Jesus’ Church

By Natalie Hardt | February 2020

How well does your church reflect the
the Apostolic Church?

Characteristics:

  • Comprised of believers (Acts 2:41)
  • Adhere and study doctrine that has been safely defined as Scripture (Acts 2:42)
  • Partake in fellowship, the Lord’s Supper and prayer (Acts 2:42)
  • Gather for worship regularly (Acts 2:46; 20:7)
  • Take care of the needs of its own (Acts 2:44-45)
  • Appoint church elders (Acts14:23; 20:28-31)
  • Ministry outreach (Acts 13:2-3)

Jesus’ Church is meant to be the light to the world. This discussion looks at the first century Church and some of the challenges it faces as it fights to remain true to the Gospel.

The first century church in Acts is the model to follow.

 

Luke is the author of Acts and brilliantly records historical events, their significance, and characteristics of the Apostolic Church. This gives us a glimpse into history and how societal and cultural difficulties effect church politics in Jerusalem, the church outside Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit’s work foundational to proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world.

It is important the believer apply to their life the principles intended by the biblical author of whom has written centuries past and to a different society and culture.

 

The setting is first century Palestine where the known world consists of various ethnicities and cultures, these include Judaism Jews (traditional), Hellenistic Jews (due to Alexander the Great rule 332BC), Samaritan Jews (due to Assyrian captivity 722 BC), and Jewish and Hellenistic Christians of whom occupy territories close in proximity in Jerusalem. Greek was the primary language and the roads were made safer for travel under Roman rule, resulting in favorable conditions for spreading the church throughout. Acts picks up where the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) leave off, Jesus has handed off His church (flock of sheep) to His disciples with specific instructions to go to all people and gather ‘those’ who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior for they belong to His Kingdom. This is a calling to gather His sheep, and points to predestination which is a subject for another discussion.

Politics in the Church

It is not long after Jesus ascends to Heaven that the early church begins having conflicts and controversies. Luke writes about the external disputes, as with the Sanhedrin, and the internal disputes within the Jerusalem church of whom Peter and then James (Jesus’ brother) lead. For example, Acts 6 records Hebrew widows being favored over Hellenistic widows that eventually culminates in delegating leaders to oversee church activities. This allows the Apostles to dedicate their “…attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4 NIV). After Acts 7, the Jerusalem church appears to be made up of Jewish Christians as most or only Hellenistic Christians flee the area after Stephen’s death; Luke records this saying, “…all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1 NIV) (Bruce, 2019). The stoning of Stephen is the catalyst that leads to the dispersion of believers and prompts the Gospel taken outside Jerusalem to the areas of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cyprus (Acts 11: 19). These were the Hellenistic believers, likely run out of Jerusalem by those motivated to riot by the chief priests and pharisees (Bruce, 2019).

Acts 21 provides another glimpse into the early church dynamics when Paul visits the Jerusalem church and tells the leaders about the great progress concerning the Gentile conversions; consequently, James and the elders tell Paul how the Jews have also “…believed, and all of them are zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20 NIV). The mention of the ‘law’ is an evident snag among the Gentile and Jewish Christians and constitutes the tensions that arise as the church seeks to establish itself. With good intensions, James tries to help Paul against criticisms from ‘those’ that remain tethered to the law by suggesting Paul fit-in better and show his allegiance to Jewish traditions (clean foods and circumcision). Whether Paul and his companions compromise by shaving their head and visiting the temple, or whether it is out of respect for their Jewish heritage, neither act is part of the Gospel (Marculet, 2013). Paul may have felt the skepticism from the Jerusalem church leaders due to his past. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

Like the first century, today’s newly converted Christians from Catholicism may find it difficult to completely let go of Catholic frivolous and futile customs and traditions. As with Paul and his companions, rituals have no significance nor contribut to one’s salvation. The more one knows the Word of God, the less likely one will be fooled by these false doctrines. False teachings of the Gospel should be confronted because in ‘not’ doing so is to go against loving one’s neighbor.

 

Leadership Within The Church

The more one digs deeper into the Word of God and sees the various heresies and trials that have afflicted the church for centuries, the more one realizes little has changed.

 

One way the Jerusalem church responds to the Gentile conversion phenomenon taking place outside Jerusalem is to send Barnabas to Antioch Syria, the first church believers to be called Christians (Acts 11:22). Barnabas and Apostle Paul then go and remain for one year as they teach the Gospel to the church there. Gathering in homes is the norm for the early church, for instance Acts 16 records the conversion of Lydia in Philippi and how “The Lord opened her heart…” (Acts 16:14 ESV) and will lead to her baptism and the use of her home for church gathering. First century Greek women were gaining freedoms in cities more heavily influenced by Roman culture, such as Philippi and Corinth, versus Greek culture, such as Athens (Mowczko, 2018). Independent women in Acts include Lydia, a businesswoman, and Pricilla an artisan and how their roles helped advance the early church (Mowczko, 2018). Lydia was able to use her resources for good, this presents a more positive view of wealth in the New Testament as it is used for God’s purpose (Mowczko, 2018). The early church developed ways of reaching the world through its outreach (care of those in need), missions, and small group. And somewhat unique to the early church believers is how they were ‘one’ and shared everything (Acts 2:42-45) as they spent time together breaking bread (meals not only Eucharist), praying and worshipping (Wenham & Walton, 2005).

Humans have always been and continue to be worshipping beings and Satan knows that; consequently, as counterfeiter (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 20:10) and imitator of God, Satan’s sole purpose is to take as many down into hell with him. It cannot be overstated the awesome responsibility church leaders have been entrusted as they care for and navigate the church. Believers’ are cautioned time and time again to check the scriptures for Satan via false religious leaders aims to twist and confuse. Recall the moment Satan uses scripture ‘incorrectly’ in his attempts to entice Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; Mark 1:12-13).

 

Contextualization

The Gospel message never changes, how it is presented will vary. Theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer according to Neely (2019) says scripture is “the script’ which is to be lived out as the church ‘performs’ the Gospel on the world stage” (Neely, 2019, pp. 7).

 

Scripture translation for understanding and application varies depending on cultures and ethnicities and is evident in Acts, for instance Apostle Paul’s speech to the Greek philosophers in Athens (Acts 17) versus his sermon to the Antioch Syria church (Acts 13). Regarding his Athenian speech, Paul is observant of the culture and their many gods and idol worship; consequently, he adjusts his language so that his audience can understand the Gospel message. When Paul is asked to speak to the Greek philosophers, he takes this opportunity to establish common ground by saying, “…in every way you are very religious” (Acts 17:22 ESV) before he goes on to present his case by focusing on “…unknown god” (Acts 17:23) versus “gods” (Marculet, 2013). What prompts this is the moment Paul sees an inscription that says, “to the unknown god” and thinks perhaps they not only believe in “gods”, but also “a” god and uses that as a means of focusing on the unknown “god” (Marculet, 2013, pp. 33). Another explanation is that among their many gods, there is one angered god the Athenians want to appease and yet do not know the identity. In either case, Paul thinks best to focus on the term “god” “…in order to express from the beginning what he wanted to talk to Areopagus’ court and to have a monotheistic speech” (Marculet, 2013, pp.30). Vanhoozer goes on to describe improvisation, not in making up anything new, but rather “…creative but faithful contextualization or application of canonical truth to shifting cultural contexts…is fully consonant with a stable orthodox identity” (Neely, 2019, pp. 6). This is what Apostle Paul does when he speaks at the Areopagus in Athens, where the Gospel meets Greek philosophy, and is what Marculet (2013) says is necessary for “the Gospel has to be incarnated into a preexistent soil, through a process of inculturation” (Marculet, 2013, pp. 30).

God Never Contradicts His Word

 

Proper biblical interpretation consists of looking at the historical sociological setting for scriptural relevance.

 

When a new teacher/teaching emerges that does not line-up with biblical doctrine, it is vital reputable pastors and theologians, as well as believers push back. Prior to the Athens visit, Apostle Paul and Silas had gone to preach in the synagogue (Jewish temple) in Thessalonica (Acts 17). Luke recorded many Jews and Greeks were saved that day in Thessalonica while others formed a mob and attacked Paul and Silas. When Paul and Silas escaped to the synagogue in Berea, they were received by Jews and Greeks that eagerly listened, it says they “…examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11 ESV). The latest fad the Evangelical community has had to distance from is the prosperity gospel and charismatic movement that pushes worldly success. This is what happens when gross negligence in an otherwise systematic approach (Exegesis) effects coherent biblical interpretation (Hermeneutics). For example, the charismatics have been accused of improper contextualization, as in John 14 where Jesus says to His disciples, “…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12 NIV). The prosperity gospel preaches a good life now agenda that clearly goes against the teachings of Jesus and the Apostolic Church, for suffering draws us closer to God, “…We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22 NIV). Apostle Paul, the greatest Christian to have ever lived, knew this all too well. He often addressed the churches throughout the new world concerning the false teachers and teachings that infiltrated their congregation.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1 ESV)

 

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:6-9 ESV)

 

Miracles

The issues surrounding miracles has spiraled out of control so much so, there are those today claiming to have apostles in their congregation equal to the Twelve Apostles. This is heresy and must be completely rejected. Scripture is clear on what constitutes an Apostle: 1) followed Jesus’ ministry; 2) appointed by Jesus directly; and 3) an eye witness to Jesus after the resurrection (Acts 1). In other words, there will never be an Apostle like the Twelve – Matthew, John, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Judas (not Iscariot), Judas Iscariot (replaced by Matthias), Bartholomew, Thomas, Simon, and James (son of Alphaeus).

This subject has evidently brought to the surface the interpretation of miracles, visions, wonders, and healings today that are being compared to the feeding of 5,000, casting out demons, raising the dead, and healing the sick. These grand miracles were for a specific purpose and in a specific time in history. When Jesus and a select few apostles did miracles, it was always for the sole purpose of exhorting the Father resulting in growing faith and hope for the coming Kingdom. Good examples include the moments Paul and Peter speak with boldness because of the Holy Spirit; it says, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:9 NIV), and in Acts 2 about Peter and the disciples, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4 NIV). Jesus’ words concerning His followers doing greater things than He has been interpreted by reputable theologians to mean spreading the Gospel – the Good News – by growing His Church throughout the world. If the first century church could look into the future at how Christianity has grown, it would look like a miracle.

Prosperity versus Suffering

There are many types of hardships and sufferings, some may come from the enemy albeit under the sovereignty of God, as in the Book of Job while others are tests sent by God to grow the believer’s faith and/or weed out false believers (MacArthur, 2020).

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2 NIV)

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:9-11 ESV)

“…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7 ESV)

Does this mean believers’ will not have happiness in this life? Absolutely not! As James says (above) our joy is the filling of the Holy Spirit not the things we get from and in this world. This does not mean having nice things (i.e. car, jewelry, clothes) is wrong, it comes with an understanding that things never become more important than our thirst for God. False teachers/preachers such as Joel Osteen come across as a self-help book with a psychological approach to gaining self-esteem in bettering one’s life now. This is not the Gospel, Jesus warns constantly that to be His follower, expect to be hated for this world belongs to Satan “…In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 NIV). Having said that, it is important to avoid lumping all believers in a group because there are some that truly do experience talking in tongues; however, that is not the discussion here. What the charismatics are pushing does not qualify as special or unique, but rather occultic over the top behaviors. Miracles happened infrequent in biblical times, here we have constant groups of people partaking in convulsing and squirming on the floor, claiming to have visions and conduct healings that never prove true. The charismatics are not restricted to any one denomination or religion either, for instance the Catholic charismatics believe in the miracles of crying statues. These sorts of miracles are not divine, but rather demonic in nature.

Those Led Astray“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” (1 Tim. 4:1 ESV)

 

Suffering Sharpens Believers
&
Glorifies God

It is important to reiterate Christians are meant to have joy in this world; however, seeking it in the fashion presented by these prosperity preachers is false and goes against scripture. Spiritual growth is not had when life is prosperous. It is through the trials and tests that we are “weaned from this world” (MacArthur, 2020). Apostle Paul pleads with God to relieve him of his pain, “…a thorn was given me [Paul] in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV). Jesus replies to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9 ESV).

Be Alert

The bottom line is for Christians to be on guard and cognizant of false teachings; afterall, Satan disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) to confuse, distort, divide, and prevent those from coming to Christ. Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “…Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 ESV); for faith is the hope for things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). In the first century, the Old Testament scriptures were well established, known, and had been in circulation for centuries. On this side of the cross (after the resurrection), the New Testament and the giving of the Holy Spirit replace these types of grand miracles. It is important to clarify the meaning ‘miracle’ because God still does miracles every day, as in the believer that prays for God’s healing power for her premature infant struggling for survival, or the addicted homeless person’s transformation and now living a clean and productive life.

The Holy Spirit Directs the Church

There are common features and consistent talking points true to the Gospel message throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Due to vantage point, the speeches may vary on bits of information that support the main points; however, the story about Jesus targets who He is, what He did, and what that means for humanity. Main points are Israel’s history; Jesus is Messiah, His death (rebuking those responsible), His rising and living today; eyewitnesses (and in this case Peter and Paul) that support these events; and the Holy Spirit’s work calling believers to action. This action requires telling the story to all who will listen.

Churches today have a model in the New Testament church and faces the same types of struggles. The church must listen and obey the Spirit like Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke in Acts 16 when they obeyed the Spirit that took them to Macedonia and not Asia per Paul’s vision. Looking back, it is clear God wanted the Gospel to reach what will become Europe – and again my friends, this is the miracle of the Holy Spirit.

References
Bruce, F.F. (1985). The Church of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of Manchester, 67 (2): 641–661. Retrieved from: https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m1650&datastreamId=Post-Peer-Review-Publishers-Document.pdf
MacArthur, J. (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.gty.org/
Marculet, S. (2013). Elements of Inculturation in Saint Paul’s speech from Areopagus. Revista Teologica, 23(3), 28–48. Retrieved from: https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=94518061&site=eds-live&scope=site
Mowczko, M. (2018). Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church. Priscilla Papers, 32(3), 3–7. Retrieved from: https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=131340184&site=eds-live&scope=site
Neely, B. (2019). Kevin Vanhoozer’s Theodramatic Improvisation and the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Evangelical Review of Theology, 43(1), 5–16. Retrieved from: https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=133918455&site=eds-live&scope=site

Wenham, D., & Walton, S. (2005). Exploring the New Testament, Volume 1: A guide to the Gospels and Acts (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

CHURCH and STATE Separate and Mutually Influential

By Natalie Hardt | November 2019

THE CHURCH IS MEANT TO BE
COUNTERCULTURAL!

Church and state must remain separate with an understanding they will influence eachother. God in His amazing grace has made available a life book that is timeless and supernaturally powerful that gives direction for every situation, “…one could make the argument that health or economics is “very important,” but the Bible does not lay out a specific economic system or medical instructions. God does, however, give us what is sufficient for our salvation and Christian living” (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014, pp. 534).

It is important Christians heed the words of Apostle Paul in Romans 13:1-2, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (NIV). At the same time notice Jesus’ words in Matthew and Mark of “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 ESV), in which Jesus makes the point that everyone, including Caesar, is subject to the rule of God. Numerous passages in scripture (Ezra 7:26; Ecc 8:2; Prov 24:21; Matt 17:27; Titus 3:1; and more) speak to the importance of living as good law-abiding citizens. Jesus never protested the Roman government and given the situation in first century Palestine, He and His disciples had ample opportunities. As a matter of fact, Jesus taught faith in things eternal while living as peaceable citizens in a corrupt world.

Church vs. State

Protesting the government usually leads to a crowd mentality that results in unrest, havoc and riots and goes against the very nature of God. What about situations of helping the oppressed and mistreated? There are actions the church can and does take in helping fellow citizens and suffering people around the world. There are outreach and legislative actions to change civil laws as opposed to protesting on behalf of an ‘offended group’, which at this juncture in American history are many (i.e. antifa, transgender, metoo). It is important to distinguish ‘protesting’ versus ‘refusing’ to do something that goes against the laws of God, as in a situation in which a Christian doctor is being forced to perform abortions. A Christian is expected to push back (peaceably) as Scripture clearly shows God in His sovereignty as the giver of life (under any and all circumstances). Whatever the consequences, true believers are prepared for Scripture clearly warns about suffering on behalf of the Word of God, no student is above their Master (Jesus) (Matt10:24; John 13:16; 15:20). In Acts, Peter and John were joyful after being flogged by the Sanhedrin (council of Jewish leaders having civil and religious jurisdiction), because they were preaching Jesus Christ crucified, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [Jesus Christ] (Acts 5:41 NIV). Jesus taught that to follow Him would result in suffering in a world that cannot live by truth, and in American society it is becoming more evident than before with its sects and cults (false religions) that have been creating and revising biblical truth to fit their desired lifestyles.

Regarding truth, Jesus responds to the disciples when they ask why He speaks in parables which not all will understand, “And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:10-11 ESV). This warrants another discussion; however, for the purpose here and to sum it up, those that use their human reason (i.e. scientists, educators, philosophers) above God’s truth are described by Jesus this way, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:18-10 ESV). For more on abortion and scripture, go to https://jesusforum.net/2019/11/11/abortion-in-a-separate-church-and-state/.

God and Secularism

Humility is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian, to be the light that reflects Jesus because “…special discipling relationships are formed within the community [where] there is no fixed hierarchy of status”, this is the very opposite of the world (Collinson, 2005). Having different natures, the church focuses on changing the internal man through his heart and mind, while the state focuses on changing man’s behavior through external means of rules and laws. Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant believes in duty for doing good without desire, want, or motivation, whereas God demands a changed heart expressed through love and humility (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014). Secular society believes in whatever truth one chooses to believe because the goal is self-love and making oneself happy. The world’s secularism goes back to the Roman Empire and is illustrated in that moment when Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate concerning the ‘truth’ and says to Pilate, “…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” and yet Pilate responds scoffing, “What is truth?” (John 38:37-38 NIV). This first century moment is applicable to modern America in which truth is whatever one wishes it to be, also referred to as moral relativism (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014). Opposite end of the spectrum is the church that holds truth as knowing the knowledge of God from His Word and not rely on human effort.

Church Derails and Rules Over the State

Almost immediately after the Church begins in the 1st century until the Reformation in the 16th century, Christians were in a state of confusion. Horton (2008) put it this way, “It was against this confusion of Christ’s kingdom with Israel’s theocracy that Luther and Calvin (15th-16th centuries) launched their retrieval of Augustine’s ( 4th-5th centuries) position of heaven versus the world, this is known as Augustine’s “two kingdoms””… “love of God” versus “love of self” (Horton, 2008). To better understand the two kingdoms, church and state, we must first look at Israel’s history, the only nation set up as a theocracy and meant to be the example to the world as God’s people. Centuries later, in 1 Samuel 8, Israel will reject God as their King and demand to be like other nations that have a human king to rule over them. This, according to Foster (1988) is the moment Israel goes from a group of people with a prophet as the conduit between them and God, to individualism being given a human king (Foster, 1988). In summary, God’s form of rule (governing) is not like any world system government. Fast-forward centuries when Constantine (306-312AD) legalizes Christianity making it the national religion throughout the empire, Christians go from being an oppressed people to becoming the “establishment” living under a dual citizenship (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014, pp. 521). The Roman Catholic Church gained the world and lost its soul (Mark 8:36; Matthew 16:26). Regardless of what may have begun as good intentions has fallen to sin exhibiting authoritative behavior over others; in the words of Solomon, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). This highlights the indecisive nature of humans and their inability to trust themselves; therefore, reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance cannot be taken for granted. The Roman Catholic Church abused its power as it grew, organized, and became wealthy (land acquisition) and was identified by Luther as the Anti-Christ (McGrath, 2012). Later Calvin (1509-1564) describes the Roman Catholic Church as “contrived empire of Christendom” and describes church and state as having different natures; and Calvin like Augustine agree sin will always inhibit man from being a perfect society (Horton, 2008).

Conclusion

There will always be an inevitable mingling of both institutions; however, God is Creator and Sustainer, Sovereign above all. Said another way, nothing happens in this world, good or bad, without His approval; this does not mean He likes it. Let us not forget, Satan has dominion over the earth, but not over God’s children. The Book of Job illustrates this well the moment God allows Satan to test Job, “…all that he [Job] has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand” (Job 1:12 ESV). It can be challenging at times when our human limitations prevent us from knowing God’s plan and are taught to have faith in Christ Jesus.

References:
Collinson, S. W., (2005). Making Disciples and the Christian Faith. Evangelical Review of Theology, 29(3), 240–250. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=18750450&site=ehost-live&scope=site. 
Foster, R. J., (1988). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco, CA.
Horton, M., (2008). A Tale of Two Kingdoms. Tabletalk Magazine. Retrieved From URL: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/tale-two-kingdoms/.
McGrath, A. (2012). Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought.2nd edition. Retrieved from http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=750
McQuilkin, R., & Copan, P. (2014). An introduction to biblical ethics: Walking in the way of wisdom (3rd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. ISBN-13: 9780830828180.

Abortion in a Separate Church and State

By Natalie Hardt | November 2019

Abortion rights is going to be well received when under the guise of ‘pro-choice’ versus ‘pro-abortion’. Abortion is considered the most immoral crises in the United States because it is the most atrocious sin a nation can commit. This is another reflection of humanity’s inability to see and acknowledge its deficient state of pride as it justifies actions that deny, accept, project and repress acknowledgment of sin and its consequences (McQuilkin & Copan, 2014).

Abortions were meant to be rare, and yet today they have become common and a form of birth control especially among minority groups with African Americans among the highest number. All women deep down know abortion is killing at any stage of development, sadly she will likely experience suppression, denial, and projection as she tries to live with the notion that abortion is somehow okay. There are many unaware of the available resources provided by the church and other outreach organizations. For clarification, these organizations do not convince nor coerce anyone, but rather provide women with additional choices to abortion. Recently, I came across a woman that said the (pro-life) organizations “were pushing an agenda”. This hypocrisy is not just astounding, but also reflective of a secular society spiraling further into depravity and ignorance, “…you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin” (Romans 6:19 NIV). Abortion, as with many immoral laws, stir up sin even more. A recent example proving this point is clearly seen in America’s recent gender issue in which children are being given control of choosing their desired gender. If this continues, it will lead these generations into a state of confusion and self-destruction. Apostle Paul puts it this way, “…the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me.” (Romans 7: 10-11 NIV). This is because humans sinful nature uses what is good (God’s laws) and uses it against the believer, as “it [sin] uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.” (Romans 7:13 NIV). The evident distinction between a believer and non-believer is the latter is cognizant and in pursuit of living righteously; therefore, the more secular the society, the more visible signs of twisted truths, treating right as wrong and wrong as right.

Abortion Statistics

Data in 2011 shows 21% of pregnancies aborted, this amounts to 1.06 million abortions (Jones & Jerman, 2017). In the 1970s and 1980s when fetal alcohol syndrome was recognized, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) was considered a medical reason suggesting ATOD acceptable in terminating pregnancies (Roberts, Avalos, Sinkford & Foster, 2012); and yet only 1 out of 20 women claimed ATOD as the reason (Roberts, 2012). During this time, cautions surrounding alcohol consumption and its effects on pregnancy may have resulted in many women assuming something wrong with their baby after learning they were pregnant after having consumed alcohol (Roberts, 2012). Other and more recent data show “more than 1 in 8 U.S. women” living in poverty, and “76% of abortions occur[ing] among women at or below 200% of the federal poverty level” (Oberman, 2018, pp. 666). It is worthy to note an increase in contraception is likely responsible for the 13% decline of abortions from 2008 to 2011 (Jones & Jerman, 2017). Statistics show a very small percentage attributed to rape and incest; for instance, 2004 statistics show abortion as result due to it would “dramatically change my life” at 74%, as opposed to rape at 1%, and incest at <0.5% (Finer, Frohwirth, Dauphinee, Singh, & Moore, 2005, pp. 113).

Historical Scholars and Theologians

What do theologians, scholars and philosophers Tertullian, Augustine, Plato and Aristotle say on the subject? First, Plato believed in controlling the population and eugenics (breeding for improvement to humans), and Aristotle believed that unhealthy children (deformities) shall be disposed (Czachorowski, 2018). Jerome and Augustine could not distinguish when the fetus went from “formatus” to “informatus”, the ensoulment of the embryo. Tertullian believed body and soul happened simultaneously at conception, while Aristotle believed 40 days after conception is when the soul indwelled the embryo for males and 90 days for females (Czacorowski, 2018). Tertullian held the seed as the potential person with the seed as “…a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Cazcorowski, 2014, pp. 569). Finally, Aquinas as cited in Czacorowski (2014) said “…the soul endowed with a mind was created by God at the moment of conception, and so at the moment of the first formation of the human embryo” (Czacorowski, 2014, pp. 569-570). Czacorowski (2014) goes on to note that while science cannot confirm the “sequential substantial changes” in the fetal stage, modern philosophy does subscribe to the natural sciences that the ovum, the first stage when sperm and egg come together, contains the genetic code” and “…directs the entire psycho-physical development of the human being” (Czacorowski, 2014, pp. 570).

Reason Confirms God is Truth

Non-believers cannot deny the world is not right, for believers it is clear this is the result of a fallen world and abortion is just one example of an upside-down culture that calls right wrong and wrong right. Human reason shows us the world was not created randomly or by chance; therefore, the human ‘cell’ did not just happen due to a big bang, unless of course God was behind it. The cell and its ability to regenerate is the deliberate result of a sovereign God for nothing happens without His ordainment, including the egg fertilization regardless of means (incest and rape). This is can be difficult to comprehend with the human finite mind. While humans cannot understand many things, there is a lot and enough we do know, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) and have been mandated to continue in spreading the pattern of God’s image throughout the earth. Beginning with Adam and Eve, God instructs them of their image bearing role, to have dominion and stewardship over the earth, “…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature…” (Gen 2: 28 NIV). Genesis 1 and 2 record creation as “very good” 12 times that sets the stage in man living out a purposeful and meaningful life that brings glory to God.

God is Love, Love is Freedom, God is Freedom

God does not create robots, but rather creatures with a will to choose, including the ability to love or reject their Creator. The church (people, not building), also known as God’s kingdom on earth, can help to facilitate and support the necessary resources for women who seek another option to abortion. There are non-profit, non-funded establishments that do the opposite of abortion facilities. This gives women options, because as previously mentioned, economic reasons and avoiding responsibility are among the common reasons for having an abortion. Another solution can be adoption, although this may be asking too much from victims and is partly why this subject is met with such venom in the era of extreme feminism in a secular society.


References
Collinson, S. W., (2005). Making Disciples and the Christian Faith. Evangelical Review of Theology, 29(3), 240–250. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=18750450&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Czachorowski, M., (2018). Abortion in The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volume 7. Studia Gilsoniana 7, no. 4: pages 567-578. Retrieved From http://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/element/bwmeta1.element.desklight-d3998022-9494-40a6-bb41-9232cc491178.

Finer LB, Frohwirth LF, Dauphinee LA, Singh S, & Moore AM. (2005). Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 37(3), 110–118. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=106545873&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Jones, R. K., & Jerman, J., (2017). Abortion Incidence and Service Availability In the United States, 2014. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 49(1), 17–27. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1363/psrh.12015.

McQuilkin, R., & Copan, P. (2014). An introduction to biblical ethics: Walking in the way of wisdom (3rd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. ISBN-13: 9780830828180.

Mihindukulasuriya, P. (2014). How Jesus Inaugurated the Kingdom on the Cross: a Kingdom Perspective of the Atonement. Evangelical Review of Theology, 38(3), 196–213. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=96993783&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Oberman, M. (2018). Motherhood, Abortion and the Medicalization of Poverty. The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics 46: 665-671. doi: 10.1177/1073110518804221.

Roberts S., Avalos, L., Sinkford, D., Foster, D., (2012). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use as Reasons for Abortion. Medical Council on Alcohol and Oxford University Press Vol 47, No. 6, pp. 640-648. doi:10.1093/alcalc/ags095.

Virgin Mary Apparitions Are False – Not of God!

By the 4th century, the Catholic Church was born. It went off into heretic behavior from the REAL church, the Apostolic Church, Jesus’ Church.
 

By Natalie Hardt|2019

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The Roman Catholic Church has high-jacked and has manipulated the Gospel, making it a false pagan religion and worthy of being called a cult.

Disclaimer: before I proceed on this topic, I want to say that I am not trying to offend people, but rather call out the Roman Catholic Church for what it is. It is not loving others if one is more concerned about feelings or offending than speaking the truth especially concerning salvation; therefore, Catholics are the mission ground and must learn the truth. 

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All people should be able to have direct access to the Word of God. When a peoples cannot read nor understand God’s Word, the more vulnerable they become to “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15-20), for scripture warns us “…false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ESV). Before I became a Christian, I wanted the cute stories I heard growing up about the Virgin Mary (Mary) appearances to be true; I am here to say, they are not from God. Catholic counterarguments have included “so many people have seen and heard from these apparitions, how can everyone be wrong?” My response is YES, they are wrong and so is the Roman Catholic Church.

Scripture clearly identifies Satan as an angel of light, an imitator of God:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15 ESV).

Biblical scripture in no way shape or form supports the various titles and roles the Roman Catholic Church has attributed to Mary, such as “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God”; titles that go back to ancient civilization goddess worshipping peoples (MacArthur, 2015). Examples include Solomon, of whom turns from God to follow his foreign wives that worship false gods/goddesses.

“He [Solomon] followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:5 NIV). To worship Molek and other gods like this involve infant sacrifice (Leviticus 20). The wisest man to ever live and son of King David of whose line will come Messiah, will turn his heart and mind from the living God to worship idols/fake gods (1 Kings 11:9), “He [Solomon] took the carved Asherah [goddess] pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever”” (2 Kings 21:7 NIV). Scripture warns against falling prey to false gods/teachings; therefore, be armed with the Word of God, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 NIV; Ephesians 6:11). What happens when the elect – bishops and popes – corrupt either the Word of God and/or the interpretation of it? You get false religions like the Roman Catholic Church.

Vulgate
The Books of the Bible were already established by the time Saint Jerome (347-420AD) decided to translate the Bible in Latin, a language no longer spoken nor understood by the masses; this version of translation became known as the Vulgate. Jerome does get push back from colleagues; however, it will be the 15th and 16th centuries when Desiderius Erasmus identifies errors with the Vulgate translation, including passages surrounding Mary. Around the same time Erasmus was causing trouble for the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther was also making his stand against the church and pinned his 95 theses on the church doors in Wittenberg that launched the Reformation.

One of the most controversial translations concerning the Vulgate is the moment Angel Gabriel speaks to Mary, “hail one that is full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28 NIV), as opposed to the previous interpretation of “one who has found favor”. The error concerning the Latin version is that the correct translation should have been “gratificata” which means doing favor versus “gratia plena” which means full of grace. Being full of grace signifies void of sin, which is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus and evident throughout the Old and New Testaments. “…and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:7-8 ESV).

Worship of false gods and superstitious beliefs go back to ancient civilizations with Nimrod and the Tower of Babel to the Canaanites (worship Baal), Assyrians, Babylonians, to the Greeks and Romans. In this same vain, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates with parades and festivals that display costumes and pageantry worship for Lady of Fatima, Lady of Guadalupe, Lady of Pontmain, and many more, “The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven [Ishtar goddess]. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger” (Jeremiah 7:18 NIV); and “But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” (Jeremiah 22:18 NIV).
Presentation1
Mary worship as if she is responsible or part and partial to one’s salvation is blasphemous, a complete and utter false teaching that prevents people from knowing the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father! Popes and bishops today are reflective of first century Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) with their costumes, prestige and legalism. Jesus describes these corrupt religious leaders, the Pharisees like this, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV). Satan infiltrates God’s plan through confusion that goes clear back to the Garden of Eden when the serpent subtly coerces Eve to doubt and question God. Satan works at taking as many souls with him because he knows his time is almost up, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10 NIV).

Satan Sows Discourse
Satan does not waste any time weaving discourse and sowing confusion surrounding God’s Word. The Apostles were spreading the Gospel and planting churches, as well as defending the faith against heresies and the circulation of corrupt versions of scripture, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32 ESV). The Roman Catholic Church may have its roots in Judaism and Christianity, but by the 3rd and 4th centuries it will change and compromise. Examples include combining the resurrection celebration with the celebration of pagan goddess Eostre/Ostara and renaming it ‘Easter’; adding the office and position of the papacy as head of the church; and fabricating ritualistic acts such as praying with a rosary, devotionals to the immaculate heart, and inventing purgatory as part of salvation. All of these are blasphemy! This begs the question, how can this happen?

A combination of popes and bishops/archbishops being among the few that could read and write and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD, popes and bishops gain power, prominence, and influence over emperors. Popes and other religious leaders are being called ‘father’, an abomination for that is reserved only for our Father in heaven. Moreover, there is no further need for the Levitical system (Jewish priesthood) because Jesus has filled the position of High Priest of whom intercedes on our behalf. Prior to the resurrection, the Jewish High Priest would make the once a year sacrificial atonement for the Nation of Israel by going into the section of the Tabernacle/Temple referred to as the Holy Holies (Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9). Scripture records the Jewish Temple’s veil being torn top to bottom the moment Jesus’ work on the cross is complete. This veil is more like a thick fabric and approximately 60 ft. high that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” (Matthew 17:51 NIV).

The Rosary
The ‘rosary’ and its use when praying is an example of manner that does not glorify Jesus Christ, but rather praying to a sinful human being, Mary (all people sin). Jesus specifically says, “But when you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…”” (Matthew 6:6 ESV), not go seek out a priest or church leader and confess. Then there is the matter of repetitive chants, also unbiblical and blasphemous, as when the priest instructs to repent by saying 10 Hail Marys, “use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7 KJV).

Recognizing False Doctrine
Reading Scripture is the best defense against false teachings; I can confirm the below statement from Lucia is inconsistent with Scripture and is NOT from God.

“Lucia made some requests for sick people, to which Mary replied that she would cure some but not others, and that all must say the rosary to obtain such graces, before continuing: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary” (theotokos.org.uk).

The apparition says “to obtain such graces” which falls in-line with good works and is actually central to the Catholic religion and not to Scripture. Faith alone in Jesus ‘alone’ brings salvation, there is nothing a person can do to earn grace from God. Then there is the nonsensical statement inconsistent with scripture, “sins committed against the immaculate heart of Mary” that puts Mary on a level equal or even above God the Father, Jesus, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the Trinity. Not only have Catholic leaders twisted the Word of God, they have led many down the wrong path that will be met with punishment; those given more responsibility, comes greater expectations, rewards, and punishments, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as they will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV).

Purgatory
Purgatory is unbiblical, there is no pit-stop, some waiting room before being judged! This is complete and utterly false and another example of false biblical interpretation of the Gospel. The Catholic Church developed a system where one can apply merit, for a fee to loved ones in purgatory so they may complete their journey to heaven, this is completely erroneous and shameful. This is further evidence of how far from the true Gospel, the Roman Catholic Church has gone. As the church became church/state, it would have to behave like any government that protects itself from enemy forces. The Catholic Church had to come up with a way to justify war-ing via the crusades that eventually led to the buying and selling of salvation through what was known as indulgences. By the 4th century and well into the 11th century, the Roman Catholic Church is not being led by the Holy Spirit as it spirals further into decay as a result of preaching false doctrine.

Repentance
The incorrect Vulgate interpretation of Matthew 4:17, says “Then Jesus began to preach and say: “‘do penance, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near””; the correct translation is ‘repent, for the kingdom…’. Catholicism puts human effort as having a role in redemption, as if one can earn their way to heaven. Apostle Paul goes into detail about the result of good works due to deposited grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. God knows our true motivations and desires because He knows the hearts and minds of men (scripture), “…it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9 ESV). Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform from within – the hearts and minds of believers in Christ.

Other false teachings perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church include abstinence from marriage during the reign of Pope Benedict VIII and Pope Gregory VII, as late as the 11th century. There are unholy reasons for this including the church’s way to ensure no responsibility for a family when a pope dies (MacArthur, 2015). Scripture clearly teaches that it is by choice that one may choose to abstain from marriage, it is not a mandate. Scripture mentions Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law in Luke 4:38, and Apostle Paul’s choice to be celibate in 1 Corinthians 7.

Catholicism has moved far from its Judaism and Christian roots; however, the true Word of God remains. The Bible is referred to as ‘Canon’, a Greek word that means ‘rule’ because the Canon is the measuring stick. All the Books of the Bible are consistent divinely inspired writings by approximately 40 different authors on 3 different continents. The books were scrutinized for canonization that includes answering a set of questions: 1) was the book written by a prophet; 2) miracles authenticate writer, confirming his message; 3) does the writing tell the truth about God without contradictions; 4) does the writing have a divine capacity to transform lives; and 5) did the people it was written for accept it as God’s Word (McGrath, 2012). The Word of God is relevant today as it was more than 2,000 years ago with the Old Testament long established centuries prior. Jesus often quotes from the Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew text) in His teachings and when He debates the Pharisees. The New Testament books were written, circulated, and accepted long before the Vulgate, the councils reaffirmed which 26 books would make up the New Testament (i.e. Nicene, Constantinople). These writings were always meant to go directly to the people in a language they understood which is why Jerome’s translation in the Latin was met with much scrutiny.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3 NIV).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).

Jesus gives the Great Commission to the 12 Apostles, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV). When Jesus ascends to heaven, the church begins and so will Satan’s attempts to copy God and thwart His plan. First century church struggled in a pagan world much like today. Corinth struggled with immorality; Colossae had its mystics; Ephesus encountered false teachers; Thessalonica had end of time freaks; and Philippi were complainers (Muehlhoff, T., & Lewis, T. V. 2010). By the time we get to the Apostles to the Apostles, known as the Patristic Era (100-500AD), there are two schools of thought, Alexandria in Egypt (Alexander the Great established) that takes a philosophical approach (Greek), and the school of Antioch in Syria, where Apostle Paul and Barnabas plant the first church of believers that call themselves Christians.

The Humanness of Mary
We get another glimpse into Jesus’ family in Matthew “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:54-58 ESV). Jesus was known to have brothers and sisters, His brother James authored Book of James; moreover, Mary speaks of her Lord, “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49 ESV). Mary knows she is human and in need of a Savior, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Finally, it does not go without escape how Jesus speaks to His mother, as in the Cana Wedding where He says, “Woman (Mary), why do you involve me?” and “…My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4 NIV). Then there is the moment Jesus is speaking to a group in a home and it says, “Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12: 47-50 ESV). Mary is a Bible heroine and one to be loved, just not in the way she is depicted by the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus must get all the glory – ALL.

“Surely there is not a righteous man [or woman] on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV).

References:
CNS photo/Paul Haring. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/03/03/pope-francis-establishes-universal-feast-day-blessed-virgin-mary-mother-church
MacArthur, J. (2015). Exposing the Idolatry of Mary Worship parts 1-4. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/RbDn_KU7BqU
McGrath, A. (2012).
Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought.2nd edition. Retrieved from http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=750
Muehlhoff, T., & Lewis, T. V. (2010).
Authentic communication: Christian speech engaging culture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Retrieved by: http://gcumedia.com/digital-resources/intervarsity-press/2010/authentic-communication_christian-speech-engaging-culture_ebook_1e.php
Theotokos Catholic Book. Words spoken by Mary at Fatima. Retrieved from http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/approved/words/wordfati.ht

Genesis Compared to Other Creation Stories

By Natalie Hardt | 2019

Christian interpretation of Genesis 1 that acknowledges the Ancient Near Eastern context, and modern science

Survey of the Gospel: Jesus Is The Only Way

By Natalie Hardt | 2019

The Bible narrative is an overarching story about creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration. The Bible is God’s word, written by Him (Holy Spirit) through His selected authors to guide and instruct how to live now on earth while anticipating the coming Kingdom.

There are many people that say, “so what when I die, I will be dead”; this is untrue for there will be eternal suffering in hell. The problem is that most are blind to the truth, the severity of sin and its power over them. It is only through God’s Spirit that eyes and ears can open to the truth only found in Jesus of whom is the Word. The general meaning of the term “word” is how communication happens, the term “wisdom” is the consciousness of that communication. Jesus is both Word and Wisdom, present at the time of creation with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV). Jesus always identified Himself as Son of Man and Son of God with, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Wisdom is said to be found at the cross, where time and eternity meet. Isaiah’s prophesy on the subject clearly states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV). Commentary on this subject agrees that Jesus is wisdom, “It has been argued that Jesus is the personification of wisdom as is described in Proverbs 5-8” (Stewart, 2018). This is spectacular regarding forgiveness of sin because it is through this faith from the power of the Holy Spirit, that a believer can find Jesus Christ, and is thus redeemed and is restored to God the Father.

 The Bible narrative is an overarching story about creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration. The Bible is God’s word, written by Him (Holy Spirit) through His selected authors to guide and instruct how to live now on earth while anticipating the coming Kingdom. The cross event is the redemptive act of Christ, the perfect sacrifice that puts to rest the need for animal sacrifices and is the only conduit to God the Father, the only Priest we go to. Jesus is called the second Adam (1 Cor 15:22) and true Israel (Hos 11:1), and undoes the curse of sin set forth in Genesis 3 due to Adam’s disobedience; moreover, Jesus accomplishes where Israel fails. Israel, time and time again, allows themselves to be influenced by the surrounding pagan nations resulting in their idolatry (worshipping other gods). This results in judgement that will take them into bondage under the Assyrians (722 BC) and later the Babylonians (586 BC).

The existence of God has been made known to humanity through general revelation and special revelation; the first refers to the physical beauty of earth and the universe that is all around us, everything we take in through the senses – see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. God is Creator, recorded in Genesis “…God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…” (Gen 1:1-2 NIV). Special revelation is God revealing Himself through various means including miracles, scripture, and the supernatural; for example, the Nation of Israel meets God in Exodus and becomes the only nation ever to be set-up as a theocracy.

First century historian Josephus Flavius, as well as theologians (Aquinas, Barth) affirm the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as real events that took place in humanity’s history. For instance, the Joseph story shows how the Jewish people go from Canaan to Egypt where they will live for 400 years as slaves until God frees them from Pharaoh. It is through Moses that God frees the Jewish people and teaches them to love and worship their God, Yahweh, the only one true God, as opposed to pagan gods they have come to know in Egypt. Thomas Aquinas “…argues that the existence and some attributes of God can be known by reason, whereas other things about God – for example, that God is triune – can be known only through special revelation” (Highfield, 2008, p. 105-106).

After Jesus commissions His disciples to spread His church throughout the world to all the nations (Matt 28:16-20), the church will confront, challenge, and establish its set doctrine. As one can imagine, there were many heresies against the Christian community and attacks on the identity of Jesus. Arianism was one well known heresy that argued against the divinity of Jesus, it proclaimed Jesus as a created being, making the Son not equal to God the Father. If this were the case, then Jesus’ death and resurrection would not be able to save humanity from eternal death. The church’s push back against Arianism is one of many situations of the Patristic Age (100-500AD) through to the early Middle Ages (Dark Ages) that required church leaders to come to the defense of Jesus as being the God-Man. These events have been recorded at the councils of the Nicene Creed in 325, Nicene/Constantinople Creed in 381, and Toledo in 589, and confirm Jesus as fully human and fully God; the same essence, coequal, and coeternal to the Father (homoousious).

Systematic methodology came about during the centuries the church found itself explaining and defending God. It is a process by which to learn and know God and involves study and interpretation of scripture by gathering and organizing similar themes of information from various sources, such as scripture, nature, tradition, and experience (Highfield, 2008). Through this systematic methodology application, theologians confirm the Nicene Creed’s reaffirmation that God is Triune; and the homoousious of the three persons that make up the Godhead. The Godhead is present during creation as stated in Genesis, “Let us make mankind in our image…” (Genesis 1:26 NIV). Commentary in agreement acknowledges, “Christ, as God, was equal in power and glory with the Father; as Mediator, he received from the Father power and glory, and received that he might give: and all that the Father gave him, to qualify him for his undertaking, was summed up in this, he put his Spirit upon him” (Henry, 2018). The only time in the New Testament in which all three persons of the Godhead are present is at the baptism of Jesus, “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10 NIV). This further points to the Holy Spirit’s divinity respective to the Godhead. It is important to clarify that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father, and willingly goes from high position and eternal majesty to condescending Himself, becoming human. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He clearly states the importance of the Holy Spirit with His words, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 NIV). The Holy Spirit is co-equal to the Father and the Son and is also identified during creation in Genesis, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the water” (Genesis 1:1 NIV).

God’s redemption is possible because of His grace, mercy, love, patience, and forgiveness. And the human body, consisting of mind, body and soul, was given by the Creator some of His divine intellect; and if not lost, would have continued in the nature of the human being (Stillwaggon, 2014). Apostle Paul also goes on to say in Romans “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:20-22 NIV). As the result and according to John Calvin, all of creation is subject to God and thus according to God’s justice has been cursed (Lamoureux, 2009). God, through His love and omnipotence and omniscience immediately put His plan in motion with Jesus coming down to earth to teach humanity how to live. And when Jesus was set to depart from earth, He sent another Advocate, the Holy Spirit to be among humanity to comfort and guide. Jesus tells His disciples that when He leaves them, He “…will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for He will be in you and with you…” (John 14:16-17 NIV). God Bless

References

Henry, M. (2018). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. M. Henry (1662 – 1714). Retrieved from: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/12.html

Highfield, R. (2008). Great is the Lord: Theology for the praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. Retrieved by: https://lc-ugrad3.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/externalLinks/externalLinks.html?operation=redirectToExternalLink&externalLink=http%3A%2F%2Fgcumedia.com%2Fdigital-resources%2Fwm-b-eerdmans-publishing-co%2F2008%2Fgreat-is-the-lord_theology-for-the-praise-of-god_ebook_1e.php

Lamoureux, D. O. (2016). Beyond the Cosmic Fall and Natural Evil. Perspectives On Science & Christian Faith, 68(1), 44-59. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=113835293&site=eds-live&scope=site

Stewart, D. (2018). Why was Jesus Called the Word of God? (Logos). Blue Letter Bible. Retrieved from: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_219.cfm

Stillwaggon, J. (2014). The Problem of Propagation: Original Sin as Inherited Discourse. Studies In Philosophy & Education, 33(1), 61-73. doi:10.1007/s11217-013-9362-7. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93447361&site=eds-live&scope=site