|Live Services||"Feedback Loops" and "Serving God"|
|Editorial||This Is the Season|
|Q&A||Do We Have the Complete Bible?|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
"Feedback Loops" and "Serving God"
On Saturday, December 27, 2008, Eric Rank and Robb Harris will give split sermons, titled, respectively, “Feedback Loops” and “Serving God”.
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
This Is the Season
by Robb Harris
During this time of year it’s difficult to not hear bell ringers outside of stores asking you to donate your spare change. Bins are conveniently placed in supermarkets to donate cans of food for those who are hungry. Trucks will even show up at your door and pick up clothing to help warm people in this cold wintery season.
It would take very little effort on our part to help the disadvantaged during this season. Shouldn’t we then take advantage of this easy way to alleviate at least some suffering in this world? After all, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” (James 1:27). It would SEEM right to give during this time of the year, but we must not fail to take into consideration the latter part of verse 27, “…and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
As good as donations might be in helping those who suffer, most given during this holiday season will be used to propagate pagan traditions. We are warned about taking part in this kind of activity: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me’” (Matthew 15:7-8). No matter how good giving might feel, if we are adding to the traditions of men, we will also be driving people away from God—something we must strive NOT to do!
The poor are still hungry and in need of help outside of this season, and giving our assistance shouldn’t merely be emptying our cupboards and pockets of unwanted items during the month leading to Christmas.
Christ said we should have a giving attitude to those who demand something of us. We should walk an extra mile or offer our shirt in addition to our coat. Service to our brother means sacrifice of ourselves—not the superficial offerings that this season inspires.
This Week in the News
Incredible SCANDAL–How Bailed-Out Banks Pilfer Taxpayers’ Money
The Associated Press reported on December 21:
“Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year… The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:
“–The average paid to each of the banks’ top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.
“–Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company’s top five executives received a total of $242 million.
“–This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said… It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.
“– Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp… took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.
“–John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year… Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28…”
Incredible SCANDAL–“Where’d the Bailout Money Go? Shhhh, It’s a Secret…”
The Associated Press reported on December 22:
“… after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it. The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers…
“There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. Lawmakers summoned bank executives to Capitol Hill last month and implored them to lend the money… But there is no process in place to make sure that’s happening and there are no consequences for banks who don’t comply… Congress attached nearly no strings on the $700 billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent.”
Where Are Today’s Political Leaders with Convictions?
Welt On Line, a conservative German paper with friendly support of Germany’s conservative party, the CDU, published a remarkable article about former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt who is a member of the center-left SPD party. The article is especially remarkable, as it contrasts Schmidt’s strong convictions–which were and are not always popular–with the faltering temporary political “preferences” of many present-day political leaders. We are quoting the following excerpts:
“Helmut Schmidt, a chain-smoking former German chancellor, celebrates his 90th birthday on Tuesday amid an improbable revival in popularity for a prickly man with no-nonsense views that contrast sharply to many current leaders. Schmidt may not have scaled the heights of popularity while Chancellor of West Germany for eight turbulent years. ‘Schmidt is the star of German politics, its icon. No one is admired as much as he is,’ Der Spiegel wrote…
“According to a survey by the Forsa polling institute, Schmidt ranks as the ‘coolest guy in Germany’ and he tops several other polls as the country’s most popular leader… Schmidt, married to his high school sweetheart for 66 years, made his mark as a local crisis manager in 1962 Hamburg floods. That reputation he burnished as chancellor with his handling of economic crises and his mastery of a 1970s leftwing urban guerrilla campaign of bombing and assassination — a test of fire for a still relatively young German democracy…
“ZDF television commented: ‘Schmidt is a completely different leader compared to this generation that knows firm convictions today will lead to certain electoral defeat tomorrow.’
“The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper marvelled at Schmidt’s popularity, saying his tenacity and crisis management makes current Chancellor Angela Merkel pale by comparison. ‘We’ve now got a chancellor whose greatest achievement is that she is Germany’s first woman chancellor,’ the paper wrote. ‘It seems this grumpy gentleman with the cane fulfills a deep yearning for strong and confident political leadership… None of today’s professional politicians accomplished anything in their lives, except perhaps graduating from university.’“
“Worst Financial Crisis Since Great Depression”
AFP reported on December 21:
“The governor of the Bank of Spain on Sunday issued a bleak assessment of the economic crisis, warning that the world faced a ‘total’ financial meltdown unseen since the Great Depression. ‘The lack of confidence is total,’ Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said…
“‘The inter-bank (lending) market is not functioning and this is generating vicious cycles: consumers are not consuming, businessmen are not taking on workers, investors are not investing and the banks are not lending. There is an almost total paralysis from which no-one is escaping,’ he said, adding that any recovery — pencilled in by optimists for the end of 2009 and the start of 2010 — could be delayed if confidence is not restored… ‘This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression’ of 1929, he added.”
Reuters reported on December 24 that “The United States fell deeper into recession, data showed on Wednesday, as the number of people filing for jobless benefits hit a 26-year high last week and consumers cut spending for the fifth consecutive month… Nearly 2 million U.S. workers have lost jobs this year, driving the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent…”
The article continued:
“Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said, ‘Japan cannot avoid the tsunami of the world recession… The world economy is in a once-in-a-hundred-years recession. We need extraordinary measures to deal with an extraordinary situation,’ he said.”
AFP added on December 24:
“Russia and China issued stark warnings on Wednesday about the impact of the crisis on their recently booming economies in 2009, with Moscow saying the downturn could spark unrest in the streets. Japan also approved a record-high budget aimed at avoiding the worst effects of the crisis and Germany prepared to pump  billions of euros into the economy in a new rescue plan in a holiday season marred by a slew of economic bad news…
“Economists have warned that the global downturn could mean that China will end 2008 with its weakest economic growth for nearly two decades. China has not posted annual growth of less than 7.6 percent since 1991.”
Germany–“The Calm Before the Storm”
On December 18, 2008, Der Spiegel Online wrote the following:
“As the year draws to a close, and as the world faces recession, a credit crunch and job worries, the economic outlook is the bleakest it has been in postwar history. The next year is expected be a test of strength for the German economy…
“Economists are predicting new alarming scenarios for 2009 almost every day…
“Despite the crisis, the coalition government in Berlin has not shown much leadership strength. Officially, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats continues to oppose additional large-scale government bailout programs. Merkel’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück of the center-left Social Democrats, seems to prefer quarreling with the British and French who, he insists, are frittering away their money with their bailout packages. In doing so, he has also angered many…
“As Bavaria’s new governor, Seehofer is trying to demonstrate his strength in the run-up to next September’s federal election. Party politics, it seems, has distorted much of the government’s response to the crisis. In November, the chancellor warned the public to be prepared for ‘a year of bad news.’ Never in the 60-year history of the Federal Republic of Germany have citizens been this anxious as they enter a new year, plagued by worries of how much worse things can get and, most of all, how safe their jobs are…
“What is most astonishing is the incredible speed with which the crisis is spreading from one company to the next… The Americans, deeply in debt, can no longer afford products made in Germany…
“Over the course of the year, well-known German companies like retailer Hertie, watchmaker Junghans and fashion house Wehmeyer have become insolvent, and another wave of bankruptcies could follow in 2009… the government cannot set everything straight. In fact, it is probably far less capable of doing so than politicians believe.”
Germany’s Schizophrenic Role in the Iraq War
Der Spiegel Online reported on December 19:
“German lawmakers have been probing the schizophrenic role of the Schröder administration in resisting America’s invasion of Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in the hot seat this week, and German commentators don’t believe everything he’s said. The grilling received on Thursday by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister and a candidate for chancellor in 2009, was intense. He was answering to a parliamentary committee investigating whether German intelligence provided meaningful assistance to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 [as has been claimed by former US military leaders, including Generals Tommy Franks and James Marks]. And his credibility is on the line…
“Steinmeier is under the gun because Berlin was so emphatic about being against the US-led invasion. His boss at the time, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, ran for re-election in 2002 on an anti-war platform. Were it proven that German agents had provided valuable intelligence that helped that invasion, it would cast a shadow on those who were part of that government, including Steinmeier, who at the time was Schröder’s chief of staff, and Joschka Fischer, who was Schröder’s foreign minister. Such a revelation certainly would do nothing to help Steinmeier’s 2009 campaign for the Chancellery as the Social Democratic candidate.
“Fischer also testified on Thursday, but the media spotlight was trained firmly on Steinmeier. And he stuck to his guns, calling the comments from the US military leaders ‘outlandish’ and ‘ludicrous.’…”
But–the question is: WHOSE comments are ludicrous and outlandish?
War Against Somali Pirates
The International Herald Tribune wrote on December 23:
“Germany called Tuesday for an international court to be set up to prosecute Somali pirates who have attacked scores of vessels this year, threatening global trade in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes… German lawmakers agreed last week to send up to 1,400 soldiers and a frigate… to the Gulf of Aden as part of the EU mission.
“Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung of Germany… said the German soldiers, who will provide protection to ships delivering food aid to Somalia would have a ‘robust’ mandate. ‘Obviously there will be combat situations,’ he said.”
In a related article, the paper stated on December 23:
“Chinese warships on a mission to protect their country’s vessels and crews from pirate attacks off Somalia will depart Friday, armed with special forces, helicopters and plans to share information with other countries working in the area.
“The operation, China’s first major naval mission abroad, will include the destroyers Haikou and Wuhan as well as a large supply ship… On board will be two helicopters and traditional weapons like missiles and cannons… China announced it was sending warships to the area after the United Nations Security Council authorized nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases.”
Belgium Again In Political and MORAL Crisis
Deutsche Welle reported on December 22:
“Belgium’s King Albert II accepted Leterme’s resignation following a Belgian Supreme Court report on allegations that his aides had sought to influence a court ruling connected with the break-up of Belgian bank Fortis. The collapse of the government was the country’s third political crisis in under a year, and leaves five coalition parties to fight over who should pick up where Leterme left off.
“The political crisis leaves Belgium facing a period of deep uncertainty at the worst possible time, with the economy sliding into recession and investors’ confidence at a low as a result of the global financial crisis.”
Russia Threatens the West
Mail-on-Line reported on December 23:
“Vladimir Putin has unveiled a triple whammy of threats and provocation for Britain and the West… In moves certain to further undermine diplomatic ties with London and Washington, Mr Putin… [w]arned that Britain faced winter gas shortages if supplies from Russia were disrupted because of his bitter dispute with Ukraine; [t]hreatened to supply surface-to-air missiles to Iran, despite Western concerns over its nuclear ambitions; and [l]ined himself up to be appointed president for a third term after Moscow’s parliament rubber stamped constitutional changes overturning a law that only allowed two four-year periods as leader…
“Russia also said last night it plans a massive increase in armaments. It will spend £100billion from 2009 to 2011 on 400 new types of weapons, including 300 tanks, 14 warships and almost 50 planes… Russia will continue to rely on its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, commissioning 70 strategic nuclear missiles over the next three years.”
Anti-Semitic Internet Statements Against Madoff and Jewish Community
AFP reported on December 19, 2008:
“Anti-Jewish commentary is flooding the Internet in the wake of Bernard Madoff’s arrest on charges of masterminding one of the biggest Wall Street frauds in history… Madoff, 70, is Jewish and a prominent member of the powerful US Jewish community. He is alleged to have defrauded investors, including a number of Jewish-related charities, of some 50 billion dollars.
“‘Site users have posted comments ranging from deeply offensive stereotypical statements about Jews and money — with some suggesting that only Jews could perpetrate a fraud on such a scale — to conspiracy theories about Jews stealing money to benefit Israel,’ the [Anti-Defamation League] said in a statement.”
Worldwide Internet Services Not THAT Reliable
Deutsche Welle reported on December 20:
“Internet and phone connections between Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been severely disrupted after three underwater cables were severed and it may take until Dec 31 before normal service is re-established… It is thought that 65 percent of traffic to India was down, while services to Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan have also been severely affected…
“An afternoon toll [sic] released by France Telecom said that 100 percent of traffic was lost in the Maldives Indian Ocean islands, with the Gulf state of Qatar and Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden, also losing over 70 percent of their traffic.
“The submarine cables are jointly owned by several dozen different countries… ‘If there was just one cable down we could have used the other two,’ said France Telecom spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard. ‘But all three are down so this puts us in a very difficult situation. This is a very rare situation,’ he said.”
The Pope Speaks Out Against Homosexual Conduct
The Herald International Tribune wrote on December 22:
“Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction…
“The Catholic Church teaches that… homosexual acts are [sinful]. It opposes gay marriage… The pope said humanity needed to ‘listen to the language of creation’ to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as ‘a destruction of God’s work.’
“He also defended the Church’s right to ‘speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected.'”
The reaction of Europe’s gay community to the Pope’s speech was predictable and swift.
Der Spiegel Online reported on December 24:
“In Germany, Volker Beck, an out gay man with the Green Party, described the pope’s statements as ‘agitating words.’ And Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a prominent German critic of the pope, described Benedict’s words as ‘a threatening message to homosexuals.’ She said his views could not be left unchallenged, adding that the history of homosexuals in Christianity has been a ‘bitter one.’
“‘As soon as the Christians came to power, they immediately sought to eradicate homosexuals,’ the theologian told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Ranke-Heinemann was the world’s first woman to be given a professorship as a Catholic theologian. For one and a half millennia, she said, Christians ‘burned homosexuals on the pope’s orders.’
“Meanwhile, Rev. Sharon Ferguson of Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement described his statements as ‘totally irresponsible.’ The head of the Inclusive Church in England, accused the pope of ‘spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet.’ That, he said, ‘is just absurd.’
“Aurelio Mancuso, the head of the Italian gay rights organization Arcigay… said he was deeply disturbed by such church-directed discrimination. ‘Last year was a bad enough year for homosexuals in Italy, and we are very concerned.’ The number of violent attacks in the country against gays and their organizations has risen dramatically in Italy in the past year. ‘All signs are pointing towards a confrontation,’ said Mancuso. ‘People are really scared.'”
Frightening Greek Christmas Myths–“Twelve Days of Christmas or Hell”?
On December 19, Der Spiegel Online reported the following:
“Who says Santa Claus is the only one trying to come down your chimney during the festive season? According to Greek mythology, a gaggle of goblin-like spirits are trying to slide into homes — and instead of presents they are intent on leaving a trail of destruction.
“As the Greeks tell it, it wouldn’t be hard to confuse the Twelve Days of Christmas with the Twelve Days of Hell. That is if you believe in the Kallikantzaroi. These mythical, goblin-like spirits are said to pop up between Christ’s birthday and Epiphany on Jan. 6, days they devote to wreaking their unique brand of havoc…
“Opinions differ on what they look like… [Some] say the Kallikantzaroi resemble humans with dark complexions, ugly, very tall beings that sport iron clogs. Others say they’re short and swarthy, with red eyes, cleft hooves, monkeys’ arms, and hair-covered bodies…
“For most of the year the Kallikantzaroi live in the bowels of the earth, but they creep out during the Twelve Days of Christmas, venturing out under the cover of night…
“In recent years, the Christmas tree has grown in popularity throughout Greece. But some Greeks prefer the old ways, opting instead for a sprig of basil suspended over a water-filled bowl. Once a day someone in the home, usually the mother of the family, uses the sprig to sprinkle water throughout the house to ward off the creatures.
“The only reliable cure-all, however, is when village priests bless the waters on the eve of Epiphany, which marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. They have been known to visit homes to sprinkle holy water fragranced with sweet basil to chase away the evil spirits for another year. On the eve of Epiphany in Cyprus, villagers scatter pancakes on the roof to give the Kallikantzaroi something sweet to eat as they prepare to head out of town, perhaps to show there are no hard feelings.”
Samuele Bacchiocchi Died at Age 70
On December 21, 2008, WorldNetDaily wrote:
“Biblical scholar [and theology professor] Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, best known for his teachings on how Sabbath observance shifted toward Sunday worship in much of Christendom, died yesterday [Saturday, December 20] at his Michigan home at the age of 70 after a two-year battle with fourth-stage liver cancer…
“Bacchiocchi earned his doctorate in Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was awarded a gold medal by Pope Paul VI for his summa cum laude class work and dissertation, ‘From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity.’ A Seventh-Day Adventist, Bacchiocchi believed there was no Scriptural mandate to change or eliminate Sabbath-keeping, and he singled out the Catholic Church for its role in changing the day.
“‘The Church of the capital of the empire, whose authority was already felt far and wide in the second century, appears to be the most likely birthplace of Sunday observance,’ he wrote. Bacchiocchi previously told WND: ‘Anti-Judaism caused the abandonment of the Sabbath, and pagan sun worship influenced the adoption of Sunday.’… Bacchiocchi also explained the influence of pagan sun worship provides a ‘plausible explanation for the Christian choice of Sunday’ over the day of Saturn. Its effect wasn’t just limited to Sunday. It apparently led to the placement of Jesus’ birth in late December.
“‘The adoption of the 25th of December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of sun worship’s influence on the Christian liturgical calendar,’ Bacchiocchi wrote. ‘It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on that date.'”
Do We Have the Complete Bible?
As we will see, the entire Word of God that was written down to become a part of what is called the “Bible,” has been preserved through various copies and translations and is available to us, today!
However, the question arises as to which manuscripts should be included and actually constitute the true Scriptures of the Bible. Major religions differ on this most vital consideration. For instance, the Jewish religion uses only those books commonly called the Old Testament, Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Modern copies are primarily based on the Masoretic Text that dates from between the seventh and tenth centuries AD. None of the New Testament books are accepted as a part of the Hebrew Bible.
A Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, was developed sometime during the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. While this was commonly used by Jewish communities throughout the Middle East well past the time of the founding of the Church of God on Pentecost in 31 A.D., additional, spurious books (called the “apocrypha”) were also translated and included in some copies. Of the 15 apocryphal books then extant, all appear in this Greek translation with the exception of 2 Esdras. They were not included in the canonical Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text).
Not understanding the prophetic declarations from the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, the Jewish nation still looks for a Deliverer. However, the record of Jesus precisely and exactly fulfilling the messianic prophecies is revealed in the New Testament (compare Matthew 21:33-46; Acts 4:8-12). Jesus very boldly declared that He fulfilled the promises of God, as recorded in the Old Testament (John 5:37-40; Luke 24:25-27, 44). Based on the fact the Jews have utterly rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they have cut themselves off from the entire, written Word of God—they do not have the complete Bible!
On the other hand, let us also understand that the preservation of the Old Testament was a responsibility that was given to the Jews, and it is one that they certainly fulfilled.
Paul states, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles [sayings, Scriptures] of God” (Romans 3:1-2).
We have this additional statement from Jesus regarding the role given to those of Judah (including Levites): “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes AND TO HIS DISCIPLES, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do’” (Matthew 23:1-3). As mentioned, they did not include or preserve the apocryphal writings in the Old Testament Scriptures, showing that they are not part of the inspired Hebrew Bible.
One other example of applying this is in the keeping of the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days. True Christians who observe these commanded Feast Days still refer to the Jewish oversight of the Hebrew calendar.
Next, we need to consider the New Testament. Is it complete, or have some important books been left out? On the other hand, does the New Testament contain apocryphal additions like the Septuagint? The Bible itself provides foundational answers to these questions! Consider what the apostle John wrote concerning his own account of Jesus Christ in the book of John:
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
By John’s statement we understand that only certain aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ were recorded—that many other things could have been written. Furthermore, what is written is for the purpose of revealing God’s plan of Salvation.
As time went on in the first generation of the Church of God, letters were written and circulated to the churches in various areas (compare Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; and 2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of these letters also now make up a part of the New Testament. Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as part of Scripture (compare again 2 Peter 3:16). By writing down the record of events about Jesus Christ and of His teachings, the authors were doing exactly what they were commissioned by Jesus to accomplish:
“‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Acts 1:8; also, compare Luke 24:46-48; Acts 10:39-43; 13:31).
We have four accounts, called the gospels, which introduce the New Testament. A reason for this might include a principle given in the Old and New Testament, “‘”…by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”’” (Matthew 18:16; compare Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1). Luke substantiates this need—echoing the same objective for his account as we have already read from John:
“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:1-4).
Yet, there arose those individuals who sought to change the teachings of these witnesses. Paul warned that “‘…from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves’” (Acts 20:30; also, compare 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). False ministers also wrote counterfeit letters—even forging Paul’s name to them (2 Thessalonians 2:2). John was confronted by such a false leader who rejected John and any who were brethren of his—the true followers of Christ (compare 3 John 9-10).
It is the apostle John who is credited with assembling the final canon of the New Testament. In Floyd Nolen Jones’ book, “Which Version Is The Bible?,” this remarkable statement is made: “The apostle John’s long life enabled him to bear apostolic witness to the true text of Scripture and canon until almost the year 100 at which time his hand-trained associates carried forward that same witness. Upon returning from his banishment to the isle of Patmos, John completed the sacred Canon by composing his Gospel, epistles and Apocalypse. Then combining these with the writings of the other Evangelists, he sanctioned them all with apostolic authority.”
While this quote reflects the studied opinion of the author following extensive research, his view is supported by Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th edition, 1965, page 743, in which writers such as Clement of Rome (95 A.D.), Polycarp (110 A.D.) and Ignatius (110 A.D.) already quote various books that are a part of the New Testament canon.
John was most likely the last of the apostles to die, and he is the one who received the vision of the Book of Revelation—the final book of the New Testament (Revelation 1:1-2). Consider, though, that the true Church of God was being supplanted by a false Christianity, and those who remained faithful did so out of public—and for the most part—historical view.
While we don’t have many specific historical records beyond the books of the New Testament themselves concerning the writing of the New Testament, we do find many documents that date from after the time of the apostles and those who were their contemporaries. Later writers make reference to the books of the New Testament, but there are also many spurious writings claiming to have equal status. Examples of early apocryphal works are the Gospel of Thomas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistle to the Laodiceans.
Partial copies of the New Testament proliferated in the centuries following the founding of the Church of God, along with an abundance of apocryphal writings—especially, the second and third centuries. Deciding what was true and what was false fell on issues of historical accuracy along with whether or not there was agreement with the doctrines of the Bible—both Old and New Testaments.
John 17:17 states, “‘…Your word is truth.” Based on this consistent teaching throughout Scripture, there can be no example of opposing doctrines being taught. Christ emphasized that Scripture cannot be broken or contradictory (John 10:35). This fact has helped to rule out the inclusion of those fanciful stories and legends that arose from humanly conceived philosophies and religions.
A guiding admonition about the written Word of God is given in the Bible:
“‘Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it’” (Deuteronomy 12:32; also, Deuteronomy 4:2).
Note, too, Revelation 22:18-19: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Those who break this solemn warning not only bring judgment upon themselves, but they will be held accountable for deceiving others with their falsehoods. People who rely on extraneous writings do not have the complete Bible!
Remember what the purpose of the written Word of God is [and we have this promise from Jesus Christ—our way of proving what is “…that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2)]: “‘…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32). Also, note Christ’s statement in John 7:17: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether [someone speaks] on [his] own authority.”
(NOTE: Discussion of this question will be continued in a future Q&A).
Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link
by Shelly Bruno
Almost missing the Feast of Tabernacles this year, due to a sudden sickness of my son, has given me a new perspective about my church family. Frankly, I had been taking attendance at the Feast for granted. I am blessed with a place to attend services every Sabbath and fellowship with other believers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fully appreciating that blessing until I was faced with the reality of observing the Feast alone. As much as I tried to have a “Feast spirit” over 1,000 miles away from the brethren—what I really wanted was to share that spirit with my church family—in person!
Spending time every Sabbath and on Holy Days with those who are led by God’s Spirit strengthens my resolve during the week and throughout the year. I know that my spiritual brothers and sisters also face trials or experience times of joy, and we can share that. Many times in conversation at church services, someone has said something to me that stuck. It might have been a few simple words of encouragement, or even some challenging words that helped me rethink my approach to overcoming a problem.
I’ve been inspired by others’ ability to tackle their trials, encouraged by supportive words, and simply been made to feel connected to God’s spiritual family. We don’t always know how we can affect one another, but we do. Thankfully, as it turned out, I was able to attend the second half of the Feast with God’s family. Although members of this family may not all share the same blood, what we do share is so much more important–God’s Holy Spirit. This blessing of family is something I now appreciate more fully, and as I look forward to Sabbath services each week, I’ll remember that family matters!
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
Reminder–US Contributions for 2008:
Donations and contributions received with letters postmarked in 2008 AND with enclosed written checks, dated in 2008, will be included in the detailed donation receipts for 2008. These receipts will be printed and sent out in mid-January of 2009. Cash contributions must also be received prior to January 1, 2009 (or, if sent by letter, the letter must be postmarked in 2008), in order to be included in the donation receipts for 2008. All contributions not falling into the categories described above will not be included in the donation receipts for 2008.
New Sermon and StandingWatch program:
Norbert Link’s sermon, “Bible Study: Live in Peace, Part 2,” dated December 20, 2008, has been posted on Google Video and on our Websites.
A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch, Google Video and YouTube. It is titled, “Our Terrible Healthcare System.” In the program, Norbert Link is asking the question, Why are political promises to provide universal healthcare illusionary and unrealistic? Insurance companies are charging astronomical figures for premiums which very few can afford. Many doctors and hospitals seem to be incapable of correctly diagnosing certain sicknesses, let alone curing them. Listen to some personal examples regarding incompetent or outrageous treatment of sick persons. Is there no way out of this disastrous spiral, which is destroying our nation?
Recent comments from our StandingWatch viewers:
Program on “No Christmas in the Early Church”.
— Thank you for reminding everyone of the REAL truth about christmas! I don’t understand how the whole world is in the worst economic financial crisis since the Great Depression ( maybe even surpass that!) and people are still spending money they don’t have on christmas gifts, which will bring the debt even higher. People can’t and will not let go of christmas! It’s a hoax and a lie!!!!
— Praise the Lord! I am happy to know brothers in Christ around the world don’t celebrate this. Let’s pray that God [will] open the eyes of many more Christians.
Program on “Our Terrible Healthcare System” [Google Video and YouTube]:
— As a former healthcare worker, I could not agree more with your assessment on this country’s healthcare system The fact that Congress had to enact the “Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act” earlier this year supports your critique as well. Now that my husband and I are self-employed, we have gone without health insurance for a number of years because of the premium and deductible costs. Fortunately, we’ve been relatively healthy and have not incurred debt as a result of medical bills.
— What I find sad is the only place we have “In God We Trust” is on money. I really think it is not sincere and only a sick joke from whoever put it there. As if the money is their god.
— I like this video and it’s so true. I was sick for a long time with unforgiveness in my heart, when I finally forgave and asked for forgiveness I was healed very rapidly. I like your vid[eo]s, keep posting!
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0
United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom