To Fulfill All Righteousness…

That statement, which came from the lips of Jesus, would seem almost like an oxymoron, and yet that was the reason He gave to John the Baptist for requesting baptism. The sinless Son of God was “fulfilling all righteousness” by being baptized? How could that be? Sit back, relax and buckle up for the tour, as we try to discover what He needed to be done with that act. The journey begins back in the Old Testament, where God gave Moses the instructions for consecrating priests. I also want to touch on why our own baptism should be such a wonderful, deeply-spiritual event.

As 21st century Christians, most of us haven’t been schooled in the Law of Moses. We know and understand the moral law – the Ten Commandments, but those are but the tip of the iceberg for a 1st century Jew. They were also schooled in and bound by the ceremonial law, which impacted virtually all facets of life. In a previous post I mentioned circumcision and its importance and impact. Besides keeping the moral law prefectly, Jesus also kept the ceremonial law to the letter. I encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to read the Pentateuch, because in my writings, I try to keep and portray a wholistic view of the Bible without imposing 21st century culture on my interpretations.

Something that fails our understanding of worship in the Old Testament is how intimately-tied the Ceremonial Law was to their worship. God had called the children of Israel to be “setapart“, a people who were markedly-different than their neighbors, and that included in their worship. We don’t quite “get” the difference between being “ceremonially-unclean” and something being “bad” or “wrong“, so it is quite easy for us to conclude that something which made a person “ceremonially-unclean” was wrong. Was it “bad” or “wrong” for a woman to have her monthly-period, or for a couple to have sex? Of course not, but both made them “ceremonially-unclean“, which meant that they couldn’t participate in tabernacle or temple worship until they had gone through the necessary “purification“. (Leviticus 15:16-24) The Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law were known collectively as the Law of Moses.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass from the Law until it is accomplished.”(Matthew 5:17-18)

Jesus came to fulfill and keep both the Moral Law AND the entirety of the Ceremonial Law. The Law Giver came to be the perfect Law Keeper…

According to the law…

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 22:21-24)

There were no shortcuts in fulfilling the whole Law. Everything was done how and when it was supposed to be done, because Jesus was a “complete” Jew.

Circumcision is just another “medical procedure” to us, but it was the Rite of Passage to a Jewish boy. It visually-symbolized his inclusion in God’s covenant people, Israel. Jesus could not have been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” while He hung on the cross if He had not been circumcised.

Thirty years old…

Why did Jesus wait until he was thirty years old before he began his public ministry? (Luke 3:23) Priests and Levites were not allowed to enter temple-service until they were thirty years old. (Numbers 4:34-37)

Priestly consecration…

God gave very specific instructions to Moses regarding the consecration and installation of priests. “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve Me as priest.” (Exodus 40:12-13)

His baptism…

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

Even though Jesus was not anointed with oil after His baptism, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, which the oil symbolizes. Jesus, in His baptism, fully identified with His people, and willingly took on His role as our High Priest.

Jesus – our High Priest…

Jesus was not descended from the priestly line of Aaron, the traditional Jewish priestly line. He was from the tribe of Judah, so He became a priest by special decree. “For it evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructable life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 7:14-17)

To fulfill all righteousness?

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the nake that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus lived the life we can not live, one of perfect obedience to His Father, and died the death that is rightfully ours, so that we may be clothed in His righteousness. He fulfilled ALL righteousness, because we can not do it for ourselves.

The Priesthood of all believers…

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Baptism – our priestly consecration…

The 21st century church has forsaken the rich symbolism of baptism in the early church, and most people would be incensed if they had to strip naked in public and be baptized nude. Believers in the early church had no such cultural hangups, because they were thoroughly versed in the ceremonial practices of the Jewish faith and didn’t have the conveniences which we take for granted.. We miss out on the richness of the baptism rite, which was meant to symbolize, or reproduce, the consecration and anointing of priests in the Old Testament.

The putting off of the old garment symbolizes putting off the old man, our old, pre-believer self. The washing with water(baptism) symbolizes being cleansed, purified for holy service. The anointing with oil symbolizes the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Putting on a new, clean garment symbolizes being covered with the righteousness of Christ. It symbolizes a complete transformation, because once a priest, always a priest…a perpetual priesthood, under our great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we haven’t gone through the whole baptism rite, we must understand what our baptism symbolizes – becoming a kingdom of priests to our God and Father.

Have you been consecrated for holy service?

In Christ,

Steve

The Role of Nudists in the Church

This topic may sound like a total oxymoron, because the visible church is overwhelmingly textile. Pastors and priests are often called “men of the cloth“, and aside from a relative handful of nudist congregations, usually at nudist resorts, people wear clothes to church. The Church I am talking about, however, is the Church of Jesus Christ…the Church universal…the “holy catholic Church“, as it is stated in the Apostle’s Creed. Even as we are not recognized, and even shunned, by the visible church, I believe that we, as Christian naturists/nudists have a very important role in the spread of the kingdom of God, the Church of Jesus Christ.

To the typical church, the nudist resort, down the street or in the next county, might as well be an alien culture on a remote island. The only purpose the church would have for contacting nudists would be to condemn their lifestyle, and attempt to “convert” them to being textiles. Never mind that the Great Commission doesn’t include cultural conversion. It simply requires the church to make disciples of all nations, and that applies to all believers. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)

I had an experience recently that brought this thought from “back-burner” to front and center. I found myself thrust into a ministry opportunity that no textile would have been able to perform, because it was at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. The person who needed ministering to, although he wasn’t naked, was relaxing in the game room. The normal odds of him being there, me being there, and us meeting were somewhere between zero and none, except that, when God has work for us to do, He is quite able to “stack the deck“, and place us in the right place at the right time. We are never “off-duty” when it comes to the work of the Lord. Recent events have brought that fact home to me in a very dramatic way.

Divine appointment…

About once a month, I try to take a mini-nakation to Cypress Cove for a “mental-health day“. I have been under a lot of stress, and Cypress Cove is the one place I can de-stress and unwind. I usually go the first Saturday of the month, but the weather wasn’t very nice the first Saturday of May. However, the weather was beautiful the second Saturday…

The details of that encounter are immaterial. What does matter is that I was at the right place at the right time – God’s place and time, and was able to minister to a man who was hurting from the breakup of his marriage. God gave me the awesome and humbling privilege of ministering in His name, and that fellow found a listening ear, compassion and the love of Christ in an unlikely place.

My church…

There is only one person who knows for sure that I am a nudist – our senior pastor, and whether he accepts or rejects my lifestyle choice, he celebrated that ministry opportunity with me. He asked me to keep my lifestyle choice “mum” – ie. don’t advertise it, which I don’t. Even though I have been a part of that church for over sixteen months, he had no idea that I am a nudist until I told him. The only clue is the small AANR decal on the back window of my vehicle.

Our commission…

I don’t expect my church to “commission” me to be their missionary to nudists. That commission came from our Lord Himself: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Breaking that commission down: Jerusalem – our home community, Samaria – those whose lifestyle we don’t agree with, to the ends of the earth – those in foreign lands, or maybe just the next town. Nudists ARE the typical church’s “Samaria“, because we live a lifestyle contrary to what the church believes to be “appropriate“. Hence, if that “Samaria” is going to be reached with the Gospel, it will have to be Christian “Samaritans” who do it. We are the only ones who can bring the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ without ‘contaminating‘ it with ‘figleaves‘.

To a Jew, Samaritans were “unclean“, because they didn’t follow the ceremonial law to the letter. Does that sound familiar?

Our mission field…

In short, our mission field is anywhere we are, whether it is at a nude beach, a nudist resort, or even in a private gathering. There are a growing number of nudists who live full-time in a nudist resort, and the only times they get dressed and leave the resort are for necessary errands. The likelihood of them attending a local church, where they will be fed a ‘figleaf‘ gospel is slim to none. Very few local churches are involved in ministry to nearby nudist resorts, because they are unwilling to strip the ‘figleaves‘ out of their gospel, and unwilling to remove their own ‘figleaves‘. There are also far too few bodies of believers who regularly meet in nudist resorts.

The Christian Naturist Convocation (CNC) is actively involved in supporting bodies of believers at nudist resorts. They also hold two to three weekend retreats every year.

I have heard of one church which has a regular ministry to a nearby nudist resort, and that is a beginning. There are dozens more without a regular Christian witness.

As believers, we can bring the good news of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to this sin-sick and dying world. We are in touch with the Living Water which truly satisfies, and the Bread that sustains spiritual life. Are we up to the task?

In Christ,

Steve

Additional Resources

Forums:

Christian Naturists Village: http://cnvillage.org/

Naturist Christians: naturist-christians.org

Fig Leaf Forum: http://www.figleafforum.com/

Christian Naturists Convocation: http://christiannc.com/

Personal blogs:

Boyd Allen: http://christiannaturism.blogspot.com/
http://bacn.bravesites.com/

The Biblical Naturist: http://thebiblicalnaturist.blogspot.com/

Pastor David RN: http://pastordavidrn.blogspot.com/
http://www.pastordavidrn.com/

Other resources:

My Chains Are Gone: mychainsaregone.org

Women In Church Office…

There is a growing trend in the church to ordain women as Elders, Deacons, and even as Pastors. There is even an organization called “Christians for Biblical Equality“(CBE) whose mission is to promote opening up the leadership positions in the church to women. Does this trend arise simply from the desire to more fully employ the gifts of women in the church, or has it come from an attempt to conform the church to the cultural norms of our day? We must always acknowledge that God is the final Authority, particularly in matters of His worship, so does the Bible have anything to say about it?

There is a lot of passion of both sides of the aisle regarding the ordination of women into leadership positions in the church. I was a deacon in a Christian Reformed Church (CRC), and I resigned that position and left that church and denomination after I became convinced from Scripture that women were not allowed to be installed as deacons. I must say that it wasn’t because the women were incompetent, because in many ways, they “outdeaconed” us men. I resigned and left that church was because of what I saw in Scripture.

A dear friend of mine, who was raised in the CRC, also left the CRC because of that same issue. She is Dutch, was raised in the church, educated in the church’s college, and served as a medical missionary for many years. She is about as “trueblue” as it gets.

Another friend resigned as an elder in a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church because they DON’T ordain women into leadership positions. I don’t know the whole circumstances of his resigning as an elder, but he had become a member of Christians for Biblical Equality.

Historically, we know that God has gifted and used certain women in mighty ways throughout redemption history. Deborah was a judge in Israel (Judges 4:4-14), however women were never permitted to be Priests or Levites. Those positions of religious authority were reserved for men.

Gender equality…

True gender equality is based on the fact that both men and women are equally God’s image bearers. Just because man was created first, doesn’t make a man a greater image bearer than a woman is. Men and women are also equally saved and liberated from sin and the devil by the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being co-equals does NOT equate to having equal authority in the home, church or otherwise.

CBE…

CBE claims to believe in the full authority of all of Scripture, however they have chosen to selectively “throw-out” or ignore certain passages that don’t support their “equality” premise, particularly those passages which set forth the qualifications for church leaders, and which give directions for home-government. That is a major inconsistency, because either ALL of Scripture is authoritative, or NONE of it is. When we start picking and choosing what parts of Scripture we want in our “Bible“, we no longer have true Christianity. We might as well write our own “bible“…

As I was reading through some of the “endorsements“, one particular “endorser” called their “theology” “progressive“. “Progressive theology” is simply a term for “liberalism“, which is cultural modification at its finest. “Progressive theology” is HERESY. I know I may get some barbs from this, but it won’t be the first time I haven’t bowed to “political-correctness“. BTW, one of the founders of CBE is a woman…which doesn’t surprise me. CBE seems to be merely an extension of “women’s liberation” and “political correctness“. “Women’s liberation” has also brought us legalized abortion, under the guise of “choice“. I have to wonder how many of those babies which were murdered in abortion clinics were consulted about their choice. That kind of “choice” is a one-way street.

The Virtuous Woman

My first wife was a true woman…a LADY, and she found her ultimate fulfillment as a wife and mother. She was never happier than when she was bearing and raising children. She had learned all the motherly “arts” from her own mother, who had born and raised nine children. Is it any wonder that pregnant women have a certain unmistakable “glow” about them? They are radiating the truth of their design…to bear children. For a Biblical description of a “virtuous woman“, we need only turn to Proverbs 31:10-31:

“10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar. 15 She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household, and a portion for her maidservants. 16 She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes tapestry for herself; her clothign is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants. 25 Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many daughters have done well, but you excell them all.” 30 Charm is deceiptful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Why did I introduce this passage about the “virtuous woman“? In short, because it blows the stereotype of the “stay at home mom” out of the water in a grand way. This woman ran the “family business“, and her husband trusted her to do so wisely. She had a great reputation, and her reputation fueled respect for her husband. Her business was also family-oriented, driven by the desire to provide the best for her family. She didn’t sit around the house drinking coffee and watching Soap Operas. Both her husband and her children were justifiably proud of her. She was NOT a downtrodden “lowerclass” person.

Male headship…

The principle of male-headship was not a result of the fall, as some would assert. Even though it is first enunciated by God after the fall, it was part of the created order. God gave Adam the authority to name the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). Authority to name is also the authority to govern. Adam also named Eve. “And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”(Genesis 2:23). Eve did not walk up to Adam and introduce herself. God brought Eve to Adam, and Adam named her. Theirs was the first “arranged marriage“. Man was intended to be the head of the family, and eventually the church.

Those who are rebelling against Biblical male-headship are rebelling against God. It is a Satanic attempt to derail God’s leadership and undermine His authority, and it is sad that it has gotten a foothold even in the church, under the guise of “equality“.

Biblical church leadership…

The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave very specific directions for the qualifications of church leaders. Christ is the head of His church, and He alone sets the standards for church leadership. He is the Good Shepherd, and His under-shepherds must be chosen with care. If we ignore our Lord’s directions for church leadership, we open ourselves to many other problems.

“1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer(elder), he desires a noble task. 2 Therefor an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must no be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

“8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 The must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 The wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

On a personal note: I am not qualified to be an elder or a deacon in the church for several reasons, which I won’t enumerate here. It would be the epitome of arrogance for me to think and say otherwise. I have “been there, done that, got the T-shirt“, so being a church leader is not on my “bucket list“.

I have great respect and admiration for those capable men who lead my church. They lead with quiet dignity, and show Christ’s love in everything they do. The Apostle Paul could have been writing about these men when he penned this passage.

“Indispensable” women…

There are several roles in most churches which are best filled by women, because they have unique talents in these areas. No church will ever truly run smoothly without them. They are an important part of every church community.

1) The pastor’s wife: While there are a few pastors who have been gifted with singleness, the vast majority are married. The pastor’s wife brings a unique set of talents to his ministry which no other person can bring.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Pastors who lose their wife, particularly if the loss was the result of a serious tragedy, immediately become like a ship without a rudder. One pastor, whose wife committed suicide, was completely out of the ministry for several years, and did not re-enter the ministry until AFTER he remarried. This speaks to both the depth of his personal loss and the devastating effects losing his wife in that way had on his ability to minister.

The music ministry in my church wouldn’t be the same without the talents of our assistant pastor’s wife. She makes the piano dance with joy to the Lord. She also leads the women’s discipleship group, and teaches piano to several of the children in the church.

Other pastor’s wives may not be quite as “visible“, but their roles are no less important.

2) The church secretary: Church secretaries, often called “administrative assistants“, are the ones who hold the whole church together. If it has to go through an office, it goes through theirs. They are the “nervecenters” of the church.

3) Sunday school teachers: How would we ever have children’s Sunday school without those dedicated ladies? They are a huge part of the church’s part in raising our covenant children, and without them, children’s Sunday school would fall apart.

4) Women’s discipleship: Godly older women are the ones BEST qualified to disciple and lead younger ladies in the church. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to Titus, even speaks of this role: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.” (Titus 2:3-5)

5) Widows: Who better to minister to the needs of the widows in the church than other widows? Most people don’t really relate to losing a spouse to death, unless they have gone through that themselves. That is where other widows can have a huge impact. One lady in my church “keeps tabs” on the other widows by calling them regularly, and relaying needs and prayer requests to our pastoral staff. Sometimes something as simple as a ride to church, the grocery store, or a doctor’s appointment can make a huge difference in a shut-in’s life. Another older lady regularly visits other older ladies. That personal touch can make a world of difference. A young mother with a new-born may appreciate a visit from a “surrogate-grandmother“.

These women are VERY important, and even though they are in supporting roles, they are no less “equal”. Everyone in the church has someone to submit to, and our ultimate submission is to Christ Jesus, our Lord. Even pastors and elders, who truly understand their calling, are servant-leaders.

Patriarchal…

There are a lot of people, particularly women, who complain that Christianity is too “patriarchal“. If Christianity is “patriarchal“, it is because God is our Patriarch. God is always “HE” in the Bible, not “she“. God is our “Heavenly Father“, not our “Heavenly Mother“. Christ Jesus is the “BRIDEGROOM“, and the church is His “BRIDE“. Those images are used throughout Scripture.

Homosexuality…

Often linked with the desire to see women in church leadership is the ordination of openly-homosexual persons. A few years ago, the Episcople church installed an openly-homosexual man as a bishop, which caused a huge division in the denomination. Those committed to the truth of Scripture and traditional marriage split off and joined the Anglican church, which was the global parent denomination. Closely-allied is the push for same-sex “marriage”.
All of these movements are spawned from the same Satanic origin…”You shall be as gods“. They are direct attacks on God and the authority of His Word.

God calls homosexuality an abomination. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13). God hasn’t rescinded that decree, so if the church is going to be faithful, it must call homosexuality what God calls it – an abomination.

We are to love homosexuals and minister to them, however we must never aquiesce to their demands. The church must never ordain them as leaders in the church, nor bless their same-sex relationships.

Final thoughts…

I know this topic is controversial, but I have never shied away from speaking and writing what I believe. I have three choices…go with the flow, uphold the truth of Scripture, or don’t write at all. I have chosen to write, regardless of the barbs that come my way.

It is time for the church to “suck it up” and start proclaiming the truth of Scripture regardless of whether it is “politically-correct” or not. The Bible, Scripture, God’s Word IS the final authority, because it is God’s revealed will for our faith and lives.

There have been movements throughout church history which have sought to “modify” the church to be in conformity to a certain faction of society. That is still happening, but the church MUST resist, or we face having our true light snuffed out. We must draw the line, and I have drawn mine. Are you with me?

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitians, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7)

In Christ,

Steve

Twisting the Truth

What if, even though we have the truth right before our eyes, we refuse to recognize it because we have been so blinded by lies that we refuse to see truth for what it is…truth?

A Christian Brother, pastor and devoted student of the Bible has written a pair of articles entitled “Squeamish Translating” and “Rightly Dividing 1 Timothy 2:9“, where he has examined how Bible translators have deliberately mistranslated passages in the Bible because of cultural hangups they have.

This article is about how Bible commentators have often ignored the Scripture before them and “read-into” passages what they think they “should” mean. Sometimes they have an “axe to grind” and they use a passage to push that agenda.

Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free“.(John 8:32) Only His truth sets us free.

All Scripture passages are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I will be examining both the study-notes from a contemporary Study Bible (SB) and comments from an older commentary (COM). Since both are highly-regarded, it is best that I don’t name them. My comments will follow each section.

******************************************************************************************************
Genesis 2:25
NKJV: And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

NASB: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Commentaries:

SB: not ashamed – This statement does not idealize nudity, but shows why humans must wear clothes. With the Fall came a tragic loss of innocence (together with the resulting shame). When people’s minds are enlightened by the Gospel, they understand their moral frailty and practice customs of dress that shield them against sexual temptation.

COM: Our first parents needed no clothes for covering against cold or heat, for neither could hurt them: they needed none for ornament. Thus easy, thus happy, was man in his state of innocency.

Comments: It amazes me how the SB authors jumped from a state of innocence (COM) to a moral requirement for clothes. The problem with the “moral requirement for clothes“, is that customs of dress DO NOT shield us against sexual temptation. The opposite is more often true in reality. What is lightly-covered is often more tempting than that which is readily viewable. What is readily-viewable loses it novelty, and thus its temptation.

*******************************************************************************************************
Genesis 3:21
NKJV: Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

NASB: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Commentaries:

SB: tunics of skin – The fig-leaf “coverings” of v.7 were loincloths. God’s durable “tunics” contrast with the inadequate attempt by Adam and Eve to cover their shame. His provision also entailed killing an animal, perhaps suggesting a sacrifice for sin.

COM: See also God’s care for our first parents, notwithstanding their sin. Clothes came in with sin. Little reason have we to be proud of our clothes, which are but the badges of our shame. When God made clothes for our first parents, he made them warm and strong, but coarse and very plain; not robes of scarlet, but coats of skin. Let those that are meanly clad, learn from hence not to complain. Having food and a covering, let them be content; they are as well off as Adam and Eve. And let those that are finely clad, learn not to make the putting on of apparel their adorning. The beasts, from whose skins they were clothed, it is supposed were slain, not for man’s food, but for sacrifice, to typify Christ, the great Sacrifice. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, ( Isaiah 28:20 ) . Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skin, large, strong, durable, and fit for them: such is the righteousness of Christ; therefore put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Comments: There are many who liken the killing of that animal to being the first sacrifice. Taken in the context of the whole of Scripture, it seems an unlikely twist. Sacrifices were always GIVEN TO God, not performed BY God. Even though God gave Jesus Christ as the final and ultimate sacrifice, He was sacrificed (crucified) by sinful men, not by God the Father.

Adam and Eve’s fig-leaf coverings were a futile attempt to cover their shame, but their shame wasn’t their nakedness. Their shame was their sin. Clothing does in fact advertise our shame…the shame that we have been taught about our bodies. There is nothing shameful about our bodies, because they are created in God’s image, so whatever body-shame we have is learned, not real.

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Genesis 9:20-23
NKJV: 20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

NASB: 20 Then Noah began [a]farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were [b]turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.

Commentaries:

SB: 9:21 – drank of the wine – Scripture both favorably looks on wine and soberly warns of its dangers., particularly the moral laxity exemplified by self-exposure. Nazarites officiating priests, and rulers makig decisions were to obstain from it. was drunk – Just as Adam, the original head of the human race, sinned through eating (3:6), so Noah, the head of the human race after the Flood, sinned through drinking. The striking parallels between Adam and Noah, and the contrast between saintly Noah before the Flood and the drunken sinner after it, direct the reader to God, not man, for salvation. became uncovered – Self-exposure is both publicly demeaning and incompatible with living in God’s presence.
9:22 – saw the nakedness of his father – Gazing at another’s nakedness, either in lust or scorn, is morally wrong. Ham’s scornful leering at the father whom he should have revered was particularly reprehensible. told – If it is wrong to publicize another’s sin, how much more a father’s. The story further condemns the failure to respect one’s parents.

COM: The drunkenness of Noah is recorded in the Bible, with that fairness which is found only in the Scripture, as a case and proof of human weakness and imperfection, even though he may have been surprised into the sin; and to show that the best of men cannot stand upright, unless they depend upon Divine grace, and are upheld thereby. Ham appears to have been a bad man, and probably rejoiced to find his father in an unbecoming situation. It was said of Noah, that he was perfect in his generations, ch. 6:9 ; but this is meant of sincerity, not of a sinless perfection. Noah, who had kept sober in drunken company, is now drunk in sober company. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We have need to be very careful when we use God’s good creatures plentifully, lest we use them to excess, Lu. 21:34 . The consequence of Noah’s sin was shame. Observe here the great evil of the sin of drunkenness. It discovers men; what infirmities they have, they betray when they are drunk; and secrets are then easily got out of them. Drunken porters keep open gates. It disgraces men, and exposes them to contempt. As it shows them, so it shames them. Men say and do that when drunken, which, when sober, they would blush to think of. Notice the care of Shem and Japheth to cover their father’s shame. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all, ( 1 Peter. 4:8 ) thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors. The blessing of God attends on those who honour their parents, and his curse lights especially on those who dishonour them.

Comments: Did I miss something in this text that these commentators saw? I see nowhere in this account where God condemned Noah, and yet these commentators made a big deal out of the fact that Noah got drunk. There is no indication in Scripture how long after the Flood this event occured. Perhaps Noah hadn’t had any wine for several years, and it hit him a bit harder than he expected. No mention is made as to how “drunk” Noah was. He may have been just “drunk-enough” to be sleepy. In any case, he went into his tent to take a nap. There is NO support in this passage to conclude that Noah exposed himself in public. That is reading into the passage something that isn’t there.
Noah did the right thing by going into his tent and taking a nap. There is also no reason to condemn him for becoming exposed in his tent. His tent was his private quarters, much like our own homes are. Taking off his clothes in his tent was his right, just as we have the right to take our of in our own homes.

Ham DID do the wrong thing, and it WAS totally-disrespectful to his father. Ham is also the only person in this story that was condemned – cursed through his son.

Conclusion should only be drawn based on the facts presented in the story, not our opinion of how we think the facts “should” be.

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Isaiah 20:1-4
NKJV: 1 In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and took it, 2 at the same time the LORD spoke by Isiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.” And He did so, walking naked and barefoot.

3 Then the LORD said, “Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sigh and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

NASB: 1 In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it, 2 at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips, and take your shoes off your feet.” And he did so, going naked and barefoot,

3 And the LORD said, “Even as My servant Isiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

Commentaries:

SB: 20:2 sackcloth…barefoot. The Lord ordered Isaiah to be partially clad like a captive going into exile. Sackcloth was a garment for mourning (15:3; 22:13; 37:1, 2; 58:5), or else the distinctive prophetic garment (2 Kings 1:8; Zech 13:4).
20:3 three years. It could designate the time that Isaiah walked about as a sign or the duration before the sign would be realized.
Sign and wonder. The prophetic style of life (8:18; Deut 13:1, 2: Jer 32:20) pointed out the folly of relying on Egypt, because Egypt, like any nation, was vulnerable.

COM: God here, as King of nations, brings a sore calamity upon Egypt and Ethiopia, but, as King of saints, brings good to his people out of it. Observe,

I. The date of this prophecy. It was in the year that Ashdod, a strong city of the Philistines (but which some think was lately recovered from them by Hezekiah, when he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, 2 Kings 18:8), was besieged and taken by an army of the Assyrians. It is uncertain what year of Hezekiah that was, but the event was so remarkable that those who lived then could by that token fix the time to a year. He that was now king of Assyria is called Sargon, which some take to be the same with Sennacherib others think he was his immediate predecessor, and succeeded Shalmaneser. Tartan, who was general, or commander-in-chief, in this expedition, was one of Sennacherib’s officers, sent by him to bid defiance to Hezekiah, in concurrence with Rabshakeh, 2 Kings 18:17.

II. The making of Isaiah a sign, by his unusual dress when he walked abroad. He had been a sign to his own people of the melancholy times that had come and were coming upon them, by the sackcloth which for some time he had worn, of which he had a gown made, which he girt about him. Some think he put himself into that habit of a mourner upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes. Others think sackcloth was what he commonly wore as a prophet, to show himself mortified to the world, and that he might learn to endure hardness soft clothing better becomes those that attend in king’s palaces (Matthew 11:8) than those that go on God’s errands. Elijah wore hair-cloth (2 Kings 1:8), and John Baptist (Matthew 3:4) and those that pretended to be prophets supported their pretension by wearing rough garments (Zechariah 13:4) but Isaiah has orders given him to loose his sackcloth from his loins, not to exchange it for better clothing, but for none at all–no upper garment, no mantle, cloak, or coat, but only that which was next to him, we may suppose his shirt, waistcoat, and drawers and he must put off his shoes, and go barefoot so that compared with the dress of others, and what he himself usually wore, he might be said to go naked. This was a great hardship upon the prophet it was a blemish to his reputation, and would expose him to contempt and ridicule the boys in the streets would hoot at him, and those who sought occasion against him would say, The prophet is indeed a fool, and the spiritual man is mad, Hosea 9:7. It might likewise be a prejudice to his health he was in danger of catching a cold, which might throw him into a fever, and cost him his life but God bade him do it, that he might give a proof of his obedience to God in a most difficult command, and so shame the disobedience of his people to the most easy and reasonable precepts. When we are in the way of our duty we may trust God both with our credit and with our safety. The hearts of that people were strangely stupid, and would not be affected with what they only heard, but must be taught by signs, and therefore Isaiah must do this for their edification. If the dress was scandalous, yet the design was glorious, and what a prophet of the Lord needed not to be ashamed of.

III. The exposition of this sign, Isaiah 20:3,4. It was intended to signify that the Egyptians and the Ethiopians should be led away captive by the king of Assyria, thus stripped, or in rags, and very shabby clothing, as Isaiah was. God calls him his servant Isaiah, because in this matter particularly he had approved himself God’s willing, faithful, obedient servant and for this very thing, which perhaps others laughed at him for, God gloried in him. To obey is better than sacrifice it pleases God and praises him more, and shall be more praised by him. Isaiah is said to have walked naked and barefoot three years, whenever in that time he appeared as a prophet. But some refer the three years, not to the sign, but to the thing signified: He has walked naked and barefoot there is a stop in the original provided he did so once that was enough to give occasion to all about him to enquire what was the meaning of his doing so or, as some think, he did it three days, a day for a year and this for a three years’ sign and wonder, for a sign of that which should be done three years afterwards or which should be three years in the doing. Three campaigns successively shall the Assyrian army make, in spoiling the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and carrying them away captive in this barbarous manner, not only the soldiers taken in the field of battle, but the inhabitants, young and old and it being a very piteous sight, and such as must needs move compassion in those that had the least degree of tenderness left them to see those who had gone all their days well dressed now stripped, and scarcely having rags to cover their nakedness, that circumstance of their captivity is particularly taken notice of, and foretold, the more to affect those to whom this prophecy was delivered. It is particularly said to be to the shame of Egypt (Isaiah 20:4), because the Egyptians were a proud people, and therefore when they did fall into disgrace it was the more shameful to them and the higher they had lifted up themselves the lower was their fall, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

Comments: Did I once again miss something, or several things, in this text that these commentators spotted? Did the LORD make a couple of verbal-typos when He told Isaiah to prophesy naked, and then go on to say that Isaiah had done so for three years? That would seem to be what these commentators are implying.

Isaiah was neither the first prophet to prophesy naked, nor was he the last. King Saul, after the Spirit came upon him, stripped naked and prophesied before Samuel(1 Samuel 19:23, 24). The prophet Micah likewise stripped naked in mourning because of the deplorable spiritual condition of the children of Israel (Micah 1:8, 9). The only thing out of the ordinary was the duration of Isaiah’s prophesy – three years.

What I see in these commentaries is the personal hang-ups of the commentators. For someone who is clothes-compulsive, even being told to preach one sermon in public naked would cause them to doubt God’s sanity. For Isaiah, this was just another prophesy God gave him to proclaim…all in a day’s work, so to speak.

* If it wasn’t so blatantly obvious that COM was reading into the text what he thinks “should” be there, he goes on to INVENT CLOTHING for Isaiah that didn’t even exist in Isaiah’s time…shirt, waistcoat and drawers. He then goes on to say that the Egyptians will be led away in rags, not naked, as God said. I suppose being dressed in rags would have been considered being “naked” by COM’s standards. Cultural-modification at its finest. And we wonder why the church has so much problem with any form of nudity…

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John 21:1-14
NKJV: After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas call the twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing”.
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately a got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

NASB: 21 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Comments: This is a very touching, intimate story. Only a fews days after the Lord’s death and resurrection, while the Lord’s disciples were still mentally processing the events of the last few days, a group of them decided to go fishing. Simon Peter had badly disgraced himself, and was still feeling the full shame of his disgrace. Perhaps he no longer felt “worthy” to be one of the Lord’s disciples. They were fishing-buddies, and for several of them, fishing was their normal occupation…what they were doing when Jesus called them to be His disciples. Fishing was something very familiar. It was comforting. It was normal…

That Peter was “stripped for work” was considered normal for working-class people in that day and time. He may have thrown his garment on out of reverence for his Lord, but it probably was more practical than that. He didn’t want it buried under a bunch of slimy, smelly fish. This was NOT the first time the Lord had seen Peter naked, because Peter was quite likely naked when they first met. Jesus and His disciples also fully participated in Jewish religious life, which included all the necessary ceremonial washings. Being naked in each other’s company was an ordinary occurrence.

What is vitally-important about this story is that it is a story of fellowship and of restoration. Peter was restored to full fellowship with his Lord, and the disciples received a new commission. They were given a new occupation, an all-consuming occupation. Instead of fishing for fish, they were to become fishers of men…to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

While the commentators, which I didn’t quote in this segment, had their usual field-day denying that Peter was actually naked, and even bequeathed clothing items on him that he didn’t know he had, this is really about restoration. Restoration, and the love of God, are the most significant themes in Scripture. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20b)

This whole post is really about restoration…restoring an accurate understanding of Scripture, without modifying it to suit our 21st century culture. I am saddened that I felt compelled to expose the faulty understandings of Scripture of these great scholars, but it is truth that sets us free, not twisted truth. Twisted-truth brings bondage, and far too many believers are in bondage to twisted-truth. We are to view our culture through the lens of Scripture, not interpret Scripture through our culture.

God bless!

No Easy Answers…

I penned this piece several months ago, and posted it in a suicide-survivor support group on Experience Project. If you, or someone you know, has ever lost a loved-one to suicide, the sentiments expressed here will be familiar.

I wish I could say that suicide is very rare, but judging from how many people have joined this group, suicide is far too common. People…loved-ones…take their own lives every day. Suicide has become a tragic epidemic, with no end in sight. I, too, am a suicide survivor. My story is told here also. The common thread that runs through every story…every experience…is WHY? Why did your loved-one…my wife…commit suicide. There are no easy answers…

I wish I could provide answers to everyone who has lost a loved-one to suicide, but I can’t, because the answers aren’t easy. I wish I could make everyone’s pain go away, but I can’t even make my own go away. In some ways, my pain is as fresh as it was the day my wife took her life. I am still living with the fallout of what she did. Sixteen years later, my kids still will have nothing to do with me. My family was destroyed by suicide. While a person might understand why someone with a chronic or terminal illness would want to be out of their misery, what about deep emotional pain, that they have hidden from sight for many years? I believe deep emotional pain drove my wife to take her own life.

We were having some family problems, and my wife blamed herself for them. She may have been partly at fault, but I was just as much a part of our problems as she was, because I was the man of the house. I was dad… She and I had become emotionally distant from each other, and besides putting a strain on our relationship, it caused relationship problems with our kids. Some “friends” and relatives had stuck their noses where they didn’t belong, and they only made matters worse. One brother-in-law admitted to threatening to kill me, not just once, but three times. I am sure all of that weighed heavily on her mind when she decided to take her own life.

My wife’s suicide was preplanned…premeditated, and all she was waiting for was for one event to happen…our oldest daughter getting her driver’s license. Our oldest daughter got her license on Tuesday, and my wife committed suicide the next day…

I believe she thought that when she committed suicide, our family would pull back together, but the exact opposite happened. Our family…as a family…was destroyed, in large part due to the interference by “friends” and family. While they were pointing fingers at me for her death, they had more to do with it than they will ever admit, and in some ways, more to do with it than I did.

Answers…answers…answers…only God knows all the answers. There are no easy answers, because people and their motives aren’t easy to understand. All I can hope and pray for is that your experience wasn’t as bad as mine…that your answers come easier. Otherwise, there are no easy answers.

Have you ever painted a smile on your face, while you were crying inside? I did, and still do…

Why?