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Dialog at Trypho's

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Dialogue At Trypho's

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”...Colossians 2

Applet from Javapowered.com

Introduction

When Phil looked up the waiter was standing at the table with the coffee pot angled towards a mug on the table.

“Were you praying for a regular or a decaf refill this morning”?

“I give thanks for both, but I’ll take regular, he said smiling.

“Very good sir, said the waiter. “Will you have anything else besides the coffee and bagel"?

Maybe a large orange juice as well, Phil replied.

"Would you like me to bill this to your room”?

“No. I’m not staying at the Hotel.” Phil explained. I’m just here to eat some breakfast and to read the Times.”

“Very good sir,” said the waiter before picking up the menu and walking off towards the kitchen.

Phil was well into his bagel and cream cheese and the New York Times, Weekend Edition, when a man he’d seen earlier across the restaurant approached his table. Phil looked up at him.

“Good morning!” The man said. “Are you here for the ecumenical conference? I’m John,” he said before Phil could answer, extending his hand.

“Conference?” Phil asked, shaking his hand. “I’m Phil Mitton. No, I’m just here to read the paper and to relax a bit. I live four or five blocks away.” I’m here at Trypho’s most Friday mornings. Well, either here or at IHOP.”

“Oh, said John”. “We noticed you bowing your head and praying over your food, earlier. We thought you were probably here for the Christian ecumenical conference beginning tonight”. He nodded towards a group of three men across the restaurant. One of them waved.

“You are a Christian, aren’t you", he asked Phil?

“Yes, I am”. Phil replied.

"It’s just that when we came in 45 minutes ago we had a discussion on the very topic of praying over our food in public. After we decided not to do it, we look up a few minutes later and lo and behold, see you giving thanks,” John explained.

“I always do” said Phil.

“Well”, John replied. We’re all from the East Bay. Actually, we all know each other but we go to different churches. We like to come down here every year-(or is it up here) and argue it out with each other. Some of us do it back at home, but we usually come down on Thursday night before the conference every year and spend time together and try to come to some conclusions on the issues that divide us. In fact, we usually end up not going to the conference until Saturday. Right now, we’ve got our Bible’s out. Would you care to join us”?

“Well” Phil considered, looking longingly at his paper. Maybe for a few minutes, he said without much conviction. He stood and picked up his coffee and briefcase. John looked pleased. “Look, you can just give us your views on Christians praying in public if you want. Then, we’ll leave you alone.”

At the table, John introduced the men one by one beginning with himself. I’m John “the Baptist” Webster. This is Paul, “the Catholic” Raley. He’s Oscar, “the Adventist” Rey. And to his right Steven, “the Catholic” Pope. No, that’s not a joke. That’s his real last name! Pope. Can you imagine?

“And he said”, turning back towards Phil, this is Phil the…..

“Phil, “the Christian” Mitton, said Phil smiling at the group.

“Oh, we’re all Christians, said Steven, we’re just wondering what “flavor” you are. But you know what. Don’t tell us and within a few minutes of hearing your theology, I bet we can figure it out”.

“Are you here for the ecumenical conference”, asked Paul?

“No, as I explained to John, I’m here for the breakfast and the ambience”. If I was at home or at or the office, my phone would never stop ringing. I believe one should read the New York Times at least once a week, to keep up with what's going on in the world. That, and SportsCenter.”

“I keep up by watching television and going to the movies. For instance, my insight on Iraq comes from one of my favorite movies: “Three Kings’”, said Oscar.

“I understand, said Phil, but I think that movie was rated “R” and I haven’t gone to see anything rated “R” since I became a Christian six or seven years ago”.

“Well’, Oscar replied a little defensively, “it was only rated “R” because of violence, probably. There wasn’t that much sex in the movie”.

“Uh huh”, said Phil. "That’s one way to approach it as well. May I ask, and I'm making an assumption; what movies have you declined to go see because of your religious convictions"?

Oscar gave the question some thought, but never responded to it.

John spoke up again. “Oscar here is my brother in Law. I’m married to his sister”.

“Only because she refused to listen to the advice of her family, said Oscar, with a smile”.

“Paul here is my neighbor, John continued. Steven works with Paul and is always over at his house”.

Steven made a face at John. “John continued. “We play poker, for chips only” about once or twice a month over at my place or at Paul’s. Paul. Ask him what you want to ask him.” Here, Phil, have a seat right here.”

Issue One: Public Prayer

“This must be the hot seat” Phil said with a smile, pulling back the chair and sitting down. He reached over for the coffee pot and replenished his coffee.

Oscar reached over and touched Phil on the arm. "One basic rule in our "debates" he said; no "high fiving"! Then he reached over and "high fived" Steven, grinning and winking at Paul.

“Okay", said Paul, wagging a warning finger at Oscar, "we had this big discussion about praying in public this morning and we decided not to, for what we believe are scriptural reasons, though admittedly we don’t all agree. We saw you praying over your food this morning and John here thought that maybe God was sending us a message. Let me ask you. Are you familiar with the scripture where Jesus says Not to pray in public? It’s in Matthew 6:5"

Paul continued; "some Christians seem to use this as a test of whether or not a brother is ashamed of Christ. They also make the claim that it's a way to witness for Christ. Now, again, I don't know of any verses telling Christians that they should pray in public but I do know of one that tells us not to. Matthew 6:5 is telling us not to pray in public. It tells us not to be seen among people. It has been my experience that the general public views this behavior as a self-righteousness. Should prayer which is communication with God be used as a "tool" to show others we are Christians. I have a real problem with that.”

“Wow!” said Phil.

“Bet you never heard a Catholic quote scripture, before, huh Phil, said Oscar?

“Watch him claim that the Catholic church changed that too”, said Paul.!

Phil pulled his Bible from his briefcase.” Let’s read Matthew 6:5, if you have your Bibles”, said Phil, turning to the gospel of Matthew. He saw at least one other Bible on the table.

He read: Matthew 6: 5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him".

Paul and John had followed along. The others were still trying to find the passage.

“First of all", Phil continued, "I cannot bind my own understanding on you guys. It seems to me that the main problem here is hypocrisy. They are praying not to give glory to God but rather to themselves. Personally, I’d say praying for the purpose of giving thanks is good. Praying in order to bring glory to God is also good. Praying simply to be seen of men is bad.

On the other hand, being ashamed to pray or to give thanks is also bad. This problem is solved for me because God can see our hearts. For me personally, not to give thanks before eating a meal is unacceptable. I personally feel wrong or bad or that I must be ashamed if I do not pray. Of course, also, I do not pray out loud and I do not make a show of it.”

Paul said”. From what you just read, you do not believe that Jesus is forbidding praying in public and specifically commanding us to pray in secret”? I believe He is doing just that”!

Well, no, Phil began slowly. I don’t agree with that and here’s why. Read for example: Matthew 14:19 or Matthew 15:36

Matthew 14:19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

Matthew 15:36Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.

“Jesus gave thanks before the multitude before they enjoyed the meal each time after the two instances where he produced the food to feed thousands from a small amount of bread and fish. Certainly, I think this qualifies as “in Public and I don’t think He violated His own command”. Also, the Lord gave thanks before the Lord’s Supper. I can’t think of a time when the Lord sat down to a meal without giving thanks. So, I do the same, always trying to keep my motives in check. Now, this is just my view.

Again, I think the problem in Mathew 6 is hypocrisy but I would also say that it is hypocritical to pretend that the reason one does not give thanks is because he is following scripture--if in fact he real reason is that he is afraid or too embarrassed to pray. If one truly believes public prayer is forbidden, then one should not pray in public, only, make sure that in some manner he/she gives thanks to God.”

“I’m in agreement with that, said John. I’m going back to praying before public meals.”

“I agree with that as well,” said Oscar, but I prefer to pray once in the morning in order to cover everything that day.

“Sorry! Phil. Can’t agree with much of that at all, said Paul. That verse in Matthew says what it says.

Phil replied. “I can tell you who I think are guilty of this! Television preachers! Holding hands tightly. Got the “so spiritual” face on. Emotion. Pious heavenward head tilt. Those prayers are “performed” very specifically to be seen of men. Then they ask you to send a check!”

“Whoo!, Oscar said laughing. Aren’t we the cynical one?”

Ecumenism

The waiter walked over to Phil with the check. “Are you changing your station, sir, he asked?

Before Phil could answer, John said “yes”! Bring his food over here. We’ve got a few more things hash out. My man broke out the Bible! Do you have a concordance in there too, he asked, smiling at the group?”

“Just the one in the back of my Bible”, Phil said with a smile.

“Phil, why aren’t you attending the conference, asked John? It’s here in the capital every year and you mentioned that you do live close by”.

“Well, certainly I’ve heard about it. I know a little bit about what the aims of the conference are and it’s really not something I’m interested in”, Phil told them.

“You’re not interested in Christian unity? Asked Steven incredulously? What Christian doesn’t want unity?

“Yes, said Phil. Indeed I pray for Christian unity. But there is a difference between deciding to ignore or to permit differences, even mutually exclusive differences to continue in the name of unity and working to unite in one accord under the authority of Word of God”.

“Come again”, said Oscar?

“Take the Pope for example”, said Phil.

“No, you take him, said Oscar.

Phil continued, “what I mean is this; either there is a Pope who stands in the Lord’s place here on earth, to which every Christian should bow and be obedient to or there is no such thing as a Pope and any Christian who bows the knee or follows him will be condemned. There is no middle ground. It seems to me that the purpose of this conference is to put such mutually exclusive doctrines in the background and to “unite” no matter what each “Christian group” believes.”

“And what would you propose instead, asked Paul”? Continuing to tear each other apart to the delight of the non-believers. To work against each other when so much of what we believe is virtually the same? We all believe in God. We all accept Jesus as Lord”.

“I would like to study and pray together determined and dedicated to understand and accept the Word of God. We should come to understand through the scripture whether or not there is in fact a “Pope”. We should unite under the truths of the Word of God, decide which are the doctrines of men and which is the doctrine of God. When we do that, we will be united as the Lord wanted us to be united. He did not wish for us to be divided into hundreds of denominations each preaching and binding our own doctrines”.

“Listen, Oscar replied, I worship on the Sabbath. I’m willing to bet all the rest of you, even you Phil, worship on Sunday---which Was changed by the Catholic Church, no matter what Paul says. I’m never going to compromise on Sabbath Worship and I’m not a big fan of the Catholic Church specifically, but I do see a love for the Lord in my friends here. Maybe it’s a zeal without knowledge, but that’s what we’re trying to build on at this conference.”

“Okay, Phil replied. I respect zeal for the Lord, but as the scriptures say, it should be according to knowledge. A conference established for the purpose of ignoring and “respecting” differences is simply not for me. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians “if anyone, even an angel from Heaven preaches a gospel that is different from the one you heard from us, let him be accursed”. I don’t think Paul would have wanted to have a conference so all could agree to keep teaching whatever they were teaching.”

Wow, said Oscar! I guess that means that you’re done talking with us?

“No, well that’s up to you, Phil replied. My point is, let’s work to all believe the same thing, based on scriptures. Let’s not just agree to accept whatever teaching there is out there and say if they call themselves Christians then we are bound to respect their beliefs”. “The Apostle Paul says in the first chapter of Corinthians” “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

“That’ the kind of unity that Christians should be seeking. Not I’m okay, you’re okay”, said Phil.

Standing for the Truth-Arrogance?

Everyone stopped talking as the bellboy came by to refill coffee cups and water glasses. They seemed to be considering what had been said”.

“What faith are you again, asked Steven;--you’re not a Catholic are you”?

“No, Phil replied. Nor am I a Protestant. I’m a Christian”.

“Now what does that mean”, asked Oscar impatiently? It’s not a question of are you a Christian, it’s a question of –what kind of Christian are you?

“I always find it remarkable, said Phil, that people have difficulty understanding the concept of just being a Christian. We’ve gotten so use to division that we can’t understand the lack of an adjective describing “Christian”. As an example, when you introduced yourselves, it was as Adventist, Catholic or Baptist. None of you described themselves as a Christian.”

“That was understood, said John”

I have to apologize, said Phil. I’d long ago decided not to have these types of discussions any more because they very seldom lead to enlightenment on either side. No matter how long each side speaks, in the end everyone tends to walk away with exactly the same views they held before the discussion began. For the last few years I’ve resolved to only deal with these issues in the context of a Bible Study. I have learned it is best not to tell anyone how you personally feel about an issue, but rather to let them discover the answers from the Bible. Then it’s not about what I think”. Yet, here I am unfortunately spewing out my opinions without being in a Bible study”.

‘What, are you a minister, asked John? Are you a preacher?

“No., said Phil. I’m just a plain old member of the Lord’s church. I’m in advertising. My wife Sarah and I also dabble in Real Estate.”

“You’re coming across a bit arrogantly”, said Oscar, like you were a preacher or something".

‘I’m sorry” said Phil. Not my intention at all.”

They Turn To Safer Topics, Like Politics

After that the conversation turned to other topics. Steven and Paul both worked at Intel, Steven in accounting and Paul in “administration”. John had retired from Cal Trans. Oscar was an analyst at the Bank of America. Even though Phil explained it a couple of times, no one really understood what he did.

When the conversation turned to sports, they actually became quite noisy and attracted some looks over the issue of who would win an NBA title first, the Kings or the Warriors. John said he expected to be dead and buried before then and wondered if he would be aware of the NBA standings in heaven?

The conversation eventually turned to politics.

“So, Phil you’re coming across as a conservative to my ears, said Paul. “Are you a republican or a democrat?

“Neither, I’m an independent,” Phil replied.

“Noooooooo!” the others shouted in unison.

“An independent”, said Oscar. Come on! “Because you are neither hot nor cold I will spew you out of my mouth”. That’s what the Lord thought about independents.”

“What are your political affiliations”, Phil asked?

“Paul and Steven are democrats. Me and John are republicans, Oscar replied. At least we’re taking sides he said, smiling.

“I’ll tell you, I grew up a democrat. Back in the days when there was such a thing as a conservative democrat. Back then, the party backed civil rights and was the party of the small guy. Today, as a Christian, I can’t support a party that has abortion and “gay rights” as part of their platform. That’s just my view. On the other hand, the republicans seem only to care about big business, and tax breaks for the rich. They don’t seem to like the little guy or care about civil rights or the little guy. Consequently, I vote on a case by case basis for individuals-not for parties.”

“Okay, who’d you vote for, for governor of California, Oscar asked?

“I didn’t cast a vote”, though I was registered, Phil replied.

“How about Kerry/Bush”, asked Paul?

“I held my nose and voted for Bush, Phil replied. I don’t remember the last time I was able to vote enthusiastically for a presidential candidate”.

“I tell these guys, these two Catholic guys here that there is no way they should vote for democrats as Christians”, stated John. The Catholic church preaches against abortion and homosexuality and these guys vote democratic.”

“My father and my father’s father were democrats”, shrugged Steven.

“Republicans are the party with the higher moral values. They stand against abortion and “gay marriage”. In my opinion they are the better choice for Christians,” John stated strongly.

“I don’t know, Phil replied. Taking care of the poor and the downtrodden is also a Christian virtue. The democrats are pushed by their liberal wing while I think most democrats are actually in the center. The republicans are pushed by their conservative/“Christian” right wing though I think most republicans are again in the center. Not only that, I don’t think most republicans are republicans because of religion.. I know that republicans who get elected in the largest cities and states tend to be pro-abortion and soft on “gay marriage”. In California, look at Arnold. Even Reagan was pro-abortion when he was governor here. I believe Pete Wilson was pro-abortion. The governors of New York and New Jersey; pro-abortion. The republican mayors of New York City are and have been pro-abortion. Otherwise, they couldn’t get elected. So much for the Republican Party as the party of morality. I bet right now the majority of the Republican Party would like abortion removed as an issue because it makes it difficult for them with the women’s vote and in large urban areas.”

“Who’s the last democrat you supported, asked John?

“Probably Doris Matsui”. Her husband was an honorable, dignified man and though I don’t agree with her on every issue, I voted for her. She’s a centrist democrat”.

“If you're into Real Estate, you should vote republican! You say you voted for Bush, what do you think now, asked Oscar. Was he the right choice?”

“I need to correct the record”. I voted for George Bush against Al Gore though I personally liked Gore a whole lot more than Bush. In the Bush/Kerry election I could not bring myself to cast a vote for either of them. And though bound by God to respect him and his office, I believe he has been an absolute disaster, Phil replied.

“You probably shouldn’t say that out loud, laughed Oscar, looking around. “Hello, NSA”, I mean Phil’s house!”

“You certainly can’t believe he is worse than Clinton was” John wanted to know? After shaming the office the way he did with Lewinsky? My son who was in the service at that time—a marine-I felt like he shouldn’t have had to take orders from someone like Clinton. Some commander-in-chief!

“I didn’t say that Clinton wasn’t a disaster as well, Phil replied. Still, looking back, I prefer the Clinton administration to the second Bush’s administration. I was fine with his father. I was also okay with Governor Bush, but he never showed up in Washington. I prefer Bush’s stance on abortion, but the number of them is actually higher under his administration than Clinton’s because the economy is worse and some of the safety net has been removed. People who have less economic prospects get more abortions. Ironic, no? As Christians though, we are supposed to respect the government authority. The Apostle Paul wrote that when Herod was King. And I would note that it’s a good thing that the army of Israel continued to take orders from King David after he had a soldier murdered and took his wife—after previously having committed adultery with her.”

“Well, I don’t know”, said Steven. “Let’s not talk about politics anymore because those discussions usually get nastier than our religious discussions do”.

“Yeah, you can see John gets all red faced if you say anything bad about Bush”, said Paul with a wide grin. “Let’s get back to something safe, like which one of us is going to hell because of our false religion”.

Was Peter the First "Pope"?

The waiter stood about 10 feet away with his hands behind his back regarding them with a look that said, “please, please pay the bill”. He approached and informed them that his shift was over.

Oscar reached over and picked up the check and then picked up Phil’s check as well. “We look like the U.N. over here, so I’ll play the U.S. and pick up the tab.

“Nice!”, said Steven.

“Thanks, Phil told him, smiling. I really am working on my delivery. Not that I’m not arrogant, you understand I just that I don’t want it to be so obvious.”

The busboy came and started clearing off the table. John asked him for more coffee. The busboy nodded and left.

“Phil, you mentioned the Pope a few minutes ago. I take it you don’t accept the Pope’s role as the “Holy Father”, Paul inquired.

“Dive, dive!” joked Oscar, momentarily placing his napkin over his head.

“No I don’t.” Phil Replied. They waited but he didn’t elaborate.

A photographer came by and began taking shots of the group. He motioned for Steven to move in. John paid for one of the group photos. You’d think technology could have fixed that head width, John said, pointing out Oscar’s head in the photo.

“I tried to give him my best side”, but he kept insisting that I face the camera, said Oscar.

“The office of the Papacy is well established in the New Testament, Paul stated. You’ve impressed me as someone who knows a bit about scripture so I’m curious to know how you get around that fact. Peter was indeed the First Pope as can be shown by the word of the Lord Himself. Not only that the traditions of the church are well established in this regard. God has sustained the Papacy for over 2000 years.”

“Let me save you some time, Oscar told Phil. He’s going to take you to Matthew 16. We’ve already tried to tell him about the petras/petros thing—the little pebble versus the huge boulder, but that doesn’t get us anywhere”. We’re all on your side, here. Even Steven here has problems with the Pope and he’s a Catholic-by marriage anyway.

“That’s right, said Paul. Let’s go to Matthew 16. When Phil got to the passage, Paul began to read:

Matt 16.  13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ,[b] the Son of the living God."  17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,[c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it.[e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[f] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[g] loosed in heaven." 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

After reading the passage aloud, Paul continued. “Here we see the Lord speak to Peter and tell him that it was God Himself that revealed this knowledge to Peter (that Jesus is the Son of God). Further, he goes on to tell Peter that He, the Lord will build His Church on Peter and that He is specifically giving Peter the keys to the Kingdom of heaven in verse 19. This authority was initially given to Peter, recognizing that it was through Peter that the Son of God was revealed (he being the first to acknowledge the fact and that given to him by God) and was later passed down through the majesty of the church from generation to generation.”

“Oscar rolled his eyes but said nothing.

“Well, Phil began; it would seem to me that nowhere else in scripture could one see any vestiges of the office of Pope in the scriptures. Even the word Pope does not itself appear in scripture. No doubt Paul was a great Apostle of the Lord, but nowhere in subsequent scripture do we see him acting as though he was a “Pope” or indeed as a head Apostle.

But let’s do this. Let’s go backward in time a little bit prior to the incident we just read about. Paul, would you also read Matthew 14: 22-32.”

“Sure”, Paul said, and began to read.

 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.  27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."  28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."  29"Come," he said.    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"  31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"  32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

After Paul read the scripture, Phil asked? “Who was it who proclaimed in verse 33, “truly you are the Son of God?”

“Paul replied, those in the boat”.

“According to verse 22, who is it that was in the boat”?

“All the disciples”, said Oscar forcefully.

“Yes, said Phil, and notice in verse 33 that after the Disciples together proclaimed Him the Son of God, they Worshipped Him”. Now, if they really didn’t understand right then and there exactly who He was, as Jews that had committed a great sin. Right.? Not only that, John the Baptist in John 1, Nathanael, also in John 1 and Martha in John 11 had all previously testified that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter was not the first, so why should he have been set apart from the rest of the disciples”?

Paul continued to study the passage.

Phil continued. “If we now go forward again to Matthew 16, which you already read, let me ask you,, do you suppose that here a short time later that all the disciples except Peter had forgotten that the Lord had walked on water and calmed the wind and the waves—that they had proclaimed Him the Son of God and finally –that they had Worshipped Him”?

“Absolutely not!”, Oscar replied. Paul shook his head, no.

“Then with all this is mind, I reason that God did not only give this knowledge specifically to Peter but rather generally gave it to the Apostles. Further, when the Lord says he is giving the keys to the Kingdom, it is not to Peter Alone He is speaking but instead, He is speaking to all the Apostles. The Apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians says’ “ that ““God's household, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” I do not see where Peter is singled out there for some special office apart from the other disciples, do you?””

“No, we don’t, exclaimed Oscar!

Paul was silent for a moment. Then he said, “of course I’m still convinced that Peter was the first Pope and did hold a special office in the church-but let me get back to you with my full response a bit later. He began to thumb through his concordance.

“Sure”, Phil replied.

The One church

When the new waiter came around, Oscar ordered a round of waters for everyone at the table. They all sat in silence for a few minutes as they drank their water. Steven headed off to the restroom. Phil started formulating his “escape” speech. He still intended to get through the Times which… looking back he could see was no longer on the table. He continued to sip.

John placed his glass on the table and fixed his eyes on Phil. “Phil, exactly what denomination do you belong to”?

“I don’t belong to a denomination”, Phil shrugged.

“So you’re,….non-denominational”? He genuinely seemed to be a bit confused.

“I am a member of the church that Jesus Christ built in the first century, said Phil. “The church with His name. Not an unauthorized division. Not a man made division. In 1 Corinthians the first chapter, Paul chides the church at Corinth for beginning to divide themselves into parties. They were saying; I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, etc. He asked them; who died for you. In whose name were you baptized? Of course, the correct answer was and is Jesus Christ. That’s the church I am a member of, the church of Christ,the church that Christ built. We're all local congregations with no regional, state or national hierarchy. There is no authority other than the local congregation and the Lord Himself, as the bible instructs."

“Do all members hold your political views”, asked John?

“No”, Phil replied.

“Good. They might not be so bad”. I’m kidding you a bit—your views aren’t entirely that bad.

“Thank you, I appreciate your saying that”, Phil replied with a wink.

Salvation: Must One Be Baptized To Be Saved?

“Let’s explore a bit”, John continued. “I alone am the most open minded about our various divisions. Both the Catholics and the Adventist here believe that one must be baptized to be saved. I believe that baptism is a good thing, but that it does not save. In fact, clearly it is not required as I can prove from scripture. On the other hand, I believe that God has His people in every church and because of His grace many will be saved even if their doctrine is not perfect. That’s what God’s grace is for. This conclusion is inescapable when you consider that we can do little to save ourselves. God takes our faith and our belief in His Son and saves us through His grace. I think that all of us, even with our various doctrines will be saved. Our works have nothing to do with salvation and in my mind, baptism is a work. I have not been baptized, but I can testify how completely my life has changed since I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.”

Phil replied. “I believe that the words of the Lord Himself best answer this question for us. In my Bible they are in red letters, I’m not sure about your versions. His words are these and I accept them:

Matt 28:19 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

“Forget about it, said Oscar, I’ve given him those exact same verses many times and he does not accept them”.

"Look" John snapped. "At least my doctrine comes from the Bible and not from some latter day prophet..Helen G. White or whatever. And don't tell me, I know, she never said anything that has not already been said. By that measure you're the greatest prophet who ever lived!"

"Guess what? You're in Luck! I hear that stupid is the new black this season, ", Oscar replied.

"Children!" said Steven, placing his hand over Oscar's mouth."

“Anyway, it’s not that I don’t accept them, John replied leaning over towards Oscar. I counter them. I place them in context”. It’s absurd to think that God can’t save you unless you get yourself dunked. Baptism is a work. Salvation is about faith and belief. But as I say, I go to the scriptures myself. Consider for a moment, the thief on the cross. Was he baptized? I think not, yet Jesus testified that he would be with him in paradise. Second. In the passage you just read in 1 Corinthians a minute ago; let me quote:

1 Cor 10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas[a]"; still another, "I follow Christ."

 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into[b] the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,

John paused very deliberately and read “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you accept Cripus and Gaius”. Now, would the great Apostle Paul state that he was Thankful that he had not baptized… if baptism actually was required? No he would not! The clincher is that in verse 17 he saysFor Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel!” Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Period,” finished John.

“You know over the years I've had a lot of conversations with Baptist's particularly. And they often admit to a problem agreeing with or deciding what passages actually refer to immersion in water. You know what though? Virtually all of them clearly understand that when Paul speaks of baptism here--it is of baptism in water! I wonder why that is?

"That's a rhetorical question, right", asked Steven?

Phil continued. "This passage is speaking abut water baptism but I believe it is teaching something totally different than what you say it does. For instance, why did you not complete the sentence yes' “ I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius so that no one can say that you were baptized into my name’!,---

The problem here is division as I said before. Suppose Paul had still been a Jew and he was lecturing other Jews about dividing themselves up into parties. One of the ways they were doing this division was by who had circumcised them. If then Paul said “I am glad that I did not circumcise you lest you say you were circumcised in my name, would you be confused by his meaning? Every Jewish male had to be circumcised on the eighth day.

What you seem to have missed is just as in my example. Every Jew was in fact circumcised, here in 1 Corinthians; every Christian was in fact baptized! Paul asks the group “in whose name were you baptized”! Clearly then, they had all been baptized by someone in some name! Paul says he’s glad it wasn’t him or they would be dragging him into this divisiveness by saying “I am baptized of Paul”. It didn’t matter which priest circumcised each Jew, but according to the Law it had to be done. It doesn’t matter which Christian man baptizes either but according to the Lord-it must be done also.”

In Colossians Chapter 2, the Apostle Paul explains: “11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Salvation: Must One Be Baptized To Be Saved?--What About the Thief On the Cross?

“Setting that all aside for a minute”, John asked, “what about the thief on the cross”?

“Let me ask you a question right back, Phil replied. In your opinion or to your knowledge, when did the church begin?”

John thought about it for a minute. “At Pentecost, perhaps”?

“If you believe that to be true then you’ve answered your own question. The thief on the cross was not a Christian then, was he”, Phil asked?

I reconsider my response, John said. He was on the cross with the Lord and he was also saved because the Lord’s sacrifice.

“Indeed he was, said Phil because those saved under the new covenant and the old were all saved because of the blood of Christ. My point is that there was no requirement for baptism under the old covenant. Baptism is required under the new covenant. As to when the new covenant began, the writer of Hebrews tells us in Chapter 9”

15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.  16In the case of a will,[d] it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

He continued, the thief may well have been the last saved under the old covenant, I don’t know. But baptism is required under the new covenant which began as the writer of Hebrews says, after the death of the testator. More than in this situation, because the Kingdom could not be established until our Lord was raised from the dead. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Therefore, one cannot pin their hopes under the new covenant on something that happened to someone under the old covenant. And who would want to? The Lord Himself says: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

“I agree completely with everything he just said, said Oscar. That’s exactly what we believe.”

Salvation: Does John Trump the Christ?

“Okay, John said. I’ll have to look into some of those passages. Maybe I can get you to write some of those verses down. However, I now fall back confidently on John, who said in John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” All one needs to do is Believe in the Son of God!”

Phil replied. “I marvel not just at you, but at all who take this position. I have read both Matthew 28 and Mark 16 in your presence in which the Lord clearly states that you must be baptized to be saved. You have not attempted to address those verses at all. Instead you have taken me to other scriptures. Let me ask you. Surely you don’t believe that John contradicts and then trumps the commands of the Lord? I can’t believe that you would even go far as to believe that they contradict each other? No, the truth is, the Lord and John must agree with each other and the Lord commanded baptism.” What if 10,000, no 100,000 men with PhD's i theology shout at the top of their lungs that one only needs faith to be saved? If the Lord only whispers that he who believes and is baptized will be saved, I will have to follow the Lord!

"Okay", Steven interjected. If you're not a minister than why do you make me fidget"?

Ignoring him, Phil continued; let me ask you? Have you read verse 5, 11 verses earlier in the same chapter? John records the Lord in this way “Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” “Belief is the engine of salvation from man’s standpoint but is not an instruction on how to act on that belief and faith.”

“You would set aside grace and faith and belief and tie salvation to a physical act, John asked incredulously”?

“Not at all, Phil replied, first there was grace because the Lord sent his Son when we were without hope and with nothing to offer. Then the Son and the Father showed love for us by coming and dying on the cross. Then we must believe and place our faith in the Son of God. Then we must repent and turn to God. At that point, we are baptized in obedience to the Lord’s commands—which are not burdensome. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Is Baptism in the Holy Spirit or in Water?

“Have you ever considered that it was “spiritual baptism that was commanded and not water baptism”, John wanted to know.

“I wish you’d tell me how a person can be “commanded” to be baptized into the Holy Spirit”, replied Phil. Also, may I remind you that the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8, upon hearing the gospel responded by saying “look, here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptized?” and that the scripture says that both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water”?

“That sure is a lot of scripture you’re quoting there,” Paul complained.

“That’s you protestant’s” said Steven. “Somebody once said that some of you guys worship your Bibles instead of God!”

“You’re saying that Steven, because your priest discourages you from reading your Bible”!, replied Oscar.

“Just trying to answer your questions through the scripture, Phil stated. It does no good just to give my opinions. No one should care what anyone thinks. They should only care what the Bible says. You know what? What one must do to be saved is not complicated at all. It’s basic. Acts 2:38 repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

That was the first time people started out as non Christians and after a gospel sermon ended up as Christians. Verse 41: “Those that accepted his message were baptized and about 3000 were added to their number that day.””

What Will Happen on the Last Day?

“So you don’t believe God’s grace will cover those who have doctrinal differences or who believe in God and Love his Son, perform good works, live a good Christian life, John asked? You think that God will condemn those who didn’t obey some command or didn’t understand? I can’t believe that even if the Lord commanded baptism that He will condemn people for just that”!

“We don’t have to wonder”, Phil replied. The scriptures give us a look at the last day. Do me a favor and read Matthew 7 21-23.

“I’ll read it”! Oscar volunteered-and then began searching for the passage.

Matthew 7 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

“Wait, said Steven! That doesn’t seem right. They are prophesying, driving out demons and performing miracles? And they are still condemned? That’s not fair. How do you know if you’re going to be saved or not? Why doesn’t He know them”?

“The answer is in verse” 21, said Phil. Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but ONLY he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” This means that man is not saved by following man made traditions but by obeying the Lord.

Is the Sinner's Prayer from the Holy Spirit?

Perhaps the Lord does not recognize salvation methods like “the sinner’s prayer”, (making quote signs with his fingers) because that is not what He commanded, he continued. Anyone who ignores His instructions, which are in the Word of God --but accepts “a sinner’s prayer which is Not in the Word of God is taking a big chance with their salvation.” The “sinner’s prayer is not from the Holy Spirit. It is not in the Bible—nor is there an example in the New Testament of anyone being saved through a prayer” No, not even Cornelius because in the end, he was also baptized, if you recall”.

A Break in the Dialogue

At that time, both John and Oscar headed for the bathroom. Steven got on his cell and made a call. Phil got up and went over and found the Times on the seat next to where he had been sitting. He stood waiting for the rest of the guys to return so he could make his excuses and get back to his paper. He loved talking about the Word but he knew from experience that it is very difficult to convince people of the truth in a setting such as this. These kinds of debates in reality usually weren’t effective. But you know, his mother was converted and baptized in one night, Subsequently, his father, his sisters and he himself had accepted the message, believed, repented and had been baptized. One never knows.

Phil and Steve watched the Sports Center highlights on an overhead television until eventually both Oscar and John returned.

Religious Titles and Degrees?

Right away, John looking a bit flushed said, “I’ve just spoken to Reverend Scott on my cell. He gave me a few verses and told me a few things about the “church of Christ”. I’m feeling a little better about myself, right now.”

“Good, Phil replied! What did Mr. Scott say to you”?

“He said”, John began.. Wait, I said “Reverend Scott”. I just want to make sure you understand that he’s not just some guy with an opinion, he’s a Reverend with several degrees in Theology, including a doctorate”.

“I understand, Phil replied. Still, begging your pardon I can call no man by that title. And though I am interested in his comments, I’m sure you’d agree that every denomination every religious division includes men with doctorates in Theology, yet their views on scripture are no less divergent than our own. Clearly then, a doctorate in Theology does not confer absolute biblical knowledge insomuch as these degrees come from man and not from God”.

“Whew”, Oscar snorted!

“Now, why would I listen to your views over those of Reverend Scott’s, questioned John? And why can’t you call him a Reverend?”

“I’ve had a little time to think about my approach here which has been more like my old approach, Phil began. In the past year, I’ve found that they best way to respond to biblical questions is with a return open question and then to deal with these issues in a bible study where if at all possible the individual could glean the correct answer him or herself. In this way, we have baptized more people this year that we had in five years previously.” I’ve just not learned to do it in the context of a conversation like this. If I knew I was going to see you periodically over time I would have been less direct.”

“Why won’t you acknowledge him as a Reverend”?

“Can we go to Matthew” 23, Phil asked the group?

“Enough Scripture John said. “Can’t you just say why?

Phil read “ Matt 23: 5"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

 8"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

“Now, what does that verse say to you, Phil asked the group?

“This is John’s battle, Oscar replied. Or Steve and Paul’s, because they call someone “Father” every Sunday.”

“Yeah, well it’s the Adventist’s who wear wide phylacteries, said Steve. On Saturdays!

No! What’s a Phylactery anyway, Oscar asked?

“Its special underwear”, Steve replied grinning widely.

“That’s the Mormon’s, genius”, Oscar shot back!

“Reverend is simply a common religious title”, John declared. “Not like back then. It doesn’t carry the same connotations as Rabbi did back in those days”.

Phil replied. “Psalm 111:9 says: “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name”. This is where the word reverend comes from. It is only used one time in the whole bible and there it refers specifically to God. What do you think?

“I think he told me that the church of Christ is legalistic, so that’s what I think”, said John.

“I’m sorry that you or he feels that way, Phil replied. If it’s because we agree with the Lord when He explains how to be saved—and obey, then shame on those who label the church as such. If it is because we bind on people that which the Word of God doesn’t bind—then shame on us. The point is to try to speak where the bible speaks and to be silent where the bible is silent.”

“I’ll say you speak where the bible speaks. Every time we ask a question you hand us the bible and say, here read this! So, tell me this, do you accept the use of the term “pastor”” Oscar asked.

Phil placed his head on the table and then covered it with his hands. “How did I get here”, he asked aloud. The term pastor is fine as a position; it’s just that the religious world uses it differently than it is used in the bible. A pastor is not a word meaning “pulpit minister”, instead like elder, shepherd and bishop it is a term that refers to men who were to be appointed in each local congregation to shepherd it. These men had to meet the specific qualifications along with deacons, detailed in 1 Timothy.

This is not a major issue or anything, but it just demonstrates that people don't adhere to the scriptures or have a real reverence for them. Ephesians 4:11 says "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers", so you can see that te role many denominations think of as "evangelist", is a different role than that of pastor. They're both listed".

“Oh, okay”, Oscar said, and Phil was sure his answer had not been understood-or appreciated. It looked like Steven was noding off.

“Reverend Scott says that you guys think you’re the only church”, John said.

Why There are so Many Denominations

“No, that’s not true. What we believe is that there is only one church”. Acts 2:47 says that after people responded to the first gospel sermon by Peter, that the Lord added them to the church. We’ve already read in Matthew where Jesus said He would build His church and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. The point is simply this; how many churches are there? How many did he build? We understand that He built just one in spite of the fact that there are hundreds of Christian divisions teaching hundreds of mutually exclusive doctrines.”

“Why do you think that there are so many churches, asked Oscar?

“I’d say, man made traditions, replied Phil. People not studying the Word for themselves. Ignorance, greed, non-belief. Proverbs 16 says: There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. The Lord Himself said: in Mark 7 “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”

The Sabbath, Sunday Worship and the Ten Commandments

“Yeah, I Know, that’s how we got Sunday worship”, Oscar stated.

“Nooooo”, said Steven, Paul and John in unison!

"Do you know how many times the word "Sabbath" is used in the Gospels", Oscar asked Phil earnestly'?

"Forty seven", replied Phil. I've had this conversation before? The answer is of course Jesus Kept the Sabbath. It was commanded under the Law of Moses and as we all know, the Lord was without sin". But He is the Mediator of a New Covenant".

“Leave now, Paul announced, pointing at Phil. If you’re already pounding your head against the table dealing with the rest of us, you haven’t seen anything yet. We’ve heard his shtick so many times before that we could do it for him. I’m telling you as a friend that now would be a good time to get back to your newspaper.”

Phil and Oscar looked at each other for a time.

Phil said, “well, I do have to get a few things to get done before lunch, which is, (looking at his watch) about 35 minutes from now…”

“Is it because the scriptures back me up”, Oscar asked mischievously?

Phil replied, “no.”. “It’s just that this would get really complex. Let me ask you something, though. I heard the local Adventist minister mention a service on Friday as well as on the “Sabbath””.

“Probably Friday night, which would be part of the Sabbath, Oscar replied.”

“So you can’t worship any other day besides the Sabbath, Phil inquired?

“Maybe, Oscar replied. We have bible study mid-week but our main service is on the Sabbath”.

“Tell me, if you would, what you would say concerning this passage. Acts 2 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Oscar replied. “It says that they met together every day. It doesn’t say that they worshipped every day if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“What do you get from these two passages” Phil asked Oscar: Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight”.

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

“I don’t know, Oscar replied, what do you get from it?

“Well, Phil replied, in the case of Acts 2, that the disciples worshipped God every day at least initially including on the Sabbath and on Sunday and second with respect to Acts 20 and 1 Corinthians, that the Christians took the Lord’s Supper (breaking bread) and took up a collection on the first day of the week, which is of course, Sunday”. I can’t talk about what the Catholics did or did not do-but the reason we meet on the first day of the week is because of these verses. On the other hand, we believe that we can worship on all the other days of the week as well. We worship on Sunday because it seems to us as though that is the Apostolic example”.

“No, we have various examples of the Apostles attending temple worship on the Sabbath even after the Lord had departed.” The Catholics tried to have the worship day changed. They admit to it. Daniel 7:25 says, "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time."

“I do not question whether or not the Catholic Church claims to have changed the day of worship”, Phil replied, “but this is because like the Adventists, they believe that we still live under the Ten Commandments. We actually live under the Law of Christ. The Catholic Church also claims to have a Pope and to have set the canon of Scripture, all of which is untrue. They call certain men “priests” and “Father’s” forbidding them to marry, when their so called first Pope was in fact married and Paul uses that as a sign of the coming apostasy. They elect certain people to be saints when in fact all Christians are in fact priests and saints.” I believe you would agree with all of that I have said about Catholic theology—so then how can you build a theology on what they claim”?

“Hey ouch, Paul sputtered, “you’re supposed to be on Oscar’s case right now—not ours!

“If the shoe fits, Paul, Said Oscar! “

“I would have thought, said Phil that this passage my refer to both of your denominations “ Timothy 4  1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

“That passage refers to the Catholic Priesthood and to forbidding meat on Friday’s by the Catholic Church”, replied Oscar.”

“”That has been changed as we’ve explained to you before, Oscar, said Paul. We can eat meat on any day now.”

Steven said, “so let me understand this, Phil.. You don’t believe we’re under the Ten Commandments? We are under the Ten Commandments—just not the Law of Moses”!

“Yes, of course we’re under the Law, said Oscar. It was the ceremonial law that was nailed to the cross.”

“Phil replied’ “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, by trying to convert as many as I can. To members of the Jewish community I approach them as one familiar with the Law of Moses in order to try to convert them to Christ. To those under the Law of Moses I approach them as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the Law of Moses. To those who are pagans I approach them as one not being under God’s law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.”

“Excuse me”, said Paul?

Phil repeated his statement.

“That’s crazy, Oscar replied! You are under the Law. You are still under the Ten Commandments.

“Basically, Phil replied I have simply paraphrased what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 where he states that he is not under the Law of Moses but is under the Law of Christ: 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

“I have to repeat, said Oscar that what is no longer in operation is the ceremonial law. Paul is not speaking about the ten commandments”.

I see” replied Phil. “What do you make of this passage”? Romans 7

 1Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

 4So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5For when we were controlled by the sinful nature,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

 7What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet

“I’m not sure, said Oscar.

“Do not covet is one of the Ten Commandments”, Paul stated.

Living Under the Law of Christ

“Exactly, said Phil. The law we were released from contained the commandment “do not covet’ which was part of the Ten Commandments—not the “ceremonial” law. The written code that has been abolished, and that was nailed to the cross—is the first covenant. - The law of Moses including the Ten Commandments”.

“So, you’re saying that we are free to covet? To murder and steal”, asked Oscar?

“Not at all”, Phil replied. “Christians live under the law of Christ. In Matthew 22, Jesus said:  36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38This is the first and great commandment.  39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The Law of Moses Not to Pass Away Until......

“I’ve got one for you, said Oscar”. He read: Matthew 5:18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled””

Phil replied “The key word there is until. More information about the “until “ is given in Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

I hope, Phil continued, that each of you understand that by the time the Lord went to the cross “everything had been fulfilled” that was prophesied about him in the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms, which was the requirement before entering the new covenant and ending (or fulfilling) the first , mosaic covenant. But just in case the point has not been made”, he read: Acts 13 29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher”.

The Dialogue is Concluded--For Now

Oscar was busy trying to find something is his Bible.

John stood up. “I’ve got to get back up to my room to make a call and to change clothes, he said. The others stood up too. John reached out for Phil’s hand and shook it. “I’ve enjoyed our little discussion”.

“My pleasure”, Phil replied. He handed each of them his business card after writing his home phone number on the back. "Give me a call any time if any of you are interested in a Bible Study. Then we can find out for sure by studying what God says about these things and not what Phil or Paul or Oscar or Steven says."

Each man went his way.

Luke 7  29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

by Sharon James
CopyRight 2005

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