the christadelphian waymark

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When Bible teaching is compared with Church teaching, it can be seen that Christendom at large is astray from the Bible. For further information regarding the saving truths of Scripture, read the articles opposite.

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A REVIEW OF THE ENDEAVOUR MAGAZINE (DECEMBER 2000)

Broadly speaking, the Oracles of God place the whole mass of humanity into two groupings - the carnally minded, and the spiritually minded: "they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom 8:4,5). And amongst these two classes - the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the Woman - there can be no amity, for it is further testified that "the carnal mind is enmity against God" - and therefore also against the spiritually minded, who receive the things of God (Rom 8:7). There is a fixed gulf betwixt the two - a division caused by mutually antagonistic modes of thought.

Indeed, this great divide was instituted by the Most High from the very beginning: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed", was the pronouncement upon the Serpent (Gen 3:15) and it's spiritual seed. There is a Divinely established enmity between both classes, so that the one cannot pass to the other without compromising the principles of their existence, whether they be fleshly or spiritual. Both parties walk along utterly different paths; the "carnally minded" meander en-masse down the "broad way" which leads to destruction, whereas the "spiritually minded" who seek after life and peace tread out a lonely journey with "few" travelling companions down the narrow way which leads to life. This is the Testimony of the Lord Jesus (Mat 7:13-14), being echoed by his Apostles who exhorted the believers - the 'saints in light' - to maintain their separation from the benighted multitudes: "be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2Cor 6:14-16). To be joined with unbelievers then, is to be 'unequally yoked', it is to seek a union between righteousness and unrighteousness - it is to endeavour to join Christ with Belial. And the basis of any such arrangement is not Truth, or belief in that Truth, for belief is the very ground of separation. It is the inclination towards either carnal things, or spiritual things which establishes and maintains the enmity between the believer and the unbeliever. Belief then, is the ground of separation. Differences of belief and thought separate the Spiritual from the Fleshly, and the two can only come together by some form of compromise whereby the thoughts of the one are tolerated by the other, with the distinction between Truth and Error inevitably becoming blurred, or even lost thereby.

Yet according to the December 2000 issue of The Endeavour Magazine; in actual fact tenets of faith ought not be a cause for division. Alluding to Numbers 15:22-31, Bro Peter Wright writes in his article headed: Scriptural Reconciliation for Differing Beliefs: "This passage is the most beautiful expression of God's merciful love for errant mankind, providing evidence that disputed doctrines should not divide Christians" (p 21). Again, "denominational doctrines are traditionally accepted by their adherents as those propounded by Christ. Many were born into these beliefs and being fully persuaded, embrace them unquestioningly. If those with more accurate knowledge mistakenly regard such believers as enemies rather than brothers and sisters (2Thes 3:15), then we shall be continually impoverished by sectarian divides. Those with the truth possess the wherewithal to influence its direction if they are motivated by love of a wider brotherhood than conflict with it" (p 24).

So it is that we are being counselled to accept a "wider brotherhood", not allowing "denominational doctrines" to separate "those with the truth" from those born into the beliefs of another denomination. This is hardly surprising, for the introduction to this article tells us that it is produced "following Richard Gaston and Becky Leng's very interesting item", which we reviewed some months ago. Readers may recall that this item reported and endorsed the "fellowship" experienced by Bro Gaston and Sis Leng with Methodists, Presbytarians etc, at Taize, a multidenominational gathering highly recommended by the Pope (further copies of our review of that piece are available on request). It is standard for contributors to Endeavour to diminish the importance of oneness of mind as a basis for fellowship, as witnessed also by Sis Rosalind Lomas in her glowing review of a book recently produced by a brother who forsook the faith to become a church warden and lay reader at an Anglican Church in Prague. She styles members of the Churches who fall down and worship the image of the beast (Rev 13:14,15) as "Christians taking other spiritual routes," who have helped her to "heave" out the "great rocks of doctrine" which she felt were hindering her spiritual journey (Endeavour, p 38 December 2000).

So then, according to Endeavour "disputed doctrines should not divide Christians". But if this is so, we may well enquire why it is that the Spirit exhorts: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom 16:17). Again, if doctrines are not of sufficient importance to distinguish between the unfaithful to be avoided, and the faithful to be fellowshipped, why does the Spirit exhort: "be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines" (Heb 13:9)? To be "no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14). Surely, if the Endeavour concept is correct, it would be far wiser to be carried about by diversity of doctrines, for then the brotherhood could indeed become "wider", as Bro Wright desires? Again, if doctrinal differences ought not divide the household of faith from the harlot daughters of Babylon, why did the Lord Jesus himself rebuke certain for harbouring those with wrong doctrine? "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam" (Rev 2:14). Again: "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate" (Rev 2:15). Maybe those who wrote in support of Endeavour following our last review could supply us with the answer? For according to the Son of the Most High, doctrines do, and should separate. The faithful should separate themselves from those who hold "disputed doctrines", when the cause of dispute is that those doctrines are void of sanction from the Word - when they are things which Christ "hates". The picture we find presented in Scripture then, is very different from the counsels of Endeavour. Only the Truth saves, not the fables and traditions of men even if they be taught as the doctrines of God (cp Mark 7:7) by the Apostates - and this being so, doctrines do divide the believer from the unbeliever, the followers of Truth from the followers of falsehood: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, nether bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2Jno 10,11).

This principle, of course, extends to fundamental principles. There are other matters which, whilst having an importance in their own right, ought not obstruct fellowship between unbelievers. Matters such as, What happened to Jephthahs' daughter? Did the Tabernacle have a peaked, or flat roof? Where is the true location of Sinai? These - and other issues - are not vital elements of the Gospel, and therefore do not impact upon our fellowship. According to the Endeavour editorial, however determining what the vital issues are can never be fully resolved: "Are any of us arrogant enough to think that the process of sorting out the essentials from the trivia is ever complete? This is surely a permanent feature of life as we know it, however disturbing and unsettling that thought might be. Any community that thinks otherwise has little going for it on the pages of history never mind in eternity" (Endeavour, December 2000, p 3,4). So then, any community which thinks differently to the Endeavour Editor has "little going for it ... in eternity" - according to his judgement!!! For our part, we are not "arrogant enough" to make such remarks, refusing to follow Endeavour in bidding God Speed to those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ. Rather, we prefer to follow Scripture which declares that those things which impact upon our understanding of "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) are indeed essential principles which govern the parameters of our fellowship, as it did "the Apostle's fellowship".

THE COMING KINGDOM - WILL IT REALLY BE ISRAEL RESTORED?

According to Bro Paul Cooke, who cites many semi-heathen Divines of the Apostasy in support of his position, the proposition that the Kingdom of God is a literal Kingdom centred around Israel is highly questionable. He claims that "the NT provides relatively little explicit detail about what will happen after Christ's return", before then proceeding to ignore the weight of Old Testament prophecies, in favour of the guidance of Church Commentators to determine the matter.

Acts Chapter 1 records for our learning the disciples' last words to their Lord prior to his ascension: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). Bro Cooke comments thus: "It is evident from Acts 1:6 that the apostles understood their resurrected Lord's mission in terms of 'restor(ing) the kingdom to Israel'. But were they right to think in these terms? The narrative is ambiguous. In his reply to their question, Jesus neither approves nor criticises the apostle's expectation ... One cannot use this reply to prove anything conclusive about the nature of the kingdom of God ...". But this is not so. The disciples asked this question, following a 40 day period of instruction "of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). Is it conceivable that such men, receiving an 8 week discourse on the matter would fail to grasp at least the fundamental points of what the Kingdom will be? Indeed, rather to question the understanding of men who had such intensive teaching from the Master himself, it would be far wiser to listen to, and learn from their words.

That the Kingdom is to centre around Israel is made plain in both the New and Old Testaments. Hearken to the words of Gabriel to Mary concerning the Lord: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32,33). And again, Christ himself promised his disciples that he would not reign alone: "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Mat 19:28). This is the plain testimony of Scripture then, that the Lord shall reign over the house of Jacob from the ancient Davidic seat of power, with the approved 12 also being enthroned with him.

Bro Cooke however, in referring to what he himself terms the "mixed views" of the commentators appears to favour a different line. Speaking of Gabriel's pronouncement, he claims: "the verses could certainly be taken to imply that the Messiah will rule over a literal kingdom in Israel in the age to come. However, such an interpretation is not the only one possible ... In Luke 1, it is clear that some of the terms in the angel's prophecy are not to be viewed absolutely literally: throne is presumably being used metonymically here and father is clearly an idiom for 'ancestor' ... The term house of Jacob could perhaps refer to what Paul refers to as 'the Israel of God ... Since therefore, some degree of non-literality is already contained in the very language of the prophecy, it may not be entirely unreasonable to look for a non-literal fulfillment".

But it is by no means "clear" that the words of the Angel are symbolic rather than literal. Rather to accept Bro Cooke's self-confessed "presumption" that the throne is not literal, we suggest that it is not unusual for kings to reign from literal thrones - and that Scripture indicates Christ will likewise sit upon a throne ruling over his dominion (cp Is 6:1, Ezek 43:7, Zech 6:13). The Greek (and Hebrew in the OT for that matter) for "father" does not always carry the strict sense of immediate parentage, as in the English, but itself conveys the idea of ancestor - whether father, grandfather, or even generations beyond that. And as for "the house of Jacob" "perhaps" referring to the ecclesia, the "Israel of God" - well, perhaps not, as the term "house of Jacob" is never so used elsewhere! Interestingly, whilst Bro Cooke gives no grounds for his ideas which in his own terms are no more than presumptions and perhapses, he remains confident enough to state with great certainty that "some degree of non-literality is already contained in the very language of the prophecy", and that this is sufficient reason to question a fundamental feature of the coming Kingdom!

This same line is taken with the Lord's promise that the 12 approved apostles would reign with him on 12 thrones over the 12 tribes. "As far as these particular words of Jesus is concerned, it has to be admitted that the reference to the twelve tribes is somewhat problematical from a literal point of view ..." But no such thing "has to be admitted" at all! Not least because the Old Testament which Bro Cooke rejects in favour of Church Theologians for guidance on the matter, also describes the thrones spoken of by the Lord - and depicts the 12 literal tribes going up to them: "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: whither the tribes go up, the tribes of Yahweh, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of Yahweh. For there are set thrones of judgement, the thrones of the house of David" (Ps 122:3-5).

So it is that Bro Cooke, following the usual trend of Endeavour attempts to do away with key elements of "the things concerning the Kingdom of God" by spiritualising the promises of Israel's Restoration to represent the Ecclesia - something which has been standard Church teaching for many generations. In harmony with this therefore, he claims that "As we progress through Acts and see the gospel being preached, not just in Jerusalem, but 'in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' (1:8), the idea of the restoration of a Jewish kingdom fades away" (p 14). And the reason for this? "Perhaps the apostles' own understanding shifted as they came to terms with the inclusion of the gentiles within God's salvation" (p 15). The understanding of inspired Apostles shifted, causing their "idea" of Israels' redemption to fade away!! But notice again, this is only a 'perhaps'. On the other hand, 'perhaps' the inspired testimony of those who received 3 months of instruction of the things concerning the Kingdom direct from the mouth of the future King himself is more to be relied upon than the "presumptions" of Bro Cooke?

THE ROLE OF SISTERS IN THE ECCLESIA

In his article, Paul, Timothy, the Gnostics and Women, Bro Peter Bayliss seeks to counter the teaching of Scripture concerning the role of Sisters in relation to brethren, by arguing that the passages which contradict his position are in fact written in order to oppose the Gnostic heresy. He claims that "a woman who does not pedal Gnostic rubbish, but who holds sound doctrine should teach and can hold proper authority in line with Paul's teaching elsewhere!" (Endeavour p 12, December 2000). And again, There are four verses in the entire Bible which are taken to teach that women cannot speak and teach, but there are the equivalent of a couple of chapters' worth saying that women should pray, speak, teach and lead" (ibid, p 11). Unfortunately, Bro Bayliss neglects to provide us with even a single passage of the "couple of chapters' worth" that he refers to. And as for only four verses teaching that a sister ought not teach or speak in the ecclesia - we would be happy to forward to any reader free of charge, the booklet Scripture Teaching on the Role of Sisters produced by the Appeal to All Ecclesias Commitee outlining over 60 verses indicative of a sisters' position!

Paul's inspired teaching on the matter is expressed in the first Epistle to Timothy (the only one of the 4 which Bro Bayliss attempts to explain) "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence ..." (1Tim 2:12). But according to Bro Bayliss, "silence (AV/RSV) in v.12 does NOT mean 'silence'; it is the Greek word hesychia, which carries the idea of 'quietness' - 'being less loud' - as in NIV" ... If Paul meant for a woman not to speak he would have used sigan which does mean, 'to refrain from speaking'. Very good, but surely to be silent is to be quiet? Bro Bayliss elaborates on this fallacious argument to claim that the word actually means that sisters should "not be boisterous" in the ecclesia, "like a Gnostic virago"! In actual fact the same Greek words are used elsewhere by the Spirit in a way which demolishes Bro Bayliss' argument. Acts 21 describes Paul's defence to the Jews: "Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue ..." (V 40). Here, the Greek sige is used, to signify a refraining from speech. But a few verses later, we read: "when they heard that he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence ..." (22:2). But here, the word for silence is different - it is hesuchia - the same word used in 1Tim 2. Note the context - it is used to denote an absolute silence. Not simply to stop chattering, as sige, but to be even more quiet than that! And this is how Paul teaches sisters should be in the role they enact within the ecclesia. Not teaching brethren, but being absolutely silent in that regard.

Not that sisters are in any way inferior, as Bro Bayliss misrepresents the position as saying. But that they are enacting principles - Divine principles which must be adhered to, even if they are perceived by man as being "politically incorrect", out of fashion in an age of equality to all, and out of harmony with the carnal mind which can never accept the things of the Spirit. Once again, Endeavour is shown to be promulgating notions subversive of the Spiritual principles of the Inspired Word. We invite our readers' comment.

Christopher Maddocks

 

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