The views of the authors on this subject have so vastly distorted our position that it is almost impossible to offer correction. We hope that they will consider what we have written on this subject elsewhere in this response, and start all over again in their thinking on this subject. A couple of gross errors do leap out at us:
43-4 Without credible reasons Spriggs states that the Book of Life mentioned in Rev 3:5 is for the judgment of the Holy Nation (Messianic Communities), while the Book of Life in Rev 20:12,15 is used to judge the Nations.
The following is what we believe concerning the Books of Life, taken from the teaching, More on the First and Second Death:
Do not get Rev 20:6 and Rev 2:11 confused with the second death of the nations in Rev 20:14 and 21:8. Also, do not get the book of life in Rev 3:5 confused with the book of life in Rev 20:12-15. They have nothing in common with each other. The second death in Rev 2:11 is the second death for believers, the recompense (2 Cor 5:10, NAS) at the first resurrection judgment (1 Jn 2:28; 4:17). The second death in Rev 20:14 is the second death for the unbeliever. Heb 9:27 — After the first death (Gen 2:17; 3:19,24) he was raised to stand judgment in Rev 20:12. His name was not found in the book of life (Rev 20:15). Many were, many were not. Rev 20:6 has nothing in common with the second death of Rev 20:14-15 and 21:8.
Rev 20:6 and Rev 2:11 refer to the same second death that is for believers only. The book of life in Rev 3:5 and Dan 12:1 refers to the book of life that believers must be recorded in order to enter the Kingdom — “worthy of the Kingdom” (2 Ths 1:4). The second death is a result of their unworthiness to rule with Messiah for 1,000 years (Lk 9:62). Rev 20:4-6 — Who had a part in the first resurrection (Phil 3:10-12; Dan 12:1; Rev 2:26; 3:20-21). The second death in Rev 20:6 is 1,000 years apart from Rev 20:14, as you can see by following Rev 20:1-15. You can see that the second death in Rev 2:11 and 20:6 are the same.
You can see the book of life in Rev 3:5 and the one talked about in Rev 20:12,15 are 1,000 years apart and refer to different nations and books of life. The book of life in Rev 3:5 refers to the Holy Nation Israel (1 Pet 2:9). The book of life in Rev 20:12,15 refers to the nations who are judged at the second resurrection judgment and found worthy or unworthy according to their deeds (Rev 20:12). 1,000 years before this judgment (1 Ths 4:16) the believers had been raised from the dead. Rev 20:13 speaks of the unbelieving dead who had not rejected a sent one with the good news (if they had, they would be judged already, according to Jn 3:18-21), but who lived according to their conscience or did not live according to their conscience, their knowledge of good and evil (Rom 2:12-16).
45-0 Because they did not really confess certain sins after their salvation, they must pay a price to finally rule with Christ. Thus, Christ’s death upon the cross does not truly save someone completely from the consequences of their sin.
Here the authors prove their blindness to the need for an experiential walk in communion daily with our Master and with one another. In their theology there is no consequence for how we live as believers. If they saw the kingdom, they would know that the consequence is not ruling and reigning with Messiah in the 1000-year millennial kingdom.
We do believe that 1 Jn 1:9 is the inspired and inerrant word of God. If He had meant to convey that we are automatically forgiven of our sins and cleansed from our unrighteousness, regardless of whether we confess and repent or not, then it would not say “if we confess our sins.” Pr 28:13 is also God’s word and reveals what happens to one who does not confess his sin, and also what happens to the one who does.
46-3 This understanding of Genesis 3:16-19 as being an “everlasting covenant” with all humanity is without any Scriptural support.
This statement reveals an attitude which is to be expected from those who presume to judge the legitimacy of everyone else’s faith, based on confidence in their own knowledge and intellectual prowess. In this particular case, their scholarly opinion is not universally held, as the following quotations indicate:
John Coeccius (1603-69), an able biblical scholar in Holland, developed the idea of a covenant of works with Adam that was replaced by a new covenant of grace in Christ. This idea is still held in the Dutch Reformed and the Christian Reformed Churches.1
Genesis 3:14-21 The Adamic Covenant — The covenant with Adam is the second general or universal covenant. It could be called the covenant with mankind, for it sets forth the conditions which will hold sway until the curse of sin is lifted...2
3The Adamic Covenant conditions the life of fallen man ... The elements of the covenant are: (1) The serpent, Satan’s tool, is cursed (v. 14) ... (2) The first promise of a Redeemer (v. 15) ... (3) The changed state of the woman (v. 16) ... (4) The light occupation of Eden (Gen 2:15) changed to burdensome labor (3:18-19), because of the earth’s being cursed (3:17) ... (5) The inevitable sorrow of life (v.17) ... (6) The brevity of life and the tragic certainty of physical death to Adam and all his descendants (v. 19) ... Nevertheless, the curse upon the ground is for man’s sake. It is not good for man to live without toil.4
46-5 However, the issue is what does “...yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” really mean? ... The “woman’s desire” does not contribute to the harmony of the marriage, and the husband’s rule, rather it contributes to its dysfunction.
The ellipsis represents a tedious explanation of why the word desire has a negative connotation in Gen 3:16, rather than the positive connotation that we believe. It is interesting to note, however, that there is a tradition among the Jews that is consistent with our belief, as expressed in the following vows from a Karaite contract of marriage, dated 26 January 1028:
“I, Hezekiah, the bridegroom, will provide her with clothing, roof and food, supply her with all her needs and wishes according to my ability and to the extent I can afford. I will conduct myself toward her with truth and sincerity, with love and affection, I will not grieve and oppress her and will let her have food, clothes and marital relations to the extent habitual among Jewish men ... Sarna the bride heard the words of Hezekiah and agreed to marry him and be his wife and companion in purity, holiness and fear of God, to listen to his words, to honor and hold him dear, to be his helper and to do in his what a virtuous Jewish woman is expected to do, to conduct herself towards him with love and consideration, to be under his rule, and her desire will be towards him.”5
48-4 “Acts 4:34,35 there were no needy among them because people who had houses would sell them and lay the money at the apostles feet ... So you see this is a great principle in the Body, and when this principle disappeared, the church disappeared.” Excessive Need, 11/24/92, p. 6.
6The quotation omits what is absolutely essential to understanding the point of the quoted passage — that the fruit of giving up everything is that people’s needs are met. That is the great principle which, when lacking, resulted in the demise of the church — because people’s needs weren’t getting met! They stopped loving one another as Messiah had loved them.
Here is the full quotation with the text the authors omitted in italics:
Acts 4:34,35 — “...there were no needy among them because people who had houses would sell them and lay the money at the apostles feet and then distribution was made to everyone who had need...”
The wealth was spread abroad in the Body. The apostles did not go and spend it on themselves. These apostles were selected, hand-picked by our Master’s hand. What you see in Acts 4:32 is a witness of what our Master taught the disciples for 3 1/2 years, and, when His Holy Spirit came, they manifested that. Even Barnabus (v. 36) who became an apostle with Paul, sold his farm and put every bit of money at the apostles feet and if he had any needs, it would be taken care of by the Body. So you see this is a great principle in the Body, and when this principle disappeared, the church disappeared.
So the great principle the teaching speaks of is not simply the fact of giving up possessions, but the outworking of love in the Body through obedience to the gospel.
49-7 Clearly there was a class of Christians in the early Church who were rich, but were encouraged to be generous. This is consistent with Paul’s admonition to the rich in 1 Tim 6:17-19.
To the authors, 1 Tim 6:17-19 proves that it is all right to be rich, so long as you are generous. This is because they do not interpret Paul in the light of our Master’s words recorded in the Gospels. If they were willing to do what our Master said, they would see clearly what Paul meant.
The subject of this verse is those who are rich in this present world and its hope is that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. To us, it speaks of those who have not yet taken hold of that which is life indeed — the unsaved. Paul was exhorting Timothy, in a way not unlike our Master’s words in Lk 16:9, to preach the gospel to the rich. We can relate to his words, because there are often rich people who live around us, who are often our customers, and have shown themselves to be friends to us. We can use the contrast between our common life of sharing (that which is life indeed) and their empty life, rich though it is in possessions, to help them see their need of our Master.
And if scripture is to interpret scripture, then 1 Tim 6:17 is certainly not written to believers, because it was the love of this present world that caused Demas to desert Paul in 2 Tim 4:10.
50-0 The second deals with a war between a great king and a little king, where the point is that the disciple must risk everything, even death, to be His follower.
The authors have missed the point completely. The story of the two kings has nothing to do with risking death, but everything to do with voluntarily surrendering your life and possessions to meet the terms of peace. Those who heard our Master speak those words did not miss the point — they were more acquainted with the grim realities of war than we are. The terms of peace of a conquering king amount to nothing less than total capitulation. According to Dt 20:10-14, meeting the terms of peace meant becoming slaves of the conquering king — all that you have and are and hope to be is forfeited. You and all you possess become his possession, unless you wished to attempt to save your life. Then you would have to arm yourself against the greater king and take your chances against Yahshua in battle when He returns (Rev 19:11-21 and 17:14).
Of course, Christians have a way of spiritualizing these words so that their practical reality is comfortably distant, as the authors have done in their report. But it was the emptiness of this same lukewarm, self-satisfied mysticism that caused us to come out of the ranks of traditional Christianity. We saw the Savior who is presented in the Scriptures as worthy of the self-sacrificing devotion which He demands. To us there is no point in arguing that His demands are optional.
We do not see any basis upon which to take our Master’s words any other way but literally. All of his twelve disciples literally gave up everything to follow Him (Mk 10:28). He called the rich young ruler to literally give up everything (Mk 10:21-22), otherwise surely when the young man went away sad, the Master would have told him he only meant to give up everything in his heart. On the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who responded to Peter’s presentation of the Good News literally gave up their possessions (Acts 2:44-45). So why is it so hard for the authors to believe that our Master could have meant Lk 14:26-34 literally?
50-2 The historical books simply describe what was ... it is a dangerous procedure to leap from “is” to “ought.” For doctrine, one must turn to Paul’s, Peter’s, James’, and John’s letters.
With this pronouncement the authors relegate our Master’s words to second place (contrary to Col 1:18; see also page 30). But the purpose of the Gospels is to tell the Good News — the actual words our Master spoke — so that we could obey them and receive eternal life (Jn 3:36). By contrast, Paul’s letters were addressed to those who had already become disciples, in order to address problems in the churches; their purpose is not primarily to present the gospel, but to teach those who have already come into salvation. You can tell what Peter’s understanding of the gospel was by the effect of his preaching: people were cut to the heart and actually died in baptism, surrendering their possessions, and trusting the apostles to do with them as they saw fit.
What happened on the day of Pentecost is no mystery, since:
1) In Mt 28:20 the Master commanded his disciples, including Peter, to make disciples (Lk 14:26-33), teaching them to obey all that He had commanded them.
2) What He commanded them is recorded in the four gospels.
3) On the day of Pentecost, true to His word (Jn 14:26), the Holy Spirit brought to Peter’s memory all that the Master had taught them.
4) Peter preached what came to his memory, and the result was what is recorded in Acts 2-4.
So what is the purpose of the two accounts of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, with their vivid picture of the abundant life they experienced? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to write such a glowing description? To be ignored and explained away? And where can that life be found in the churches of Christianity today? How does the fruit of Peter’s gospel, based only on his intimate knowledge of his Master’s words and life, compare to the fruit of the gospel that Christians have extrapolated from Paul’s letters (apart from our Master’s commands) to the churches which were already experiencing the seeds of decay?
51-0 Thus, private property was allowable in the early Church with no demand to sell all.
This is an amazing conclusion, given that the context of the passage is the very strong and clear precedent:
“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need. And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But a certain man named Ananias...” (Acts 4:34 - 5:1)
The overwhelming emphasis of that passage is the normalcy of giving up all, and the story of Ananias and Sapphira is only meant to emphasize that by way of contrast.
The interpretation that the authors allude to in our freepaper article, An Object Lesson, is one that we had already judged as incorrect before we ever discussed the issue with them. When they brought it up in our meeting at the Common Ground café in April “95, the author of that article told them that it was in error and explained to him our understanding of the passage. That day in the café they made it clear that they understood what we were saying. The fact that the Analysis, written during the eight months following that meeting, represents us as holding to that incorrect understanding makes evident that the intention of the authors is not to report what we do believe, but to discredit us. This is particularly clear in their treatment of the issue of possessions, in which they present a caricature of our thinking on the subject, with one terse sentence and three truncated quotations from teachings. Then they spend the remainder of the four pages allotted in refuting our position.
We told the authors that we agreed with their translation of Acts 5:4:
“[The land] remaining as it was, unsold and in your possession, was it not yours to do with as you saw fit?”
The apostles did not seize the property of disciples — it had to be freely given. And that is the way it is with us also — we do not seize anyone’s property, but we rejoice when new disciples show their love for our Master and His people by freely surrendering everything they own.
What seems obvious to us is that Ananias and Sapphira knew that the apostles and the community of believers fully expected them to give up everything — that is why they conspired to deceive. They wanted it to appear as though they were doing what Barnabas had done, but they did not really trust our Master or His Body. They wanted to set aside a little “nest egg” just in case things didn’t work out, in case the Body of Messiah proved to be a cult.7
Ananias and Sapphira conspired to deceive their supposed brothers and sisters, but our Master, who takes total identity with His Body, took it personally. The gospel they heard called them to give up everything, literally, but they reasoned it away, just as countless Christians have done after them. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter what was really in their hearts, for He did not want the community defiled by their treachery — He made them an object lesson, so that others would fear (Acts 5:11). So does that make the apostle Peter a dangerous, manipulative, oppressive cult leader who uses fear tactics to control people’s lives, as the NEIRR accuses Yoneq of being?
51-1 Never once does Jesus demand that Zaccheus give all his possessions away to be His true disciple.
The authors cite the case of Zaccheus as one whom our Master proclaimed a true son of Abraham without calling him to give up all of his possessions. But our Master didn’t need to call him to do what was already the response of his heart — Zaccheus voluntarily impoverished himself by giving away half of his wealth to the poor and using the rest of it to repay, four times over in obedience to the Law, those whom he had defrauded. As we pointed out in our April ’95 meeting, if just 12% of his wealth had been gained by fraudulent means, which it most certainly was, this process would have left him virtually penniless. His heart was far different from that of the “rich young ruler.” The difference in their hearts (as seen in their responses) is why salvation came to one and the other went away sad. Zaccheus saw the worth of our Master, which Mr. Pardon and most Christians today plainly do not see.
The mention of Peter’s house in Matthew 8:14, and the collections for the Jerusalem church in 1 Cor 16:1-2 and 2 Cor 9:7, and other similar passages, do not take away from the gospel that our Master and His disciples preached, but must be understood in light of it. In doing that we have seen how naturally these passages fit into the context of the common life that is the fruit of that gospel. Many of us have come into salvation as owners of houses, cars, and other possessions that have much practical use in the communities we entered into. Although they became common property, because of our heart to give them up, often they were commonly spoken of as “David’s house” or “John’s car” or whatever, as long as they continued to be in use. And from time to time we need to take collections to help a needy community. Naturally we usually call upon those who manage money — industry heads, household bookkeepers, etc. — when such needs arise. But often individual members will offer pocket change or money set aside for a personal need out of the burden of love in their hearts.
The underlying problem is that the authors, and Christianity in general, will not embrace the heart of the Good News, and so they look for “escape clauses” in the New Testament to justify their independence and their unwillingness to obey the gospel.
52-1 ...a believer named Erastus...
Erastus is not described as a believer or a disciple, but as the city treasurer.8 In fact, by way of contrast, the same passage makes reference to Quartus as a brother. Probably Erastus was a public servant who had shown himself to be a friend to the church. We have such friends, with whom we have built relationships over the years. For example, a friend we got to know up in Island Pond, who is a state legislator, stayed at our house in Providence when he was here on some business. If we had been writing a letter to our brothers in Island Pond at the time that he was visiting us, we might well have said, “Gordon (you know, our state legislator) sends his greetings.”
It is important to remember that the letters of the New Testament were written by human beings who didn’t know that what they wrote would later be combined together with the Old Testament as the Bible. It is not reasonable to assume that Paul included a greeting from Erastus, making a point that he was the city treasurer, in order to justify Christians in holding on to their own careers, wealth, and independent lives, when Paul himself had given up everything to follow our Master Yahshua (Phil 3:8).
52-3 ...he takes a few isolated verses out of context (Lk 14:33; Acts 2 and 4) and creates major doctrine.
This is a gross distortion of our position. We do not base our beliefs regarding possessions on those verses alone. “Forsaking all” is a major theme of our Master’s teachings, not just “a few isolated verses.” And the life that resulted from forsaking all is a major theme of Acts 2-6, as well as an historical fact. In fact, the angel who released the apostles from jail told them:
“Go your way; stand and speak to the people in the Temple [the religious establishment of their day] the whole message of this Life.”
Forsaking all is the practical reality of the death that we must die to be in Messiah.
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, so that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:3-7)
What does it mean, the likeness of His death? It’s really important to know what this means, because if we have not become united with Him in this way, then we can have no hope of being united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. That’s pretty serious! Is saying the sinners prayer the likeness of His death? Is Christian baptism the likeness of His death? When do Christians get saved — when they say the sinner’s prayer, or when they get baptized? What is their status between the time they say the sinner’s prayer and their baptism? What about those who are baptized as infants? Was that the likeness of His death? How cheap and easy can we make the likeness of His death?
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Our Master emptied Himself — He divested Himself of all that was rightfully His as God’s Son, and became a slave, and then He went even beyond that and surrendered His own physical life, allowing Himself to be nailed to the cross. So what is the likeness of His death? How do we empty ourselves? Could it have anything to do with our possessions, the things (both tangible and intangible) that are rightfully ours?
There is no being born again without dying first. You must be buried with Him in baptism (Rom 6:3-8), and of course no one would bury a live person. Because of your sin, you are under the sentence of death (Rom 6:23). While it is wonderfully true that Christ died for your sins, in order for His sacrifice to be of any value to you, you must voluntarily be united with Him in His death (Rom 6:5), otherwise you will not be made alive with Him. Your old man must die (and your estate distributed to your beneficiaries — the ones whom you desire to bless with your wealth — which is what normally happens when a person dies).
That is what happened in Acts 2:45 and 4:34-35 as the result of 3000 people giving up their lives — the new commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12) was formed as the new disciples made their wealth common to all. They all believed the Master’s words recorded in Lk 14:33: No one can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. It is obvious from what they did that the gospel Peter preached to them included these hard words of Jesus, which today’s preachers carefully avoid.
Acts 2:42 records that the early disciples devoted themselves to fellowship, and there is no true fellowship where there is inequity — where the rich politely greet their poor brothers in church and fail to supply their needs. In fact, the Greek word koinonia, translated as fellowship, also includes the meaning distribution. Those true disciples were devoted to distributing whatever they had to meet the needs of their brothers. Of course they were! For the love of God had been poured into their hearts (Rom 5:5) through the Holy Spirit, who gave them the power to obey the new commandment of their Master:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” (Jn 13:34; 15:12-14)
Lest we misunderstand the Master’s words or spiritualize them into nonexistence, the Apostle John made the practical application for us:
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:16-17)
The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t.
Obedience to the supposedly hard words of the Master is what gives birth to the church, as it did on the day of Pentecost. The church is a people who have all left everything to follow the Son of God, decisively putting to death their old man, and in doing so have entered into a covenant with Him to live no longer for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Cor 5:15). In fact, they can no longer live for or by themselves because they have given up all their own possessions and have left their careers behind. And the only way they can live for Him is by living for their brothers (1 Jn 4:20-21).
The miracle of Pentecost is that all those disciples could give up all their own possessions in obedience to the gospel and continue to stay alive by sharing all things in common with everyone else who had obeyed the gospel. That is what being a church entails.
So entering into the likeness of His death qualifies us to receive and participate in a rich, abundant life that is the likeness of His resurrection.
It is amazing how so many Christians, upon seeing or hearing about our common life, respond with something like, “Oh, that’s really nice, but I could never live like that. I’m too selfish. I need my space.” But Romans 6:7 says, he who has died is freed from sin [the selfish nature]. And our Master said, If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Lk 9:23). So we see that death is the missing ingredient in the Christian gospel — they do not know what it means to enter into the likeness of His death, so they never experience the likeness of His resurrection.
But really, the reason Christians find strange and offensive the way we understand the likeness of His death is that they have never come to see the worth of our Master and the indescribable love that He lavished upon us by His death on the cross, for if they really did, they would understand that total surrender is the only fitting response to His love. Anything less is like spitting in His face.
53-4 Again this doctrinal understanding is built primarily on the Book of Acts ...
Not so. Consider: Jn 17:11,21-23; 14:12; Eph 4:3; 5:21; Mk 12:28; Jn 11:51-52; Jn 10:16; Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:32; Rom 12:3-5,10; 15:5-6; 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:1-4; 12:11-13, 23-25; Phil 1:27; 2:1-3; Col 3:12-15; 1 Tim 2:8; 6:3-5; Gal 5:20-21; Mt 12:25; Mk 3:24-25; Lk 11:17. Unity and love expressed in deeds produces the life described in the Book of Acts.
53-4 ...this is an argument from silence at best. To assert that Paul never addressed this issue [living in community] because it was just the natural outcome of obeying the “words of the Master” is incredulous.
Ironically the authors argue from silence in the very next paragraph, saying that the lack of specific reference to community in Paul’s letters proves that it wasn’t the norm in the early church. But, if one reads Paul in the proper context, his corrections and instructions only make sense in the context of living a common life. The common life of the Edah was a presupposition to all of Paul’s writings because he had the right hand of fellowship (koinonia) with the twelve and all that it entails. If one reads Paul’s letters to the churches in that context, it becomes evident that the churches were falling away to one degree or another. That this falling away was indeed happening is verified by the writings of the apostle John in Rev 1:19 - 3:22.
For example, in 2 Ths 3:10, Paul exhorts them not to let anyone eat who will not work (even though, according to verse 9, there was a support structure in place that would provide for those in need). This presumes a degree of authority and connectedness that fits the pattern of our life far more easily than that of Christianity. It is consistent with what Paul says in 1 Ths 2:13-14 about them being imitators of the churches of God in Judea, for which they were persecuted by those who would not obey the gospel (2 Ths 1:8). The love they had for one another was obvious by the way they cared for one another (1 Ths 1:8; 4:9; 2 Ths 1:3-4).
And then there is Paul’s admonition in 2 Cor 6:14-18 to come out from their midst and be separate, which suggests a distinct society of believers who are not “yoked together” with unbelievers.
54-3 All true believers are already one spiritually by their living connection with Christ via the Holy Spirit... Jesus and the Father are One by an ineffable, divine interpenetration. This is the kind of oneness ... that believers share ... this unity shared by believers is a mystical oneness ... this unity is of necessity invisible and does not consist in some outward organizational structure.
How is the world (who, according to 1 Cor 2:14, cannot discern spiritual things) supposed to perceive this “ineffable, divine interpenetration” so that they can know that the Father sent the Son, as Jn 17:20-23 demands:
“I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You sent Me, and have loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
The apostle Paul exhorted those in his care to have one mind (Rom 15:5; 1 Cor 1:10; Phil 1:27; 2:2). Is this cultic? Or is it the prophetic mandate of the New Covenant, that we have one heart and one way (Jer 32:39; Acts 4:32)?
“And this good news of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Witness means an attesting of a fact; evidence; testimony as to the existence of something tangible or real by firsthand observation.
The good news shall be proclaimed in the whole earth as a testimony to the nations of the existence of the kingdom by those who have observed it or experienced it through their senses. Or, as the Apostle John put it, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled ... we proclaim to you” (1 Jn 1:1-2). This is what it means to bear witness — to speak of what you have seen and heard and touched.
Our Master wanted with all his heart for Matthew 24:14 to be fulfilled. But the good news could not be a witness of the kingdom apart from the demonstration of love as a visible, physical reality. That demonstration is the life of a people who live the common life of Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-35, loving one another as Messiah loved them, laying down their lives for each other every day (Lk 9:23). That common life of love is the evidence of the kingdom that gives credibility and confidence to those who are sent out to proclaim the good news. It is the life of the Body of Messiah, the physical representation on earth of our Master who is in heaven.
It is a myth that the Holy Spirit can dwell in a divided body, just as the human spirit cannot dwell in a human body that is hacked into pieces. The Christian “Body of Christ” is a mystical, invisible body — a concept that would have appealed to the Gnostics of the first century. Indeed, the spirit of Gnosticism is very much alive in Christianity today. Like the Gnostics, Christians today find their security in what they know or believe in their minds, not in the fleshing out of the Master’s commands. They might as well deny the incarnation, for they deny the very purpose for which the Father sent His Son to earth:
“[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14)
This people is the demonstration that the Holy Spirit was sent to produce, as He did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41-47). Without that demonstration, the good news cannot be proclaimed as a witness, because there is no evidence of the kingdom.
What we have labored to explain to the NEIRR is that the church is not “some outward organizational structure,” but a common life together. Being one as our Master is one with the Father is the result of communion with Him. It is organic, alive, vibrant — the Edah, community, swarm, witness.
55-1 Then there are the numerous references to your home, or the church in your home, Philemon 2; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 11:22; 16:19; Colossians 4:15.
That is precisely what we are saying — the church was in their houses! The church is in our houses (the ones we don’t sell and lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet). To force the possessive pronoun “your” or “their” to imply or require a legal or exclusive ownership is foreign to the realities of normal speech. We in the Community commonly speak of “my” house and “your” house in a quite natural way without there being any assumption of exclusive ownership. But the point of these passages is that the church was in their houses.
56-0 “The light is shining from the 8th day, the millennial Sabbath makes the shadow on this age ... The shadow will be here until the light no longer shines to make the shadow.”
9In place of the ellipsis (...) should have been the sentence, “The shadow does not pass away until the anti-type comes.” It might cause people to think of the Sabbath in the same light they do of the Old Covenant animal sacrifices, a type which had its fulfillment in the New Covenant. Then the Sabbath would be seen, in light of Col 2:16,17, to be a type whose anti-type has not yet come, as the word Sabbatismos in Heb 4:9 would support, instead of something that has already passed away. Then, like any other type, it would still be kept by the people of God as a sign of what is to come, and as a sign of who God’s people are.
57-0 Within the New Covenant, Christians are never encouraged to remember the Sabbath as the seal or sign of this covenant. Instead, believers are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of” Him “until He comes again.” Thus, the Lord’s supper is the New Covenant sign between the Lord of the covenant and His vassals.
It is interesting, then, that the early church kept the Lord’s Supper at the close of the Sabbath (Lev 23:32) and the beginning of the first day of the week — that is, on Saturday night, as is clear from Acts 20:7-8. In fact, the Good News Bible (TEV) translates this, “On Saturday evening ...” And that is what we do, too, followed by teachings on First Day (Sunday).
Why did our Master instruct his disciples, speaking of the days of the great tribulation at the end of the age, to pray that their flight may not be on a Sabbath? What difference would it make to Christians today? But to His people who love and keep his commandments, it makes complete sense. God ordained the Sabbath as a sign forever (Ex 31:13,16; 2 Chr 2:4), and forever has not yet come to an end. This still applies in the New Covenant because the church is the twelve tribes of Israel (Eph 2:12; Gal 6:16; Acts 26:7; Rev 21:9-12).
57-1 Next, Paul now moves on to food, drink, festivals, new moon (celebrations) and Sabbaths. These things he declares to be a mere shadow of “what is to come.”
The word mere is not in the text. The literal understanding of the present tense of are in Col 2:17 is quite natural in relation to the future tense of the phrase that follows, what is to come. The rich social life of the Body of Messiah is a foretaste of the reality of the Kingdom age that is to come, to which the phrase the substance belongs to Christ refers. In other words, the reality of the Kingdom that Messiah will establish when He returns casts a shadow on this current age as we anticipate His coming. Our festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths are to be a foretaste in this age of what the coming Kingdom age will be like.
There is no indication that the Judaizers were trying to force the keeping of festivals and the Sabbath on an unwilling church. Furthermore, in the verses in Colossians that follow, it seems clear that the people Paul was warning the Colossians against were inclined to be ascetics, who would be more likely to judge the Colossian believers for entering into the festive New Moon celebrations that were occurring every month than to try to force them to keep feasts that they were not celebrating. In fact, Acts 20:6 mentions matter-of-factly that Paul left Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and the next verse indicates that he intended to continue his travels on the day after the Sabbath, for of course he wouldn’t travel on the Sabbath.
58-4 The practice of the early Church also evidences this change from Saturday to Sunday. Note the following quotes from early Church fathers...
10It is interesting that in one place the authors criticize us for making use of extra-biblical sources, and then in another they make use of them to try to prove their point. At any rate, we acknowledge that by the beginning of the second century, the church had already fallen away, and it is not surprising that they abandoned the Sabbath.
So, the issue concerning the Sabbath and this “council” is not whether the early church worshipped on the Sabbath, but that the Catholic Church subsequently assumed the power to change God’s word, as the following teaching11 says:
The substituting of the Sunday for the Sabbath day is not a thing which the Catholic Church either denies or attempts to conceal. On the contrary, it frankly admits it and points to it with pride, as evidence of its power to change even the commandment of God.
This is an excerpt from Catholic Catechism (with the apostolic blessing of Pope Pius X on this subject of the change of the Sabbath):12
“Question: Which is the Sabbath Day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath Day.
Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church in the council of Laodicea (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.”
The council at Laodicea, if there even was one, seems to have been insignificant in stature, compared to the ones which produced the creeds. We believed the catechism to be telling the truth regarding an event in history. While perhaps we are to be faulted for not checking up on it, in a larger sense, of course, the catechism was telling the truth. The Christian Church has transferred the day of rest from the Sabbath to whatever Sunday means to Christians. There is no dispute about that. That was the simple and clear point of the teachings.
Much is made of the improper dating of this council, but the entire context of the quote from the teaching would make it clear that it is not the date which is important, it is the separation from God’s purposes and word which is important:
Heb 6:4,5,6 talks about a people who have tasted the power of the age to come. The Edah are the people who have tasted the power of the age to come, who will be obedient to His law, who keep His holy feasts, who keep the appointed times because they are shadows of things to come (Col 2:16). The Sabbath has not passed away. The Catholic Church and all her daughters have changed the Sabbath to Sunday in 336 AD at the council of Laodicea. How [much were they] spit out of Messiah’s mouth by this time to annul Ex 20:8-11? When they did that, of course, they took away the sign that they were God’s people ...
59-3 Messianic Communities has taken the narrow way of Matthew 7:13-15 and made it microscopic.
So concerning the narrow way, which our Master said few would find (Mt 7:14): Are the 1.8 billion people of Christianity the few, or is it just the 500 million Protestants? Is that what our Master had in mind when he said few? Clearly Christianity is more comfortable with the broad way of Mt 7:13.
60-6 The Communities’ doctrine of the “sent ones” seems to be based almost exclusively upon Romans 10:14. But it is isolated from the rest of Scripture and interpreted in a vacuum.
When our Master sent out his disciples in Mt 10:5-14,40, Mk 6:7-11, and Lk 10:1-16, He said, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” This, along with Jn 7:17-18, is the context of Romans 10:14 and of our doctrine of “sent ones.” There is no other basis for preaching or receiving the gospel. There is not a single instance recorded in the New Testament in which a person was saved apart from receiving a person filled with the Holy Spirit and bringing the good news.