"I am a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia,
yet reared in this city at the feet of Gamaliel,
trained according to the strictness of the hereditary law,
being inherently zealous for God according as all of you are today,"
The influences of teachers can be at times a double edged sword. Often times many find themselves believing something that isn't true just because the teacher who is teaching may be respected, or have a degree in higher learning than the ones who are being taught, so the many blindly bow to that ones influence over them.
Paul at one time was heavily influenced by Pharisee teachings about God. He was so influenced by their teachings that he persecuted all Jews who were believing in Jesus. He wrote that he was trained at the feet of their most influential and most respected teacher: Gamaliel (Acts 22:3-5) (1).
Gamaliel carried a heavy influence, not only on the religious men of Jerusalem, but on all the people. When the apostles were brought before Gamaliel to be judged, for teaching in the name of Jesus, a Name they were forbidden to teach in by the chief priest, (the Name Peter and the apostles refused to stop teaching in, as this was the Name they had been commissioned to proclaim the truth in), standing before the Sanhedrin Peter says: "One must yield to God rather than to men," at that point their accusers were ready to kill Peter and those men who were with him. Their accusers believed that Jesus was a fraud, and a deceiver, but Gamaliel:
"Orders them to put the men (apostles) outside a bit. Besides he said to them (their accusers), "Men! Israelites! Take heed to yourselves, as to these men, what you are about to be committing. For before these days rose Theudas, saying that he is somebody himself, to whom men numbering about four hundred inclined, who was assassinated, and all, whoever were persuaded by him, were disbanded, and came to nothing. After this, one rose, Judas, the Galilean, in the days of the registration, and draws away people after him, and he perished, and all, whoever were persuaded by him, are scattered. And now I am saying to you, Withdraw from these men and let them be, for if this counsel or this work should be of men, it will be demolished; yet if it is of God, you will not be able to demolish them -- lest at some time you may be found fighters against God also." Now they are persuaded by him, and, calling the apostles to them, and lashing them, they charge them not to be speaking in the name of Jesus, and release them."
Although Gamaliel's teachings were the opposite of the apostles, he advises the apostle's accusers, who were followers of the religion he himself followed and was a leader of, to let them go. History had taught him this teaching of Jesus would come to nothing, like those teachings of others before Him. He believed what he had witnessed in the past would repeat itself, and convinced all others to believe it as well. His influence was so strong he convinced them to do the opposite of what his and their religion demanded: death by stoning.
Although it turned out well for the apostles, not always do influential leader's teachings, and advice benefit, or advance the truths from the scriptures. Often they produce the opposite affect, like Gamaliel's influence did on those who followed his beliefs about God.
"For at present, am I persuading
men or God?"
Many of the beliefs held today by the majority in Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, can be traced back to a few men who had a heavy influence on the doctrines that have permeated the modern church over the last sixteen centuries.
Three men have been influential in shaping the way most who call themselves Christian believe what they believe. They are:
1. Aurelius Augustine 354-430 A.D.
2. John Calvin 1509-1564
3. Jacobus Arminius 1560-1609
Augustine is called by some "the father of eternal torment". He was one of the first to embrace the teaching that those humans who reject the Gospel will spend eternity in torments. He came to his conclusions, not from the early Greek texts, but from the later Latin translations. Augustine admitted he had very little knowledge of the Greek language and even less of Hebrew. Augustine's main argument was the Greek word "aionios" could not mean a limited or long duration of time, if so it would mean that those who believed in Christ were only promised limited life, not eternal life. His main text for support was Matthew 25:46;
"And these shall go away into everlasting (aionios) punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (aionios)."
His reasoning and that of the majority who adhere to his teaching is: you cannot have eternal life with Christ for the believer unless there is eternal life separated from Christ for the unbeliever. And with that separation there is added eternal punishment (torment). For them the verse above proves their point. But it only proves their point when you mistranslate the Greek word "aionios", or change it with the Latin "aeternus etrenus". Remember, Augustine new little to no Greek, as a matter of fact he had been quoted as saying he hated Greek grammar. Yet from his day on his influence over the church and its doctrines concerning the destiny of those who do not believe have been taught in almost every theological seminary, preached on Sunday, and are believed by most who claim to believe that Christ is the worlds Savior, and God is love.
The New Testament Scriptures were originally written in Greek. A quick study of the Greek word aionios and aion will reveal that neither of these Greek words means eternal, eternity, or everlasting. Translated they mean eon (aion), and eonion (aionios). There meaning: A period of time long or short in duration, and belonging to a period of time, respectively.
John Calvin is the inventor of the teaching known as Calvinism. According to Calvin: before the beginning of the world God predestined to save a certain group of people throughout earth's history called God's Elect (the saved). God's sovereign will for the salvation of His Elect cannot be resisted or thwarted, as His irresistible grace ensures that all of them who are chosen will willingly accept Jesus Christ at some point in their lives before they die. The non-Elect (unsaved) cannot come to Christ (ever) because natural fallen man is totally sinful and depraved. Salvation is entirely the work of God from start to finish. All believers (the Elect) will go to heaven, all unbelievers (the non-Elect, the vast majority of humanity) will be judged by God and cast into hell where they will be tormented forever. Hyper Calvinism teaches that God elected these non-elect to hell regardless of their goodness or evil ways. This teaching, although still popular in many churches, has lost most of its influence to the teachings of:
Jacobus Arminius, the inventor of Arminianism. According to Arminius: Christ died for all people and God wills all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. However, God's will can be frustrated and thwarted by humans, and God's grace can be resisted by human freewill. This is because Jacobus believed it is left to each person to ultimately decide whether he/she wishes to be saved or not. Therefore, in order to go to heaven each person must choose to accept Jesus Christ before they die. All those who die without choosing Christ (the vast majority of humanity) will be judged by God and cast into hell, where they will be tormented forever.
Both of these men were influenced by Augustine. And all three of them have influenced the Christian religion. The majority of Christendom adheres to these three men's teachings over the teachings in the Greek scriptures from Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Mark, Matthew, Luke, James, Jude, and every other person in the scriptures these inspired men touched during their ministries.
"Now I am saying this, that no one
may be beguiling you with persuasive words."
It's understandable how all of us can be influenced by certain individuals. They may have a certain charm or mannerism that appeals to our senses, a way of speaking that motivates us, or a welcoming personality that invites us to draw closer. This is true in every area of life, from business to pleasure, from politics to religion. Not to mention the human desire of most of us to belong, or fit in. The team spirit has been around for millenniums. It is the rare person whose personality doesn't want to be a part of something, or isn't influenced by someone. And when such an individual passes our path in life we often see them as odd. They are the type who stops by, checks it out, and moves on. They are not indifferent, nor antisocial; they take what is of value (truth) from whatever is being offered then pack up and move ahead. But for most contentment and security (even false security) is preferred. This is not only true in the world in general; it is also true in the religious world as well.
When I first started to study, I was influenced by Calvin's teachings. For me his take on the scriptures were truth. When asked what I believed was truth, my influence were what caused me to answer the way I did. I followed the man, not the Maker.
Pilate asked Jesus: "What is truth?"
Jesus had already answered Pilate before Pilate asked the question.
"For this also have I been born, and for this have I come into the world, that I should be testifying to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth is hearing My voice."
Of coarse there is truth (see the verse above), but today, we have been led to believe that truth has been confined to humans, or organizations run by humans.
Truth has been spread out, hidden, and has to be searched out, it is also revealed (Hebrews 11:6b) (2). So many are content to grow horizontally instead of vertically when it comes to seeking the truths from the scriptures. Human answers are the only answers that are acceptable (even if they contradict certain portions of scripture), as long as they fit into "their" theology.
Is it wrong to accept the theology of a certain individual, or organization?
If it doesn't line up with the "clear" teachings of the scriptures it is.
Many teachings taught by humans do line up with the scriptures, but many don't. Calvin and Arminius make some very valid points, and some of what they held onto is scriptural.
Calvin: "Before the beginning of the world, God predestined to save a certain group of people throughout earth's history." The Apostle Paul verifies this in Ephesians 1:3-6:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ, according as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world, we to be holy and flawless in His sight,
in love designating us beforehand for the place of a son for Him through Christ Jesus; in accord with the delight of His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace, which graces us in the Beloved:"
As well as several other verses.
Arminius: "Christ died for all people and God wills all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved." Again the Apostle Paul verifies this in 1 Timothy 2:3-4;
"For this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Saviour, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth."
As well as Peter in 2 Peter 3:9;
"The Lord is not tardy as to the promise, as some are deeming tardiness, but is patient because of you, not intending any to perish, but all to make room for repentance."
And Jesus in John 12:32;
"And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to Myself."
Where both men fall into error on the salvation of humankind is not only in their pet doctrines, Arminius: free-will (choose correctly or off to hell), Calvin: election
(chosen for heaven, chosen for hell), but their common influence: Aurelius Augustine. Augustine didn't come up with eternal torture all on his own, before he converted to Christianity he was of the religion Manichaeism. A key belief in Manichaeism was that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (God) was opposed by the semi-eternal evil power (Satan). Therefore, the Manichaean worldview explained the existence of evil with a flawed creation which God took no role in forming but rather was the result of Satan striking out against God (sound familiar). Manichaeism also believed in Paradise and hell, but they believed both were temporal, so no one was assured of eternal life. This is where Augustine more then likely grasped onto the Latin translation of Matthew 25:46 (above). It in a morbid way probably soothed his soul.
Much of Christianity through the centuries has adopted these unscriptural teachings by these influential men: free-will (your choice), election (some chosen for heaven others for hell), hell, omnipotent God but powerless to save all, Satan the self made evil, eternal torture, and slipped them into their every day belief system, and into mistranslated bibles, most followers unaware where they originated from.
It is very understandable considering the lack of reliable information, and abundant superstition that was at Augustine's, Calvin's, and Arminius's fingertips in those early days, but today there is no excuse for believing, and clinging to false teachings like those held by the majority. We have concordances, and very good translations, also you can Google every translation to check for correctness of verse!
Actually I take that back. There was no excuse ever. The Greek/Hebrew Scriptures from the beginning have never taught humans have a free-will, election (some to heaven most to hell), Satan the self made evil, an omnipotent (powerless) God, eternal torture, or eternal life. For one, the word eternal is not in the Greek/Hebrew Scriptures. God has used other inspired words to imply eternal life such as: "Immortality", "Incorruptible", "Incorruption", "Unfading" and "Indissoluble". None of those words are ever used to describe the "fate" of those who don't believe in this era.
"Which we are speaking also, not with words
taught by human wisdom, but with those taught
by the spirit, matching spiritual blessings with spiritual words."
1 Corinthians 2:13
It is so easy for all of us to rely on Humankind to teach us the things of God. And, yes, we can learn from teachers, God has appointed some to be teachers
(1 Corinthians 12:28) (3), but it must always be remembered, they are what God isn't, fallible, and many have not been appointed by God, they are appointed by humans.
Remember Peter's words to the Sanhedrin?
"One must yield to God rather than to men." (Acts 5:29)
We are never told to believe what another tells us about God and His word, without first checking the scriptures. The scriptures should be our influence, because they are God's words to us.
Many interpret verses to suit their doctrines. We are all guilty of that to some degree. But the one who has no "systems doctrines" to defend, will be the one who is more open to truth from the scriptures, than the one who is constantly defending what they have been taught by humans.
The Berean believers of Paul's time must have known all to well of mans limited knowledge of God's truths. When Paul was finished speaking to them, they received the words he spoke with eagerness (probably hoping: "Could Paul's words really be true?"), then they immediately went to the scriptures and searched them to see if they had it so (Acts 17:11) (4), and what they found out from the scriptures was Paul's words were true! Most will accept or reject a teaching without even checking it out on their own, not so with the believer, they will search out a matter using the scriptures as their benchmark.
The message Paul brought to them lined up with the scriptures, as well as the character of the living God, and His Son Whom Paul was proclaiming.
Paul wrote to Timothy telling him whom and what at one time first influenced him, and what influenced him later:
"I, who formerly was a calumniator and a persecutor and an outrager (his early influences; the teachings of the Pharisee' and Gamaliel) but I was shown mercy, seeing that I do it being ignorant (Paul didn't check and see if the scriptures had it so), in unbelief (yet a believer in God, or at least the God he was told to believe in, which he found out was like being an unbeliever). Yet the grace of our Lord overwhelms, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all welcome, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, foremost of whom am I (truth from the scriptures). But therefore was I shown mercy, that in me, the foremost, Jesus Christ should be displaying all His patience, for a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian. Now to the King of the eons, the incorruptible, invisible, only, and wise God (The True Influence), be honor and glory for the eons of the eons! Amen!"
(1 Timothy 1:13-17)
Paul, who at one time was influenced by the teachings of men about what God was saying, later came to a realization that there is only One influence, the One Who had shown him mercy in his unbelief.
When Paul was standing before Agrippa, pleading his case, he told him; ("Happening, then, on assistance from God, until this day I stand attesting both to small and to great, saying nothing outside of what both the prophets and Moses speak of impending occurrences -- if it be the suffering Christ -- if He, the first out of a resurrection of the dead, is about to be announcing light both to the people and to the nations.") Paul said nothing outside of what the scriptures revealed. He long ago stopped being influenced by humans; he relied on God to assist him in his understanding. He might well have been told the words that Jesus spoke: "Search the scriptures, for in them you are supposing you have life eonian, and those are they which are testifying concerning Me." (John 5:39) Paul would not allow any teachings outside of the scriptures to influence him as they did in the past. Only those teachings that were already written (Moses and the prophets) and those teachings that were being revealed to him through the spirit (those that would become what we call the New Testament) were his influences.
There are many writers, and teachers past and present that have been given insight into the words of God from the scriptures, but our first influence should be the words of God from the scriptures, as they (God's words) were for Jesus (John 12:49-50) (5), Paul (Acts 18:11) (6), Peter (Acts 10:44) (7), and all the others who were inspired by God to write, and finalize all God wanted to say to humanity.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "In accepting the word heard from us, from God you receive, not the word of men, but, according as it truly is, the word of God, which is operating also in you who are believing." (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Paul was one of a handful of humans who could make that statement ("not mans words, but according as it truly is, the word of God") when he spoke about God.
Today we have to match mans words with the scriptures to see if they are in accord with God's words, not the other way around, if they don't line up discard them.
"Now we obtained, not the spirit of
the world, but the spirit which is of
1 Corinthians 2:12.
Jesus told His disciples that God will send them/us the spirit of truth.
"Still much have I to say to you, but you are not able to bear it at present. Yet whenever that may be coming -- the spirit of truth --it will be guiding you into all the truth, for it will not be speaking from itself, but whatsoever it should be hearing will it be speaking, and of what is coming will it be informing you. That will be glorifying Me, seeing that of Mine will it be getting, and informing you. All, whatever the Father has, is Mine. Therefore I said to you that of Mine is it getting, and will be informing you."
Those who are His will be getting it (the spirit of truth), and it is that spirit which is informing us.
How do we know that we have the spirit?
Jesus said: "That will be glorifying me."
The spirits influence on the believer will cause the believers teachings to glorify Christ. It will never succumb to human influence. It will guard all who are led by it from human influence. It will also never lead you outside of what God has already revealed in His word. Solomon wrote "Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not lean on your own (human) understanding." (Proverbs 3:5). David wrote in (Psalm 51:10); "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew in me an established spirit." Paul wrote to the Colossians: "Therefore we also, from the day on which we hear, do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may be filled full with the realization of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9). All of God's words (truth) will be revealed by His spirit. The spirit will be the influence that will lead us into all truth from His word.
John warned in 1st John 4:1; "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are of God." John goes on to write about those who are influenced by the world, he then says: "We are of God. He who knows God is hearing us. He who is not of God is not hearing us". By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deception." (4:6). Paul tells us the same in 1st Timothy 4:1: "Now the spirit is saying explicitly, that in subsequent eras some will be withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons, in the hypocrisy of false expressions, their own conscience having been cauterized;" He also tells us in (1st Thessalonians 5:19, 21) to "Quench not the spirit - Yet be testing all, retaining the ideal."
When we leave the truths found in the written word (the Scriptures), or add to them because of outside influences, we begin to quench the spirit of truth. Jesus tells us to be careful of this, and to watch, as there are many who will be/are coming in His name, who are saying He is indeed the Christ, and they will be/are deceiving many (Matthew 24:4-5) (8).
There are many good teachers out there; you will know them by their fruit (teaching). And there are many bad teachers out there as well, most unaware of the damage their doctrine is causing to those who listen. If their teaching has influenced you into believing that the scriptures aren't the final word, or God's will is impotent, God is indecisive, careless, or God is a monster, a God that would allow His creation choose their own destiny and then torture them for making the wrong choice, or choose some for Himself and cast the rest in hell, discard it, they are false teachings, you are being influenced by human teachings (false interpretations of what the scriptures teach), not God's teachings from the scriptures.
Paul was so sure of the influence of the word of God that he tells Timothy (and us) to:
"Herald the word. Stand by it, opportunely, inopportunely, expose, rebuke, entreat, with all patience and teaching - (because) All scripture is inspired by God, and is beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, that the (hu)man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good act."
(2nd Timothy 4:1, 3:16-17).
The reason for this is:
"For the era will be when they will not tolerate sound teaching, but, their hearing being tickled, they will heap up for themselves teachers in accord with their own desires, and, indeed, they will be turning their hearing away from the truth, yet will be turned aside to myths." (2nd Timothy 4:3-4). This era Paul wrote about was in full motion shortly after the death of the apostles.
One more word from Paul concerning the influence of the spirit:
"For is any of humanity acquainted with that which is human except the spirit of humanity which is in it? Thus also, that which is of God no one knows, except the spirit of God. Now we obtained, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may be perceiving that which is being graciously given to us by God, which we are speaking also, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, matching spiritual blessings with spiritual words. Now he who is spiritual is, indeed, examining all."
(1st Corinthians 2:11-15).
There are many influences out there. Whatever or whoever your influences are, examine all they teach concerning God and His word. Always let your final influences be God, His Spirit, and His Word.
The Scriptures were given to us as the final say from God until we are all one in Him; we are not to be influenced by what humans say they say, but what God says they say.
"To us God reveals them through His spirit, for the spirit is searching all, even the depths of God."
(1 Corinthians 2:10).
To Be Continued
1. "I am a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, yet reared in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained according to the strictness of the hereditary law, being inherently zealous for God according as all of you are today, I, who persecute this way to death, binding and giving over both men and women to jail, as the chief priest also was testifying to me, and the entire eldership, from whom, receiving letters also to the brethren, I went into Damascus, to be leading also those being there, bound, to Jerusalem, that they may be punished."
2. "For he who is coming to God must believe that He is, and is becoming a Rewarder of those who are seeking Him out."
3. "Now you are the body of Christ, and members of a part, whom also God, indeed, placed in the ecclesia, first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers, thereupon powers, thereupon graces of healing, supports, pilotage, species of languages."
4. "Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, who receive the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures day by day, to see if these have it thus."
5. "Seeing that I speak not from Myself, but the Father Who sends Me, He has given Me the precept, what I may be saying and what I should be speaking.
And I am aware that His precept is life eonian. What, then, I am speaking, according as the Father has declared it to Me, thus am I speaking."
6. "Now he is seated one year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."
7. "While Peter is still speaking these declarations (the words of God), the holy spirit falls on all those hearing the word.
8. "And, answering, Jesus said to them, "Beware that no one should be deceiving you. For many shall be coming in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ!' and shall be deceiving many."