement or criticism of someone.  It is this meaning which John MacArthur applies to the text when he notes:  “This means to slander or defame.  James does not forbid confronting those in sin, which is elsewhere commanded in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-17; Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10).  Rather, he condemns careless, derogatory, critical, slanderous accusations against others.” (MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV edition, p. 1933).

This brings up another word which charismaniacs like to throw out as an accusation:  being “critical.”  To criticize someone or thing means [again, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition] “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly:  EVALUATE.”  But the charismaniacs I’ve dealt with do not appear to be interested in objective, factual evaluation of any matter according to the standard of Scripture — at least if their actions indicate anything, since their discourse and logic are not rational or Scriptural.

Instead, the instant someone exposes a flaw in their interpretation of Scripture or use of terminology by appealing to objective sources, the ones I have dealt with resort to name calling and false accusation:  “You have a critical spirit.” [Which is their code for “I think you’re demon-possessed, so I don’t have to deal with you or treat you with any measure of courtesy.”]

What is obvious to everyone, except apparently charismaniacs, is that it is not defamatory or slanderous to accuse someone of false teaching or twisting Scripture, when one has factual data to back it up the accusation.  As an attorney once told me, “Truth is always a defense against a charge of slander.”  The Scriptural command is a prohibition against making false accusations, not against leveling an accusation which can be proven true.  It therefore follows that those who are willing to confront false teachers over their errors are not being critical, but demonstrating a greater love and loyalty to Christ and His Church than those who actively promote error or those who simply acquiesce to error, but try to stifle the voices of truth with false accusations that the voices of truth are “possessed of a critical spirit.”

Moreover, there is a certain level of disingenuousness, if not outright hypocrisy, being engaged in by charismaniacs when they say someone or a group of people are “possessed of a critical spirit.”  In the first place, there is no passage in the Bible which even indicates that such a spirit exists.

In the second place, even if such a spiritual entity did exist, Christians, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot be possessed by a demon at the same time.  For those charismaniacs who claim that Christians can be possessed by a demon, I have one challenge to make:  prove it from Scripture.  I know some charismaniacs will point to the example of Peter in Matthew 16:23, but that eisegetical boat won’t float.  The incident in question where Jesus addressed Peter as Satan occurred BEFORE His ascension into heaven.  Therefore, at that point in time Peter was not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit according to John 7:39.

This means that when charismaniacs run about accusing other believers of being possessed of a critical spirit because the other believers are speaking the truth of God’s word, the charismaniacs are being hypocritical.  They are laying false accusations against other believers, who are God’s anointed ones—and thereby violating the same Scriptures they falsely accuse their brethren of violating.

If the charismaniacs’ shabby application of Scripture is true, why is it not demonstrated in Scripture?  We have a vivid example of a respected church leader [Peter] engaging in gross misconduct in front of other believers in Galatians 2:11-21.  And this was AFTER Pentecost!  Peter was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  But when he was confronted by Paul, did Peter puff out his chest with the arrogance displayed by contemporary charismaniacs and declare to Paul that Paul had no authority to criticize him because he was one of God’s anointed?   No, Peter’s own words suggest that he repented, because later in life he acknowledged Paul’s writings as being Scripture. [2 Peter 3:15-16]

The example of Paul’s dealing with Peter in Galatians 2:11-21 also refutes another claim raised by charismaniacs:  that when their teachers proclaim false doctrine, those who seek to correct them are obligated to approach them privately, following the pattern of Matthew 18:15-17.   Paul did not go to Peter privately when Peter sinned publicly.  The Bible states that Paul rebuked Peter “in the presence of all.” [Galatians 2:14]  There are many passages which instruct believers on to deal with those who willfully promote false teachings and practices: we are to “keep an eye on” [“note” in the NKJV] and “turn away from” [NKJV — “avoid”] them in Romans 16:17.  We are to consider them “accursed in Galatians 1:8-9 [Paul’s word inspired by the Holy Spirit—not mine].  We are to “keep away” [ “withdraw” — NKJV] from and “not associate” [“keep company” — NKJV] with such people according to 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14.  We are to withdraw from such according to 1 Timothy 6:3 [NKJV — the phrase does not appear in the critical text of the NT and so is omitted from the NASB].   We are to “reprove” [“rebuke” — NKJV] them according to Titus 1:13 and 2:15.  We are to “reject” them according to Titus 3:10.  We are not to even extend such basic courtesies as hospitality or greeting them according to 2 John 10.  It stands to reason that when charismaniacs support false teachers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, T. D. Jakes, Paul Crouch, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Ted Haggard, et al, and such false phenomena as the “Toronto Blessing,” they do so in defiance of Scriptural teaching and standards, and thereby become promoters of false doctrine themselves. When they set themselves at odds against those who seek to return the Church to the standard of Sola Scriptura, I charge that they are the ones who do not show evidence of a proper reverence for Christ, His word, or His Church. They are the hypocrites in word and deed.

*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture passages are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used By permission. http://www.Lockman.org

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The Believer and MMA

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness [meekness], self-control. Against such there is no law. [Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis added]i

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness [meekness], with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,… [Ephesians 4:1-2]

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;… [Colossians 3:12]

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. [1 Timothy 3:2-6]

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness [meekness]. [1 Timothy 6:11]

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but [must] be gentle [meek] to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,… [2 Timothy 2:24-25]

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle [meek], showing all humility to all men. [Titus 3:1-2]

Recently I was involved briefly in a discussion on Facebook, in which I stated that sports which glorify violence and which involve the deliberate infliction of pain and injury upon one’s opponent do not glorify God—this was in specific reference to MMA [Mixed Martial Arts, for those not familiar with the term]/UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship – the biggest promoter of MMA fighting in the United States]. I basically compared MMA fighting to gladiator fighting in the Roman Empire.

Some youngster, who claimed expert knowledge of MMA fighting [but apparently utterly lacking in knowledge of the Bible, logic, or history] stated that my comparison was simplistic and ridiculous–and, by inference, stated that he believed I was stupid.

In his remarks, this young man displayed at least four logical fallacies which invalidated his remarks and rendered them as utter nonsense.

The first logical fallacy was the fallacy of ad hominem.  For those not versed in formal debate or rules of logic, the ad hominem fallacy is to attack one’s opponent personally when one has no factual basis for dismissing their points.  This young man committed the ad hominem fallacy when he dismissed me and my remarks as being “simplistic” and “ridiculous” without offering a shred of factual evidence to refute the comments.

In my remarks, I had described MMA fighting as basically having the goal of one combatant pummeling his [or her] opponent into senselessness.  The young man who wished to gainsay my comments again offered no solid evidence to refute my claims.  Instead, he resorted to a second logical fallacy—false equivocation—claiming that such competitive sports as baseball, basketball, football, and hockey are equally violent and that I was being hypocritical in not addressing the violence in those sports.  Another form of false equivocation in his “argument” is the inherent presumption which equates the risk of injury with violence.

This gainsayer claimed as “proof” of the inherent violence in these other sports, the fact that he had lost a tooth while playing a basketball game.  This presents the third and fourth logical fallacies—appealing to inappropriate authority and sweeping generalization.  An anecdote of personal injury presented without context as to the circumstances under which the injury occurred cannot be cited as expertise in evaluating the level of violence in one particular sport—and to make that the basis for claiming all sports as “violent” is simply a claim which has no epistemological warrant in terms of logic.

Before we examine the Biblical proscriptions which render any form of violence for the purpose of entertainment as unsuitable for the one who claims to serve Christ [either as a participant or as a spectator], let’s look at the history and facts surrounding the “sport” called MMA fighting.  We shall then compare those with other sports which my opponent claims to be equally violent.  In other words, I hope to disarm false logic with facts.

Contemporary MMA competitions originated as a means of incorporating different elements of martial arts in a situation resembling a street fight.ii  Because combatants are not trained in a formal style, such as tae kwan do, kung fu, hap ki do, or sanshou, they are not ranked according to levels of mastery.  The only evaluation of “mastery” is one’s win-loss record.

MMA matches are scored by a panel of three judges.  Wins are determined in one of three ways: a knock out, a submission [surrender by one’s opponent], or a judges’ decision.  This is similar to how matches are decided in boxing [the submission being the MMA equivalent of a TKO].

Although rules for the “sport” differ depending on which organization is promoting the fights, until very recently [since 2007], unified rules for this “sport” allowed for a combatant to kick or stomp a downed opponent in the head to accomplish a knockout–thereby leaving little doubt as to intent to inflict permanent injury upon an opponent.iii  While current rules allow for stomping on a downed opponent, kicking a downed opponent is now considered a foul.  Such egregious disregard for the well-being of another human being in the name of “entertainment” can hardly be considered “no more violent than any other sport.”

The names used for various fighting strategies within MMA also display its intentional, willful, prideful glorification of violence:  sprawl-and-brawl, grinding, and ground-and-pound.

So, the charge that my description that MMA has as its foundational philosophy the goal of pounding one’s opponent into senselessness was “simplistic” and “ridiculous” is without foundation when one carefully examines the facts instead of resorting to a knee-jerk attempt to justify one’s sinful pursuits.  After all, what does this person think a “knock-out” is?  It means one’s opponent has been rendered unconscious by repeated blows to the head.

What are the effects of MMA on its participants?  On average, approximately 26 percent of those participating in MMA combat receive lingering [having effects which last after the fight is over] injuries:  lacerations, abrasions, contusions, concussions, broken bones.  It has been determined that injury rates in MMA are similar to the injury rates in boxing, and full contact karate.iv

Long term medical studies of participants in MMA show those having at least six years of MMA experience show significant reduction in the size of the hippocampus and thalamus.  Those with at least twelve years of experience showed not only significant reduction in the size of the hippocampus and thalamus, but also showed significant memory loss and and diminished alertness.v  The memory loss and diminished alertness are directly attributable to the reduction in size of the hippocampus and thalamus—the same phenomenon observed in Alzheimer’s patients.

While statistics have not been kept concerning fatalities due to MMA emerging comparatively recently as a form of entertainment, there have been seven documented fatalities since 2005.  Because the injury rates for MMA participants are consistent with those of other sports involving the intentional infliction of head trauma such as boxing and contact karate, it would not be unreasonable to project similar fatality rates.  Professional boxing has documented over 900 fatalities in the period between 1890-2007.vi

How do these figures compare to the other sports mentioned?  During its entire history, there has only been one on-field fatality in major league baseball which can be attributed to a play-related injury.vii  Probably the best comparison would be to American Football, as this is the only sport which actually requires body contact with force as part of the game.  When evaluated across all levels of organized play [youth, high school, collegiate, and professional], we find the following:  High school students suffered 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 exposures [an exposure is defined as a game or practice].  College students suffered 6.3 concussions for every 10,000 exposures.  When we look at catastrophic [defined as career ending or disabling] injuries, the incident rate is less than 1 in 100,000 players at the high school and collegiate levels.  As far as fatalities are concerned, the average number of deaths per year is about twelve.  Of these twelve deaths, only four deaths per year have been found to be directly attributable to playing football.  The other eight were due to causes such as heat illness, cardiac arrest, asthma, sickle cell disease, or pulmonary embolism.  In other words, the remaining 2/3 of those deaths could have occurred during any type of strenuous exertion because of an underlying health condition and cannot be blamed solely on playing football.viii

The basic point is this: there is a crucial distinction between injuries incurred in MMA fighting, which are intentional, deliberate, and an integral feature of the “sport” and those which occur in other sports which are accidental and outside of the usual course of events in those sports.  In other words, people who participate in MMA do so expecting to hurt or be hurt.  Spectators view such events with the full expectation and even anticipation that someone will be hurt.

Outside of Oakland Raider fans, I know of no one who views baseball, basketball, American football, or hockey games with the expectation and anticipation that someone will be injured or worse.  The rules of those games are constructed to enhance the safety of the players and sanctions are imposed for violations of those rules.  And intentional, flagrant disregard for those rules results in stiff penalties against those in violation.  In other words, acts of violence which occur in the contexts of other sports are against the norms for those sports.  In MMA fighting, if the element of gratuitous violence did not exist in the sport, the sport itself would not exist.

With this factual basis laid, again I charge that those who are disposed to viewing MMA [or other forms of fighting] as entertainment are no better than the Roman citizens who went to the Colosseum to watch the gladiators kill each other. The difference is one of degree, not of kind.

What are the theological issues involved in participating in or viewing MMA?  As noted in the Scriptures cited, attributes of the Holy Spirit which are to be manifested in all believers are kindness and gentleness [meekness].  “Kindness” in the Greek is χрηστότης [pronounced “chrās-TŎ-tās” with the “ch” being given a hard sound].  It refers to benevolence and looking out for the well-being of others.ix  Can one say one is honestly looking out for the well-being of others when one is engaged in a “sport” or is paying to view a “sport” which glorifies and encourages inflicting pain and injury on another human?

Scripture also mandates that believers in Christ display “gentleness” or “meekness.”  The words rendered as such are επιεικής [pronounced “hĕp-ē-ī-KĀS” and found in 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 3:2], ηπιος [pronounced “HĀ-pē-ŏs” and found in 2 Timothy 2:24], and πραΰτης [pronounced “pră-Ü-tās” and found in Galatians 5:23; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:25;  Titus 3:2].  The words embrace the concepts of congeniality, amiability, benevolence, leniency, and mercy.  The concepts carry to the extent that one exhibiting such traits would advance the interests of others even to the extent of putting one’s own safety and well-being at risk.

Given the meanings of the words as used in Scripture, how then, can one legitimately claim that participating in, endorsing, and even subsidizing [via PPV and ticket purchases] MMA combat exhibits the requirements of God that His people must display kindness and gentleness to all?

While we cannot say that those who participate in, endorse, and/or subsidize MMA combat are not believers in Christ, because we do not know their hearts, we can question and even point out the fact that such affections and actions are contrary to the will of God and give cause to question the credibility of their witness since what is in their hearts will be made known by their actions and professions.

For further consideration, let’s look at this instruction from Scripture:  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:3-5, emphasis added]

How do we bring every thought into captivity to Christ?  Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble [honorable, respectable], whatever things are just [right], whatever things are pure [innocent, blameless], whatever things are lovely , [acceptable], whatever things are of good report [having a good reputation], if there is any virtue [having nothing but good qualities]—meditate on these things. [Philippians 4:8]

This gives us a checklist to evaluate any activity to determine whether or not it can be enjoyed with a clear conscience before God.  Unless our activities promote ALL of these qualities in exactly the same way those terms are used in Scripture, we cannot claim that they are acceptable to God.

And in this situation, we cannot claim that such activities are morally neutral.  It doesn’t matter how much a participant in MMA or boxing or professional wrestling may claim to be a Christian and that God is honored as long as he [or she] follows the rules of the sport and is being honest, the activity dishonors God because there is nothing commendable, good, respectable, right, or innocent in activities which involve the intentional infliction of pain on other human beings for the purpose of entertainment and amusement.  The greater hypocrisy lies with those who, while claiming to profess Christ as their Lord, pay their money into such amusements.

To claim to be a follower of Christ while participating in, or subsidizing violence against human beings for the sake of amusement, carries about as much moral value as claiming to be a follower of Christ while enjoying pornography.

i Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

iii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRIDE_Fighting_Championships

iv See paragraph: “Injury Rates” in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

v See paragraph: “Mental Health” in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts

vi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatalities_in_mixed_martial_arts_contests


viii http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_issues_in_American_football

ix All research in Greek references the following: Stephen Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), Ceslas Spicq (Translation by James D. Ernest), Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), and Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2008). See also articles on “kindness” and “meekness” in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible.

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Untwisting Scripture #1: Matthew 25:31-46

“…for I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

“When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

“Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me.” [Matthew 25:35-40]*

In this new series, I plan to look at scriptures which are taken out of context, misquoted, and otherwise distorted in their presentation with the result that they are twisted and distorted in their interpretation and application. What makes this even more reprehensible is that some of the worst offenders are people who otherwise seem to be quite accurate and responsible in their presentation of Scripture.

I will not be talking about such cultic twisting of Scriptures such as the utterly false presentation of John 1:1 by the Watchtower Society [aka Jehovah’s Witnesses] or their New World [mis]translation of the Bible, or the even more fantastic inventions added to the Bible by the Independence, Missouri, branch of the Mormon church called the RLDS [or Community of Christ, as it prefers to be known now], via their so-called “Inspired” [“Invented” would be a more accurate adjective] Version of the Bible.

No, what I will be looking at will be passages which are misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied by Christians who consider themselves to be conservative, Bible-believing, evangelicals.

The first passage for this series is the above-cited passage in Matthew, with emphasis on verse 40, and its analogous antithesis, Matthew 25:45.

Whether cited by Mother Theresa, Samaritan’s Purse, Prison Fellowship, World Vision, Compassion International, Teen Challenge, JPUSA, or a lot of well-meaning pastors with poor exegetical skills, the common [mis]interpretation and [mis]application of the passage is taken as a command that all believers are required to expend massive outlays of resources on the unredeemed to relieve any and all financial distress. Some further add that it is un-Christian to qualify or impose any conditions for such aid—that because God freely bestows His grace on all, we should be equally free in dispensing our finances without qualification, condition, or examination as to the “worthiness” of the recipient.

The fact of the matter is that when one examines not merely this passage, but other passages which speak to the issue of what is the relationship of the believer and charitable giving, one finds a vastly different view than what is promoted by most charitable organizations and ministers.

I am sure what I say will strike some as being rebellious, heretical, or callous, but I ask you to hear me out, search the Scriptures, and examine the Scriptures in light of what the text ACTUALLY says and not merely take it for granted that simply because some publicly noted Christian celebrity, televangelist, or minister espouses some view or another that it must be right. And it does not matter if 10,000 ministers gainsay what I write, the standard for formulating our doctrine and practice is God’s Word as it actually reads, not what 10,000 ministers claim it reads.

POINT 1: Jesus never imposed a general obligation on His followers to aid all poor people everywhere.

In the passage cited above, the Scripture twisters interpret and apply the phrase “the least of these” to mean whoever is in those conditions: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, sick, and imprisoned. But is that really what Christ said?

When one looks at the phrase as it is found in Matthew 24:40, the clause is qualified with the phrase “My brothers.The qualifier does not appear in Matthew 24:45, but that is not a cause for concern. The lack of the qualifier is viewed by most commentators as an elision, an omission which is understood from the previous usage in the same context. Therefore we have to understand the phrase in accordance with the qualifier and any interpretation which ignores the qualifier is twisting the Scripture.

Those who do attempt to deal with the qualifier while still twisting the Scripture make the attempt in one of two ways. The first method is to change the usage of “my brethren” from a qualifier to a vocative. This argument is not merely poor exegesis—it is dishonest and manipulative. The Greek construction of the phrase is in the genitive case in every manuscript, while a vocative is always, ALWAYS, in the nominative case. A more accurate [and clarifying] rendering of the phrase “the least of these My brothers” would be “one of the least of these brothers of Mine.” [HCSB]*

The second method is to fall back on a heresy called universalism, in which the qualifier is basically ignored or reinterpreted according to liberation theology, in which the phrase is interpreted as being a reference to all who are in physical poverty. [This interpretation is offered in the pseudo-evangelical commentary The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, pp. 998-999.]

Whichever method is used, the result is the same—an interpretation and application which is based in eisegesis—reading a meaning into the text according to the biases and prejudices of the reader—instead of allowing the text to speak for itself according to the rules of grammar for the original.  And the worst “translation” when it comes to abusing and twisting this passage [as it does with the entire Bible] is The Message.

Allowing the text to speak for itself, we must ask ourselves, what did Jesus mean when He qualified the phrase “the least of these” with “My brothers”? Some commentators, writing from the theological perspective of dispensationalism believe this judgment occurs at the onset of the millennium, immediately following the Second Coming. In this judgment, all who are alive are judged immediately and are either granted eternal life, or consigned to eternal punishment. According to such interpretations, the sheep and the goats refer to Gentiles—since they described in v. 32 as being from “the nations,”–a term which is never used in Scripture except in reference to those who are not physically descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My brothers,” according to these commentators, then refers to Jewish people who became believers during the seven-year tribulation. “The sheep” are those Gentiles who also became believers during the tribulation and did what they could to help their Jewish brothers in the faith. “The goats” are the non-believing Gentiles who tried to play both ends against the middle. They did not accept the mark of the beast or worship the anti-Christ, but they were never followers of Christ either. This is the interpretation offered in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (II:81), and the Believer’s Study Bible (p. 1382). Such interpretations take into account the overall context of the passage [the events immediately following Christ’s return] and therefore do not see this as an absolute, general command for believers to devote themselves to the alleviation of all poverty.

While I believe there is a more general application than that indicated by some of the dispensational commentators, I do not believe there is a universal application which directs Christian efforts towards the alleviation of all poverty. In Matthew 26:8-10, Jesus had to rebuke the apostles for thinking there was some general obligation to alleviate all poverty.  This is further reinforced by Acts 5:4.  Even though this appears in the context of judgment being meted out on Ananias, the point is clear and simple—Ananias had no obligation to rid himself of wealth in order to give to the poor. His sin was in lying about the amount being given. Had he sold the property and told Peter, “I wish to give a portion for the care of the poor,” there would have been no problem.  The sin was in keeping back a portion, while publicly claiming to be giving all.

POINT 2:  Jesus’ use of the term “My brothers” is highly restrictive, and does not apply to humanity in a universal sense.

Those who believe otherwise, need to be able to provide proof from Scripture.  To understand Jesus’ use of the term in this context, we need to ask if there are any other instances in which He used the term.  The answer is yes—but only once. And there His use of the term is restrictive, not universal.  That incident is recorded in Matthew 12:46-50 and Jesus states succinctly that ONLY those who do the will of God are qualified to be called His brothers.  In one of the parallel passages, Luke 8:21, He said His brothers are those who hear the word of God and do [obey] it.  This is highly restrictive in that those who have never acknowledged the Lordship of Christ cannot be considered as having heard the word of God and obeying it.  Hebrews 2:11 further clarifies this distinction—that His brethren are those whom He has sanctified—no one else.  So there is no universal obligation to aid the poor which can be justified according to this passage of Scripture.

So when we are helping others, we are only obligated to aid those in need who are: (1) who have professed belief in Christ, and (2) whose lives demonstrate it by their actions. [For example, see 1 Timothy 5:3-16.]

POINT 3:  Therefore, it is only to those whom are considered Jesus’ brothers that we have any obligation to provide aid according to this Scripture—not to those who by their attitudes and actions have displayed nothing but rebelliousness and contempt for the things of God.

But, I hear someone say, what about Jesus’ command to the young man to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor?  [Matthew 19:16-22]  The point might be valid—except for the fact that this is an instruction given to one person at a particular point in time for a particular purpose.  Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the young man went away with no intention of obeying Christ. There is nothing in the passage which indicates that this was a universal command—any more than Jesus’ command to Peter in Matthew 14:29 is a general command for all believers to walk across bodies of water without the use of conveyances such as bridges or ferries [or, in some cases, tunnels], or that in Mark 16:9-20 we find general commands to play with venomous reptiles and drink poison.

As I alluded to earlier, if Acts 5:4 indicates that what we have acquired through the fruits of our labors is ours to retain or dispose of as we deem appropriate, then we cannot make Matthew 19:16-22 a general obligation for all believers, either by direct command, necessary inference, or approved precedence, because it was instruction given to one individual, only one time, and in a particular set of circumstances.

Scripture is full of references which point to the believers’ obligation to engage in labor, industry, thrift, and commerce to secure their economic well-being. One example is 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, in which the apostle Paul states that he provided for his own needs through his own labor and that this was an example for the Thessalonian believers to follow. He concluded by noting that the Thessalonians were not to keep company with any so-called believer who rejected his teaching.

POINT 4:  If there is any obligation to assist those outside of the faith, that obligation is situational, based on extreme emergency, limited in duration, and entered into voluntarily by the donor.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-37], the Samaritan’s aid for the man beaten by robbers was situational, based on extreme emergency, limited in duration, and entered into voluntarily. He did not undertake to support the man for the rest of his life, his aid was limited to the victim’s recovery, and the only compulsion he had was his own conscience. Moreover, had the victim been rendered permanently unable to work, he would have been required to locate to one of the Levitical cities for subsistence from the tithes and offerings brought to the Levites, he would not have been the responsibility of the Samaritan.

This is unlike the assistance programs operated by our government, which are open-ended and make no requirements of the recipients apart from some generalized, extremely lax job search requirements. At one point, thirty years ago, work requirements were proposed by the federal government, but the courts quickly overturned these requirements stating that welfare is a right [which is why welfare programs are called “entitlements”] not a gift, or a privilege. “Workfare” was deemed to be a form of involuntary servitude, instead of people earning their subsistence.

James Madison, who is credited with authoring our Constitution once noted: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” In other words, the author of our Constitution stated that there is no power vested in the Congress [where spending bills originate – not in any other branch of government] which authorizes them to take money from working citizens to give to people who either cannot or will not work. This is the original intent of the founding fathers. Madison rightly understood that works of charity, or benevolence were the domain of the churches and those who wished to do so voluntarily.

POINT 5:  Poor planning on someone’s part, does not make it an emergency on my part.

While such a view may seem callous and trite, it basically follows common sense and represents the Biblical view which encourages labor, ingenuity, and thrift.  When someone chooses to do poorly in school and drops out, or chooses not to extend his or her education beyond high school, thereby becoming unemployable for anything other than minimum wage jobs, or someone chooses to expend his or her income in a prodigal or wasteful manner [such as tattoos, alcohol, tobacco, or some other such nonsense]–it does not become my responsibility [or the church’s] to bail them out should they not have sufficient funds to cover their needs until their next paycheck or to support them in a “better” economic lifestyle.

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scriptures designated as HCSB come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers.

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Who Do You Say The Son Of Man Is? — Part 3

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 16:13-17]*

In the first two installments of this series, we looked at the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillment as proof that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

As we continue this series we will now look at the Scriptural teachings that because Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, He is more than a mere man—He is the very incarnation of God.

Before delving into this definitional doctrine,ŧ we must precede the study with looking into another definitional doctrine—the Trinity.

B. B. Warfield, cited in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains the doctrine in this manner:

When we have said these three things, then—that there is but one God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct [not separate] person—we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness.

It is important to note that the “one-ness” of the Godhead, and the “three-ness” of the Persons do not exist in the same respect. The terms “one” and “three” are not simultaneously affirming and denying the same thing at the same time. When we say God is One, we are referring to His essence or substance. When we say God is Three, we refer to the plurality of Persons, who are of the same essence. The One-ness of God is expressed in His unity of character, purpose, and will. The Three-ness of God is manifest in relational and functional aspects.

The clearest statement of the One-ness of God is found in what is called the “Shema” [pronounced “sh’-MĂH”, not “SHĒ-măh”]: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! [Deuteronomy 6:4]. [In Hebrew, this reads: Sh’mah Y’Is-ro-ayl, ‘Ah-do-nai ‘Eh-lo-hay-nu, ‘Ah-do-nai ‘eh-khad!]Throughout the Old Testament, it is repeated that there is no God but One [Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 7:22; 22:32; 1 Kings 8:23, 60; 2 Kings 19:19; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5-6, 18, 21-22; 46:9; Jeremiah 10:6; Joel 2:27]. This affirmation is carried over in the New Testament [Mark 12:32; John 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19].

So we have no problem with asserting that there is only one God. The problem comes when we assert that although there is only one God, that He is manifested in a plurality of three persons. First off, it must be noted that nothing in the Old Testament prohibits or eliminates such a declaration from consideration.

Why can we say this? This is the first point we must recognize—that there is a difference in meaning between being and personhood.

To support this idea, one must first look at the Hebrew word ‘eh-KHAD, [translated as “one”] found in the Shema. The word designates what Hebrew specialists call “composite unity.” The same word is found in Genesis 2:24 to describe the relationship between husband and wife when they are said to be l’bah-shar ekh-ad, which most translations render as “one flesh.” The same word is found in Numbers 13:23, when the 12 spies returned to the Israelites after spending forty days in the promised land. When they returned they brought with them ‘ah-nah-viim ‘ekh-ad which was so large that it required two men to carry it on a pole. While the phrase is usually rendered as and understood to be one [NKJV] or a single cluster of grapes [NASB, ESV, HCSB], the phrase itself is literally “one grapes,” the singular number in conjunction with the plural noun signifying composite unity. The same construction of singular number in conjunction with a plural noun is found in the Shema, when it says ‘Ah-do-nai ‘eh-khad is ‘Eh-lo-hey-nu. This is a predicate construction in which the plural noun ‘Ey-lo-hey-nu is linked to a singular number/subject.

Which leads to the second point suggesting a plurality of persons within the Godhead. The word translated as “God” from the Hebrew in most instances in the OT is ‘Eh-lo-hiim, the plural form of ‘Eh-loh.

The third clue indicative of plurality of persons within the Godhead is found in four notable passages within the Old Testament: Genesis 1:26; 3:22-24; 11:6-7; Isaiah 6:8. In those passages, God speaks in the first person plural.  Some commentators attempt to explain God’s use of the first person plural as a form of the majestic or editorial plural. Even suggesting the majestic plural originated in the Old Testament. The only problem with this is that there is no record in the Old Testament where any of the Hebrew kings ever referred to himself in this manner.

On the John Ankerberg Show in 1985, a debate occurred which featured E. Calvin Beisner and the late Walter Martin debating Nathaniel Urshan and Robert Sabin from the United Pentecostal Church on the nature of the Trinity. Urshan and Sabin represent a cult which denies the Trinity and argued that the instances of God using the first person plural in the Old Testament were examples of the majestic plural. Martin debunked this, showing that this understanding and usage of the first person plural did not occur until the middle ages to bolster the claims of the so-called “Divine Right of Kings” in which many European kings claimed to be speaking for God and thereby invoked the right to speak of themselves in the plural.

An additional Old Testament evidence suggestive of a plurality of Persons within the Godhead is the theophanies during which God [believed to be the second Person of the Trinity] appeared. Examples of Theophanies are:

The Angel of the Lord: Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 22:11-18; Exodus 14:19 [ Cf. Exodus 16:10; 24:16-17; 33:9-10; 40:34-38; Numbers 12:5; 16:42; Deuteronomy 1:33; 31:15]; Numbers 22:22-35; Judges 2:1-4; Judges 6:11-23; Judges 13:3-22.]  Four characteristics show that these events were visible manifestations of God:  (a) when the Angel of the Lord spoke, He spoke as God.  (b) The Angel of the Lord is viewed as being identical to the Shekinah [the pillar of smoke and fire which led the Israelites through the wilderness and which abided over the Tabernacle in the wilderness].  (c) The Angel of the Lord accepted worship and sacrifice [Compare to Revelation 19:9-10; 22:8-9]. (d) In Judges 13:18, when asked His Name, the Angel of the Lord stated that it was “Wonderful,” the same Hebrew word used in the Messianic passage in Isaiah 9:6-7 which identifies the Messiah as being the Incarnation of God.

The One who wrestled with Jacob: Genesis 32:24-32. When Jacob asked for the Name of his opponent, the response he received was the same response as was given to Manoah in Judges 13:18.

The Captain of the host of the Lord: Joshua 5:13-15. The One who appeared to Joshua claims the same reverence as was demanded of Moses at the burning bush [Exodus 3:5-6]. The passage shows that Joshua did indeed bow in worship. If this was merely an angelic being and not a visible manifestation of God, he would not have accepted worship. [Compare with Revelation 19:9-10; 22:8-9.]

Why are these theophanies believed to be appearances of Christ prior to His incarnation? There are three reasons: (a) No man has seen the Father at any time—Exodus 33:20; Job 9:11; 23:8; John 1:18; 5:37; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; 1 John 4:12. (b) The Son is the express image of the Father—John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3. (c) This Person was seen face-to-face—Genesis 32:30; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 6:11-23; 13:3-23.

For this reason, we believe that while there is only one God, there is a plurality of Persons evident within God. We shall explore this further in the next installment, when we look briefly at the Person identified as the Holy Spirit.

* Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧ A “definitional doctrine” is a doctrine which is essential to one’s identity as a Christian. Denying or equivocating about such doctrines should be taken as indicative of one not being a Christian.

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Who Do You Say the Son of Man Is? — Part 2

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 16:13-17]*

In this series, I am attempting to explain the related doctrines of the Deity of Christ and the Triune persons of the Godhead. In the first part, I began an examination of the prophecies which were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus. And we left off with a brief examination of the prophetic genealogy of Jesus.

In this installment, we will continue with an examination of the Messianic prophecies. And if anyone reading this has not done so already, I recommend highlighting them in your Bibles with handwritten notes cross-referencing the Old Testament passages with their fulfillment in the New. I also recommend using a color for highlighting which is not used for any other purpose.

Another subject within the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillment concerns the timing of the Messiah’s coming. There are two Old Testament prophecies which are key here. The first prophecy is found in Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples. The Holman Christian Standard Bible has, I believe, a more accurate rendering of the text, rendering the Hebrew word “Shiloh” as “He whose right it is,” fixing the scepter and rule in a Person and not a place. Moreover, the NKJV errs here by rendering the word “people” as a singular. The Hebrew and other translations such as the NASB, HCSB, and ESV render this as a plural, signifying a rule over not just one ethnic group or nation, but a rule over all nations.

This means the Messiah had to have revealed Himself to the Jewish people before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 AD—since the scepter departed from Judah at that time.

Another prophecy concerning the timing of the Messiah’s appearance is found in Daniel 9:24-26: Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off [be put to death], but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

The word rendered as “weeks” in this passage is literally rendered as “sevens.” According to the commentators, this refers to cycles of years, so literally this means this prophesied period involves four hundred-ninety years, broken up into three sections: forty-nine years, four hundred-thirty-four years, and seven years in duration. We know the beginning of the cycle begins with a command to rebuild the Temple—a decree issued by Artaxerxes on March 5, 444 BC, according to Nehemiah 2:1-8. It took forty-nine years before this was completed. The end of this forty-nine years also coincides with the completion of the Old Testament canon.

Now it must be remembered that when we are speaking of years, we are not speaking of solar years. The frame of reference is the Hebrew calendar, in which all months are based on a thirty-day lunar cycle and having twelve months in a year—thus in the Hebrew reckoning, all years have 360 days.

The next part of the cycle is the four hundred-thirty-four “silent years.” This time period ended on March 30, 33 AD, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, announcing by the signs which preceded His entry that He was the long-awaited Messiah.

But what of the final cycle of seven years? Daniel 9:26 prophesied the death of the Messiah at the end of the sixty-ninth week of years. The text does not say that this would occur during the seventieth week of years, therefore the text itself suggests an interruption between the sixty-ninth week of years, and the seventieth week of years. But this is a discussion for another time.

According to Psalm 2:1-2, the coming of the Messiah would be met with resistance and hostility from the unbelieving and unrepentant. We see a triple fulfillment of this prophecy: during the early childhood of Jesus [Matthew 2:16], at His death and resurrection [Acts 4:27-28], and at His second coming in glory to establish His literal reign on earth [Revelation 20:7-9].

The rage of a pretender to the throne of Israel at Jesus’ birth is not surprising. What is surprising and inhuman is the viciousness of his rejection. According to Matthew 2:16-18, the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem is the fulfillment of yet another prophecy, found in Jeremiah 31:15.

The text further informs us that some time had elapsed since the events surrounding the birth recounted in Luke 2. The Greek, being more technical than English, has three different words designating a young child. The first word, brephos, indicates either a child in the womb or a newborn infant. It is the word used in Luke 2:12. The second word, nepios, indicates one who, while older than a newborn, has not yet reached the age of having the capacity for speech—generally associated with being weaned [used in Matthew 21:16]. The word used three times is Matthew 2:8-11 is paidion, which indicates one who has just been weaned and is ready to begin education.

Since weaning usually occurred around the age of two, and was a cause for celebration in the family [Genesis 21:8], and also given the instructions in Herod’s decree to his soldiers, it is generally believed that the events recounted in Matthew 2 took place about two years after the events in Luke 2. Thus, what for most Jewish families would have been a time for celebration and rejoicing, was turned to a time of weeping and sorrow.

It was also foretold that although the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem [Micah 5:2], He would first make Himself known in the region of Galilee [Isaiah 9:1-2]. This shows the shortsightedness of the priests and rulers on the Sanhedrin. While they acknowledged the prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem [John 7:42], they either ignored or failed to account for the prophecy that His ministry would begin in Galilee.

Further, it is stated that the Messiah would be valued at thirty pieces of silver [Zechariah 11:12-13]. Presumably this was temple money and not Roman money, so the silver would have been thirty shekels. It was the price paid to a slave owner as compensation for a slave who had been gored by an oxen, in other words, the Sanhedrin viewed Jesus Christ as being as worthless as a dead slave.

Zechariah 12:10 provides a prophetic bridge between the first advent of Christ and His second advent. As his followers witnessed the Roman soldier thrusting a spear into His side, John 19:34-37, reminds us of the passage. And yet, when He returns to establish His kingdom, the eyes of every human who survived the Great Tribulation will behold Him, and they will weep.  For those who became believers during that time, their tears will be mingled with joy.   But for those who have rejected Him, those tears will be the bitter tears of regret and remorse, for then they will face judgment, they will have no more opportunities for repentance.

Zechariah 13:7 points that the Messiah would be deserted by His closest associates. At the moment of His arrest in the garden, every one of them fled [Matthew 26:21, 26]. But, with the exception of Judas, not one of them was lost, all were restored after His resurrection—even Simon Peter who had denied him.

The final prophecy we shall look at is found in Malachi 4:2: The sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. While the authorities missed the evidence. The common people did not. The word translated “wings” in this passage is kanash. The same word is translated as “corners” in Number 15:37-41, in which the Israelites were commanded to tie tassels to the corners of their outer garments as visible reminders of their covenant relationship with God.  The garments are called tallit, and are worn by all adult Jewish males. The tassels are called tzitziyot [singular tzitzit]. The woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-21, and others [Matthew 14:36] recognized that it was not that His tzitziyot and tallit were different, but that the One who was wearing them was the prophesied “Sun of Righteousness.”

This article and part one are merely summaries of the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ at His first coming. Peter Stoner in a book called Science Speaks, looks at the following prophecies:









The Messiah’s place of birth [Micah 5:2],

The Messiah being preceded by a messenger [Isaiah 40:3],

The Messiah’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem [Zechariah 9:9],

The Messiah’s betrayal by a close companion [Psalm 41:9],

The Messiah being valued as worthless [Zechariah 11:12],

The betrayal price being thrown to the potter [Zechariah 11:13],

The Messiah being rejected by His own people [Isaiah 53:3], and

The Messiah being mistreated by His own people [Psalm 22:16; see also Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 50:6; 52:14]

Stoner calculated that the probability of one man being able to fulfill these prophecies by mere chance and circumstance was 1 in 1017 [1 in 100 quadrillion]. In order to illustrate the impossibility of this being mere chance, Stoner says this is the number of silver dollars required to cover the entire state of Texas to a depth of two feet, marking one of those silver dollars, stirring the mass thoroughly, and then telling a blindfolded person to to travel as far as he wishes and pick up one single silver dollar. That is the probability that the dollar chosen will be the marked one.

To look at it another way. Having met all these criteria, the probability is 100 quadrillion to one that Jesus of Nazareth is the prophesied Messiah, since He alone, of all humanity, has met the required prophetic criteria.

With these odds, it is no wonder that the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal proposed what has become known as Pascal’s wager: “Which is better [safer]–for one to believe in Christ and live for Him, only to find at the end of his life that he was wrong in doing so, or to deny Christ, only to find at the end of his life that he was wrong in doing so?”

Or, as the Puritan minister Philip Henry once observed: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.” [Note, it is this saying, in paraphrased form, which is commonly attributed to the late missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, who expressed it as, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”]

* Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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