Difficult Bible Passages
Don’t Forsake the “Assembling of Believers”
Lorraine Day, M.D.
Doesn’t the Bible tell us NOT to “forsake the assembling of believers”? Doesn’t that mean that we should have worship services in Organized Churches? Didn’t God ordain the “Organized Church”?
“Let us hold fast the confession of the expectation without wavering: for He is faithful that promised.
“And let us consider one another to incite to love and ideal acts:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, as the manner of some is; but entreating one another: and so much the more, as you are observing the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
To whom was the book of Hebrews written?
“The letter was addressed primarily to Israelite converts to Christianity who no longer followed the Pharisees who were the leaders in the synagogues the “Organized Church” of the day. These Israelites were familiar with the Old Testament and were being tempted to revert to Phariseeism and/or to pervert the true gospel by the infiltration of Phariseeism. (Galatians 2:14)
“Some have suggested that these professing Israelite Christians were thinking of merging with a sect, such as the Essenes at Qumran near the dead Sea, who lived an ascetic life. The accounts by Josephus and Philo show that the Essenes (Philo: Essaioi) led a strictly celibate and communal life often compared by scholars to later Christian monastic living.
The Theme of the book of Hebrews
“The theme of Hebrews is the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ as revealer and as mediator of God’s grace. The prologue (1:1-4) presents Christ as God’s full and final revelation, far surpassing the limited preliminary revelation given in the Old Testament. The prophecies and promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament (New Covenant), of which Christ is the mediator. From the Old Testament itself, Christ is shown to be superior to the ancient prophets, to angels, to Moses and to Aaron and the priestly succession descended from him. Hebrews could be called “the book of better things” since the two Greek words for “better” and “superior” occur 15 times in the letter.
“Practical applications of this theme are given throughout the book. The readers are told that there can be no turning back to, or continuation in, the old system of Phariseeism, which has been superceded by the unique priesthood of Christ. God’s people now must look only to Him, whose atoning death, resurrection and ascension have opened the way into the true, heavenly sanctuary of God’s presence. Resisting temptations to give up the struggle, believers must persevere in the spiritual contest to which they have committed themselves. Otherwise they may meet with judgment as did the rebellious generation of Israelites in the desert.” Introduction to the book of Hebrews, New International Version of the Bible, pg 1857,1858.
Apparently some of the Israelite (Hebrew) Christians were in danger of joining a sect that believed in a celibate, monastic life of repeated fasting a plan of salvation by works - something the Bible condemns.
“Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of devils:
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from eating foods (NOT “meats”) that God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4:1-3
The author of the book of Hebrews warns against this ascetic, monastic life by saying:
“Let us hold fast the confession of the expectation without wavering: for He is faithful that promised.
“And let us consider one another to incite to love and ideal acts:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, as the manner of some is; but entreating one another: and so much the more, as you are observing the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, as the manner of some is (such as the Essenes and their ascetic, monastic, life of “salvation by works”) but entreating one another. . .”
In this passage, the author of the book of Hebrews is NOT endorsing a system of “Organized churches” as the “assembling of believers” as that would be like the Pharisees were doing in the synagogues, a system that Jesus strongly rebuked which undoubtedly culminated in His being put to death by these same leaders of the “Organized church” the Pharisees. Instead, the author of Hebrews is denouncing the idea of living a celibate, monastic, life far away from the masses of humanity who need to learn of the perfect Life of Jesus and God’s marvelous grace and salvation. They were and we are to be “lights” in a dark world.
The Israelite Christians and those who had converted from paganism (the nations) were meeting in homes and in groups along the riverbanks, worshiping on the Seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) the Lord’s Day. The pagans, on the other hand, worshiped their gods in gorgeous temples of stone with magnificent adornments, even though the Bible says:
“Howbeit the most High dwells NOT in temples made with hands. . .” Acts 7:48
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells NOT in temples made with hands.” Acts 17:24
God does NOT dwell in temples (churches) made with hands. Our body is the temple of God’s spirit. He dwells in us.
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (God’s breath of holiness) which is IN YOU, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19,20
When Jesus was on earth, He made no attempt to set up an Organized church. Even when He was soon to be crucified, he strongly rejected His disciples’ desire to be part of a hierarchy (“Who will sit on your left and your right?” they asked Jesus). Jesus said,
“The Unbelievers (Gentiles) lord it over each other, but it shall NOT be that ay among you (the Believers).” (Mark 10:42,43)
Again, the pagans (the heathen the unbelievers) had a strong hierarchy, but Jesus instructed His followers to reject that system because when “man” lords it over man, his “power” always corrupts him.
Shutting oneself off in a monastery makes one useless to God in addition to the secret sin of self-righteousness, in which one concentrates only on his own life and his own salvation, rather than being concerned for, and working for, the salvation of others.
When the author of Hebrews warned against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” he was not endorsing an “Organized Church” but instead he was warning the Israelite Christians NOT to sequester themselves away from life and civilization by pursuing a monastic, ascetic, self-centered existence.
See www.goodnewsaboutgod.com for more information on the “Organized Church.”
Was Paul’s “Thorn in the flesh” - Blindness?
"Well, how about Paul's "thorn.” God didn't heal Paul completely of his blindness, did He?
In 2 Cor 12:7-9 Paul says:
"Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the evelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
“For this thing I sought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you. For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
The expression "thorn in the flesh" is used in both the Old and New Testaments as an illustration. But the "thorn in the flesh" NEVER indicated sickness or personal disability.
Wherever the expression is used in the Bible, it is specifically stated what the "thorn in the flesh" was.
Numbers 33:55 the expression "thorns in your sides" illustrated the inhabitants of Canaan.
In Joshua 23:13, the expression referred to the heathen nations of Canaan (The Canaanites.)
Paul states exactly what his "thorn" was. He says it was "the messenger of Satan" or as translated by others, "the angel of the devil, Satan's angel"
And what was the purpose of Paul's thorn? "To buffet him!" To buffet means to give "blow after blow."
Remember after Paul's conversion, God sent Ananias to Paul with the information, "I will show him (Paul) how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Acts 9:16 which came to pass in the following ways.
1) He was mobbed and expelled from Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica and Berea.
2) He was stoned in Lystra and left for dead.
3) He was beaten and jailed at Philippi.
4) He was mobbed at Corinth and Ephesus.
5) He was seized by angry Jews, mobbed, tried in court five times, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake.
Who but Satan's angel could be responsible for all these sufferings and buffetings? In enumerating them, we see that Paul mentions almost everything one could think of except sickness or an eye disease.
Certainly Paul's "thorn" could not have been defective sight, because Paul's eyes were healed of blindness. He received his sight, according to Acts 9:18:
"And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales: and he received sight at once and arose and was baptized."
Certainly the Bible would not say this if Paul's eyes were as poor as theologians would have us believe.
Pastors have preached entire sermons suggesting that God only partially healed Paul’s eyes, as if God is incapable of healing completely. They often quote the following text to “prove” that Paul’s vision was impaired.
“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” Galatians 6:11
In many KJV Bibles, the margin will read “with what LARGE letters I have written unto you with mine own hand” suggesting that because of poor eyesight, Paul had to write BIG letters, apparently so he could see them.
But the original Greek Scriptures read:
“Lo! With what size letters I write to you with my own hand!”
Paul’s epistles are in fact his “letters” to the different Christian groups that he was visiting and encouraging. The word letters always referred to Paul’s correspondence in general not the individual “letters” in a word.
At that time, the custom was to dictate one’s correspondence (letters) to a secretary who did the actual writing. In this instance, Paul is telling the Galatians that he is writing the long letter himself, without a secretary present. In no way is he suggesting that because of poor eyesight he must write BIG letters like a young child learning to write.
So we have every reason to believe that Paul’s eyes were perfectly healthy. God NEVER heals “half-way!”
Was Jesus a Jew?
Jews and Gentiles: What do the terms mean?
Let's stop right here and discuss the terms "Jew" and "Gentile." I'm sure you will be astonished to learn that NEITHER of these terms is EVER used in the Bible, in the original Scriptures. These are actually propaganda words placed there by the translators to support their own preconceived theological ideas.
Let me give you the documentation for this statement.
Look in a Concordance, Strong's Concordance is a popular, commonly used one. The word "Jew" (#2453 in the Greek) is actually short for the word Judean, or more accurately Ioudas, pronounced ee-oo-dah-yos. The letter "J" is not present in the New Testament Greek alphabet. The English alphabet had no "J" prior to the 14th century, and it wasn't predominantly used until the 17th century.
The word "Jew" is an English concoction that did not exist at the time of the writing of the New Testament. The word is actually Judean.
The King James Bible in 1611, for example, used the word Iudea, not our present Judea, and it was pronounced you-dee-a.
So the word "Jew" is short for the word "Judean", meaning a resident of a particular area - Judea, the southern part of Canaan, later known as Palestine. Jerusalem was in Judea, and the temple was in Jerusalem. The word "Jew" did not mean an ethnic background, it meant, at most, a location.
The English word Jew evolved phonetically from the prefix 'Iou, from the Greek word 'Ioudas which means Judean.
Judea is the same as Judah, and Judah was the tribe of Israel that inhabited that geographical area when the twelve tribes conquered the inhabitants of Canaan about 1400 B.C. The Tribe of Judah was the largest of the twelve and the most influential. God said that the Messiah would come through that Tribe.
In addition, study of the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, makes it clear that the designation "Judean" or "Ioudas" refers to those who had a knowledge of the God of heaven, as opposed to those who had NO knowledge of the God of heaven, those who worshiped pagan gods, referred to as the "Nations."
Now look up the word "Nations" in the Greek (#1484) and the Hebrew (#1471). Now look up the word "Gentiles." You will see that the number is identical to the word "Nations" both in the Greek (#1484) and in the Hebrew (#1471).
This shows that the Bible translators used the word "Gentiles" at their own discretion, when it would have a theological or sociological impact, rather than using the word "Nations" in every instance, as unbiased interpretation would dictate. There is NO instance in the Bible, where the use of the word "Gentiles" is appropriate. The word should ALWAYS be "Nations."
The Hebrew word (#1471) translated "Nations" or sometimes "Gentiles", is the word "goy" or "goyim", a present-day derogatory term used by Jews to describe non-Jews, and means, in present day Jewish interpretation, a troop of lowly animals, such as cattle, or a heathen people.
Isa 37:12 "Have the gods of the nations delivered them..."
Ps 96:5 "For all the gods of the nations are idols..."
Isa 9:1 "...Galilee of the nations."
Again: The Scriptural meanings of the two terms are the following:
Judeans (mistranslated "Jews" in the Bible): Those who were aware of, or who even worshiped, the God of heaven, who lived primarily in the region of Judea (Often they had wandered far from the God of heaven they were supposed to know.)
Nations (mistranslated "Gentiles" in the Bible): Those who did NOT know, nor worship, the God of heaven, but instead worshiped pagan idols and lived generally in areas other than Judea.
Neither term was a designation of ethnicity or blood line. They were defined in relation to their religion - their worship, which, in general, correlated with their geographical location. The center of the worship of the God of heaven in the entire inhabited world, was Jerusalem which was in the region of Judea. Everywhere else was referred to as "the Nations."
Was Jesus a Jew?
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, so He was a Judean by birth (NOT a Jew), but he lived his life in Nazareth, in "Galilee of the Nations (Gentiles)" so He was a Nazarene. Isa 9:1
Jesus was a child of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34,35). He had no lineage from His stepfather, Joseph. Many claim that He had to have genes from His mother, Mary, or He wouldn't have been able to fulfill the prediction of the Scriptures - - to be "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) Yet Adam and Eve were created by God, with no genes from an earthly mother or father, and they were not only "subject" to sin - - - they ACTUALLY sinned! So having earthly genes from an earthly parent is not a requirement in order to be "subject" to sin.
Is "Salvation of the Jews" as the King James Bible translates John 4:22? The prepositions in the Greek are far more specific. The word here used in the Greek "Ek" (#1537) means "origin" or "out of." Since Jesus was born in Judea and since He identifies Himself as the "Saviour of ALL mankind" (1 Tim 4:10), the phrase should be translated, "Salvation is OUT OF Judea." Salvation is found ONLY in Jesus, Who was born in (came OUT OF) Judea!
Look at Matt 2:6 "And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for OUT OF thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel."
Micah 5:2 "And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Judah; yet OUT OF thee shall one come forth to Me, to be a ruler of Israel; and His goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity." (From the Greek O.T.)
Heb 7:14 "For it is manifest that OUT OF Judah has sprung our Lord..."
Jesus NEVER identified Himself as a Jew
In fact, He was ALWAYS at odds with Jewry
Jesus was taunted, baited and hated by the Jewish Pharisees and Rabbis because He taught a TOTALLY DIFFERENT religion from what the Pharisees and Rabbis taught. His message was the Antithesis of that day's Jewish religion.
Jesus NEVER identified Himself with the "Jews." He always referred to them as separate from Him.
John 7:1 "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He would not walk in Jewry (Judea), because the Jews sought to kill Him."
Luke 11:47, 48 "Woe unto you! for you build the sepulchers of the prophets, and YOUR fathers killed them."
John 6:58 "I am the Bread which came down from heaven; YOUR fathers ate manna and are dead."
John 8:56 "YOUR father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it and was glad."
Mark 7:9 "And He said unto them, Full well, you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep YOUR OWN tradition."
Matt: 15:3, 6 "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by YOUR tradition?...."Thus you have made the commandment of God of none effect by YOUR traditions."
Galilee was an Ethnic "Melting Pot"
The area of Galilee had been conquered by foreign invaders twice and each time the majority of the population were killed or taken prisoner to the conqueror's homeland. The area was then repopulated with people transported in from the conquering nation.
The first conqueror was Assyria, which came against the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. Samaria was captured and its people exiled, bringing the northern Kingdom to an end. The area was then repopulated with Assyrians.
2 Kings 17:5,6,17,18 "Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes...
The Lord was "provoked to anger because Israel "caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments... Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight; there was NONE left but the tribe of Judah ONLY."
2 Kings 17:24 "And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof."
The second conqueror was Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, in 586 B.C.,when Daniel and his three friends were taken into captivity along with thousands of others. The area of Israel was ravished and became almost a wasteland.
2 Kings 24:1,2,14,15 "In his days, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against them (Jehoiakim) bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the Word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets.
"And he carried away ALL Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths; none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land."
2 Kings 25:11 "Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carry away."
So Judah, as well as Galilee, had been depopulated of Judeans and repopulated with non-Jews.
In addition, we are told repeatedly in the Bible that when the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, they inter-married with the Canaanites, rebelling against the Lord's specific directions.
Also, Rahab, the (NON-Jew) Canaanite prostitute, was an ancestor of Jesus. Rahab was Boaz' mother. (Matthew 1:5) Boaz married Ruth and they were the grandparents of Jesse, the father of King David, through whose line Jesus came. (Rahab was King David's great grandmother!)
One more thing, when the Israelites initially left Egypt, when they were an infant nation, they were already a MIXED MULTITUDE! Ex 12:38 says, "And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up also with them;..."
It's abundantly clear that there was no ethnically pure "Jewish" heritage in Israel hundreds of years BEFORE Jesus was born, much less when He arrived. Even MORE so today, with all the intermarrying, there is really no such thing as a "Jew" by heredity, only by social culture.
This is dramatically confirmed by Arthur Koestler, a "Jew", in his amazing book, The Thirteenth Tribe. Koestler reveals that approximately 80% of all the "Jews" in the world today, the Ashkenazim "Jews", are really Khazars , originating from Khazaria, an area that later became Russia. The vast majority of "Jews" in the world today, have NO Semitic blood in them. They are in reality, "Gentiles.".
In his book, Koestler "traces the history of the ancient Khazar Empire, a major but almost forgotten power in Eastern Europe, which in the Dark Ages became converted to Judaism. Khazaria, which flourished from the seventh to the eleventh century, was finally wiped out by the forces of Genghis Khan, but evidence indicates that the Khazars themselves migrated to Poland and formed the cradle of Western Jewry. . ."
"The Khazars found themselves in a precarious position between the two major world powers: the Eastern Roman Empire in Byzantium and the triumphant followers of Mohammed. As Mr. Koestler points out, the Khazars were the Third World of their day, and they chose a surprising method of resisting both the the Western pressure to become Christian and the Eastern to adopt Islam. Rejecting both, they converted to Judaism. . . The story of the Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like the most cruel hoax which history has ever perpetrated."1 The Jews are not Jewish. Alas, "anti-Semitism" can no longer be "anti-Semitism" if the "victims" are NOT "Semitic" - - - if the "Jews" are NOT "Jewish"!
Under his chapter heading RACE AND MYTH, author Koestler states: "The Jews of our times fall into two main divisions: Sephardim and Ashkenazim. The Sephardim are descendants of the Jews who since antiquity had lived in Spain (in Hebrew Sepharad) until they were expelled at the end of the fifteenth century and settled in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and to a lesser extent in Western Europe. They spoke a Spanish-Hebrew dialect, Ladino, and preserved their own traditions and religious rites. In the 1960s, the number of Sephardim was estimated at 500,000.
"The Ashkenazim, at the same period, numbered about eleven million. Thus, in common parlance, "Jew" is practically synonymous with Ashkenazi Jew....Summing up a very old and bitter controversy in a laconic paragraph, Raphael Patai wrote:2
"The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropometric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics - stature, weight, skin color, cephalic index, facial index, blood groups, etc."
According to Koestler, a "Jew" himself, as well as other "Jewish" authors, there is no such thing as a Jewish race. There is no such thing as a Jewish ethnicity. There IS a Jewish culture - a way they look at the world, a way they treat others who they consider Non-Jews, a way they raise their children to think of themselves, a way of doing business - a Jewish culture, but NOT a Jewish race.
There is NO evidence that any "Jews" can trace their ancestry to Abraham.
Christians base their support of the present-day State of Israel and the present-day "Jews" on Genesis 12:1-3,
"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from they kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee:
"And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall ALL families of the earth be blessed" (Not just "Jewish" families). This is interpreted by many Christians to mean that God will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse the Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have just shown that Abraham's "seed" are those who follow Christ, true Christians! The Jews in general and the Jewish religion HATE Christ! God said He would bless ALL families of the earth because Jesus, the Saviour of the world, would be born in Abraham's lineage.
First of all, the present day "Jews" CANNOT trace their ancestry to Abraham as has just been shown.
In addition, the Bible clearly states that being the offspring of Abraham is based on spiritual, NOT physical, factors.
In Romans 2:17,25,26,28,29, Paul points out that someone who is "called a Jew" because he is a physical descendant of Abraham, and yet who lives as a breaker of God's law, "is NOT a Jew."
Romans 9:7 "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Abraham had two sons. The first, Ishmael, was born after the flesh. He was a son of "unbelief." Abraham didn't believe that God could give a son to his wife, Sarah, and himself in their very old age.
The second son was Isaac, who was born when Abraham had faith in God's promise (Gen 16:1-3, 15; 21:1-3; Rom 4:18-21). In Galatians 4:22-31, Paul reveals that Ishmael represents unbelievers, while Isaac represents both Jews and Non-Jews who have faith, who believe!
In Romans 9:8, Paul concludes by saying, "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are NOT the children of God; but the children of the promise ARE COUNTED for the seed."
Another text often quoted to support Jesus being Jewish, is Matt 25:40 where Jesus says, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," claiming that Jesus is referring to His "Jewish" brethren.
Jesus is GOD. (John 1:1,14) God is NOT Jewish. Jesus wasn't, and isn't, Jewish. In this text Jesus, as a human being, is speaking of His brothers (and sisters) of the human race. Paul, considered to be a Jew of ALL Jews, writes to the "Gentiles" in the books of Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and the other epistles, and over 100 times refers to them as his "brethren." That DOESN'T mean they were "Jewish." They were his brethren in Christ!
The present-day State of Israel is populated by a group of people who are NOT the descendants of Abraham and have NO right to the area of Palestine based on Bible promises nor any other factor, other than their indiscriminate use of military force.
On the contrary, it appears that the Palestinians and other Arabs may well be able to trace their lineage back to Ishmael and thus to Abraham, Ishmael's father. They then are the TRUE Semites - and ANY words or actions against THEM (the Palestinians), must be considered Anti-semitism! It would follow then that the State of Israel and the "Jews" around the world are guilty of the most intense and abhorrent anti-semitism against the Palestinians.
What did Jesus mean when He said,
“Upon this rock, I will build my church . . .”
We read in Matthew 16:13-18
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Phillippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist, some Elias (Elijah); and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (Greek = petros, a stone), and upon this rock (Petra in Greek a large Rock) I will build my church (literal in Greek = ecclesia, meaning an assembly of people with no particular organization or hierarchy) and the gates of hell (Greek = hades, literally meaning the grave or death NOT “hell”) shall not prevail against it.
The Catholic Church claims that the apostle Peter was the first Pope, a claim that is completely false and has no support in the Bible or in history. In fact, there is no evidence that Peter ever went to Rome. But we must let the Bible define itself.
Once again our question. In Matthew 16:18 is the "Rock" upon which Christ established His church Peter? Or is the "Rock" Christ? God's answer:
For other foundation NO ONE can lay, but that which has been laid, which Is Christ Jesus. (I Corinthians 3:11)
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST). (I Corinthians 10:4).
Jesus said to them, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" (Matthew 21:42) (Compare with Psalm 117:21, 23)
For they stumbled or the stumbling-stone, as it is written, "Behold I lay in Zion, a stumbling-stone and a ROCK of offence: and whosoever believeth on him (Christ) shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9:33)
Let us see what the apostle, St. Peter, had to say concerning this.
To whom coming (Christ), as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God, and precious,
Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and, a stone of stumbling, and a ROCK of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: (I Peter 2:4. 6-8)
This is the stone that was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Also the words of St. Peter, speaking of Jesus Christ, as recorded in Acts 4:11, 12)
Turning to the Old Testament we find the following:
The Lord is my ROCK, and my fortress, and my deliverer. My God, is the ROCK of refuge. Psalm 18:2, 94:22.
God was their ROCK, and the high God their redeemer. Psalm 78:35.
Unto Thee will I cry, O LORD, MY ROCK; Psalm 28:1.
Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be Thou my strong ROCK, FOR A HOUSE of defense to SAVE me, for Thou art my ROCK and my FORTRESS; therefore for Thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. Psalm 31:2,3.
I will say unto God my ROCK, why hast Thou forgotten me? Psalm 41:l0.
Lead me to the ROCK that is higher than I. Psalms 61:2
He Only is my ROCK and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In GOD is my salvation and my glory: THE ROCK of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, ye people, Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:6-8
To shew that the Lord is upright: He is my ROCK, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 92:15.
But the Lord is my defense; and MY GOD IS THE ROCK of my refuge. Psalm 94:22.
O Come, let us sing unto THE LORD; let us make a joyful noise to THE ROCK of our salvation. Psalm 95:1.
The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22, 23.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Isaiah 28:16.
Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto OUR GOD! He is THE ROCK, His work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: Deuteronomy 32:3,4.
Then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed THE ROCK of his salvation. Deuteronomy 32:15,18.
And he said: THE LORD IS MY ROCK, and my fortress, and my deliverer II Samuel 22:2.
It is clear that The “Rock” is Jesus Christ NOT Peter.
But is there more here for us to understand? Notice verses 16 and 17:
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon
Barjona: for flesh and blood (human beings) have not revealed it unto three, but My Father which is in heaven.
Jesus was telling Peter that Peter had understood divine revelation straight from God - that “Jesus was Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter had not learned that from “man” - human beings. He was taught directly by God, and not by “man.”
Jesus was saying that on THIS principle - that God will teach us directly He will build His ecclesia His group of followers.
Who is your Teacher?
There are many organizational structures claiming to embody the true church; yet the Scriptures reveal only two specific representative groups on earth. One of these two groups is called, "The Synagogue of Satan." The second group is recognized as, "The saints who obey God's commandments and have the faith of (or in) Jesus." See Rev. 2:8-13, 3:7-13 and 14:12
God's plan was that everyone personally hear the voice of God. The people's plan required God to initiate a complicated system of laws, rituals, and a human priesthood.
What is God's chosen method for imparting truth?
1 John 2:26,27 "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him."
James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, without finding fault; and it shall be given him."
Acts 2:17 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."
God desired to speak to the people directly. See Ex:19:9 But the people were afraid for God to speak to them. Ex 20:18-21
Having rejected direct communion with God the people remained at a distance and looked for a human intermediary to impart moral direction. But the introduction of a human system to bring about the proper spiritual condition was useless to prevent sinning.
The Creator had offered to every member of the Israelite community the moral benefits of personal communion with God. But this invaluable blessing was rejected by the congregation. In order to preserve some contact with Divinity, the Lord instituted the Levitical priesthood. This priesthood was abolished as ineffective after Christ, through His death, resurrection and ascension, re-established direct teaching through the Holy Spirit.
Where did the people turn when Moses was gone for so long? Ex. 32:1 (Back to the Egyptian pattern of leadership.)
Individuals and groups demonstrate their rejection of direct communion with God by trusting humanity to authenticate truth. Read the tragic story in Exodus, chapter 32. The molding of the "Golden Calf" represents man's efforts to fulfill his responsibilities to God through commitment to a human structure.
Let the Lord summarize for Himself the flaw in the old covenant. In the book of Hebrews, the question is posed: See Hebrews 8:7 "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second."
And what is the second or new covenant? Is it abolishing the first covenant (the law)? No, it is putting the law into the hearts and minds of the people.
"I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts."
The people did not want to be challenged by direct contact with God, but they feigned allegiance by agreeing to submit to a human leader. But the Lord recognized that their words did not reflect the condition of their hearts. They were a people who drew near with their lips while in spirit they remained at a distance. See Deut 5:25,27-29.
The plan of the people rejected the Divine concept of direct teaching. The people opted instead to place their trust in a human agency and to make that agency responsible for their enlightenment. Because of this arrangement the people did not experience the fear of God, and ALL but two of them, Caleb and Joshua, failed to reach the promised land.
How did such a concept of a superior humanity originate? What series of human initiatives set in motion the theory that the congregation is a mob knowing nothing? Where was it first established that spiritual perception was an innately possessed quality of those appointed by human decree?
"And when He was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him (Jesus) as He was teaching, and said, By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?"
It was the fallacious arrangement of the old covenant that led to Jesus being rejected as the Messiah. The Pharisees, "sitting in Moses' seat," directed the people to refuse the Light that had come down from heaven. The "leaven" of the Pharisees had distorted truth and made it error; yet the people still accepted their words as the very commands of God!
That same "old covenant" is practiced today, and there is no lack of those who covet "to sit in Moses' seat." People still commit their spiritual direction to human channels, and man-made authority is obeyed as the voice of God. In this age, human position and structure are honored as surely as the "Golden Calf." After bowing in respect to human councils, the people feel at liberty "to give themselves to revelry." See: Matt 23:1,2, and 5-14. John 7:47-49
The True Meaning of
Peter’s Vision of the Animals in the Sheet
Acts 10:1 11:18
Didn’t God tell Peter that Peter could eat ANY type of animal, and that they are ALL clean? Isn’t it true that God has allowed us to eat every type of animal, no matter how filthy it is or what filth it eats?
This is lightweight, superficial “scholarship” and should be an embarrassment to anyone who quotes it.
Read Acts 10:9-16 and read to the end of the story!
Peter, in Joppa, is on the housetop praying. He’s hungry, and is waiting for the meal to be prepared.
He has a vision or a dream: Heaven opens, a vessel descends like a sheet, containing wild beasts, creeping things and fowls of the air.
A voice says, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat!” Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have NEVER eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
Notice that Peter was refusing to eat unclean animals after Jesus was resurrected. Peter was still not eating unclean animals even after the Cross. Peter had forsaken Phariseeism, which later became “Judaism,” and had become a Christian - a follower of Christ! Peter was not a “Jew.” He was an Israelite a Judean which meant he was a follower of the One True God, as opposed to the “Nations” (mistranslated “Gentiles) who worshipped many pagan gods.
Jesus’ death on the Cross did NOT cause unclean animals to become “clean” animals. Scavengers animals that ate rotting, decaying, filthy dead flesh BEFORE the Cross, were STILL Scavengers eating rotting, decaying, filthy dead flesh - AFTER the Cross! God does not want our body (His temple 1 Cor. 3:17) defiled in this way.
“The Voice spoke again, “What God has cleansed, do NOT call common or unclean.” This happened three times. Then the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Vs 17: Peter wondered about this vision, “What did it mean?”
Men from the house of Cornelius (an Italian from Caesarea) were at the gate. The Spirit said, “Arise and get thee down and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.”
Vs 28: Peter went to Cornelius’ home and said, “You know that it is an unlawful thing for a Judean (incorrectly translated “Jew.” The correct translation is Judean meaning “believer” in the true God) to come unto one of another nation (incorrectly translated Gentile one who believes, or HAS believed, in pagan gods), but God has shown me that I should not call any MAN common or unclean.”
Here is the Issue: “Don’t call any MAN common or unclean.” It is an issue of RACISM of so-called Jews AGAINST so-called Gentiles -- NOT an issue of what food to eat!
Vs 34: Peter said, “It is the TRUTH, I perceive that GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS!”
THIS is the answer! God loves everyone the same!
For hundreds of years Christians have interpreted Peter's vision as God's permission to kill and eat any animal they wish. But that vision had nothing to do with what God wants us to eat. It is a vision to let Peter know that God loves everyone the same, that God is NO “respecter of person” (Acts 10:34), and that no one is better than anyone else.
Let's take a closer look at this passage.
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.
It is important for us to understand that God truly hears the prayers and sees the intent of the heart of all people, even if they are not Jews or Christians; and in His grace, He reaches out to them as he is doing here with Cornelius.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Cornelius listened to the angel of God, but now the Lord must prepare the heart of Peter to go back with the men that he sent to Joppa, for the Judeans (Israelite believers in God mistranslated “Jews”) had a tradition that they would not enter the home of a non-Israelite (one of the “nations” mistranslated Gentiles), for to enter would somehow contaminate them or make them unclean.
F. F. Bruce writes,
But Peter must be prepared for the interview as well as Cornelius, and there were scruples to be overcome on Peter's side as there were not on Cornelius's. A God-fearer had no objection to the society of the Jews, but even a moderately orthodox Jew would not willingly enter the dwelling of a Gentile, God-fearer though he were. No doubt some of Peter's inherited prejudices were wearing thin by this time, but a special revelation was necessary to make him consent to visit a Gentile.1
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
God had used His dietary laws to bring the point home to Peter, and Peter never gave in to the temptation, even though the Lord had said that what He had cleansed would no longer be considered unclean.
Peter knew that God would not change His word or the Law. He might explain it or show it's true meaning as Jesus often did, but Peter knew that the Lord would not abolish the Law - there must be another explanation.
The meaning of the vision:
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter went down to the men that were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
The vision was only to attract Peter's attention. Peter knew that he was not to kill and eat the animals that were upon the sheet. And now he knew, or at least highly suspected, that the vision was about the salvation of those of the nations, those who were NOT Israelites. God was not cleansing unclean animals and making them clean. He was showing Peter that he loved everyone the same and the Israelites (Judeans mistranslated “Jews”) were no better than anyone else.
God's timing is always perfect. Just as Peter was wondering about the true meaning of the vision, the men from Cornelius showed up at Simon's home.
Peter goes to Cornelius:
23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
The very fact that Peter invited them into Simon's home is further proof that Peter truly understood the meaning of the vision, and that it had nothing to do with food, but only about the salvation of those of the nations (the heathen, the unbelievers mistranslated “Gentiles”). And we have even greater proof that Peter understood the true meaning of the vision, for he immediately went with the men to the home of Cornelius.
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
This is proof that Peter understood the true meaning of God's vision.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Peter begins to preach the Good News:
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
This is the true meaning of the Lord's vision to Peter. Peter is relaying what he has learned that God loves everyone the same and salvation is for everyone. There is no difference between the Israelites (Judeans mistranslated “Jews) and the nations (mistranslated “Gentiles”).
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism that John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he that was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision (Israelites) that believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles (“nations”) also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (God’s Breath of holiness).
46 For they heard them speak in languages, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost (God’s breath of holiness) as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
And just in case that Peter or any of the Jews (Judeans Israelites) who accompanied him might still have some doubt, the Holy Spirit (God’s breath of holiness) confirms that salvation has indeed come to the Gentiles (nations).
Others hear of the salvation of Cornelius and his whole household:
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou went in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
This is why God gave the vision to Peter. He knew that others, such as these men, would doubt and question and He knew that Peter would tie the two occurrences together for the glory of God, that others would continue to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the “Gentiles” (correct translation = Nations, the non-Israelite Unbelievers).
Again, this has nothing to do with killing and eating unclean animals or flesh of any kind.
4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
Peter understood God's message to him.
12 And the spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
13 And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit (God’s breath of holiness) fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit (God’s breath of holiness0.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles (nations) granted repentance unto life.
The eating of flesh has always been a concession (Genesis 9:1-4). It never was God's intent (Genesis 1:29-30) because eating flesh food encourages the development of disease and shortens life expectancy. But salvation is always greater than food or tradition, and thus through the vision of unclean animals, God showed Peter that “God is the Saviour of ALL mankind. . .” (1 Timothy 4:10)
God has NO favorites!
1 Bruce, F. F., The New International Commentary on the New Testament - Commentary on the Book of the Acts, Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Reprinted, June 1984, 217.