“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
What does this mean? It is that believers lay prostrated waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide then in all truth?
More likely is that the test is to compare what is being taught with the clear teaching of the Bible.
The Bible alone is the Word of God; it alone is inspired and inerrant. Therefore, the way to test the spirits is to see if what is being taught is in line with the clear teaching of Scripture. In Acts 17:10-11 the Berean Jews were commended because, after they heard the teachings of Paul and Silas, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Bereans were called “noble” for doing so.
Testing the spirits means that one must know how to “examine the Scriptures.” Rather than accept every teaching, discerning Christians diligently study the Scriptures. Then they know what the Bible says and therefore can “test all things and hold fast to what is true.” In order to do this, a Christian must “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
This statement needs to be contextualized by that Paul spoke strongly in favor of the married state elsewhere in Scripture, confirming (Gen. 2:18), going as far as stating that forbidding marriage would be a sign of the end time apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
Although singleness has advantages, not everyone is equipped for this lifestyle. What Paul is advocating is that the unmarried state is ‘freer to serve God’, like he is, provided one has the gift of celibacy (vv. 6-7).
Having contextualized Paul’s admonition, I can now make my contribution to the thread. It is my opinion that anyone administrating God’s wisdom to the single is required to carefully observe the above and should be very cautions is admonishing the single to find partners, as it may not be God’s will for the season. More importantly in admonishing the married state as if it is superior to singleness, only serves the purpose to evoke negative emotions.
My observation especially in the smaller Churches is the tendency to encourage pairing off within the church, this also lacks wisdom. Further, given the lack of available potential partners, it often happens that a wise period dating and engagement is rushed — often advocated from the pulpit. It is in this regard (and others) that bigger churches have an advantage.
This is a copy of my post to a thread on the topic
Do not Judge
Jose de Carvalho
‘God Himself doesn’t judge a man until he is dead. So why should you?’ How often have you seen this? Is it true? What does Jesus mean that we are not to judge others? (Matt 7:1) Many people use this verse as an attempt to silence/intimidate their critics.
The statement is actually not true, biblical history is replete with God judging His chosen and others in His interaction with human kind thought-out history. What does Jesus mean that we are not to judge others?
I find this comment from a Bible commentator interesting; ‘Jesus’ command not to judge others could be the most widely quoted of His sayings’.
Subsequent to reflection I have to agree! Considering that non-Christians also use the saying and quote the biblical verse as some sort of a proverb, meaning in the secular context; ‘the truth is relative.’
Many others claim that this is one of the most misquoted verses in the New Testament. This is an indication of how a non-biblical worldview influences biblical interpretation (ethical relativism that denies the existence of moral absolutes).
What did Jesus mean? Did he mean that we must never voice an adverse or unfavorable opinion? He certainly does not prohibit negative assessments, considering that Jesus has given us permission to tell right from wrong later on in the following verse and chapters (see vv.7, 15-16; 10:11-15; 16:6, 12; 18:17-18).
Whatever the case merits, what is certain is that Jesus is expecting merciful judgment, and if you judge without mercy, you will be judged without mercy (v.2). The immediate context also cautions that one should not judge others more harshly or by a different standard than one judge oneself. ‘Lest you be judged’ does not mean you will not be judged by God if you do not judge. The principle is that if you are judging, while you yourself are guilty, you are condemning yourself (see parallels 6:14-15; 18:32-35). Therefore make a more charitable judgment of your brother.
Another commentator stated, ‘to be discriminating and critical is necessary; to be hypercritical or a hypocrite is wrong’ which the immediate context of Jesus’ teaching (vv. 3-5).
The same original commentator then rightly concludes:
Anything that contradicts the truth is a lie—but, of course, to call something a “lie” is to pass judgment. For example to call fornication a sin is to likewise pass judgment—but it’s also to agree with God. When Jesus said not to judge others, He did not mean that no one can identify sin for what it is, based on God’s definition of sin.
So, it appears that we have a standard to evaluate after all. Not that this is going to convince those that deny the existence of moral absolutes. For others at this point of the interaction the common saying that God is a loving God (unconditional) card is played.
However in this context this comment just displays a lack of understanding of God character. So, what does it mean that God is love?
Love is one of the attributes of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony.
Love and Truth
Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? (Deut. 25:9)
Jose de Carvalho
This section concerns the applicability of the Law in context of justice, marriage and business. More directly to the question this section deals with the provision for widows. Deuteronomy 25:9 has its roots in the legislation of Leviticus 25:25-55, ‘redemption’ and Levirate marriage.
The primary concern in the narrative is the preservation of the family line/name via a Levirate marriage in a society where polygamy was allowed. Hence; “her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.(Deut. 25:5-6, ESV).
Although he has the obligation, he is however not forced into taking the widow as his wife, which is in actual fact to protect the widow from a reluctant husband. In which case a ceremony takes place (halizah) to officiate his decision not to marry her, after her husband’s his brother’s, death.
This is an official ceremony, intended on bringing shame and public humiliation for not cooperating, involving “pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face.” (v.9) by the widow of a brother who has died childless, through which ceremony he is released from the obligation of marrying her, and she becomes free to marry whomever she desires.
“Sandals were the ordinary footwear in the ancient Near East, but they were also a symbolic item of clothing, especially in the relationship between the widow and her legal guardian or levir. This is due to the fact that land was purchased based on whatever size triangle of land one could walk off in an hour, a day, a week or a month (1Ki. 21:16-17). Land was surveyed in triangles, and a benchmark was constructed of fieldstones to serve as a boundary marker (Deut. 19:14). Since they walked on the land in sandals, the sandals became the movable title to that land. By removing the sandals of her guardian (Rth. 4:7), a widow removed his authorization to administer the land of her household.”
In today’s contemporary society, the concept of levirate marriage as portrayed in the Law is not common. Nevertheless there are a few African communities that practice it, but its tradition is not rooted in the scriptures (allegedly in Lesotho this custom in Setswana is called Seya-ntlo they still practice Levirate Law, the Zulu (ukungenwa) nations certainly use it to look after vulnerable windows with small children). In many cases it tends to go against the wishes of the widow and therefore violates their rights (1 Cor. 7:39). Today’s western society would treat this kind of marriage as incestuous and the couple would suffer rejection.
Nevertheless the application of the spirit of the Law in terms of looking after the vulnerable like widows, in contemporaneous society by the Church is worthy of taking note.
James charges the Church to look after the vulnerable among us (1:27).
Paul repeats this theme in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”(ESV)
Providence in Prayer
Jose de Carvalho
So much is written about prayer.
Much of it begins with the premise that if believers pray their prayers will be answered.
Firstly let me clarify that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, therefore if believers are good and exercise all of the prayer formulas documented in all the popular literature like persistence, positive confession and remain in faith without wavering, it does not mean that God is expected to respond positively to their prayer requests.
Given the premise that God should grant prayer requests, if prayer is not answered it is then classified as unanswered prayer. Therefore it stands to reason that if prayers are not answered it is due to incorrect application of the prayer formulas, lack of faith, or sin in the lives of the petitioners. More sinister, salvation is questioned, or God has just plainly rejected them at a personal level.
However, this is an incorrect understanding of prayer. God answers every prayer that is lifted to Him. Sometimes God answers “yes”, “no” or “wait.”
I cannot do justice to the complexity of the topic of God being ultimately sovereign and the effectiveness of prayer in a brief post, nor do I believe it to be necessary, so I will end will the words of Packer (1997:29)
‘Ask and you will receive’ is always true, and what they receive when they ask is always God’s best for them long-term, even when it is a short-term disappointment.
Some things are certain, and that is one of them.
Out of Context
Jose de Carvalho
Ben Irwin as compiled an interesting series of popular verses Christians keep quoting that do not mean what they think it means. Please follow the link for a paraphrased example.
Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)
Jeremiah 29:11 reads like a Christian motivational poster. Wait, It is a Christian motivational poster. No wonder it was Bible Gateway’s second-most shared verse of 2013.
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Don’t worry. God has a plan for your day. Facing a rough patch at work? Take a breath. Your future is bright. Money’s a bit tight? Relax. God’s going to prosper you.
Except the words in Jeremiah 29:11 have nothing to do with bad hair days, corporate ladders, or financial success. In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. He rounded up 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and dumped them in Babylon, 500 miles from home. They lost everything. They didn’t know what to do next.
From Jerusalem, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles — and told them to get on with their lives: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” In other words: you’re going to be there a while. Yet God promised this wasn’t the end for them. In 70 years, the exiles would return home. This was the “hope and . . . future” mentioned in Jeremiah 29:11.
Incidentally, that hope and future was something most of the original exiles wouldn’t live to see for themselves. (Seventy years was a long time then, too.) The future described in this passage would be for their children and grandchildren (Israel).
It is true that God know the plans He has for you and that He is a good God, as well as that our hope is sealed with eternal hope. Nevertheless Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t guarantee your personal fulfilment.
Jose de Carvalho
Upfront it must be said that some people do not agree with the following concept. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that there were three different tithes in the Old Testament; this assertion is well supported by early writers in Israel’s history.
The first tithe was for God’s workers (Lev. 27:30-32)
The second tithe was for a community meal (Det. 12:12,22-23)
The third tithe was for the needy (Det. 14:28-29)
If the interpretation here is correct, then the total of three tides in the Old Testament adds up to more than 20% per year. There was 10% for the Lord’s workers, 10% to be used within the family celebration and 10% every three years for the needy.
These were the mandatory offerings, it must be noted that there were other voluntary/freewill offerings.
Considering that New Testament believers are not obliged by the Law, offerings by percentage do not apply. Including the traditional assertion that 10% is a good standard to apply. Those that agree with this statement revert to the principle of generosity. However this may not be very helpful either.
Biblically the principles that underline the tithes are repeated in the New Testament. Therefore, God’s people are to give towards God’s workers, in celebration as a family in the presence of the Lord and in support for the vulnerable amongst us.
In précis, what is clear is that the emphasis is not on percentage, but on principle.
To Judge or not to Judge?
Jose de Carvalho
The topic of judgement has bothered me in my early christian life, especially in light of the fact that when a christian points out another’s fault, whatever it may be, he/she is always accused of judgement by the proof text in the Bible, Matthew 7:1 ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’. The conundrum for me has been balancing the above with the other biblical exhortations, namely to beware of evil doers in the Church and that believers are to test everything for false prophets and to avoid those who practice all kinds of evil – now we have to do all this without making some sort of judgement and with careful discernment of course (John 7:24).
In my experience, in most cases these issues arises out of misinterpretation of the Word and the fact that western thought (being based on Greek education processes) cannot deal with antimonies – when the Bible asserts to seemingly different things and that they both are true – whereas Hebrew philosophical thought can and did.
The key interpretive issue in Matthew is that he was telling us not to judge hypocritically; not , not to judge; a point that any interpreter that is not using scripture out of context to prove a point, will clearly identify by just reading the rest of Matthew’s discourse.
Matthew (7:2-5) declares:
Mat 7:2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
Mat 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Mat 7:4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
Mat 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
‘What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.’
A Christian reflection on E-tolls
Jose de Carvalho
I wanted to open by stating that as Christians I believe we must pay e-tolls, but that is not correct; what is correct is that it is our Christian duty to submit to the laws of the country as modelled by Christ our example; therefore we have to pay e-tolls.
I also find it interesting hence the primary reason for this post that the same Christians from the pew and pulpit alike that call for Christians to model their lives after Christ are calling Christians to civil disobedience. This is a quandary; did Jesus teach that his disciples should only obey the laws that are just and fair?
I don’t think this matter even requires exegeting scripture, the Bible could not be any clearer. Jesus (Mark 12:13-17), Paul (Romans 13:1-7) and Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17) all speak into this matter with one voice; unless secular authorities request that Christians are asked to contradict God’s law (Acts 5:29) we are bound by our sovereign Lord to obey.
It is also our duty to appeal to government to obey the spirit to God’s laws. Therefore let our voice be heard as salt and light as Paul did, but we have to pay, what methodology used is entirely up to each person’s own conscious.
Use the pen not the sword; if you believe this government is oppressive to the poor and corrupt, thus not fulfilling as implied by Paul that ‘the one in authority … is God’s servant to do you good’ (Romans 13:1-7), then again you have the duty to overthrow the system and establish another in its place via the democratic order in place.
Paul wrote the instructions to obey the Government during of Nero’s reign (Aprox.A.D.54), albeit I must add, before the persecuting days of A.D. 64 – Justin Martyr, an early church leader (2nd c.) followed suit to Rome by writing these words to the Roman emperor Antonius Pius: “Everywhere we [Christians], more readily than all men, endeavour to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught [by Jesus]….hence to God alone we render worship, but in other things we gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that with your kingly power you be found to possess also sound judgment.”