Jul
12

2016

Changing The Word Is A Work Of Iniquity

9.10.14

"Not everyone who says to Me,  'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven [does the word]. 22 many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord,' have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name. 23 And then I will declare to them. 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!' " KJ Matthew7,21-23 

"And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who perseveres to the end will be saved." Matthew10,22

"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. 4 You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently. 5 Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes. 6 Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all your commandments." Psalm119,1-6

"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." Acts 20,27

Sometimes when I talk to fellow Christians I wonder if we're using the same bible, the whole one, the one that includes:

"put on the mind of Christ and make no provisions for the flesh";

"pick up cross and follow me";

"unless you forgive your brother from the heart your heavenly father won't forgive you";

"unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you";

"put on my yoke and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart";

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name...:"

Despite having the same bibles, with slightly different translations, there are huge disagreements about the basics of our shared salvation.

This is cause for considerable head scratching within the faith and cynicism outside it.

But can we agree that our salvation based on the word isn't a Chinese buffet, where we pick and choose what we might digest and like, and avoid all the rest.

It's as Paul told the Ephesian Elders. His conscience was clean because he proclaimed "the whole counsel of God." (Acts20,27).  This "whole counsel of God" is our biblical salvation doctrine here at Zion Pentecost Mission. This is what Paul tells his faith son Timothy to protect: "Guard what was committed to your trust." (1Timothy6,20); "the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me;" (2Timothy1,13); the entirety of "sound doctrine" (2Timothy4,3); "all that has been entrusted to you" (Jerusalem Bible 1Timothy6,14); "what was committed to your trust" (1Timothy6,20).

This is about hearing and obeying the whole gospel of Jesus (2Thessalonians1,8-9). This (cf Psalm119,6) faith obedience cannot be reduced to slogans, or dogmas, or made up as we go along.

The word is what it is, what God says. Not what Eve or Adam, or the serpent says.

Not just what the church manual says either.

It is a work of inquity, of lawlessness, to change it in any way (Matthew7,23).

Israel our forbear and brother was gifted with two basic and eternal gifts, the land of Israel, and the written revelation of God, praise Jesus.

As for the temptation to change God's word to suit our human ways and purposes, God in both testaments makes clear that this is strictly forbidden. The commandments were put in stone- permanent. Then put into the ark of the covenant for more safekeeping. They were to be always carried with the people as Israel moved (Deuteronomy 10). His commandments in the Hebrew scriptures were to be remembered, respected and followed, because they were part of inheriting the land and slavation itself.

This is why Deuteronomy31,10-13 required the Israelites to read the entire law in public every seven years. They had spent seventy years in exile in Babylon. Now they had their land back. This was no time to forget the word, but to keep remembering all God's mercies and fully re-aquaint themselves with His written promises. 

His word was and is to be read in public, not hidden in a library, not debated in private by philosophers, or compromised behind closed doors, not changed a little here and there and then inserted in employment manuals, but read in public, there for all to hear and understand:

"Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord you God in the place he will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel. 12 Gather the people- men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities- that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and observe faithfully every word of this teaching. 13 Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God as long as they live in the land that you are about to cross the Jordan to possess."   (Jewish Study Bible, Oxford, 2004)

Nehemiah 8 (cupbearer for Persian King Ataraxes, 445 BC) echoes the command of Deuteronomy 31. It also tells of the entire people assembled back in Jerusalem after the exile. The people are weeping for joy at having both their land and God's whole word read to them as their new year and era of blessings began. Verse 1 is key- the people themselves asked the High Priest Ezra to read the Torah of Moses to them. They all knew it was the word that guaranteed their future in Israel.

God's word belongs to all His people, not just to the folks who manage the business aspects of religion. Prominant laymen stand beside the High Priest Ezra. The word is an irrevocable gift to all God's people. It involves a sacred trust between God and his people, not just between God and his leaders.

At the reading of the word, the people all fell prostrate, outside the temple, Nehemiah8,4. God's Spirit and his legitimacy are primarily in His word. Verse 10 says our joy and our strength is in the word!

At 1Timothy4,13 the Apostle Paul commands Timothy to do something very similar to Deuteronomy 31 and Nehemiah 8; "devote your attention to the public reading of the scriptures", (NEB) that is, reading the word out loud to the entire church in Ephesus. Here we have the Apostle Paul commanding his struggling faith son Timothy to restore order in the church by simply reading portions of the Hebrew scriptures (as Jesus did in synagogue Luke4,16, and Acts13,15, the law and prophets, a practice of the synagogue), and perhaps Christian writings too (Elliot's English Commentary, Biblehub.com, suggests the first-to-be-written gospel of Mark, cf and see also Phillip Towner SBTS.edu who from v. 13 refers to possible transitional written material).

1Timothy6,13 exhorts Timothy to "the same noble confession and gave his testimony before it before Pontius Pilate" (NEB). This sounds like  Matthew27,11ff, John18,34; Mark 15,2ff and suggests that even before finished written documents, let alone canonized scripture, that the New Testament word was emerging from the legitimacy of the basic gospel story itself, passed in oral form, and then written.

This practice of reading inspired texts, and hearing them read, word for word, is also, and most clearly, made at the begining and end of Revelation, which unquestionably assumes, proclaims and demmands scriptural and prophetic adherence (it's also worth noting that John the Revelator is thought by many to have served and witnessed in Ephesus). Revelation1,3: "Blessed is he who read and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near."  

Likewise Revelation22,18-19: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues described in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the Holy City, and from the things which are written in this book."

So, in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, God's prophetic word is a package deal. As for the gospel, the first faith of salvation is connected to repentance, which is connected to public profession-confession, which is connected to adult water baptism, which is connected to baptism in the Spirit (Acts2,37-39, Mark16,16), which is connected to being born again (John3,5), which is connected to following Jesus' commands as listed in the begining of this article, which is connected to not adding and subtracting from God's word (Revelation 1,3 and 22,18-19), which is connected to perseverence unto salvation in the end. (Matthew10,22).

This is not any new law, but constitutes the basics of the gospel that God expects us all to obey.

When it comes to salvation in Jesus the scriptural hip bone is connected by faith to the scriptural thigh bone, and the back bone, and so on.

Jesus' whole gospel is to be received as a package deal. It is read and proclaimed as such. To part it out, to change it, to minimize some parts and aggrandize others, to sell some of it and ignore the rest, and what all, is a work of iniquity that dismisses His whole counsel in favor of man's way and man's word.

Let's rank some of this iniquity when it comes to the word and will of God:

1. Those who do their own will when they already know the word.

Eve and Adam.

The Levite 'Sons of Korah', gainsaying (Numbers16), moving up the religious latter, though they knew only the sons of Aaron could offer incense.

Israel complaining in the desert 45 days after seeing God's word of deliverance come true;

2. Those who twist the word.

Followers of family and tribal genealogies, and the priestly hierarchies, that come with them, 1Timothy1,3.

The prohibition of marriage, 1Timothy4,3. 

Those who substitute God's revealed word for the word of their leaders.

Those who quote religious leaders without evaluating their teaching in the face of the entire scripture itself;

3. Those who change the word.

By reducing it to recited creeds, and then teaching the creed as if it were scripture.

By pronouncing and following man-made dogmas, when the word is sufficient, and so distancing God's people from the actual written word itself!

Those who add and subtract from the clear dictates of the gospel, such as the partaking of the Lord's Supper, or refusing to forgive, or giving honorary titles to leaders.

Religious groups who make up their own translations of the bible to suit their doctrine, or who find new and more revelation that they make into new "scripture."

4. Those who attempt to change or break the unbreakable salvation relationship between the Lord God of Israel, His people Israel, and the land of Israel:

"He [the Lord God of Israel alone] changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have discernment." Daniel 2,21

The coming antichrist will try to change times and seasons despite Daniel2,21, Daniel7,25 :

"He will hurl defiance at the Most High [by lies such as 'God has forgotten Israel, replaced Israel']  and wear down the holy ones of the Most high [by accusing Christians and Jews of causing unrest and lack of peace in the world']. He will have a mind to alter the festival seasons and religious laws [prohibit and inhibit, and mock Judaism, and God's turn back to save Israel after the 'time of the gentiles,' Luke21,24, when God defends and saves Israel and then institutes the millenial reign, Zechariah12,1-14]; and the holy ones [Israel] will be delivered into his power for a time, and times and half a time."

This move of the antichrist is also predicted in Revelation 13,6 (KJ) whereby in Israel he will "blapheme," that is attack in every manner, four things:

"Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy

1. against God [again lies, such as 'God doesn't care about Israel anymore, and or there will be no millenial reign in Israel'],

2. to blaspheme his Name [again lying like the name 'Jesus' is no more important a name than any other'],

3. His tabernacle [His tent of meeting, the place He meets His people, by his actual presence, His people "Israel", and his land Israel.

For this idea of tabernacle or sanctuary as God's people, this people destined, "measured" to be in the full presence of God in physical Jerusalem during the millenial, see Revelation 11,2 and see Revelation 21,3 when the final "tabernacle of God is with men", ie God himself comes down from heaven to Jerusalem and 'they [all the saved] shall be his people, God himself will be with them and be their God."

(2Thessalonians2,4 says the antichrist before the millenial will also exalt and try and enthrone himself  in Israel above the God of Israel!) and

4. those who dwell in heaven [Christians and Hebrew saints, 1Peter3,19, who have already accepted Jesus, enjoying their citizenship there already, Phillipians3,20].

Too Far Away From The Written Word

The word says we learn the word precept by precept, here a little there a little, line upon line (Isaiah28,10). We know this to be true- sometimes our studies are slow, but the point is to stay on track, to stay on the rails.

We also know that when we start to cut corners with the word, and leave out parts, and try to explain away what we don't agree with, or yet understand, we end up getting off track and multiplying our own human words.

It's a full story for another day, but there is a group of Jews called the Karaites, scriptualists, readers of the word, who in the 8th century rebelled against mainstream Judaism charging that it was too attached to its oral traditions (the written mishnah, oral Torah, around 200 CE) and written teachings (the talmuds, the written mishna plus "Gemara", commentaries on scripture and mishna and various subjects, 500 CE ). These non biblical texts had been developing and accumulating, for many good reasons, from the sixth century BC exile in Babylon onward.

But, the Karaites still had an extra and exclusive fire and hunger for the written word itself.  In 1099 AD the Latin Christian crusaders ran the Karaites out of Jerusalem, but it is said that there are still about 25,000 of them in Israel today (Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, 1997, 391).

It has never been easy to follow and live the scriptures in any time period, or even stay focused on them, or apply them in modern contexts, without further non biblical writings that are binding, and without calling someone "teacher."

But Jesus said "call no man teacher." Matthew 23,8

This teaching by Jesus and the public reading of the scriptures per Deuteronomy 31, Nehemiah 8, 1Timothy4,13 and the public and private reading of Revelation1,3 and 22,18-19 tell us that each individual can understand scripture without extra binding non biblical commentary or law, and without calling anyone "teacher."

In this, biblical based Christianity shares something powerful in common with the Karaites: "man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Deuteronomy8,3 and Matthew4,4

Besides, Matthew 7,24 says it's not salvation safe to get too far away from the will of God as stated in the written word.

Finally, it's time to obey in faith the whole counsel of God regarding salvation because Matthew 7,23 says anything less is a work of iniquity, of lawlessness.

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THE FOUNDER

Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.

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