What is “The Faith?”
First of all I want to make it clear that I believe that everyone, without exception has “faith”. The question is what is the object of that faith. This faith is an active faith, a trust if you will. That upon which you rely for living your life or for whatever you believe happens after that life has ended. Your faith could be in your religion, science, yourself, another person or whatever it is that you have put your trust in.
I’ve titled this page “The Faith” because it is often the case that the term Christianity or Christian tends to have all sorts of meanings to many different people. So in an attempt to narrow the scope of the discussion I will define “The Faith” as a noun in the sense that Paul puts it in Rom 1:5 “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:” And not in any verb sense.
I am a believer of or in “The Faith”. After all it was not believers who called themselves Christians and especially believers in the Dispensation of Grace that was given to the Apostle Paul. In fact the term Christian does not even appear anywhere in Paul’s writings. Interesting is it not? I think it is but what I think is not all that important and not what I’ll be focusing on although I’m fairly certain many will think so.
I want there to be no confusion about what I believe. The Word of God is just that, God’s Word. Not man’s and it is not a matter of interpretation but rather it is a matter of do we believe the words on the page or do we come to it with the baggage of tradition and our denominational biases? Unfortunately due to nearly a couple of thousand of years of tradition and the influence of Catholicism it is difficult not to bring in certain biases but let’s try.
I am going to tell you what biases I bring to this discussion. My first bias is that I only use the King James Version as I believe it is by far the best translation for many reasons I won’t go into here. Another of my biases is that I am Dispensational and that is because the Bible is Dispensational and it says so. Paul is in fact the Apostle of the Gentiles and the dispensation of the grace of God was given to him alone:
Eph 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Eph 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Eph 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Eph 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Not only am I Dispensational but I am Pauline Dispensational which makes perfect sense since the concept of dispensations is revealed to us by Christ through Paul.
Another Bias I have is that I believe the Bible means what it says, says what it means, to whom it says it. In other words context-context-context. We must rightly divide the Word of Truth just as Paul says to Timothy in 2Timothy 2:15 and the correct translation is Divide not correctly handle or some other translation. It has nothing to do with an archaic language, divide is the right word and when you dumb it down you lose some important meaning and you won’t fully understand what God is telling you.
I’m sure you will think that I have some other biases as well and we will deal with them as we go along. Paul says we are to follow him as he follows Christ and there is no doubt he argued and contended for The Faith and right doctrine so I feel comfortable in contending over the same.
When did the Church begin?
There is a great deal of confusion about when the church, of which we are members, began. Before I go into what I believe the bible teaches about when the church began let’s define what the word “church” means.
The word church very simply means “an assembly” or a congregation. In the Greek: ekklēsia also, in the “ek” root carries with it the idea of being “called out”. So basically it’s a “called out assembly”.
Remember, context is king. The children of Israel in the wilderness were called a church and they were just that. Keep in mind that almost that entire “assembly” perished in the wilderness never having entered into God’s rest so again, the context will determine what sort of assembly it is. I don’t believe anyone would say that the church today is a part of that “assembly”.
Where the breakdown comes is when believers lump everything that happens from Matthew to Revelation into one big basket, believing that everything after Malachi pertains to believers today which is clearly not true. How do I know it’s not true? Because words mean things and different words mean different things. I’ve said it already but it bears repeating. God’s word says what it means, means what it says, to whom it says it.
Most believe “the Church” began in Acts 2 with the commencement of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost came upon them and they were filled with the Holy Ghost as many of them that believed. Others, while in the minority, believe that the Church of which believers are members today, began in the middle of Acts, with the conversion of Paul or the stoning of Stephen and still an even smaller minority believe it started in the latter part of Acts when Paul ceased altogether to go to the Jews. While most won’t admit to it, when they make the claim that the “church” started… pick your place, they are actually admitting to being a Dispensationalist.
The bible indicates that believers are synonymous with “the saints” who are also called “the church of God” or the “body of Christ” or even “the household of faith; all of these are descriptions of the same group. The Church is not some religious organization with some hierarchal structure of Popes and his underlings; rather, it is an organism, if you will. The Church is not a place or a building, it is the body of Christ and each believer is a member in particular. Everyone from Adam until now who are members of the “household of faith” comprise the church. Being a member of the household of faith simply means taking God at his word whatever that word is at the time. Noah, for example was told by God to build an Ark because he was going to flood the earth. Noah’s faith or taking God at his word, was reckoned to him as righteousness. Abraham, believed God when God told him that he would be a father through his wife Sarah even though they were old; and his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. When we take God at his word that Jesus’ death was sufficient as payment for the sins of the world he identifies us with Christ and judicially applies the righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer (baptized by the Holy spirit into the body of Christ) and since Christ was resurrected and now lives forever, we also will not experience the second death. This is the “Mystery of Christ” that was given to the Apostle Paul. All believers past, present and future, who have believed or will believe God’s message as revealed at that time, are now identified with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection even though, in times past, they knew nothing of it. Christ paid for the sins of the world past, present and future. That’s what the bible teaches even though it is denied by most of those who call themselves Christian today who want to keep you ever in your sins. But God has removed the issue of sin from the table of his justice, by his own word and when we believe that, as stated previously, God applies the righteousness of Christ to our account. According to the Bible we have no righteousness of our own and even though God has reconciled the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, they still don’t have the required righteousness. The Apostle Paul compares it to marriage where after a woman is joined to a man what belongs to the man now also belongs to the woman, hence, what belongs to Christ now belongs to the believer by God’s judicial decree.
Now, getting back to Pentecost. What is Pentecost and what does or did it have to do with Gentiles? The answer is, it is a Jewish Feast day. It is one of the many feast days given in the law by God to the children of Israel and it was, as all other feast days, prophetic in nature, a symbolic picture, if you will, of a future promise. It had absolutely nothing to do with gentiles and there was not, according to the passages in Acts 2, a single, solitary gentile present at this event. They were all Jews from many different nations who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover, another feast day and were still present for the feast of Pentecost and as Peter states, it’s fulfillment.
Do some homework and go back to the Old Testament and study the feast days and in particular Pentecost and I believe you will come to the same conclusion I did which, is that this was in fulfillment of a promise made to Israel and since gentiles were without God in the world and outside of the covenant and promises of God this could not possibly have anything to do with gentiles or the dispensation of grace which, at that time, had not even been made known since, the one to whom it was made known, Paul, was as enemy of God at that time.
Since this was a Jewish feast day it most certainly was not the beginning of the Church but rather it was the fulfillment of prophecy. It has everything to do with Israel and God’s program with them and nothing to do with the “dispensation of the grace of God” given to Paul for believers today. The issue is not when or where did the church begin because there’s really no such concept in God’s word. There is however, the fact that there are different dispensations or economies in God’s dealings with man. In other words, God’s revelation to mankind has been progressive. Not everything was revealed all at once. Just as Abraham and the patriarchs new nothing of Christ’s death and what it would accomplish, paying for the sins of the whole world or that by his death, burial and resurrection that God would be dealing with gentiles and Jews all alike making no difference between them, making out of two, one new man; this occurred after Israel rejected their messiah and blasphemed the Holy Spirit at the stoning of Stephen. This is when a brand new apostle, Paul, not one of the twelve, comes on the scene. No longer would the gentiles come to God through Israel’s rising as was prophesied but now, as Paul states, it’s through Israel’s fall. This however, does not mean that the prophecies regarding Israel’s rise and the gentiles will not come to pass; it only means they are in abeyance or held back; put off until a future time which is unknown until this present dispensation of the grace of God comes to a close.
Are there Contradictions in The Bible?
Well of course there are if you don’t understand how to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.” As I stated previously, the Bible says what it means and means what it says to whom it says it. So once you establish to whom the text is speaking you must ask yourself, are you a part of the audience?
The Bible is not just one book it is a conglomeration of books and letters and each one lets the reader know to whom it is addressed. So once again, to those who claim to be Bible believers, why don’t you believe the words on the page? The Hebrew Epistles are addressed to Hebrews, the Jews and each one of them clearly states that, so why then have alleged believers throughout the last two Millenia persisted in making everything all about themselves. Human nature would be my guess.
Let me get back to the issue of contradictions. Yes there are contradictions if you don’t recognize that what God has said at a certain period of time, to a certain group of people, does not mean that God is saying that to all people at all times. It is of course ridiculous to think that he would and yet people continue to use the Bible for their own nefarious purposes which, in my opinion is control. People love rules, they just can’t get enough of them. The U.S. congress and the innumerable laws they’ve created in the last 200 years is proof enough of that fact and the religious leaders both Christian (so called) and otherwise are no different. They don’t want to recognize the new economy of grace God revealed to Paul to reveal to “all men”. They’d much more prefer to follow what Jesus and the Twelve taught and preached to Israel under the dispensation of Law. Got to keep those sheep in line and it’s a lot easier if you base their salvation on works and keeping rules.
Here is an article or a small book really, written by David W. Reid that I highly recommend to anyone who has an open mind and is willing to entertain the idea that their way of understanding or interpreting the Bible may be tainted or clouded by the traditions of their predecessors and may be wrong. If, on the other hand you don’t believe you or they could possibly be wrong then don’t waist your time.by