Recently, I was reading a post by radio talk show host Glenn Beck, who was talking about his Mormon faith. Strangely, a lot of Christians have embraced Glenn as a fellow Christian, ignorant of his religious affiliation. To be sure, Glenn is a Mormon and does NOT ascribe to the doctrine of Christ, but rather of the false prophet, Joseph Smith.
Glenn’s comments in his article were intended to demystify some of the odd practices and beliefs of Mormonism and present it as, essentially, a Christian denomination. One of the topics he addressed, ever so briefly, was the subject of baptism for the dead. Mormons believe that a living person can undergo baptism on behalf of a dead person, to ensure they obtain entrance into the “Celestial Kingdom”. Glenn asserts that this is just basic biblical teaching. So, what “basic biblical teaching” is he referring to and why does this matter?
Mormons argue that the Bible teaches the doctrine of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29. The KJV read this verse as follows:
1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV) – Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
As I studied this passage myself, I found that scholars have deliberated over its meaning for many years. It has sometimes sparked considerable debate and confusion among Christians. Catholics, by-the-way (and some other religious sects), also contend that baptism for the dead is biblical… and here we have a verse that appears to address the subject.
Could the Mormons be right on this? On the surface glance, one could argue, it may appear that the apostle Paul might have actually indicated that baptism for the dead was a legitimate practice… and he seems to affirm it by saying, “what would be the point of doing it if the dead didn’t actually expect to rise again?” It is therefore understandable that some Christians would stumble at the introduction to this rarely acknowledged passage of Scripture… isn’t it?
“Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws
have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor.“
That opening verse is quite a strong statement isn’t it? Yet, week after week, Christians all over the world buy into the traditional teaching that paying monetary tithes to a religious organization will earn them points with God.
Most have been taught that this is an ordinance of Scripture (yet often without really knowing exactly what Scripture fully teaches regarding the tithe). Christians are often taught that if they will faithfully tithe money (bringing it into the “storehouse” of the church), this will guarantee them favor with God, blessing, provision, protection and prosperity. The main problem with this logic (aside from the lie which suggests that God’s favor and His gifts can be purchased with money – Acts 8:20-22) is that all of these things (favor, blessing, provision, anointing, etc.) are already promised to every believer by God’s grace and to each who makes Christ his Lord. Nothing further is required. Let me put this very plainly another way: Even if you never tithe a cent of your money throughout your entire life as a Christian, it will not change God’s promise to watch over you, love you, protect you, bless you, lead you, provide for you or take you to heaven when this life is through! God does NOT want or need your “tithe” and there is nothing on earth you can do to buy His favor or blessing!
Jesus said that ALL of our provisions will be met on the basis of two things. One, that God loves us – PERIOD. Even the little flowers of the field who do not work or gather into storehouses, Jesus said the Father clothes them with beauty beyond even the splendor of Solomon – so of how much more value are we who are His dear children? Two, that as we seek only His kingdom and His righteousness, everything we have need of in this life will be provided for according to His own purpose. (Matthew 6:24-34; 7:7-11; Luke 12:15-34)
Hebrews 10:25 (William Tyndale’s Translation, 1526)
The following was taken from a letter I wrote to someone a long while back about the subject of “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), which is a common verse cited by many Christians who believe that if you’re not attending weekly religious meetings of some sort or plugged in to a church organization that you are somehow out of sync with Scripture and, for all practical purposes, “backsliding”. Some refer to the “out-of-church” crowd as isolationists, rebels, or walking wounded and this verse is often given as the prescription. But is “attending church” really what the author of Hebrews had in mind here? I don’t think so. For those interested, I thought I’d share my (not so) little rant.
P.S. Much of the information in this letter is drawn from other articles I have written as well as books and resources from other researchers and friends who have written on this topic.
My desire is to embrace God’s truth (not just for truth’s sake, but because I love Him and desire to grow evermore close to Him) and I, quite honestly, do not care if the traditions of men (even my own) are offended by His truth. If a person is honest, they will have to admit that when flesh is confronted by the Spirit of the Living God and the truth of Scripture it often resists submission and humility. But my response to that conviction of Christ and His Word must be to repent and yield, otherwise I only end up hardening my heart and increasing in stubbornness as well as blindness. I want to see clearly with spiritual eyes and walk full in the grace and liberty of Jesus Christ whose precious blood was shed for me.
We Christians tend to throw around a lot of terminologies as well as operate under a lot of religious mindsets that are, quite honestly, the primary product of human tradition and not biblical design. This is not to suggest that all organization is “evil” but sometimes it is counterproductive to true and essential spiritual growth. Sometimes our traditions can make God’s Word to seemingly have no affect and can even move us to actually reject His commands. Jesus Himself noted this reality. Just as we read in Mark 7:5, so are there “Pharisees” today who are asking the question of those who refuse to follow erroneous traditions at the expense of biblical truth: “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders?” You know well, I’m sure, Jesus’ bold reply:
Mark 7:6-9 – He told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites. As it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is empty, because they teach human rules as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your own tradition!”
Before I can answer the question of what I believe Hebrews 10:25 specifically has in mind concerning “assembling”, I feel it is important to look closer at what “assembly” is all about in the body of Christ as Scripture presents it. Too many Christians have been raised with a traditionally-inspired definition of some of these terms and this has served to make them embrace many Biblically-inaccurate concepts. First I would like to look closer at the popular concept of the word “church”as it is understood today in comparison and contrast with the biblical meaning.
The following article was written by me a few years after I left the organized church system in late 2001. I had just come out of a church that strongly, manipulatively and even oppressively (at times) emphasized the unbiblical doctrine of monetary tithing (and I had become aware of how widespread this same mentality was among so many churches all over). It won’t be too difficult to recognize my zeal concerning this matter and, while I may have softened my approach slightly since then (because of God’s work of love and grace in my heart), this is still very much the conviction of my heart and I do believe the Lord was revealing His truth to me in these things. I do not suppose I am any person’s judge where matters of money may interchange with Gospel work so I hope I will not be misunderstood here, but I think it’s good for us to “check ourselves” and invite the Holy Spirit to weigh our motives and direct whatever change He may desire in our hearts and lives. For some, this will present a difficult view to consider and some may even find this offensive. So long as it is man’s religious inventions that circumvent truth that are offended, then I say GOOD if those notions be offended. They have no place among the Family of God and ought to be discarded. I also understand that some will simply feel that my conclusions are perhaps over-zealous in their application. I always encourage every believer to weigh everything against the study of Scripture and the voice of the Spirit of God, who is the One that guides us into all Truth. I pray that this will challenge and provoke people to righteousness, not anger or offense. My sincere desire is that Christians flee religious captivity and error and embrace the full Gospel of Jesus Christ and all which He has purposed for the Family of God to walk in. If you don’t agree with me, I hope you will still love and pray for me… and, by all means, feel free to share your comments in response. God bless! -Dave
Matthew 21:10-13 (NIV) – When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were BUYING and SELLING there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
Revelation 13:16-17 (NIV) – He (the anti-Christ) also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell UNLESS he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
These two passages are curious aren’t they? The first one describes Jesus entering into the “holy place” and casting out all who bought and sold. This “holy place” had been turned into a marketplace. The business of religion was in full swing and money was the primary concern of the events transpiring here. In fact, regardless of all the other “legal” activities going on here, Jesus is at once consumed with this one thing that has literally ruined every other aspect of this place’s intended purpose! He does not softly speak about preserving the good and giving a little bit of advice about the rest… This is no minor detail to Jesus! John’s account of this event (2:5) says that Jesus fashioned a whip and drove the moneychangers (BOTH BUYERS AND SELLERS) out! He turned over their tables and scattered their money all over the place!
The following is an excellent article, authored by our friends at ecclesia.org.
Why Believers should not attend Church
[Note. There are many godly people who attend church, and there are many positive things about attending church. Many people have discovered and accepted Christ in a church. This article is not putting down churches as far as a place to gather and hear the word of God, because it does not matter where one hears God’s Truth, as long as they hear it! However, this article deals with the topic of “how” we are to worship God, and addresses the belief that one must worship God in a physical building called a church. There is a difference between going to a place to hear God’s Word, and going to a place to worship God.]
The following post was my response to a question asked on wiki.answers.com. Someone else had originally answered the question, presented fully with traditional church-mindset on the matter rather than plain Scripture and sound reason, so I decided to take a stab at it. Here was my response…
Presuming the question refers to tithing as it is commonly understood in a Christian context, where churches typically request members pay a tithe of their income to support the church, I will offer the following answer, addressing Scripture as directly and plainly as possible…
The word “tithe” literally means “a tenth part” (i.e. 10%). Scripturally, the tithe was actuated on a number of occasions with alternate purposes. The practice of tithing did not continue into the New Testament period, post the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple since its purpose had forcibly expired and the practice itself holds no application to followers of Jesus in the Christian community.
The first recorded instance of tithing is the distribution of a tenth part of war spoils made by Abram (before his confession of faith in God) to a priest known as Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20; cf. Heb. 7:4-10). The text is silent as to whether or not this tithe was a freewill gift or a customary offering or that it ever occurred more than one time. The text suggests it was only a singular event.
Extra-biblical historical references suggest that it was common practice in Arab law to give the tenth of the spoils from a battle to the reigning prince of a region (which is what appears to have happened in this occasion of tithing; Abram had just recovered spoils in a battle to rescue his nephew Lot).
It is also important to reiterate that, at this time, Abram had not yet professed faith in God. Eventually God would change his name to Abraham once he believed God and it would be “accredited to him as righteousness” (as the Scripture says – Genesis 15:6). This important for Christians who like to use Abram as a pre-Mosaic Law example of tithing to acknowledge because what you really have here is an example of a “non-saved” person tithing. This does not parallel with any modern form of tithing. Christians generally believe it is the responsibility of the saved man to tithe… but here we have a non-saved man tithing.
While reading an article on another website recently, I started to think about how most church-going Christians tend to categorize and compare themselves against other folks. I feel pretty confident in talking about this subject because I was one of those church-going people for better than 30 years of my life. The article I was reading made a point about how the Lord views people as opposed to how religion often tends to categorize them. While I wouldn’t want to be guilty of plagiarizing the article I read (which was about the author’s perspective on the rapture – not the direction of my comments here), I do want to draw from some of the author’s example and utilize the following comparison for this discussion.
For the sake of example, let’s talk about a guy we’ll call Josh… Josh is a believer in Jesus; However, probably very few typical Christians would recognize him as such. For starters, Josh doesn’t go to church. Josh doesn’t have a pastor. Josh doesn’t tithe. In fact, Josh doesn’t give money to any church organization at all and, even worse, he often sleeps in on Sunday morning. Josh also doesn’t care too much about religious stuff, he doesn’t sport a fish emblem on the back of his car, he doesn’t wear Christian t-shirts, he doesn’t watch TBN, and doesn’t employ any of the typical religious lingo (what I call “Christianese”) that most other Christians do.
The impression that many church-going folks might probably gather from Josh is that Josh is not really a Christian… and I have to say that, if that frame of thinking is true of church folks who are sizing up Josh on these “qualifications”, then I’m quite sure I’m not a Christian either (at least in the eyes of a lot of these people)… In fact, I’m probably in even more spiritual trouble than our buddy Josh because I actually wear a t-shirt sometimes that says “No More Religion”, I have a website geared toward people who don’t “do church” anymore, and my wife wasn’t even a Believer when I married her (and I knew it)! By all traditional appearances, neither Josh nor myself are likely to win any “Christian-of-the-Year” awards and most church-goers, judging by typical religious standards, are going to shake their heads in disappointment at how far we have fallen.
But now I have to ask those who are concerned about Josh (or about myself… and many of those who fit in our boat of un-church-ish-ness), what does the Bible reveal as evidence of Christ at work in the life of true Believers? Jesus himself said that a good tree bears good fruit and that we would know those that belong to God by the fruits they bear… The question is, are we judging people according to the actual “fruit on their tree” – or according to some other religiously-invented criteria?
Introduction by Dave Y. of TruthForFree.com: The following article was written by Tom Riggle at the blog site revelife.com. I do not know Tom personally, but very much appreciated his exposition of the following passage of Scripture. Already, since the re-election of President Barack Obama, I have heard a number of pastors and Christians in general quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 declaring that, if we will only pray, God must heal America. Now, while I strongly believe we ought to pray for our national leaders (and I do pray for this country and that God would show mercy), I must say that I agree with Tom’s article here; that there is a much more important revelation to consider, one of profound implications, and one we are totally missing when we misunderstand the meaning of a passage like this. Please give it a read and feel free to share your thoughts in response. –Dave
by Tom Riggle
A Promise God Never Made and A Prophetic Application Overlooked
First, the verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This verse is, first of all — as it is often presented — a promise never made.
The implication of many American websites, sermons, books, posters, songs, and bumper-stickers is that if America, or the Christians in America, will seek God’s face then He will hear their prayer and heal our country. The reason why many misconstrue this verse as having special application for America and for her revival is that they take these words out of context, focusing instead on special words and phrases that can be reloaded with other meaning. Once the text is denatured and re-natured it comes out red-white-and-blue — and totally at odds with the context. The essential points of misunderstanding are these:
“My people” = Americans. Rational: Were we not a Christian nation?
“Called by My name” = Christians. Are we not called by Christ’s name?
“I.. will heal their land” = America. God will heal our country.
As I said, these applications are arrived at by seeing this verse as self-contained. One well-meaning pastor even makes this verse part of his “single, stand-alone Scripture series”! But to see any verse — especially one like the present — as stand-alone is a recipe for exegetical disaster. Context, always helpful for understanding.