Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Christianity, It's A Lifestyle. (?)

The other day, a relative of mine posted one of those posters with a catchy statement that keeps getting reposted on Facebook, and this is what it said.

"Attending Church every Sunday does not make you a Christian. How you live your life outside of the walls and off of the pews tells the whole story. It's a lifestyle." I immediately made a comment on that statement, then my curiosity got the better of me and I started scrolling down to look at the other comments. I only read about eighty of them, but with the exception of two others who said what I said, people focused on two different aspects of the statement. Most seemed to focus on the subject of church attendance and defended how important it was that attending church was necessary if people were Christians. The second aspect was that if you are a Christian, it should not be just a Sunday thing, but be a lifestyle.

What occurred to me was that all of these people had completely missed the point. Being a Christian does not have anything to do with church attendance, nor does observing a lifestyle necessarily make you one. A person can still be a Christian and not attend church. Many people have had to do that over the millennia, as they had to stay in hiding about their faith or be killed. Many still have to do that in some countries. As for the second aspect, I have seen many people in a number of denominations and even cults, who live a lifestyle that is moral and Christian-like, and these people are not necessarily saved, because they either believe in a works salvation, or they do not believe that Jesus is God incarnate who died for their sins. Yet their lives are very pure, even moreso than some Christians'.

What everyone missed, with the exception of two other people, was the fact that becoming a Christian only comes about through one way. That way is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship is not dependent upon regular attendance at a church, for this is an impossibility for some people in certain situations. We are not to forsake getting together with other believers to encourage and exhort each other, but that is not the same as attending an organized church on a weekly basis for formal services. If the church is in apostasy, it is far better to not attend and just gather with those who are like-minded for home services or Bible studies.

As for the lifestyle part, yes, a true Christian's lifestyle should reflect their faith, but the reverse is not necessarily true. You cannot make the statement that a person who has a moral lifestyle is in truth a born again believer, for some cults deny Christ, yet they live very moral lifestyles, attend their church regularly, and do good works. Even some people who do not have any religious beliefs may live moral lifestyles and do good works, simply because that is how they were brought up, or how they choose to live.

The only thing that determines whether or not you are a Christian is whether or not you have a personal relationship with the Father through Christ Jesus. This is the only definition of a Christian. So the statements "Attending Church every Sunday does not make you a Christian. How you live your life outside of the walls and off of the pews tells the whole story. It's a lifestyle," are misleading statements. The first part is true, as church attendance does not determine whether or not you have accepted Christ as your Savior. Church attendance is not even a gauge, for many devout Christians are walking away from the churches due to the apostasy there. The second part, as to how you live your life outside of church tells the whole story, is a false statement. Many people live perfectly moral lives totally outside of the Christian faith. The third part, that it is a lifestyle is ambiguous. The believer should  live a lifestyle that reflects God, but a lifestyle does not determine whether or not the person is a believer.

The fact that out of eighty responses, I only saw two that realized the error in this message and what the truth really was bothered me. It means that only two and a half percent of the people reading that post (of those that I read), who consider themselves Christians, understood what real salvation is based upon, a relationship. Neither church attendance nor a lifestyle will make you a Christian. It is now much easier to understand what Christ meant when He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23. Many people who believe they are headed to heaven may not get there, for they are counting on the church (and their faithful attendance) or their lifestyle (of being a good person) to get them there. They do not really know Christ, for you can only know Him when you have a relationship with Him. In that day  He will not recognize them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Gift of Tongues - Good or Bad?

I have tackled a lot of controversial issues in this blog, but until now I have not felt led to write on one which has been controversial since the beginning of Christianity. What prompted me to write now was that God brought it to my attention, via a video that someone had made, that it was a subject that I needed to address, so I will address it. That subject is one of the gifts of the Spirit. I have already discussed the gift of prophecy in my article on the existence or not of prophets today, and I will address the others gifts in time, but for today I want to address the subject of tongues. Of all the gifts, this is the one about which there seems to be the greatest controversy. It is odd in a way that this should be, for of all the gifts, and there is a fair list of them, this is considered to probably be the least valuable. Yet it is the one which so many clamor to get, proudly declare they have, insinuate that people aren't saved if they don't have it, practitioners get bashed by others who say it no longer exists, and no matter who is talking about it, is controversial. Why is this gift, which Paul suggests as less important than others, such a hot button? Why has it reached an elevated status above all other gifts?  For that answer we need to look at what the Scriptures have to say about it.

The first mention of it is by Christ when He appeared to the disciples after the resurrection and was sending them out to evangelize the world.  Mark 16:17 "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues."  This is a reference to the new ability which would first occur with the giving of the gift of tongues at Pentecost. Acts 2:3-4 "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,"  From that point forward the disciples (who would then be apostles) would carry the gospel out into the entire world, including countries with languages which they did not speak. Having the gift of tongues was a necessity to spread the gospel as quickly as possible. When Christ said believers would speak with new tongues, He meant tongues of other known languages. Acts 2:8-11 "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." 

Now so far, the indication is that the only tongues they are speaking are known tongues. Not ones learned by the apostles, but known to the world. Nothing is said about the tongues being a heavenly language which nobody can understand. These are all established languages which people are miraculously speaking having never studied them. And the purpose at this point is to enable the gospel to go forth into all the world as per the great commission given by Christ to the apostles. These tongues were understood by someone. They were not gibberish.

The next time we see tongues, it is again in the book of Acts 10:44-47 "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?"

In this incident, the Holy spirit gave the gift of tongues to some Gentiles who believed. The purpose of this seems to be for a sign. In particular it is a sign for the Jews, who were astonished that God was accepting the Gentiles as equal believers along with them, for Peter states what the result of them hearing these people speak in tongues is - their acceptance of them. It is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is doing the same for the Gentiles as He did for the Jews, so the Jews must accept the Gentiles as equals. Had there not been some sort of sign from God, there is probably no way the Jews would have accepted them as equals and heirs of salvation, because they were astonished that God would do so. There had to be a sign from God for them to accept the Gentiles. 1 Corinthians 1:22 " For the Jews require a sign," and  1 Corinthians 14:22a "Wherefore tongues are for a sign,"  Now as we must only interpret what we read within the parameters of what we have already learned, we have to still conclude that these are known or recognizable languages that these people are speaking. Had they not been, the apostles would probably have accused them of faking it by just speaking gibberish or being demonically controlled. They recognized that these people were indeed speaking other languages, which they could not have known, and thus they were being indwelt by the Holy Spirit just as they had been at Pentecost. So now we can conclude that tongues have two purposes. They were for the purpose of spreading the gospel quickly to people of other nations and languages, and they were a sign for the Jews that God was accepting the Gentiles as equals in His kingdom.

The next case of speaking in tongues is found in Acts 19:1-6 "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.  Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." Paul finds some disciples and asks if they have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, since they believed. His question indicates that the normal thing has now become that when a person accepts the Lord, they are immediately indwelt by the Spirit at that time. As this is the normal understanding that we have as to what happens upon receiving the Lord today, this seems a little strange to us that it had not happened, but note that these people had never heard about the Holy Spirit, so would not have understood what was happening. They needed to have understanding first, so the Holy Spirit held off indwelling them until they could learn. I also want to point out that at no time yet has this been referred to, as is common upon some churches today, as a "baptism of the Holy Spirit" as in a separate manifestation beyond being initially indwelt. This has merely been the normal receiving of the Holy Spirit to be indwelt, even though it came later than the belief. The only baptisms going on so far are water baptisms: John's and in the name of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is given to them along with the gift of prophecy when Paul lays hands upon them. What occurs for them at this point is the receiving of the Spirit that one normally gets upon believing. Now notice too, that it is not just tongues which are given, and again there is no indication that these are anything but known languages as previously stated, but they are also given the gift of prophesy, which Paul later says is the most valuable gift.

In Corinthians 12 we finally come to the passage that most people are aware of when speaking of tongues. I will put in bold print the things which will be addressed below.

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.  For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

In this passage we find Paul talking about the gifts of the Spirit. The first thing he says is that we should not be ignorant concerning them. He does not just mean ignorant as to what the gifts are, but ignorant as to how to use them, or how to treat them. In other words, they are to be used properly and according to the rules which we will see later, and they are not to be treated as if one is all important and the others are not.

The next statement of note is that Paul says there are diversities of gifts. In other words, not everyone is going to get the same gift. Again I repeat, more loudly, NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO GET THE SAME GIFT. There are many gifts and many means of administrating them, and many ways of them operating. He then states that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to everyone. So everyone is going to have some kind of manifestation, but not everyone is going to have the same manifestation. Now as we have already been told that there are many gifts, and then that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in every believer, we must conclude that the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in each believer through a different gift upon belief. So there should be no theology in which people say that if you don't receive a certain gift  (namely tongues), you have not been "baptized" in the Holy Spirit.

There is one indwelling whether you want to call it an indwelling, a manifestation, or a baptism.There is one time at which the gifts are given according to what we have read so far. The one time that it is mentioned that it was not given at the time of belief, it was because they did not know about the indwelling of the Spirit and needed to learn about it first. Supernatural gifts may manifest immediately as above, or possibly it might take a particular situation for it to manifest, however not every gift has a supernatural manifestation. They will manifest as people involve themselves in the congregation and that gift becomes needed. Teaching will not be a miraculous manifestation, nor will most gifts. One thing is certain, people should not expect a miraculous manifestation of a particular gift (tongues) beyond the gift they are given, to prove they have been indwelt. If you are going to be "filled," as the term is applied to differentiate it from being indwelt, you will be filled with your own gift. Your gift is your gift not someone else's and you receive it when you are indwelt at the time of belief. You may manifest it at various and multiple times and you obviously should, but you are not given one gift to use, and then given another to prove you are saved.

Nothing in Scripture indicates there is a special outpouring of only one gift (namely tongues) weeks, months, or years after salvation which signifies that someone is filled with the Spirit. We will manifest our own gift in power when we are "filled" with the Spirit. When we realize what our gift that we have been given is, we should not expect to see that gift in every other believer. We might find it in some, for these gifts are given to each congregation for a reason, but we may be the only person in our local assembly with that gift. The reason being that God gave gifts as it pleased Him to do so, so that the entire body might be whole. Paul points out that the foot, hand, ear, and eye are all part of the body, and the body needs all those parts. The foot can't be the hand nor should he want to be. The ear is not the eye, nor should he want to be. But if there were only feet or only hands or only eyes or ears, what kind of body would it be? Not a useful one, that is for certain. We need all the parts of our body to function properly, and the body of Christ needs all the parts to function properly too. And it is not just the body universal that needs these gifts, the local assembly needs to have a diversity of gifts, so that it can function. They cannot all do the same job. What good would a hospital be if everyone wanted to be the administrator? Every gift plays its part, and all are important in the whole.

Paul first lists some gifts in the middle of this passage. They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretations. Then at the end of this passage he gives a list of gifts apparently in the order of their priority. I hate to say in importance, because all parts of the body are important, but some will take more precedence in the functioning of the entire body as a whole, while some serve smaller parts of the body at a time. He lists apostles as the first in priority. The original apostles were the missionaries who had known the Lord personally and carried the gospel to all parts of the world. As the apostles brought the gospel to the world, this was and is the first priority gift, as spreading the gospel was and still is the main priority. This is followed by prophets or the gift of prophecy. These were and are the people to whom the Lord gives the ability to 1) see sin before others see it 2) who know the Word well, so that they know when it is being twisted or corrupted, 3) are given God's warnings to pass on, and 4) might be shown some things of the future. These things are crucial gifts for the local body, so that they might keep deception and sin out of the church and warn the congregation if God is going to punish them for some sin, so they can repent. The next important gift is teaching. Everyone needs to study the Word of God, so that they might learn the Word and be discerning Bereans to rightly divide it to avoid error, and be able to give a defense for their belief,  and most importantly learn about God's prophecies of the Second Coming. There are some gifted with teaching these things, as not everyone is a scholar, but you would not want a church with nothing but teachers. After those are the gifts that would be applied individually or to smaller situations, unlike the previous three which are for the entire body. There are the gift of miracles, healing, helps, government (administrative talents) and finally tongues. In both lists tongues is listed at the end of the list. This is probably because it is the least useful in terms of edifying the church, regardless of what some churches today want to believe. Now this is still only a partial list of the gifts, but they will be covered in another article.

The next mention of tongues is when Paul continues on from the last verse which said, "and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." He is about to talk about love being the greatest of all the gifts, for all these other gifts will cease one day, but love will never cease. But within this passage he still talks about tongues, so it is necessary to look at those two verses

1 Corinthians 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

1 Corinthians 13:8 "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away,

The first verse talks about the tongues of men and of angels. We know man has a diversity of languages, but here we are told that their is a language that the angels speak. In this verse Paul is not saying that he does or we can speak with that language. He is saying that if even he were to speak with a diversity of tongues including that of the angels, and did not have love, they would be useless for even if they were understood, nobody would hear anything that was being said, for people watch what we do before they listen to what we say. It is not a definitive statement that he or any person can talk in the tongue of the angels. He is saying if he were to do so, for if you take the "though" as a definitive that he does, then you must also take as a definitive that he does not have charity or love, for the connecting word is "and," not "but" or "or."  He is making the hyperbole that if his gift were even so great that he could understand and speak in the tongues of the angels (which would be quite a gift, for only the angels would understand and benefit from it, man would not), it would be worthless without love.

In the next verse, he states that the gifts will eventually cease, and tongues is one of them. Some people believe that they already have, for the next two verses say "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." These people believe that "the perfect" that was to come was the completion of the Bible with the New Testament. This does not work however as an interpretation, because we are told that in the end times people will prophesy, and since prophesying is included in this verse, it cannot mean the completion of the Bible. Acts 2:17 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God,I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Therefore we know that the gift of tongues is still in existence and will be until "the perfect" or the Lord's Kingdom comes.

Now in the next chapter, which is the last discussion the Bible has on tongues, Paul makes some comments that make it apparent that he is somewhat frustrated with them, and sets out some rules about the use of the gift of tongues. Apparently the church at Corinth was abusing it in several ways. Again, due to the length of this passage, I will put some highlights in bold print.

1 Corinthians 14:1-28, 33, 39 "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.  Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:  And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.  How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.  If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.... For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints......Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues."

The first thing Paul does in this passage is to tell them that they need to do everything in love, for this issue was apparently becoming a matter of disagreement among them. Then he tells them that they should desire to have spiritual gifts, but more importantly they should desire to have the gift of prophecy. Prophecy is the most edifying for the church. Right here, this statement should stop people from making tongues a hallmark of being filled by the Spirit and desiring it for themselves and pressuring others to want it as a sign of being filled by the Spirit.  Paul says the gift they should be desiring is prophecy, for it is the most useful for the church, which is the point of the gifts in the first place. The purpose of gifts is for the edification of the church, not for the edification of or more commonly today, the puffing up of an individual due to pride.

Tongues in particular is the topic under discussion, and his comments make it clear that it has become a problem. First he clarifies that when you speak in an unknown tongue (now note he means unknown in that nobody is a native speaker or has learned the language, not that it is a non-earthly language that nobody would know) nobody understands (unless there is a native speaker of that language or an interpreter), so he who speaks in tongues is not speaking to men, or for the edification of the congregation, but only to God, for the only one in the congregation that understands it is God. What the Spirit is saying is a mystery to anyone but God, under these circumstances. This basically means that God is talking to Himself, which does not hold much edification for man, nor would there seem to be any purpose in God doing that. The only man who might be edified is the man who is doing the speaking in tongues. But now we have to consider, how is that edifying to the person if they do not understand a single thing they are saying? Well, to just experience the filling of the Spirit would be an uplifting experience emotionally and spiritually in the sense that you realize the presence of the Lord, but other than that, you would not learn anything or get any answers to questions you might have, or have any intellectual input whatsoever. The experience would be more one of feelings of elation than anything else. The problem with this is that if a person gets addicted to the feeling, they might start manufacturing an experience to get a rush of feelings, so that they can have a "high" as they say. Coupled with that is the danger of pride creeping in and the person beginning to think that somehow they are superior, because they are having this supernatural experience which others are not having. And indeed, this seems to have been one of the problems that this church was experiencing. People were all wanting to have this experience and it appears it was becoming the "in" thing to do it.

Then Paul makes a comment that people quickly refer to, to defend wanting everyone to speak in tongues. Paul says that he wishes that they all spoke in tongues. Unfortunately people stop there and do not read the rest of the sentence, for he also says that he would rather that they prophesy. His meaning is not that he wants everyone to talk in tongues, because that is the greatest gift. He is saying that he wishes that everyone would at least have this minor gift, so that they would at the very least have personal edification, however, he would rather that they have the greater gift which would edify the entire church. He makes one caveat as to the gift of tongues having any edification for the church and its usefulness as such and that is if there is someone there to interpret. This would require that someone understand the tongue, which still indicates it is a known language, not some unknown gibberish that nobody could comprehend. Today many people think that if they simply speak in tongues, that is the whole point of the gift. Paul says that if you speak in tongues, (and it must be interpreted) it is only of any profit if it gives a revelation, knowledge, a prophecy, or doctrine. Otherwise it is not of any use whatsoever. Unless what is being said is understood and has some content of importance, you might as well just be talking into thin air, for it is completely useless.

Paul continues by saying that there are many languages in the world (now again here when he is referring to the gift of tongues, he is speaking of known languages which someone speaks), but unless someone can understand it, you have no communication at all. You merely appear to be a barbarian to the person listening, speaking a bunch of gibberish. They were apparently zealous to have spiritual gifts, but most particularly tongues, so Paul tells them, that if they are so zealous for the gifts, they should want to get the one which will edify the church. If they do get the gift of tongues, to make it of any use, they should pray that they also get the gift of interpretation. Paul now mentions tongues in the context of having it manifest during prayer. This is the first time that it is mentioned that tongues manifests through prayer and not just when one is speaking. Up until now, tongues manifested to allow them to preach to people of other languages, when people heard the word and believed, or by the laying on of hands. So now we know that tongues can manifest during prayer. Now when Paul refers to speaking in tongues while praying, he has just said that they should pray that they can interpret, for he now says that if one prays in tongues, the spirit may be praying, but the mind is unfruitful. He then tells them that they should instead pray with the spirit and the mind, so that there can be understanding. We are to prefer to pray normally than in tongues. It is preferable to do so. This would negate the idea that some people have that praying in tongues is a far more spiritual and superior way to pray. The reason for tongues not being preferable is that nobody can be edified except perhaps the person speaking. 

Paul declares that he is glad he speaks tongues more than any of them. Why would he say this, if he feels that tongues is not that useful a gift? It is for the same reason that occurs today. People who speak in tongues (or think they are speaking in tongues) tend to get an attitude of superiority over other Christians who do not speak in tongues. It causes a lot of division and hard feelings, which obviously was happening in this church. He is glad he speaks in tongues, because he cannot be accused of being jealous and saying those things our of resentment. He is saying tongues is not all that valuable as a gift in the church, because it is the truth,  not because he is jealous. To make the point clear, he says that in church he would rather speak five words that people understand than ten thousand words that they don't. Clearly speaking in tongues is something that he really does not put much importance upon, as far as serving the church. It appears to be at this point a self-edifying gift, more than a missionary tool, or a sign to the Jews, which then makes it of no use to the church. As the original intent of the gift was as a missionary tool, or as a sign to the Jews, it is not pertinent or useful for it to be a gift within a local assembly. They all speak the same language, and they were by now understanding that Gentiles and Jews were both equal in God's eyes when it comes to salvation. Therefore it was not of much use unless, as he said earlier, it was interpreted and had a prophecy or doctrine or something useful such as that to relate to the church.

Now Paul chastises them and tells them to not be like childish in their understanding. He then takes them back to the Old Testament Scriptures which say that God has prophecies that with people of other tongues He would speak to His people, yet they would not hear Him. This is what was happening. Israel was rejecting the gospel, so the gospel was going forth into other lands and languages to the Gentiles, and would eventually have to come back to Israel via these other languages and nations or via the Gentiles. Paul is emphasizing that when God speaks about tongues, He is talking about the gospel being preached in other languages, and that tongues was given to serve that purpose, not really as some sort of personal experience to get worked up over. Tongues was not to be a sign for believers, (that they were saved),  but as a sign for those who did not believe, in other words as previously mentioned, the Jews, to show that God was working through the Gentiles. Then he again reiterates that prophecy was the gift for believers.

Now Paul mentions another problem that this is causing. Everyone in the church was apparently trying to speak in tongues (just as today people can "manifest" this through faking it due to peer pressure). This was creating chaos and he says that if someone who is an unbeliever or does not know the Scriptures comes in, and they are all talking away in tongues, it will merely make the visitors think that they are all crazy. However, if someone comes in and hears prophesying, the things that are said will convince and convict and thereby bring them to salvation. Therefore when they come together everyone should bring their own gift (and he does include tongues in here) and exercise those gifts for the edification of the church. And here he lays down some rules about tongues. If someone does speak in tongues, if that truly is their gift, then at the most there should only be two or three that do it at a service, and only if there is an interpreter there to make known what is said. And then they should not do it at the same time, but take turns in an orderly fashion. If there is no interpreter, then they are to keep their mouths shut. If even just this last rule were followed, this rule alone would shut down a tremendous amount of the speaking in tongues that is going on in some churches.

Finally Paul relents and says that they should not forbid anyone to speak in tongues, for it is a gift, and it does have its place as long as the rules are followed, however, he says that instead of wanting this gift, they should really be desiring that God would give them the gift of prophecy.

So in covering all the verses in the New Testament about the gift of tongues we see that 1) they are known languages  2) it is the least important of the gifts, unless there is an interpreter and the message is one of knowledge, prophecy, doctrine or revelation 3) it is only one of many gifts, so will not be given to everyone 4) it is really a missionary tool, either to spread the gospel or to be a sign to the Jews, and of not much use for the edification of the church 5) it is really a personal edification gift if you pray in tongues, and even then if you can't interpret you probably shouldn't be doing it as it is far preferable to pray with understanding 6) there are rules for its use 7) it is not a sign for the believer, so therefore it should not be used as one - do not judge a person's salvation status by whether or not they speak in tongues and 8) while Paul mentions that there is an angelic language, there really is no indication that this is a language available for speaking in tongues. It would serve no purpose as the angels do not need the gospel and that was the purpose of tongues - to spread the gospel. Nor do they need a sign to recognize that someone is accepted by God, as they are not unbelievers. So there is no such confirmation in Scripture that speaking in tongues is a heavenly unknown angelic tongue called "prayer language" as people like to call it.

As a last warning, I have personally been aware of the fact that speaking in tongues can be demonic, as well as from the Holy Spirit. This may be another reason why Paul said that if there is no interpreter they should keep their mouths shut, for if you speak or pray with no understanding, and you are not sure of whom spirit is which is talking, you have no idea what garbage may be coming out of your mouth. A true incident I would like to relate is when the brother (who was a pastor) of my college roommate was visiting a church that practiced the gift of tongues, because he was curious about it as it was not a practice of his church, he heard at least one person speaking in a tongue he was able to understand. And what that person was saying was that Satan was their god and they were cursing Jesus and the Father. And all around this person people were praising God for this person speaking in tongues. He did not interpret for them, as he was very disturbed by it, and rightfully so. Their lack of discernment was causing the entire congregation to blaspheme God. This is the problem with desiring a gift that you have not actually been given. Satan will use your desire and pride to give you what you want, and blaspheme through you. If you speak in tongues and cannot interpret, then be very aware that the thrill you feel when you do so might not be coming from the Lord, but be a feeling that Satan is instilling in you to make you do this over and over, so he can mock both you and God. Do not think you are above being deceived, for pride goeth before destruction and it seems that this particular gift causes many to have pride in it. If you speak in tongues, pray that you might interpret or be very careful. Remember it is preferable to pray with understanding, rather than to get a "high" off of it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Are Christians To Do About These New Gender Neutral Laws?

In America there has recently arisen a huge controversy over gender specific bathrooms. I do not know how the rest of the world handles this problem, but let me explain how things used to be in America.

Public bathrooms mainly take the form of gender specific, being fairly non-private once inside the gender specific room. The men's room has multiple urinals on the wall with a few stalls with doors that have toilets in them. The women's bathroom have multiple stalls with toilets and both bathrooms have several or a row of sinks. Now these stalls are not what you would call completely private. They do not begin at the floor, but about a foot or so above it. The tops of the stalls end at about six feet from the floor, so just above a woman's head height. There are small gaps between the doors and the door jambs where they are hinged together, so that one can glance in to see if a stall is occupied, without having to test the door.  One can look under or over the stall without too much difficulty if one is inclined to do so. One can even crawl from stall to stall by sliding underneath the partitions. So privacy is a relative term here.

There are some places who have created separate family/handicap/non-gendered bathrooms in addition to or in place of the gender specific bathrooms. These are rooms large enough to accommodate wheelchairs and a few people comfortably (so a parent can take in multiple children),  which simply have a single handicap facilitated toilet, sink, and baby changing station, rather than multiple toilets and sinks. This is your basically like your home bathroom. But these kind of bathrooms are the exception and unusual and not the rule.

The ruling has come down that now there should be no such thing as gender specific bathrooms and that you can choose to go into whichever one you identify with, regardless of the gender of body you are actually inhabiting. Needless to say the LGBT people are very happy about this, but the vast majority of people are not, especially parents of small children.

In addition to this, the schools (and public gym type businesses) are opening the locker rooms (where in many schools there are rows of showers with no curtains) to either gender, so girls/women can go shower with boys/men and vice versa. It does not take a rocket scientist to see where there might be a problem with this. 

So where is a Christian supposed to stand on this issue? Many are speaking out about it and saying that we should not be tolerating this. They are concerned that this is going to lead to abusive situations with voyeurs and pedophiles. In fact it already has as men are going in with cameras and taking pictures. Parents are terrified of allowing their children to go into a bathroom or locker room alone, and with good reason. Pedophiles are naturally going to take advantage of this and use it to provide resources for their sins and perversions. How some people can ignore the safety of children to force people to cater to their "feelings" is beyond my comprehension.

Other Christians are on the fence saying that we should just pray and do what is "right." By being "on the fence" I mean that they aren't sure that these issues are sins, so therefore they do not want to judge or be less than loving toward these people with these issues as they feel that tolerance toward their sin is the preferable way of representing Christ. Funny that I don't remember Christ ever telling people that their sin was okay with Him. He forgave them, yes, and we should not hate the sinner ever, but He also always followed offering forgiveness with the command to "go and sin no more." He didn't tolerate the sin, He forgave it, but warned them to not continue in it. So Christians who are equating tolerance with love are sadly mistaken in what they are doing. We cannot tell them that their sin is not a sin, for that is not honest. We need to tell them that their sin is a sin, but that Christ forgives sin and that we all have sins that need forgiving. Our problem has become that we are no longer labeling certain sins as sins, and in that we cross from being loving in Christ to being an enemy of Christ, for we no longer stand for what He stands for.

The second thing that these people say, and I can agree with this, for prayer is a mighty and powerful weapon against the enemy, is that prayer is necessary. The problem has become, that while they give this lip service, people are not really praying. How can I know this? Because this country is not changing. God has said in 2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."   If Christians really were on their knees praying, we would see change in this land. But the only change we see is that things are getting more ungodly every day. That would force the conclusion that Christians are not praying at all. Or the alternative to that, which might be the more accurate conclusion, is that their prayers are hindered and not heard. Why is that? Because when we have sin in the way, God cannot hear our prayers for they are hindered by our disobedience. The Church today is in great apostasy. God is not hearing the prayers of those who so disregard His Word and His standards.

The last problem is when a Christian says that we should do what is "right." What exactly is meant by that? Do they mean do what is tolerant? Or do they mean do what is right in God's eyes? Which one is the "right" way? Which one is truly the loving way? Is condoning sin loving? Or it is more loving to tell people the truth, that what they are doing is sin and if they don't repent of sin, it will lead them to hell? It may seem more loving to be tolerant, for when one is tolerant, one will find that people who want to sin will react back in a loving manner, for they are not feeling that their behavior is coming under condemnation. As love is being returned to the Christian, they feel that they have been loving themselves. But this is not the definition of real love. On the other hand, a Christian who stands up and proclaims God's Word, which is the most loving thing you can do, and condemns sin will always be hated. For we are told that the world will hate us, if we choose to stand for God. I think that is the real situation here. Christians are afraid. They are afraid of taking a stand for Christ, because that will bring persecution. How much easier to stay quiet and be seen to be tolerant and loving so that you do not have to fear the hate that the world will give you for standing for Christ.

Matthew 10:22 " And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

Matthew 24:9 "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."

Mark 13:13 "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

Luke 21:17 "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."

John 15:18 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."

There are many Christians who say that we should not judge others, for we ourselves are not without sin. Well, there is judging and there is judging, as they say. It is not our place to decide the motives of another person's heart, nor are we to absolutely declare that a person is going to hell, for many have had deathbed conversions in spite of the life they have led. And we are not to worry about an unbelievers particular sin, for the objective is to share the gospel. With believers that changes. We are supposed to watch their behavior and if it needs correcting, we are to speak to them about it. God lays out a procedure for how to handle that starting with a one on one conversation to removing them from the church.However, we can say with absolute authority and without judgment that there are behaviors that are called sins by God and we are to state what those are regardless of whom we are addressing. We do not just condemn others in doing that, we condemn ourselves as well, for none of us are without sin. What is happening is that people are not distinguishing between condemning the sin and condemning the sinner.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:10 "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one."  There is not a single one of us that is without sin, so we should not act with a self-righteous attitude toward the sinners when we speak out against sin. But we are to speak out against sinful behavior. What is happening nowadays is that sin is no longer being labeled as sin in some cases, and the main subject where that is happening is where sex and gender come into question. Christians are buying into the lie that these behaviors, which God calls perversions and the depravity of man, are being said to be genetic problems, not the sin nature of man or the giving over of oneself to demonic control. They are making excuses for these perversions in complete disregard of what the Scriptures clearly teach on the subject. (See my articles on transgenderism and homosexuality in the archives.) Even when shown what the Bible says, many will cling to the "evidence" and I use that term very loosely of "science" and I use that term very loosely also, as being the last word on the subject, and therefore they must act in tolerance of these sins, so that they are being Christ-like. They see those who take a stand against these sins as being very hateful and unloving, and very unChrist-like. I think they have forgotten what Christ did in the temple when He overthrew all the tables of the merchandisers, because they were robbing the people blind. He was also not very nice to the Pharisees. Somehow His behavior in the face of blatant sinners who would not acknowledge that what they were doing was a sin has been swept under the carpet. Yes, the sinners who fell at His feet in repentance got a loving response from Him, although it was followed with a warning. But they acknowledged their sin. They knew they needed forgiveness. They were not arrogant in His face. The Pharisees and moneychangers were. And He reacted quite differently to them. If we are to act in the same manner as Christ, we are not to tolerate blatant sin that is going on with no acknowledgment that they are doing anything wrong. We are to cry out, "The Emperor has no clothes on." (For those of you who don't understand that, check out the children's story The Emperor's New Clothes.")  It is the non-politically correct thing to do, but it is the truth. And we will stand out for saying it. And we will be hated for saying it.

In a public statement that I made, I suggested that as we are being ignored and our voice is not heard in this matter, that to be heard we must carry out the passive (not aggressive) actions of withdrawing our support of those institutions who are taking up this cause. We need to boycott the stores, we need to pull our children out of the public government assisted schools (for their government assistance is based upon their enrollment numbers). One reaction I received to this was that we needed to pray and do the RIGHT thing. (Caps were the commenters, not mine.) So as I said above, if what I suggested is not the right thing, to speak out to keep the genders as created by God separate, to protect the modesty, privacy, and safety of adults and especially children, and show our passive disapproval in our actions, then what is the RIGHT way?

It was once said that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." By sitting back and saying we are praying (when many really aren't, they merely are saying that to look more righteous - and the proof of that is that nothing is changing) and then taking no action, because to do something is seen by the world as being hateful and intolerant, we are doing nothing.  Evil continues to triumph because Christians are mistaking tolerance (out of fear for their safety) in place of real love, which is to proclaim God's love and God's wrath. I fear evil is triumphing, because Christians tremble in fear. If they fear reprisals from the LGBT group for not approving gender neutral bathrooms, what will they do in the face of the antichrist and his demands and wrath?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Does the End Justify the Means in Christian Practices?

 In churches today when I question some practice going on which I believe is not something which is godly or acceptable to God, I am constantly being reassured that these practices are leading people to the Lord, so that validates whatever it is with which I have a problem. So in essence they are telling me that the end justifies the means. Is that really true? Does God not care what we use or what tactic we take as long as the result is that someone comes to the Lord?

The end justifies the means is a typical ethics dilemma. One popular scenario is if killing one person would save a world, would you do it? If you say "yes," then you are saying that using immoral means is justified if there is a moral end. But there are three considerations in this decision. First is the morality of the outcome, which is the thing most people use as the deciding factor, second is the morality of the act, which people might say is justified by the outcome, and third is the morality of the person performing the act. If one uses the above scenario, the act of murder is immoral, so therefore the person committing it is immoral, but the outcome is moral. But is it really? Does this not create an immoral world where immoral people committing immoral acts of their own accord go unpunished, because they justify their immorality through the outcome? The end of this scenario is a completely immoral world which is not the end you want.

What is not considered in the above scenario is God. He is missing from the equation. His laws, and His sovereignty have not been a part of the decision. As Christians we have to make decisions based on three things, our personal morality of obedience to God's laws, the morality of the actions being acceptable to God and His laws, and the outcome being a morally acceptable outcome to God (which it will not be if we have used immorality to get there). For a  Christian there is no justification for any immoral behavior or acts that are contrary to the holiness of God and His laws. No amount of rationalization justifies disobedience and immorality. So from God's perspective, there are no ends that will justify a means that is breaking His laws.

The problem for most people is that while they know what end they want to get, which is in their minds a moral one, the means is not always so clear cut. God may or may not specify the means by which one gets to the end, and when it is not specifically laid out in Scripture, and even when it is, people tend to choose their own way and convince themselves that God finds it acceptable, because their intentions are good, and the only thing that matters is achieving the goal. When God specifies a way to do something, and we don't do it that way, then it is obvious that we sin. If God gives no guidelines, then we have the freedom to use any morally correct method, but the tricky part of that is to make sure it is a morally correct method. What has become the problem is that people have different definitions of what is morally correct.
If I carried the idea that the end justifies the means to its logical conclusion, then any sin that would bring someone to the Lord would be a viable practice. So if murdering some people would scare people to the Lord, then I should chop off some heads? I believe Islam has the patent on that form of evangelism. How about becoming a prostitute to win over prostitutes and their clients? Would that be okay in God's eyes? Some pagan religions have used prostitution as a means of bringing in converts. I can see people shaking their heads upon reading the previous suggestions and muttering to themselves that I don't understand. It is not the same thing as some of the things the church uses. Those examples are ones that people find to be clear cut, in that murder and prostitution are well accepted as sins.  People would argue that it is not the same as replacing teaching the Word of God with a play, or having a nice Christian rock concert instead of a Bible study. God does not forbid plays or music. I would argue that 1) you would have to examine the plays and music very carefully to see if they are acceptable to God in content and motive, and 2) just because God does not forbid something specifically, it does not mean that it is glorifying to Him in the way we are using it. Should entertainment replace Bible study? One is meant to give carnal pleasure, while possibly using God and morality as the subject matter, the other is reading the written words of God Himself, which helps you grow in knowledge of and closer to Him. Which is the preferred method in God's eyes?

What of areas that are a little more gray? Is it acceptable to continue to live the life, dress the dress, and act the part of, let us say for example, a motorcycle "biker" once one has become saved? Many saved bikers would say "yes," that if they continue to stay as they were, looking the part and living the part, that they can reach bikers for Christ. But biker groups tend to have a certain association with them. What about the Scriptures that say that we are to abstain from all appearance of evil - 1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from all appearance of evil" or to not keep company that can corrupt our behavior - 1 Corinthians 15:33 "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners"? What about the new man? Does this advertise a new man if the old man is still the outer cover of the book? What about "Christian" rock musicians who look like and live similarly to worldly rock musicians? Does not the same idea apply here? (Read my article on Christian music to see how the music of the church today is mainly carnal in conception.)  Should the saved former drug/alcohol abuser or addict continue to hang out in the bars (or similar places) and continue socializing and have close friendships with the people who once shared and still participate in these vices?  Should not a person remove themselves from the places and people who would entice them back into the sins in which they were participating and have just escaped? Does saying that Christ hung out with sinners justify hanging out in these places and continuing to socialize with these people, because you can "witness" to them? How much witnessing actually goes on, and how much continuing to live in carnality is happening? I think the latter is probably more the truth. Christ never participated in the sins. He was not there hanging out with old buddies. He was there to bring new life to sinners. He was above temptation to indulge in the sins.

Do we imitate the world as a means to bring the gospel to the world? Did God not tell us to not use worldly means? Romans 12:1-2 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." 

1 John 2:15-16 "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

Romans 13:14  "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."

Romans 6:12-13 "Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in its lusts. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."

 James 1:27 "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

 These verses tell us that we are not to love the world, to lust after the things of the flesh, to yield ourselves to unrighteousness and sin, or things of the flesh, and we are to remain unspotted from the things of the world. Now it would seem that this is telling us that those things which appeal to the flesh, and come from the world in some way are things which we should abstain from or keep out of our lives. We are a new creature with a renewed mind, and the old things must pass away. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, walking in His ways. That does not leave room for bringing the world into our presentation of the gospel.

Romans 3:5-8 "But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?  For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just."

These verses are a little hard to understand in the KJV version, but what Paul is doing is posing a question from the point of view of human reasoning, that if our unrighteousness or sinfulness makes God's righteousness even more apparent,  then isn't God unrighteous to punish us for it, because we are doing Him a favor? In other words, the end justifies the means.  Paul's reply to that horribly wrong thinking is "God forbid." God isn't unrighteous, for how could He judge the world if He is unrighteous and unfair? He then continues the human argument that if man's lie enhances God's truth, to increase His glory, then why is man judged as a sinner? Again, people were thinking that the end justifies the means. Paul asks, why not say (as some were slandering him by claiming that Paul had actually said, which he had not), that the more we sin, the better it is for God? Once more, the idea of the end justifies the means is brought up. Paul then condemns those who would say this by saying that their damnation is well and justly deserved. He is saying that promoting the idea that the end justifies the means is deserving or worthy of damnation. That is a harsh judgment.

Clearly Paul does not teach that the end justifies the means. He rails against it. We do not sin to enhance God's truth. We do not use means that are sinful to try to bring people to the Lord. Our ways are not God's ways. They are only His ways when we follow His rules and do things under His direction. We do not decide what is right and wrong, He does.

Jeremiah 10:23 "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"

 Proverbs 14:12 " There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

Colossians 3:17 "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."

Doing anything differently from how God commands it is disobedience or sin. To do it differently is to follow human doctrine rather than God's doctrine. Christians are following men rather than God, just as Israel did.

Matthew 15:8-9 " This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

John 5:43 "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

To do anything that has the appearance of evil or is taken from the world, is not something that is done in God's way. It is the way of man.  We need to always double check the history, background, source, and associations of the things we are using to enhance God's truth to make sure they are not a lie or associated with ungodly things.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil."

The story of Naaman is an example of when we try to achieve the goal and do not use the method which was specifically laid out for us. We will fail, because we are in disobedience. 

2 Kings 5:1-14 " Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.  And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.  And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.  And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.  But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.  And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?  Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."

Naaman could not achieve the goal of being cleansed of his leprosy until he followed the prescribed method. When he did, then he was cleansed.

In 1 Samuel 13:7-14 we find another example of having good intentions to get an end, but the means has been against God's commands, and so the end is not what was hoped for. We can think we are going to get a godly end, because that is our intentions, but our means might do just the opposite, if the means are not in accordance with God's ways.

"And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.  And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.  And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.  And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.  And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;  Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.  And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.  But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee." 

 Saul was worried about the Philistines and Samuel was delayed in coming, so he took it upon himself to offer burnt sacrifices to God to get God's good will to protect them from the Philistines. Instead Samuel shows up and tells him that he has disobeyed God in so doing this, and now his throne for himself and his descendants would be taken away from him forever and given to another. Harsh end. The means did justify the end in this case, for the end was punishment for the means of sin.

It is not only the Old Testament that teaches the principle that we need to be careful of the means. The New Testament has a lot to say on the subject also. The following story is of a man named Simon, whose goal was to do something good, but he didn't understand that there was a right way and a wrong way to do it, because he was still working under the mentality of the world, in which his mind was still operating. When one does not come out of the world and their mindset, one continues to use the means of the world to accomplish God's work, and that does not work.

Acts 8:9-24 "But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:  To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."

Simon had accepted the gospel and been baptized, and was working with Philip. When he saw that through the laying on of hands people received the Holy Spirit, he wanted to be able to give people that gift as well.  He had been used to using sorcery or witchcraft and had people believing he had God's powers before he accepted the gospel, and now he wanted to get the ability to do the miraculous from God's power as opposed to the power he had had before. His way of thinking, which was still stuck in the world he had come from, was that he could get it by buying it. Everybody has a price, right? Even God? His wanting to try to buy God's gift showed that his heart was not pure and right with God, because his method was not godly. He was still caught in the bonds of sin and trying to use sinful worldly methods to carry out the work of God. Peter chastised and warned him that he should repent, for his heart was not right with God. Simon then asked Peter to pray for him so that he wouldn't have God's disapproval or worse, God's wrath upon himself.

This tells us that even in the New Testament (which some people think gives us far more license and leniency than God allowed in the Old Testament) using ungodly methods, no matter how noble your goal, is not acceptable to God. Using any method of the world, or anything that belongs to the carnal world as a means to the end is not acceptable to God. We are to worship God in truth, and that means that our motives and our means must be truthful and righteous in order to attain the godly result that we desire. If we yield to the temptation to obey the lusts of the flesh in our pursuit of spreading the gospel, we will put ourselves under the tutelage of Satan, not God, and we will lead those whom we seek to see saved into a false sense of what God requires of them in the way of righteousness, which could cost them greatly.

John 4:23 "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Romans 6:16 "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"

Romans 8:13 "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify (to kill, or to control one's passions through self-denial) the deeds of the body, ye shall live." 

The next thing which must be discussed in relation to this, is what the purpose of the church is, for the main problem of the adage that the end justifies the means is found in the churches concerning their purpose. 

In talking with many people over the years, it has come to my attention that Christians are under the erroneous assumption that the church (meaning the local body of believers) is there to serve them and their needs and to be the corporate evangelist tool of the congregation. Say what? Starting with the first premise that the church is there to serve their needs, over the years as I have moved a number of times and looked for a church, people would ask me what I was looking for in a church and then share with me how they chose the particular church they did. The reasons ran from needing a good children's program for their children, to the kind of music they like, to the number of "ministries" the church had that serviced needs they might have had, to simply liking the preacher. Then I was asked what I looked for. I would always take a minute to pause before I answered them, because I knew they would have a negative reaction to my answer, then I would say, "I go where the Lord calls me, to serve Him in whatever way He is calling me to serve Him there." They usually look at me as if I have two heads. They do not know how to answer a statement like that, and it puts them in the uncomfortable position of looking at their own motives, which are self-serving, not God-serving. I was not looking for what the church could do for me. I was looking for where God was calling me to serve Him. And by serve Him, I mean where I could use the gifts that God gave me for the edification of the body. This is how we should be choosing our churches.  Ephesians 4:11-13 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:"

The church was formed when the local body of believers banned together to 1) worship the Lord, 2) to study the Word of God and 3) to help those in the body  such as widows and orphans who needed material goods for survival. It was not a social club, it was not an entertainment venue, it was not the local networking community for businesses, it was not a self-help organization. The church service itself was the opportunity for believers to get together to worship God and have a chance to commune and fellowship with other believers for their encouragement and edification. The needs of the the less fortunate in the body were met by deacons and elders who would collect funds or material goods, through the benevolence of others, and make them available to those in need. It was not a place to bring people to evangelize them. It was a believer's gathering, not a seeker's gathering. The people evangelized independently and personally outside of the worship service, for the worship service was for the believers. The church organization is not to be an evangelistic tool, it is a place for believers to gather and edify each other so that they might prepare to go out and witness to the world. They were not to bring the world and its ways in to disrupt their worship, because that is what happens when you allow the unregenerate world in. We do not bring it up to our level, it brings us down to its level.

Nowadays the church service is more a place where people go to get entertained, have their social club meetings, or meet with addiction support groups. The services are filled not with people singing songs in which you can actually hear the lyrics that are praising God, but a group of wannabe musicians who are up there performing and entertaining, often at a decibel level that prevents anyone from hearing anything being sung. That the congregation might sing along is almost irrelevant, because I doubt God can hear the singing over the loudness of the guitars and drums and such. Amos 5:23 "Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols."  Interestingly enough, this verse follows God speaking about the Day of the Lord, which is in the last days. So this verse has to do with the last days. Isn't it interesting that God calls the songs "noise", and mentions the viols (stringed instruments or in this day and age, we know the stringed instruments as guitars). He doesn't even want to hear the so-called music, for it isn't even music to Him.

As for studying the Word of God, while Sunday school or Bible study used to be found in most churches years ago, it seems that the coffee hour has replaced it. And as for the sermons, it seems that many have opted to have plays or movies instead of sermons much of the time, and I don't even want to say how many ministers of whom I have heard, who just go to an online sermon site and download a sermon for the Sunday message rather than let the Holy Spirit lead them to a passage for exhortation or do a continuing Bible study. And the sermons themselves are often not Scripturally sound. People don't even bring their Bibles to church in many churches, much less crack them open to read. And if they do open them, they don't pay much attention to what they are reading. In many churches, the readings are merely ritualistic, not a source of topic for further study. I have even heard of churches using TV shows as the subjects for study in a Bible study. While I wish I could say that this is the exception more than the rule, it is actually the rule more than the exception.

An then there are the ministries. The small churches generally cannot offer much in that way, which is why everyone is using the Purpose Drive Church model to create their mega churches where they can offer things like counseling on grief, codependency, chemical, food, and sexual addictions, or dealing with family members who have those addictions, abuse, financial problems and a myriad of other things. One of the problems is that the counseling is not always done from God's point of view, but from a psychological or man's point of view. These things are better addressed by discipling people on a one on one basis and then having these disciples then do the same to others. Discipleship is taught in Scripture as being a personal relationship between two or three people. It is the way to teach and to counsel. Discipleship is the Scriptural approach to the problems believers have, not impersonal classes with teachers who may or may not know their students, and who may or may not be using Scriptural solutions. Discipleship is what is missing from the churches. The church organization has replaced personal evangelism and the responsibility of discipling others.

Then there is the social aspect of things such as Ladies night out, the kids' clubs, and secret retreats such as Tres Dias, to name a few. The churches spend their money not on missions, but on better media equipment or to build gyms so that there are recreational facilities for the congregation.

This might not immediately appear to be a means to an end, but it is in a way, as comfort, casualness, and approachability seem to be something that is touted as a method of making the unsaved feel more welcome and comfortable in the church. Should they feel comfortable? Is that what we want, or if we are going to use the church as an evangelistic tool, would it not work better if they felt uncomfortable and convicted of their sin? What this actually is, is a sign of the lack of respect for God. People would not consider showing up to meet the President dressed as they dress for church, in many cases. They do not dress to show respect to their Lord, the King of Kings (whom they are supposedly coming to worship), but show up dressed for the next thing on their agenda for the day, as soon as church is over, which generally has nothing spiritual in nature to recommend it. And I have seen some women clothed in clothes that would make Jesus blush.

Nowadays media is a big means to an end. "Christian" radio, internet, and TV broadcasts are prevalent and very entertaining (although not always edifying), but the begging for money on these shows is pathetic. Even the churches themselves are physically being changed to reflect entertainment venues rather than worship venues. They resemble nightclubs far more than a place of worship of God. They do not inspire a sense of godly awe, but a sense of ungodly carnality.

Then there are miscellaneous things such as creating daycare centers and schools, fundraisers, and some churches even have what amounts to gambling. Some of these things are not bad in and of themselves, for having a  Christian school to send your children to in this day and age when the public schools teach all kinds of sin, is almost necessary, if you want to keep your child from straying from the Lord (and if you cannot homeschool). The problem is that many parents think that it is an alternative to actually spending time teaching their children spiritual truths themselves. They abdicate their responsibility for their children's spiritual lives and growth up to the church and the Christian school. And these institutions cannot do the job. It is not their responsibility to do that job, and that becomes readily apparent when you see how the young people are leaving the churches in droves. And there are things which are totally inexplicable. I know of churches who will periodically take the congregation out to do "clean up the community" work days on Sunday instead of the worship service. As if cleaning up garbage in the community replaces worshiping God.

There are pastors of large churches who write book after book to make money for themselves, even though God's word should not be sold for money. There are times when publishing a book is really the only reasonable way to get information (not God's Word, but pertinent information such as end times political information, etc.) out to people due to the extensive material involved. And when it is not the gospel, there is nothing wrong in that. In this type of case, publishing is justified, but I am not speaking of this. I am speaking of those people who churn out book after book of religious ideas or new interpretations of Scripture (more often than not erroneous interpretations) purely for the monetary benefit. It is our obligation to spread the Word of God freely, not charge people to get it. While the excuse is given that books cost money to print, therefore they have to charge for them, the fact is much more money is charged in most cases than it costs to print them, and in this day and age with online ebooks, one can put their book online for free, if getting the message out is the main purpose. I have written much on my blogs, but I do not even monetize them, as while people reading them would not have to pay, I would not have control over the advertising. I have seen many Christian sites, who have monetized, advertising things which they should not be promoting. God did not charge us for our salvation, in fact it cost Him everything, so how dare we charge to pass that truth on.

Another thing that is very disturbing is the ecumenical outlook that so many are adopting. If the coming together in unity was because people were drawing nearer to the truth, that would be one thing, but what is happening is the New World religion of tolerance causing the elimination of major core doctrines for the sake of getting along.  People are using the means of dropping the truth of God to find unity, which is the end goal. The problem is, the common beliefs they can agree on tend to be the doctrines of men, not the truth of God's Word. Here is another case of the end does not justify the means when unity comes from forsaking the truth to find agreement rather than embracing it.

The one thing that the church is supposed to do, provide food for the hungry and help for the needy in the way of material goods is not being done by many churches. Often it is the smaller churches who have the pantries and shops with clothing and such for practically no cost. We do the things we should not, and do not do the things we should.

The Scriptures tell the local churches what means they should be using, and that means is mainly spiritual (and godly). They are to spread the gospel (not by letting the organization do it, but by personally going out and witnessing), and to worship God (the primary purpose for a church service). It is in doing these things that the lost can be saved, and then brought into the church where they can grow in Christ through discipleship, studying, worship, and receiving edification through the gifts of the body.  We are to teach using the Word of God, not carnal appeals to people's fleshly lusts. People often refer back to the first-century churches as an example, but their means of enlarging the church was not to have entertainment and multitudes of programs, but to get out there and tell people about Christ, one on one. We have to evangelize in obedience to God's ways, not our own thoughts on the matter, for our ways are not God's ways. And the amazing thing is, when we use God's Word and His ways, it actually accomplishes what He intends.

1 Thessalonians 1:8 "For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing."

Acts 11:26 "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"

 Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55:11 “ So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Now there is a passage whereby a person who is looking to justify the idea that the end justifies the means might point to and say that Paul was saying (in complete opposition to what he said above) that the end does justify the means. Let us look at that passage and see what it does say.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 " For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."

Is Paul really saying that the ends justify the means? No. Paul is saying that though he is free to live according to the Spirit's leading, yet he will bow himself to the restrictions of others, so that he might not offend them and thereby prevent them from coming to the Lord. So when He is witnessing to the Jews, he will live according to the Laws of Moses (which are not carnal, and so there is no reason why he cannot morally keep the laws), so that he might not be a hindrance to sharing the gospel with the Jews. To the Gentiles, he will not make the law a yoke around his own neck or theirs, as much of the law did not apply to the Gentiles, since most of the Laws of Moses (not the Ten Commandments which we should keep, but the other laws) had to do with the nation of Israel and its governance. Many of the laws imposed upon the Jews of those days were also merely the laws that the Pharisees had made up and had no validity Scripturally anyhow. This did not mean that Paul would embrace sin to win the Gentiles, but that he wouldn't make the Laws of Moses an issue for them to observe, or put on a show of observing them himself to alienate them. It was not required of them, so he was not going to put this stumbling block in front of them by being unnecessarily observant of them himself. (Again, this did not include the Ten Commandments, which we are still to morally observe.)  To those who were weak and struggled, he acknowledged his own weaknesses. Again, this did not mean he sinned or used carnal methods, he was merely sharing with  those who felt they could not come to Christ because of their sinfulness and struggles that he was also a sinner who struggled. He didn't deliberately go out and sin. He probably shared his past (as a murderer of Christians) and his struggles. He made himself one of them to win them. This is what this passage is saying. He is not advocating using any means to get to an end. All of his methods were entirely within the moral latitude of the Scriptures. In many cases these things were not moral issues, but ceremonial issues such as when he had Timothy circumcised, so that he would not be a barrier to evangelizing the Jews. There is nothing evil or carnal in getting circumcised. It was a ceremonial thing that God commanded in the Old Testament, but was not required of Timothy, a Greek. However, Paul had it done so that Timothy would not present a stumbling block.

There is another passage that causes misunderstanding in this issue. Philippians 1:15-18 "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:  The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.  What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

Paul is not saying here that the false motives are permissible (therefore the end justifies the means). He is simply saying that Christ is being preached even by those who have evil means. The truth of the gospel is not tarnished when evil people preach it; it is still truth, even if the person preaching it is evil. The means (truth) is not evil here. The person may be, but as the verse quoted above says, when God's Word goes forth, it accomplishes His will and will not return void.  2 Timothy 2:13 " If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."  The truth of the gospel and God's Word is still true no matter what the condition of the person preaching it, or what evil they are trying to accomplish by exploiting it. That does not mean that we have a license to do the same. Remember Paul said these people were not sincere. They were evil. He is merely pointing out that the truth, no matter who preaches it for what reason, is still an eternal truth and God's Word does not come back void. That is greatly different from saying that we might use evil means ourselves.

The church today is guilty of the end justifies the means evangelism. They say that even one person gets saved because of that means, it is worth it. What they do not realize is that God can save people in spite of what we do, not because of what we do.  And it is not hard to see that the apostasy is growing in Christendom, not people living godly lives. What does that tell you?