12/31/18

"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" A Warning From The Wilderness (3:7-19)


 "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

A Warning From The Wilderness (3:7-19)

INTRODUCTION

1. In the previous study, we considered "The Supremacy Of Jesus Over Moses"...
   a. Jesus was superior, not in faithfulness, but in His person and 
      service
   b. Moses was a servant in the house of God 
   c. Jesus, however, is the builder of the house, and serves as the 
      Son over the house!

2. In He 3:6, the writer to the Hebrews affirms that "we" are the house
   of Christ...
   a. Referring to the church, which is the house of God - 1 Tim 3:15
   b. For in Christ, we are now "members of the household of God", and
      together with the faithful saints of old (including Moses) we are
      now "fellow-citizens" in the commonwealth of Israel! - cf. Ep 2:11-22

3. Yet our status as the "house" is conditional!
   a. "whose house we are IF we hold fast...." - He 3:6
   b. We must hold fast "the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope
      firm to the end."

4. The need for steadfastness explains the exhortations in this epistle...
   a. We saw the first exhortation in He 2:1-4, regarding the danger of
      drifting
   b. Now we come to the second exhortation, regarding the danger of 
      departing from the living God - He 3:7-19

[To warn against the danger of departing, the writer appeals to...]

I. THE EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS (7-11)

   A. ISRAEL HARDENED THEIR HEARTS...
      1. The quotation in verses 7-11 is from Ps 95:7-11
         a. In which the Holy Spirit warned Israel not to be like the 
            fathers in the wilderness
         b. A warning which the Hebrew writer found just as necessary
            in his day
      2. In the wilderness, the Israelites had...
         a. Hardened their hearts in rebelling against God
         b. Tested (tried) God with their lack of faith
      3. This they did many times during the forty years of wandering,
         but especially...
         a. At the beginning, with the incident at Massah ("tempted") 
            and Meribah ("contention") - cf. Ex 17:1-7
         b. Toward the end, with the incident at Kadesh - Nu 27:14; cf. 20:1-13

   B. THEREFORE THEY DID NOT ENTER GOD'S REST...
      1. God became angry with that generation in the wilderness for 
         their persistent rebellion - e.g., Ps 106:13-33
      2. So God swore that they would not enter His rest 
          - cf. Nu 14:22-24,26-35
         a. Of those over the age of 20 when they departed from Egypt, 
            only Caleb and Joshua entered the promised land
         b. The rest (of which there were 603,548 men) died in the wilderness!

[Because of hardened hearts Israel departed from God which led to 
rebellion.  In turn, they fell short of the Canaan rest that had been 
promised them.

With "A Warning From The Wilderness" fresh on their minds, the writer
then exhorts his brethren by warning them of...]

II. THE DANGER OF DEPARTING (12-14)

   A. THERE IS A NEED TO "BEWARE"...
      1. A believer can develop "an evil heart of unbelief"
         a. Remember that the recipients of this epistle were "holy 
            brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" - He 3:1
         b. The warning against developing a heart of unbelief presumes
            a real possibility
         c. Thus a "believer" can become an "unbeliever"!
      2. Unbelief is produced as one is "hardened through the 
         deceitfulness of sin"
         a. Sin is deceitful...
            1) Promising pleasure, power, and prestige
            2) In the short term that may be true, but such things are
               "passing" (temporary)
               - e.g., He 11:25; 1Jn 2:17
         b. Because of its deceitfulness, it is easy to become "hardened"
            1) I.e., to be stubborn and not heed the Word of God
            2) It happened to Israel, and it can happen to us!
      3. The consequence of unbelief is "departing from the living God"
         a. As one grows in unbelief, so they drift away from God
         b. While a believer remains in fellowship with God, an 
            unbeliever can only depart further and further away from God!

   B. THE SOLUTION IS TO "EXHORT ONE ANOTHER DAILY"...
      1. This is how a believer avoids becoming an unbeliever!
      2. Through mutual edification on a daily basis, we can prevent 
         the "hardening" that comes from sin's deceitfulness
      3. An important part of such exhortation is our assembling
         together - cf. He 10:24-25
         a. Which should certainly involve our assemblies on the first
            day of the week - e.g., Ac 20:7
         b. But with a need for "daily exhortation", should we be 
            content to limit our assembling to one service a week?
         c. If we have the opportunity to assemble more often, 
            shouldn't we?
      4. Even if it is only by phone, we should seek to "exhort one 
         another daily"!

   C. OUR PARTICIPATION IN CHRIST IS CONDITIONAL...
      1. Once again we see the conditional nature of our participation with Christ
         a. We are the house of Christ "...IF we hold the fast the
            confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." - He 3:6
         b. We have become partakers of Christ "...IF we hold the 
            beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end," - He 3:
            14
      2. What about the security of the believer?
         a. The "believer" does indeed enjoy the assurance of his salvation
         b. But we have seen that a "believer" can develop "an evil 
            heart of unbelief"; i.e., become an "unbeliever" - He 3:12
         c. When a "believer" becomes an "unbeliever", what promises of
            security and salvation there may be to the believer are no
            longer applicable!
         -- Thus the many warnings to remain faithful, including that 
            of our Lord's - Re 2:10

[The danger of departing from God is so great, that the writer of 
Hebrews returns to "A Warning From The Wilderness"...]

III. THE EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS REVISITED (15-19)

   A. ANOTHER APPEAL IS MADE...
      1. Quoting again from Ps 95:7-8
      2. The Hebrew writer applies the quotation to Christians
         a. They need to "hear His (God's) voice" - remember He 1:1-2; 2:1-4?
         b. That is, hear with a desire to hearken, for they too can 
            easily harden their hearts "as in the rebellion"

   B. THE NEED FOR CHRISTIANS TO BELIEVE, AND OBEY...
      1. In the case of the Israelites, who was it that rebelled?
         a. All those who came out of Egypt (save Joshua and Caleb)!
         b. Though led by Moses, they still rebelled!
         -- We may have been delivered by Christ from the bondage of 
            sin, but rebellion is still possible!
      2. In the case of the Israelites, with whom was God angry forty years?
         a. Those who sinned
         b. And who died in the wilderness as a result of their lack of faith
         -- If we become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, 
            shall we escape judgment?
      3. In the case of the Israelites, who did God not allow in the 
         promised land?
         a. Those who did not obey!
         b. Those who developed unbelief!
         -- Shall we enter our promised rest if we disobey through unbelief?

CONCLUSION

1. When the apostle Paul related some of the same experiences of Israel
   in the wilderness, he wrote:

   "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were
   written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have 
   come." - 1Co 10:11

2. It is for our own admonition that we have such warnings as that 
   found in our text...
   a. For the deceitfulness of sin is just as strong today
   b. For the hardening of one's heart is just as dangerous today
   c. For departing from God is just as possible today
   -- Thus the potential for falling short of our promised rest is just
      as much a reality for us as it proved to be for the Israelites in
      the wilderness!

3. That is why we need to "exhort one another daily"...
   a. To encourage one another to remain strong in faith - He 3:19
   b. To encourage one another to remain strong in obedience - He 3:18
   -- Have you exhorted your brother or sister lately?

Finally, did you notice how "faith" and "obedience" were used 
interchangeably in these last two verses?  These terms are not opposed
to one another, for in fact Paul himself wrote about "obedience to the
faith" (Ro 1:5; 16:26).  Faith is dead unless there is obedience (Jm 
2:17,26), and so those who truly believe will obey.

That is why Jesus can be described as "the author of eternal salvation
to all who obey Him" (He 5:9).  Have you obeyed Jesus by obeying His
gospel? - cf. Ro 10:16; 2Th 1:7-8; 1Pe 4:17

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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What Happens to Faith When We Doubt? by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=375


What Happens to Faith When We Doubt?

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


When Peter walked on the water toward Jesus, we can imagine that he launched out with great gusto (Matthew 14:28-33). And yet, as he glanced away from his Lord to look at the treacherous winds and waves he knew so well, it seems he lost certainty in the divine power that had borne him across the water thus far. When he returned to the boat, the Master admonished him with these words: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (14:31).

Throughout the New Testament, “doubt” is couched in negative terms. It is something we are to avoid in prayer, for example (1 Timothy 2:8). Jesus told His disciples that they could move mountains if only they would believe, and not doubt (Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:23-24). Paul advised the Roman Christians that they stood condemned if they doubted the propriety of eating food sacrificed to idols (14:23). The classic example, of course, is that of the apostle Thomas—doubting Thomas. “Be not faithless,” the risen Christ urged as He presented His wounds to the incredulous disciple, “but believing” (John 20:27).
Doubt, then, is in some way an impediment to belief or faith. However, it is not the opposite of belief; it is not a denial of faith. This would be disbelief, that is, believing a claim to be false. Rather, doubt is a matter of unbelief—an occasional inability to admit a particular claim. It is a human failing that, on occasion, we simply cannot decide whether something is true. The different words translated as “doubt” in the New Testament carry with them the sense of being unstable, wavering, being in two minds, or contending with oneself. In relation to faith, doubt is a “lack of certainty concerning the teachings of Christianity or one’s personal relationship to them” (Habermas, 1990, p. 10).

Doubt, left unresolved, can become a serious problem. God holds us responsible for addressing the cause of our doubt, and for seeking the remedy so that doubt does not prevent us from doing what faith demands. If we do not know whether God answers prayers, then how can we honestly go to God in prayer? If we eat meat sacrificed to idols (or the modern equivalent), and yet we are not sure that this is something we should do, then how can we have a good conscience before God?

These are the negative consequences of unresolved doubts, but doubt may also be resolved in favor of greater faith, or even faith itself. After all, converts will not be made of people who never doubt their rejection of Christ’s saving blood.

Let us look in more detail at the case of Thomas. Apparently, like most of the disciples, Thomas had missed or refused to accept Christ’s own warnings about His death. And in those somber days after Calvary, they certainly did not expect to see Him alive again. The disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would be the One to restore the nation of Israel (Luke 24:21). Even after these two encountered the resurrected Christ and reported their experiences to the other disciples (among whom Christ then appeared and spoke), His followers could hardly believe this wonderful turn of events (24:41). Their doubt soon evaporated in joy, not merely because their beloved Lord had risen from the dead, but because through His resurrection came the hope of salvation for all the nations of the world.

Thomas, however, missed out on this momentous event (John 20:24). The others had seen and heard the resurrected Christ; He had even shown His wounds to them. Thomas responded by demanding no less, but such a demand was an expression of weakness. Yes, the renewed faith of the other disciples was based on direct, physical evidence, but why could Thomas not trust the testimony of his closest friends? Christ’s response was to appear again for Thomas’ sake, and for the sake of all in his position. Thomas had the opportunity to touch the wounds, but he withdrew his demands and made the supreme confession: “My Lord and my God” (20:28).

The story does not end there. Christ went on to teach this vital lesson: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (20:29). If Christianity was to succeed, people would have to put their faith, not in a continuing manifestation of miracles such as the appearance of a resurrected body, but in a well-reasoned belief that Christ was raised from the dead. The testimony of the witnesses as recorded in Scripture would have to be a critical part of that belief. Immediately following the incident with Thomas, John wrote: “These things have been written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31; see also Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

What would have happened to Thomas, and perhaps to the future church, if he had continued to doubt? Jesus dealt with this doubt, and He dealt with Thomas’ particular brand of doubt, for all time.

Doubt is a human weakness, but it is a serious matter when it affects one’s faith. That Thomas and the other disciples could doubt serves as a warning to us. From our vantage point, they had every reason to be faithful, and yet still they struggled with unbelief. Christians must be able to recognize doubt in themselves so that they can, unreservedly, make the same good confession as the apostle Thomas.

REFERENCES

Habermas, Gary R. (1990), Dealing With Doubt (Chicago, IL: Moody).

What Did God Create On the First Day of Creation? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=181


What Did God Create On the First Day of Creation?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Q.
What did God create on the first day of Creation?

A.
Oftentimes, when a person is asked what God made on day one of the Creation week, he responds by saying simply, “God made light.” When young people sing the “Days of Creation” song (where each verse in the song corresponds with what God did during each day of the Creation week), the first verse they sing is: “Day one, day one, God made light when there was none.” Both of these statements are true. Genesis 1:3-5 states: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” But was light the only thing that God created on the first day of Creation?
The work of day one may appear at first to include only the creation of light. However, it was not the only thing God made on day one. If light were the only thing created on day one, then one must ask whence the water came that already was in existence on day two. For on the second day of Creation, God made an expanse to divide “the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). Apparently, these “waters” already were present on day two when the expanse (atmosphere) was made. In fact, that is exactly what Genesis 1:1-2 teaches: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (emp. added). The initial creation of the earth (on day one) consisted of a watery, unformed-and-unfilled substance over which the Spirit hovered. (Remember: it was not until day three that God made an Earth composed of land, sea, and vegetation.) Thus, God not only created light on day one (vss. 3-5), but also made “the heavens and the earth” (vss. 1-2).

Contrary to what some may think, on day one God created the heavens, the earth, and light. Although it is correct to sing and teach that God made light on day one of Creation, we also must not forget that on the same day God created the “heavens and the earth.”

What About "Out-of-Body Experiences"? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=4694

What About "Out-of-Body Experiences"?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

As American civilization has been detached from its Christian moorings, a host of offbeat, confused, and superstitious ideas have infiltrated society. Especially with the resurgence of the occult in the last 50 years and Hollywood’s efforts to create credibility for “ghosts,” exorcism, and astrology, more Americans than ever before have come to believe in such hocus-pocus. One result has been the widespread belief in “out-of-body experiences.” Even among otherwise straight thinking Christians, many have come to believe that a person can “die,” as evidenced by “flatlining,” that his or her spirit momentarily leaves the body, and then returns to the body, enabling the person to regain consciousness and live to tell about the experience. Stories often include reports of tunnels with bright light at the end, feelings of warmth and reassurance, a sense of hovering above and looking down upon the operating room personnel, etc. Are such experiences proofs that individuals are, in fact, dying and exiting their bodies, and then returning again?

A brief perusal of the history of medical science reveals that, at one time, conventional wisdom held that a person was dead when breathing ceased. It was thought that the “breath of life” had departed from the individual, leaving him “dead.” As medical science advanced, it was determined that a person’s heart could still be beating though the person had stopped breathing. He had not actually died, and hence, “mouth-to-mouth” resuscitation enabled a person to start breathing again. At that point of medical understanding, it was thought that when the heart stopped beating (determined by placing one’s ear to the chest of the person), the individual had died. However, with additional advancements and understanding, it was determined that it was possible to restart the heart, through cardio-vascular resuscitation, compressions of the chest cavity, injection of powerful drugs directly into the heart, massaging the heart directly, and eventually defibrillation, in which an electrical shock is delivered to the heart with a defibrillator. The current definition of “dead” is associated more with the cessation of brain activity.  A typical definition of “flatline” is “to die or be so near death that the display of one’s vital signs on medical monitoring equipment shows a flat line rather than peaks and troughs” (Farlex, n.d.). “Flatlining” can refer either to heart or brain activity or both, depending on who is using the term.

Does the inerrant Word of God have any insight into this question? Yes, it does. The Bible teaches that God places within each prenatal person at conception a spirit that makes each individual a unique personality that will survive physical death, living on immortally throughout eternity (Zechariah 12:1). At death, the spirit separates from the body and exists in a conscious condition in the spirit realm (1 Samuel 28:15; Luke 16:19-31). James 2:26 provides a precise, technical definition of death: “[F]or as the body without the spirit is dead….” In other words, the separation of one’s spirit from one’s body results in physical death, i.e., the death of the body, not the spirit. Thus the Bible defines physical “death” as separation—not “extinction” or “annihilation” (Thayer, 1901, p. 282; Vine, 1940, p. 276). Once the spirit of a person exits the body, he or she is “dead” (Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21-22). Science will undoubtedly never develop a test for ascertaining when the spirit exits the body. After all, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).

In order for a person’s dead body to come to life again, the spirit would have to reenter it. The term that the Bible uses to refer to such an occurrence is “resurrection.” The only way resurrection can occur is by means of supernatural intervention by an individual who possesses authority and power from God to miraculously cause the spirit to return to the body. Instances of deceased people in Bible history whose spirits returned to their dead bodies include the following:
  1. When the widow of Zaraphath’s son became sick and died, the prophet Elijah asked God to “let this child’s soul come back to him” (1 Kings 17:21). God granted the request and the child’s soul returned to his body.
  2. Elisha restored the life of a Shunammite woman’s son who had died after complaining of severe head pain—perhaps a brain hemorrhage (2 Kings 4).
  3. When Lazarus died, his body was in an advanced state of decay by the time Jesus arrived on the scene four days later to raise him from the dead. He brought back Lazarus’ spirit into his body with the words, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).
  4. Among the supernatural events that accompanied the death of Christ on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:51-53). Only God could have brought the spirits of these individuals back from the hadean realm and reinserted them into their buried bodies.
  5. When Tabitha/Dorcas became sick and died in the town of Joppa, her body was washed and laid in an upper room. The apostle Peter was in Lydda at the time, so urgent word was sent to him to come to Joppa. Clearing the room of the mourners upon his arrival, he “knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).

Such occurrences were rare, and always meant that the resurrected individual later died again (Jesus excepted—Acts 13:34; Romans 6:9; cf. Enoch [Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5] and Elijah [2 Kings 2:11] who never died). In every case, a miracle was necessary to restore the separated spirit of the individual to the body. Miracles served a very specific purpose in Bible times—a purpose no longer needed (Miller, 2003). Since God has chosen not to work miracles today (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; Ephesians 4:8-13), and no resurrections will occur until the general resurrection (John 5:25-29; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 15:12ff.), there is no such thing as an “out-of-body experience.”

But then how does one account for the numerous reports of tunnels, lights, and feelings of warmth? The mind is an incredible, divinely designed wonder capable of far more than we know or comprehend. When anesthesia is applied to the respiratory system and bloodstream in order to prevent awareness of pain, causing a patient to become unconscious, the parts of the body that perceive (i.e., seeing, hearing, etc.) continue to function. The mind is still hearing what is being said in the operating room, whether or not the person is able later to recall the conversation. Temperature and other bodily sensors are still operative. Additionally, the mind’s ability to dream realistic dreams is surely a factor to consider. These and other features of the mind and body adequately account for the unsubstantiated allegations of “out-of-body experiences.”

One final thought: if “near death” and “out-of-body” experiences are authentic, where are the comparable reports of those who encounter the scorching, threatening fires of hell or hades (cf. Luke 16:23ff.)? Where are the accounts of individuals being warned to correct their behavior and live godly lives—as Paul admonished Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12)? For those acquainted with the stabilizing influence of the Bible, all such experiences are meaningless and provide no assistance for ascertaining the meaning and purpose of life—in view of eternity. The inspired writer of Hebrews succinctly summarized the point: "[I]t is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (9:27).
[NOTE: For an audio sermon on the topic of afterlife, click here.]

REFERENCES

Farlex (no date), The Free Dictionaryhttp://www.thefreedictionary.com/flatlining.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation—EXTENDED VERSION,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1399&topic=293.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Afterlife and the Bible,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1478.
Thayer, J.H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).
Vine, W.E. (1966 reprint), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).

Were the Popes Really Celibate? by Moisés Pinedo

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2618


Were the Popes Really Celibate?

by Moisés Pinedo


Although the Bible clearly does not support the doctrine of celibacy as a requisite to any office of the church (see Pinedo, 2008), the Catholic Church has established celibacy as a distinctive mark of the papacy and other Catholic offices. In fact, the current pope, Benedict XVI, affirmed that celibacy (imposed by Pope Gregory VII in the Council of Rome in 1074) “is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ’s own way of life” (“Pope Pens...,” 2007). Therefore, whoever wants to serve as a priest, and finally as the Universal Bishop of the Catholic Church (the pope), must be celibate.

According to Catholic doctrine, Peter was the “first pope.” And, since popes are considered to be Peter’s successors and keepers of Petrine tradition, one would expect them to follow Peter’s example in every aspect—including the acceptance or rejection of celibacy. Matthew 8:14-15 records that Jesus healed one of Peter’s relatives. This relative was none other than his mother-in-law. The text states, “Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever” (emp. added). Some have tried to argue that this lady was the mother-in-law of another disciple—not Peter. However, the grammar of the text in Matthew (and in the parallel records of Mark and Luke) is very clear when it says that Jesus came to Peter’s house and saw his mother-in-law (cf. Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38). The only conclusion from a straightforward reading of the text is that if Jesus saw Peter’s mother-in-law, then Peter had a wife!

The apostle Paul also confirmed that Peter was married when he wrote, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5, emp. added). Paul identified Peter (also called Cephas; cf. John 1:42; 1 Corinthians 1:12) as someone who already had taken advantage of his right to be married. Additionally, in the first epistle that bears his name, the apostle Peter identified himself as an elder of the church (cf. 1 Peter 5:1). And, as the New Testament teaches, one of the qualifications of elders of the church is to be “the husband of one wife, having faithful children” (Titus 1:5-6). Every piece of biblical evidence on this subject points to the fact that Peter was a married man.

While Catholics appeal to Peter for support of the papacy, ironically, they will not appeal to Peter to argue in favor of papal celibacy for one important reason: Peter was not celibate! Here Catholics exalt Paul, who opted to be celibate. But if popes are the alleged successors of Peter (not Paul), should they not follow Peter’s example?

Like many other teachings of the Catholic Church, celibacy is a man-made doctrine. Though many consider it as a sign of purity, celibacy, imposed on those who aspire to ecclesiastical office, is simply a sign of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Consider, for example, the immoral things many “celibate” popes did during their papacies.

Pope Sergius III served as pope from A.D. 904 to 911. History records that he began a “shameful succession” of immoral popes (Schaff, 1910, 4:285). He “owed his elevation [to the papacy—MP] to the influence of the shameless Theodora [a Roman noblewoman—MP] and her no less shameless daughters Marozia and Theodora.... He was grossly immoral, and lived in licentious relations with Marozia, who bore him several children, among them the future pope John XI” (McClintock and Strong, 1867-1880, 9:570).

Pope John XII served as pope from A.D. 955 to 963. He is considered “one of the most scandalous popes of history” (“John XII,” 1997). Philip Schaff noted that “[h]e was one of the most immoral and wicked popes, ranking with Benedict IX., John XXIII., and Alexander VI. He was charged by a Roman Synod, no one contradicting, with almost every crime of which...human nature is capable, and deposed as a monster of iniquity” (1910, 4:287). Writing around A.D. 1000, a Catholic monk recorded that “John XII loved hunting, had vain thoughts, liked women reunions more than liturgical and ecclesiastical assemblies, was pleased by tumultuous insolences of young people and, concerning lasciviousness and audacity, he surpassed even the pagans” (quoted in Hernández, n.d.). It is recorded that he died “of a stroke while in bed with a married woman” (Walsh, 2001, p. 663).

Pope John XXIII served as pope from A.D. 1410 to 1415. It is said that “he was destitute of every moral virtue, and capable of every vice” (Schaff, 1910, 6:145). He was accused “on seventy charges, which included almost every crime known to man. He had been unchaste from his youth,...committed adultery with his brother’s wife, violated nuns and other virgins, was guilty of sodomy and other nameless vices” (Schaff, 6:158). Finally, he was removed from office by the Council of Constance and erased from the official list of the papacy.

Pope Innocent VIII served as pope from A.D. 1484 to 1492. “His conduct was disgracefully irregular: he had seven illegitimate children by different women, and was, besides, married when he took orders” (McClintock and Strong, 1867-1880, 4:593). It is said that his children numbered “16, all of them children by married women” (Schaff, 1910, 6:438). It also is said that “the success of Innocent VIII in increasing the population of Rome was a favorite topic with the wits of the day” (McClintock and Strong, 4:594).

Pope Alexander VI served as pope from A.D. 1492 to 1503. In their Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, McClintock and Strong point out that Alexander is considered “the most depraved of all the popes” (1867-1880, 4:594). They explained: “His youth was a very dissolute one; and he early formed a criminal connection with a Roman lady living in Spain with her two daughters. He soon seduced the daughters also; and one of them, Rosa Vanozza, became his life-long mistress.... His pontificate of eleven years was a stormy one, as he made every thing subordinate to the purpose of raising his bastard children above the heads of the oldest princely houses of Italy” (1:145-146). A Roman Catholic historian says that he was “one of the greatest and most horrible monsters in nature that could scandalize the holy chair. His beastly morals, his immense ambition, his insatiable avarice, his detestable cruelty, his furious lusts, and monstrous incest with his daughter Lucretia, are, at large, described by Guicciardini Ciaconius, and other authentic papal historians” (as quoted in Barnes, 2005b, p. 82). The following words summarize Pope Alexander’s life: “To Alexander nothing was sacred,—office, virtue, marriage, or life” (Schaff, 1910, 6:462).

Pope Paul III served as pope from A.D. 1534 to 1549. Before his pontificate, he had four children—Pier Luigi, Paolo, Ranuccio, and Costanza—by a Roman mistress (see “Paul III,” 1997, 9:205). History summarizes his life as “largely given up to pleasure and frivolity. He kept low company, supported mistresses, became a father, and in many ways gained an unenviable notoriety” (McClintock and Strong, 1867-1880, 7:831).

More examples could be given, since papal history is characterized more by its sins than by its “holiness.” But the examples listed above clearly prove that many “celibate” popes were anything but celibate, and moreover, anything but chaste.

When men departed further from the truth of God’s Word, they deified themselves, choosing an earthly representative (the pope) to usurp the place of God. Many immoral men, thirsty for glory and power, desired the human office (i.e., the papacy) that apostasy promoted. These men fought for this office, hating each other and killing their fellow man. And, in their zeal, they pretended to fulfill the demand for celibacy imposed by human tradition, while giving free rein to their carnal passions.
What sacrifice did these “selfless” popes endure by being “celibate” (i.e., unmarried) if they had the lovers they desired? What altruism did these popes exhibit by disallowing themselves to have only one wife, yet diving into indescribable immoralities with many lovers, including relatives, nuns, prostitutes, and other men’s wives during nights of “celibate solitude”? The truth is, this kind of “celibacy” has produced many illegitimate children in the history of Catholic religion!

The Catholic who points to 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 in order to provide biblical support to papal celibacy, should read the advice of Paul in the following verse in order to see that celibacy is not demanded, nor should it be sought in order to institute a certain ecclesiastical order: “[B]ut if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9, emp. added). Many popes, as well as many local bishops, priests, monks, nuns, etc., have burned with passion for centuries, and many are adding logs to the fire today. The Bible warns: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8, emp. added).

REFERENCES

Barnes, Albert (2005), Notes on the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians to Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Hernández, Jesús (no date), “A Shameful Pontificate” [“Un Pontificado Vergonzoso”], [On-line], URL: http://www.luxdomini.com/JuanXII.htm.
“John XII” [“Juan XII”] (1997), Espasa Universal Chronology [Cronología Universal Espasa] (Espasa Calpe, S.A.: Microsoft Corporation).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1867-1880), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1968-1970 reprint.
“Pope Pens Exhortation on the Eucharist” (2007), Zenit, March 13, [On-line], URL:http://www.zenit.org/article-19138?l=english.
“Paul III” (1997), Encyclopaedia Britannica (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Pinedo, Moisés (2008), “Should the Pope Be Celibate?,” [On-line], URL:http://apologeticspress.org/articles/3852.
Schaff, Philip (1910), History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Walsh, Michael, ed. (2001), Dictionary of Christian Biography (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press).

Irishtown Thyme by EE Healy

http://www.eehealy.com/commentary/a-thyme.jpg




The Triune Nature of the Godhead by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/trinity.html

The Triune Nature of the Godhead

Introduction

Just like the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, the trinity can be difficult to comprehend in its fullness, because we have not directly experienced such infinite characteristics. However, just as the universe stands as a monument to God’s power (Romans 1:18-20), so does the salvation of mankind attest to the unity of the Godhead, as we will see in this article.
Admittedly, trying to fully understand any characteristic of God can be intimidating, because of the immenseness of His holiness, and therefore, His distinctness from us (I Peter 1:13-16). Consequently, such a task should be approached humbly and meekly. However, this does not necessarily imply that it is impossible for us to learn something about God’s nature, including the trinity. God did create man with a nature that was patterned after His own (Genesis 1:26-28), assuring us that we have been divinely granted a capability to both understand and adopt characteristics of the divine nature (II Peter 1:2-4). That being said, the infinite power of God (His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence) are not part of the nature made available to us (Hebrews 2:5-9). Instead, we are to share in His moral characteristics: moral excellence (virtue), self-control, knowledge, perseverance, piety, brotherly kindness, love, justice, righteousness, etc. (II Peter 1:2-11Galatians 5:22-25). In addition to this list, the unity of the Godhead must be included, which is the center of the mysterious triune nature.
Before we examine this unity, let us back up and address the mystery of the trinity, which we will do by briefly laying a foundation for the deity of the three members of the Godhead. A deeper study of the deity of these three members is reserved for another article.

The Mystery of the Trinity

The dilemma of the trinity is represented by two apparently contradictory sets of Scripture. The first set, which we will examine, emphasizes that God is "one". More notable passages in this category include:
"You are My witnesses," says the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior." (Isaiah 43:10-11)
"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.' " (Isaiah 44:6)
The following Old Testament passage clearly states that God is "one":
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
As a side point, this passage teaches a complete, single minded devotion and commitment to God, based on the "oneness" of God. This fact attests to the supremacy of God; therefore, He is worthy of such devotion. In fact, such power demonstrated in God’s "oneness" demands the commitment of our entire being. Interestingly, Jesus quoted this Old Testament passage in Mark 12:28-34, labeling this imperative as the "greatest commandment".
After examining these passages, we may realize that the "oneness" of God is clearly taught in Scripture. However, we must be careful that we do not read into the passage what we want to see. Do these passages teach that God is one in number of beings, or in some other quality? As you think on this question, please consider the following passage, which uses the same Hebrew word for "one", 'echad:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
When a man marries a woman, do they become one physical being? No, they become one unit. As epitomized by the sexual relationship, a married man and woman share a common relationship with each other, exclusive to all others, who would be partner. They are married, intended by God not to be separated (Matthew 19:4-6); and yet, they are still two individual beings! Similar to Genesis 2:24, could Deuteronomy 6:4be teaching that God is one in harmony and unity, rather than being one in number? If such a unity did exist in the Godhead, would it not be perfect? Would it not therefore hide and exempt the other members of the Godhead from statements concerning the absence of rival gods (Isaiah 43:10-1144:6)? As you continue to ponder this point, please include the following passages, which assert the deity of the other two members of the Godhead, who are Jesus and the Holy Spirit:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. ... For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-18)
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:3-4)
Both of these passages point out the divinity of both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. How can we reconcile the fact that there is "one God", but there are three divine beings? How can there be "one" and "three" at the same time?

Perfect Unity of Three Perfect Beings

The unity of the three divine beings is infinite. Nothing divides them. They have the exact same mindset, judgment, and disposition. However, this does not make them the same being. They may act in perfect harmony as a single being, but yet they are three distinct beings (John 5:17-188:5814:15-1725-26). As stated earlier, the scheme of redemption stands as a monument to the immenseness of their unity. Just for a moment, try to imagine if Jesus decided that He was tired of playing "the Son", and instead wanted the Father to submit to Him?
So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." ... who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:5-8)
Without Christ submitting to the Father, there would have been no cross - no salvation.
Can you think of one passage in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is directly worshiped? Like Jesus (John 13:3-15), the Holy Spirit's role is one of service. He did not focus attention on Himself. Instead, He quietly executed God’s will upon the earth (Genesis 1:2). He inspired the New Testament apostles and prophets, not speaking on His own authority, but instead communicating the words of Jesus, which Jesus received from the Father (John 16:13-15II Peter 1:21). Where would we be, if the Holy Spirit got tired of taking orders, and got tired of dealing with humanity? There would be no Bible, no preservation of God’s holy words, no gospel, no knowledge of salvation - no salvation! Untold blessings would be lost, making it impossible for us to ever enjoy a gracious relationship with the Godhead.
As humans grow in wisdom, wealth, ability, and power, it becomes increasingly difficult to be patient with those who have less - at least, there is an increasing temptation. Given this fact, try to imagine the wealthiest of men giving up all their wealth for the benefit of others. Now some men may give up some wealth, but they will never give up all of it. However, try to imagine possessing all the wealth, intellect, and power in the universe - and giving it up for the sake of ants! Now try to imagine becoming one of the ants, so they could enjoy a transcendent relationship with you, and then try to imagine that they did not care about you or your sacrifice!! In fact, they would rather kill you than deal with your merciful invitation. Now, try to imagine the Holy Father, white-knuckling His heavenly throne, as His innocent, righteous Son was nailed to the cross by a wicked and hateful mob, despised by the creatures He came to save. Imagine watching your only Son being murdered, knowing that just an instant's thought would silence it all and restore justice, but instead hesitating, just because your Son utters the dying words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".
Obviously, the mind of God is not like man. Surely, God would not think like the above picture, which displays how man might think. In reality, this author can only try to imagine the amount of submission to the triune's will that was required by all three members of the Godhead. Although I cannot comprehend such a mind, I do know this: Their unity, as evidenced in the cross, is obviously immense. In the cross, we see infinite submission to the flawless, selfless, collective will of the triune. Although it may seem difficult to grasp such commitment to unity, we must try, because Jesus prayed for us to achieve this same level of unity:
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are oneI in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." (John 17:20-23)
Does this verse mean we have to meld our bodies, minds, and spirits into a single, monstrous entity? Notice that this is not some strange, heavenly experience, because this unity is intended to testify "that the world may know that You have sent Me". Therefore, it must be something that occurs on this earth, while the world still stands (II Peter 3:10). How are we to do this?
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:10-13)
How are we to eliminate divisions and contentions, enjoying the same unity that is enjoyed by the Godhead? We must become "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment". Can we pick any mindset that is pleasing to us? No, we must choose the mind that was revealed by Jesus, the divine nature (John 14:6-9II Peter 1:2-4):
Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:2-8)
However, such unity takes hard work, and it takes time. Much humility, selflessness, patience, mercy, and love will be required for those who come to enjoy the unity of this eternal mindset (Ephesians 4:1-3). Also, it will take much study and self-examination, because our minds are nothing like God’s mind, at first (Isaiah 55:8-9). To take up the mind of Christ will require significant study of the Bible, because there is no other way to learn about Jesus, or God’s mind than through the pages of His revealed Word (I Corinthians 2:16Ephesians 3:3-5II Timothy 3:16-172:15).

Conclusion

Like God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, the trinity of the Godhead can be difficult to appreciate, because we are so far removed from the scope of such power, perfection, and holiness. However, unlike these other powerful characteristics, we are expected to not only come to an understanding of the trinity, but we are to partake in its unity. Although distinct in person, these three distinct beings have a perfect, single mind with which, each selflessly serves the others and the creation. Although they have distinct roles, they are one in purpose, desire, effort, and judgment. This is the nature of the trinity.
Like the trinity, we must also lay aside all selfish ambitions and focus our energies into a common judgment and mind. The only way to accomplish this is to fully follow the mind of Christ - God’s revealed will, the Bible. In this way, we act a single, coherent spiritual body, fulfilling the will of that triune mind (Ephesians 1:22-234:11-16), all the while, growing toward a more intimate understanding of the trinity.
 Trevor Bowen