The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peace on Earth

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

This hymn was writ­ten by Henry Longfellow dur­ing the Amer­i­can civil war, as re­flect­ed by the sense of des­pair in the next to last stan­za.

Although these words were written well over a century ago; I think they hold as true today.

In this joyous holyday season; in which we celebrate the birth of of our incarnate Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: it is easy to say that the heralded words of 'Peace on Earth' have not been fully realized yet. When Henry Longfellow penned the words to this poem about 150 years ago, as we read above; it was during a very tumultuous time of war, during which many looked at all the war and strife, and because of this fact, it was easy to see why one might despair, and think that 'there is no peace on earth', or even that God could not have meant those words that He proclaimed so long ago, by His angelic messengers.

The message that those same angels proclaimed was, 'Peace on earth; good will toward men': that message proclaimed the birth of the Saviour of the world, and thus was meant to convey the message of salvation, not of all men; but of those who would receive that Gift! We who have received that Gift, those who have become 'in', or one with, that Gift; DO have peace on earth, a fact of which I think Mr. Longfellow was reminded of, and which we should remember, in the joyous sounds of this holiday season, being significant of the peace and joy that the Son of God brought to this 'world'. Although we should celebrate the birth of our Savior all the year 'round; it is tradition that at this time of year we have set aside a certain day to celebrate His birth, and to gift one another in remembrance of the Gift that God presented us with, more than 2,000 years ago.

Even in our 'day'; we are tempted, sometimes, to look at all the 'wars and rumors of war', the corruption in our own country, in our schools, and even in our churches, and think that; although we have peace in our hearts, through Christ: 'there is no peace on earth'; but when we have peace in our hearts: we have 'peace on earth', in two senses: because of the peace of Christ, 'which passes all understanding', we can have 'peace' that 'all things work together for good to them that love God', thus bringing 'peace on earth, good will to men'; and when the peace of Christ enters one's heart, it will have an effect on one's actions, thus ( physically ) bringing 'peace on earth', and 'good will toward men'.

May God grant us all to realize that Peace and Rest, as we meditate on these things;
not only in this traditional holyday season, but all the year long!

In the Peace of Christ,
Charles Shank

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Harmless as Doves

When Jesus sent the seventy ( or 72 ) disciples out through the 'cities of Israel', He told them to be 'wise as serpents and harmless as doves'.

We've already looked at why Christ might have told those first-century disciples to be 'wise as serpents', but why did he tell them to be 'harmless as doves'?

When I first thought of doing this paper; I immediately looked for usages of the word 'dove' throughout all of Scripture, but particularly the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew 'yownah' and the Greek 'peristera', both meaning literally, 'dove or pigeon', are used solely throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The first usage of 'yownah', of course, that we find in the Hebrew Scriptures; is in the 8th chapter of Genesis, where Noah employs a dove to see if the earth, or land, had dried up enough to embark from the ark. Next we see, throughout the books of Leviticus and Numbers, that doves, or pigeons, were often used as sacrificial offerings to the Lord; but it is in the Psalms and onwards, throughout the Prophets, I think; where we really begin to notice that there is a bit more, typologically and symbolically speaking; behind the mere usage of the word 'yownah'. When David uses this word in his Psalms; he almost seems to have a vision of salvation in mind, when he envisions himself with 'wings like a dove', that he might escape and find rest. In his 68th Psalm, and throughout his son's Song of Songs, we see that the word 'yownah' is used in more of a sense of perfection ( through God's salvation ), and as 'the apple of my eye', in a sense of intimacy and love. One is almost reminded too; of Leah's 'delicate eyes', in Genesis 29:17.
Once we get into the Prophets; the usage seems to change, yet again, into more of a mournful aspect. Isaiah likens his mournful prayers for his people to the cries of a dove, while Jeremiah and Ezekiel 'see' those who have escaped righteous and earned tribulations, yet mourning from their 'holes in the rocks' for the 'woes' that have come upon them. The so-called Minor Prophets use 'yownah' as more of a silly, useless sort of creature, 'who cannot discern between their right hand and their left'.

As we come to look at the Greek Scriptures, also known as the New Testament; we see the word 'peristera' used pretty much solely in the famous passages where the Holy Spirit of God descended upon the Son of Man, and where this Son of Man, Jesus Christ drove out those who sold doves ( and other things ) as sacrificial items, in the temple. Luke also records the sacrifice that Jesus' 'natural' parents offered for Him.

So, what did Jesus mean, that they were to be 'harmless as doves'?

I think that Jesus was telling them, as I said in my last article 'Wise as Serpents'; to be zealous for His 'law', as the Pharisees were ( outwardly ) for the Law ( of Moses), but to be kind and loving in their presentation of the Gospel, with which He was sending them.

In his epistle to the church at Philippi; Paul uses the Greek 'akeriaios', the same word used in Matthew's gospel, to describe how the disciples of Christ must present themselves to the 'world'; as 'unmixed and pure', as regarding the conscience, 'without a mixture of evil, free from guile, innocent, simple'. In the epistle to the Hebrews; the author uses the word 'akokos', which is almost indistinguishable in meaning from 'akerios', but with a more active tense, I think; to describe the 'attitude' of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in His function as our high priest.

Now; Jesus spoke these words primarily, I think, for the sake of His first-century disciples; so in that sense, they are fulfilled, but I think too, that as 21st century disciples of Jesus Christ: these words apply to us today, as Christians, just not with the same sense of urgency which Jesus meant for His original disciples.

As I listened this morning, to another sermon ( Nov. 18 ) by a friend of mine; I was 'struck' by the fact that when Jesus tells His listeners in Matthew 5 that 'The meek shall inherit the earth'; He was not saying that 'pushovers' shall inherit the earth, but rather that those who trust in God's strength and Righteousness, rather than their own ( think of the popular phrases 'every knee shall bow', and 'throw your crowns at the feet of Jesus' ), not to pacifistically 'turn the other cheek' in a 'woodenly' literal, physical sense, but to realize that these things are happening to us for our good and that our heavenly Father has 'ordained' these circumstances for our instruction and discipline.

Although the Greek '
pra├┐s', translated 'meek', and the Greek 'akeraios', translated 'harmless', have different meanings, the concept of a simple trust in God for strength, instead of oneself, I think, is at the basis of both words.

So, I believe that when Jesus told His followers to be 'harmless as doves', I think that He meant that, not that they were to be 'pacifistic' ( in the sense that Jesus' words are often thought of ), but in the sense that they were to 'turn the other cheek' , and do as Jesus did, who 'did not revile in turn', but when He was persecuted, even to the death, prayed for His persecutors.

in the name of Christ;
and for His Kingdom,
Charles Shank

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wise as Serpents

In the Gospel of Matthew; Jesus commanded His disciples to be 'wise as serpents, and harmless as doves'.

I use an interesting hermeneutic ( besides the grammatico/historical): I call it 'word association'. In other words: when I read a certain 'hard to understand' word or phrase in a certain passage of Scripture: I first think, 'Now where have I seen ( or heard ) that before?' This could also be called 'interpreting Scripture with Scripture'.

Naturally then, when one uses such an hermeneutic; the first thing that should pop into your head would be 'where else in Scripture is such language used?' The first thought that comes to mind, of course, is the 'serpent' in the Garden, way back in Genesis, where the 'serpent' is said to be 'more cunning than any beast of the field'.

The word 'serpent' is used in more than forty cases in the Hebrew Scriptures, several of which I will cite here.

I find it interesting that in all but six cases in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word 'serpent' is translated from the Hebrew 'nachash; four times from the Hebrew 'saraph', and twice from the Hebrew 'tannyin'. I find it especially interesting that the word 'saraph', used in Numbers 1:8,9 and in Isaiah 14:29 ( in reference to the king of Babylon ) and Isaiah 30:6 ( in reference to the strength of Egypt ), has a secondary meaning of 'seraphim'. According to this lexicon, the 'seraphim' were 'majestic beings..........................attendant upon God'. According to the book of Numbers,the Levitical priesthood were to 'attend' to the needs of the congregation of Israel, and to the duties of the house of God, ie., human 'seraphim'!

Getting back to the topic at hand: the Greek word 'phronimos'; translated 'wise' in Matthew 10:16, has nearly the same secondary meaning as the Hebrew 'aruwm'; the word translated 'cunning' in the Hebrew Scriptures: 'prudent, ie., mindful of one's interests'. Jesus told His disciples ( listeners ) that 'unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven'. I think that, traditionally, this has been understood ( rightly ) as referring to their ( outward ) zeal for obeying the commandments of God, and not that they were truly righteous before God; for, as I've often quoted, 'all our righteousness are as filthy rags'.

I must note here that; in the manner of clarification: Jesus said that our righteousness must 'exceed' that of the Pharisees. How can our righteousness 'exceed' that of the Pharisees ( who practiced obedience to the letter of the Law most religiously ), unless it be that righteousness that comes from Christ alone?

Some interesting, and most telling, I think, usages of the word 'nachash', translated 'serpent'; are in Jacob's death-bed oration concerning his sons, the children of Israel: of Dan; he said, 'Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse heels, so that it's rider shall fall backward'. Interesting too, is the previous verse: 'Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel'. I think this in some small way is what Jesus was speaking of when He told His disciples, concerning the Pharisees, "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, they will both fall into a ditch', and, in Matthew 23:13 and Luke 11:52, when He pronounced the woes, or judgments, against the Scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers for shutting up 'the kingdom of heaven', and taking away 'the key of knowledge', thus not allowing, and even hindering those who would 'enter in'.

David, in his 58th and 140th Psalms; compares the wicked man to a serpent, saying that 'their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf cobra that stops it's ear', and "they sharpen their tongue like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their tongue'. In the book of Ecclesiastes; Solomon likens a babbler, or fool, to a serpent. In that most famous passage in Isaiah 65; Isaiah reaffirms that 'dust shall be the serpents food', thus bringing numerous images to mind; not only the most woodenly literal interpretation ( true enough ) of the snake slithering around in the actual dust ( although I think that one would be hard-pressed to prove that they actually ate it! ), but that dust on the head was an internationally known symbol for morning, and most importantly; our Lord God's own admonition to the fallen Adam: 'For dust you are, and to dust you shall return'! Showing, yet again, that He uses the wicked even, for His own purposes: Jeremiah records concerning the judgment of Egypt; that their punishment comes 'like a serpent'. In one of many examples of the 'biblical parallelism' that the Scriptures contain; Amos likens God's sovereignty in 'using' even the wicked to perform His work, to commanding the 'serpent' to bite those who oppose Him and His people.

In the Greek Scriptures ( aka, New Testament ); the Pharisees were often referred to as serpents, or vipers. We are all familiar, I think, with John's response to those Pharisees and other Jews who came to his baptism at the Jordan: 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?' In the Gospel according to Matthew; Jesus calls the Pharisees vipers in His oration to them after they accuse Him of having demonic power. Later on, just prior to His famous 'Olivet Discourse'; Jesus even calls them serpents, and the offspring ( children ) of vipers! In Luke's Gospel; when Jesus received the report from the seventy that He had sent out, that 'even the demons are subject to us in your name'; He replied that 'I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions' and, 'over all the power of the enemy'.

As I've stated before; even though I believe that these statements, many of them anyway, have their basis in physicality; I think that in the 'greater spiritual reality' that I often speak of, they are significant and symbolic of events that transpired in, or prior to, the first century anno domini.

So: the next logical question ( which I will strive to answer ) is; 'If the Pharisees, the wicked, foolish people ( babblers ), etc. were symbolized by serpents; why then, did Jesus command his disciples to be 'wise as serpents'?

As I wrote above, the Greek word 'phronimos', translated 'wise', in this enigmatic passage, means to be intelligent, knowledgeable, and prudent, which the Pharisees certainly were, at least outwardly. So when Jesus said these word to His disciples; I think He was reminding them that, even though the pharasitical Jews were correct in their outward observance, although greatly lacking in the inward zeal; that they should follow their outward ( though not inward ) example, in shrewdness, and discretion.

Most importantly, I think; in understanding Jesus words here, then: is to understand the Old Covenant ( Scriptural ) context in which He spoke. By no means am I implying that these words do not apply to the disciples of Christ in this 21st century; only that it is difficult, to say the least, to understand the 'why?' of this passage unless it is understood in the context in which it was spoken and by 'comparing Scripture with Scripture.

By the Grace of Christ,
no longer an 'enemy',
Charles Shank

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Walking in the Valley of Lilies

Have you ever walked through a field of flowers? I can't say if I ever have, but I can only imagine how pleasant it would be to be surrounded by flowers! You could almost liken it to this 'new' life that we have been granted in Christ: In Christ, or through Christ; we have been granted to 'walk' in the presence of the 'Lily of the Valley', and with 'The Rose of Sharon'! The Scriptures tell us that 'He is our all', and that 'all things work together for good to those who love God'; so why do we have such a hard time seeing that? I think that most of the blame for that rests on our feeble, weak, and faithless shoulders. We have a tendency to focus so much on this physical ( real? ) life, that we have a hard time, more often than not, looking past our physical trials and tribulations, and trusting in God's promises, as I quoted above, that all is well with us, not because we feel like it is, not because it looks like it is ( to us ); but because God says that it is!

I'm sure my readers are familiar with the saying 'God said it, I believe it: that settles it', and I'm sure that most are just as familiar with the response 'God said it: that settles it; it doesn't matter whether we believe it or not', which is true enough, because God's Truth is not dependent on, nor relative to, whether we believe it or not! In this physical life which we have been given though, in which we are to 'offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, acceptable to God'; it helps us to offer more freely when we realize, not only that 'all things work together for good to those who love God', but that we have been given 'every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! I think that when we focus our energies on trying to 'save souls', and being the light of the world ( which are not bad things to be concerned with ) because 'Christ could return at any moment', we tend to take our focus off of the spiritual blessings that Christ has 'secured' for us, through the promises, or the Promise of God.

I chose to title this article as I did, for several reasons; the first, and most obvious, I think, that as followers of Christ, or 'little Christs'; we are lilies of the valley, emulating Christ before, and among the 'world'; secondly, that we should 'walk' as in the 'world', yet not of the 'world', as lights, not just for the world, but simply because of what Christ has done for, in, and through us, making us a 'new creation' in Him; as lilies of the valley, and 'walking', or as a sister ( in Christ ) puts it, 'dancing in fields of grace'!

Thirdly, as I intimated above; we are 'walking in the valley of lilies', and 'dancing in fields of grace', not because it always feels or looks that way ( I can personally attest to this ); but because Christ has made it so, and as we begin to 'realize' this, not only does it bring to light a 'new' aspect to the life that we live in this 'tent', but also allows us to have more of an appreciation, I think, of the natural 'good' creation that God has placed us in, for this truly is, for us, 'The Valley of Lilies': a place where we not only can be lights for Christ, but where we ARE lights for, and 'in', Christ; the true 'Lily of the Valley'!

This article could also be entitled, 'How Shall We Then Live?', because that is really the question that we are faced with here. I think that God has given us, through His Word; instructions on how we are to live. We are to live as Christ lived; loving, not only those who love us ( that's natural ), but our enemies as well, 'as much as is possible, living at peace with all men', loving, and serving each other as He loved ( and loves ) us.

I think that many in the church throughout the ages, and even today, have ' forgotten' from where they came, and rather than showing the love that Christ did, not just to friends, but to enemies 'as were some of you', have seemingly shown an attitude of division and exclusion, rather than inclusion and peace, as Christ taught. The reason, I think that we have, in many cases, (seemingly ) 'forgotten' whence we came is because of our focus on the physical 'requirements' mentioned throughout Scripture ( 1o commandments, etc. ) rather than focusing on the spiritual, perfect fulfillment of those 'requirements' in and by Christ, and even more importantly, focusing on the promises ( Promise ) of God, and the subsequent fulfillment of those promises: Jesus Christ!

Having said all this: I must admit that I fail at this every day, sometimes most miserably; but even on my worst day, or your worst day: we need to remind ourselves that the Scriptures tell us that, 'He who promised is True', and 'even if we are faithless, He remains faithful'.

Let us go forth then, 'walking in the valley of lilies', trusting, not in our own good works or righteousness, but in the fulfilled promises that God has given us in Christ!

walking in the 'valley',
and in His grace,
Charles Shank

Monday, October 29, 2007

'As a Child'.............Logical Conclusions

Jesus said that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: one must enter it 'as a child'.

Taken literally; one could almost assume that, unless one believes ( comes to Christ ) when he is a child, he cannot enter the Kingdom ( be in Christ ). This, I think, is not a meaning that anyone in their right mind would ascribe to this saying of Jesus'. In the Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke; Jesus' statement is somewhat obscure, simply stating that 'Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.' ( Mark 10:15 & Luke 18:17 ), but Matthew is a bit clearer when he records our Lord as saying "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." and "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ( Matthew 18:3 & 4). Matthew's elaboration helps us to understand Jesus' meaning a little better, I think; because He tells us that unless one is converted ( changed ) and becomes as a child, trusting in his Father; he cannot enter the Kingdom ( become in Christ ).

I think that some mis-interpret Jesus' statement in the so-called 'Synoptic Gospels' to be speaking of a 'blind faith', or an illogical and senseless belief, but I think that Jesus makes it clear that we must be 'wise as serpents, and harmless as doves', in that we must humble ourselves before our almighty Father, acknowledging ( realizing ) that we cannot enter the Kingdom on our own ( 'not by human means' see also, Daniel 8:25 ), but that we must trust in His Righteousness ( 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' ), in order to enter the Kingdom.

By saying this, I am not 'exalting' logic above it's station, but indeed; I believe that as the divine Logos ( Word ), Jesus wants us to be able to understand what we believe, and why we believe it.
I don't think that God wants us to believe something that doesn't make logical 'sense' to us.

If God didn't want 'us' ( Christians ) to understand what we believe, then why did He spend so much time painstakingly explaining, not only His parables, but His relationship with and to His Father? I think that Jesus made it abundantly clear why He spoke in parables, in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 ( see also Matthew 18:12-14, Mark 12:1-12, and Luke 10:30-37 ): He spoke in parables, some, if not most, hard to understand, that ' seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand................', and because, 'it has been given to you to know ( understand ) the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven..............'

I say all this, to say that we must come to a logical conclusion, speaking as a human being, which Paul often did ( II Corinthians 11:21 , Philippians 3:4 , Romans 6:19 ), in order to believe something. If something doesn't make sense to us, it goes against our God-given nature to believe it. Some may immediately throw out a 'red flag' when they read what I've just said, but really, when you think about it in the context of the Scriptures above; God obviously planned for us to make informed decisions, or else, why create the world at all: why decree His elect Church?

Even though John doesn't record this 'incident, per se, in his Gospel; Jesus' words to Nicodemus are somewhat to this effect, and actually, closer to the context in which John wrote. In John's Gospel: Jesus is recorded as saying
'unless one is born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God'. Note the uniformity, yet difference, between John's record of Christ's instructions on how we must enter the Kingdom, and Matthew's, Mark's, and Luke's.
Note too, that Nicodemus then further asks, showing his Pharisaical understanding of Jesus' words; 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' ( see also Genesis 17:15-21 & Hebrews 11:11-12 ). Jesus, however, corrects his woodenly literal interpretation by telling him that the birth that He spoke of was not a physical, but rather, a spiritual one, which Paul, and others, speak of as the 'new creation'. Jesus, I think; strengthens and confirms through John's record, that it is only through the 'new birth' ( from God's Holy Spirit ) that we can enter God's Kingdom, not through any human means.

Getting 'back on track', here, and condensing what I've said already; Jesus, through the Gospel recorded by Matthew, makes it clear that we are to become as children, not in the sense of a blind, senseless faith, but in humility, acknowledging that God, as our Father, does indeed know best ( even though we sometimes DO exalt our logic above Him ), and acting on that knowledge, by trusting to the 'Logos'( John 1:1 ), rather than our own logic, for a saving 'knowledge ( understanding ) of 'the Truth', which is Jesus Christ!

These are just some thoughts that I had in regards to the seemingly traditional idea of a 'blind' faith and an ignorant, senseless, and woodenly literal interpretation of Scripture.

As always, I welcome criticism, and encourage my readers to 'search the Scriptures daily, to see if these things are so'.

'in' Christ, the 'Logos',
Charles Shank

Friday, October 19, 2007

Is this it? or, 'No more Tears'

Most people, when faced with the view that we are in 'Heaven Now', laugh it off as a ridiculous idea. One of the first questions that a believer in this 'idea' is asked is; 'if this is so, why do we still have sickness and death: why do we still suffer and why are there still tears?' The funny thing is, and it's really not funny at all, is that this question is most often asked during a 'discussion' about the 'Return' of Christ, or 'the Second Coming'. The interesting thing about this is that the view that we now 'inhabit' the heavenlies, even 'Heaven' ( as the abode of God ) itself, is the 'logical conclusion' of a fully, consistently applied preteristic ( past-fulfillment ) hermeneutic.

Unfortunately; there are actually some believers in 'Fulfilled Eschatology' that believe that, although Christ has come, and we now inhabit the 'new heavens and new earth' in a spiritual New Jerusalem ( Hebrews 12:18-23 ), even that God now dwells with, and in us ( His Church ), they seemingly refuse, whether out of fear of being called a 'heretic ( even, God forbid, a non-Christian )', or out of self-imposed ignorance; to take this belief to its 'logical conclusion' and see that we do indeed, as Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians, 'have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ'!

Most people that I hear talking about it, say that it's preposterous that we are in the new heavens and new earth because there is still sickness and death, the wolf has not yet lain down with the lamb, the swords have not yet been beat into plowshares, etc., etc., so forth and so forth. I agree with them to a point, that these things ( on a physical scale ) have not come to fruition in actuality; but gradually, I think, these things, and greater ( John 14:12 ), are happening ( even on a physical scale ) as our lives, and society ( nature even ) are being conformed to His will. The promises, or ( Promise ) of God were NEVER meant to be understood in a ( primarily ) physical sense: although they often promised a physical blessing as a 'perk' of obedience ( Exodus 20:12 ), they ALWAYS pointed ( typologically ) to some greater spiritual truth 'under' the New Covenant ( John 11:25,26, etc. )!

The problem, I think; when one purports that we now inhabit 'the new heavens and new earth'; is that there is a general misunderstanding of what we mean by this phrase. Most of those who believe this, fail to clarify ( I'm guilty of this too! ) that it is only those 'in' Christ who 'inhabit' this 'new', spiritual creation, the new, or holy Jerusalem. Not even a fundamentalist, dispensational Independent Baptist will try to posit that the New Jerusalem is not a part of the new creation ( heavens and earth ), but equate the New Jerusalem with the abode of God ( true ), or 'Heaven'.

When Jesus 'gave up the ghost' ( died ) on the cross at Calvary, uttering those famous last words, 'It is finished', many people like to say that He was 'merely' saying that the purpose for which He came had been accomplished: I agree; but our differences show themselves when we try to define that purpose. I've heard from some that 'Jesus came to die for sin': true enough, most gloriously true, in fact; but it goes so much further than that: Christ came to redeem His people from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 )!

The 'logical conclusion' of saying that Christ came only to proffer salvation is not only astounding, but outright depressing, any way that you look at it!

I've quoted Isaiah 55:11 many times already, to show that when God sends forth His Word ( Jesus ) for a certain Purpose, that His Purpose IS fulfilled; His Word CANNOT return to Him Void, or not having fulfilled that Purpose!

With that said; I think it is abundantly clear that when Jesus uttered those famous last words; He was not saying 'merely' that the possibility of redemption for all men had been manifested, but that His People, for whom He had just suffered the cruelest, most ignominious of deaths, the death of the cross; had been redeemed ( saved ) from their sins!

Here's a question: of how much worth do you suppose God reckoned the precious blood of His only ( begotten ) Son?

One could ( assumably ) argue, "Well, aren't we ALL His people, every single human being on planet earth?' I would answer: yes, and no: in this sense, and only in this sense; all people belong to Him ( are His ) because they are His handiwork ( Compare Psalm 19:1 & Isaiah 45:9 ), and as Paul postulates in his letter to the Romans ( Romans 9:17-23 ), 'What if God, wanting to show His wrath, and make His power ( sovereignty ?) known, endured.............the vessels ( creations ) of wrath, prepared ( created ) for destruction?'

Getting back to the subject at hand: the phrase in question, 'no more tears', is, of course, taken from the famous passages in Isaiah and The Revelation, that 'the Lord their God shall wipe away tears from all faces', and 'God will wipe away every tear from their eyes'. Taken by themselves, these verses could indeed, almost be viewed in a strict literal sense; but in context, even immediately, both passages connect the cessation of death, even of rebuke, with the renewal, or reconciliation, of all things. When read in connexion with passages such as II Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15, it is not hard to see that this phrase is not to be read in the physical, and woodenly literal sense in which it is most often viewed, I'm afraid.

Looking through the OT prophets, we see that David was want to use this terminology to describe, among other things, a deep spiritual longing for restoration to communion with God
( Psalm 42:3 ); in Psalm 80, he reminds his people ( and God ) of the curse of disassociation with Him, that He placed upon Adam and through him, his progeny ( Genesis 3:19 ): in Psalm 116:8, he realizes ( prophetically ) that God has delivered 'my soul from death, my eyes from tears................': Jeremiah, in the context of the New Covenant/New Heavens and Earth, records God as saying 'refrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from tears.............' ( Jeremiah 31:16 ).
Malachi says that the 'tears' of 'God's people' ( Israel ) were not a good thing, but were, in essence what finally separated them from God ( Malachi 2:13 ), in fact, along these lines; the writer of Hebrews reminded them that Esau, though he 'sought it ( repentance ) diligently with tears', he found no place for repentance.

A brother of mine in Arizona has written much on this subject, and I do not wish to 'steal his thunder', but this subject is something that I've thought about lately; the need for clarification, first, when the subject of the presence of God's Kingdom; indeed, God Himself, comes up, and second, when we read, or think of, the phrase 'no more tears'.

There are many instances here, where the word 'tears' is used in a primarily physical sense, but as I've said before: I believe that ALL physical 'pictures' that transpired 'under' the Old Covenant ( including the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ ) were but significant of the greater spiritual 'reality' that we have in Christ, through His conquest of death.

As always; I encourage you to be a Berean, and search 'the Scriptures daily', to see if 'these things' are so. Again, better men ( and women ) than I have written articles on the subject at hand, and I encourage you to peruse those, in conjunction with the understanding granted by the Holy Spirit of Christ.

In His Name,
and in the 'heavenlies',
Charles Shank

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A response to the question, 'Can a Christian sin?'

Does 1 John 1:9 Apply to Believers Today?
response by Tami Jelinek

The question often arises in discussions of the implications of our completely fulfilled redemption:

“What about 1 John 1:9? It says that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How do we apply this verse today if we have already been forgiven and cleansed?”

Hebrews 10:14 tells us that by one sacrifice we have been "perfected forever." Colossians 1:22 tells us that we are now "holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight." 2 Corinthians 5: 21 says that we have been "made the righteousness of God."

Yet many of us grew up in church being taught, as Christians, to practice 1 John 1:9 daily:

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

And thereby, we were taught that God's forgiveness was conditional, and must be re-sought, re-applied, and in effect: re-earned every day. It is no wonder that most Christians, even those calling themselves “preterists", have a hard time believing they have been completely forgiven and entered His glorious rest.

Since we have come to see redemption as fulfilled, and the cross as completely efficacious and victorious, we must revisit formerly “familiar” passages and examine them within this new, Biblical paradigm. So what about 1 John 1:9? Does it apply today? Notice that it reads very much like a gospel message:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Compare it to:

Acts 3:19 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;

John is telling his readers how to be born again. He is preaching the same message Peter was in Acts. We should also keep in mind that later in John's epistle we read:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

One who has not yet been born of God must confess his sins, and he will be forgiven and cleansed. But one who has been born of God cannot sin. There seems to be a clear progression between chapters one and three of John's epistle. Isn't this the definition of a Christian: one who has been forgiven and cleansed?

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, [cleansed from all unrighteousness--1 John 1:9] but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

One might say that John's epistle was written only to those who were already Christians. But look at this wording at the beginning:

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Yes, it was written to the church, but it was a church to which many were being added daily, as people believed "that which [the apostles had] seen and heard" so that they would enter into fellowship with God and His people. In other words, there were clearly people listening who had not yet entered into that fellowship. Otherwise, why would John have said, "we are telling you this so that you may have fellowship with us?"

It is also important to recognize that this particular gospel delivery in 1 John 1 was tailor-made for a Jewish audience. Imagine yourself back there preaching the message of the cross and justification by grace alone through faith to law-abiding Jews. It is reasonable that many of them might have trouble admitting they were “sinners“. So John starts off by saying:

1 John 1:8 If we [we Jews, who have obeyed the law our whole lives] say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (John understood their mindset, and knew what they needed to hear.)


1 John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Also significant is the plural pronoun we, as well as the present continuous tense of the verb confess. This passage cannot be properly understood apart from the covenant change going on in the first century, and the corporate body to which that change was being applied:

2 Corinthians 3:16...when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Notice that as each one (individually) turned to the Lord (or confessed their sins and were forgiven and cleansed) they individually experienced the liberty of the Spirit; and as that process continued, they all (as a body) were being transformed from old covenant glory to new covenant glory, into the image of Christ.

So although the transformation process to which 1 John 1:9 primarily refers came to complete fruition in the first century when the body of Christ was raised incorruptible; it applies today just as the gospel applies today and forever more.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Can a Christian Sin? ( I John 1:8,9 and I John 3:9 )

How should we treat this ( seeming ) contradiction in John's first letter?

First of all: I think that when John, in the first passage, says that we 'call Him ( God ) a liar' if we say that we have no sin, and that if we 'confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'; he is not speaking of those whom God has already forgiven and cleansed, those who have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ ( become 'in' Christ ), but rather, in historical context, to those who 'say they are Jews, but are not', those who trusted in their own 'righteousness' ( Isa. 64:6 ) and even today, of the un-repentant unbeliever.

Secondly; I think that John is speaking of the deadly spiritual sin, the rejection of the Holy Spirit of Christ, the sin that will 'not be forgiven, not in this age or in the age to come' ( Jesus is speaking, respectively, of the Old and New Covenant 'ages' ); rather than the physical sin that Paul speaks of, in his letter to the Romans ( Romans 7 ), among other passages.

In the second passage from John's first letter, that we are looking at here; I think that he is speaking of those who are children of God ( have become 'in' Christ ), having been 'clothed' with the righteousness of Christ, and thus cannot commit the deadly spiritual sin of rejection of, and blasphemy against, the Holy Spirit of Christ, that Jesus Himself spoke of, in Matthew 12. It is obvious to me, and I'm sure to my readers as well, that Christians ( those who have been 'born of God' ) still commit sin in their physical bodies, and anyone who denies that they still sin 'makes God a liar, and the truth is not in him', but is only deceiving ( fooling ) himself.

The only other option that we have here, is that he who still sins ( in the flesh ), has not been born of God, and that we will not be truly 'born of God' until we die physically ( I believe that some actually teach this! )! I don't know about you; but I'd rather say that, although we still sin ( in the flesh ): we have been 'covered' by the blood of Christ ( His righteousness ), thus becoming 'in' Christ, and unable to commit the spiritual sin of rejection of Him and of His Holy Spirit!

In his letter to the Romans ( Romans 6 ); Paul says that we have indeed died ( to sin ), having been 'crucified with Him' and 'buried with Him'. He told them that they should reckon themselves 'dead to sin, but alive to God'. In the next few verses ( 12-15 ) he agrees with John by saying that, even though they were dead to sin, and were 'crucified with Him ( Christ )', they ( and we ) needed to make sure that they did 'not let sin reign' in their ( our ) mortal bodies, but, as he said later in his letter ( Romans 12:1 ), that we should present our 'bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is your ( our ) reasonable sacrifice'. In verse 14, Paul seemingly contradicts himself ( verse 12 ) by saying that 'sin shall not have dominion over you', not, as previously, that we are 'not to let sin reign' in our mortal bodies, but now tells us ( verse 14 ) that 'sin shall NOT have dominion' over us: and why? Because we are 'no longer under Law ( the letter ), but under grace ( the Spirit )'!

Paul begins to wrap up his thoughts, in the next paragraph, by asking the same question that he began this part of his letter with: 'Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?'

The answer obviously is, 'Certainly not!'

Another way to state this question, in terminology that I've already used, is; 'since we are 'covered' by the blood, or Christ's righteousness, and no longer capable of the spiritually deadly sin of rejection, and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of Christ: should we continue to sin in the flesh since we are 'covered'?'

Paul, in his letters; while realizing ( acknowledging ) God as Sovereign, also realizes that man is responsible for his actions in the flesh. James also realizes this, later, in his letter; when he observes that 'faith without works is dead'. Although 'sin shall ( will ) not have dominion' over us, we still are responsible, in actuality , to 'not let sin reign' in our mortal bodies. James tell those who would claim to have faith without 'working' it out in their lives ( Romans 12:1 ), that their 'faith' is no faith at all, but a 'useless' blind trust in the letter of the law, and not the Spirit thereof, which 'gives life'!

I know that this is a 'hard' study, in many ways, and many, I think, hopelessly 'wrangle' it 'to their own destruction' ( not, I hope, in the spiritual sense, but in a purely physical sense ); but my hope is that this little study, along with a deeper spiritual understanding, will help those to see that it is because of God's Sovereignty, not in spite of it, that we can and should ( in other words are responsible to ) 'work out' our salvation by not letting 'sin reign' over our mortal bodies!

In God's Kingdom,
and 'under' His grace,
Charles Shank

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Better 'Focus on the Physical'

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory , Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee, hail Thee as the Son of love.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal glad- Thou'st filled us with the light of Day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays,
Stars, like angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain, bloss'ming meadow, flashing sea;
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of glori'us rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother- all who live in Love are Thine:
Teach us more to love each other, lift us with Thy joy divine.

Now ' we've joined the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reining o'er all, brother-love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us Son-ward, in the triumph song of Life!

I realize that in the past, I've spoken disparagingly of, and even degraded a focus on the physical, but I will strive now, to show how taking our focus off of the physical ( not necessarily a bad thing ), and focusing instead, on the greater spiritual aspects of Life, will allow us to have a better focus, or outlook, on the physical aspects of this life, in Christ.

First, we'll take a look at Paul's words to the Roman believers, in Romans 12:1 & 2. Paul told them to 'present your bodies a living sacrifice.........................acceptable to God...........and be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind'.
Paul, here, is clearly not telling them to stop living as in the world ( I Corinthians 5:9 & 10 ), but rather, to be 'transformed' in their minds/consciences, thus enabling them to truly live their lives in this world in a way that is pleasing ( acceptable ) to God!

I've chosen the words ( revised by this author ) of 'Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee' to start this article, because I think it shows well my purpose here, in that it is impossible as Christians, especially believers in His fulfilled kingdom, to denigrate any part of His wondrous creation, but rather to worship Him through our appreciation of those works and our love and mercy toward those parts of His creation that, to our human eyes, may seem unworthy of our love and mercy.
As I hinted at above, and have said before; it is only *because* we have experienced His love and mercy, and have been 'transformed' in our minds, that we are able to reflect, or show, that love and mercy, to others who were created in His image.

One idea that Paul stresses in his letters is the idea that we should not think of ourselves higher than we ought, or to think ourselves as better than another, for 'God has dealt to each one a measure of faith'.( Romans 12:3 ) Paul gently reminds his brethren in Corinth that they have nothing that they did not receive from another, in other words that they should not boast as though they had not received it, but had gained this gift, or Gift, on their own.
( I Corinthians 4:7 )
He further reminds them, in chapter 8, verse 2, that even though they thought they had the knowledge that they needed, through this Gift, they knew nothing yet as they ought to know.
Several chapters over, Paul then adjures his readers to 'do all to the glory of God' .
( I Corinthians 10:31 )
Earlier in this chapter, Paul also reminds his readers to seek 'each one the other's well being', a thought which he echoes a little later, in his letter to the Philippians, where he told those brethren to look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others.
( Philippians 2:3 & 4 )
Back in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he reminds them that they were not discerning the Lord's body (others in the church ), by thinking of themselves before others, in eating to the full before those who may not be as fortunate as they ( I Corinthians 11: 20-22, 29 & 33 ).

Paul himself realized that even his knowledge, or 'sufficiency', was not of himself; as he told the Corinthians in his second letter, but that his sufficiency was of God, who alone enabled him to 'accomplish' his ministry ( see also Ephesians 2:8-10 ).

On a more personal note here, and I'm sure that others can relate; when I try to do something on my own, I usually have a harder time than if I remember that God is the One who gives me the strength to do anything at all; thus taking my focus off of the daunting physical before me, and enabling me even thus to view ( focus on ) the physical in a better light, 'realizing' that it's not up to my feebleness, but that His power is what enables me in the first place.

Along these lines; this human existence, with all the trials and tribulation of everyday life becomes alot easier to 'grin and bear' when we begin to 'realize' and understand that, since we are 'covered' by the Righteousness of Christ and are thus 'under' His grace; we can thus focus, once more on the physical aspects of this human, physical existence, and the weightier matters of the law of Christ, which are 'justice, mercy, and faith' ( Matthew 23:23 ).

I think too, that when we 'realize' that, in reading passages like 'the love chapter' ( I Corinthians 13 ), it is Christ's righteousness ( imputed to us-Romans 4:11 ) that enables ( I John 4:19 ) us to love our neighbor as we ought; we, through the 'clearing' of our conscience, are able thus, to 'focus' our attention, not on our own physical ability ( or inability ) to love God, and our neighbor as ourselves, but on the spiritual, and thus physical 'ability' that God has granted us to love Him, and our neighbor.

As always, my hope and prayer is that my readers will not only be Bereans, and 'search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so', but that they will begin to 'realize' ( as I am, slowly ) that 'these things' are so, that we have been given life ( to share ) in Christ, and that we have not only the 'ability', but the responsibility, to love as we were ( and are ) loved!

In His Kingdom and glory,
Charles Shank

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Middle Wall of Separation

Reading through the book of Isaiah, chapter 25, this morning; I was 'hit' with the thought that the 'middle wall of separation' described in Ephesians 2, was typified by God's creation, in Genesis 1:6 & 7, of the firmament, or, the 'barrier' between the physical heavens and the physical earth.

No: I'm not denying that God DID create a firmament between the aforementioned places, nor am I implying that Gen. 1 is 'merely' allegorical, and not historically accurate ( although it is NOT; I believe, scientifically precise! ), I'm only saying that every 'event' recorded in Scripture was written for a Purpose, that Purpose; I believe, being to 'point' us towards a deeper, spiritual Truth!

As believers in 'Fulfilled Eschatology' and in particular, consistent users of a grammatico/historical hermeneutic; we believe that the 'new heavens and new earth' promised in such Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 65 and Jeremiah 31, and in II Peter 3 and described in Revelation 21 & 22, are speaking of, not a physically new creation, but the deeper spiritual truth of the new creation in Christ, the Church, His elect ones, so it should not be too much of a 'stretch' to purport that the original, physical creation, described covenantally and allegorically in Gen 1 & 2 was atypical of the new, spiritual creation in Christ!

Speaking, I believe, of the Church; Isaiah records, in Isaiah 25:7, that God would 'destroy the surface of the covering cast over all people', thereby removing 'the veil that is spread over all nations', the veil that is 'taken away in Christ' ( II Corinthians 3:14 ).

If Genesis 1-2 is a covenantally historical description of the original creation, and the finality of Christ's Parousia in AD70 was the passing away of the original 'creation', as per II Peter 3, and the fullness of the new ( Paul describes the inauguration of this in II Corinthians 5:17 ), then why could not the creation of the 'firmament' in Genesis 1, be typical to the veil that Isaiah and Paul describe?

In the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70 ( and especially when you look back prior to that, in the events described in Matthew 27:51, signifying the tearing down of that 'wall' that Paul talked about, and remember that the veil that was torn signified the separating 'wall', or the firmament, between earth and sky, or heaven/Heaven, see also Exodus 26:31.), the last vestige of that 'wall' was destroyed, thereby removing the 'covering cast over all people, or the firmament that separated the 'waters', or blessings, of heaven from those of the earth.

More could probably be written on this subject, and possibly will be, but for now, and the sake of time, I will end with the prayer that these thoughts will be a blessing to my readers, but; as always: I adjure you to be a Berean, and 'search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so'.

May God bless you richly in His Kingdom and Glory,
Charles Shank

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Tree ( s ? ) of the Garden, and the Birth of the Conscience

I've been thinking for some time, and listening to some recent sermons ( # 1 & 2 ) by one of my friends brought it back to my remembrance; working on the assumption that the story chronicled was primarily allegorical, though most probably based on factual historical events; that the tree of life mentioned in Genesis 2:9, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, mentioned in the same verse, are one and the same tree!

Right off, some more conservative and traditional people would most likely object, saying something like, "The Bible says that there were two different trees", or "God is not the Author of evil, therefore since the tree of life typifies, or typified, Christ, all throughout Scripture; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must typify, or have typified an opposite, or the fallen spiritual being, known ( traditionally ) as Satan".

I will explain now, why I've made this interesting, and maybe even frightening statement.

Going to the first mention of these two ( as is traditionally thought ) trees, that God planted in the midst of His garden, ( This could bring up another interesting subject, or, as I've said before, 'open another can of worms'! ) in the second chapter of Genesis;

8 "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the eye and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

I'll skip a few verses here.

15 "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'."

The next time we hear of either ( ? ) tree, is in the next chapter ( 3 ); from which I'll quote, starting with verse 1;

1 "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden"?' 2 And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' 4 Then the serpent said to the woman,'You shall not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'."

My thinking here, was that Eve mentioned only one tree that was 'in the midst' of the garden; whereas the first mention of any certain tree, or trees, was back in verse 9 where, at first glance, it would seem like two separate trees are mentioned, and then, in verse 17, God told Adam that he was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, else he would die. Let me submit, though, concerning the first mention of the trees, or tree; that the latter part of verse 9 might be a sort of a 'biblical parallelism', which I have mentioned before to my readers, and to others as meaning that the Author, or author says the same thing twice, in two different ways. I think that, in the context of the whole passage, and other Scriptures that I'll bring to your remembrance as we continue; that this may be the case here.

Now, about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: we need not remind ourselves that this tree, if indeed different than the tree of life, was planted by the Lord God, as we see in verses 8 & 9, cited above, 'The Lord God planted a garden............and out of the ground the Lord God made every tree that is good for food and pleasant to the eyes". Let's remember too, that in verse 6 of the following chapter ( 3 ), that Moses ( traditional author of Genesis ) records that the fruit of the tree in question was 'pleasant to the eyes' and further 'a tree desirable to make one wise', which according to David and Solomon, in the Psalms and Proverbs, and later, Christ, in the Gospels, that wisdom is spiritual food unto true life, or life ( eternal ) in and with Christ and God!

Also remember, in connection with these trees being planted by God, that it is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that;

" Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good................"

Here's a good question; how did Adam know which of these ( two? ) trees 'in the midst' of the garden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, if indeed there were two separate trees?
One might say, 'God must have told him"; but if indeed God did tell him, why did Moses not record it? Do you think the tree looked so different from all the other trees of the garden that Adam would have remembered which was which? Eve seemed to imply that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the center, or in a prominent place, 'in the midst' of the garden: so was the tree ( singular ) that she mentioned, planted in a more prominent area of the garden, so that there would be no mistake, or did the the tree have a different kind of fruit on it than all the other trees around it?

Ok: So that was more than one question ( and there are so many more that could be asked ), but it just goes to show that a strictly literal, and scientifically factual reading of this whole passage ( Genesis 1-3 ) brings up so many needless ( and useless? ) questions!

From my understanding; the traditional interpretation of this passage is that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the 'wisdom' gained thereby, was, quite 'simply', the ability to know the difference ( for one's self ) between good and evil, in essence, the ability to judge for one's self what is good and what is evil. I am fairly satisfied with this understanding, but I think that it is by no means comprehensive of the full import of the words of this passage!

Here's another good question for you; did the serpent really lie to Eve??

Well; yes and no!

Yes: he told Eve that they would not 'surely die'; but then he told her that 'you will be like God, knowing good and evil'. Look at Genesis 3:22, and the first part of the verse;

"Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.......' "

That much was true: my friend, in his sermon ( #3 ), recalled the likeness of the temptation of Eve in the garden, to the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, and I thought that he made a very good observation there. Without going into why God told them that they would 'surely die' the day that they partook of the tree ( another can of worms could be opened here ), and then later, after they did exactly like they were told not to ( just like most children ); He agreed with the serpent that they were now like God, knowing ( Heb. yada-to ascertain by seeing ) 'good and evil'.

To get back to my original purpose for this paper, and my argument that there were not ( necessarily ) two separate trees, one called the tree of life, the other the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, planted, by God, in the 'midst' of the Garden: I now have a better understanding ( I think ), thanks to my friend's sermon ( #3 ), of the purpose of the temptation of Eve with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 'a tree desirable to make one wise'; which brings up another good point; even though Eve, like her daughter Sarai, after her, went about it the wrong way; I think that she correctly understood that this 'knowledge of good and evil' which was forbidden them, would make one wise ( but not unto salvation: that was to come later through Christ-who was signified by the tree of life, interestingly enough! ).

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was, I believe, as Eve correctly ascertained, a tree that could make one 'wise'. As I pointed out though, she ( they ) made the same mistake that countless others have made, in thinking that God's promise ( of life ) was obtainable by human means. Let's look at a few examples from the Old Covenant Scriptures:

Genesis 15:4 "And behold, the word of the Lord came to him saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who shall come from your own body shall be your heir'." context

Let's skip over to the next chapter for a bit more;

Genesis 16:1 :Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her'. And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai." context

First; we have the promise of God, just like with Abram and Sarai

Genesis 25:23 " And the Lord said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'." context

Skipping over several chapters now, to another example of faithless impatience;

Genesis 27:19 "Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me'." context

Now, in reading these examples; one must understand that these acts of impatience were ordained by God, like all things, for His good purpose.

Back to my thoughts on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; First of all, the knowledge of good and evil would imply the ability to judge, would it not? Let me quote now, from Genesis 32:

28 "And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.......'" context

I'm sure that most, if not all of my readers are aware of this; but according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the Hebrew word, or name, Yisra-el means, 'he will rule as God'! Pretty interesting, when you think too, of Israel ( as God's chosen people ) being typical of the Church ( God's Elect ).

Young's Analytical Concordance basically agrees with this, saying that the Hebrew meaning of Yisra-el is 'ruling with God'.

Here's something interesting, though: Zondervan's NIV Exhaustive Concordance has Yisra-el as meaning 'he struggles with God', which is interesting; because, not only does it fit in better with the context of the renaming, it also conveys thoughts that are reminiscent of John 5:18 and Philippians 2:6.

Returning once again, to our topic: it is interesting that the forbidden tree is named 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. From this tree then would assumably come, not only the knowledge of evil ( which, I think, is where we tend to throw the spotlight ), but also, the knowledge of good would come from eating of this tree!To illustrate my point further; the Hebrew word rah, that is translated 'evil' here, simply means 'bad', as in 'something distasteful, unpleasant, etc. It can mean 'wicked' ( certainly so if applied to God's distaste or displeasure! ), but not ( necessarily ) mean 'wicked', as in 'wrongful', etc. Several examples, from the book of Ecclesiastes, are;

6:1 "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: 2 A man to who God has given riches and wealth and honour, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desire; yet God does not give him power to eat of it, but a foreigner consumes it. This is vanity, and it is an evil affliction." context

9:3 "This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all..." context

From the book of Isaiah, chapter 45;

7 "I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create calamity
( KJV says 'evil' here ); I the Lord do all these things.' context

One last reference, from Jeremiah 24;

3 "Then the Lord said to me, 'What do you see, Jeremiah?' And I said, 'Figs,the good figs very good: and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad'." ( In every instance of the word 'bad' here; KJV translates rah, as 'evil' ) context

We can see that, as I alluded to, most of the context's of these passages that I just quoted contain usages of the word 'evil', that most definitely have a direct connotation of 'wickedness', 'sinfulness', but we can also see, from the passages that I quoted, and others like them, that the use of the word 'evil' ( Heb. rah ) does not ( necessarily ) connote 'wicked', 'sinful', etc.

By saying, above, that 'also, the knowledge of good would come from eating of this tree!'; I didn't mean to imply that Adam had no knowledge of good, before he ate of the tree: he most certainly did! However; when they ate of the tree, which they were forbidden to do, they became aware ( conscious ) that they were naked; a fact of which neither seemed to have noticed, before they partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:25 "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

Interesting, that even though, as the story traditionally goes; God 'walked' with ( dwelt with? ) Adam and Eve, in the Garden; Moses still records them as being 'naked'. I'm not denying the historicity of the account; just noting how Adam and Eve's nakedness before the Fall was a picture, or type, of the nakedness of the unbeliever before God, until Christ clothes hiim in His own righteousness.

Genesis 3:7 "And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made coverings for themselves."

Most importantly here, I think, is the last phrase: "and made coverings for themselves". They knew ( from eating of the tree of knowledge? ), whether instinctively, or by some other means
( ? ), that they needed to be covered; however, like most children with their parents, they also figured that, since they had disobeyed God and found out something that they didn't want to know ( they weren't ready for it! ), they had better provide their own coverings, and just try to avoid 'Daddy' for awhile! As I can personally attest; this doesn't work; for sooner or later, daddy comes calling; 'where are you?', and the 'jig's' up!

Maybe a better way to put it, would be: knowledge ( or consciousness ) of good would also come from eating of this forbidden tree: For one thing, Adam learned how good he really had it, in the Garden, where he walked ( and presumably, talked? ) with his Creator, where his food was more pleasantly and easily obtainable ( no sweat, man!-metaphorically speaking ), and he wasn't (presumably ) 'bothered' by wild animals. For another, since he was 'booted' out of the Garden, his 'race' was propagated throughout the known world ( his 'world' ).

Now, putting two and two together, or tree and tree, as the case may be: take a look at this familiar passage, in the book of Numbers, chapter 21;

8 "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." context

First of all, and I think everyone would agree with me; this passage ( 6-9 ) is typical of Christ on the Cross, in a figurative way, but what I think is interesting, is that these people were 'saved' ( physically ) by gazing upon, with faith in God's promise. the very image of their destroyer, or 'enemy'.

Secondly; I think Scripture itself, shows us that God is both the Punisher of 'evil' ( in the sinful sense ) deeds and the Rewarder of good deeds. In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, He shows this;

30 "'Therefore, I will judge you,O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways', says the Lord God" context

Earlier, in the book of Isaiah, chapter 60, God instructed Isaiah to write;

10b "For in My wrath, I struck you, but in My favor, I have had mercy on you." context

Isaiah also writes, of God, in chapter 59;

18 "According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, recompense to His enemies......" context

Ezra realized this, in the 9th chapter of Ezra, when he cried to the Lord;

13 "And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since you our God have punished us less than our sins deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, 14 Should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?" context

In the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy; God makes it very clear;

39 "Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand." context

When taken in the context of Numbers 2:6-9, I think it's pretty clear that God alone is Judge, Jury, and Executioner; for as Moses records above, 'I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal".

So, were there actually two different trees, one leading to life, and the other leading to the knowledge of good and evil?

It is my opinion that the account that we read in Genesis 1-3, although undoubtedly based on historical events, is not a scientifically accurate account, and most definitely not to be taken literally. Therefore, I have no problem saying that the 'trees', as they are presented in Genesis 2 & 3, are 'both' meant to represent, or were typical, of Christ.

Having said all this; let us now look at the word 'knowledge' as it found in the scriptures;

Exodus 31:3 "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship," context

Numbers 24:16 "The utterance of him who hears the words of God,and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open:" context

Deuteronomy 1:39 "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it." context

Think of this passage in connection with this one, in Isaiah;

Isaiah 7:13 "Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 14 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings." context ( especially compare 7:16 & 8:4 )

Psalm 19:2 "Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge." context
( biblical parallelism )

Psalm 53:4 "Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?" context

Psalm 94:10 "He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge? context ( biblical parallelism )

Psalm 119:66 "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe your commandments."

Psalm 139:6 "Such knowledge is to wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it." context

Proverbs 1:7 & 28,29 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction" ( biblical anti-parallelism )
28 "Then they will call on Me, but I will not answer; they will seek Me diligently, but they will not find Me. 29 Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord." context ( biblical parallelism )
Proverbs 2:6 & 10, 11 "For the Lord gives wisdom: from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." 10 "When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 11discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you." context

Ecclesiastes 1:18 "For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow" context

Ecclesiastes 2:26 " For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind." context

Ecclesiastes 7:12 "For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense; but the excellency of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it." context

Isaiah 5:13 "There fore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst." context

Isaiah 11:2 "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him' the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." context

Isaiah 45:20 "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped fro the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save." context

Isaiah 53:11 "He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities." context

As we can see from this short list of Old Covenant usages of the Hebrew word da'ath, that saving knowledge comes from God alone, and His Spirit, and that He administers it when, where, and to what extent He pleases! David understood this: is son Solomon, although he realized that knowledge was not ( necessarily ) an evil, it could be wearisome and grievous! Solomon further tells us, and then God, later, through Isaiah, that the knowledge that God gives, through Christ and His Spirit alone, is the essence of salvation, and that those who do not have it, are without God!

Let's look now, at some of the Greek usages of 'knowledge' in what is called the New Testament;

As we can see, the two Greek words, epignosis and gnosis ( 1922 & 1108 ) are the most approximate in meaning to the Hebrew da'ath, having both a connotation of familiarity, or intimate perception.

Luke 11:52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." context
( for more context on this verse and passage, read Matthew 23:13 )

Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;" context

Romans 11:33 "O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out." context

Romans 15:14 "Now I myself am confident concerning you my brethren, that you
are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another." context

I Corinthians 1:4&5 "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge." context

I Corinthians 8:1 "Now concerning things offered to idols: We all know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." context

I Corinthians 12:7&8 "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all, 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit," context

I Corinthians 13:2 "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand (1492 ) all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." context

II Corinthians 4:6 "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." context

II Corinthians 10:4&5 "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," context

Ephesians 1:17 "( I pray ) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him," context

Ephesians 4:13 "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" context

Philippians 3:8 "Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered all things, and counted them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." context

Colossians 1:9 "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;" context

Colossians 3:9&10 "Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him," context

I Timothy 2:3&4 "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 desires all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." context

II Peter 1:2&3 "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue," context

As we can see from the examples we've looked at ( and there are many more ), gaining knowledge is not ( necessarily ) a bad thing, in fact, from most of the examples that I've shown, knowledge ( of God, spiritual things ) is a good thing: as with most things, it depends on how you choose to use that knowledge: if you choose to use that knowledge to become intimate with God in Christ, then you've chosen wisely. On the other hand; if you decide to use that knowledge to become intimate with the things that displease God, as Paul told the Romans;

Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind..............." context

It's interesting, as I noted above, in the Luke passage; that if you compare the two gospel accounts of Jesus' saying, it looks like He is equating the knowledge of God with the kingdom of heaven! That may, however; be a subject for another time, and possibly another paper.
Paul realized, as he told the Corinthians, that knowledge, in itself, can be a good thing; for instance, in chapter 8 of his first letter, when combined with love ( of God ), and he echoes this again in chapter 13 of the same letter. In his second letter to the Corinthians, and then to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and in his first letter to Timothy; he reiterates the fact that it is the knowledge of God that, as I've also said in a previous paper; brings life, and true life at that!

You might be asking yourself at this point ( if not earlier ): "What does it matter, whether there were two separate trees in the midst of the garden ( as a literal interpretation would tell us), or even, maybe, whether or not it has any bearing if the account written down for us, in Genesis, chapters 1-3 are a covenantal, rather than a scientific, physically accurate history of the Creation and the Fall?" Well: I think it does; and here's why:

Many Orthodox 'traditionalists' would say that it does indeed matter if one says that the Creation account in Genesis 1, to say nothing of the mentions of the creation of the Garden in chapter 2, and the Fall in chapter 3; for one thing, because if we don't 'swallow it, hook, line, and sinker', no matter how weird that may seem; we might be branded 'liberals', or even worse, 'heretics'! I think however, with a more careful study of the covenant context of passages like Genesis 1:1-3, and remembering the historical scene in which it was written ( at least 2,000 years after the 'fact' ), it should not be too hard to see that it was not meant to be read in a 'wooden' literal scientifically physical sense.

As I mentioned earlier, I think that contextually we need to realize that God alone is Judge and that He righteously judges evil works with an everlasting punishment ( not in the sense that it never ends, but in the sense that it is final, never to be reprieved ), and good works ( through Christ alone ) with a never ending reward, His Presence!

I spoke earlier of the trees of Genesis 2 & 3 being the same tree; that was kind of 'tongue-in-cheek' because obviously, if the whole account had more of a covenantal, rather than a scientifically accurate meaning, then there were not ( necessarily ) any special trees in the 'midst' of the Garden, one bearing fruit that would 'make one wise', and 'like God', and one that would give immortality. I think that the two 'trees' were both representative of Christ, in that if we try to make ourselves wise, as Eve foolishly thought, we will 'surely die', but if we 'Come................and take of the water of life, freely', which Christ alone can give, then we have partaken of the Tree, the Bread, the Water of Life!

I pray that this little study will be edifying to it's readers and glorifying to God alone, who is worthy of all our praise!

In His Kingdom, and basking in His glorious Presence,
Charles Shank