The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Gentile Baptism, Part One

By my writing here today, I aim to destroy once and for all the dangerous heretical and pharisaically Gnostic notion that one MUST be baptized in water in order to be saved, or gain entrance into the Body of Christ!

I will not do this!

The main reason I will not do this is because I cannot! I may be able to prove beyond 'a shadow of a doubt' that baptism in water, beginning in the Old Testament priestly and sacrificial washings, was only ever a symbolic and ritual sign pointing toward the Priestly washing and Sacrificial Purification of the Body of Christ, True Adam and True Israel! I may even be able to prove to anyone with the sense to see it, that the baptism of which Jesus often spoke was not water baptism! ( Yes, the baptism of which Peter spoke WAS water baptism, but we may get to that later ) Paul spoke of 'one baptism' ( Ephesians 4:5 ). Whether this 'one baptism' was the baptism of the Holy Spirit of God, or whether it was/is baptism by immersion ( being whelmed ) in water has been in question of late, although it should not be! The very notion that any action of ours, whether done in faith or not, could ever save anybody is dangerous at best, and gnostically heretical and damnable, at worst!

Some may say that water baptism is a beautiful picture of one's entrance into communion with the Body of Christ; it surely is that, but is this baptism necessary for one to enter in to the Body of Christ? Is it necessary to go through the motion of symbolically washing in water in order for the Holy Spirit to baptize ( whelm ) one's heart? Some would say that it is, and worse yet, would wreak havoc with Scripture to prove it!

One might ask at this juncture, 'is it really all that important, whether or not one believes it is necessary to administer the sign of water baptism, and the other doesn't?' Well, yes, of course it is! To believe that one must still receive the sign of water baptism is to call God a liar! 'Whoah', you might say, 'isn't that a bit extreme?' No, it is not, and here's why! To argue for the necessity of water baptism is to say that the Spiritual ( internal ) Reality to which this Natural ( external ) Sign pointed has not yet appeared! Either that, or man really does order his Creator around like a dog!

Why do some find it necessary to lay loads like this on other men's backs? 'We are willing to bear this burden', they say, and indeed they are, but is it a burden that MUST be borne? Is it not just a leftover, continued tradition of men, one that reeks of legalism, and hearkens back to the Pharisees of Jesus' day? Did Jesus ever give a plain indication that one ( individually ) needed to be baptized in water in order to enter the Kingdom ( be saved )? Some would say yes, but it is far from plain!

Peter's 'discourse' on baptism, found in and around I Peter 3:21, has been the subject of some controversy, and remains so, I believe, to this day. Is Peter actually saying that water baptism ( itself ) saves, and even if so, was he speaking of it saving individuals? Noah was saved, with his family, through water, although not actually BY the water; they were safe and dry, INSIDE the ark! Touching on an example that I remember hearing from my childhood, Moses led the children of Israel through the Sea on dry land; they were saved THROUGH water, but not BY it, however the Egyptians WERE destroyed BY it; Moses ( a type of Christ ) parted the waters for the children of Israel, and thus saved them! Paul recounts this event in I Corinthians 10:1 & 2.

Did Paul advocate water baptism? It is likely that he did, for Paul was a good Jew, even 'a Pharisee of the Pharisees'! We must understand several things though, about his ministry; Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, not that he abandoned his own people, but his ministry was primarily to the Gentiles. Can you blame him after his own people tried to kill him so many times and rejected his message? He understood though, how that first ( covenant ) was set up; he understood that the sign of baptism was necessary to show the Gentile believers that they too had entered the Promised Land, just like those 'children' we just spoke of.

We see in the book of Acts ( 9:26-39 ) that Philip baptized ( in water ) an officer from an Ethiopian court, a Gentile believer. From this account, it is not clear why the officer thought he should be baptized upon believing, but I think it is safe to say that Philip did not suggest it. There is no indication that he did, and this would make sense, as he himself was most likely a Gentile convert.

Now, in Peter's case, as evidenced in the conversion and baptism of Cornelius, and in Peter's instructions to the assembly in Acts 2:38, water baptism was most definitely what was in mind. Again, we see here more evidence of Gentile believers being baptized, not because doing so would save them, but to show externally that they too, as Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit. Note that Peter's question was very like the question that the Ethiopian officer asked in Acts 9, as well.

Did not Jesus tell His disciples to 'go into all the world..............baptizing them................'? Well, He most certainly did, and while this 'Great Commission' was carried out in the first century ( 'you will not have gone through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes'-Matthew 10:23 ), it is not as clear that Jesus meant for His disciples to go around baptizing in water. His words could well simply mean, 'go and overwhelm them with the Good News, of which I am the Vessel'! The Greek 'baptizo', as translated by James Strong, simply means 'to whelm'. This can be done through means of water, but just as well, and better, through 'the washing of water by the Word' ( Ephesians 5:26 )!

John indeed baptized, pretty clearly, with water! Why did John do this though? That is the question that we must ask ourselves! Why did he find it necessary to travel that far outside the city? Why that location in particular; do you think maybe he could have found a body of water closer to the city that would have done just as well? Look at the spot that he chose; the Jordan River, barrier between Jew and Gentile, if I'm not mistaken. Eastern border, anyway, of the Promised Land; John was bringing them through the Sea again, into the Promised Land, a re-baptism of sorts, urging them to 'be saved from this wicked generation'! Even so, John told them that he baptized them with water to show their repentance, but Jesus Himself, of Whom he was but the herald, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire!

There is more that could be written here, but in fact I do not wish to bore my readers, and I have already written on the subject; you may refer to these other articles if you wish. It is my wish, indeed our wish, that you would go over this material, prayerfully, and see for yourself that this baptism by water was simply for those who lived during the transition period between the 'ages', between the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the Son of God and His Return in Judgment on His Covenant people.

There are those who would say that when the sign of water baptism is administered, it is not just a 'sign' of the inward Reality, it is that Reality itself! This is so wrong that we can only begin to discover or relate why it is so wrong! Can we actually move the Hand of God, guaranteeing an inward change ( on His part ) by an outward action ( on our part )?

We will investigate further in our next study!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is the ( Institutional ) Church Dead?

When the church begins to conform to society, it has become just another social club!

As an institution, the purpose of the Church was to transform Society! Reading the History of the Institutional Church, one can see that to varying degrees this was a successful mission, but of late ( 500-1,000 years ) one may wonder, into whose image was Society transformed? Did the Church ( IC ) really fulfill its true Mission, or failing in its mission to transform Society into its image, has it begun to conform to the image of a rebellious and God-less Society?

Many churches today are run more like businesses, with corporate CEOs rather than than spiritual leaders! This is only one of the many ways in which the church has conformed to 'the way of the world'! Many pastors today are worried more about the financial health of their congregations ( numbering in the  thousands to tens of thousands ), more concerned with 'the bottom line' than in leading their congregation to search out the truth of the matter.

Another area is the matter of accepting the homosexual, lesbian, and transgender lifestyle as 'only natural'. Whether you believe that God created an LGBT 'gene' or not, the Scriptures are pretty clear how God instituted certain things ( marriage, for instance ). Marriage was not instituted between a man and a man, a woman and a women, men were not created to be compatible, physically or otherwise, with any but the opposite sex! Now, can a man love another man, a woman love another woman, and so on and so forth? Of course they can, and this is only naturally; God created us to love each other! Did He make a mistake and place a man in a woman's body, or vice-versa? To claim to be transgender is to say that God made a mistake!

Not to get too far off track, many churches ( and more everyday ) have excepted this perversion as natural, and not only that, have begun to 'marry' such individuals, and even ordain them to positions of leadership! It is now just as acceptable in many evangelical churches today to say 'it's the just way God made them', as it is in society at large. In fact in some areas, society at large has adopted a better position on some of these issues than the church ( IC ) has!

One area in which the Institutional Church succeeded in its mission ( to mold Society in its own image ) is in the use ( or misuse ) of the biblical injunction, 'judge not, lest ye be judged' ( Matthew 7:1 ). Society ( to a large extent), concerning the LGBT community especially, freely uses this injunction to condemn those who are not open-minded enough to accept these perverts for what they are. In this area as well, the IC has conformed, yet again, to the image that it presented itself in, to society! Talk about kicking your own ass!

What the church ( IC ) taught society has come full circle, biting its own head off, and devouring itself!

Beginning I don't know when, the church taught that we should not judge those who are outside, based on a misreading of Jesus' injunction. Somehow, this teaching filtered into a thirsty Society, and opened the gates for all kinds of biblical perversion to become acceptable and even encouraged. Now the Church has begun to conform to this false image which itself sought to transform Society by in the first place!

What irony, what lamentable irony!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Perfect Law of Liberty

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
I Corinthians 13:10

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Jeremiah 31:33

Liberty, according to most any dictionary out there, is the ability to freely choose, not through some outside force or arbiter, but through the exercise of one's own free will. Like Law & Grace, some would probably say that Law and Liberty are two opposing ideas! Law and freedom seem like they would be in opposition, right? If there is an external Law saying that you cannot do a certain thing, then wouldn't you say that hampers your free will just a bit? Sure, you have the free will to disobey that Law, but then that usually hampers your Liberty! 

Law, though often external, and outside of oneself, is in this case written on our hearts! The Law as given through Moses on Sinai, and written on tablets of stone, was simply a shadow, in part, of what was to come, that perfect Law, written on our hearts by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25

Not much earlier in this same chapter, James talked about 'the implanted word'. This is that same Word/Law which the prophet Jeremiah wrote of as being written on our hearts. Because this Law is now written on our hearts, and internally implanted on our conscience, we can now truly obey this Law with Liberty, since it is an integral part of us ( 'in Him we live, move, and have our being'-Acts 17:28 )!

Previously, we have explored the notion that Jesus was the Law of God incarnate, that He not only filled up ( fulfilled ) the Law, but that He, in His Flesh, was actually the embodiment of the Law! As the Body of Christ, and in that sense, the corporate Son of God, we are, in that sense, a Law unto ourselves, that Law being the Law of Love!

We have the Scriptures, our English Bible, in various forms, to which we might turn for instruction in righteousness ( I Timothy 3:16 ), and it is usually a good thing that we do, because there is such a cacophony of voices telling us what we should and should not do, what we do and do not want, that we might quickly become confused and unsure of what voice to listen to!

Though we have the Scriptures in written form, with 'the implanted word' being written on our hearts, as God promised through Jeremiah, one might wonder then, 'Do we even need the Bible any longer?' Well, yes! James also writes later on in his epistle, 'faith without works is dead?' Although it is truly Faith Alone that saved us ( 'not of yourselves.......'-Ephesians 2:8 ), God works together with us, by our works proving our faith. Through our religious knowledge ( in action ) of His Written Word, we thus prove the inner work of the Holy Spirit, and the Law written on our hearts.

What shall we do with this 'perfect law of liberty'? Shall we become libertines, and do as Israel did in the times of the Judges, 'every man doing what was right in his own eyes', since we are, in effect, a Law unto ourselves? How much Liberty would there be in that? No True Liberty, for in doing whatever we wanted, we would be hampering, or outright denying the Liberty of another! With the Perfect, or complete Law of Liberty, as found in Jesus the Christ, the Law of Love, there is no hampering or denying another's liberty! 'Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed'; conversely, if the Son does not set you free, you are not truly free! 

There is no freedom, no true liberty apart from Christ!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, October 11, 2013

Called to Perfection; The Community of Divinity

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Ecclesiastes 12:7

 I said, “You [ are ] gods,
And all of you [ are ] children of the Most High.
Psalm 82:6

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. 

Hosea 11:1

'Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect' ( Matthew 5:48 ). The Greek 'τέλειος', transliterated 'teleios' has more a meaning of completeness than of the way that we think of perfection today. When we say that someone is perfect, whether its in our own eyes or in God's sight, we are usually saying that one is with sin, or flaw, as in 'a perfect body'. In the latter half of Psalm 101:2, David writes, 'I will walk within my house with a perfect heart'. Again, the Hebrew 'תֹּם', transliterated 'tom' has more of a definition of 'completeness' than what we usually think of as 'perfection'. Now, please don't get me wrong here: I am not trying to say that we should not strive for the modern definition of perfection, as found in phrases like, 'Adam & Eve were created perfect'. We should always be concerned with doing right, with living up to the completeness, or perfection in which we, as the Body of Christ, have been called and made!

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, 
and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:23

 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, 
to an innumerable company of angels,
 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ who are ] registered in heaven, 
to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 
to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,
 and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than [ that of ] Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24

Biblical history is linear; there was a Beginning, and there was an End! In the Book of Revelation, we see this 'Alpha & Omega'. God began by 'creating', and ended by decreating, yet creating anew, in a very perfect chiasm. The more we study and search things out, the more we are convinced by the Hebrew usage that the creation account in Genesis 1 &2 was not that of the universe and of humankind ( from their inception ), but of 'the Land', and then 'Man on the Land'. God instituted His Covenant with Creation by beginning in one small area, what is commonly know as 'The Cradle of Civilization'. From there, the knowledge of God spread outward to the known world, which, at the time was the Mediterranean region, in particular, 'the Land', more commonly known as Israel, or Palestine. From there, this knowledge spread out further, to the far reaches of what became the Roman Empire, and through succeeding empires, throughout the whole world, and every nation under heaven!

The writer to the Hebrews told his readers that they had arrived at this end, the eschatological Hope that had been foretold throughout Scripture; they had attained perfection, not through any merit of their own, but by 'the blood of sprinkling'. Through this Baptism of the Holy Spirit of God, through the sacrifice of the Christ, the had been 'made perfect', or complete, they had reached the End, which was the Dwelling of God with and in His People, His True Temple! This had been pictured and foreshadowed throughout the History of Israel, Beginning with the Garden of Eden, and Ending with the destruction of Herod's Temple in 70AD, the last man-made vestige of God's Temple. Now was the Time for the Temple 'made without hands' ( Daniel 2:45:58 ). to be revealed. This Temple, in and through Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is the Body of His People, 'Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice'!

'This is inconsistent', you might say, 'with other pieces you have written on the subject of 'All God's Children'!' Is it? You may judge for yourself ( and please do ) whether what I have said here is inconsistent with my previous writings, but I do not believe that it is! Just because all are God's children does not mean that all are God's Temple, as David wrote in Psalm 50:5 above! As John wrote ( John 14:23 ), it is those ( of His children ) who obey His Covenant and love Him that God enters into and makes His Dwelling!

The perfection to which we, as the People, or Temple of God have attained unto is not simply a flawless beauty which comes through any physical prowess, nor is it what we most often think of as perfection ( at least in Christianity ) a flawless obedience to God's Holy Law of Love ( although that may be included );the perfection to which we have attained is the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, wherein God Dwells in His Temple, and we are One!

Married and loving Him,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Glorious Body of Christ

Is Glory Relative?

In relation to humanity, what is glorious to one may may not be glorious to the other. In biblical usage, the Greek doxazō almost sounds relativistic. We must remember though, that we are dealing with Absolute Truth here, with an Immutable God! Though we as humans may ( and do ) have our differing opinions about whether a thing ( or Person ) is glorious or not, our opinion, and theirs is just that, merely an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. As the saying goes, 'it is what it is'; The Body of Christ, no matter how we see it, is glorious, and nothing that we can do or think will make it otherwise!

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, 
“Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 
And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?  
Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. 
Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.
 Luke 24:36-39

This passage, and the parallel one in John 20, is traditionally used to prove the nature of Jesus' Glorified Body, but I believe that when we use such speculation as to say that our glorified bodies will be physical, yet not ( being able to walk through walls and such ) is to miss the whole point of Luke's relation here! The point is not that He was able to appear in their midst even though the door was locked ( significant of their stubborn hearts of unbelief? ), but that He appeared in their midst. The point was not that He had the self-same Body or not ( 'Behold My hands and My feet' ), but that by doing all these things, He had unequivocally defeated Death!

We, as human beings, have a natural tendency toward individualism! Because Scripture says that 'we will be like Him' ( I John 3:2. Philippians 3:21 ), we think that our ( individual ) body will become somewhere in between, physical but yet not. We will be able to walk through walls ( like Jesus? ) yet we will also be able to eat and drink, marry and be given in marriage. We will be free from any kind of pain for old things will have passed away, and all things will have become new!

Is this what Scripture truly teaches, though? The writers of Holy Writ, we can see from searching both the original text ( Greek & Hebrew ) and the covenant context, were not concerned with individual bodies being raised from the grave, but of the corporate Body of Israel being resurrected from the dead, and made to stand again, as pictured in Ezekiel 37, most succinctly. Much of the traditional doctrines ( of men ) that we read into Scripture, especially of individual bodies being raised ( although there is no doubt that this did happen ) come from a faulty translation, and ultimately, a rebellious spirit! Because we are not satisfied with the good creation that God has made us, we strive to speculate that one day, the Creation that man has ruined will be renewed, and made like Adam was in the beginning, physically perfect, without blemish!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
 ( Ephesians 5:25-27 )

The Gospel writers wrote individualistically, in many cases, it may seem, but these individuals, for the most part, as we see above, were and are simply pictures of the Greater Reality! The author of Hebrews, for instance, writes of this corporate reality, the Body of Christ Himself, in Hebrews 12:18-24. 

The biological body with which Jesus appeared to His disciples in that famous upper room was obviously the self-same body in which He was buried, or which had been place in the rich man's grave. His glorious physical body, though, was in effect, no different then His body before He ascended to His Father, as Daniel foresees in his prophecy ( Daniel 7:13 ), for His physical resurrection was simply a picture, an indication, of our resurrection, the standing ( upright ) again, of the corporate Body of Israel, the Body that had fallen through the Death of Adam!

In previous studies, we have explored the notion, the fact, as I believe it to be, that Jesus' biological Body was raised simply to prove to His generation, who were 'slow of heart' ( Luke 24:25 ) that He had indeed defeated Death! He appeared to them, first, as the symbolically risen Christ, then as the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to comfort and strengthen them in their tribulation! As the Risen Christ, he comforted His disciples with the fact that Death no longer had any power over them, and He prepared them ( John 8, etc. ) for the coming ( back ) of His Holy Spirit, who would strengthen them for the great trial and tribulation that they would soon face!

The biological body of Christ was glorified, made glorious, no doubt ( 'Do not cling to Me'-John 20:17 ), but His glorification was simply a picture of the final glorification of the People of God  ( Romans 8:29 ), His Church, the Glorious Body of Christ!

May we realize this simple and absolute Truth, and act accordingly,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, October 03, 2013

A Divided Kingdom?

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
Mark 3:24

Looking at the institutional church today, anyone with eyes to see can plainly see that, like Israel of old, it is divided against itself, and so cannot stand much longer! Scripture tells us the laborious and often shockingly perverted history of Israel as a nation; her rises and falls, the intricacies of her idolatrous and adulterous web-weaving and harlotrous death-style, all of which led ultimately to her final down-fall as a nation, never to rise again!

As an institution, the church has become so laughable that many Christians have found better things to do on Sunday mornings! There are so many different denominations, and they all believe that their doctrine is the correct one, that you might find yourself hard-pressed to see a big difference between its members and the local motorcycle club or gang! 

The Israelite nation that we read about in the hallowed pages of the Bible, particularly in the book of Kings, was so similar to what we see happening in much of the world today, especially in America, that one is almost tempted to make a comparison of the two, and to forecast the same end for America! America, just like the institutional church, if she even survives the coming cataclysm, will never be the same again, and do you know why? Because this is God's Kingdom, this is God's Church ( His People ), and He rules the nations with a rod of iron! 

Empires rise and fall at His command!

The Church, or Body of Christ can never be divided! 

Here is where the nation of Israel went wrong; they thought that, since God had made them His special people, a nation of priests, that they should keep themselves separate from the other nations forever, and instead of being priests to the nations and spreading abroad the knowledge of their Creator, they thought to keep Him all to themselves, and thus, through their own perversions, rather than priests, became a laughing-stock!

The institutional church today, not necessarily the Body of Christ, has made much the same mistake. If one is not within the fold of some institutional church, or does not live within the confines of some written code, then that one is seen as heretic, and without the Kingdom! He may be brought within its confines, but only if he subscribes to said written code ( in one form or another ), and hunkers down inside the four walls of some church building every Sunday ( and maybe Wednesday )!

As the Body of Christ however, the Church will never and can never be divided! According to the purpose and foreknowledge of Almighty God, our Creator, there are members of this Body within the institutional church, and I daresay even that there are institutional churches which are largely made up of members of the Body of Christ! We must remember though, and I believe this is one of the church's ( and Church's ) gravest mistakes; we are priests to the nations, the healing waters, the leaves of the Tree of Life that flow to the nations; if we simply hunker down and hold the fort, we will lose!

Only as we realize, turn and repent as a Body Politic, will we have the Desired Effect on His Creation, only when we recognize the spirituality of God's nation of priests will we begin to heal the nations through shining His Light, as 'a city on a hill'!

May we realize this truth, that we are not a divided Kingdom, but one Body, and One Tree of Life!

Charles Haddon Shank