While reading Matthew 5:15 it occurred to me that in the same way that a lamp beneath a basket is obscured, that if a person was under a basket he would not clearly see the world outside the basket. He would experience obstructive filtering of external light. [a]While I do not think that this is the intent of this biblical passage, it provided me with a mental picture to serve as an illustration. Only bits and pieces of the outside environment would pass through a woven basket. If you were inside the basket, you may glimpse a bit of blue sky through one hole and a bit of green leaves through another. Your view of the world outside would be incomplete.
I have been thinking about opposing worldviews.
Gather a number of individuals. Have them observe the exact same event. Ask each of them the meaning of what they observed. I predict that you will get as many different views as there are individuals in the group. Some will agree in part. There will be variations. I think that you will see that observers arrive at an event with preconceptions that will shape their observations. I think that some observers arrive hoping to achieve personal agendas.
Our preconceptions and agendas are the basket through which we filter the light. They are essential parts of our worldview.
I propose that it is better to weave your own custom-designed basket rather than passively acquiring a basket that may obscure reality.
An individual may drift into a worldview that is shaped by the culture, environment and influences around him. On the other hand, an individual may examine their culture and influences, decisions and behaviors, preconceptions and intentions and deliberately shape their own worldview in order to provide more coherent and reasonable explanations about life.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[b]Romans 12:2 – ESV
God provides Scripture so that you will allow Him to shape your mind.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.[c]Philippians 4:8
Rather than forming a worldview (or allowing a worldview to form) then filtering Scripture through that basket, we should investigate God’s revelation of Himself and use that information and influence to weave our worldview.
The Scriptures will provide coherence, unity, truth, purpose, and fulfillment.
Recently, I was in a training in which Scripture was cited and then this question was asked. The Scripture was from Revelation chapter 7.
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
The group concluded, based upon the great multitude falling on their faces and worshiping God, that the ultimate purpose of the church is to worship God and make worshipers of God.
While the worship of God is an important activity of the holy Church, this passage does not point to that conclusion. In fact, the group that falls on their faces before the throne to worship God are angels, not the Church, not the great multitude.
Someone could comment that “angel” means “messenger,” so these are the messengers of the Church, whether that is apostles, prophets, evangelists, or pastors, etc. However, that definition would require us to deconstruct the meaning of the words in this passage. Revelation clearly states that the supernatural beings here are the angels from Revelation 5:11 and not the Church.
If we want to know the function and purpose of the innumerable multitude, we need to pay attention to their description. They are a mixed group from every ethnos and phule and laos, every nation and tribe/clan and people/race/language. They are standing before the throne and Jesus the Lamb. They are clothed in white stoles. They are holding palm branches.
Furthermore, there is an explanation in verses in verses 14-17.
14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
They came out of the Great Tribulation.
They have been whitened by the blood of Jesus the Lamb.
They work in God’s temple.
They dwell in God’s tent.
They do not hunger or thirst or overheat in the sun.
Jesus the Lamb shepherds and guides them.
God wipes their weeping eyes.
The first few items are meaningful to our question. They are a description of the condition of the saints. The remaining items are descriptions of the benefits of living in the eternal home of our heavenly Father.
If we choose Revelation 7 to understand the eternal or ultimate purpose of God’s people, based upon the description of these Tribulation Saints, we would need to focus on the most important functions in this list of descriptions.
The Church needs to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood. No one gets to heaven any other way. Not even the blood of the martyrs can gain them entrance without the blood of the Lamb.
The Church needs to be victorious over sin. The blood of Jesus makes us holy. God’s Holy Spirit is working to make God’s people holy by conforming them to the image of Christ. The palm branches are symbols of victory. In this case, victory over sin and death.
Based upon Revelation chapter seven, my conclusion is that the purpose of the Church is to be transformed into the holy image of Jesus Christ.
Yesterday I received a book as a Christmas gift. It was Volume Four of a four-volume systematic theology. One of the topics supported in the theology book is cessationism. The word cessation is the noun related to the verb “cease.” Therefore, I wold have thought that the word means that something has ceased. However, the author defines cessationism as “the view that some of the (spiritual) gifts exist today.” What a wonderful way to spin it!
The author’s deliberation goes this way:
Since an Apostle had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ, and since only persons living in the early first century could be eyewitnesses, therefore the New Testament gift of Apostleship stopped.
And, since the gift of Apostleship ceased, and since some gifts were unique as sign gifts of Apostleship (healing, raising the dead, laying on hands for others to receive the gift of tongues), therefore tongues ceased as an Apostolic sign gift.
And, since the gift of tongues was received exclusively through the laying on of hands by an Apostle, therefore any person speaking in tongues who has never met one of the Apostles is practicing a form of pagan religious gibberish.
While I do agree that some modern tongue-talking is not legit, I don’t agree that the Bible teaches the cessation of speaking in tongues …or loss of the Apostolic gift.
In Second Corinthians 12:12, Paul defended his apostleship by saying, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” He did not say that the signs of an apostle were signs and wonders. He only wanted his apostleship to be seen as analogous to the hyperlian Apostles with their signs and wonders. This is not a statement of an Apostolic requisite.
Hebrews 2:3,4 says, “(This message) was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” This passage is cited as textual proof that outward signs were only needed for the establishment of the Church and then were intended to cease entirely. However, the passage doesn’t contain any indication of such a presumptive premise, the cessation of any spiritual gifts. Other passages of the New Testament indicate that the Church could expect the gifts of the Holy Spirit to continue until the return of Christ.
Acts 14:4,14 say Barnabas was an apostle. “But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles… But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd…”
2 Corinthians 8:23 says there are other apostles. “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ.”
Philippians 2:25 says Epaphroditus is an apostle. “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your apostle and minister to my need…”
I can’t find any New Testament passage that binds apostleship to the gift of tongues. An apostle is someone sent supernaturally by the Holy Spirit through the Church. This is exactly what the modern church does by ordaining and sending missionaries. Paul’s apostolic travels are called his “missionary” journeys.
Unfortunately, there is an ugly modern view that apostles are loud-voiced people who have a special anointing giving them the right to dominate over others in the church. (Maybe they don’t get 1 Peter 5:1-6.) If these modern super-apostles are truly apostles, then I am a cessationist. This needs to stop.
Not all kinds of tongues are languages known to men. 1 Corinthians 12:10 says that there are various kinds of tongues. On the Day of Pentecost, tongues was languages naturally known to the hearers but unlearned by the speakers. 1 Corinthians 14 says that there someone may speak in tongues of men and of angels. I doubt if any human can naturally diagnose, interpret, or understand the language of angels. In both cases, it is clear that the person speaking in supernatural tongues would not naturally understand either one, tongues of men or of angels.
False tongues does not rule out genuine tongues. It has been pointed out that some pagan religions exercise speaking in tongues. The poor logic says, “…surely God is not giving a miraculous confirmation of paganism.” I say that counterfeits only exist because of the genuine nature of the original.
The promise was not only to Apostles. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter understood that the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was evidenced and accompanied by speaking in an unlearned language was premised upon the prophecy of Joel. Joel did not make the promise exclusively to the Apostles. He made it to sons, daughters, young, old, male and female servants.
The author states that Acts 2:7 is proof that only the Apostles spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost. “And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?'” Since the Apostles were the “men of Galilee”, and since other members of the 120 in the Upper Room were not from Jerusalem and Judea and not from Galilee, wouldn’t this prove that only the Apostles spoke in tongues? It would not, since the Galilean statement is a quotation of the Jews that were staying in Jerusalem for the feast. The biblical record attests that, true or false, the astonished Jews actually said it, not to the veracity of the statement. It could have easily been an overly generalized assumption about all the Christians since they were in the company of Galileans. In no way would an uninformed statement by anyone limit the scope of the promise of the Holy Spirit to specific recipients or exclude those that were not Galilean.
It has been assumed that the only way to speak in tongues is through the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Acts 8:18, “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money…” However, this passage is a statement of what Simon the Magician observed without any application upon the rest of the Church. There is no reason to extrapolate such a rule of limitation from this verse… unless you want need to perfect your eisegesis (the art of forcing a text to mean what you want it to mean).
Finally, the Bible says, “as for tongues, they will cease.” The theology book pulls these six words out of context and applies them to the end of the Apostolic age. Take a look at the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” It is clearly a passage about eternity, about heaven. When we get to heaven, there will be no need to speak in tongues. They will cease.
A lot of us don’t understand the inerrancy of the Bible. Inerrancy means no mistakes. This would be possible only if the Bible is a supernatural library of books.
Inerrancy applies to the original text given to the original authors of Scripture. Inerrancy does not apply to the human authors, but only to the specific words of the text. When John, Paul, James, and Peter weren’t writing divinely inspired Scripture, they were ordinary imperfect men. That is what makes the Bible miraculous.
Inerrancy does not exempt a copyist from making a mistake when writing a new manuscript from an old manuscript. Remember, before the printing press, copies were made by hand. The more copies of these hand-written New Testament manuscripts that we find, the more likely we are to find these variations. There are an enormous amount of variations in copied texts because we have an enormous amount of existing manuscripts. In 2016, there were 5,856 Greek manuscripts of New Testament books with an average of 450 pages. (By comparison, the average classical Greek author has less than 15 copies of his work in existence today.) The scholars that compare these 5,856 manuscripts can determine that the New Testament is 99.99% accurate to the originals, and the remaining potential inaccuracies do not affect any important Christian doctrine.
Inerrancy does not extend to translations of the Bible into various languages… including the Authorized King James Version.
Inerrancy does not extend to preachers, evangelists, or modern-day super-apostles. When someone says, “Thus saith the Lord,” it means, listen up and measure each and every word that is spoken against the infallible inspired written Word of God… even if they make up fancy words like “revelation-knowledge” or other bunk to manipulate you.
Inerrancy does not extend to genuine prophetic utterances, messages in tongues, private or public glossolalia, interpretation of tongues, or other gifts of the Spirit. All these must be subjected to scrutiny by the Scriptures.
If God supernaturally inspired the Bible, it contains no errors. If God supernaturally inspired the Bible, it is an authoritative word over our lives. If the Bible originally contained mistakes, it isn’t likely that it came from God, and therefore would not have much authority.
The Bible is a supernatural book in that it is a God-breathed, collection of genuine prophetic writings, carrying divine authority as the Word of God.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
(Did you know that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16,17, the New Testament was still in the process of being written by himself and the other authors. He wrote this about the Hebrew Scriptures that later came to be called the Old Testament by Christians?)
“If your experience is exalted above God’s Word, you are wrong.”
In my opinion, this was the most important statement that I heard at the ministers’ conference.
The conference speaker led pastors in an organized session of practicing spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, visions, laying on of hands, and other experiences of inspired speech and prayer often associated with the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit. Imagine a meeting room filled with ministers praying in unknown languages and then taking turns speaking any message that God may have placed in their heart. There were all kinds of statements being made by the participating ministers. Some offered direct quotes of Scripture. Some intended to encourage and uplift the hearers. Others intended to admonish us. However, in all that diversity, I did not hear one minister make a statement contradictory to Scripture.
The Prophetic Experiences of Two Different Groups: A Comparison
I wish this were true of other meetings in which the participants were encouraged to speak prophetically. Awhile back, in a different setting, my wife and I were eavesdropping on a class for a few minutes. The leader asked the students to listen to the Lord and then speak out what God placed in their hearts. Almost every statement was foolish. One student spoke into the microphone that God wanted her to pray to a dead saint. The leader nodded in agreement and spoke affirmation into the mic. The leader was encouraging the students to seek an experience with God that was, in fact, a revelation of God apart from Scripture.
Was there a difference between the two different groups? What led to such different outcomes?
The first group, the ministers, were all life-long students of the Bible. They were committed to daily reading of the Word. They all had practiced memorization of Scripture with the intent that God’s Word was grafted in to their hearts. Each minister had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit as prescribed and described in Scripture.
The second group, the students, were novices without any working knowledge of God’s Word. They had not committed Scripture to memory. Their hearts were filled with silly ideas or even carnal thoughts. Some just wanted to say something to make the teacher happy. The participants had not experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some of them had never even professed salvation through Jesus Christ.
The second group was being encouraged to have an experience, a personal revelation from God. They were doing what the leader asked of them, speaking from what was in their hearts, and the contents reflected exactly what was in their hearts.
The group of ministers possessed hearts saturated daily and filled with God’s Word. They had a desire to tell forth God’s Word. (Prophecy is the forth-telling of God’s Word. We learned that back in Bible college.)
One group spoke from their Scripture-saturated hearts as the Holy Spirit led them. The other group spoke from their own unregenerate soul, human intellect and carnal imagination.
God wants to speak from hearts saturated by His Word.
I have a book written by one of those television evangelists, Charting Your Course By the Dream in Your Heart. “Inside this book is a gold mine of information that will help you develop your full potential and bring into reality your purpose in life.” Yikes. Much of the Bible is about how to stop following your own will, your own heart, because God wants us to learn how to follow His heart. (See Luke 22:42.)
In my opinion, a good way to start a cult is by teaching unfit people to act as leaders. If a person is a non-believer or a new believer (1 Timothy 5:22), don’t encourage or expect them to draw from a deep well and come up with a full bucket. Instead of encouraging them to speak out, let’s ask unfit people to listen quietly and respectfully. (Compare James 1:19 and James 1:21.)
God speaks from a heart that has been faithfully filled with His Word, from a heart that has faithfully listened to His Spirit, from a heart that is dead to sin and alive to God. (See Colossians 3:1-3.)
The April 1998 newsletter New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained a prank article mocking the Bible. Here is a brief quote:
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legislature narrowly passed a law yesterday [March 30, 1998] redefining pi, a mathematical constant used in the aerospace industry. …”The Bible very clearly says in I Kings 7:23 that the altar font of Solomon’s Temple was ten cubits across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass.” Alabami Pi Hoax
The mockery is based upon the Bible passage describing the construction of the basin for Solomon’s Temple. The basin is known by a few synonyms, such as the laver or the brazen sea.
He also made the molten sea, ten cubits ⌊in diameter⌋, and five cubits was its height. A measuring line of thirty cubits would encircle it all around. Gourds were under its rim surrounding it all around; ten to the cubit, surrounding the sea all around with two rows of gourds, which were cast when he cast the metal. The sea was standing on twelve oxen, with three facing to the north, three facing to the west, three facing to the south, and three facing to the east. The sea was on top of them, with all of their hindquarters turned to the inside. Its thickness was a handbreadth, but its rim was as the work on the brim of a cup, like the bud of a lily; it held two thousand baths. [a]W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 1 Ki 7:23–26.
A precision circle has no artistic decoration.
The Bible provides information about the brim of the basin. It was artistically shaped as a lily blossom. You are provided a very specific context. The brim was not simple, not shaped precisely as a perfect circle. If we accept the Biblical account, the craftsman had a 4% margin of about 4 inches on the rim. If a mathematical formula does not include some amount of artistic margin for this stated variance, then I must conclude that someone is deliberately misrepresenting this passage of Scripture.
A precision circle is perfectly round.
The Bible does not claim that Solomon’s basin was perfectly round. Round containers for liquid are often purposefully deformed at the rim to provide for pouring out the contents of the container. There are no legitimate reasons for an open-minded person to demand that the basin be a precise circle since there is no such claim in Scripture.
A precision circle has zero thickness.
The Bible provides a measure of thickness of a handbreadth. Even if the basin were perfectly round, which it was not, neither those who accept the Scriptures nor those who mock the Scriptures know 1) the exact thickness of a handbreadth or 2) if the artisan was to measure inside the thickness or outside the thickness or split the difference. (My handbreadth is very close to 4 inches… the same amount of margin described in the Bible.)
The following statements are not applicable unless you demand that the Scripture is describing a mathematically precise circle and therefore reject that the object was an artistic basin formed by a craftsman.
In order to arrive at a precise calculation of pi (π), you must have a precise measuring device. I measured a plain round bowl from my kitchen with my sewing measuring tape. The circumference was 19.25. The diameter was exactly 6. My measuring tape does not even have 6.127465309038. It is reasonable to accept that Solomon’s construction team was skilled enough to work with a rod divided into basic units.
If I want to be precise, how many decimal places for π are needed? Is 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 more precise than 3.14? 3.14 is the approximation acceptable to the organization that published the “scientific” article. If scientists can approximate π by rounding to two decimal places, what would happen if we approximated π in whole numbers? It is reasonable to accept that the Bible description uses whole units without fractions or decimals. π rounded to a whole number is 3, the number affirmed in the Bible even though this passage is not describing a perfectly round precision circle.
It is therefore my opinion that only a narrow-minded agenda-driven person would consider the description of the basin in First Kings chapter seven as evidence for error in the Bible.