The Concept of God: A brief review

By Roger Marshall*

The Concept of God was the title of Dr. Ikael Tafari’s article which appeared in the September 25th, 2006 edition of the Daily Nation.

In that article Mr. Tafari said he regards Jesus, Haile Selassie I, and one Ben Ammi “as the three messianic personalities of the Christ.” This type of belief is common among New Agers and the like, however, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is the Christ (M’t. 1: 16; M’r. 8: 27-29; Lu. 2: 11; Joh. 4: 25-26; 1 Joh. 2: 22).

Mr. Tafari said that he did not consider Jesus to be “The Almighty”, nevertheless Jesus himself claimed to be the Almighty on several occasions. One example is recorded in John’s gospel when Jesus in addressing the Pharisees said: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8: 58, NIV) Here Jesus used the identical divine name (in reference to himself) that God used to describe His own nature to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3: 13-14). For this “blasphemy” of a man making himself equal with God the Jews took up stones to stone Jesus to death (Jon. 8: 59; cf. Jon 10: 30-33).

In his pantheistic, Eastern mystical view of God Mr. Tafari stated that “Rastafari know Him/Her as JAH; for Islam it is Allah; for the Jews, Jehovah.” While this may sound profound to the goodly doctor that statement is actually a violation of the law of non-contradiction which states that A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. Simply put, God cannot be personal (“Him/Her”) and impersonal (“It”) all at the same time. If God were an impersonal “it” then human beings would be greater than “it” since humans are personal beings and as such are cognisant reflective egos who think, act and have interpersonal relationships with others. The Bible, however, does reveal that God is a personal Supreme Being which is what we would expect of someone who is called God.

Dr. Tafari claimed that Christianity reintroduced the Egyptian concept of the Trinity changing it from “the three principles of Creation…to ‘three persons.’” His perspective is no doubt coloured by the Pan-Africanists Darwinian evolutionary worldview of origins which puts Egyptian civilisation at the apex of man’s social and religious development after supposedly evolving from the apes in Africa. However, if one holds to a Judeo-Christian worldview of origins one finds that the doctrine of the Trinity actually predates Egyptian civilisation and reaches way back to the very dawn of human existence in the Garden of Eden when God (Elohim) said “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness…” (Gen.1: 26). If Adam (the first man) understood God to be more than one person in nature then one would expect to find glimpses or traces of this understanding among several diverse cultures of people (both Jew and Gentile) who are all Adam’s descendants, this is exactly what we do find in both biblical and extra-biblical material.

For example the most famous Jewish prayer the Shema says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6: 4). The Hebrew word for “One” in this verse is echad. Rev. Dr. Clinton Chisholm in commenting on the use of this word in scripture says: “Echad,…means one in a complex or compound sense, this word suggests the unity that results from combining plural entities. Interestingly, the Old Testament writers never use yachid [a word which means one in a solitary, digital sense] to describe God! That fact would, on the surface, suggest that they did not believe in God as a solitary, digital…person. What we do find is that echad is used to describe God, which would be expected if the writers believed in a multi-personal God…[including] the fascinating evidence of the appearances of God in human form especially under the name ‘the Angel of the Lord’. Indeed it is not simply the multi-personality of God that is suggested in the Old Testament but there are passages that hint at the trinity (see Is. 48: 16; 61: 1; 63: 9 – 10).”

Equally fascinating is the extra-biblical evidence of the knowledge of the triune nature of God among Adam’s descendants who apostatised into paganism. Antiquarian the late Alexander Hislop observed: “The ancient Babylonians…recognised in words the unity of the Godhead; and, while worshipping innumerable minor deities, as possessed of certain influence on human affairs, they distinctly acknowledged that there was ONE infinite and almighty Creator, supreme over all. Most other nations did the same” (Hislop, The Two Babylons, p.14, pub. 1858).

Hislop further noted: “In the unity of that one Only God of the Babylonians, there were three persons, and to symbolise that doctrine of the Trinity, they employed, as the discoveries of Layard [the famed 19th century archaeologist] prove, the equilateral triangle…the Egyptians also used the triangle as a symbol of their ‘triform divinity’.”

Layard also noted in his work Nineveh and Babylon that the ancient Assyrians and Persians also worshipped a triune god as their supreme deity represented with three heads on one body. The ancient pagans of Siberia did the same so did the Celts. Similarly, in one of the most ancient cave temples at Elephanta, India, there is a triform image of the supreme deity of the Indians represented with three heads on one body under the name “Eko Deva Trimurtti” which when translated means “One God, three forms.”

This kind of archaeological evidence corroborates the biblical teaching which says that all men have some knowledge of the true and living God as the apostle Paul wrote: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse… Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Rom.1: 18-20, 22,23, NKJ). Rev. Hislop sums it up this way: “While overlaid with idolatry [including that of blasphemously substituting a licentious Mother goddess figure for the Holy Spirit], the recognition of a Trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world, proving how deep-rooted in the human race was the primeval doctrine on this subject, which comes out so distinctly in Genesis.” (The Two Babylons, p.18).

*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

© 2006

Reflections on Christians in Crop-Over Pt. 2

By Roger Marshall*

I believe Christians have always been involved in the more benign aspects of the Crop-Over Festival in Barbados such as Folk concerts, art and craft, and photographic exhibitions etc.

However, since the advent of The Walk Holy Outreach Kadooment Band, with its stated purpose to “see the Body of Christ take dominion in culture” (Holy Jump, Daily Nation, May 28th, 2002, p. 32) the contentious question in Christian circles is: Should Christians be involved in the Carnival aspects of Crop-Over?

As we reflect on this issue let us consider the following:

What is Carnival?

The Wikipedia Free Online Encyclopedia explains:

“Carnival is traditionally a Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Christian Orthodox celebration. Most Protestant and non-Christian areas do not celebrate it, with some Fundamentalist Protestant groups condemning the celebration.

“The origin of the name “Carnival” is unclear as there are several theories. The most commonly known theory states that the name comes from the Italian carne- or carnovale, from Latin carnem (meat) + levare (lighten or raise), literally “to remove the meat” or “stop eating meat”. It has also been claimed that it comes from the Latin words caro (meat) and vale (farewell), hence “Farewell to meat”

Pagan Roots

“Another theory states that it originates from the Latin carrus navalis, which was some kind of Greek cart carrying a statue of a god in a religious procession at the annual festivities in honor of the god Apollo.
“One theory is that this festival came from Saturnalia, Saturn’s festival, and Lupercalia. In the later Roman period, these festivals were characterized by wanton raillery [a key feature of seberal modern calypsoes] and unbridled freedom, and were in a manner a temporary subversion of civil order. Historians think that this spirit was transmitted to the Carnival.
“Another theory, most prominent in Switzerland, probably predates Christianity. The festival was linked to the beginning of spring, and the idea behind Carnival was to scare evil spirits away. This is usually done with processions, where the participants wore horrible masks, and where everyone that could would make loud noises and music with whatever was available.”
African spiritistic Influences
According to an article posted on Caribbean Education Online: “The use of masks had special meaning for the slaves [in Trinidad where Carnival was introduced around 1785] because for many African peoples, masking is widely used in their rituals for the dead. Obviously banned from the masked balls of the French, the slaves would hold their own little carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating their masters’ behaviour at the masked balls.
“Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects (bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric) to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume — with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force.”
Can Crop-Over be Compared to ancient Biblical Jewish feasts?
Some Christians are seeking to justify their partaking in the Kadooment Day carnival aspect of Crop-Over by claiming that it is akin to ancient Biblical Jewish feasts such as the Feast of Passover.
For example, during a July 21st , 2004, broadcast of Gospel 790’s Talk About call-in programme, Marcia Weeks (the creator of the Walk Holy Band) said: “In the feast of the passover the people had music, they danced etc. So we can and should do the same in Crop-Over.”
Such comparisons between Crop-Over’s Grand Kadooment and ancient Biblical Jewish feasts has long been claimed by such persons as Roman Catholic clerics Father Harcourt Blackette and Father Clement Paul. However, in reality no such comparrison exists. As the Compact Bible Dictionary observes, Jewish feasts “were the sacred [i.e. consecrated, hallowed and sanctified not sacrilegious, blasphemous and profane] festivals of Judaism which were occasions of public worship” (Compact Bible Dictionary, © 1967 by Zondervan Publishing House, p. 173).
Furthermore, as for dancing in these festivals, the contrasts are stark between the pagan-oriented festivities of Grand Kadooment and the Biblical Jewish festivals. As James M. Freeman points out in his book Manners and Customs of the Bible “Dancing was performed at first on sacred occasions only…Among the Hebrews it was joined with sacred song, and was usually participated in by the women only. When men danced it was in companies separate from the women, promiscuous dancing not being practiced” (Manners and Customs of the Bible © 1996 by Whitaker House, p.67).
Changing the atmosphere of Kadooment Day or giving it their Blessing?
Some of the chief advocates of the Walk Holy Band and the Experience Calypso Tent are on record as saying that their presence in Crop-Over and its Kdooment Day finale is to change the atmosphere of the festival.
For example, in an interview during a July 21st, 2004, broadcast of Gospel 790s Talk About call-in programme, Marcia Weekes, speaking of their aim and purpose, said: “…every time you clap, every time you shout, every time you stomp your feet [in the band] you are changing the atmosphere. We are sending spiritual missiles [into the atmosphere].” (emphasis added).
An advertisement which invited Christians to join the Walk Holy Band in the 2004 Kadooment Day parade said that the aim of the band was to “Plant the palm of God on the Crop-Over celebration.” Potential patrons were encouraged to join them “As they change the atmosphere on Kadooment Day through worship.” (emphasis added).
Similarly, those who attended the 2004 Pic-O-De-Crop Semifinals were told to wear red as they were “going to wash the place[the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium] in the blood of Jesus.” And as Lady Richard said: “shake the atmosphere.”
However, a cursory examination of news reports of the Kadooment Day activities of the 2004 Crop-Over festival revealed everything but a changed atmosphere.
An article in the Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, edition of the Daily Nation, entitled: Things get ouit of control said: “Alchohol flowed in abundance, releasing the inhibitions of the revellers who were seen wukking-up against walls, utility posts, the back of trucks, and even down on the road itself.” (Daily Nation, August 3rd, 2004, p.7).
Another article entitled: Downhill revelery said: “The first band to chip out of the Styadium was the Walk Holy band…The Christian band performed their choreographed moves outside Glendairy Prison, waving their hands in time to the music.
“With no wild gyrating or wukking up, the members, in their silver and white or red costumes, stopped along the way preaching the Word of God.
“In contrast, however, members of the Blue Box Cart band cast their inhibitions aside and let all hang out. Any lawman was fair game.” (Daily Nation, August 3rd, 2004, p.6).
The Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, edition of the Barbados Advocate said pretty much the same thing. An article entitled: Kadooment Day…a spectacle of colours, great performers said: “It was party time for most Barbadians and visitors alike who left their worries behind and were ‘doing their stuff’ to the sounds of Square One Band, Timmy, ‘Worser than Dat’ and Kros Fyah ‘Sugarcane’…But if that was not enough, the Blue Box Cart Band was definitely ‘Outta Control’ with over 800 strong revellers and its seven sections…
“The Power x 4 Odyssey 2004 Band had revellers and spectators ‘wukking up’ to “Who got the rubber waist”. It was fun and more fun for the thousands who stood along Bank Hall as they attempted to join the Band and to out do the revellers to see who really had the rubber waist” (Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, p.13).
Two years later on, in the 2006 festival, change in the atmosphere of Grand Kadooment is still unforthcoming as evidenced from an article entitled: Colourful wind-down which appeared in the Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, edition of the Daily Nation. The article reported “A Massive garden party. This was the atmosphere on Spring Garden yesterday as the more than 12,000 jumpers from the 23 costumed bands created a mood which saw hundreds of un-registered party animals join in the merriment…as thousands of frenzied revellers wined, “grined” or “pelted waist” for the last lap in Crop-Over 2K6” (Colourful wind-down, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 23).
The Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, edition of The Barbados Advocate observed that “For almost six hours waistlines gyrated, bodies jumped and arms waving flags were held high to the popular tunes of the season and the overall excitement of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited Grand Kadooment” (Crop Over Climax, The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, front page).
Among the popular tunes of the 2006 Crop-Over season was Contone’s Car Brek Down, a highly sexually suggestive song which won him the Star Com Network’s People’s Monarch Competition of that year! The song placed second in the Kadooment Day Road March competition, as the second most played song on the road to Spring Garden. The song was played 15 times while the winning song, Barry Chandler’s Flames, bearly won-out by being played 18 times.
Additionally, The Barbados Advocate observed that “As the BNTCL Grand Kadooment gets more organised and sophisticated, in a similar vein, the costumes of the revellers get ‘skimpier’.
“Such costumes were especially evident yesterday as thousands of revellers took to the streets…the over 10,000 revellers hit the streets for the final lap to the Spring Garden Highway in sweat, a sea of colours and gyrating to the pulsating sounds of Contone’s ‘My Car Brek Down’, and Peter Ram’s ‘I want a woman by my side’, to name a few”(Revellers wine, go down and stick at Bank Hall,The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 6).
The Bible says: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness , but rather expose[i.e. repove or rebuke]them”(Ephesians 5:11). However, rather than changing the atmosphere of the Crop-Over Carnival activities, or taking “dominion in culture”, those involved in the Walk Holy Band are apparenly being seen by some to be just a novel addition to festivities to give it their blessing instead of rebuke. For example, the author of the article Kadooment Day…a spectacle of colours, great performers, cited earlier, regarded the Walk Holy Band as “The religious aspect of the show.” Yet another article which also appeared in the Tuesday, August 3rd,2004, edition of the Barbados Advocate entitled Fun in the sun said: “Walk Holy was the first band on the trail with their depiction of Moses leading the Israelites over the Red Sea as they blessed the morning’s proceedings” (Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, p.14, emphasis added).

During the 2006 Kadooment Day parade,the announcer of the bands at the Barbados National Stadium, introduced the Walk Holy Band as the band that was “Getting us [the Kadooment Day revellers and spectators] off to a bright start with their theme ‘Army of Light.’”( televised on CBC TV Monday August 7th , 2006, emphasis added).
Immidiately following the Walk Holy Band’s 2006 Kadooment Day performance at the National Stadium, Omawalee Stuart (a CBC TV correspondent covering the event) interviewed Mark Maynard (one of the band designers) about the band’s participation. In closing his brief interview Omawalee asked Mark: “You will continue blessing us for Crop-Over, in the festival?” Mark replied: “Yes, God willing.” (televised on CBC TV Monday August 7th , 2006, emphasis added).
The Barbados Advocate reported that Grand Kadoomet 2006 “all started with the spiritual upliftment of the Walk Holy band with its 150 members depicting the theme Army of Light” (Crop Over Climax, The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, front page, emphasis added).
On the other hand The Daily Nation said: “The Walk Holy Band was the first to reach the Spring Garden around 12:30 p.m. and armed with rags and flags, they jumped, waved and gave thanks to God for another successful Crop-Over” (Colourful wind-down, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 23, emphasis added).
In fact the caption of a photograph in the Daily Nation which at first glance, and without the caption, could easily be mistaken as just another group of revellers at Grand Kadooment (as this author at first thought it was) read: “MEMBERS OF THE WALK HOLY BAND strutting their stuff at Eastmond Corner yesterday”(Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 16, emphasis added).
Perhaps even more telling is the 2006 Emancipation Day lecture by Barbadian cultural icon Elombe Mottley. During his lecture Mr. Mottley lauded the involvement of Roman Catholic priests Father Harcourt Blackette and Father Clement Paul, and more recently the Evangelical Christian element, in the Crop-Over calypso competition and the revelling activities of Grand Kadooment. Quoting approvingly a Trinidadian calypsonian, or someone like that, he quiped: “If priests can play mas, who is we?”
Is it possible that this line of reasoning could be the rationale behind which kaiso monarch Kid Site from Bacchanal Time calypso tent and National Cultural Foundation CEO Ian Estwick (who Errol Griffith, manager of the Experience calypso tent, said have committed their lives to Christ as a result of the Experience Calypso tent and Walk Holy Band initiatives) were actively promoting the partying aspects of the 2006 Crop-Over Festival such as CBC’s Socaholics campaighn etc. on local national TV and elsewhere, inspite of their profession of faith in Christ? In fact Mr. Estwick was reported in the local Barbadian press as “Chipping behind a truck…[as] one of the many thousands of people in yesterday’s [Saturday, August 5th] early [Foreday] morning jump-up.”(Fore-Play!, Sunday Sun, August 6th, 2006, p.15A).
In similar vain, a Daily Nation article entitled: Celebrities party on the road reported that “Kid Site may have won the calypso crown three times in a row, but yesterday was his first time revelling, choosing Ooutraje band for his initiation”( Celebrities party on the road, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 20). This was the same Kide Site who, on the night of winning the 2006 Pic-O-De-Crop Finals with his song ZR Driver, gave praise and thanks to the Lord for helping him to win the competition after much prayer.
Are these the type of Christians that the Walk Holy Band and Experience Calypso tent are content on spawning? I should certainly hope not. This quasi religious element in the the 2006 Crop-Over festival was further identified in an article entitled: Hear us all, LORD, written by Nation journalist Ricky Jordan, in which he stated that he was “pleasantly surprised to hear references to God in the Pic-O-De-Crop and Party Monarch competitions – amid all the talk about smut and profanity. And these references have not all been coming from the Experience tent.”
Mr. Jordan observed that: “Li’l Rick, for instance, started his performance at the East Coast Calypso Bowl last Sunday with a prayer, asking God to ‘spread yuh love pun de Party Monarch massive and help us to live in unity’…The trio of Rameses, Stylz P and Malcolm X mentioned God as well, while TC had a line giving thanks for Crop-Over in her song Till De Morning…Such a trend is undoubtedly positive, and creates a level of consciousness not always obvious in a carnival atmosphere where revelry and gay abandon predominate”( Hear us all, LORD, Weekend Nation, Friday, August 4th, 2006, p.19).
However, inspite of these references to God at the East Coast Calypso Bowl a look at an article entitled Sore sight for the eyes which appeared in the Friday, Audust 4th, edition of the Weekend Nation, showed that gay abandon still prevailed, even if only in some quarters, probably spured on by the music of some of the said performers who invoked the name of God.
The Bible warns us about people in the last days “having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Tim. 4: 5, NIV). It also records a strikingly similar problem among the ancient children of Israel, “When Aaron…built an altar in front of the [golden] calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.’ So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry”(Exodus 32: 5 – 6, NIV).

The Bible further records that the ancient pagan settlers of Samaria were also guilty of syncretising the worship of Yahweh with their pagan forms of worship. 2 Kings 17: 32 – 33, 41 says: “They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought…Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols…”
Christianity: A Call to Party or A Call to Repent?
During the Wednesday, June 30th,2004, morning show on Gospel 790 one Christian artiste apparently from The Experience Tent openly described one of his calypsos as a party song. And of course during the 2005 Crop-Over festival one Christian artiste, Apache, actually entered The Party Monarch Finals. The 2006 finals saw the entry of two Christians namely Sammi Jane (2005 Pic-O-De-Crop calypso finalist) and Sharon Darlington.
This latest development raises a few questions as to what our brethren are really trying to achieve?

  1. If these “party” songs they are singing take off in the secular arena (as I’m sure the composers, singers, and promoters would like to see happen) what can we expect if they are played at the fêtes etc.?
  2. What if “bumsies” instinctively “start rolling” etc. to the infectious, intoxicating and pulsating rhythms “in de party”? After all, that’s what is expected of these party songs. As one patron of the 2006 Party Monarch Finals said: “I think that the competition is called the Party Monarch competition for a reason. It is not called the Soca monarch competition as in TnT. Therefore it is a competition about the PART (sic), therefore the best PARTY songs/artists should be in the competition. It is not the road march competition so I (sic) understand that presentation etc must count …BUT popularity of the song as a party (wuk up song) should also carry weight”(source: The “BarbadosForum.bb. Telling-It-Like-It-Is”).
  3. Can we really expect the ungodly to come under serious conviction about their guilt in regard to sin, righteouness and judgement via the agency of the Holy Spirit, from timid, semi-religious lyrics, which are far out-weighed by the bold infectious rhythms employed?
  4. Since when was the Christian message a call to the world to party? On the contrary the Christian message is a call upon the world to repent.

In light of these kind of developments is it possible that people like Kid Site and Mr. Estwick, mentioned earlier, are the victims of mixed messages which (even if unintentional) makes it unclear to them as to what are the demands of God’s high and holy calling?
How completely opposite all this is to the evangelistic outreach efforts of the apostle Paul when he confronted and opposed the worship of Artemis/Diana/Cybele – the Mother Goddess of fertility worshipped in Ephesus and all Asia Minor – whose worship was conducted through the agency of many prostitute priestesses. The Wikipedia Free Online Encyclopedia points out that “In Rome [Cybele’s] priestesses led the people in orgiastic ceremonies with wild music, drumming, dancing and drink”, just like our modern carnival Crop-Over festivities. Unlike Walk Holy Outreach, Paul’s outreach in Ephesus wasn’t considered in any way to be a blessing to these kind of pagan proceedings in the worship of Diana, rather it was seen as a threat to and a sharp rebuke of the worship of the goddess.
The Bible says: “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: ‘Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’ When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ Soon the whole city was in an uproar…”(Acts 19: 23 – 29, NIV, emphasis added).
When we consider the kudos (mentioned earlier) expressed by Elombe Mottley et alia towards the Walk Holy Band and Experience tent initiatives, against the testimony of a passage of scripture like the one mentioned above, the advocates of Walk Holy (in existence for five years) and the Experience tent (in existence for two years) need to ask themselves if their “outreach” efforts has the ability to cause the million dollar carnival trade of Crop-Over to loose its “good name” among the people to whom they are ministering, turning them away from it to the gospel? Does it really have the potential to give a death blow to the modern forms of the ancient fertility goddess worship, which is such an integral part of Grand Kadooment, as it is of any carnival? In fact, if they were considered as opponents of “we Carnival” as Elombe Mottley put it in his Emancipation Day lecture, how would that cast them in the eyes of those who are now giving them kudos? These are serious questions that need to be answered.
Changing society or Changing Christians?

During a morning show aired on Thursday, July 1st, 2004, on Gospel 790 one Christian calypsonian spoke of one of his songs speaking out against bondages in society. Although he mentioned some of the bondages in our society like the Masonic Lodge etc., under prompting from the interviewer, he focused more on what he called religious bondages, which he identified as prohibitions in dress (“you can’t wear this and you can’t wear that”), places of socialisation (“you can’t go here, you can’t go there”) and of course those in bondage were those Christians who did not feel particularly comfortable or compelled to go to the Experience calypso tent. While claiming that Christians have liberty and freedom to be involved in Crop-Over, a disdain was sensed towards those brothers and sisters in Christ who refuse to be involved due to their convictions based on the Scriptures. In testimony that this was no isolated case, a similar observation was made by a local minister’s wife during a 2006 panel discussion at a local church on the topic: Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over?
Worshipping or Revelling?
While those involved in The Walk Holy Band do not consider themselves as revellers, those in the society to whom they intend to minister are seeing them as just that: revellers. For example, an article entitled: 10,000 for the road which appeared in the July 31st 2004 edition of the Saturday Sun said: “Over 10, 000 costumned revellers will make their way into the National Stadium and later join thousands more Barbadians and visitors on the road for Kadooment Day…The Kadooment bands will be lead by the Christian Walk Holy Band, now in its third year…”(10,000 for the road, Saturday Sun, July 31st 2004, p.5).
Similarly, an article entitled: Sizzling spectacle, covering the 2006 Crop-Over Kadooment Day finale, said: “The Fire was dey! Under the blazing sun, 11,000-plus revellers in 23 bands paraded before judges and thousands of spectators at the National Stadium during Grand Kadooment yesterday…the Walk Holy Outreach band crossed the track first as per usual in white, followed by a contrast in the hard-revelling Blue Box Cart band……”( Sizzling spectacle, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p.7).

Again attesting to this fact is a recent article written by Mr. Peter Wickham entitled: Lewd and Crude (Midweek Nation, Wed. Aug. 23, 2006, p. 8A) in which he referred to the Walk Holy Band as a “small group of revellers” who “have set an example and now provide an alternative to all those fed up with the typical mas.”
In defense of this level of involvement in the Kadooment Day parade, apostle Sonstor Peterson (who was himself involved in the 2006 Walk Holy Band presentation) said that those Christians who refuse to get involve are worried about loosing their reputation by being identified as revellers with the other masqueraders, but that this concern should not be an issue, since Jesus identified himself with prostitutes, drunkards, publicans and sinners etc. (Destiny Cadogan’s Intense radio programme aired on Gospel 790, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006). That’s what this modern self-proclaimed “apostle” says, however, in 1Corinthians chapter 11 the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about identifying with societal practices that would tarnish their reputation and witness.
For example, the background cultural history surrounding Paul’s prohibitions to the Corinthians with regard to head dress, involved the fact that in ancient Corinth the female “sacred” prostitutes who “served” in the temple of Aphrodite shaved their heads, because of this fact Christian women were not to shave their heads or wear short hair least they too be considered to be prostitutes. Similarly, the male “sacred” prostitues wore long hair therefore Christaian men were not to wear long hair least they too be considered to be male prostitutes.
Following this principal, Christians should not be involved in the Grand Kadooment parade of costumed bands for the simple reason that they too will be classified as revellers (as they presently are) with the other masqueraders. Instead of enhancing a Christian witness, this may actually serve to further hinder it in the eyes of many in the same society that they are trying to reach. For example, devout people in the local Muslim community could find more reasons to disdain Christianity because of this type of Christian involvement in Crop-Over. In fact, this author has already personally encountered two Muslims who question the Christianity of those involed in the Walk Holy Band initiative. So neither is this initiative effectively impacting Kadooment Day for the better, as is touted by those involved, and furthermore it may be pushing some people further from the reach of the gospel.
Hath God said?
Throughout Scripture God warns us about false prophets and false prophecies. Two very revealing passages of Scripture that uncovers the source of many of these so-called prophecies are Jerimiah 14: 14 and Ezekiel 13: 1-8.
They read as follows:
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’ ” (Jer. 14: 14, NIV).


“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the LORD has not sent them, they say, ‘The LORD declares,’ and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The LORD declares,’ though I have not spoken? Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ” (Ezekiel 13: 1-8, NIV).

In light of these verses of Scripture consider the following: In a July 29th, 2004 interview on Gospel 790 between radio announcer Anthony Green and Marcia Weekes, Marcia said: “There is a link between the controversy in the 2004 Crop-Over festival [i.e. the pull out of “big name” calypsonians etc.] and the rise of Christian involvement in Crop-Over the Walk Holy Kadooment Band and the Experience calypso tent.
“During a prayer meeting outside the NCF headquarters in a car God told us it will not be business as usual in this years Crop- Over Festival. [He said] ‘You have the power in your mouth to change some things…Crop-Over is going to die. It will live in another form not in the present form.’ We prayed: ‘God close there mouths don’t let them sing or record.’” This was a reference to those artistes who customarily produce and record lewd songs for the festival season. However, a cursory examination of the FM radio stations revealed that lewd songs were still recorded for Crop-Over 2004. Songs such as “Worser than Dat”, “Who got the rubber waist”, “What happens in the Party is in the party” and others played an integral roll in the 2004 Crop-Over festival celebrations.
The Bible also warns us about another type of false prophecy – one that comes to pass but leads people away from a true perspective of God. Deuteronomy 13: 1 – 5 reads: “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” (NIV translation)
To my mind this passage above is very instructive in light of a statement made by Experience Calypso tent manager, Errol Griffith, during a recent public discussion. Mr. Griffith stated that “a prophesy [was] given to Sammi Jane by an unknown source that she would be present at the party monarch. At the stating of the prophecy Sammi Jane cried madness on the person but lo an behold she was at the party monarch finals.” (Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over? A discussion held at a local church, Thursday, August 3rd).
While this “prophecy” came true and Sammi Jane ended up performing at the Party Monarch Finals, the Bible warns us against offering worship to God in a pagan manner. Deuteronomy 12: 4, 30 – 32 reads: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way… and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it” (NIV translation)
Nothing New
The present attempt by “the Evangelical Christian element” involved in the Walk Holy Outreach and Experience tent initiatives to somehow tame the Carnival spirit in our nation is nothing new, but actually dates back hundreds of years. The Wikipedia Encyclopedia observes: “In ancient times, carnival was held to begin on 6 January and lasted until midnight of Shrove Tuesday [the day before Ash Wednesday]. Some believe that this period of license represents the kind of compromise the church tended to make with pagan festivals and that carnival really represents the Roman Saturnalia. Rome has always been the headquarters of carnival, and though some popes made efforts to stem the tide of Bacchanalian revelry…many of the popes were great patrons and promoters of carnival-keeping.
“The Catholic Church repeatedly made efforts to check the excesses of the carnival, especially in Italy. During the sixteenth century in particular a special form of the Forty Hours Prayer was instituted in many places on the Monday and Tuesday of Shrovetide, partly to draw the people away from these dangerous occasions of sin, partly to make expiation for the excesses committed.” In almost identical fasion the Walk Holy initiative involves praying with and for revellers, including would-be revellers, along the route of Grand Kadooment. In attestation to this fact is an interview conducted between the Daily Nation and Margaret Maynard, apparently someone associated with the Walk Holy Outreach. Ms. Maynard said: “I usually pray for the revellers as they pass by in the bands. They seem to like it” (Keeping God in the midst, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, p. 16). The result? Over the past 300 years nothing has changed about Carnival, it is still filled with Bacchanalian revelry, and its getting worse.

The Impact of the Reformation
The Protestant Reformation which was a return to Biblical Christianity was apparently the only movement that helped to deflate Carnival activities, although not entirely. As The Wikipedia Encyclopedia again observes: “The festive observance of Shrovetide had become far too much a part of the life of the people to be summarily discarded at the Reformation.”
Significantly though, as The Wikipedia Encyclopedia observes: “In England Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day but apart from the serving of pancakes and occasional pancake races and football matches, little else of Carnival survived the Reformation.”
So it would appear that the best way to impact Carnival is to stop its survival, failing that, peoples’ lives need to be impacted to the extent that they will not want to attend Carnival/Grandkadooment. That’s where biblical evangelism comes in.
The Evangelistic Methods of Jesus and the apostles

Again I suggest, as in my first article, that a return to biblical principals, commands, and wisdom is the only way that we as Christians are going to impact our society. It is for this reason that I believe we need to pay closer attention to how Jesus (the master evangeliser) and his apostles evangelised people and then take the proverbial leaf from their approach.

Jesus evangelised by teaching and preaching the word of God in “sacred” places such as the synagogues or at the temple courts where large crowds of the Jews would gather (Matt. 4: 23; 9: 35; 13: 54; 26: 55; Mk. 1: 21, 39; 12:35; Lk. 4: 14-15, 44; 21: 37; Jn. 6: 59; 7: 14, 28; 18: 20).

He also did His evangelistic work by teaching/ministering in homes (Matt.8: 14-16; 9: 10-12; 10: 11-14; Mk2: 1-2). Jesus had become so famous among the people from his powerful soul searching, teaching/preaching and healing ministry, that the crowds followed Him into the great outdoors, where He took control and used the opportunity to teach them (Matt. 4: 23-5: 1-2; 13: 1-3). In contrast the Walk Holy Band is by no means in control of the environment in Grand Kadooment.

When we turn to the Acts of the apostles we see that they, having been taught by the Master Himself, conducted a similar pattern of evangelistic ministry utilising the Jewish temple courts, the synagogues, and the homes of people (Acts 2: 42-46; 9: 17-20; 13: 5, 14-44; 14: 1; 17: 1-2, 10, 17a; 18: 4, 7, 19; 19: 8).

It is significant to note that even in pagan cities the pattern was pretty much the same. In addition to teaching and preaching in the synagogues and peoples’ homes, the calm of a riverbank and the open market place – a place generally for conducting business and open public debate – were also utilised (Acts 16: 11-15; 17: 17b). Lecture halls were also used to conduct discussions surrounding the teachings of the gospel (Acts 17: 19; 19: 9).

Of even greater significance is the fact that Scripture does not inform us of any attempts by the Apostle Paul (the mighty apostle to the pagan Gentiles) to go into any pagan temple, during worship, or pagan street festival where large crowds would also have been gathered, but where the atmosphere would not have been conducive to teaching, since the devotees minds would have been greatly distracted by the sights and sounds of pagan worship. For example, at Corinth the temple of Aphrodite boasted more than 1000 sacred prostitutes alone. The priestess-prostitutes would sexually entice the worshippers into the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love/sexual passion. This type of worship was engulfed with fertility rites and involved all types of lascivious dances and lude sexual acts (possibly accompanied with pulsating music rhythms like the worship of Cybele). The atmosphere was probably much like that of our modern Barbadian carnival day celebrations, when and where the minds of the patrons are greatly distracted by the prevailing orgiastic, sexually explicit, wukking-up sights and sounds of Grand Kadooment.

While some may say that this is conjecture on my part I strongly suspect that if Paul made such a bold attempt then it probably would have made “headline news” in the Bible, just like Paul’s address at the more benign meeting at Mars Hill made it into the Bible.

In short, when we look at the evangelism methods of our Lord and His apostles it appears that, for all practical purposes, they chose places that for the most part were conducive to giving and receiving godly religious instruction with minimum distraction. On another point of interest it is also noteworthy that neither Jesus nor his apostles used music and singing to proclaim the gospel message to unbelievers. The only method used was preaching/teaching. Singing was only used among believers (Matt. 26: 30; Mk. 14: 26; Acts 16: 25; 1 Cor. 14: 26; Eph. 5: 19; Col. 3; 16; Heb. 2: 10-12). For me this brings into serious question a large percentage of modern evangelical church strategies to reach the lost through music/entertainment.

In light of this I want to suggest that the way for us Christians to better reach many of the thousands of Barbadians who gather for Kadooment every year, is to reach them before they reach the Stadium and Spring Garden. The evangelical churches nation wide should be mobilised in a united evangelistic outreach programme to go through every village and household, even utilising Community centres etc. to preach and teach the gospel and its principals for living as they affect every sphere of life within our nation. As the apostle Paul did when he confronted the opposition to the gospel in his day, this kind of initiative should also involve reasoned debates at the community and even national level setting forth persuasive arguments in defence of and substantiating the truth of the gospel we preach. This kind of initiative would have to be a year round sustained effort much like what Paul did at Corinth (one of the most depraved cities of his day) and Ephesus (see Acts 18: 1-11; 19:1, 8-10).

By God’ grace, just like in Paul’s day this kind of dedicated, persistent, all year round effort should reap a harvest of souls which is the purported purpose of the Walk Holy Outreach ministries and the Experience calypso tent. Think about it.

(Stated during a local church panel discussion entitled: Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over? On tape).

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

©2006

The Anointing: Spiritual Force or Spirit of Truth?

By Roger Marshall*

We are living in an time when many Christians view the Biblical doctrine of the anointing as if it were a highly charged exhilarating feeling, or some kind of high voltage energy source or force that flows through the atmosphere, our bodies, hands, and out through ones finger tips and palms to produce healing and other types of physical and spiritual blessings in the lives of believers and those with whom they come in contact. Hence we hear of different types of “anointings” that Christians can “feel” such as: activating anointing, anointings of the Christ, anointing of nations, apostolic anointing, breaker anointing, bringing forth anointing, catalytic anointing, corporate anointing, double-portion anointing, exponential anointing, family anointing, foundational anointing, generational anointing, new anointing, prophetic anointing, reproducing anointing, synergistic anointing, watchman anointing, wells of anointing, weighing the anointing etc.

However, this kind of belief has more in common with Eastern mysticism and New Age spirituality, where the devotee engages in the art of channelling the chi force through the atmosphere and the body’s supposed psychic centres or chakras to produce individual and national wellness.

What the Bible says about the anointing

If we are to correctly understand what the Bible says about the anointing we need first to understand what is the root meaning/meanings of the word “anoint” as used in the Bible.

The Compact Bible Dictionary defines anoint as “A practice common in the East, anointing was of three kinds these were: ordinary…sacred… and medical.”

In all three types of anointing the agent used to anoint was olive oil and the practice involved either rubbing, besmearing or painting the individual or object with olive oil (cf. Deut. 28:40).

Ordinary anointing was employed after bathing and as a mark of respect. In short it was a means of perfuming the body (Ruth 3: 3; 2Sam. 12: 20; Eze. 16: 9; Amos: 6: 6; Luke 7: 46). It was also used for making the leather on shields more supple, some what like the modern practice of rubbing the dash boards of cars with protective coatings to help prevent cracking (cf. Isa. 21: 5).

Sacred anointing was carried out on both people and things as a sign of their consecration to the service of God. Examples of this are the tabernacle and all its vessels (Ex. 40: 9 – 11); prophets (1Kings 19: 16b); priests (Ex. 28: 41) and kings (1Sam. 9: 16; 1Kings 19: 16a).

Medicinal anointing was carried out on the sick and wounded for its therapeutic value (2Chron. 28: 15; Isa. 1: 6; Luke 10: 34; James 5: 14).

If we are to understand the Biblical doctrine of the anointing of the Holy Spirit it is the sacred form of anointing to which we must pay attention.

The Hebrew word used for the sacred anointing with oil was Mashach. This word was sometimes also used in a non – sacred sense of anointing, but when used in a sacred sense it meant that the individual or object anointed in this manner was consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, or devoted to God and His service (cf. Lev. 16: 32). Under the Mosaic/Levitical economy it was only after the sacred anointing with oil that the Holy Spirit would accompany the individual (1Sam. 16: 13). It is interesting to note that the oil used in this sacred ritual was not just plain olive oil, as some Christians use today, when they anoint people and sometimes objects in an act of consecrating them to God’s service. Rather the anointing oil was actually a compounded substance made up of 12 ½ lbs of myrrh, 6 ¼ lbs of sweet smelling cinnamon, 6 ¼ lbs of sweet smelling cane, 12 ½ lbs of cassia and about 4 quarts of olive oil (cf. Ex. 30: 22 – 23).

The practice of anointing the priests etc. with this anointing oil was an Old Testament ordinance that has not come forward into the New Testament. In the New Testament the anointing is solely the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (1 John 2: 20 – 27).

Jesus our Example

In the New Testament Jesus was also anointed i.e. consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, purified, devoted, hallowed and made holy for service to God like the kings, priests and prophets of the Old Testament but with out the use of oil (Luke 4: 14 – 21; Acts 4: 27; 10: 38). The Greek word used to show that God anointed Jesus was Chrio, the equivalent of the Hebrew Mashach cited earlier. In fact he was the Anointed One from birth (Luke 2: 10 – 11, 25 – 32).

Similarly, like Jesus, God anoints all Christians with out the use of oil (see 1 Cor. 1: 21where the same Greek word Chrio is used). All Christians are not only anointed Chrio (i.e. consecrated, dedicated, sanctified, purified, devoted, hallowed and made holy for service to God) but we also have the anointing Chrisma i.e. the Holy Spirit accompanying and living in us (1John 2: 20 – 27 cf. St. John 14: 16 – 26). Chrio signifies the very act of consecration (setting apart for service to God) whereas Chrisma signifies the oil used in Old Testament sacred anointing which has been replaced by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The only difference is that whereas Jesus was the Anointed One from natural birth Christians are anointed from the new birth (St. John 3: 5 – 8).

Is the anointing transferable?

There are some Christians who teach that the anointing can be transferred or imparted by the laying on of hands or even by blowing or breathing on others. They cite passages of Scripture such as John 20: 22 and Acts 8: 14 – 17; 19: 1 – 6 to justify their belief. However, a close look at these passages of scripture will show that they teach no such thing.

In John 20: 22 Jesus’ words were simply a final pledge to his disciples of the promise of the coming Holy Spirit to indwell them. The word “receive” in the verse is in the Aorist Imperative which means a command for doing something in the future that is a simple action. It is contrasted with the present imperative, which is a command for a continuous or repetitive action. John 20: 22 was actually fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts2: 1-4).

As for Acts 8: 14 – 17, the word in verse 16 of this passage for “not as yet” is oudepo. It does not signify something that has “has not” happened in a normal sequence of events but rather something that should have happened but has not yet. The norm is that believers receive the Holy Spirit or the anointing at conversion (Acts 2:37 – 39; Romans 8: 15 – 17; 1Cor. 12: 13).

The Acts 19: 1 – 6 passage must be understood in light of the fact that the disciples at Ephesus were not Christians but still Old Testament saints having known only the baptism of John. Like the Samaritans, after coming under apostolic authority, they also received the Holy Spirit.

Since all Christians already have the Holy Spirit (who is the anointing) in their lives, then no Christian can transfer or impart Him to another. One cannot transfer or impart God! In fact the Bible says: “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom.8: 9).

Summary

We have seen that the word “anoint” in the Bible does not always mean the same thing.

• There was the ordinary form of anointing after bathing which was for normal perfuming purposes.

• There was anointing that was used on the sick and wounded as a medicine.

• Then there was an anointing that was used for sacred purposes. This form of anointing was employed under the Old Testament and symbolised or represented the person’s consecration, dedication, sanctification, purification and devotion to do the service of God either in the office of prophet (1 Kings 19: 16b), priest (Ex. 28: 41) or king (1 Sam. 9: 16; 1 Kings 19: 16a). Even the tabernacle and all its vessels were anointed in this way and for this purpose (Ex. 40: 9 – 11). After this form of anointing the Holy Spirit would accompany the person (1 Sam. 16: 13).

• In the current New Testament era all Christians are anointed and have the anointing in their lives who is the Holy Spirit, a privilege which the Old Testament saints did not have

Truth: Hallmark of the anointing

It is tragic that while many Christians are enthusiastically talking, testifying, teaching, preaching and writing books and articles about the anointing in the Christian’s life, that one of the most fundamental characteristics of the anointing is eluding them i.e. truth.

In speaking to his disciples about the person of the Holy Spirit (whom we have already shown from scripture is the anointing in the believer’s life) Jesus said:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth…” (John 14:16 –17a; NIV, emphasis added).

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15: 26 – 27; NIV, emphasis added).

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16: 13; NIV, emphasis added).

The apostle John reiterated Jesus’ teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in leading the Christian into the truth. He said: “We are from God and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:6, emphasis added). In short, the anointing is not recognised by those sweet, invigorating or ecstatic feelings that many Christians experience during worship services etc., but rather the anointing is recognised by one’s adherence to the truth of Christ as preached and testified to by the apostles.

Since in the New Testament era the anointing is none other than the Spirit of truth, Christians would do well to know the biblical truth about the anointing.

*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

© 2006

Pleading The Blood of Jesus: What Does The Bible Say?

By Roger Marshall*

One may wonder why I should question the practice of “pleading the blood of Jesus” which has been so entrenched in several Evangelical and Charismatic churches for many years. I question the practice for two basic reasons. First as a seeker after truth, the Bible commands us to prove or test all things and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21). The only way we can prove or test our beliefs and experiences is by scrutinizing them in light of the God’s word the Bible. Isaiah 8:20 says: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

This brings me to the second reason why I question this practice. I question it because nowhere in the gospels did Jesus ever teach his disciples to carry out such a ritual. Nowhere in the Acts of the Apostles do we find the apostles or members of the early church carrying out such a practice. Nowhere in the Epistles do we find the apostles and their associates teaching such a doctrine. As far as I know there is no record that the practice was carried out by the early church fathers or the protestant reformers. So why should we today think or be lead to think that we must carry out the ritual of “pleading the blood of Jesus” in order to gain divine protection?

Nevertheless, I want to make it abundantly clear that whether a person believes that he or she must actually say the words “I plead the blood of Jesus” for divine protection or simply pray to God and ask Him for His protection, it is ultimately not an issue that is essential for salvation. Christians are free to disagree on secondary issues in good conscience all the while searching the scriptures for a better understanding. As one of the reputed church fathers Augustine once said: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.”

However, when one’s perspective on any controversial issue leads one to embrace and espouse to others such a perspective as absolutely necessary for the enablements of divine grace, I believe it is at that point we must most certainly take a closer look at our perspective in clear light of scripture. If our perspective does not line up to the teaching of scripture, then we should be willing to cast aside our view-point in favour of God’s word which is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89).

Definition of Terms

Before we go any further in our investigation it is important that we define our terms.

Q. What do many Christians today seem to mean when they say the words “I plead the blood of Jesus”?

A. They seem to mean that they are applying the red fluid that flowed from Jesus’ veins to problems, objects and situations as a means of protection.

Thus they plead or apply it to their cars, houses, church buildings, windows, doors, floors, pews, musical instruments, pets, drinking water, neighbourhoods, unsaved relatives, sick bodies etc. They even draw bloodlines around these said objects for protections from evil forces, just like some occultists speak of drawing a magic circle around people and objects for the same protection purposes.

Is this practice biblical?

The Bible and The Blood

Throughout the New Testament scriptures the term “the blood of Jesus” refers to the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins and not the red fluid in and of itself (Heb 9: 11-29; Cf Matt 26: 28; Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:24-25; 5: 9-11; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:14).

Special attention needs to be given to the Hebrews 9 passage. A proper understanding of this text of scripture is key to understanding why there was a practice of besmearing the tabernacle and its instruments with blood (a practice which seems to have given the rationale for the modern practice of pleading the blood of Jesus) and why the practice is no longer necessary. The reason for its cessation was because of Jesus’ perfect and supreme ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice for sins. It also shows that the Old Testament practice was carried out for an entirely different purpose than what practitioners of the modern version are doing today.

The literal sprinkling and applying of the sacrificial blood of goats and bulls in Old Testament times on the tabernacle and it various instruments or vessels, was to make atonement for those said things because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel. In other words because the Israelites were sinful they polluted the whole tabernacle whenever they went up to it. The blood of the animal, which indicated or symbolized the death of the sacrifice, was to atone for their sinfulness which affected every thing they touched. It was a temporary means of appeasing the wrath of God against them (Lev. 16:3, 6-19, 32-34; cf. Ex 12:1-13, 21-27). This ordinance had to be carried out once every year because the way to the true mercy seat of God was not yet made manifest (Heb. 9:6-10, 16-22).

The tabernacle and its various instruments or vessels were symbolic of and prefigured the true tabernacle in heaven (i.e. God’s immediate eternal abode; Heb. 8:1-5). These earthly copies of heavenly realities had to be yearly purified which was to impress upon the minds of the children of Israel that there was no way for a sinful, filthy and polluted people to even enter into the prefigured presence of God, much less His real presence, without blood atonement, (i.e. the sacrificial death of a substitute). Yet, for all they were worth, these sacrifices were never able to take away their sins (i.e. they were never able to perfectly appease the wrath of God because Jesus the perfect sacrifice had not yet died), hence the perpetual yearly practice of applying the blood of the sacrifices to the tabernacle (Heb. 10: 1-4).

But now in the end of the world the good news or the gospel is that Christ has offered Himself once for all time as the perfect sacrifice for sins. This act has satisfied the demands of divine judgement and thus has completely appeased the wrath of God from heaven (i.e the true tabernacle not made with hands; Heb 9:11). Therefore there is no need for any kind of perpetual applying of Jesus’ blood, symbolic of His death, to earthly tabernacles and vessels because His blood or sacrificial death, was NOT intended for the earthly tabernacle, but rather it was for ministry in the heavenly tabernacle, which opened up the way for us to boldly come to the throne of grace or the heavenly mercy seat (Heb. 9:23-28; 10:11-22). Jesus’ blood or death permanently appeased the wrath of God against our sins (Heb 8:7-12). It was a one-time act, never to be repeated. When a sinner puts his faith in that once for all act in the past time, he or she is perpetually justified (Rom. 5:1). As far as God is concerned he or she bears no more condemnation before Him. (Rom. 8:1-4).
To make a long story short, Jesus died or shed His blood for our SINS not for our THINGS such as cars, houses, lands, church buildings, windows, doors etc. Furthermore because Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect, we can no longer be guilty of polluting everything we touch in the service of God, in the Old Testament sense. Further still, nothing in our church buildings etc. prefigures the heavenly sanctuary anyway, which would merit them being atoned for in the Old Testament sense. Even if they did, any constant applying or pleading the blood of Jesus on these objects would indicate that His sacrifice was not a perfect atoning sacrifice. But thank God His sacrifice was perfect. Hence, there is no need to be constantly saying “I plead or apply the blood of Jesus” to this or that in the Old Testament atoning sense, much less in an unbiblical sense like many Christians do today, to secure protection form evil forces (see Rom 5:10-11).
Sound Scholarship and the Blood
This understanding of how the term “blood of Jesus” is used in scripture is unanimously attested to by several sources of sound Biblical scholarship.
Millard Erickson in the book Introducing Christian Doctrine says: “references to Christ’s blood are not to His actual physical blood per se but to His death as a sacrificial provision for our sins” (p. 250).
The World’s Bible Dictionary says: “In the New Testament the expressions ‘blood of the cross’, ‘blood of Christ’ and ‘death of Christ’ are often used interchangeably. To have life through Christ’s blood means to have life through His death … those who share in Christ’s blood share in the benefits of His death.” (p. 53).
In Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon Of The New Testament p. 15, we find the following definitions of the word blood as used in scripture: “blood simply and generally” or it can denote “generation and origin”. It also can mean “blood shed”, “bloody death” and the “pledge of redemption”.
R.K Harrison writing in the Zondervan Pictoral Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol 1, says: “Because of the fundamental importance for individual existence, blood was frequently used for life itself…The Old Testament indicates that the atonement for human sin was obtained by the death of an acceptable substitute, rather than by its life, and this emphasis, which is basic to the Old Covenant, is carried over into the New Testament with specific reference to the work of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant … The sacrificial blood is associated with the death of the Saviour (Heb. 9:14), and the author of Hebrews makes it plain that the blood is associated with death rather than life. (Heb.12: 24). It seems evident, therefore, that sacrifices were efficacious through the death of the victim and the blood indicates life given up in death”.
J.C Macaulay writing in the book Expository Commentary on Hebrews, p. 129 say: “This has been a great offence to many, aggravated no doubt by the materialistic emphasis of some earnest but mistaken Christians … Is there any claim or virtue in that red fluid, which we call blood, that it can put away sin? No, the material substance itself is nothing, it is what the blood represents and symbolizes, death and life … Blood shed means life poured out. Sacrificial blood is life poured out, yielded up, for redemptive purposes” (Emphasis added).
Leon Morris in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 100 says: “Blood points not to life set free, but to life given up in death.”
James Atkinson affirms the same truth. Writing in the Westminister Dictionary of Christians Theology, p. 76, says: “The word blood in the Old Testament apart from the every day physiological meaning, is generally associated with the idea of death, violent death in particular … the phrase ‘the blood of Christ’, like the words ‘the cross’, is nothing but a pregnant phrase for the death of Christ in its salvation meaning.” (Emphasis added).
The New Bible Dictionary says: “The sacrifices are still understood to be efficacious by virtue of the death of the victim. The blood of Christ accordingly is to be understood as the Atoning death of the Saviour.” (p. 145).
The Holman Bible Dictionary agrees: “The term the blood of Christ designates in the New Testament, the Atoning death of Christ.” (p. 201)
Bible expositor, John MacArthur, in commenting on Romans 5:9 says that the verse refers to Jesus’ “violent, substitutionary death.” He goes on to say: “References to the blood of the Saviour include the reality that He bled in His death (a necessity to fulfil the OT imagery of sacrifice), but are not limited to the fluid itself. NT writers use the term “blood” as a graphic way to describe violent death (see Matt. 23: 30, 35,; 27:4-8, 24, 25; John 6: 53-56; Acts 5:28; 20:26). References to the Saviour’s blood are not simply pointing to the fluid, but at His death and entire atoning work (cf. Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col 1: 14,20; Heb. 9:12; 10:19; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2,19; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5).” (See The MacArthur Study Bible).
In commenting on Col. 1: 14 MacArthur points out that reference to the blood of Christ in this verse is “not limited to the fluid as if the blood had saving properties in its chemistry, but an expression pointing to the totality of Christ’s atoning work as a sacrifice for sin. This is a frequently used metonym [“a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attributer or with which it is associated” – Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary] in the NT (see Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Heb.9: 14; 1Pet. 1:19). The word ‘cross’ (as in vs 20) is used similarly to refer to the whole atoning work (see 1Cor. 1: 18; Gal. 6: 12, 14; Eph. 2: 16).”
The editors of The NIV Study Bible, © 1995 by The Zondervan Corporation, make the following comments on the passages of Scripture cited dealing with Jesus’ blood.

  • Rom. 3: 25 – the phrase “faith in His blood” means faith “in His sacrificial death for us.”
  • Rom. 5: 9 – the phrase “justified by His blood” refers to Jesus “… laying down His life as a sacrifice – a reference to Christ’s death for our sins.”
  • Eph. 1:7 – the statement: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” speaks of “… the ransom necessary to free sinners from bondage of sin and the resulting curse imposed by the law (see Gal. 3:13), was the death of Christ (called here ‘His blood’).”
  • Eph 2:13 – the phrase “ ‘blood of Christ’ expresses the violent death of Christ as He poured out His lifeblood as a sacrifice for us (ct Eph 1:7)”.
  • Heb. 9: 18 – the phrase “not put into effect without blood” means that the covenant was not put into effect without death.

On a point of interest, if it was the red fluid in and of itself that actually atones for or “washes away” our sins, then the atonement could have been accomplished in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus literally sweated blood. It could have been accomplished when He was brutally flogged and His blood gushed out. However, the atonement was only accomplished when Jesus died (John 19:30; Hub. 9: 15-17).
Things To Ponder
Since the phrase “blood of Jesus” really refers to the sacrificial death of Jesus would it be equally all right to say I plead the death of Jesus on my car, house, children, church pews etc?
I’m sure we can see that such an invocation would make no sense. This goes to show that those who plead the blood are really referring to the red fluid in and of itself which is an unscriptural emphasis. This practice really has more I common with fetishism. The Meriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a fetish as “A: an object believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; broadly: a material object regarded with superstitions or extravagant trust or reverence. B an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.”
Pleading the blood of Jesus (i.e. the red fluid which flowed from His veins) as a means of protection from evil is very much akin to the fetishist practice of using crosses as a means of protection. Those who do so may want to claim that Paul said in Gal. 6:14 that he would glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the phrase “Cross of Jesus”, used in this verse, just as in many other verses, refers to the sacrificial, substitutional, atoning death of Christ and not to the physical cross in and of itself. In similar fashion the phrase “blood of Jesus” as used in scripture refers to the sacrificial, substitutional, atoning death of Christ and not the red fluid in and of itself as many have been taught.
On another point of interest: if to cover one’s self or one’s family members (e.g. children) with the blood of Jesus is a means of divine protection, does this mean that the Jews were invoking God’s protection in Matt. 27:25 when they said “His blood be on us and our children”? Of course not. In that statement they were just taking the responsibility for His death upon themselves (cf. Acts 5:28).
The point is we must not view the term “blood of Jesus” as a reference to the red fluid in and of itself which flowed from His veins but we must understand it as referring to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross for the atonement of our sins and not for the atonement of our things (i.e. our personal possessions). The apostle Paul puts it very aptly in Rom. 5: 9-11, when he wrote: “Much more then, being now justified by His BLOOD, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the DEATH of His Son; much more, being reconciled we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the ATONEMENT.” (Emphasis added; see Lev. 17:11, 14 which speaks of the fact that life given up in death atones for sin).
Objections
Some may say that they do not use any kind of tangible or physical blood when they plead the blood of Jesus therefore it can’t be a fetish like using a cross. However, such an admission would only raise more problems. When Jesus was crucified the blood that flowed from His veins was tangible blood that existed in real space and time. Even the OT practice of besmearing the various objects in the tabernacle (from which the ritual of pleading the blood of Jesus gets its impetus) involved tangible blood. Yet when Christians plead the blood on objects in and outside of churches no tangible or physical blood is employed. Any appeal to it being a spiritual act wouldn’t help either simply because there is no such thing as spiritual or immaterial blood! However, on the other hand a fetish does not have to be a physical object but it can also be an object of fantasized presence (i.e. existing only in the mind but not in real space and time).
But It Works

Someone may say; “well I’ve been pleading the blood of Jesus for some time now and it works for me.”

While this may apparently be true we must be cognizant of the fact that appealing to experience is not a valid test of Biblical truth. Many people can also testify that they have used crosses/crucifixes for protection and it worked for them too but that does not mean it is scriptural.

The Bible says that although a sign or wonder may work if it is leading people to embrace false teaching it is to be rejected (Deut. 13: 1 – 5).
While they are those who say that a man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument, the Bible say that experience is not the test of truth rather it’s God’s word which is the test of truth (Isa. 8: 20). This is so because the capacity of the human heart for self-deception knows no bounds. As the prophet Jeremiah, writing under divine inspiration, said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17: 9).

Thankfully God knows our hearts with its thoughts and intentions (Jer. 17: 10) and I believe sometimes He graciously grants us our hearts’ requests in prayer not because of the words a believer may use such as “I plead the blood of Jesus” on this, or that situation but rather in spite of those words simply because He knows what we really mean to ask even though we get the words wrong. As the apostle said: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8: 26, NIV).

However, I believe that just as God wanted Apollos to know the way of God more perfectly (see Acts 18; 24 – 26), so I believe He wants all those who practice pleading the blood of Jesus to know the way of God more perfectly as it relates to what the Bible really teaches about the blood of Jesus.

Pleading the Blood of Jesus Legitimately

There is only one way in which Christians should understand “pleading the blood of Jesus” and that is in the judicial sense. The word “plea” from which we get the word “plead” means: “An accused person’s answer to a charge or indictment in criminal practice…an earnest entreaty or appeal.” Similarly, the word “plead” means “to make a plea of a specified nature (eg. to plead not guilty).” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)

Rev. 12:10 paints a picture of a complainant (the devil) who is constantly brining charges to God against the saints. It says: “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ, for the ACCUSER of our brethren is cast down, which ACCUSED them before our God day and night.”
The very next verse (Rev. 12: 11) gives the saints defence against the devil’s accusations. It says: “And they overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” The blood/death of the Lamb (Jesus) was the only recourse the saints had against the devil’s accusations. In actuality they pleaded not guilty in light of the fact that Jesus died for their sins/crimes against God.

This is exactly how the hymn writers of two great hymns of the Church understood the blood of Jesus as a plea. The hymn Nothing But The Blood says:

“What can was away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

For my pardon this I see
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
For my cleansing this my PLEA
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Nothing can for sin atone
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Now by this I’ll OVERCOME
Nothing but the blood of Jesus”
(Nothing But The Blood verses 1,2,5, Emphasis added).

In the hymn Arise, My Soul, Arise the author Charles Wesley says:

“Arise my soul, arise; Shake off they guilty fears
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears
Before the throne my surety stands
Before the throne my surety stands
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede
His all redeeming love, His precious blood to PLEAD
His blood ATONED for all our race
His blood ATONED for all our race
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary
They pour effectual prayers, They strongly speak for me
‘Forgive Him, O forgive’ they cry
‘Forgive Him, O forgive’ they cry
‘Nor let that ransomed sinner die!’”
(Arise, My Soul, Arise verses 1,2,3).

Thank God that Jesus died for our sins and not for our personal possessions. Because He did, our sins are forgiven and we thereby overcome the accuser of our souls.

There is a saying: “Bad theology leads to bad practice.” The modern bad theology of what is called “pleading the blood of Jesus” has surely led to bad and bizarre practices among Christian believers. To avoid such, let us always endeavour to promote good or accurate theology that is squarely based on God’s word of truth: the Bible.

*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

© 2001

The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ

By Rev. Clinton A. Chisholm*
Any attempt to advance a case for the uniqueness (or ‘one-of-a-kindness’) of Jesus Christ is problematic. Problematic, not only because of the need to delve into comparative religion and literature (for which exercise we scarcely have time or space) but because the view abounds amongst some scholars that if there was a historical Jesus Christ he is indistinguishable from the Christ of faith that emerges from the pages of the New Testament documents.
Even if the view of such scholars be exaggerated the tough-minded modern Christian needs to face some realities lurking behind such a view. I mention and elaborate briefly on just one.
Our main sources for the life of Jesus Christ, the canonical gospels, contain a mixture of claims made by Jesus Christ and about Jesus Christ, and though possible, it is not always easy to distinguish the one from the other. So then the gospels are neither wholly historical nor wholly theological they are in essence theological histories or theological biographies – interpretations of, or perspectives on, the historical life of Jesus Christ that betray the significance of Jesus Christ for the particular writers. The literary intent of the writers will affect their literary content!
Though it might be somewhat disturbing for certain Christians we must grapple with the fact that the differences in detail that we find in the gospel writers as they deal with the same subject strongly suggest that the gospel writers were often more concerned with the essence of an incident or statement than with minute detail or word for word accuracy.1
So then, with reference to ‘what Jesus said’ what we get from a gospel writer may not necessarily be the very words of Jesus [verbatim] the ipsissima verba but never less than the very voice of Jesus [paraphrase, summary, essence] the ipsissima vox. Of course at times we do get the very words of Jesus.
If one is honest and scholarly with the New Testament documents it is difficult to read them and not pick up certain strong claims made by Jesus which would prove his significance and even uniqueness. Let us explore some of these now.
Jesus Christ claimed to be ‘Son of God’. The issue here is not so much prooftexting for mention of the expression ‘Son of God’2 but facing the unanimous testimony of the gospels that Jesus addressed God as ‘Father’ in his praying. As John 19.7 suggests, the Jewish accusers at Jesus’ trial before Pilate saw the self- description of ‘son of God’ as a species of blasphemy deserving of death. There is much that is significant and unique here. But let us provide the unanimous evidence and then make the points re significance and uniqueness.
Mark 14.36 – “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee…”
Mt. 11.25 = Lk. 10.21 – “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth..” 3
Luke 23.46 – “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit…”
John 11.41 – “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”
Were we to chart the statistics on Jesus’ reference to God as his father the result would be as follows, 4

Mk. Q5 Lk. Mt. Jn.
‘Father’ 3 4 4 31 100
‘the Father’ 1 1 2 1 73



The evidence suggests that Jesus almost always prayed with reference to God as ‘Father’.6 But this is significant and unique. It is significant that the texts of the gospels, at times, use the Aramaic term Abba, copied into Greek letters, and not merely a Greek translation of the term into pater. Significant as well that Paul, in Romans and Galatians, uses the same Aramaic term when speaking of the Spirit praying through Christians (Rom. 8.15-16; Gal. 4.6). But why retain the Aramaic term? Seemingly, because it was so characteristic of Jesus’ prayer in his mother tongue and so unusual, so unique in Jewish prayer!
You see, Abba in traditional usage was an intimate family term reserved for the family setting and for the head of the family on the lips of a child. It roughly corresponds to our ‘dada’ or ‘papa’.
No Jew would ordinarily use this term with reference to God because the term is too familiar. Yet Jesus, seemingly, uses the term characteristically because of his special, unique status as ‘Son of God’ and seemingly encouraged that kind of intimacy in prayer in his disciples.
Let me reinforce and summarize the point we are making here in the words of Michael Green,

…Jesus brought an entirely new picture of God into the world. He was Father. You can
search Islam and you will not find that name of Father among the ninety-nine names of
God. You will search Hinduism or Confucianism in vain. This is amazing good news
and it is unique. Jesus used the name Abba of his relationship with God…He came to
show us that God is Father, and that there is nothing he wants more than to enfold us in
his arms and welcome us home.7

Jesus claimed to be God or equal to God. To appreciate the value of the gospel records in this regard we must remember the intensely monotheistic beliefs of the Jews and the early Christians. Even if they are giving us only the ipsissima vox of Jesus, they, as monotheists, put some very strong assertions of deity on the lips of Jesus concerning himself. Take John 8.24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Shockingly, there is no predicate after the declaration “if you do not believe that I am” prompting the translators to add the pronoun He, though there is no companion word in the Greek. Jesus simply and suggestively declares ‘I am’, in Greek ego eimi (which every alert Jew listening to Him would associate with God’s declaration in the Greek version of the Old Testament at Ex. 3.14.) Why would they record such bold and preposterous claims unless Jesus made them?
It is the boldness of Jesus’ claims re his deity, and the centrality of his personhood to his claims that render him unique among the greatest religious leaders of the world. A. J. Hoover has a point when he contends,

Moses didn’t claim to be Yahweh; Socrates didn’t claim to be Zeus; Zoroaster didn’t
claim to be Ahura Mazda; Mohammed didn’t claim to be Allah; Buddha didn’t claim to
be Brahma. Only Christ claimed to be one with the God who sent him (John 10:30)
Familiarity has dulled our ears to the wonder of his claims.8

Jesus was no mere guide to truth or to God. No, he claimed to be much more than that and ties himself to his teaching and claims.
Mahatma Gandhi once declared that whether or not there was an historical Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount would still be true for him.9 But note some crucial claims in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in Jesus’ teachings that raise hard questions for Gandhi’s approach.
Jesus inextricably linked his claims to his person by saying ‘Blessed are you if you are persecuted on my account’ (Mt. 5.11); ‘lose your life for my sake…’(Mk. 8.35); and the unique, if arrogant and exclusivistic, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me’ (Jn. 14.6) .10
Even if these statements are not the very words of Jesus it is difficult to see them as less than the very voice of Jesus, and either way these claims are bold and unique!
There is something uniquely shocking about the claims of Jesus at his trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Hear the critical question of identity, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God?’ (Mt. 26.63). The answer in the Synoptics is ‘You have said so’ (Mt. 26.64 and Lk. 22.69) or ‘I am’ (Mk.14.62). But there is a crucial additional element which all three synoptic evangelists mention, on the lips of Jesus, with reference to himself; the Old Testament reference to the son of man seated ‘at the right hand of power’.
The expression ‘at the right hand of power’ is a Hebraism suggesting the immediate presence of deity! Jesus was claiming to be equal to God and Caiaphas, recognizing this shocking ‘blasphemy’ recoiled by doing something shocking as well; contrary to Levitical law (Lev. 21.10) he rent his priestly garments!
Jesus claimed a certain cruciality and finality for his mission. One of the more popular words in Jesus’ teaching is ‘kingdom’ or the fuller phrase ‘kingdom of God/Heaven’11 , and the idea emerges that it is Jesus who has ushered in or inaugurated this kingdom or sovereign rule of God. So Jesus declares in Mk. 1.15, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel’. In Lk. 11.20 he declares. ‘If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you’.
In one of his parables, The Wicked Tenants (Mk. 12.1-9), Jesus portrays himself, by implication, as the final, perfect representative of God and, most importantly, he suggests that response to him in time will determine one’s destiny in eternity!
Jesus claimed superiority and authority over three things that were supreme for Jews; Torah-the law of Moses (Mt. 5.31-38), the Temple (Mt. 12.6) and the Sabbath (Mt. 12.8).
Beyond direct claims, as such, we pass to equally important information that bolster claims for the uniqueness of Jesus.
We observe the feature of the unrebuked worship of Jesus in the literature of monotheistic Jews who believed that only God should be worshipped. So whereas the apostles and angels refused worship (Acts 14.11-15; Rev. 19.10; 22.8-9) Jesus Christ accepted and encouraged people’s worship of him (Mt. 14.31-33; 15.25-28). Indeed the very Jewish-Christian document, Hebrews, asserts that the Father commands such worship of Jesus (1.6).
Another critical dimension of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ relates to the unique convergence in him of three unprecedented sets of miracles; fulfilled Messianic prophecies, a sinless life and resurrection from the dead.
The Messianic prophecies require involved treatment, much more than we can attempt in this short article, but suffice it to say that the fulfilment in Jesus’ birth, life and passion of so many minute elements of numerous Old Testament Messianic prophecies cuts against the accidental explanation.12
Nothing can be found in any religious literature that matches the calibre of Jesus’ prediction and the eventual fulfilment of his own death and resurrection (Mk.9.30-32; Mt. 17.22-23; Lk. 9.43-45; Mk. 16.1-8; Mt. 28.1-10;Lk. 24.1-12; Jn. 20.1-10).
Concerning the character of the life of Jesus we point out that this is pivotal because it is important for grounding one’s claims. The evidence here must be weighed carefully because in addition to the estimate of Jesus’ character implied in Jesus’ own statements we have, for the most part, the estimate of his followers and the odd comment of others as recorded in the New Testament.
Let us begin with the fact that Jesus had a very high estimate of his own character. This emerges in the fact that though he and all the Jews would be aware of the perfection of God alone, yet he indicated in his statements concerning his death that his life would be given for the remission of sins (Mt. 26.28). On one occasion he challenged his detractors to level an indictment against his character with the words ‘which of you convicts me of sin?’ (Jn. 8.46).
This suggestion of sinlessness by Jesus is all the more startling, unique even, when you pit against that claim the admission of other founders of world religions.
Confucius, near to his death, is alleged to have said, “In letters I am perhaps equal to other men; but the character of the perfect man, carrying out in his conduct what he professes, is what I have not yet attained to.”13 In the Qur’an, Muhammad’s moral flaws are clearly indicated.14
The disciples of Jesus, perhaps understandably, had a high view of Jesus’ character and even though some of the writers were Jews they affirmed Jesus’ sinless perfection. So Peter said, ‘He committed no sin, no guile was found on his lips’ (1 Pet. 2.22). A similar affirmation comes from John, ‘You know that he appeared to take away sin and in him is no sin’ (1 John 3.5), Paul, ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…’ (2 Cor. 5.21), the writer of Hebrews declares that Jesus was tempted like all of us yet without sin (4.15).
Additionally, we have to make something of the odd comment from other than Jesus himself and his followers. Josephus, the Jewish historian, in the traditional text, not so much in the Slavonic text, speaks highly of Jesus’ character.15
Within the gospels Pilate and Herod, upon hearing the charges and evidence against Jesus, are portrayed as having pronounced Jesus innocent (Lk. 23. 15f). Similar verdicts come from the Centurion at the cross and from one of the condemned men crucified with Jesus (Lk. 23.41, 47).
Jesus’ enemies (some of the Jewish leaders) often charged him with breaches but the details, as given in the gospels, reveal more the sovereignty of Jesus in dealing with Jewish traditions, customs and interpretations of them.
It is this overall impression of the moral superiority of the life of Jesus that has left him as the most influential moral figure in Western civilization and history.
So then when one encounters Jesus Christ one encounters an individual who makes, and for whom is made, shocking and unique claims. In Jesus Christ one encounters an individual whose life commands respect because of its moral uniqueness. In Jesus Christ one will encounter a unique individual, a response to whom now, will determine one’s destiny in eternity.

Rev’d Clinton A. Chisholm, D.D., M.A., M.A., F.C.A., B.A., B.Th., L.R.S.M., A.T.C.L., is the Associate Pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Hollywood, Florida.
© Clinton Chisholm, May, 2006


1William Harris argues that only five percent of the people of the first century could read and write (see his Ancient Literacy, Harvard University Press, 1989). “In such a culture, accuracy means something like rendering the tradition in a way that is faithful. That’s what you have in earliest Christianity – people passing on sayings, stories and the like, attempting to be faithful to the tradition but not aiming for verbatim accuracy,” (Stephen J. Patterson in The Search for Jesus: Modern Scholarship Looks at the Gospels, edited by Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994, 33). Return to 1

2As James Dunn correctly said, “…there was nothing particularly unique about calling someone ‘son of God’ at the time of Jesus…Oriental rulers, particularly in Egypt, were called sons of God – a title occasionally applied to the Jewish king as well (as in II Sam. 7.14)…” The Evidence for Jesus (SCM Press Ltd., 1985), 49. Return to 2

3Mt. 11.27 is quite shocking, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jewish scholar, C.G. Montefiore, recognizing the unique and powerful claims in the statement expressed a hope that scholars would prove the statement false, because, if genuine, it would support the contentions of orthodox Christianity (see A.M. Hunter, The Work and Words of Jesus, [Westminster Press, 1973], 106). Return to 3

4The statistics are taken from Dunn, 44.Return to 4

5Q is a symbol (derived from the German Quelle, meaning ‘source’) that scholars use for a hypothetical document which Matthew and Luke allegedly used in writing their gospels. This would be material (almost exclusively sayings of Jesus) common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark. Return to 5

6The only clear exception seems to be the cry of dereliction on the cross, ‘My God, my God…’, Mk. 15.34, no doubt influenced by Ps. 22.1. Return to 6

7Who is this Jesus? (Hodder & Stoughton, 1990), 34-35. Return to 7

8The Case for Christian Theism, (Baker Book House, 1980), 169. Return to 8

9Ibid, 170. Return to 9

10Compare the more liberal statement of the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu scripture) ‘In any way that men love me in that same way they find my love: for many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to me’, 4.11. Note as well the elements of similarity between Gita 9.18 and John 14.6! Return to 10

11In Matthew (47), Mark (18), Luke (37) and John (5). Return to 11

12For fuller treatment see John Ankerberg, et al, The Case for Jesus the Messiah, [The John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association, 1989], passim, Robert Newman in Evidence for Faith, edited by John Warwick Montgomery, [Probe Books, 1991], 203-214, Norman Geisler, et al, Answering Islam, [Baker Book House, 1993], 248-250 and Ralph O. Muncaster, Examine the Evidence, [Harvest House Publishers, 2004], 325-366. Return to 12

13Cf. Analects of Confucius 7.33. Return to 13

14See Geisler, 169-177. Return to 14

15F.F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, [Hodder and Stoughton, 1974], 32-53. See also Edwin Yamauchi in Michael J. Wilkins et al, Jesus Under Fire, [Zondervan Publishing House, 1995], 212-213. Return to 15

Rightfully Dividing the Word of Truth A look at passages of Scripture often taken out of context

By Roger Marshall*

2 Timothy 2: 15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

One rule for correctly interpreting scripture is hermeneutics. What is hermeneutics? Bible scholar Dr. Robert Morey explains: “Hermeneutics is the discovery, understanding and use of those linguistic and literary principles or rules of interpretation which should be followed when one seeks to understand the Bible. Exegesis is the practical application of hermeneutical principles to a specific text in order to discover the intent and mind of the author. It is the opposite of eisegesis, which is reading into a text our own ideas with little or no regard for what the author meant.

“Why bother with hermeneutics? First, the Bible comes to us as literature (prose, poetry, historical narrative, apocalyptic literature, letters, dialogue, theological treatises, biography, etc) Since it is literature, we must treat it as such.

“Second, hermeneutics is simply a reflection on the unconscious principles which we all follow when reading any piece of literature in general. When we pick up a newspaper or novel we (1) observe grammar and syntax [i.e. the grammatical arrangement of words in sentences]; (2) observe literary units such as paragraph and chapter; and (3) seek to understand what the author was saying. These same things apply to reading the Bible.

“Third, the Scriptures themselves warn us there are wrong ways as well as right ways to interpret the Bible (2 Pet. 3:16; cf. [i.e. refer to compare] 2Tim. 2:15).

“Some of the wrong ways are (1) partial quotation of a text; (2) not observing who said it or wrote it; (3) bringing together unrelated proof texts; (4) taking the verse out of context; and (5) taking a mystical approach to the Bible in which it is allowed to fall open at random and then a verse is picked by “chance.”

This means it is erroneous to say the Bible can be interpreted any way one pleases. God has given us a library of literature which we call “The Bible,” and we must avoid misinterpreting it or reading into it our own theological biases. Hermeneutics is the attempt to curb or bridle invalid ways of interpreting the Scriptures and to set those positive literary principles which should govern everyone’s interpretation of the Bible” (L. Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950); B. Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1979); B. Ramn, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Boston: W.A. Wilde Co., 1956); M. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. Co.); cited in Death and the Afterlife by Dr. Robert A. Morey, p. 19).

With this in mind let us now consider some verses and passages of Scripture that are often taken and quoted out of context by many Christians in our contemporary Evangelical and Charismatic Church circles.

“By His Stripes I Am Healed”

Scripture verses often quoted out of context to prove that physical healing is guaranteed to us in the atonement are: Ex. 15:26; Is 53: 4-5; Matthew 8: 17; 1 Peter 2: 24; 3 John 2.

Concerning Ex. 15: 26, it needs to be noted that this was directed towards Israel and was based upon their keeping the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenant. All the commandments and statutes of this covenant had to be kept in order for this promise to be realised. That would entail observance of the Sabbath day rest and restrictions, circumcision, dietary laws, purification laws etc. Secondly the diseases that were guaranteed not to trouble Israel were the plagues God brought upon Egypt. These were: the plagues of water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the fist born. Obviously over the last 2000 years of Christianity godly Christians have encountered some aspect of at least some of these problems in their lives. In other words this verse is not a New Testament promise.

As for Isaiah 53: 4-5 and 1 Peter 2: 24, these passages refer to spiritual healing and not to physical healing. Let’s look at these two texts and see what I mean.

Isa. 53: 5 is structured according to what is known as “Hebrew parallelism”, where the same point is made using different words. For example:
1. “But he was wounded for our transgressions” (this has to do with sins, and thus is spiritual in nature relating to our souls).
2. “He was bruised for our iniquities” (this also has to do with sins, and thus again is spiritual).
3. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him” (this has to do with our peace with God through Jesus’ suffering for our sins. As Romans 5: 1 says: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus again Isaiah is making the same spiritual point in relation to our sins and our souls reconciliation to God).
4. “And with his stripes we are healed” (If in this last phrase Isaiah now switches from a spiritual theme to a physical theme in relation to healing of our bodies that would not be in keeping with the structure of Hebrew parallelism. The fact is that this phrase is also spiritual and has to do with healing of our souls and not our bodies).
This fact is further made very clear in 1 Peter 2: 24-25 which says: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Thus the healing in view of these passages of Scripture is healing of the sin-sick soul, which is our reconciliation to God after having gone astray (see Isa. 53: 6).

With regard to Matt. 8: 14-17 the context of this passage has to do with the fact that Jesus fulfilled the first clause of Isa. 53: 4 during his healing ministry to the Jews (cf. Matt. 10: 5-8). It is not teaching that all believers are guaranteed physical healing today. It should be noted that Matthew did not quote the entire verse of Isa. 53: 4 due to the fact that the last clause was not fulfilled until Jesus went to the cross where he suffered and died for the healing of our souls which is the theme of verse 5 as I’ve already pointed out. In short the same one who bore the griefs and carried the sorrows of the Jews by healing them of their diseases during his earthly ministry, is the same one who was later “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.” He is the same one who was wounded for their transgressions and bruised for their iniquities to secure the healing of their souls, a healing which was graciously extended to all people (cf. John 3: 16; 2 Cor. 5: 19). Therefore Matt. 8: 17 is actually about what Jesus did before the atonement that was actually accomplished by his death on the cross (cf. Rom. 5: 6-11). It is not guaranteeing healing this side of heaven.

A careful look at 3 John 2 reveals that this is not a guarantee/command for health or wealth but simply a wish in John’s course of greeting, much like what we do today when we wish other people well in our written correspondence to them.
Healing guaranteed in the new heaven and earth

Nevertheless the Bible does teach that ultimately healing is guaranteed to our bodies and in fact to all creation because of the atoning work of Christ but this is to come in the new heaven and earth when sickness and its inevitable end result, death, will be forever banished from existence. That’s when our bodies (and not just our souls as is now the case) will be redeemed (cf. Rom. 8: 18-23; Rev.20: 4).

Is divine healing ultimately dependant upon our faith or God’s will?

Many often quote passages of Scripture dealing with faith to teach that healing is guaranteed to all believers once they can muster the faith required, however, the fact that divine healing is not ultimately dependent on our faith but rather is dependent on the sovereign will of God is bourn out by a number of incidents in Scripture. In fact some of the people healed in Scripture did not exercise any faith at all! For example:
1. The lame man at the Temple gate was not expecting healing, he did not ask for healing, he was not earnestly seeking God for his healing, his faith was not involved yet he was miraculously healed (Acts 3: 1-8).
2. The widow of Nain was not expecting the miraculous resurrection of her dead son. Her faith was also not involved yet a mighty miracle occurred (Lk. 7: 11-15).
3. Malcus, one of the men who arrested Jesus was healed after Peter cut off his ear. He too was not expecting healing (Lk. 22: 50-51; Jn 18: 10).
4. Lazarus was raised from the dead after four days even though his sisters (Martha in particular) were not exhibiting great faith for this miracle to occur on that day. Martha expected Lazarus’ resurrection to be at the “last day” (Jn. 11: 24), after all Lazarus was dead for four days so this fact alone would have dashed all hopes for an immediate resurrection as far as many Jews were concerned. You see in that time many Jews believed that the soul remained near the body only for three days after death in the hope of returning to it. So if this idea was in the minds of these people, they obviously thought all hope was gone-Lazarus was irrevocably dead This raises the question as to how much faith does it really take for God to act on our behalf. Faith healers often encourage believers to turn loose their faith, muster all the faith they have, or exhibit “violent” faith in order to receive healing. However, the Bible says that it only takes a mustard seed amount of faith for God to honour it (Lk. 17: 5-6). The same simple faith that brings salvation also brings healing in accordance with the will of God. Mark 10: 51-52 and Luke 7: 48-50 bears out this fact, in both passages, one dealing with divine healing (Mk. 10) and the other with salvation (Lk. 7), the exact same Greek grammatical structure is used: “he pistis sou sesoken se.” Translated: “…thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 10: 52), “Thy faith hath saved thee…” (Lk.7: 50).

While the Bible teaches that God honours faith in Him for our healing it also teaches that God is not always obligated to honour that faith for reasons best known to Him and it doesn’t mean that we lack faith or that we are living a life that displeases God.
A classic example of this is Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2Cor. 12; 7-10). While the Bible does not explicitly say what it was it was nevertheless an affliction of some kind (whether physical or emotional we don’t know) yet Paul’s great faith in God could not get it removed

Other Scriptures that clearly show that God is not obligated to always heal His people are as follows:
1. Out of a multitude of sick folk at the pool of Bethesda Jesus only healed one man (Jn. 5: 1-9).
2. Timothy had frequent stomach related illnesses for which Paul encouraged him to use wine as a medicine to help with his ongoing condition (1Tim.5: 23).
3. Paul left Trophimus, one of his close companions, sick in Miletus (2Tim 4: 20).
4. Epaphroditus another one of Paul’s close companions was sick and nearly died. Paul appeared helpless in the whole ordeal (not powerful like many faith healers today who arrogantly “decree”, “declare” and “speak things into being”) and explained that his companion’s life was only spared because God had mercy on both of them (Ph. 2:25-27).

Is God a healer? He sure is! Does God still miraculously heal today? He sure does! But in accordance with his Sovereign will just as He always has either in the presence of faith or in its absence. The buck does not end at our faith but at God’s sovereign will. God has and reserves the right to grant our earnest requests or refuse our requests for purposes best known to Him, yet always for our good even when we don’t understand (Rom. 8: 28).

In light of these facts we need to keep the message of divine healing in Biblical balance.
“Binding and Loosing”

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt.16: 18-19).

Many Christians in Charismatic and Evangelical Church circles often quote these verses of scripture to teach that we as Christians have the God-given authority to bind demons, thus preventing them from carrying out their nefarious activities, and to loose people from sickness, suffering, poverty etc. and all negative influences in the believers’ lives which are all considered to be demonic attacks.

Take for example this quote from an exhortation sent out by a local church pastor to several cell groups in his church who were to engage in a night of what he called Kingdom Prayer. The pastor said, “Christ has given the church the keys to the kingdom i.e. the authority of God’s kingship. As a result God in heaven binds whatever the church binds on earth. And God in heaven looses whatever the church looses on earth. In other words, the movement on earth govern movements in heaven; the church’s action on earth precedes God’s action in heaven.

“Through kingdom prayer, the church becomes God’s instrument – His outlet into the earth. The task of the church is to bind Satan and to loose God’s hand on earth…”

But is this actually what the verse is teaching? Lets take a closer look.

Bible scholar and commentator Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D, in The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible points out that a more accurate translation of this verse from the Greek reads: “And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. And whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be as having been bound in the heavens; and whatever thou shalt loose on the earth shall be as having been loosed in the heavens”

Why is this the better translation? Dr. Zohiates explains that the two verbs de-deme-non (which comes the Greek deo which means to fasten or tie i.e. to bind) and le-lume-non (from the Greek luo which means to loose), are both perfect passive participles which should have been translated as “having been bound” and as “having been loosed” already in the heavens.

Bible expositor and theologian John MacArthur concurs with Dr. Zodhiates. In The MacArthur Study Bible he says, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven…represent authority to declare what was bound or loosed in heaven. This echoed the promise of John 20: 23, where Christ gave the disciples authority to forgive or retain sins of people. All this must be understood in the context of [Matt.] 18: 15-17, where Christ laid out specific instructions for dealing with sin in the church. The sum of it all means that any duly constituted body of believers, acting in accord with God’s word, has the authority to declare if someone is forgiven or unforgiven. The church’s authority is not to determine these things, but to declare the judgement of heaven based on the principles of the word of God. When they make such judgements on the basis of God’s Word, they can be sure heaven is in accord. In other words, whatever they “bind” or “loose” on earth is already “bound” or “loosed” in heaven. When the church says the unrepentant person is bound in sin, the church is saying what God says about the person. When the church acknowledges that a repentant person has been loosed from that sin, God agrees.”

The NIV Study Bible makes the same observation concerning Matt.16: 19. It says to bind and loose in this verse is “Not authority to determine, but to announce, guilt or innocence (see Matt.18: 18 and the context there; cf. Acts 5: 3,9).”

Again in the words of Dr. Zodhiates “The teaching here is that those things which are conclusively decided by the king in the kingdom of heaven, having been so decided upon, are emulated by the Church on earth, the Church being the true believers whose testimony is the Rock, even like Peter’s testimony concerning the deity of Jesus Christ upon whom the Church is built (1Cor. 3:11). “No reference is made here to the binding or loosing of persons, but of things, ho “whatever” (neuter) and not “whosoever,” and hosa (neuter plural) in Matt. 18: 18, “what things soever.”[it is interesting at this point to note that Satan is a personal being and not a thing]. Reference is made to the acts of persons and not to the decisions concerning persons by the church as an ecclesiastical or organisational body. The Church here is the body of believers themselves. We as believers can never make conclusive decisions about things, but can only confirm those decisions which have already been made by the King Himself as conclusive in the general context of His kingdom both on earth and in heaven. See Matt. 18: 18…see also Jn. 20: 23.”

As Dr. Zodhiates concludes, “Believers on earth can only confirm [on earth] what has already taken place in heaven.” In other words, heaven/God does not follow the dictates of the church on earth but rather the church is to follow the dictates of God from heaven on any given issue and declare God’s dictates and decisions to the earth. Therefore keeping in mind the meaning of this verse no Christian can bind Satan and his demons or declare them and their nefarious activities bound, simply because God in heaven has not bound them yet. The time for Satan’s binding is yet to come (see Rev. 20: 1-3).

Similarly no Christian can take it upon themselves to loose any one from their particular circumstance be it sickness, poverty or otherwise for heaven/God to rubberstamp the believer’s demand. That person’s circumstance is totally in the Lord’s hands what we, as believers, must do is to petition the Lord and intercede earnestly before Him on their behalf for His merciful intervention. A prime example of this was the apostle Paul with his “thorn in the flesh.” No amount of “loosing” on earth by any believer would have been able to free him from his particular testing circumstance simply because God had not already “loosed” him i.e. declared him free from his thorn in heaven, and in fact God had determined that the particular circumstance was for Paul’s own good.

“Command Ye Me”

Another verse somewhat akin to Matt. 16: 19 in its misinterpretation is Isa. 45: 11 quoting from the KJV it says, “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me”

Several Christians have used this verse to say that God has given us permission and the right to command Him to work on our behalf or on the behalf of others. In other words we can take authority over God and make him work for us.

However, the right interpretation of that verse is expressed very simply and clearly in the NIV it reads: This is what the Lord says-the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” In other words, as the late Christian apologist Dr. Walter Martin once said, in this verse God is sarcastically asking those Jews who were questioning his wisdom in using the pagan Persian King Cyrus to regather Israel to their homeland from exile if they were going to tell the Sovereign Lord God creator of the universe what to do.

“God inhabits the praises of his people”

Psalm 22: 3 is often used to say that God comes down some may even say that he lives in the praises of His people in particular the more modern contemporary worship songs. It is sometimes thought that the more exuberant or loud the praise and worship session the more God’s presence becomes manifest. However, a closer look at this verse from the NIV shows that it actually means that God was the focus of Israel’s praise i.e. He was the one Israel praised. Thus even an old traditional hymn can be “inhabited” by the God of Israel because the God of Israel and his mighty deeds are the focus of the hymn.

Restorationism

Acts 3: 19-21 reads: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Many often use these verses today as they claim that God has been progressively restoring lost truths to the Church ever since the days of the Reformation. Michael Moriarty in his book The New Charismatics: A Concerened Voice Responds To Dangerous New Trends points out that these “restored” truths usually include justification by faith (Martin Luther), water baptism by immersion (the Anabaptists), sanctification (John Wesley), diving healing (A.B. Simpson and John Alexander Dowie), Spirit baptism (the Azusa Street revival of 1906), followed by a number of other various “restored” truths which emerged from the 1948 Later Rain revivals. These included:

1. Immortalisation of the church. The belief that the church will attain to immortality before Christ’s return as a necessary aspect of its perfection and testimony to the world. While some in the LR tradition have dropped this teaching, for many it is key.
2. Faith Healing. The belief that miracles of healing should be commonplace in the church, to be expected by faith rather than simply requested; implying the ideal of the immortalization of the church.
3. Word of faith. The teaching that faith is a force that enables the believer (or, for some, the prophet, such as Branham) to create new realities out of nothing, just as God created the world out of nothing. This is the origin of the prevalent practice among several Christians today who claim that they can decree or speak things into being.
4. Distinctive spiritual disciplines. Emphasized in the LR movement were the following disciplines or activities: (1) deliverance – the exorcism of demons from believers, often as a necessary step in their overcoming sinful habits of the flesh; (2) fasting – going without food for extended periods of time in order to attain supernatural power over the body; (3) laying on of hands – a ritual expressing the power of the “anointed” church leaders over the faithful and their ability to impart the Holy Spirit and his gifts through this method; and (4) praise or the recovery of true worship – an unrestrained form of worship calling upon God to perfect the church.
5. Unity of the church. The doctrine that the church, or (usually) a small remnant of the church, will attain mature unity of faith before Christ returns.
6. Fivefold ministry. The belief that the church today has all five offices of Ephesians 4:11, including apostles and prophets, through whom the church received new doctrinal revelations and overall direction.

However, Acts 3: 21 has nothing to do with the above. In context this is a Messianic statement and is not initially or directly Church related but rather is related to God’s ancient promises to Israel to usher in a universal reign of the Messiah from Mt. Zion in which all the saints (including those brought in through the church age) will share (cf. Acts 1: 6-7).

Bible expositor points out that the word “times” used in the verses 19 & 21 i.e. “times of refreshing” and “times of restoration” means epoch, era or season. Two descriptions are given to the coming era of the millennial kingdom. This is clear because the bracket the reference to Jesus Christ being sent from God to bring those times. Peter points to Christ’s earthly reign (see 1:7; cf. Rom. 11: 26). The period will be marked by all kinds of blessings and renewal (cf. Isa. 11: 6-10; 35: 1-10; Eze. 34: 26; 44: 3; Joel 2: 26; Matt. 19: 28; Rev. 19: 1-10).
“The Former Rain & The Latter Rain”

James 5: 7 reads: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (cf. Dt 11: 14; Jer. 5: 24; Hos. 6: 3; Joel 2: 23) These verses of Scripture are often used by many Christians as they claim that, just as God outpoured His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (“the former rain”) similarly there will be a final mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit all over the world shortly before Jesus’ return to earth (“the latter rain”). Great supernatural signs and wonders are expected to accompany this final outpouring that would result in a bumper harvest of souls.

However, a clear straightforward reading of James 5: 7 will show that the text does not offer the promise of a new out pouring of the Holy Spirit. James is in this verse of Scripture is alluding to the Israeli crop cycle. In Israel the autumn rain (former rain) comes in October and November soon after the grain is sown, and the spring rain (the latter rain) comes in March and April just prior to harvest. All the verse is saying is that just as the farmer has to patiently wait on this cycle to plant and reap his crops so likewise we are to patiently wait for the return of Christ. Nothing else is in mind. The lesson is about patient waiting not about a “new” out pouring of the Holy Spirit.

In light of the foregoing information re the misinterpretations of scripture that are proliferating among many Christians today what we really need is a restoration of sound biblical hermeneutics in many of our churches.

*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

2005

Reflections on Christians in Crop Over

By Roger Marshall*

It may be all well and good for a Christian to write and sing good, serious social commentary in our calypso tradition if he/she thinks that they must. Nevertheless, those who think that they must enter calypso competitions and parade in a Kadooment band to reach the lost ought to take another look at the evangelism strategy employed by the Jesus himself and His apostles.

Jesus evangelised by teaching and preaching the word of God in the synagogues or at the temple courts where large crowds of the Jews would gather (Matt. 4: 23; 9: 35; 13: 54; 26: 55; Mk. 1: 21, 39; 12:35; Lk. 4: 14-15, 44; 21: 37; Jn. 6: 59; 7: 14, 28; 18: 20).
He also did His evangelistic work by teaching/ministering in homes (Matt.8: 14-16; 9: 10-12; 10: 11-14; Mk2: 1-2). Jesus had become so famous among the people from his powerful soul searching teaching/preaching and healing ministry that the crowds followed Him into the great outdoors, where again He took hold of the opportunity to teach them (Matt. 4: 23-5: 1-2; 13: 1-3).

When we turn to the Acts of the apostles we see that they, having been taught by the Master Himself, conducted a similar pattern of evangelistic ministry utilising the Jewish temple courts, the homes of people and the synagogues (Acts 2: 42-46; 9: 17-20; 13: 5, 14-44; 14: 1; 17: 1-2, 10, 17a; 18: 4, 7, 19; 19: 8).

It is significant to note that even in pagan cities the pattern was pretty much the same. In addition to teaching and preaching in the synagogues and peoples homes, the calm of a river bank and the open market place-a place generally for conducting business and open public debate- were also utilised (Acts 16: 11-15; 17: 17b). Lecture halls were also used to conduct discussions surrounding the teachings of the gospel (Acts 17: 19; 19: 9).
Of even greater significance is the fact that Paul (the mighty apostle to the pagan Gentiles) in all his zeal to get the gospel message out to the lost, did not go into any pagan temple or pagan street festival where large crowds would also have been gathered (for example the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth boasted more than 1000 sacred prostitutes alone), but where the atmosphere would not have been conducive to teaching, since the devotees minds would have been greatly distracted by the sights and sounds of pagan worship. This type of worship, which was engulfed with fertility rites, involved all types of lascivious dances and lude sexual acts (no doubt accompanied with pulsating music rhythms), as the priestess-prostitutes would sexually entice the worshippers into the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love/sexual passion. The atmosphere would have been much like that of our modern Barbadian carnival day celebrations, when and where the minds of the patrons are greatly distracted by the prevailing orgiastic, sexually explicit wukking-up sights and sounds of Grand Kadooment, which believe it or not, is really in honour of the pagan god Bacchus (the god of drunken revelry) and his female consort the goddess with many names one of which was Aphrodite!

In short, when we look at the evangelism strategy of our Lord and His apostles it appears that for all practical purposes they chose places that for the most part were conducive to giving and receiving godly religious instruction with minimum distraction. On another point of interest it is also noteworthy that neither Jesus nor his apostles used music and singing to proclaim the gospel message to unbelievers. The only method used was preaching/teaching. Singing was only used among believers (Matt. 26: 30; Mk. 14: 26; Acts 16: 25; 1 Cor. 14: 26; Eph. 5: 19; Col. 3; 16; Heb. 2: 10-12). For me this brings into serious question a large percentage of modern evangelical church strategies to reach the lost through music/entertainment.

In light of this I want to suggest that the way for us Christians to better reach many of the thousands of Barbadians who gather for Kadooment every year, is to reach them before they reach the Stadium and Spring Garden. The evangelical churches nation wide should be mobilised in a united evangelistic outreach programme to go through every village and household, even utilising Community centres etc. to preach and teach the gospel and its principals for living as they affect every sphere of life within our nation. As did the apostle Paul in confronting opposition to the gospel in his day, this kind of initiative should also involve reasoned debates at the community and even national level setting forth persuasive arguments in defence of and substantiating the truth of the gospel we preach. This kind of initiative would have to be a year round sustained effort much like what Paul did at Corinth (one of the most depraved cities of his day) and Ephesus (see Acts 18: 1-11; 19:1, 8-10).

By God’ grace, just like in Paul’s day this kind of dedicated, persistent, all year round effort should reap a harvest of souls which is the purported purpose of the Walk Holy outreach ministries and the Experience calypso tent. Think about it.

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

2004

Out of Eden vs. Out of Africa

By Roger Marshall*
Many Pan Africanists often postulate an evolutionary “Out of Africa” explanation for the origin of the world’s various people groups. This fact is borne out in the first display under the theme “The Dawn of Civilisation.” in the new African Gallery at the Barbados Museum. The display plots an imaginary path of my African ancestors and all mankind’s supposed evolutionary descent from apelike animals. Nothing in the display informs the public about the fact that the so-called missing links between apes and men have all been scientifically debunked in one way or the other.

However, there is a much better explanation for man’s origin that best fits with the scientific evidence. That explanation is found in the Bible.

The Bible has long advocated the doctrine – which is now supported by mitochondrial genetic evidence – that all human beings are the descendants of the same mother. Genesis chapter 3, verse 20 reads: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” Furthermore it is stated that by analysis of some of the genes of the y-chromosomes some scientists have traced our origin back to a singular man (audio tape Origins of the Races featuring Biochemist Dr. Duane Gish). That is a further plus for the veracity of the Scriptures.

Nevertheless, while acknowledging the scientific evidence for a single mother of homo sapiens sapiens (i.e. humans like you and I) evolutionists and their adherents seek to sandwich their “African Eve” (a term that is however anathema for some apparently because of its Biblical connotations) between an evolutionary sequence of characters beginning in Africa with ape-like animals like the australopithecines (e.g. “Lucy”) and ending with “modern” man.

Yet if we take a closer look at the fossil evidence we find that Homo sapiens existed contemporaneously with the australopithecines and even before them, thus invalidating the belief that Homo sapiens descended from these animals. Examples of these fossils are the Kanapoi elbow fossil discovered in northern Kenya and dated at 4.4 million years old (according to the evolutionary time scale) which, as William W. Howells of Harvard University said, “… could not be distinguished from Homo sapiens morphologically or by multivariate analysis …” (see Homo erectus In Human Descent: Ideas And Problems by William W. Howells p. 70-71). Then there are the Laetoli footprint trails discovered in northern Tanzania dated again, according to the evolutionary time scale, at 3.6 million years old but yet as Russell H. Tuttle of the University of Chicago said, “ In discernible features … are indistinguishable from those of habitually barefoot Homo sapiens” (The Pattern of Little Feet by Russell H. Tuttle and D.M. Webb, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Feb. 1989).

The point is, as far back as we go in the fossil record man has always been man and has not arisen from ape-like animals just as the Bible indicates.

As for our “racial” features, (genetic variations would be a better term) these are indeed the result of genetic isolation due to dispersion but not the “Out of Africa” monkeys to people evolutionary version. Rather, the initial dispersion was from the Tower of Babel in the Mesopotamian valley some time after the Flood of Noah’s day as the Bible reveals. Interestingly enough an overwhelming number of cultures, long before any Judeo/Christian contact, recall in accounts of their origins the events of a worldwide flood and some of its after effects as if they had borrowed it from the Bible. This is exactly what we would expect if the Bible’s account of our origins is true. Thus again the historicity of the Bible is validated giving further assurance that it is a book we can trust even as it addresses the subject of mankind’s origin.

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

2004

Of Demons and Sin

By Roger Marshall*

We are living in a time when many Christians have demonised sin. Hence we hear terms such as demons/spirits of lust, demons/spirits of envy, demons/spirits of hatred, demons/spirits of jealousy, demons/spirits of anger, demons/spirits of greed, and even demons of gluttony etc. which need to be cast out of the believer if the believer is to live a victorious Christian life.

However, the Bible describes mankind’s sinful habits, practices and attitudes as an inherently human problem. Personal evil stems from one giving into or following the dictates of one’s own evil desires which emits from the fallen human nature. As Jer. 17: 20 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jesus reiterated this fact when he said: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” (Mk. 7: 20-23, NIV) James picks up the same point when he wrote: “When tempted, one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he temp anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James1: 13-15). Notice the Bible does not say that these evils result in the life because of indwelling demons but rather because of indwelling sin nature. Satan appeals to the fallen nature as he tempts man to give in to all the dictates of the sin nature.

The Bible teaches that these sins are habits which believers need to stop doing by putting off the deeds of the old man (i.e. the sinful nature) and putting on the new man (i.e. the new redeemed nature controlled by the Holy Spirit) See: Gal. 5: 16-26; Eph 4: 17-32; Col. 3: 1-10; Heb. 12: 1-2. There are no instructions in the Bible to have demons cast out of the believers to help them overcome any besetting sin. Furthermore the Bible teaches that Satan and his angels/demons are outside the believer not inside! As 1 John 4: 4 says: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.
2005

God: The Source of Morality Pt. 2

By Roger Marshall*
“In disagreement with article ‘Morality comes from God’. ” was the title of Mr. Philip A. Stahl’s rebuttal of my earlier letter which appeared in the Barbados Advocate, December 23, 2004.

In his letter Mr. Stahl, who identified himself as still adhering to his long held atheistic beliefs, tried to explain the origin of morality apart from “god belief or adhering to ‘laws’ of a god.”

First I must say that Mr. Stahl is right in one thing he said and that is: “people should be encouraged to think rationally and critically concerning ethics…” but of course ones conclusions will be affected by ones world–view. Mr. Stahl is arguing from an atheistic world–view, I’m arguing from a theistic one. We need to ask ourselves which world–view is best supported by the objective evidence around us.

Postulating that actions are naturally good or bad within themselves without “a god” having to ordain them as so, Mr. Stahl concluded that actions are determined good in as much as they are linked to the protection of one’s own welfare, which is linked to the promotion of the welfare of others – “No god is necessary.”

He used a scenario of saving a child from a burning house as an example of an ethical or “good” thing to do because the time may come when the rescuer may want a similar favour reciprocated on his/her behalf from the others in the society. Whether Mr. Stahl realises it or not, the full import of this line of reasoning means that what appears to be good or ethical behaviour, is really nothing more than a cleaver way by which the human animal seeks to protect its life (or that of its offspring) in the great evolutionary drama of survival of the fittest. It’s not about ultimate truth, as to whether it is really right or wrong to harm one’s fellow man rather it’s about assessing the situation one finds oneself in (the hub of situation ethics). Given another situation, where one’s self – preservation could be assured without any reprisals from the society at large (say, if the child was allowed to perish in the fire) then quite an opposite response to the child in danger may result. History records that for some past cultures, the ethical or “good” thing to do was for parents to sacrifice their children in grizzly ways (by fire or dagger) unto “the gods” without any reprisals from the wider society. In fact such inhumane acts were supposedly carried out on the behalf of the parent’s own welfare and the promotion of the welfare of the others in the society! The modern equivalent to these ancient legal atrocities is the present day abortion industry. In Hitler’s Germany the extermination of the Jews was viewed as a “good” thing to do. As far as Hitler and his society were concerned, this brand of ethics was linked to the protection of the welfare of the Aryan race.

If there is no universal moral governor (i.e. God) who sets a common standard of rules for all mankind to follow, then what gives Mr. Stahl the right to claim that his view of morality is better than any one else’s? He may squirm at the thought of committing acts of violence against or stealing from his fellow man etc. because he does not want the same to be done to him, but others may actually get a pleasurable adrenalin rush from doing such things as they set out to prove who is stronger and more cunning (believing that they have what it takes to be victorious) in the battle of survival of the fittest.

In a further attempt to support his thesis that no god is necessary for the general moral consciousness among men, Mr. Stahl submitted the naturalistic, evolutionary notion that man has derived his “ethical sense and directive” from his animal ancestors. He cited examples of animals that put their lives in danger to protect their young and even their pack, to support his hypothesis. However, what about those animals that kill their offspring? Is such conduct acceptable among humans since it is a natural way of life among our supposed animal relatives? If it is not unethical for animals to behave that way why should it be unethical for humans to do the same (if indeed we’re all just animals)? In fact they are those naturalists who view this behaviour among animals as a rationale for the practice of human infanticide (which would include abortion). Similarly some view what appears to them as homosexual affection among some animals as a rationale for the acceptance and legalising of human homosexual behaviour.

If Mr. Sthal is going to be consistent in his world – view, which excludes God from the picture, then he must factor all these things I’ve mentioned into the equation, as his eclecticism on this issue cannot be rationally defended. When that is done, his opinion of what is “the sane, human and decent thing to do” remains just that: his subjective opinion.

Nevertheless, in spite of the stark (sometimes horrible) differences between the moral practices of different cultures, there is a discernable moral standard common to all men in regard to what is really right or wrong, which (although showing similarities in some instances) many times runs contrary to behaviour we observe in the animal kingdom. Generally everyone concedes that it is really wrong to steal, cheat, lie, and commit adultery or murder etc. Our failure to adhere to this standard may lead us to feel guilt while we may express anger at others who fail to do the same. However, more often than not men choose to ignore, stifle and rationalise away the moral standard as they proceed to do contrary to what it demands. The fundamental question is: where does that standard come from?

C. Stephen Evans offers some good insight on this matter when he said: “this standard, this “law” if you will, is therefore not simply a description about how people behave. It is a prescription about how people should behave, though one they are constantly violating. So morality is not simply a law of nature like the law of gravity. It doesn’t describe how things in nature go on, but how human behaviour ought to go on.”

Again he says: “The moral order does not seem to consist of any such things [i.e., instincts and feelings]. It is not an instinct, because it is itself the standard by which we judge our instincts to be good or bad…” (C. Stephen Evans, Quest for Faith, pp.45, 47, cited in Faith and Reason by Ronald H. Nash, pp. 159, 160; emphasis mine). In other words the moral order/law is objectively external to our own subjective experiences and peculiar set of circumstances.

British philosopher Hastings Rashdall summarises the answer to this question succinctly when he said: “We say that the Moral Law has a real existence, that there is such a thing as an absolute [i.e. objective] Morality, that there is something absolutely [i.e., objectively] true or false in ethical judgements, whether we or any number of human beings at any given time actually think so or not….We must therefore face the question where such an ideal exists, and what manner of existence we are to attribute to it. Certainly it is to be found, wholly and completely, in no individual human consciousness….Only if we believe in the existence of a Mind for which the true moral ideal is already in some sense real, a Mind which is the source of whatever is true in our own moral judgements, can we rationally think of the moral ideal as no less real than the world itself. Only so can we believe in an absolute standard of right and wrong, which is independent of this or that man’s actual ideas and actual desires as the facts of material nature. The belief in God…is the logical presupposition of an “objective” or absolute Morality. A moral ideal can exist nowhere and nohow but in a Mind; an absolute moral ideal can exist only in a Mind from which all Reality is derived. Our moral ideal can only claim objective validity in so far as it can rationally be regarded as the revelation of a moral ideal eternally existing in the mind of God” (Hastings Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil, 2: 211 – 12, cited in Faith and Reason by Ronald H. Nash, pp. 160, 161).

In short if morality (in particular that ideal, decent and humane morality by which Mr. Stahl would like all men to live; even if only in part) is to be worth its salt it must have its foundation and source in God – the absolute moral governor of the universe.

*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.

2005