Slip-Slidng Away

When changes occur, it is common for those who bring in new ideas to reinterpret past events to prove that their ideas are really what people thought and wanted all along. Even when the changes are recent and people still remember what life was like before the changes, they just put a spin on the old ideas.

There is a whole generation who have now lived in a United States where abortion has always been legal, where most married couples get divorced, and where homosexuality is prominently discussed. Is it a wonder that young people just assume it was always like this; or if it wasn’t like this, life must have been worse? For example, I frequently read that the era before no-fault divorces was a time when many women were trapped in abusive relationships. Human nature doesn’t change (Ecclesiastes 1:10). I doubt there where more abusive husbands in the past than there are today. Yet, history is redefined. What occurs today is assumed to be better than the past. Rightly did Solomon sorrowfully say, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after” (Ecclesiastes 1:11).

It is a fact that most of the churches who wear the name “Church of Christ” hold a liberal view of the Scriptures. Liberalism is a philosophical approach to law, whether we talk about constitutional law or the law of Christ. A liberal advocates a free approach to law. Anything is allowed that the law doesn’t specifically restrict, and even then, the law is interpreted so as to give the least restraint possible. The majority of churches of Christ refer to themselves as “mainstream” churches. They will attack those who hold more conservative beliefs as being too restrictive; using terms such as “pharisaical” or “anti” to address conservative-minded Christians. At the same time, they will attack those who take liberalities further than they desire to go. The Max Lucados and Rubel Shellys of the world are too liberal in their view.

Interestingly, the last few decades have brought a reinterpretation of the views of past brethren. Brethren among the mainstream churches assume that their beliefs are the ones brethren have always held. Thomas B. Warren, in his book “Lectures on Church Cooperation and Orphan Homes” argued “If you can find anyone who taught this before 1955, you will be doing me a favor.” Yes, teachings have changed in the church, but it might surprise you who has changed.

Consider the idea of churches establishing and maintaining homes for the needy. Paul taught, “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed” (I Timothy 5:16). The primary care of the elderly fell upon their family. The church only cared for a limited set of widows who had no family and who had met strict guidelines (I Timothy 5:3-16).

In 1930, brother A. B. Barret, founder of Abilene Christian College wrote, “Individual Christians, any number, may scripturally engage in any worthwhile work, such as running colleges, papers and orphanages, and other individual Christians may properly assist them in every proper way; but no local congregation should be called upon, as such, to contribute a thing to any such enterprises. Such a call would be out of harmony with the word of the living God. And if any congregation so contributes, it transcends its scriptural prerogatives” (Gospel Advocate, March 13, 1930). Yet, today Abilene Christian College regularly solicits and accepts funding from mainstream congregations across the country.

The following year, brother F. B. Srygley wrote, “These churches were independent of each other and of all other congregations. They were not bound together by any organization under the control of the eldership of any of these churches, neither were they banded together under one board created by any state or national law … there was no discussion among them about how to build and control institutions such as orphanages, homes for the aged, or hospitals for the sick. There is no more authority in the New Testament for the control of such things than there is for control of a farm or health resort. Sometime after the apostles died … men became dissatisfied with this simple organization, which eventually led to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic church then undertook to organize in a way to control schools, hospitals … we now have brethren that should know better trying to find authority for owning and operating such things under the overworked rule of expediency” (Gospel Advocate, May 14, 1931). Hence, the debate over church supported institutions did exist prior to 1955, unlike what brother Warren asserted. Since the Gospel Advocate was and remains the popular paper of the mainstream churches, brother Srygley’s comments show that the churches in the 1930s held a conservative view against the use of institutions.

In 1946, Guy N. Woods argued “There is no place for charitable organizations in the work of the New Testament church” (1946 Annual Lesson Commentary, page 338). In 1954, B. C. Goodpasture stated, “The church is all sufficient for the work God intended it to do. It needs no aids or auxiliaries.” Brothers Woods and Goodpasture later changed their position. Today the mainstream churches support a wide variety of organizations, such as orphanages, nursing homes, and schools. A change did occur, but it was away from a conservative view of the authority of the Scriptures.

There has also been a change in how churches supported the work of spreading the gospel. Paul stated, “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs” (Philippians 4:15-16). Other churches joined with the Philippians to support Paul so that Paul later wrote to the Corinthians, “I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so” (II Corinthians 11:8-9).

Regarding this simple method of each congregation sending support directly to preachers of the gospel, David Lipscomb wrote in 1874, “The simple congregation can cooperate, help, assist, by each of them doing just what the master commands them … what are usually termed cooperation are really not cooperation of the churches, they are an organization, combinations that do the work of the church … two churches, both working by the same law for accomplishment of the end are cooperation.” The view 125 years ago among the churches was similar to the pattern laid out in the New Testament. Each congregation independently supported preachers of the gospel. That two or more congregations happened to decided to support the same man meant they were cooperating in the spread of the gospel in that area. No further organization was needed.

In 1921, M. C. Kurfees wrote, “Hence, the fact that one church is contributing to sustain a missionary is no reason another church or churches may not do so if one is too poor financially to sustain the work; in such a case, each church maintains its own independence, and sends directly to the support of the missionary in the field” (ACC Lectures, 1920-1921, page 55).

Foy E. Wallace, Jr. also commented on this topic in 1931, “For one church to solicit funds from other churches for general distribution in other fields or places, thus becoming a treasury of other churches … makes a sort of society out of the elders of a local church, and for such there is no scriptural precedent or example” (Gospel Advocate, May 14, 1931). That same year, F. B. Srygly wrote, “These elders had no authority to take charge of the missionary money or any other money or means of any church except the one over which they were overseers” (Gospel Advocate, December 3, 1931). The following year H. Leo Boles wrote, “There is no example of two or more churches joining together their funds for the support of the gospel” (Gospel Advocate, November 3, 1932).

We see, then, that the common view in the past agreed with the scriptural pattern. Congregations did not pool their funds, but solely cooperated through common but independent action. Today, the mainstream churches accomplish almost all their support of preachers through sponsoring churches. A preacher finds a congregation to sponsor his work and that congregation then solicits and collects funds for that preacher, which it then sends to that preacher in the form of a salary. Yet, most brethren among the mainstream churches refuse to believe that this was not the way it used to be done.

Changes are also evident in the way preachers were trained to preach the gospel. The apostle Paul wrote the young preacher Timothy exhorting him, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). One of the duties of a preacher is to train preachers for the next generation.

In 1915 J. D. Tant wrote, “He and I agreed that this society was unscriptural. Then I told him the church of Christ has its Bible college society with its president, secretary, treasurer, board of directors, etc. to collect money from churches to teach the gospel and do other good works. Then I asked by what process of reasoning could the digressive missionary society be unscriptural, and our college society be scriptural” (Firm Foundation, June 8, 1915). While it has long been the practice of colleges to accept funding from congregations, it was frequently argued against the practice, even within these same colleges. In 1939 Guy N. Woods argued, “The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sand-bar of institutionalism. The tendency to organize is characteristic of the age. This writer has ever been unable to appreciate the logic of those who effect to see grave danger in the missionary society but scruple not to form organizations for the purpose of caring for orphans, and teaching young men to be gospel preachers” (ACC Lectures, 1939, page 54).

Later, George DeHoff clearly stated, “What is God’s institution to educate and train men in the gospel? Answer: The local church” (Christian Magazine, January 1951). Brother DeHoff’s answer reflects the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16. Christ organized the church to train its members to be mature Christians. Yet today the majority of churches will only accept a preacher who has been trained at a college or preacher-training school run by brethren. Rarely does a local congregation train up preachers. Instead, promising young men are sent somewhere else to be trained.

Finally, let us consider the matter of churches sponsoring recreation for its members. The apostle Paul scolded the Corinthians, “What, do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God?” (I Corinthians 11:22).

In 1948 B.C. Goodpasture wrote, “For the church to turn aside from its divine work to furnish amusement and recreation is to pervert its mission. It degrades its mission. Amusement and recreation should stem from the home rather than the church. The church, like Nehemiah, has a great work to do; and it should not come down to the plain of Ono to amuse and entertain. As the church turns its attention to amusement and entertainment, it will be shorn of its power as Samson was when his hair was cut. Only as the church becomes worldly, as it pillows it head in the lap of Delilah, will it turn from its wanted course to relatively unimportant matters. Imagine Paul selecting and training a group of brethren to compete in the Isthmain games!” (Gospel Advocate, May 20, 1948). Yet today, the mainstream churches frequently fund social meals for its members. They furnish gymnasiums for use by their members. Many congregations sponsor youth sports leagues. Who appears to have changed their view regarding the work of the church?

The brethren quoted in this article are not authorities in the matter of determining what is right or wrong regarding a particular issue. However, their writings prove that these issues were considered and for the most part rejected many years ago. Mainstream churches of Christ have followed a new path. They have walked there for so long that they have forgotten that it wasn’t always this way. They find comfort in the position of the majority instead of searching for the ancient landmarks (Proverbs 22:28).

By Jeffrey W. Hamilton

The Importance of Assembling

First Century Christians lived in a time where their government declared war on Christianity. The assaults on people of faith were not done in secret (Heb. 10:32-34). Lands, homes and property were taken by the governing powers. Preachers were regularly interrogated by civil authorities for speaking the truth about Christ (Acts 5:17-18).

Members of the church did not want to assemble because of the government intrusions (Heb. 10:35-39). It just wasn’t safe going to church. Aquila and Priscilla were forced to leave their home in Rome due to the edict of Claudius (A.D. 49) expelling all Jews from the city (Acts 18:1-2). Apparently, many Christians were likewise caught up in the explosions throughout the Roman Empire as history records the “plundering of their possessions” (Heb. 10:34) assumedly as they fled. Philo accounts how Jews in Alexandria were forced to leave their homes and herded together in the city (In Flaccum 8.56). “Their enemies overran the houses now left empty and began to loot them, dividing up the contents like spoils of war.” The incidence was “accompanied by other acts of public outrage and violence (cf. F. F. Bruce, NICNT: Hebrews, 269). 1 Would we blame these Christians for not attending services given their concerns for their personal welfare?

The Hebrew writer records how the early Christians “endured a great fight of afflictions;” became “gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions,” while implying many were mistreated by simple association with other persecuted Christians (Heb. 10:32-33). Philo (Against Flaccus 72, 74, 84-85, 95, 173) and Josephus (Against Apion 1.43) recorded how Jews were subjected to public humiliation and abuse in a theater during an organized massacre (A.D. 38).

Of course, we know how Paul spent many years in prison for his faith (Col. 4:18; Phil. 1:7; Heb. 10:34). We could reminisce of Stephen’s murder (Acts 7:58ff), John the Baptist’s execution (Matt. 14:6-11), or James death under Herod Agrippa (A.D. 43). Not to mention the persecution lead by Saul that left many Christians injured or dead (Acts 22:4-5).

It is in this environment that the Hebrew writer warns the brethren not to forsake assembling (Heb. 10:25). He immediately conjoins such an act to willful sin (Heb. 10:26-31). After which he implores them not to quit their faith after everything they have been through already (Heb. 10:32-39). The act of forsaking the assembling of saints is indicative of one who draws back to perdition (Heb. 10:39). To further encourage the battered brethren, the author of Hebrews sights many examples of people with the kind of faith that doesn’t draw back (Heb. 11). Endurance becomes the theme as the Hebrew writer returns to the hostility present at that time (Heb. 12:1-4). Ultimately, Christ is the perfect example of faith as one “who endured such hostility from sinners.”

Isn’t it strange how our brethren will often water down the importance of assembling? The early Christians went to church knowing it could mean their arrest, torture or humiliation. To be associated with Christians was enough to ruin one’s life. Yet, the book of Hebrews chronicles the explicit commands and exhortations not to throw their faith away by forsaking the assembling. Forsaking church services is a reflection of our faith.

Imagine our brethren on the judgment day telling Christ on the throne that they thought it better to miss the assembling of the saints for any number of reasons. There were sporting events, family socials, overtime at work, minor health complaints, the need to sleep in, etc. What would the early Christians think of those excuses after all they went through? God wouldn’t excuse their desire to forsake church services just because they were being persecuted! God certainly won’t excuse our forsaking church services for any reason within our control.

In the near future, persecution might be added to our list of reasons to forsake. Will we miss the assembling of the saints just because it could cause us to lose our possessions, our dignity or even our life? Christ “laid down His life for us” (1 Jn. 3:16). Is He asking too much when He requires our attendance in worship to Him?

1Daniel H. King, Sr., The Book of Hebrews, Truth Commentaries, Guardian of Truth Foundation, p.351.

By Steve A. Hamilton

shamilton@rap.midco.net

 

 

Water into Wine

Many well-meaning people will point to the miracle where Jesus turns water into wine as their justification to drink alcoholic beverages (Jn. 2:1-11).   They correctly conclude that Christ would not have made wine if He did not approve of its consumption.  However, they err by assuming the wine which Jesus made was fermented.

The generic Greek word for wine (oinos) does not imply either a fermented nor unfermented beverage.  We have already covered this point in many passages in others articles on wine.  We have also emphasized the necessity to determine the meaning of the word wine by considering the context in which the word is found.  The key to determining the inebriating effects of the wine Jesus made from water is found in this manner.

The master of the wedding feast makes an observation that the wine made by Jesus was “good” as compared to the wine being drank which he describes as inferior (Jn. 2:10).  In order to appreciate his statement, we need to know what people in the first century consider good wine versus inferior wine.  Albert Barnes in his New Testament commentary has an excellent discourse on the nature of the good wine.

“We should not be deceived by the phrase “good wine.” We often use the phrase to denote that it is good in proportion to its strength and its power to intoxicate; but no such sense is to be attached to the word here.  Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace describe wine as good, or mention that as the best wine, which was harmless or innocent–poculo vini innocentis. The most useful wine — utilissimum vinum– was that which had little strength; and the most wholesome wine– saluberrimum vinum– was that which had not been adulterated by “the addition of anything to the must or juice.” Pliny expressly says that a “good wine” was one that was destitute of spirit (lib. iv. c. 13). It should not be assumed, therefore, that the “good wine” was stronger than the other: it is rather to be presumed that it was milder. The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine, nor drugged wine, nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land. The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape. We use the word wine now to denote the kind of liquid which passes under that name in this country–always containing a considerable portion of alcohol –not only the alcohol produced by fermentation, but alcohol added to keep it or make it stronger. But we have no right to take that sense of the word, and go with it to the interpretation of the Scriptures. We should endeavor to place ourselves in the exact circumstances of those times, ascertain precisely what idea the word would convey to those who used it then, and apply that sense to the word in the interpretation of the Bible; and there is not the slightest evidence that the word so used would have conveyed any idea but that of the pure juice of the grape, nor the slightest circumstance mentioned in this account that would not be fully met by such a supposition.”[i]

The wine that Jesus made was good because it did not ferment.  The fermentation process converts the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol.  If there is no sugar, the flavor is not good.  It is believed that this wedding feast took place months after the vintage.  Fresh grape juice would not be available during this season.  It appears the inferior wine was likely grape juice that was reconstituted with water from must.  However, the wine Jesus provides must have been fresh grape juice.

The Greek word that was used to describe the goodness of the wine that Jesus made is quite revealing.  The common Greek word for good is agathos.  However, the word used by the master of the feast was kalosKalos carries the idea of moral goodness.  The master of the feast was not only talking about the good flavor of the wine; he was also stating the moral goodness of the beverage.  He is implying the wine is non-intoxicating.

Further, it is ludicrous to think that Jesus would in any way encourage or facilitate the means by which people could sin.  Jesus was well aware of the condemnation given to the drinking of intoxicating wine in the Old Law (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35).  He would tempt no one with sin (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 6:13).  However, He made enough wine to get the whole wedding party drunk if it were fermented.  Nor should we overlook the fact that wedding parties had many small children that also drank from the same wine.

[i] Albert Barnes’ Commentary on the Bible.
 
By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Can Two Non-Christians, Involved in Adultery, Be Baptized?

Question:

I want to hear about your views on this particular topic. There’s this man who is married with kids. He had some problems with his wife — she being aggressive and abusive. He met another woman while he was still married to his wife and had sexual relations with her. He eventually divorced his wife, and now he’s planning to marry this new woman he is currently seeing. These two who are now involved in a relationship are not Christians. The question is: Can these two (admitting that they are in an adulterous relationship) seek forgiveness and be baptized for the remission of their sins and start going to church together serving God?

Answer:

Certainly, these two can seek forgiveness, be baptized for the remission of their sins and serve God the rest of their lives.  That is the only way they will ever obtain salvation.  However, they will not be able to find forgiveness if they continue in their adulterous relationship together.  The reasons are numerous:

  1. The only God-given reason for a divorce is adultery.  “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Notice the person who is the one committing the adultery, as stated in your question, is not permitted to marry again.  In your given situation, the man’s wife may divorce him for adultery, but he, being the offender, will always be an adulterer unless he finds repentance.
  2. Baptism removes sins (Acts 2:38). A prerequisite to baptism is repentance. Repentance means “to regret” to “change one’s mind” [Vines Complete Expository Dictionary].  The man in your question will be unable to demonstrate his regret (repentance) for his sinful actions by maintaining the sinful relationship.  A man who takes another person’s money cannot repent unless he returns the money he took.  Likewise, a man who takes another person’s spouse cannot repent unless he returns the spouse he took.
  3. Just because a person desires to repent does not mean they will find it.  Esau was such a person who wanted to repent but wasn’t willing to do what it took to repent.  “For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). The only way this man will find repentance is by having no further relationship with anyone other than his spouse.
  4. Marriage does not remove sin.  Forgiveness is not obtained by changing the civil relationship.  To God, the man who commits adultery and marries another is an adulterer in his new civil relationship (Matthew 19:9).  God only approves of the marriage He binds regardless of the number of civil relationships that person might have in the future (John 4:17-18).  To God, these two are “shacking up.”
  5. Hypothetically speaking, if the man was baptized (assuming he regretted his sinful conduct) and was forgiven at that moment in time, if he ever has sexual relations with another woman other than his wife, even in a newly created civil relationship, he once again has committed the sin of adultery.  It would have been better for him had he never been baptized (Hebrews 10:26-27; II Peter 2:20-22).

I’m sorry to say the man in your question will have to remain unmarried the rest of his life or be reconciled to his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11).  If he is willing to repent of his adultery, then he could be baptized to have his sins removed (Acts 2:38).

Steve Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Accuracy in Translation

If a person were to study the subject of wine from most any English translation of the Bible, that person might come away with an idea that the Bible condones a moderate use of alcohol.  The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness (Lk. 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3).  Yet, certain passages sound like they approve of the consumption of intoxicating beverages (Deut. 14:26; Prov. 31:6; Hos. 4:11; Lk. 5:37-39; 7:33-35; Jn. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:21-22; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; 5:23) while other passages condemn the very use of intoxicating wine (Lev. 10:8-11; Judg. 13:3-4; Prov. 31:4-5; 23:31; 20:1; 1 Tim. 3:2-3).  It appears that the use of alcoholic beverages are not clearly condemned or clearly condoned consistently throughout the Bible.

This problem can be traced back to the earliest English translations of the Bible.  Accuracy in translation was often sacrificed for more palatable words.  The King James translators; in particular, were more interested in producing a version that everyone would accept than producing a version that was consistent.  They purposely published a version that would not appear biased toward any particular doctrine.

The most blatant example of this is the creation of the English word “baptism.”   The Greek word means immersion.  However, the earliest English translation of the New Testament was produced by a Catholic priest named John Wycliffe.  Wycliffe along with the Catholic Church practiced sprinkling rather than immersion.  The transliterated Greek word for “baptisma” became a new English word that had no definition except what was consequently created.  Hence, the English word baptism includes in its definition dipping, sprinkling, pouring or washing.

The English word “wine” serves as another example of inconsistent translation.  There are at least 13 different Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated into the single English word “wine.”  Surely, the English language is not so limited that the translators couldn’t differentiate 13 different words.  This discrepancy is not acceptable especially when we consider how the King James Version of the Bible avoided uniformity in the translation.

Concerning the translation of the King James Version of the Bible: “They said they did not think it right to honor some words by giving them a place forever in the Bible, while they virtually said to other equally good words: Get ye hence and be banished forever.  They quote a “certain great philosopher” who said that those logs were happy which became images and were worshipped, while, other logs as good as they were laid behind the fire to be burned.  So they sought to use as many English words, familiar in speech and commonly understood, as they might, lest they should impoverish the language, and so lose out of use good words.” (McAfee, “The Making of the King James Version; Its Characteristics,” www.bible-researcher.com)

A lack of consistency in favor of diversity in word choice suggests an ill intent when we find, in fact, a lack of diversity in word choice in favor of inconsistency when it comes to the word “wine.”  The intentional inconsistencies in translation of our English Bibles have produced versions that are not truly accurate.  We must be wise to the misleading way many words were used because the translators were purposely trying to prevent disagreements and controversies. In essence, they willingly used “politically correct” terms when the subject matter was in question.

Great care must be taken to insure a proper understanding of the words that were chosen to represent the original text.  For example, the English word “sober” is used to represent two different Greek words in the Bible.  We understand “sober” has three definitions when it is applied to the subject of intoxicating beverages.  It could mean not intoxicated, someone less than drunk or someone who is thinking clearly.  However, only one definition was actually in the mind of the author when he wrote it.  Could the word “sober” ever be defined as less than drunk in any passage of the Bible (Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 5:13; 1 Thes.  5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:2, 12; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8)?

Christians are commanded to be sober (1 Thes. 5:6, 8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).  Sobriety occurs in both mind and body.  Someone who is sober in body (not intoxicated) is also sober in mind.  Impaired thinking would not be considered sober even if the impairment did not reach the civil definition of drunk. Obviously, any amount of alcohol impairs a person’s sobriety.

It should also be noted that King James was a heavy drinker, the head of the Church of England and the one who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible.  Was there any motivation to treat the subject of wine delicately by the translators?

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

A Pardon Refused

In 1829, two men robbed a United States mail carrier in Pennsylvania.  The men were tried on six indictments that included robbery and murder.  George Wilson and James Porter were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  However, a petition for pardon was made on George Wilson’s behalf by some of his influential friends.  President Andrew Jackson was agreeable and granted a formal pardon to Wilson. Incredibly, Wilson refused the pardon!

This had never happened before.  No one had ever declined a presidential pardon much less for an offense that didn’t carry the death penalty.  What where they to do with a man who preferred to die on the gallows?

The case reached the Supreme Court.  Chief Justice John Marshall ruled, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed…  A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential; and delivery is not completed without acceptance.  It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him…  It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors.”

A Pardon must be accepted.  George Wilson refused his pardon and was; therefore, hung until dead on the gallows!

Likewise, God has provided every human being a chance for pardon from their sins (John 1:12; 6:37).  However, that pardon must be accepted in the way God has ordained (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Those who do not accept the pardon will perish (2 Peter 3:9).

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Was Melchizedek Jesus?

A cursory reading of Hebrews 7:3 lends itself to the notion that Jesus was possibly Melchizedek. It is said of Melchizedek that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…”  Who else could that describe but Jesus himself?  In fact, our Lord is the only one in scriptures to be described this way (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8, 11, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).  Does that mean Melchizedek has to be Jesus who was making a divine visit with Abraham in Genesis 14:17-24?

This position assumes Jesus’ appearance as Melchizedek was brief much like other heavenly visits Abraham received (Gen. 18).  If Jesus had reigned as King of Salem while adopting the name Melchizedek, it would qualify as His first coming to earth.  That would directly contradict passages that talk about Christ’s second coming when it would have to be counted as His third coming (Heb. 9:28).

However, Melchizedek was a historical figure who reigned in Salem.  “Modern archaeology has now shown that Melchizedek was from a long line of Jerusalem Kings who used a title disclaiming any hereditary claim to the crown. At every formal mention of the king, there was a statement to be made: “It was not my father and it was not my mother who established me in this position, but it was the mighty arm of the king himself who made me master of the lands of my father” (INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 230. Quoted from “The High Priesthood of Christ,” by Cecil Willis).

Further, Melchizedek reigned for 113 years in Salem according to an ancient text.  In Adam Clark’s Commentary while quoting the Bereshith Rabba, sect. 18, fol. 18 he relates, “In this way both Christ and Melchisedec were without father and without mother; i.e. were not descended from the original Jewish sacerdotal stock.  Yet Melchisedec, who was a Canaanite, was a priest of the most high God.  This sense Suidas confirms under the word Melchisedec, where, after having stated that, having reigned in Salem 113 years, [emp. mine SAH] he died a righteous man and a bachelor.”

Melchizedek was an actual person who lived during the era of Abraham.  Jesus could not be Melchizedek as he reigned 113 over the kingdom of Salem.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (Jn. 18:36).  If Jesus was Melchizedek it could be argued that Jesus had a kingdom in this world and that His earthly kingdom preceded His appearance the second time on earth after His virgin birth.  Yet, Jesus is emphatic that He had no kingdom in this world.

One other point ought to be emphasized. The same verse that has led to the misunderstanding of the identity of Melchizedek also says that he was “made like the Son of God.”  To be “made like” someone is to be representative of someone.  He could not be the same person but someone who is similar by comparison.  Therefore, Hebrews 7:3 is a verse that compares Melchizedek to Jesus without implying they are the same in identity.

Obviously, Melchizedek was not Jesus!

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net