“Energized” by the Spirit

Seventh-Day Adventists follow the teaching of Ellen G. White. They seem to defend everything she wrote whether she agreed with the Scriptures or not. She was in error on many things—not the least of which was insisting that worship be on the Sabbath day because it was part of the Law of Moses—even though the New Testament says that the Law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14) and that we are under the new covenant of Jesus (Heb. 8:6-7). But much more information is available on this subject in other articles.

The point is that even on their advertising brochures one of their local groups quotes from her. The sixpanel brochure has a front cover that identifies itself as Solomon Porch Advent Ministries, complete with name, address, telephone, and website. The first two inside columns serve as a worship program; the third one lists announcements. The fifth page identifies what the Solomon’s Porch Church is, and the last one contains a quotation from Ellen G. White, a portion of which is cited below.

There is too much formality in our religious services. The Lord would have his ministers who preach the word energized by His Holy Spirit; and the people who hear should not sit in drowsy indifference, or stare vacantly about, making no responses to what is said.

The gist of the entire paragraph is that people should be involved in worship, occasionally saying, “Amen,” when it is warranted. She goes so far as to say that the “spirit of the world has paralyzed” worshipers and that the “truths of God’s word are spoken to leaden ears and hard, unimpressible hearts,” which is quite an indictment. We agree that for worship to be in spirit and in truth, all must participate in each of the various aspects of worship.

The puzzle is what she means in the paragraph cited above when she says ministers should be “energized by His Holy Spirit.” So what is supposed to happen? The Holy Spirit revealed God’s Word, and it is a message of eternal life. What is supposed to make it better than that? Was Paul not energized by the Holy Spirit when he preached directly by inspiration? Even so, Eutychus fell asleep (Acts 20:9). The problem was not with Paul, the Holy Spirit, or the Word. Eutychus simply “was overcome by sleep.”

Surely, he did not intend to fall asleep; he was undoubtedly eager to hear what Paul had to say, but a combination of various factors probably led to what occurred. He may have been up since dawn, worked all day, and it was way past his usual time for sleep. Paul did speak until midnight. He could also have been ill, and his body needed rest. We don’t know what all entered into it, but it was not the fault of God’s Holy Word.

Would Eutychus have remained awake if he had been saying an occasional, “Amen”? Not necessarily. When someone is tired, he can say, “Amen,” and still fall asleep between the next two syllables. Today, we might avoid this embarrassment if we made sure that we were well-rested before coming to worship (although this is an ideal situation that is not always possible).

So, if a person could fall asleep while an apostle inspired of the Holy Spirit spoke, what does Ellen G. White mean by ministers “energized” by the Holy Spirit? Did she expect them to shout periodically or wave their arms in the air? Was she advocating that they leap around the podium like the prophets of Baal did around their altar? All of these might keep people awake, but they are not proof of being energized by the Spirit.

Did she mean what some people have since talked about—that the Bible is basically a dead letter, and it needs to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit who inspired it in the first place. At first glance, some think that such a notion makes sense, but if what the Spirit initially inspired has become dead, then what will happen when it is illuminated the second time? Will additional illuminations need to follow every time it begins to become dead again?

Or maybe White just means that a minister should preach with enthusiasm. Brethren have made the same observation, however—totally unrelated to the Holy Spirit. As one black brother said years ago: “Either put some fire into the sermon, or throw the sermon into the fire.” Just because someone does not “appear” to be as enthusiastic as someone else does not mean he is deficient. Different individuals express themselves in different ways.

The same is true if people think White is talking about conviction. A number of different preaching styles might be observed, and every one of them could be coming from a person of conviction, yet seldom might any two of them express themselves identically. In fact, some who seem very enthusiastic and “full of the Holy Spirit” may have no convictions at all. Everything they do might be for show or to garner financial support, as some do from a TV audience.

The only person who is really “energized” by the Holy Spirit is the one who preaches what the Spirit inspired in the Word. One obtains convictions and enthusiasm from knowing the Word of God, and that condition results only from studying and meditating upon Holy Writ. No one today receives knowledge directly from God; it comes through diligent study and application of that which edifies and builds up. For that reason Paul commended the Word of God (Acts 20:32). Only the Scriptures will make a person wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) and cause him to teach or preach the truth. Relying on the word of men (or women) results in error.

Perfect Pitch

This event actually occurred, although four decades have elapsed since it happened. Names and places are omitted, however, to protect the participants. Some men of the congregation had an opportunity to attend a song leading class with a nearby church hosted by brethren. A few men decided to take advantage of the opportunity and felt that they profited immensely. They all returned with bright, shiny pitch pipes to use in order to be certain that each song began on the right note. Not everyone was convinced that these contraptions would make that much of a difference, but no one protested—until the day when its use caused a tiny problem. The brother directing this portion of the worship announced the song, and the congregation began to sing when suddenly the song leader had an uncontrollable urge to cough. He had been taught, as most people have, that it is not polite to cough without covering one’s mouth. The only problem was that he did not have a free hand. He was holding the songbook in one hand and the pitch pipe in the other. Reacting quickly, he used that hand to cover his mouth. BEEP! BEEP! The preacher, sitting near him, held out his hand and motioned to him. So, he reluctantly and sheepishly surrendered his pitch pipe, never to receive it back.

How to Sleep Through a Sermon

[This article was published by a church in another part of the state of Florida. It has been copied and adapted (and who knows what else) from a February, 2008 issue of Homiletics. Coincidently, it shows that clean humor exists. The full title is: How to Sleep Through a Sermon Without the Preacher Noticing.]

We all know how taxing it is to get up early on a Sunday morning. Most folks arise early Monday through Friday because they need to work for a living. If Saturday is a day off, some will be up early (maybe before dawn) to go fishing or otherwise prepare for a day of recreation. That only leaves Sunday to sleep in and really enjoy oneself. Couldn’t worship wait just a little while? There should be time for a leisurely awakening (sometime around 11:00 A.M., let’s say). After getting ready and eating breakfast out, there is plenty of time left in the day to remember God—well, say, after a judicious nap. We could all meet around 4:00 P.M., and everyone would be happy, but, no, we are accustomed to meeting at nine or ten in the morning. One can scarcely blame those who need additional rest after rising early enough to be present. So, here are some tips on how to sleep during the sermon without getting caught.

First, never fall asleep flat on the pew. To avoid this embarrassment, it is actually better to sit in a crowded pew, shoulder to shoulder, with worshipers on your left and on your right. Otherwise, you might slide into a prone position, and that’s really noticeable. Read Acts 20:9 and learn from it. A guy named Eutychus was sitting in a window while Paul was preaching, and he toppled three stories to the ground below. He was “taken up dead,” but fortunately the apostle Paul was able to intervene and restore his life. Our aim here is not to be judgmental or “preachy,” but bad things can happen when you snooze without taking the proper safeguards. Besides, your preacher is no apostle Paul. Trust me.

Second, when you sleep, don’t fall completely asleep; just take power naps instead. If you fall completely asleep, your sleep apnea may kick in, and that would make you conspicuous. It’s far better to just half-sleep and remain vaguely aware of your surroundings. It helps to use a Bible to prop your chin up—or lean against your head. You can close your eyes as long as the Bible is in view. That way the preacher will probably think you’re praying. Also, you’ll be ready if the preacher asks you to lead the closing prayer.

Third, have a friend be a watcher. Sit with someone who is sympathetic to your cause. Your spouse might not be the right person for this. A spouse tends to poke you, which in turn may cause you to shout suddenly, attracting attention to yourself. No, you need a friend who will give you a gentle nudge if the preacher seems to be looking in your direction a lot. Make sure that a Bible is open on your lap or is prominently in view. In those moments when you are barely conscious, turn a few pages, rustling them loudly, so that people will think you are following along. Occasionally, your friend can rouse you so that you can say a quick, “Amen,” and then get right back to your nap.

Fourth, do not sit on the back pew. Believe it or not, this is the first place preachers look for sermon slackers. If you sit in the first few rows, you can actually get more sleep because normally preachers are looking right over you. You might think this ploy doesn’t work, but try it. You should come away well rested.

Fifth, make it a point not to sleep through the entire sermon. After all, the preacher probably has something you really need to hear. But once you’ve heard it, you have no further obligation to stay awake. Also, if you remain awake for at least part of the message, you can then refer to it on your way out, when you’re telling him how much you enjoyed the service. You can shake his hand and say, “Wonderful sermon, preacher! I especially enjoyed the part where….”

These tips have proven helpful to an awful lot of folks. Just make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Disassociation

The problem with a so-called “Christian” nation is that many so-called Christians disconnect themselves from the teachings of Christianity and the way they behave. One wonders, for example, how many “Christians” paid $125- $275 to go see the “Here Comes the Funny Tour” this past Monday night (Dec. 12, 2016). The four comics performing were Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Nick Swardson—some of whom once appeared regularly on Saturday Night Live.

So, what’s wrong with seeing comedians? Nothing, per se. About three decades ago this writer’s whole family went to see Jay Leno perform in Peoria. The humor was clean, and everyone was entertained (the price was not nearly so high back then, either). But it is sickening to see how this funfest is advertised. The Orlando Sentinel’s description on December 8th is that these men are “known for off-color, raunchy jokes” (A2). That’s the appeal? People don’t get enough of that in locker rooms and in some workplaces? They are willing to plunk down money to hear “professionals” use such terms?

Have we left the era of clean humor altogether in the past? Didn’t people laugh their heads off at Red Skeleton, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, George Goebel, Jackie Gleason, Bob Newhart, and many others whose humor did not need to rely on bathrooms or bedrooms to get laughs? What? Are we too “sophisticated” for that? Or have people just lowered their standards? Why do people suddenly erupt into applause when vulgar terminology is used? What’s the motivation behind that? Are they afraid of being called a “square”?

We teach little children, “O be careful, little ears, what you hear.” So what happens when they grow up? Faulty memories? Christianity teaches that we should not speak like these “comedians.” Paul wrote: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). Those who utter words of vulgarity violate this principle taught in the New Testament of Jesus; those who listen sin, also. A Christian cannot engage in either of these practices. Yet how many who speak corrupt language and listen to it with approval count themselves as Christians? Not Sandler—he’s Jewish. One’s actions must be consistent with that which he professes.

The Bible and Dance

Coming soon at a church building near you will probably be a dance troupe—especially if you live near Cleveland, Tennessee. Newspapers love stories like this one. If fifteen people were baptized during a gospel meeting, they would probably not even include a whisper of it. But let someone brew beer while worshiping God, or serve non-alcoholic Pina coladas while doing Jamaican dances, and those will receive attention. The article about the dance troupe garnered a large layout in section E of the Times Free Press of Chattanooga on November 19, 2016.

Above the headline, across the top of the page (except for one column) is a photograph about 5 x 7, containing a scene from the story of Joseph. Underneath two lines of description of the story is found a large title in the following style:

The BIBLE
In DANCE

To the right of the title is a small picture (about 1½ x 2), that shows a cast member being made up. Below the title in a (2 x 2¾ inset) is one of the performers, who also teaches dance. The last scene on the page (just under 4 x 6 in size) shows more characters from the Troupe. A performance at Lee University was being advertised. The 45 dancers were performing “Dreamer: The Diary of Joseph” for free (E1). One wonders what kind of dancing is performed. The answer is that it is a mixture of different types—from ballet to hip hop, with even some tap dancing thrown in.

What is its purpose? “It is used to add beauty and emotion to a service” (E6). No doubt it may do exactly that, but the question few ever ask is, “Did God authorize it?” (Most people do not understand this principle, which shall be examined more fully later.) God certainly knew about the power of dance. It found a tremendous response in Herod—so much so that he promised half of his kingdom to Herodias’ daughter. John was beheaded as a result of the beauty and emotion she evoked.

The article focuses on Unity Dance Troupe, but it also mentions that dancing in worship has become more popular in recent years. This group does not dance the way Herodias’ daughter did, which most scholars have thought was in quite a seductive manner. The costumes of the Troupe are loose-fitting and not intended to draw attention to their bodies—but rather “keep their audience focused on the message they are trying to convey” (E6). A spokeswoman for the group says: “I think audiences see the heart and worship behind it and see the presentation of Bible stories in a new perspective” (E6). But again, the question must be asked: “Does God authorize it?”

The Old Testament

As one might expect, Miriam and the women of Israel are cited as justification for dancing in worship today. Not much is actually said in Exodus 15:20-21:

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea!”

It was a joyous occasion. Many believe that, after each section was sung by the men (Ex. 15:1-18), the women responded with this chorus. The text does not say what kind of dancing it was, nor is any specific motion mentioned in other similar verses, such as Judges 11:34 (Jephthah’s daughter); 21:21 (the daughters of Shiloh); 1 Samuel 18:6 (Israelite women upon David’s return); 21:11 (a reference to 18:6); 29:5 (another reference to 18:6)—or even Exodus 32:19, where there was dancing in connection with the golden calf. Nothing in the Hebrew word conveys the type of dancing referred to. It seems to be an expression of joy.

The Hebrew word cited above was Strong’s #4246. A related word [#4234], is also found several times (Ps. 30:11; 149:3; 150:4; Jer. 31:4, 13; Lam. 5:15). This Hebrew word simply describes a generic dance.

Two other words are used less frequently. One of those [#2342] Strong defines as “to twist, whirl, dance, writhe, tremble, be in anguish, be pained.” It is translated “dance” in Judges 21:21 and 23. Another word finds its way into Hebrew texts [#7540], and it refers to “skipping about, dancing, or leaping.” It is used in Job 21:11, Ecclesiastes 3:4, Isaiah 13:21, and 1 Chronicles 15:29.

The word describing David’s dancing is found only in 2 Samuel 6:14 and 16 [#3760], which means to whirl or dance. The only other Old Testament verse with dancing in it (not already mentioned) is 1 Samuel 30:16. The word used there [#2287] usually refers to holding a feast, but it also can include dancing.

These are all the words used in the Old Testament that are translated dancing. Generally, there is no negative connotation inherent in these words. Something evil might happen in connection with dancing, such as being associated with the golden calf, but that is incidental. Most of the dancing was individual and involved nothing more than expressions of joy, as with Miriam and the women, the daughters of Shiloh, David, and Jephthah’s daughter. As Solomon put it in Ecclesiastes 7:4: “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” The contrast in both cases is between sorrow and joy.

What, therefore have we seen about dance in the Old Testament? Many participated in it on certain occasions. But there are three notable points to observe from all these words and passages. First, none of these involved concepts that we find in modern ballroom dancing. None of the instances involved men and women as partners. Second, none of the dancing involved lascivious movements or unchaste handling of males and females. Third, none of these instances involved worshiping God. They were not done in either the tabernacle or the temple, nor were they conducted by the priests or the Levites.

The New Testament

But even if they had been authorized in worship, it would have been under a covenant that is no longer in effect. The Law was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), and it has been replaced by the New Testament of Jesus Christ. No one can go to the Old Testament and cite it as authority for what is practiced in New Testament worship. This is true as it pertains to dancing, the use of instrumental accompaniment when singing, using incense, or worshiping on the Sabbath day.

“But,” someone protests, “Psalm 150:4-5 says that we should praise God with the timbrel and the dance, with stringed instruments, with flutes, and with loud cymbals.” Yes, it does, but that was under the Old Testament. Paul states very clearly in Galatians 5:1-4 that anyone who tries to go back to the Old Testament to justify a religious practice (such as circumcision) must obey everything written there (including animal sacrifices)—and even then he would still only have succeeded in falling from grace. Notice that no one ever quotes a New Testament verse to justify dancing or the use of musical instruments.

The reason is that our system of worship does not authorize these practices. We must have authority from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit who inspired the New Testament for us to be certain that what we teach and practice is, in fact, pleasing to God (Col. 3:17). It is not necessary to have a command that says NOT to dance or use incense or use musical instruments to accompany singing. Where does God authorize it?

Are there any words in the New Testament that deal with dancing? Yes. One word [3769] is used in four verses. Two of them refer to a general statement the Lord made: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance” (Matt. 11:17, Luke 7:32). The other two instances both refer to the daughter of Herodias dancing for Herod and his friends (Matt. 14:6; Mark 6:22). Notice that, as with the Old Testament verses, 1) none of these involve concepts that we find in modern ballroom dancing or instances of men and women dancing as partners; 2) none of the dancing involved lascivious movements or unchaste touching; 3) none of these instances involved worshiping God; and 4) none of them were done in connection with the church. So far as we know, Jesus did not dance, leap, or whirl before God, nor did any of His apostles.

One other Greek word is translated “dancing,” and it is found only in Luke 15:25 [5525]. It refers to a circle, a ring, round dancing. Nothing seems to be wrong with this kind of dancing. Many countries have various folk dances that do not resemble in the slightest intimate ballroom dancing, nor is there any inappropriate behavior. Those dancing in Luke 15:25 were rejoicing in the return of the prodigal son. Since the father in the story represents God the Father, this expression of happiness was evidently authorized. However, this event does not authorize dancing in worship to God. Nothing either in the Old or New Testaments does.

Social and Religious Acceptance Is Not Adequate

The newspaper article says that certain religious groups are accepting the Dance Troupe. The United Methodist Church has been okay with it for more than ten years; the Church of God has allowed performances there, also. Even the Baptists are into it (E6). The article found that amusing.

Who hasn’t heard jokes about Baptists and dancing—“Baptists think dancing is one of the seven deadly sins,” for example (E1)?

Now some are not only accepting it; they are involved in it. The article highlights Katie Ervin, who “joined a praise dancing club at age 9. Now a senior at Silverdale Baptist Academy, she began teaching praise dancing at age 15…” (E6).

However, a practice cannot be determined right or wrong by who accepts it. For centuries many religious groups rejected the use of instruments of music in worship, but now almost everyone accepts the practice. Yet those who opposed it had valid Scriptural reasons for doing so. For more than two hundred years, the people in the northern kingdom worshiped a golden calf as God in two different locations. They also had priests from just any tribe instead of from the Levites. They changed a feast day appointed by God (1 Kings 12:25-33). We don’t know how they felt about it when it was first done, but after a generation or so, it was accepted and never changed back. God took them into captivity because of the sins of Jeroboam, who made these changes (2 Kings 17:21). Passage of time does not change something wrong into something right.

Using a dance troupe is, at this time, something new and novel. It may well gain acceptance—especially if people find it meaningful. However, the acceptance of the practice will not be approved by God, who has not authorized it. If it prevails, it will be just one more thing that “Christians” have become enamored with. One wonders what kind of impact might be made upon this world if those professing to be Christians would spend as much time and study on being evangelistic. In other words, what if people studied to be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason of the hope that is within us? What if we were ready with Scriptural answers to Biblical questions? Having that ability takes talent, study, and practice, too.

A Celebrity Tells the Truth

Okay, so dealing with celebrities is always dicey. First of all, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about social or political affairs just because they enjoy celebrity status. And who knows how solid a position they hold is. But having thrown in a caveat, it is worth listening to what America’s Got Talent host, Nick Cannon, said about Planned Parenthood when he averred that the organization promoted “population control.” He also said they practice “modern day eugenics” and that they are inflicting “real genocide” on the African American community (Fox News, November 29, 2016).

What makes this a newsworthy story is that hardly any well-known personality has spoken with such earnestness and accuracy about Planned Parenthood. Margaret Sanger, the founder of the organization, did believe in practicing eugenics, which is defined as “higher rates of sexual reproduction among people with desired traits (positive eugenics), or reduced rates of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).” Less reproduction and sterilization is precisely what Sanger desired for the black population. One news article commented thus: “Cannon is absolutely correct. In New York City alone, more black babies are aborted than born alive.”

Planned Parenthood has always been about family planning—with an emphasis on having few or no children. The idea of planning a family is something that probably most couples do, but if the unexpected occurs, they do not usually decide in favor of abortion, which Planned Parenthood heartily recommends—and performs—for a fee. They are the largest abortion provider in the United States and have received money from the federal government for years— which hopefully will soon come to an end. Imagine—using the tax dollars of citizens to support this barbaric practice!

One news story said, “Cannon previously stated that he felt it was his duty to tell the truth.” They quote him as saying: “I come from a long line of community leaders and I’ve always thought that to who much is given, you’re responsible for that, much is required. So I use my platform to tell the truth at the end of the day,” he said, referring to Luke12:48. This is really impressive—a celebrity who can cite Scripture—and apply it correctly. If a few more would speak out—especially female celebrities—it might prove helpful in turning the tide against the pro-abortion propaganda.

Loyalty

Occasionally, loyalty is mentioned in a positive way—even in an age of “tell-all” books—but overall it seems not to be regarded as highly as it was in decades past. Its value is stated in a negative way in Proverbs 17:13: “Whoever rewards evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” The meaning is that God expects a person to deal kindly in return to the one who has practiced kindness toward him. A person may have unselfishly helped another with his time or money; it is not appropriate for that kind-hearted soul who sowed generosity to reap abuse. The ungrateful person will suffer as a result of it.

Several instances of this principle come to mind. David and his men had served as a wall to Nabal’s servants by night and day, according to one of his own servants (1 Sam. 25:16). David kept him safe, but did Nabal return even so much as an ounce of gratitude? No. He rebuffed and repudiated David outright and refused to donate any share of the harvest to his benefactor. His house would have suffered evil immediately had Abigail, Nabal the fool’s wise wife, not intervened. Due to her earnest efforts to keep her house from being harmed, only her husband died after God struck him.

David himself was not so fortunate when he rewarded faithfulness and loyalty with cruelty. Actually, David repaid both the goodness of God and the conscientious Uriah with evil. Uriah was such a faithful soldier that he refused, during a time of war, to return home and enjoy marital privileges while his fellow-soldiers were fighting for the kingdom. Therefore, David sent a message with Uriah to his commander, Joab, which turned out to be his own death sentence. David repaid evil for good because he desired Uriah’s wife. He also ignored the goodness of God who had given the king so much. Nathan, who rebuked David, said that by this action he despised the Lord. Although Proverbs 17:13 had not yet been written, Nathan informed David that the sword would never depart from his house (2 Sam. 12:8-10).

The history of David’s sons is indeed tragic. One (Amnon) forced himself upon his sister and was subsequently killed by their brother (Absalom). Then he eventually led a civil war against his own father David but was killed, much to the king’s sorrow. Another son (Adonijah) was put to death when Solomon began to reign because he wanted the kingdom for himself. Solomon observed firsthand the fulfillment of evil not departing from David’s house. Proverbs are sayings that are generally true; some exceptions might exist, but do we really want to take the chance on having to pay the price for disloyalty?

The Importance of the Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15 is known as the “resurrection” chapter in the New Testament (just as 1 Corinthians 13 is referred to as the “love” chapter). The reason for this designation is not that Jesus being raised from the dead occurred at that time; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all describe that event in the last chapters of their gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Nor does Paul mention it because it was the first time it was ever preached; that occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Paul deems it necessary to cover the subject thoroughly because the concept of a future Resurrection Day was being challenged.

Who would dare to challenge this doctrine? Was it some former Sadducees who could not part with what they formerly believed? Or had someone influenced brethren in Corinth that “the resurrection is already past” (2 Tim. 2:16-18). As a result of this teaching, Hymenaeus and Philetus were “overthrowing the faith of some.” Perhaps they (or someone in agreement with them) had been at Corinth. We do not know the source of the error, but some were definitely spreading it in this city. How does one go about proving that there is a future resurrection? Although Jesus had promised it, John had not yet recorded what the Lord said in John 5:28-29. Paul chose a logical way to deal with the false teaching.

The Gospel

He begins by reminding them of their obedience to the gospel. That gospel message includes certain facts: 1) Jesus died on the cross for our sins; 2) Jesus was buried in a tomb; 3) Jesus was raised up from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures. They had received that gospel, which includes the Lord’s resurrection, and they continued to stand in it. It would save them, also—unless they had believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Although Paul does not mention it here, he notes in Romans 6:3-5 that repentance and baptism involve our imitation of what the Lord did: We die to sin (repentance) and join Him in His death. We are buried in water as He was buried in the tomb. We arise to walk in newness of life the way the Lord was also raised up in a new existence. So the very gospel of Jesus, which we believe, involves the doctrine of the resurrection.

Jesus Was Raised

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that the resurrection was foretold by David in Psalm 16:8-11. He also added that Jesus was seen by the twelve after rising; they were all witnesses. Paul does not take the time to make the same Scriptural argument that Peter did, but he does list several occasions on which reliable witnesses saw Jesus after He arose. Paul lists six of them; a more complete list finds seventeen.

1. Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18: Mark 16:9-11).
2. Mary Magdalene rejoined the other women: the other Mary, Salome, Joanna, and other women
(Matt. 28:9-10).
3. Cephas (Simon Peter) (1 Cor. 15:5; Luke 24:34).
4. Cleopas and another disciple (Luke 24:12-32).
5. The apostles without Thomas (John 20:19-23).
6. The apostles with Thomas (John 20:24-29; 1 Cor. 15:5).
7. 500 brethren at once (1 Cor. 15:6).
8. James (1 Cor. 15:7).
9. Peter and 6 others at the lake (John 21).
10. The eleven in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20).
11. At the ascension (Acts 1:3-11).
12. Stephen (Acts 7:55).
13. Paul near Damascus (1 Cor. 15:8; Acts 9:3-6).
14. Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21).
15. Paul awaiting a hearing (Acts 23:11).
16. At Paul’s first defense (2 Timothy 4:17).
17. John on Patmos (Rev. 1:10-19).

The Flaw in the False Doctrine

Having established what the gospel is and that they had believed it, as well as listing various times Jesus was seen after He was raised up, Paul, in verse 12, asks a fundamental question of the church: “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” If no resurrection ever occurs, then Christ is not raised, either (v. 13). Then he provides several consequences that would result if Jesus did not actually come forth from the grave.

1. Our preaching is vain (14). No one would ever need to be evangelistic.
2. Your faith is vain (14, 17).
3. We are false witnesses (15). We are not just mistaken; we are all actual outright liars.
4. You are still in your sins (17).
5. Those who died in the faith have actually perished (18). They are not enjoying any reward.
6. If Christians only have hope now, we are to be pitied (19). Why? Because we lived and died based
on a lie. None of our expectations shall be met.

“Oh, but we never said any of those things,” one might imagine those in error as saying. “We don’t believe that. You’re not characterizing our position correctly.” That protest fails because everything Paul said was logical. If the dead rise not, then Jesus is not raised. If Jesus is not raised, these things Paul listed must follow. However, he says in verse 20; “But now Christ is risen from the dead….” From verses 21 to 28 Paul speaks on a related subject, but he returns to the list of reasons again in verse 29.

7. Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” Some believe that the Corinthians were baptized for those who had already died before obeying the gospel, much as Mormons think today that they can be baptized for their dead ancestors. Whatever the text means, it cannot mean that because the emphasis is in the wrong place. If the theory were true, then Paul should have said, “What will happen to all those people for whom you were immersed?” Instead, he asks what will happened to the ones being baptized for them, which would be a matter of small consequence since all it cost them was their time and getting soaked. The real concern should have been with those who were dead and remained lost.

8. Why did the apostles stand in jeopardy of losing their lives constantly (30-32a)? Paul continually put his life on the line every day in order to preach the gospel amidst strong opposition—prompted by Satan—who does not want anyone to be saved. Paul had even fought with wild beasts in Ephesus. Either this is literal or figurative. No record exists of a literal confrontation—even in the list of sufferings in his second epistle. How is it figurative?

Paul spent three years in Ephesus and wrote this letter to the Corinthians from there (1 Cor. 16:8-9). It was there that the gospel spread all over Asia Minor (Acts 19:8-10). Not only did he face the usual Jewish opposition, he also accumulated critics such as Demetrius and the silversmiths who caused an uproar because they made their living from making shrines honoring a local, revered goddess. Many citizens were no longer buying them; Paul’s preaching was threatening their livelihood. Another clue was that he admonished Christians there to put on the whole armor of God and to be ready for spiritual conflicts (Eph. 6:10-17). This may have been an ongoing struggle. Why fight all these battles if the dead do not rise? Just because it’s fun?

9. Christians might as well adopt the philosophy of the heathen: “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In other words, let’s just give ourselves over to physical pleasure. None will exist after death, if the dead do not rise. All that we are ever going to have is in this life; so grab whatever is available. Such a philosophy is not conducive to morality; it would lead to stealing, adultery, maybe even murder. If there is no pleasure after death, there can be no punishment, either. A material world yields these results.

A Valid Principle

As a result of the truths that Paul has presented, he concludes with an oft-quoted verse: “Do not be deceived: evil company corrupts good habits.” The King James has: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” What are the words used in the text? The word for “evil company” appears once as a noun [Strong, 3657]—homilia, from which we obtain homily. It is from homilos [3658], “all who travel” (Rev. 18:17). Homileo [3656], the verb, also derives from homilos (Luke 24:14-15, “talked together, communed”); Acts 20:11, “Paul talked a long while”; and Acts 24:26, Felix “conversed” with Paul. The word, then, includes companions, but usually they are engaged in a discussion.

Paul is talking about listening to false teachers—their evil communications—or as MacKnight put it, “profane discourses”—which is precisely what some in Corinth were doing, and it made this chapter on the resurrection necessary. When anyone communes with false teachers, those men exercise influence over him. First, they teach false doctrine, which, second, frequently leads to immorality, as Paul had just shown. If there is no resurrection, we may as well indulge ourselves in physical pleasures, for we are just going to die anyway. Their evil speech was corrupting good morals.

The word for “morals” is eethos [2239], and it appears only here, but it derives from ethos [1485], which is usually translated “custom” or “manner.” The good manners, morals, or customs, which brethren had been taught were in danger of being overthrown by the false doctrine that no future resurrection will occur.

The alternative, presented in verse 34, is to awake to righteousness. Some did not have the knowledge of God (that they once did); like the Galatians, they had removed themselves from it by listening to false teachers. The Greek word for “not having knowledge” is the one from which we obtain the word agnostic. This was shameful. One must listen to the right person. Whenever anyone starts contradicting God, he is not the right person to heed. When he begins to challenge the resurrection, one of the most fundamental teachings of Christianity, brethren should refuse to listen to him.

Mockery

Advocates of the heresy in Corinth were mocking the idea of the resurrection by asking difficult questions, such as, “How are the dead raised up? And with what kind of body do they come?” (v. 35). Paul answers that what is sown is different from what is raised. Below is a correct contrast of the two.

Earthly (40) – Heavenly
Corruption (42) – Incorruption
Weak (43) – Powerful
Natural (44) – Spiritual
Mortal (53) – Immortal

Mocking the resurrection is mocking God. Paul concludes the chapter by showing that the resurrection is a vital Christian doctrine because it teaches that Christians can conquer death—through Christ. The Hadean world cannot retain its hold over Christians; Jesus gives us the victory over it. Jesus is our living hope (1 Peter 1:3-5). Paul closes with a final charge—to the Christian. Because the resurrection is true, Followers of Jesus should be steadfast and immoveable—always abounding in the work of the Lord (58). Materialism is not our guide nor earthly pleasure our goal. We are saved to serve God, as well as mankind.

The Church of Fermented Ignorance (Literally)

A few decades ago the Herald of Truth was a weekly television program, and occasionally those who produced the program would send out contact information to churches located near an individual who had sent in a request for material. Members of the congregation meeting nearby that individual would then call on the person to see if the information had been received and to determine if they had any questions or needed additional material.

Another brother and I went to call on a lady who had requested a sermon. She invited us in, and we visited for a few minutes. She had received what she had requested and was not interested in anything else. In the course of our brief visit, she let us know that she enjoyed watching religious TV shows on Sunday morning while sipping wine but that she was not really interested in getting out and visiting any churches in the area. We talked afterward about whether to try to follow up further with her; the other brother commented, “No. She doesn’t want to get out or be involved with others. She’s content to sit at home and watch religious programming while getting soused.”

Now, there is an alternative for those who enjoy imbibing but want a more social and religious context. A church is being formed to accommodate just such individuals. On the front page of last Sunday’s Orlando Sentinel (Nov. 20, 2016) is the headline of an article (“Lutheran Church Founders Brew Faith” (A1). It tells the story of a couple of men who decided to brew their own beer in a garage, but in the process a church bubbled up. The beer lovers who met each week began conversations about God; then people started asking for prayers and sharing meals. Before they knew it, they had the makings of a “church” group.

In light of a recent survey, we should scarcely be surprised. When asked what people could not live without, heading the list at about 45% of those responding was WIFI; alcohol came in third. Imagine! Air conditioning and hot showers did not even make the top three. What is amazing is that so much of the population thinks that they could not do without alcohol. Why? Many of us have done without it our entire lifetimes. We don’t miss it, crave it, or need it to have a good time—or to help us worship God.

But the two founders, according to the newspaper article, are receiving approval for a “church” from a religious denomination.

Now, thanks to backing from the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the two Lutherans are refining plans to open a brewery/church in downtown Orlando. They say it’ll be a place where a taproom and beer vats can coexist with an altar and sanctuary (A1).

Can we anticipate seeing a future Headline: “Fight Breaks Out In Church”? It’s possible. But the quoted paragraph is bizarre on more than one level. Look at what it says about denominationalism—something never authorized in the Scriptures. Is there really a Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America? Does that statment imply a Synod for the other 49 states? And this is just one branch of the Lutheran Church. Do all the others have Synods, also? Does every religious denomination have “official” organizations like these? If so, just imagine how many of them exist all over the United States.

Lest someone fail to take the story seriously, there are beer kegs in one of the founders’ garage labeled, Castle Beer, produced by the Castle Church Brewing Community (A11). We have also noted in time past that some “church” groups have been meeting in taverns, but this goes way beyond that idea. Some say they are trying “to shed a holier-than-thou image” (A1). This effort should accomplish that goal; however, it will do nothing to cause people not to associate “Christians” with hypocrisy. Their motto—“brewing community, fermenting love” apparently is working. The support of beer-bibbers has reached 375. Currently they are meeting in homes “to study the Bible over craft beer” (A11).

The Concept

Most people instinctively know this mixture of the profane and the sacred is a bad idea. “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor. 15:33). Alcohol is not like caffeine that people get in coffee or soft drinks; it exercises a more dangerous influence on people. The first thing it does is affect the brain, loosening inhibitions and sound judgment. Solomon clearly wrote that people should not even look upon wine—let alone consume it (Pr. 23:31). The wine of which he spoke was not far different in alcoholic content than beer. Many beers (especially the Lite versions) are in the 4% range; others fluctuate between 6% and 8%. A few reach as high as 10% to 12%. Wines without today’s fortifications average, through natural fermentation about 10% and could reach 12%. To take something intoxicating and mix it with the Word of God is a profane move.

Although God does not approve of holier-than-thou attitudes (consider the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14), He does expect genuine holiness. In fact, one of the Scriptures that will probably never be mentioned favorably at the Castle Church is Titus 2:12. God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men, “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.” How many associate drinking beer with this description? And if people consume alcohol during worship, what about the rest of the day?

The Goal

Just when a person might think that this situation could not get any weirder, it does. The co-founders say that alcohol is not their focus. Really? Was it not already stated that the whole thing began while brewing beer in a garage? According to the news story, however, their “goal is to knock down the barriers separating many churches from their neighbors.” Wow! Who would have thought that beer could accomplish something that the Word of God could not? But, wait for it, guess what the missing ingredient is in this “evangelistic” approach?

If anyone answered, “Doctrine,” that is correct. One of the co-founders (who once “pastored” a Lutheran church) is quoted as saying, “We’re not gathered around a belief system. We’re gathered around a dinner invite.” They believe that “breweries and beer create natural contexts for friendships to form and attract people who might never set foot in a traditional church,” the other co-founder said (A11). Well, this idea has been expressed before with respect to the Cowboy churches. With thinking such as this, why should we not expect Golf Course Clubhouse Services, Bowling Alley Worship assemblies, and Bikini at the Beach churches? People drink beer at all of those places, and they get entertainment as well. Why not combine all the things that people like to do?

The whole concept of “a traditional church” is wrong to begin with. Yes, we need to have a place to gather, but worship is about God—not us. Some groups have the idea that only professionals can be in control of worship. Therefore, the average member is not involved except to read a text together or to repeat something already written out. In worship, as God desires it, all are involved with the singing, and everyone is supposed to be attentive to each prayer and gospel message, as well as the Lord’s Supper. Some lead; all participate. Each one gives as he has been prospered. Worship is offered to God, but it has a benefit to each member, as well. It is not some formal ritual that members go through; it is communion with our God, and we ought to be sober when offering it. We do not know if alcohol played a part in the sin of Nadab and Abihu, but in Leviticus 10:9, God told Aaron: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die.” God does not approve of combining the sacred with the profane.

As for the style of evangelism advocated, it is certainly appropriate to get together with others over dinner (minus the beer). Sometimes, Christians only think in terms of inviting someone to worship, which is all right, but it may not be the best way to reach him. A study of the Word, perhaps before or after a meal, in the friendly confines of a home, may yield better results. It is often the case that some have an aversion to entering a church building, but once they have studied the Bible and learned what God‘s will is for them, it does not remain a problem.

The “Testimonial”

No religious article would be complete without a testimonial. A former Catholic who stopped attending “Mass” as a child has taken a shine (not the moon variety) to this new group’s casual system of Bible study. At first he was skeptical but was encouraged to just try it out. His bartender girlfriend told him, “We’re not going to outcast you because you don’t think the way we do” (A11). Hmm. How different from what Paul told the Corinthians about being united in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10). Is it really that loose—that it does not matter what someone believes? Then this “church” is more of an exercise in friendship than in trying to please God because the Lord has always had teachings that His adherents are commanded to follow.

Under the beer umbrella of fellowship, one person could believe that people are saved by “faith only” while others might think that repentance and baptism are necessary. One could advocate that we are born totally depraved while others believe that children arrive in the world innocent. Some may say that once a person is saved, he cannot lose his salvation while others disagree. So all of these views are permissible? Why not just call it the Church of Whatever?

The boyfriend not only liked the way the group did things, he was “impressed” that the leader “didn’t pretend he had all the answers, and the atmosphere was inquiring and nonjudgmental” (A11). Are people so easily satisfied to be with a religious outfit that doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t care what its adherents think? Are people willing to glory in ignorance—and fermented ignorance at that?

Luther’s Legacy

According to the article, Lutheranism and beer go hand in hand because Martin Luther himself “had a documented fondness for ale. His beer mug was even inscribed with the Lord’s prayer so he could commune with God while tossing one back, according to religious historian Jon Pahl” (A11). This professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary reasons that “everything on earth is a gift to humanity and, when used responsibly, enhances our happiness” (A11). Really? Does that include whiskey and vodka? How about marijuana, heroin, and cocaine? How does one use responsibly that which—first and foremost—dulls one’s self-control?

Well-known religious figure, John MacArthur (a diedin-the-wool Calvinist) had the good sense to point out: “The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse are too wellknown, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than booze” (A11). He is one who is definitely against the mixing of alcohol and evangelism. Jesus did not need alcohol to make His message more palatable, and the multitudes never thought to ask for any. It is easy to see which most people are more fond of—God or alcohol. How many would attend “worship” if it was going to be a “dry” service? That answer says a lot about people’s priorities.

Who Is an Ambassador?

Periodically, as folks are reading through the Scriptures, they see a word or phrase that they haven’t heard much; so they quickly adopt it and begin using it. Some denominational people (and perhaps some brethren?) have taken a fancy to calling themselves ambassadors, since Paul uses the word in two verses. However, a careful reading will discover that he is speaking of himself and the other apostles—not all Christians.

In the Greek are six related words. The root word is presbuteros [Strong #4245], which is used 67 times in the New Testament and translated “elders,” referring to one’s age or the men who oversee the work of the church. The Greek contains a variation, presbutees [4246], which is used three times of aged men, and presbutis [4247], used once for aged women. Presbuterion [4244], appearing three times, also refers to a presbytery or group of men.

This root word is found in two other words, however. Luke uses Presbia [4242] twice—once in 14:32 and once in 19:14. The former refers to a group of men that the King James calls “an ambassage” and the New King James “a delegation.” The latter verse is translated “message” and “delegation” respectively. The delegation consisted of representatives of those who sent them.

The final Greek word under consideration is presbuo [4243], which is translated “ambassadors” in 2 Corinthians 5:20 and Ephesians 6:20. In Ephesians, it is clear that Paul is speaking of himself as an apostle (an official representative of Christ). The one in 2 Corinthians is not as easy to discern, but it does refer to the apostles. Paul writes that God had committed to them the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). Christians still try to reconcile men to God through the preaching and teaching of the gospel. Verse 20 then says: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” The apostles stood in the place of Jesus; what they did was by His direct authority. Are Christians today apostles—selected by and specifically sent out by Jesus? No. Neither can we be ambassadors in that regard. We are, however, sent by God’s providence; further we do represent Jesus (if we teach and practice the truth). We do not have the authority of the apostles, however, and cannot be ambassadors or apostles in that sense.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ,
as though God 
were pleading through us:
we implore you on Christ’s behalf,
be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

“…Pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may
open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains…”(Eph. 6:19-20).