Christian Churches of God

No. 89

 

 

 

Heresy in the Apostolic Church

(Edition 2.0 19950128-20000311)

This paper deals with the nature of the Colossian and Galatian heresies. It is logically part of the Grace-Law series and deals with the position on the Law according to Paul. The text goes on to develop the position in John’s Churches. The Gnostic doctrines are also discussed. The first-century position on the Messiah of two Advents is also discussed from the Dead Sea Scrolls’ evidence. Paul’s position is shown to be misconstrued by modern orthodoxy. This paper leads into the next paper Distinction in the Law (No. 96) and also to The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104).

 

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(Copyright ć1995, 2000 Wade Cox)

 

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Heresy in the Apostolic Church

 


Note: this paper should be read in conjunction with the audio tape.

 

Introduction

The books of Colossians and Galatians have been held to uphold a number of incorrect doctrinal positions regarding the New Testament Church position. Among other things, the contention that the law is done away rests upon an interpretation of these texts. The interpretation is in error. The extensive argument regarding the correct New Testament cosmology needs to be developed. Heresy in the Apostolic Church would form a chapter of that work.

 

Background

The Apostolic Church was faced with a series of problems in its infancy. Many of the churches of which we have a biblical record were established by or under the supervision of Paul. When disputes arose as to the accuracy or acceptability of practices they were often referred back to Paul for settlement. Some practices such as those at Corinth involved simple physical practices, which detracted from the spirituality of the Church. Other problems were more involved and appear to be incompletely understood. This seems to have arisen because the cosmology apprehended in the New Testament Churches was misunderstood by the later post-Nicean theology. The epistle to the Colossians is an important text for understanding the original cosmology of the New Testament Church.

 

Another important text, but to a lesser extent, is that of Galatians. The letter to the Hebrews is a most significant text regarding the interrelationship of the Old and New Testaments and their cosmology. By understanding the errors into which these churches fell we can better understand the original cosmology. When the texts are examined we shall see correctly what these errors were and, more particularly, we will understand how they occurred.

 

Colossians

The Nature of the Text

The Colossian heresy was obscured for a long time on the basis of the accepted understanding that the Colossians had embraced a form of Gnosticism, which could not be properly reconstructed from the text.

 

The error was assumed to have also involved a form of legalism. This stemmed from a misunderstanding of the terms used by Paul in the text. The allusions by Paul in the text to the concepts are cryptic and require examination and construction.

 

Colossians 2:8-10,16 refers to the following concepts:

·      tradition (B"DV(@F4<) [paragosin] (2:8);

·      fullness (B8ZDT:") [plerõma] (1:9; 2:9,10);

·      philosophy (N48@F@N4") [philosophia] (2:8);

·      eating and drinking ($DfF,4, B`F,4) [brõsei, posei] (2:16);

·      principalities and powers (•DP"4, ¦.@LG4"4) [archai, ezousiai] (2:15); and

·      elements of the world (FJ@4P,Ä" J@Ł 6`F:@L) [stoicheia tou kosmau] (2:8,20).

 

These terms find usage also in Gnostic Judaism and in Hellenising Syncretism. Bacchiocchi (From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation into the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity, Appendix, pp. 343f.) states that both these terms are

equally used by commentators to define the derivation of the gnosis of Colossae.

Bacchiocchi refers to the texts by Jacques Dupont, E. Percy, Lightfoot and Lyonnet as examples of the scholars who define the heresy as a form of Gnosticizing Judaism. On the other hand Günther Bornkamm in “The Heresy of Colossians” in Conflict at Colossae, p. 126 states categorically:

No doubt seems possible to me, however, on one point: The Colossian doctrine of the elements belongs to the ancient mythology and speculation of the oriental Aeon-theology, which was widespread and active in Hellenistic syncretism; cf. Ernst Lohmeyer, Der Brief an die Kolosser, 1930, pp. 3 f.; M. Dibelius, An die Kolosser, Epheser, An Philemon, 1953, excursus on 2:8, and 2:23. (Bacchiocchi, fn. to p. 343.)

 

Bacchiocchi goes on in the footnote to say that

others interpret the Colossian heresy as a syncretism of Hellenistic and Jewish elements; see Edward Lohse, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossian and to Philemon, 1971, pp. 115-116; Norbert Hugedé, Commentaire de l'Épītre aux Colossiens, pp. 9, 143; W. Rordorf, Sunday, p. 136: 'We are in fact dealing with the possibility of a whole stream of syncretistic tradition in which Jewish-Christian material is inextricably intertwined with material of Hellenistic and oriental provenance'; cf. Handley C.G. Moule, Colossian Studies, 1898, who defines the heresy as 'an amalgam of Judaism and Gnosticism, in a wide reference of the latter word.'

 

The understanding can be reconstructed from the epistle and the cosmology of the New Testament references especially in Revelation and by recourse to the analysis made here in chapters 2, 3 and 4 [of God Revealed]. Once the correct biblical cosmology is understood, the nature of the problem at Colossae can be correctly understood. A simple clue is that the church at Colossae was corrected in a way that indicated that the church at Colossae was in error but that the errors were a misunderstanding on the part of the church of extant concepts which were not of themselves challenged or refuted. We are thus faced with a distortion and misapplication rather than wholesale adoption. The reference to the Aeon theology by Bornkamm is a major clue to the puzzle. The supposed aeon theology is also asserted to Hebrews.

 

Bacchiocchi considers that the Colossian error was characterised by a theological and a practical error. He considers that

theologically, the Colossian 'philosophy' (2:8) was competing with Christ for man's allegiance. Its source of authority, according to Paul was man-made 'tradition- B"DV*@F4H [paradosis] (2:8) and its object was to impart true 'wisdom- F@N4" [sophia] (2:3,23), 'knowledge- (<äF4H [gnosis] (2:2,3; 3:10) and 'understanding- Fb<,F4H [sunesis] (1:9; 2:2). To attain such knowledge Christians were urged to do homage to cosmic principalities (2:10,15) and to 'the elements of the universe- FJ@4P,Ć J@Ų P`F:@L [ta stoieea tou kosmou] (2:8,18,20).

 

It is important to isolate exactly the theological error and exactly what Paul was saying to the church at Colossae. The Elohim, as is demonstrated from the biblical context, are a multiple Host of which the Lamb is the High Priest, but he is one of them as a fellow or comrade. Revelation 5 shows that there are delegated responsibilities within the Council of the Elohim. Revelation 5:8 states clearly that each of the twenty-four elders is equipped with harps and golden vials full of odours which are the prayers of the saints. It is obvious that these elders have a responsibility in the maintenance of the elect. It is apparent that at Colossae a logical jump was made whereby these Elohim were prayed to directly. The ancient practice of praying to the spirits of the dead stems from both Shamanism and the Babylonian system. The mystical ascent found in Merkabah mysticism appears to have been making its impact in the area of Palestine in this first century. The paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183) shows the development of Gnostic asceticism in Christianity. It would appear that the propitiation of angels and the ascetic systems somehow entered the church at Colossae, probably based on the reason stemming from Revelation 5:8. The worship of idols became disguised as the propitiation of saints and later penetrated mainstream Christianity. However, the ascetic purification rituals seemed to have a more limited success. The traditions referred to by Paul appear to stem from the elemental spirits and are interlinked with philosophy. This is a very complicated passage involving three separate streams of thought – namely, the influence of one or more of the schools of philosophy; resort to the oral tradition upon which aspects of Judaism are based; and, lastly, the treatment of elements of the spirits. There is no doubt that it involves propitiation of lesser beings because Paul goes on to Colossians 2:9-10 to assert of Christ:

For in him the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is head of all rule and authority.

It should be noted that the term fullness of deity derives from the term 2, `J0J@H [theotetos]. As noted from Thayer (p. 288) deity differs from divinity as essence differs from quality or attribute. Thus the deity referred to here, which dwelt in Christ bodily, is the spirit of God. It was that essence emanating from God which enabled Christ to become one with God. While the other Elohim possessed this spirit, the issue that Paul appears to be making is that Christ has the authority and the fullness of the qualities of the deity and delegated attributes of the Father. This renders other entities irrelevant in the control of the elect. Christ is the head of all rule and authority (Col. 2:10). God is the object of prayer. Christ and the elders act by delegation. Thus the issue was one of control and authority. Bacchiocchi (loc. cit.) states in relation to the elements of the universe (Col. 2:8,18,20) that:

Most modern exegetes, have adopted a personified interpretation of the stoicheia (especially on the basis of the parallel passage in Galatians 4:3,9; cf. 3:19); identifying them with angelic mediators of the law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2) and the pagan astral gods who were credited with control of the destiny of mankind. To gain protection from these cosmic powers and principalities, the Colossian "philosophers" were urging Christians to offer cultic adoration to angelic powers (2:15,18,19,23) and to follow ritualistic and ascetic practices (2:11,14,16.17,21,22). By that process one was assured of access to and participation in the divine "fulness- (B8ZDT:")" [plerõma]" (2:9,10, cf. 1,19). The theological error then basically consisted in interposing inferior angelic mediators in place of the Head Himself (2:9,10,18,19) (pp. 344-345).

 

Bacchiocchi goes on to state:

The practical outcome of these theological speculations was the insistence on strict ascetism and ritualism. These consisted in "putting off the body of flesh" (2:11) (apparently meaning withdrawal from the world); rigorous treatment of the body (2:23); prohibition to either taste or touch certain kinds of foods and beverages (2:16,21), and careful observance of sacred days and seasons-festival, new moon, Sabbath (2:16). Christians presumably were led to believe that by submitting to these ascetic practices, they were not surrendering their faith in Christ, but rather they were receiving added protection and were assured of full access to the divine fullness (p. 345).

 

The thought processes involved appear to be aimed at negating secondary entities and confining the process to one of control through Christ. All prayer was to be to God the Father in Christ's name. Though there are powers influencing mankind there is but one Mediator between God and man. Never in the Bible is prayer sanctioned to anyone other than God who is the Father. The propitiation of the elders may have developed its own cosmology. However, what is clear is that some traditions of the Pharisees regarding the law had penetrated the Church in this process. The theory of the elemental spirits of the universe further complicates the issue (cf. the paper The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104)).

 

The Sabbath Problem

The reference at Isaiah 1:14 is usually used to justify the keeping of the Chaldean feasts of Easter and the December mid-winter festivals as opposed to the biblical ordinances. Indeed, the King James Version at Acts 12:4 has been deliberately mistranslated to read Easter instead of Passover. To suggest that Christ would permit the Church to replace the feasts of the plan of salvation with pagan festivals when the feasts were instituted by him under instruction from God appears extraordinary and unsound. Tertullian falls into this error when he argues against Marcion concerning the Sabbath. Not fully understanding the role Messiah played as the Elohim or Angel of Yahovah of the Old Testament, Tertullian assumes separate entities and alleges both Yahovah of the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament hated the Sabbath. Tertullian used Isaiah as above for the Old Testament and reasoning thus for Christ that:

even if as being not the Christ of the Jews, He [i.e., Christ of the NT] displayed a hatred against the Jews most solemn day, He was only professedly following the Creator, as being His Christ [Messiah], in this very hatred of the Sabbath; for He exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah: 'Your new moons and your Sabbaths my soul hateth' (Bacchiocchi in From Sabbath To Sunday: A Historical Investigation into the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity, The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, Rome, 1977 quoting Against Marcion 1,1, ANF, Vol. III, p. 271; (but the reference is only to the commencement of the work)).

Bacchiocchi's opinion was that Tertullian's arguments in Books I, II, III & V showed, contrary to what Marcion taught, that the type of Sabbath-keeping taught by the God of the Old Testament and that of Christ were identical. The teachings of both testaments were in harmony. Both derived from the same God who was God of both dispensations. In arguing for the harmony, however, he reduces the Sabbath to an institution that God has always despised. (Bacchiocchi, ibid., p. 187, fn. 61)

 

The Law

It is at Book V Chapter IV that Tertullian discusses the concept of elements which the Romans equated with the rudiments of learning. Tertullian equates these elements with even the rudiments of the law presumably on the proposition that the law was an introductory mechanism to educate the elect in the faith. He refers to a concept presumably from Galatians, but here Paul appears to be referring to a heresy, perhaps animistic, involving propitiation of spirit forces that seems to have entered the Galatian Church and became infused onto the biblical feasts and then became a form of justification by adherence to the law rather than grace (Gal. 5:4). Here the problem approaches that at Colossae. The Galatian problem appears to be similar to the Gnosticism that constituted the Colossian heresy. The heresy at Colossae, as we have observed, involved "elements" and "traditions" and appears to have been cultic adoration of angelic powers whose favour was invoked by the observance of "regulations - *Ī(:"J"" [dogmata].

 

As we have noted, this cult may well have coincided with the introduction of the mystical ascents of the Hekaloth in Judaism during the first century (see Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, Samuel Weiser, Maine, 1989 for details of the system). The concept that purification can come by observance of regulations (and, here, in service of angelic beings) was the concept that was "nailed to the cross" not that of the law. This argument was advanced on the fact that in Christ the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily (2:9), and that therefore all forms of authority that exist are subordinate to him who is the head of all rule and authority (2:10), and only through Christ (possessing not only the fullness of the deity but also the fullness of redemption and forgiveness of sins) (see 1:14; 2:10-15; 3:1-5) can the believer come to the fullness of life (2:10). Paul, contrary to his usual method, does not make recourse to the law but to baptism as Bacchiocchi notes Harold Weiss arguing. The law as a term (<`:@H [nomos]) is absent from Colossians 2 in the discussion of the controversy and this would corroborate the assertion that:

the Colossian heresy was not in fact based upon the usual Jewish legalism but rather on an unusual (syncretistic) type of ascetic and cultic regulations (*Ī(:"J" [dogmata]) which undermined the all sufficiency of Christ's redemption. (Bacchiocchi, ibid., p.347)

 

Paul's arguments in Galatians and in Colossians were misunderstood and consequently misapplied, especially by the anti-Nomians but generally by the Athanasians. Tertullian was the first of the later Trinitarians who carried on this theological deficiency. The Trinitarians could not understand the significance of the arguments expounded in Colossians because they did not understand the early Christian cosmology. The Colossian heresy (and that of the Valentinians) was only possible because the early Church embraced a cosmology (Rev. 4 et seq.) which was an extended Elohim involving thirty entities the Valentinians called Aeons from the lion-headed Aeon. This is dealt with elsewhere.

 

Galatians

Tertullian claims from Galatians and elsewhere quite wrongly that God despised the Sabbaths and feasts arguing:

'Ye observe days and months, and times, and years' [Gal. 4:10] - the Sabbaths, I suppose, and 'the preparations' [ANF translating 'Coenas puras': as 'probably the B"D"F6,L"4 paraskeuai or preparation] of John xix. 31'; see the section 'Passover' for an exposition of this matter] and the fasts, and the 'high days' [John 19:31 also?]. For the cessation of even these, no less than of circumcision, was appointed by the Creator's decrees, who had said by Isaiah, 'Your new moons, and your sabbaths, and your high days I cannot bear; your fasting, and feasts, and ceremonies my soul hateth' [Isa. 1:13,14]; also by Amos, 'I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies' [Amos 5:21]; and again by Hosea, 'I will cause to cease all her mirth, and her feast days, and her sabbaths, and her new moons, and all her solemn assemblies' [Hosea 2:11]. The institutions which He set up Himself you ask did He then destroy? Yes, rather than any other. Or if another destroyed them, he only helped on the purpose of the Creator, by removing what even He had condemned. But this is not the place to discuss the question why the Creator abolished his own laws. It is enough for us to prove that He intended such an abolition, that so it may be affirmed that the apostle determined nothing to the prejudice of the Creator, since the abolition itself proceeds from the Creator (Tertullian Against Marcion, Bk. V, Ch. IV, ANF, Vol. III, p. 436).

 

Tertullian shows that Marcion can be first known as a heretic by his separation of the gospel and the law (Against Marcion, ibid., Ch. XXI, p.286). Curiously, it is this aspect of the Marcionite heresy that is most prevalent today in Christian justification for removing the requirements of the law both from worship and the feasts, particularly the Sabbath issue. The notion is philosophically unsound for the reasons developed elsewhere. More particularly, the objections raised by Lord Russell as to the issue of divine laws (namely, that they could not have been issued simply by fiat, but must have another sounder basis) would appear to preclude the sort of reasoning employed by Tertullian. It becomes obvious from reading him that he does not comprehend the real issues behind the statements in Isaiah, Amos and Hosea where the festivals employed by both Israel and Judah were polluted and that it was the lack of justice and righteousness (Amos 5:24) that was the problem as is evident by an even cursory reading of the texts. Christ was similarly disgusted with the mode of Sabbath observance by the hypocritical Pharisees.

 

The law must proceed from a basis within the nature of God rather than from simple statement as Russell so rightly pointed out. Unfortunately the hierarchical relationship deemed necessary by Russell and attributed to Gnosticism is in fact correct. However, Russell did not adequately examine the true cosmology other than to show (Why I Am Not A Christian) that the issue of divine laws within Trinitarianism is logically absurd. The Sabbath question is often removed from the law so that there are nine and not ten commandments and those are indeed suggestions – as the law is done away. The argument shows a Protestant misapprehension of the nature of the law. The Protestant acceptance of Sunday worship, which is of itself based upon the councils of the Athanasian church, is logically absurd. If the church had the authority to alter the law, then it had authority over all aspects of the law and the church and Protestantism is an unauthorised rebellion. However, the Reformation was fatally flawed in its analysis in that the Reformation only went as far back as Augustine for its theology and that theology was biblically incorrect. Augustine’s work is based upon philosophy and is not correctly supported by the Bible.

 

Paul is quoted in support of antinomian activity, namely the argument that the law is done away, from assumptions. Much of the problem of Galatians stems from a simplification of Paul’s position. He was attacked both by legalists on the one hand and by anti-Nomianists on the other. The Galatian problem was not simple Judaic legalism. The cultic regulations are directed, as we will see, at fallen angelic powers that are deemed not to be theoi because of their nature.

 

Paul in fact began his epistle, after the salutation and introduction (Gal. 1:1-5), with a defence of his apostleship (Gal. 1:6 to 2:21). He then proceeds to a defence of the gospel (Gal. 3:1 to 4:31). The ethical implications of the gospel are then examined in Galatians 5:1 to 6:10 and the conclusion is made from Galatians 6:11-18.

 

The problems of the Galatian Church can be seen to be properly a dichotomy between these two positions. The arguments that the law is done away from a reading of Galatians and Colossians is correctly an anti-Nomianist argument which is soundly dismissed by Paul (and also James and John), as is the legalism of Pharisaic Judaism also dismissed (see the papers The Relationship between Salvation by Grace and the Law (No. 82); Faith and Works (No. 86) and The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104)). The absence of the thanksgiving and felicitations of the other epistles is construed by the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. 2, art. ‘Galatians’, pp. 338-343) as reflecting the shock of the news of the error and the impulse to fight back.

 

There is no doubt that the Church had turned to a different gospel, which is not a gospel at all.

 

Paul visited Jerusalem and saw Peter and James (on his word). Fourteen years later he visited Jerusalem again to lay before those there (including James, Peter and John) the gospel which modern theology (Interp. Dict., p. 341) construes as freedom from the law.

 

From Paul’s visit it was clear that he was to work among the Gentiles and they among the Jews. Peter was apostle to the Jews as Galatians shows. The conservative element in the Church, Peter, James and others, appears to have limited the participation of the Gentiles in the Church from Galatians 2:11-14. Peter (Cephas) is mentioned here.

Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (RSV)

 

This shows the understanding of the Church. The release of the Church was from the traditions of the Pharisees and their system. Peter had abandoned the traditions. The Jerusalem party was taking the traditional line. Being in Jerusalem, it was easier to go along with the traditions than oppose them. The Gentiles on the other hand would have to make an issue to keep traditions, which were not part of the system of the law. Moreover, the handling regulations also stemmed in part from the sacrificial system, which had been eliminated with Christ.

 

The argument that the law is done away from the concept that the law was fulfilled in Christ is a misunderstanding of the meaning of the term fulfil.

 

To fulfil means (Oxford Universal Dictionary)

1.    trans. To fill up, make full ...

2.    To satisfy the appetite or desire - 1601.

3.    To make complete; to supply what is lacking in. Also to supply the place of (something); to compensate for ...

4.    To carry out (a prophecy, promise etc.); to satisfy (a desire, prayer). Orig. a Hebraism. M.E.

5.    To perform, execute, do; to obey or follow M.E.; to answer (a purpose), comply with (conditions).

6.    to bring to an end, complete M.E.

 

It can thus be seen that to do away with is not and cannot be the meaning of the term within any of its variant meanings in English. Further, the term is a Hebraism. Thus the words of Christ from the gospels must be definitive in interpreting the term. Matthew 5:17 has Christ’s statement:

Matthew 5:17-20  "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (RSV)

 

Christ did not come to abolish the law or the prophets. He said so. He came to fulfil (plerõsai) them. Thus Paul’s comment in Galatians must have meaning within this context. If it does not and contradicts Christ, Paul must by definition be contradicting Christ and, hence, Galatians would be uninspired. Paul cannot win a debate against Christ. Moreover, the Bible does not contradict itself on doctrine.

 

The commandments are thus not only to be kept but also they cannot be relaxed. The meaning of fulfil also can be seen from the various terms translated thus in the Old Testament. The first term is mala (SHD 4390) to fill or be full of, to accomplish confirm, to consecrate or be at an end the concept of being fenced and also to be gathered together or have wholly. The contextual meaning does not mean to set aside but rather to be the terminus and to contain in conformity with the object, and here, the law. The texts where the term is used are Genesis 29:27, Exodus 23:26, 1Kings 2:27, 2Chronicles 36:21 and Psalm 20:4,5.

 

The second term is kalah (SHD 3615) to end in the sense intrans. to cease, finish, or perish and trans. to complete, prepare or consume; hence here it can mean consume or destroy. This word is used in Exodus 5:13 in the sense of completing daily tasks or works. This is not a destructive or eliminative sense. It cannot have the meaning of cessation, from Christ’s own comments. The third term is found in 1Chronicles 22:13: Take heed to fulfil the statutes. That word is asah (SHD 6213) to do or make in the widest sense. Hence the term means to comply with the statutes in this context.

 

The term used to translate what Christ said in Matthew 5:17 is a form of the word plerõ which means to make replete, literally to cram (as a net), level up (a hollow) or to imbue by furnishing, influencing, satisfying or executing an office. Thus Christ was clearly understood to be adding to the law not detracting from it or removing any aspect of the law in any sense. To assert that Christ was doing so is a perversion of the understanding of the words in all of the languages used: Greek, Hebrew, the Aramaic in which Christ would have spoken, or the English in which the word was finally translated. He perfected the law by the utilisation of the Holy Spirit in its execution. That is the true meaning of the arguments of Paul and all of the apostles and prophets.

 

The key to Galatians is in Galatians 3:1-5.

Galatians 3:1-5 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so many things in vain? -- if it really is in vain. 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (RSV)

 

The context is that the Spirit is conveyed not by doing the law but by faith. The receipt of eternal life is thus removed from the individual’s grasp except by conformity to the will of God exercised in faith. The context is then extended to Abraham as the father of the faithful.

Galatians 3:6-9 Thus Abraham "believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." 7 So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." 9 So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith. (RSV)

 

The curse is extended to those who rely upon works to be justified rather than the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3:10-14 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for "He who through faith is righteous shall live"; 12 but the law does not rest on faith, for "He who does them shall live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree" – 14 that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (RSV)

 

Thus, the receipt of the promise is through faith. The retention of the promise is through obedience. The retention of the Holy Spirit is predicated upon obedience to the law and the keeping of the commandments (Mat. 19:17); see also the papers The Holy Spirit (No. 117) and Eternal Life (No. 133).

 

The Jews were attempting to obtain salvation by works and were perverting the intent of the law and impugning the nature of God. This error began to penetrate the elect.

 

Galatians 3:15-18  To give a human example, brethren: no one annuls even a man's will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, "And to your offspring," which is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. (RSV)

 

It can be seen that the promise was vested in Christ and that no man can come to God save through Christ. The Jews held that they could circumvent the requirements of the faith by adherence to works. The intent is thus that there was a form of purification entering the Galatian Church, which was found among the Gnostics and of a similar type, but not the same, as that found at Colossae.

 

Paul explains the intent and purpose of the law.

Galatians 3:19-20  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one; but God is one. (RSV)

 

The law was given until Christ came because men were not capable of living according to the nature of God from whom the law proceeds. Christ only could do that and those to whom the Spirit was given through faith. Now the Spirit had been given to the prophets and they are to inherit the promise, but the main thrust of the work would not occur until Christ and the elect. The oneness of God stems from the possession of the Holy Spirit by the angels through the intermediary, which enables us to be one with God as Christ is one with God.

 

The law is not against the promises but rather to make it obvious for the requirements of faith in Christ.

Galatians 3:21-22  Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not; for if a law had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (RSV)

 

The law acted as a confinement until Christ because we could not live according to the nature of God until we were given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was not given on request until Christ. Only the prophets and those chosen by God to understand the plan of salvation could share in the Spirit, whereas from Christ it was open to a larger group of people.

Galatians 3:23-29 Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. 24 So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

 

The propitiation of God by rules and regulations was only a shadow of the true relationship that the elect would have with God through Christ. We share in the nature of God and do by our own volition those things, which previously we had to do by external coercion. The commandments of God proceed now from the elect through the Holy Spirit. The elect are now the offspring of Abraham as Christ is the offspring of Abraham and heir to the promise. In that way we will ascend to the state of Son of God in power through the Holy Spirit from our resurrection from the dead as did Christ (Rom. 1:4).

 

Paul proceeds in Galatians 4 to deal with another concept in which he mentions elemental spirits. From above, this line is not without significance.

Galatians 4:1-7 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; 2  but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. (RSV)

 

The elect were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe until Christ. Thus, the demons were being referred to as the elemental spirits. Hence the concepts involved pagan thought processes which were common among both Greeks and Romans. As such we are faced with a form of Hellenising syncretism which is not pure Judaism but, at best, can only be a precursor to mysticism.

 

He is definitely referring to the fallen Host from Galatians 4:8ff. The context is clear where Paul says that formerly when we did not know God we were in bondage to those who by nature were not Theoi. Thus, the state of being Theoi stems from their nature. The text is rendered as:

Galatians 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; (RSV)

 

The text is rendered by Marshall’s Interlinear main text as:

But then indeed not knowing God ye served as slaves the by nature not being gods.

 

It is clear that service to the fallen Host is involved and that he refers to them as elemental spirits. Galatia was apparently trying to propitiate, by ritual observance, the elemental spirits, not being aware that they were of the fallen Host or demons. They had incorporated into the Church the purification rites that were endemic to Pythagoreanism and which had penetrated Italy and the Romans long before. Thus, the Gentile converts did not comprehend the nature of the law and its place in the faith. We see the point from verses 9-11.

Galatians 4:9-11 but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years! 11 I am afraid I have labored over you in vain. (RSV)

 

The observance mentioned can be plainly seen from what has transpired in the mainstream church for some two thousand years. This text does not eliminate the Sabbath or the feasts.

 

The text of the slave and the free refers to the use of the law in Jerusalem.

Galatians 4:12-31 Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong; 13 you know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first; 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What has become of the satisfaction you felt? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 For a good purpose it is always good to be made much of, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! 20 I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. 24 Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married." 28 Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." 31 So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (RSV)

 

We do not keep the law because we are slaves to the law propitiating the law according to the flesh, which is the realm of the demons and the god of this world. We serve God and are part of the New Jerusalem. The statement of Paul to them to become as he is, shows that he is not talking about the keeping of the feast because he kept the feasts and the Sabbath (as we know from Acts and his epistles) as did all the apostles. If he is saying that the feasts are done away then he makes Christ a liar who spoke by the prophets and stated that the Sabbaths and New Moons (Isa. 66:23) will be introduced together with the feasts (Zech. 14:16-19). If the elect could dispense with the Holy Days and the Sabbath, it would be an act of utmost capriciousness for God to punish the nations for not keeping them under the millennial system. God is not a respecter of persons and therefore demands uniform standards of people.

 

The elect have a harder job in the execution, having to walk by faith. If anyone says the law is done away, they are quite simply ignorant of Scripture, which cannot be broken, and of the nature of God. More particularly, they are ignorant of the real issues in dispute in Galatia and at Colossae. The forms of error in those churches began to assert themselves within Gnosticism at an early stage. The thought processes are also extant in Liberation Theology and, particularly, Buddhism. The concepts are evident in modern Process Theology. The Gnostics struck at the very existence of God (the paper The Works of the Law Text - or MMT (No. 104) examines this issue).

 

The Heresy in John’s Churches

Each of the three letters of John was written to deal with a challenge to the teaching and authority of the gospel as it had been delivered to them by John.

 

The major heresy to appear was concerned with the Godhead and was an attempt to elevate Christ as the One True God. John refers to this relationship in John 17:3 and again in dealing with the heresy in 1John (esp. 1Jn. 5:20).

 

The error was plainly from those claiming to be of the elect (1Jn. 1:6) who claimed themselves without sin (1Jn. 1:8). The issue was the capacity to know God, hence Gnosis. The Gnosis involved the concept of doing away with the law or the doctrine that the commandments of God need no longer be kept (1Jn. 2:4). The capacity for the Holy Spirit to abide in the elect and them in God (1Jn. 2:6) was dependent upon the love of both God and the brethren. The elect could not hate their brothers (1Jn. 4:20).

 

These claims have obvious relevance. The contention is that the opposition:

… has been laying claim to a special knowledge and love of God and to a peculiarly intimate relationship with him which has set them above the common distinction between good and evil and therefore above the demands of Christian ethics. It is probable, too, that the initial message of the letter; “God is light and in him is no darkness at all,” is directed against a theology which held that God comprehended in himself both light and darkness (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 947)

 

The form of Greek theology most likely to fall into this category was a form of Platonism or Pythagoreanism. The argument that God is in all matter and, hence, immanent is common today. Initially it appeared as Animism within the Babylonian religion. The teachers were also denying that Jesus was the Messiah (1Jn. 2:22). The Interpreter’s Dictionary is positive in saying:

We are not to conclude from this that they were Jews or Judaizers who denied his Messiahship, but rather that they were Christians who denied his Incarnation. For their error is more particularly defined later in the letter as a denial “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (4:2) (ibid.).

 

The warning to test the spirits to see whether they are of divine origin would make it apparent that we are dealing with the interaction with elemental spirits and the utterances which purport to emanate from God through the Holy Spirit. The strange word chrism or unction which is used twice in the text (at 1Jn. 2:20,27) to describe the gift of the Spirit in which all Christians participate is used in the text because the heretics first used it to describe what they believed to be their own unique spiritual endowment (Interp. Dict., ibid.). Thus, the anointing (Chrisma) by the Holy Spirit is contrary to the anointing by the spirits that are being advanced. The doctrine is here labelled that of Antichrist, which is he who denies the Father and the Son. The denial appeared to make Christ part of the Father as a modal which did not die in total. The teaching that Christ is God as part of a structure involving the Spirit is now integral to mainstream Christian thought. However, its premises would be regarded, and in the form stated were so regarded, by John as heretical.

 

The doctrine of God in John is clearly Unitarian with Christ plainly shown to be the son of the One True God (Jn. 17:3) who died for the elect. Modalists and later Trinitarians understandably had most difficulty with these texts in John (cf. the papers The Cult Mentality (No. 74) and Binitarianism and Trinitarianism (No. 76)).

 

In 1John he deals simply and clearly with the error and the resultant schism. The texts show the intent.

 

The elect are baptised into the body of Christ and not into any church or denomination. Those words are spoken over each of the elect on baptism. The elect are thus bound to the body of Jesus Christ in the worship of the One True God from John 17:3. Thus, when the elect were organised into area churches, they were so grouped on the basis of their adherence to the truth and the worship of the One True God and the service of His son Jesus Christ. When the church was faced with the doctrine which attempted to make Christ out to be more than the son of God and to make him equal to God and to separate his humanity from his divinity then the elect were forced to re-organise and to separate themselves from those who maintained the false doctrine, which was clearly labelled as the doctrine of Antichrist.

 

The basis of the faith is the truth and there is no darkness in those who walk in the truth.

1John 1:1-10 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – 2 the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us -- 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (RSV)

Thus it is mandatory for the brethren to walk together in the truth.

 

1John 2:1-6 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Christ is the advocate with the Father. An advocate speaks to an authority on behalf of another. An advocate cannot, itself, be the authority.

 

1John 2:7-11 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Love of each other is the mark of the elect. Where a group of people love an organisation, or leader, more than each other and to the exclusion of truth, then that group is a cult and not part of the body of Christ. John writes about the word of God abiding in the elect and by this they overcome the evil one.

 

1John 2:12-17 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.

The object of the love of the elect is ultimately the Father. The love of the elect for each other is based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of the elect from Christ onwards. Christ gave himself for the world through the love of the Father. John 3:16 holds that the Father gave the Son.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

We cannot give what is not ours. There is no co-equality in the gift of the Son by the Father.

 

Moreover, Christ was sent by the Father under will and direction.

John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (KJV)

 

Thus, the work is of the Father and had to be done by the Holy Spirit in and through humans, firstly in Christ and secondly as the elect. How could the elect then or now remain in an organisation which teaches contrary to the law and the testimony and still be about the Father's work?

 

The doctrine of Antichrist is not confined to an individual. It is a doctrine, which seeks to undermine the sovereignty of the One True God and of the entirety of the death and sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ. The going out from the elect is on a doctrinal and not a corporate basis.

 

1John 2:18-29 Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. 26 I write this to you about those who would deceive you; 27 but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him. (RSV)

Here the concept of going out from us is developed by John. The argument that developed in the Church referred to by John was clearly seen here to be over the Godhead and the relationship of the Father and the Son. The argument was the precursor to Trinitarianism. It attempted to separate the humanity of Christ from his divinity. In effect, it attempted to assert that Christ had an element of his being which remained separate to his humanity and did not die. Moreover, it remained part of the entity we understand as God. In effect, it attempted to make Christ part of and in equality with God. This was the doctrine of Antichrist. It was so obviously related to Trinitarianism that the text at 1John 4:1-2 was changed to disguise the fact.

 

The concept of being part of the elect is by righteous conduct. John’s theme is: he who does right is righteous – he who commits sin is of the devil (diabolos). Thus, it is impossible to be grouped with those who do not preach the truth. The commandments of God are paramount. Sin is the transgression of the law or, here, lawlessness. The first commandment relates to the worship and the love of God. The logic is simple. How can we worship the One True God when we are part of a system which attempts to accuse Christ of attempted equality with the One True God and thus guilty of the same sin that Satan committed? We thus are required to purify ourselves as Christ is pure.

1John 3:1-10 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. 10 By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

If we do not do right then we are not of God. We cannot love our people if we do not preach the word of God to them in unsullied truth.

 

1John 3:11-24 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 13 Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you. [emphasis added] 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth [emphasis added]. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us. (RSV)

God is thus distinct from the Son and we keep His commandments walking in the truth. The elect are required to test the spirits to see whether they are of God.

1John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.

 

This text concerning the doctrine of Antichrist has been altered in the ancient texts. The correct text can be reconstructed from the writings of Irenaeus (see the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 1, fn. p. 443). The text reads:

Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God; and every spirit which separates Jesus Christ is not of God but is of Antichrist.

 

Socrates the historian says (VII, 32, p. 381) that the passage had been corrupted by those who wished to separate the humanity of Jesus Christ from his divinity. Thus, the argument that part of Christ was extant in the heavens as part of God separate to his humanity and his death on the cross effectively denied the resurrection and is the doctrine of Antichrist. Thus, Trinitarianism correctly falls into the doctrine of Antichrist.

 

1John 4:4-6 Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Thus the spirit of truth was and is required to separate from the spirit of error. This test is on the elect to show who are of the elect and who are called but not chosen.

1John 4:7-21 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; [emphasis added; Christ is distinct from God] if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us. 20 If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (RSV)

 

Those who have perfect love are not afraid of anyone, let alone those in error from the truth. The requirement to overcome the world is clearly stated in 1John 5:1-5.

1John 5:1-5 Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [emphasis added].

 

If we love God, we keep His commandments. By this, we know that we love the children of God. To be born of God we must overcome the world. To overcome the world we must believe that Messiah is the Son of God. Thus the relationship is explicit. The alterations to the biblical texts or their false interpretation away from the plain meaning of the words can be seen below (esp. from 1John 5:7 when compared with the false text in KJV translation).

1John 5:6-12 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. 7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. [note the KJV has a forged text here] 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.

 

Note that God gave us eternal life and this life is in His son. Thus, the Son has eternal life from the Father, which is also given to us in the same way.

1John 5:13-21 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. 18 We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (RSV)

 

The texts of 1John have been manipulated over centuries. The earliest forgery was the alteration to the text concerning the doctrine of Antichrist. 1John 5:7 (Receptus and KJV) was forged early in the Reformation. The next more subtle approach is the manipulation of the intent of texts, such that the reverse of the actual intent and plain meaning of their words is claimed for them. Such manipulation results in the type of arguments advanced in the G.L. Haydock commentary to the Douay-Rheims Bible (1850 reprint of the 1819 version), concerning John 17:3, referring back on to 1John.

Ver. 3. This is life everlasting: that is, the way to life everlasting, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. The Arians, from these words, pretend that the Father only is the true God. S. Aug. and diverse others answer, that the sense and construction is, that they may know thee, and also Jesus Christ thy Son, whom thou hast sent to be the only true God. We may also expound them with S. Chrys. and others, so that the Father is here called the only true God, not to exclude the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are the same one true God with the Father; but only to exclude the false Gods of the Gentiles. Let the Socinians take notice that (1John v, 20), the Son of God, Christ Jesus, is expressly called the true God, even with the Greek article, upon which they commonly lay so much stress.

 

Note also the use of incorrect pejorative labels, such as Arian, seeking to obviate or deny the legitimate unitarian structure of the Bible. There is no possibility that the One True God in John 17:3 or 1John 5:20 refers to Jesus Christ at all, with or without the article. The fact that the Douay-Rheims version is a translation of the Latin Vulgate and, thus, the article is deduced from the Latin is not mentioned. The term with the article does not refer to Christ but rather to the One True God whose son is Christ. The meaning is known and understood.

1John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (RSV)

He who is true is the One True God. We know Him and are in Him who is true and in His son Jesus Christ. We worship Him who is true, not His son, Jesus Christ.

 

The errors that emerged in the Apostolic Church developed from attacks on the law through the propitiation of the angelic Host, which was of itself relatively easy to expose and demolish, to the elevation of Christ to an equality with God. Each of the errors was aimed at separating the Church from the authority and the commandments of God. Once the Godhead is compromised and the truth forsaken, the professed followers of Christ are given over to a strong delusion that they might believe a lie (2Thes. 2:11). This text is from Isaiah 66:1-4 where God chooses the delusions or vexations of the falsely religious, from ta’a’uwl (SHD 8586) meaning a caprice (as a fit coming on) hence a vexation, and concretely a tyrant, hence babe, or delusion. Hence, Paul was quoting Scripture both here and also in Romans 1. Thus, the tyranny of the false religions involves persecution and the suppression of the truth. That is the reason why Unitarianism has been so harshly persecuted over the centuries. Once the Godhead is compromised and Trinitarianism is established, the delusion is established and the law falls.

 

The attack on the Godhead has gone beyond the simple attempts at asserting co-equality and co-eternality. Aside from making the dead objects of worship, for example Mariolatry and the worship of saints and relics, arguments have been advanced which strike at the very existence of God as a transcendent force. The arguments, themselves, stem from Babylonian Animism and its offshoots in the near and far east. These arguments were common to Gnosticism and now appear in Process Theology, which is the modern inheritor of the Gnostic mantle.

 

Gnosticism and the Non-Existence of God

God is referred to as a being. Being is defined in the English language as existence, either material or immaterial (Universal Oxford Dictionary). A dangerous consequence of the later Christian doctrine, that Christ is God in the sense that God the Father is God, has been logical Ditheism. The subsequent isolation of the Holy Spirit as a conscious entity distinct from God the Father and Jesus Christ develops a further Tritheism. The obvious objections to this arising from the logical requirements of Monotheism resulted in attempts in the third century to merge the identities of these three elements into a single structure. This developed further incoherencies of a pantheistic nature. For example, the assertion that God (or any other entity assumed to exist for that matter), is not a being can only be based on a theory of non-existence akin to Liberation Theology as found in Buddhism, Hinduism or other transmigrationist religions.

 

Within Monotheism, such a proposition is logically absurd (as it is absurd, and indeed blasphemous) for a Christian or any Monotheist to suggest that God does not exist. From above, God is referred to as a being and being is defined as that which exists, either materially or immaterially. Thus, by attempting to merge the entities, a pantheist structure emerges beyond existence. From Parmenidean Monism, that which can be conceived exists. Later Monism renders individuation illusory.

 

We have seen that the biblical position has only one supreme God, Eloah, and that Christ and the sons of God are subordinate entities. In the pagan Roman Empire, the law as delivered to the Jews was quite seriously resisted by all later thinkers. The rejection of the law on a progressive basis by the ante-Nicene theologians resulted in the vigorous anti-Semitism of the writings of Athanasius and the post-Nicene theologians. The reasoning runs as follows.

 

The law emanating from God the Father is not capable of being altered by resort to subordinate authority. Hence, Christ had to be elevated to an equality with God for the church to logically claim delegated authority by manipulation of New Testament texts. But this process was quite slow.

 

Catherine Mowry LaCugna and Karen Armstrong both show that the church was largely subordinationist up until the fourth century and that the doctrines of co-eternality and co-equality were even later assertions. The purpose here is to note the original doctrines. The process of accommodating these concepts began by attacking the existence of God as a singular entity and elevating Him beyond existence. The doctrine that God could not be said to exist, being beyond such a state, was first proposed by Basilides the Gnostic scholar who taught in Alexandria in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. His theory was propounded about 125 AD but did not gain real prominence (see Schaff, History of The Christian Church, Vol. II, pp. 467-468). The traditional proofs regarding the existence of God such as the ontological and teleological arguments will not be addressed here being unnecessary delineations. The argument that God is beyond existence as a being comprised of a singularity which acts in modes or Hypostases will be examined in Book 2 which deals with the theology leading up to Nicaea and Constantinople and the adoption of the Trinity.

 

Essentially, such a claim is logically Monist and, from the above, has no biblical foundation. However, such a doctrine was refined only after some 400 years. The preliminary steps are important to any understanding of that process and will be dealt with on a progressive basis in Book 2. What must be understood is that modern Christianity is quite incompatible with first century Jewish and Christian Monotheism specifically from its expression in New Testament documents. The next attack on the Judaic theology of the Messianic advent and the authority of Scripture began by denying the millennial restoration pursuant to the second advent. The argument was common in the twentieth century among Athanasian scholars.

 

The Messiah of Two Advents

The return of Messiah was to establish the millennial Kingdom of God, which enshrines the laws of God under a physical system. To effect this system, Messiah must take control of the planet by force in the last days. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation are openly concerned with this period of effective rule. Revelation specifically states that it is one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-4). Modern scholarship attempts to deny the reality of the prophecy by asserting no prophetic value to Revelation but rather asserting that the work was written by the first century Church based upon supposition (e.g. Bob Barnes (ANU) The Bulletin, 24-31 January 1995, art. ‘Apocalypse Sometime’, pp. 42-43). The DSS shows that Judaism expected a Messiah of two advents (see G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, esp. Messianic Anthology and the translation of the thirteen fragments from cave XI). The lineage of Messiah was of Nathan and of Levi (see Zech. 12:10; hence Lk. 3). The Messianic Anthology draws attention to the promises to Levi at Deuteronomy 33:8-11 and 5:28-29. The text identifies the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 as referring to Messiah as does Numbers 24:15-17. The Messiah of Aaron and the Messiah of Israel were the same person from Damascus Rule (VII) and the unpublished fragment in cave IV (Vermes, p. 49). The Qumran translations refer to Melchisedek as Elohim and El. This stems from the sense of the final judgment conducted by the Messianic Priest and priesthood. Isaiah 52:7 uses elohim in context of the Messianic advent to Zion (see Heb. 12:22-23). He was understood to be identical with the archangel Michael and was head of the Sons of Heaven or Gods of Justice.

 

Thus, some Judaic sects identified Messiah as Michael (from Dan. 12:1). The assumptions are in error. Melchisedek has the meaning My King is Righteousness or My King is Justice (justice and righteousness being synonymous) (Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 253). It was also assumed that Melchisedek was a name for the leader of the Army of Light, which we have seen, is a function of Messiah (Vermes, p. 260).

 

Those assumptions are made from the damaged Testament of Amram. That would be consistent with the Melchisedek-Messiah nexus among the Essene. Were Melchisedek to be Messiah then there is a serious problem with the incarnation and the sacrifice.

 

The Christian assumption that Melchisedek is Messiah rests on a misunderstanding of the texts in Hebrews 7:3. The terms without father, mother and genealogy (apator etc.) refer to the requirement to have recorded Aaronic lineage (Neh. 7:64) for the Levitical priesthood.

 

The term beginning of days and end of life refers to the requirement to commence duties at thirty years of age and cease at fifty years (Num. 4:47). The High Priest succeeded on the day of his predecessor’s death. Melchisedek has no such requirement. Hebrews records that he was a man (Heb. 7:4). He was made like the Son of God (Heb. 7:3) yet he was not the Son of God who was another priest (Heb. 7:11). Thus, all the elect can participate in the priesthood, being made like unto the Son of God, regardless of lineage and age, continuing in perpetuity. As to who Melchisedek was we can only surmise (see the paper Melchisedek (No. 128)). The Essene misconstrued the text messianically, as have some modern fundamentalists. Hebrews appears to have been written so as to correct this error but has itself been misconstrued. The Midrash holds that he was Shem (Rashi) being king (melek) over a righteous place (tsedek) (Abraham ibn Ezra & Nachmanides). This place was where the Temple would be built for the Divine Presence, which the Midrash applies to Jerusalem as a whole, from the text righteousness lodged in her (Isa. 1:21) (ibn Ezra & Nachmanides, see Soncino, fn. to Gen. 14:18).

 

But more importantly, the concept of a Council of Elohim was absolute and is undeniable as being the properly understood meaning of the Old Testament texts involving the elohim. The subordinate structure of the elohim is understood on one hand but misunderstood in relation to Michael and Melchisedek. Revelation 4 and 5 show that this group numbered thirty entities including the four cherubim. Thus, thirty pieces of silver were required for the betrayal of Christ (Mat. 27:3,9; cf. Zech. 11:12-13) as it was an offence against the entire Godhead or inner Council. The elders are charged with monitoring the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8) and Christ is their High Priest. He was the member of them who was found worthy to open the scroll of the plan of God having ransomed men and made them a kingdom and priests to our God i.e. the God of the Council and of Christ (Rev. 5:9-10). The ransom of men is part of an end-time restoration which occurs on the second coming of Messiah as King of Israel, his first coming being understood as the Messiah of Aaron. This first Messianic advent was the atonement for sin and the establishment of the Melchisedek priesthood.

 

The end-time restoration was understood to be an extension of the elohim as portrayed in Zechariah 12:8. In the restoration of the last days when Messiah shall come to Zion, as was understood from Hebrews 12:22-23, the sequence of the advent involved the defence of Jerusalem and the strengthening of the physical inhabitants of the city for the millennial reign. But note Zechariah goes on to state:

And he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the House of David shall be as God (elohim), as the Angel of YHVH before them (emphasis added).

The significance here was that Zechariah was given to understand that the Angel of YHVH was an elohim and that the household of David (who was long dead) was to consist of those who would themselves be elohim as part of David's household.

 

Zechariah wrote at the end of the Old Testament period as one of the last books to be written (allegedly c. 410-403 BC, App. 77 of Companion Bible refers). The understanding of the sequence thus was not altered over the duration of the compilation of the text.

 

Conclusion

From the DSS we know that the understanding was intact at the time of Christ. The heresy at Colossae involved the propitiation of the Council of the Elohim. Galatia began ritualism in propitiation of the elemental spirits not understanding they were demons.

 

The epistles to both Colossae and to Galatia serve to establish Christ as sole mediator between the elect and God. The epistles did not do away with the law. Paul does not, and cannot, contradict Christ. John similarly refuted a more advanced version of a similar heresy but, this time, one which sought to elevate Christ and deny his death or total sacrifice. The understanding of the Godhead began to be altered in the second century. The evidence for the alteration of the cosmology is examined in a subsequent work. The argument for the error concerning Christ as God was experienced by John and caused the schism in the churches he established.


 

 

Appendix

 

The Use of the Term Heresy in the Apostolic Church

 


The term heresy is used in the apostolic writings and is translated in various ways to convey different meanings. Examples are:

 

Acts 5:17 refers to the sect or party of the Sadducees using airesis.

 

Acts 15:5 uses aireseõs for the sect of the Pharisees. Thus the two major factions of the Jews were termed sects using the term heresy. Thus, it had no pejorative association.

 

Acts 24:5 uses the term heresy in the grammatical form aireseõs when talking of the sect of the Nazarenes. Thus, the early church was referred to as a heresy.

 

Acts 24:14 uses the term heresy in the grammatical form airesin when referring to the way. The church was the way which they call a sect (heresy).

 

Acts 26:5 quotes Paul as saying that according to the most exact sect of the Judaic religion, he lived as a Pharisee. The term used is airesin or heresy. Again, no pejorative intent is obvious.

 

Acts 28:22 refers to the aireseõs or heresy which is translated as sect because clearly the church is being discussed and the sense of the differences of opinion were not treated in the same way as they came to be treated under the later Athanasian Church.

 

2Peter 2:1 refers to heresies (aireseis) of destruction which is translated opinions of destruction (RSV). The KJV translates this text only as heresies.

 

Galatians 5:20 refers to divisions and aireseis translated sects or party spirit (RSV). The text here does not refer to simple differences of opinion regarding teaching. The text covers the breaches of the law which should be obvious to those with the Holy Spirit. Thus, Paul uses the term to cover error which is useful for the education of the elect as we see from 1Corinthians.

 

1Corinthians 11:19 shows that the heresies (aireseis) translated sects (RSV) among the church are allowed and are necessary. The difference of opinion within the church allows the elect to ascertain the truth and also identifies those of the elect with the Holy Spirit and a discernment of truth. Thus, the suppression of dissenting opinion (where it does not breach the commandments) is contrary to the teachings contained in 1Corinthians.