Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seventh Day Adventists and Questions about the Sabbath

The Seventh Day Adventists (hereafter SDA) believe that the day of worship during the week should be on the Sabbath, the last day of the week. There are several scriptures in the New Testament that would indicate otherwise; several of these scriptures re found in the Acts of the Apostles, which is the model church for the modern day body of believers. When speaking with a SDA, try to be in control of the conversation. When they try to dodge questions, try to bring them back to the heart of the discussion. Ask them things like, “Why does the New Testament show that the apostles did everything that people do in church today on a Sunday and not on a Saturday?”

The key to understanding the pattern of the early church is in the phrase, “The first day of the week.”
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).
Jesus appeared to the disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:19).
Jesus appeared inside the room to the eleven disciples eight days after the first day of the week.  The Jewish way of measuring days meant that it was again Sunday (John 20:26).
The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, the first day of the week (Lev. 23:16; Acts 2:1).
The first sermon was preached by Peter on the first day of the week (Acts 2:14).
Three thousand converts joined the church on the first day of the week (Acts 2:41).
The three thousand were baptized on the first day of the week (Acts 2:41).
The Christians assembled broke bread on the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7).
The Christians also heard a message from Paul on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  Note:  the reference is until midnight which is not the Jewish method of measuring days, but the Roman system.
Paul instructed the churches to put aside contributions on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2).
Jesus gave the apostle John the vision of Revelation on the first day of the week (Rev. 1:10).

There seems to be a question regarding whether or not the SDA church believes that Jesus is Michael the archangel, but I think it is something very different from what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. The following quote is taken from a website which is not operated by officials in the SDA church but is operated by its members:
“We believe that the term "Michael" is but one of the many titles applied to the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead”
So what they mean by this is that Jesus is also called “Michael,” not that He is an angel. There is a bit of twisting of Greek which they believe helps them with their argument. Given the evidence it is extremely unlikely that their understanding is correct about the Son of God having this title, but this belief does not appear to be heretical since they are not equating Jesus with Michael the archangel.
Do the Seventh Day Adventists share the one true gospel? I believe they do. There are some very questionable beliefs as far as their adherence to the Sabbath, but in any event,
Seventh Day Adventists are legalists in a hard sense because they adhere to what Ellen White (SDA founder) said about the Sabbath. She basically explained that the modern world has everything wrong with it because people in it stopped observing the Sabbath. Christians attend church on Sunday as a memorial to the Risen King, but Mrs. White says that is wrong because of what the Bible says. The problem is, she is still trying to be under the Law, which is what Jesus set us free from. The Bible says, “You are not under the law but are under grace” (Romans 6:14). And also in the first chapter of the book of John, “the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In other words, Ellen White is trying to push the Law on her followers. One can basically pick any of the first 8 chapters in Romans and start reading and see that this is clearly wrong.
The issue then, becomes one of legalism. If the Law of the Old Testament has not changed in the New Testament, then what did Christ free us from? If we are still under the Law, then we should live and act like a 1st century B.C. Jew.
I have had a SDA ask me if I adhere to the Ten Commandments, and I said something along the lines of “yes, as much as I can…” They asked me what they were and I explained that they were moral laws. But then this person reasoned that I should keep the Sabbath also, because it is a moral law. The problem with this is that only nine of the Ten Commandments are mentioned in the New Testament, and on top of that, Jesus reduces the Ten Commandments to Two Commandments (see Matthew 22:36-40). What is important is loving God and loving others. In doing these, there is no Law.

So should Christians become SDA’s? Since the SDA church pushes keeping the Sabbath but that it is clearly biblically mistaken on the matter, it seems that even though a person can be an advocate of the SDA church and still be a believer in Christ, there are several theological questions that come up in SDA which steer clear of that which has been considered orthodox for literally thousands of years.
Why would a person want to go back to the Law? Look at Galatians 3:10-14 for a moment: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” The curse of the Law is that no one can fulfill it! It is impossible to please God through works. Therefore, why would we want any part of what Jesus came to set us free from?
As Nathan Busenitz says, “In spite of the ecumenical spirit that has pervaded evangelicalism over the last few decades, there are still major deficiencies within official SDA theology that ought to give evangelical Christians serious pause.”

 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit... WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

There seems to be great confusion on what “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is today, because there are so many theories out there and people guess what the Bible teaches. Rather than weigh you down with many words, I’ll get straight to the heart of the issue.

In Matthew 12:30-32 Jesus says:

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

In Mark 3:28-29 Jesus says:

“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

These passages point to the idea that there is an unforgivable eternal sin, but what could possibly be that unforgivable and eternal sin?
Many people think that suicide is the only unforgivable sin or that cremation is unforgivable or that selling your soul to Satan is the only unforgivable sin. The problem is, the Bible says none of this. The Bible does, however, point to only one unforgivable sin, as we have seen above… Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. But what does this mean?
First let’s think about the knowledge of salvation, logically speaking. What is the one thing that keeps us outside the gates of heaven when we die? Doesn’t every Christian know that not placing our trust and belief in Christ (see John 14:6; Romans 10:9) is what not only keeps people out, but lands them in a state of separation from God for eternity? If one therefore dies, and at the time of his or her death, still deny Christ, then he or she misses the boat (The boat that they will regret missing, anyway). So the one thing that keeps people out of heaven is denying Christ.
Second, what is it that brings people to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ? Jesus says in John 16:7-11:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

People cannot be saved from their sins unless they are first convicted of their sins. This is what the Holy Spirit does. “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit by which a person becomes saved. It is this work which those who are not saved, suppress: Romans 1:18 explains, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” This is in total agreement with the understanding of John 16:8 as shown above. What is this truth that the wicked suppress? 1 John 5:6-12 explains it well:

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when one denies the truth which the Holy Spirit reveals: that Christ saves us from our sins… that in Christ we have life, and that without Him, we do not have life. One therefore commits the eternal sin, in denying Christ as savior. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” In other words, the only way to heaven (Where the Father dwells) is through Jesus! Denying Him will result in not going to heaven (the eternal/unforgivable sin).

A few things should also be mentioned even if only briefly. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” This verse is talking directly to Christians. It is saying that grieving the Holy Spirit (which is not an unforgivable sin, but definitely causes the Holy Spirit grief, as any person can grieve), comes from when we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ poorly. If one were to read the entire paragraph that verse 30 finds itself in, it would be clear that this discusses the reaction of the Holy Spirit when brother and sisters in Christ talk about each other corruptly or do not build up but tear down others. This is very different than blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This passage speaks about what happens in the life of a believer. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is directed toward those who are unbelievers.

Quenching the Spirit is also often misunderstood. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, we read, “Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.” This talks about treating prophecies with contempt. If someone were to claim that they heard a message from God, we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and hear what they have to say. At the same time, we are to test what they say.

In any event, a Christian cannot blaspheme against the Holy Spirit because they have accepted the truth that the Holy Spirit convicted and convinced them of, and are therefore, believers in Jesus.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” –John 6:44

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Thursday, June 21, 2018

All the bells, whistles and…. Pomegranates?

The first experience I had with a pomegranate was in California, right off of the tree in the in the backyard of the place where I lived at the time. I knew what they were, but I didn’t know what they tasted like, smelled like, what the texture was like, or anything like that before this. In my first experience with them, I never regarded them as something extraordinary, but I did find them to be a bit strange. As I spooned out th
e seeds to consume them, I remember thinking how different pomegranates were from an apple.
I also remember, in my first reading of the Bible, reading about these strange fruits. As I was going through the Bible, I came upon a passage that really seemed to stand out regarding such. It was Exodus 28:31-35:

31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. 33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. 35 And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

This is not the only place that discusses pomegranates in the Bible: Exodus 39:22, Song of Solomon 6:11; 8:2; 7:12; 6:7; 4:3, Jeremiah 52:22, 1 Kings 7:18, 2 Chronicles 3:16; 4:13, Haggai 2:19, Joel 1:12, Numbers 20:5; 13:23, 1 Samuel 14:2, Deuteronomy 8:8, and 2 Kings 25:17 also mention pomegranates. The mentions of pomegranates total 18 different places in the Bible and all of them being in the Old Testament. Some of these are not discussing anything other than the fruit themselves in passing (e.g. “the land of pomegranates…” etc.), but several are discussing pomegranates as a decoration to the most holy place on Planet Earth at the time. The question we must ask seems to be, “Why did God order the temple to be decorated so specifically in pomegranates?” Could it be that pomegranates resemble or are the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil?
I think pomegranates have more significance than simply a beautifully detailed decoration. For one thing, the priest being dressed in a robe decorated in the very fruit that separated man from God would be a thing of humility. The priest would be reminded that pomegranates were that thing of disobedience and would cause him to be humble: “Consuming this is what separated us.” It would say. It would be very humbling placing this thing on oneself. The priest would be reminded why the sacrifice of animals needed to take place… because of disobedience. The need for atonement would be staring at him in the face.
Much like healthy fear can be a good thing, as in, you better take bear spray or other protection if you go hiking in the Rocky Mountains, or that you better be careful running a chainsaw for the first time, or that you should stay on the bull you are riding, rather than falling off and getting stepped on, this reminder of mankind’s separation from God could have been healthy as well. Imagine seeing something that reminded you of your own sin. Perhaps a symbol of sort that would cause you to thank the Lord because you are now free from sin. These things can bring us to God. Is that ever a bad thing?
I have heard several legends before about the pomegranate having the same amount of seeds as there are Old Testament Laws, which is 613. This is supposedly one reason that many Jews will consume pomegranates on the Jewish calendar New Year, Rosh Hashanah.  Also, that King Solomon based the design of his crown on the “crown” of a pomegranate. The question is, why are these even legends? Why do these legends exist? If it is because they are true, then what is the significance of the pomegranate? It seems pretty obvious.
 “The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times.” 1 Since this is where the pomegranate originates, which is where most Bible scholars believe the Garden of Eden also existed, it would definitely fit the bill, so to speak. An apple, on the other hand, the kind we consume today probably did not exist at the time of Adam and Eve, since apples at that time were likely very bitter. "Phylogenetic reconstruction of Pyreae and the genus Malus [apple tree], relative to major Rosaceae taxa [rose family], identified the progenitor of the cultivated apple as Malus sieversii." 2 In other words, all apples came from one apple tree species, which, if any of the readers has ever tasted a crab apple (malus sieversii), they probably wouldn’t do it again, at least on purpose.
The Hinton St Mary Mosaic, which is found in the British Museum in London has a central theme of Jesus, but aside from Him being in front of a Chi-Rho (the first two Greek letters in the name of Christ), there is a pomegranate on each side of His portrait. Could it be that in the 4th century, the understanding of the pomegranate was not lost in time about this being the fruit? This mosaic portrait would tell a full-circle story! The priest would see the sins of the people by putting on this robe of pomegranates but Jesus is the one who restores our relationship with God and now the pomegranates no longer carry a heavy burden of such a reminder. He fixed the problem between man and God. The problem of our moral failures against God (sin). It would seem that pomegranates would now be a changed symbol. Something of freedom rather than something of burden. Because they no longer had such meaning, perhaps the idea was lost.
Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). Everyone who sins is not an heir, in other words. Without Him, we are separated from God’s family, as well as being under the slavery of sin (see also Romans 6-7).
Therefore, if we know Jesus, then we know freedom. John records Jesus saying it perfectly in his Gospel: “The truth will set you free!”

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Works Cited


2 Velasco R.; Zharkikh A.; Affourtit J.; et al. (2010). "The genome of the domesticated apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.)". Nature Genetics. 42 (10): 833–839. doi:10.1038/ng.654. PMID 20802477.