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Up Way Publications 35th Anniversary
Talk To Ministers
Volume 01  Number 08                                                                                                           April 10, 1994

The Largest Denomination…The Ignorant Brethren

A number of years ago, while ministering in the Chicago area, I heard John B. Jess on WMBI  radio when he jokingly said that the largest denomination on earth is the "ignorant brethren, " in reference to the Apostle Paul's often repeated "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren...." Unfortunately, it seems that he is right.

I realize that often we ministers get so caught up in counseling, performing weddings and funerals, dedica ting parks, praying invocations and, in some cases working to support families while trying to build a work for God where none of our doctrinal persuasion has been before. However, the truth is that we still need to study the Word. I cannot believe the number of ministers who have admitted to me that except for a brief passing over in Old or New Testament Survey in Bible College or Seminary, there are many areas of scripture they have never really read and studied for themselves, but then, while trying to illustrate God's dealings with man in a certain way, they will attempt to pull from memory some story from the life of some Bible character and completely turn the events around! Brethren, this ought not to be! While it may not be critical to salvation that the prophet Elisha cast a branch from a tree into the water to make the ax head swim and Solomon hardly passed his knowledge on to David and neither was he black, not all the misquotations I have heard are so unimportant. One problem this ignorance causes is that some who hear you preach and make some error in historical fact and who happen to know what the Bible really says about the event and your ignorance on that insignificant point may undermine your perceived authority on Bible facts in vital areas as well. 

Even back in the days of Paul the Apostle, the matter of ignorance and particularly of ignorance through deliberate failure to study was a serious problem in the early church. How many times do both Paul and Peter speak to the subject of ignorance on the part of Jewish religious leaders and of brethren in the church as well. Please see the list of scriptures that specifically mention ignorance in the message ENDNOTES. And that problem has continued until our present day in the early 21st Century. 

We also see that a church group was commended for their diligence in study. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11).

As ministers in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, many of us take pride in our knowlege and education. Personally, though I use hermeneutics, eschatology and exegesis in virtually every sermon or message I preach, teach or write, because I do not continually speak of this or that being hermeneutically correct, do not say that this is an exegesis  of something or speak of eschatology when I am giving an eschatologocal discourse, I am often criticized by theologians who perceive themselves as more highly educated than they think I am and show their own ignorance by saying I did not exegete something when that is precisely what I was doing by definition! Of course the problem there is that because I insist upon a contextually correct rendering of every explanation I give and they insist upon traditions of men, usually starting with the eschatology, exegetics and hermeneutics of Tertullian and Athanatius, radical heretics of the Third and 4th Centuries which was perpetuated by the pagan emperor, Constantine, who stopped persecuting the church and declared himself head of it, though I have found no record of any true conversion experience in his life. The heresies of Athanatius were perpetuated through the First Council of Nicea (325 AD) and the Council of Constantinople (381 AD). The thing is that although it flew in the face of the practice of the early church and scripture,  Athanatius' major education was in pagan religions and he merely joined the Christian church, again without any known record of his having had an experience of really believing the Gospel and repenting of his sins, so his insertion of pagan doctrines into Christianity was actually through his ignorance of the real Gospel message. 

And then there are the meanings of simple words that may have several meanings either in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek or in the final translation language, be that English or some other language.  The means by which it can be reasonably determined which of several possible meanings in any language is the CONTEXT, the setting, the to whom, when and under what circumstances the word or passage was spoken or written.  Personally, I am familiar with translation work in a number of languages which I do not speak, such as Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian, Tagalog, Ilocano and Brazillian Portuguese. 

Let's take the word "for" as found in Acts 2:38. If you look up the word "for" in an English language dictionary, there are up to 32 definitions in some complete dictionaries! Which one fits?  How can you know? It is apparent that to rightly understand which meaning of the word "for" applies in a given sentence, one must know what the sentence is talking about in the first place. It makes not the slightest bit of difference what some Pope or even Martin Luther or John Calvin, John Knox or the Wesley brothers understood it to mean.  What DOES matter and that vitally, is an understanding of the first writer's, the first transcriber's intent and meaning at the time it was written.  This is an exegesis of the word "for" as found in Acts 2:38.

If, as some teach, the word "for" in Acts 2:38 means "because" or "because of," then water baptism is not essential or even very important to our salvation since we are doing it only as an indication we have been saved. But if it means "to obtain, to receive, or to get," then it is necessary if one wishes to obtain, receive or get the remission (forgiveness) of sins and is of vital importance to our salvation. 

So how are we to determine (assuming we are not knowledgeable in the Greek language) which of the 32 definitions best fits the verse? First,  we ask, "Who is speaking to whom and why?" So, the Apostle Peter is speaking to the crowd on the day of Pentecost in response to their question, "What must we do?" Thus, in response to a request for information on how to obtain what Peter and the others are exhibiting, his reply is to: 1. Repent; 2. be baptized to obtain remission [forgiveness] of sins; and 3. God will give them the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they are desiring. 

Is this a valid understanding? We are told that John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and the Apostle Paul likens baptism to our death to our old nature, burial of that corpse with Jesus Christ and resurrection as a new creature with Him, in Romans 6, Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:12 with the added emphasis of 2 Corinthians 5;17. The apostles demonstrated their understanding of the command in Acts 2:41; 8:12, 16, 36-38; 9:18; 10:48 (Please note that in the Greek, the word for "Lord" does not appear, but the words for Jesus Christ do!); 16:14,15, 31-33;  18:8 and 19:5. A more controversial reference occurs in 1 Peter 3:21. It should be clear to everyone that the baptism commanded in Acts 2:38 is not at all optional, regardless of whether you read and study the Greek and Aramaic or just English, since not only does this reading agree completely with the immediate context, but with all the other New Testament references. 

I sincerely I have not offended you too much already, for not only have I possibly referred to you as an  'ignorant brother', but now I am quoting a weight of scriptures that indicates that "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved..." is not the whole "plan of salvation." Please bear in mind that I feel a responsibility to every person to whom I have the opportunity of sharing the Word of God.  If I mislead you and make salvation more difficult that God intended, then I can expect severe punishment for keeping you from coming to the Lord. Acts 16:31 is only the opening sentence of a paragraph that continues through verse 33 and clearly demonstrates the Phillipian jailer's obedience to Acts 2:38 -- belief, repentance and water baptism are all spelled out in his actions! 

Conversely, the former scoffers on the day of Pentecost gave a demonstration of the belief spoken of in John 3:16 and Acts 16:31 because without having believed the message of the Holy Spirit preached by the Apostle Peter, they would never have been "pricked in their heart" or, as we say today, "come under conviction." Truthfully, have you ever seen anyone come to Jesus for salvation without first believing that He is able to save them? Without believing that He is the Savior? Without believing that they are sinners? The list could go on, but the answer is crystally clear and only a fool would try to say that conviction of sin and a desire for salvation from that sin can come before belief has already taken place in the heart and mind of that person! And who can claim to have earned the right to salvation by any means? Only the Grace of God extends to us salvation free of monetary cost or obligation, and belief that anything you or I may do is automatically an opposite, an attempt  to merit, earn or deserve salvation, which is necessarily unbelief in the free love and Grace of God, since grace is undeserved or unmerited favor. Thus, if we believe we can deserve or earn our salvation by being baptized or repenting of our sins, our belief is in the wrong thing. Only our faith in the Grace of God, manifested through our obedience to His commands through His chosen Apostles will result in our conviction of sin, repentance and the whole of the new birth experience.

So, my minister friend, for your own sake and a victorious life in Jesus Christ, ""Study [the way to avoid being ignorant] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15). And always remember, it is not your denomination's interpretation nor yet the interpretation of any man since the Apostle Paul that matters, but the meaning of the original writer to the original reader, or audience, 8in total agreement with the setting and context of each passage that the Apostle gives his warning, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1: 8, 9)

— S.M.S.
ENDNOTES:
John preached Acts 19:1-6

eschatology , noun. 1. a doctrine of the last or final things, especially death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Example: Every eschatology, Brandon concludes, is an effort by man to provide himself with "spiritual security" against the passage of time. 
2. the branch of theology dealing with these doctrines. 
exegesis, noun, pl. -ses.  1. a scholarly explanation or interpretation of the Bible or of a passage in the Bible. Ex. The minister gave an exegesis of the parable of the Good Samaritan. 
2. any explanation or interpretation of a word, sentence, or other passage; explanatory note. 
exegetically, adverb. by or by way of exegesis; as explanation.

hermeneutic, adjective. Of or concerned with interpretation; interpretive; explanatory. 
adv. hermeneutically. 
hermeneutical, adjective. = adverb, hermeneutically. 

"For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:28-31).

"But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead;  whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. " (Acts 3:14-17)

"Study [the way to avoid being ignorant] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15).

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16).
"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:" (Ephesians 4: 18)
"If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him aknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorantlet him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues." (1 Corinthians 14:37- 39).

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:4-8).

Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. (Romans1:13)

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3).

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

"For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of
persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned [ignorant] and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Peter 3:5-17).

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:1-14).

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13).

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