10. Problems of the Early Church (Part Two)
In the preceding lesson, mention was made of several serious problems which arose in the early church. The New Testament books dealing with those problems were then discussed. In this lesson several further problems will be considered, together with the associated New Testament books, continuing the numerical order used in Lesson Nine.
Fourth Problem: Activities of the "False Prophets"
Matt. 7:15-20; Matt. 24:24-25
When discussing the Epistle of James in the preceding lesson, brief reference was made to certain "false prophets" and their teaching. Following the passing of James, this erroneous teaching became a serious problem for the early church. These false prophets combined certain Jewish, Christian, and pagan beliefs, and claimed that in the process they had attained a higher understanding of spiritual things; and they persuaded many Christian converts to accept their teaching. As a result of this "false-prophet" activity, some Christian converts placed emphasis on asceticism—avoiding things material and seeking to separate themselves from the world; while others took the opposite course of licentiousness, using all material things without discrimination, and practicing all varieties of immorality. All this constituted a very serious problem for the Christian leaders. Thus it came about that several New Testament epistles were written in an effort to counteract this activity, and to warn Christian converts against erroneous ways of thinking and living. Some of these epistles will now be considered.
The Epistle of Jude
The Author: The writer of this Epistle declares himself to be "Jude [or Judas], a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James" (Jude 1:1). In all probability Jude was a brother of Jesus, and was converted after Jesus' resurrection (as was James) when he then became a member of the Jerusalem council. There is a tradition that following the martyrdom of James (about A.D. 66), Jude became the presiding elder of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem. This would account for his reference to James, as mentioned above, and also for the authoritative tone of this little Epistle. It is noteworthy that Jude makes use of illustrative material drawn from the apocryphal books of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. The Epistle of Jude was probably written shortly after A.D. 70, and may have been addressed to the Christian groups in the Holy Land and Syria.
Purpose of the Epistle: The writer states that he had planned to write a pastoral letter, dealing with some important phases of Christian teaching, but the arrival of some disturbing news caused him to change the subject matter of his Epistle. He recognized that the pressing need was not for doctrinal discussions, but rather for a message of warning and exhortation. Apparently, some of the false prophets had gained entrance into the churches, and the Gospel message was being replaced by erroneous teaching and open invitations to licentious practices. The purpose of this Epistle, therefore, was to denounce these false prophets and their teaching, hoping that this timely action would win back the erring converts and restore the true Christian teaching to the churches. After opening his Epistle with a brief salutation, together with an explanation of purpose as indicated above, the writer then proceeds in the following manner:
(A) The writer gives some historical warnings, indicating how God, in times past, had dealt with erring people. He cites the punishment of unbelieving Israelites after deliverance from Egypt, and also the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even rebellious angels had been condemned to "eternal chains in the nether gloom" (Jude 5-7).
(B) The writer than attacks the false prophets and all their works. "These men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones," he cries. But, "Woe to them I For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error, and perish in Korah's rebellion." He concludes by saying, "These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 8-16).
(C) Jude reminds his hearers that these false prophets had been predicted by the Apostles, and therefore their efforts to delude Christians were to be regarded as a challenge to the steadfastness of the converts. He then exhorted believers to "build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." He also urged the Christians to "convince some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 17-23). The Epistle then concludes with a loving benediction and doxology.
Jude is usually regarded as symbolizing the activity of renunciation, or elimination. This symbology will be readily understood when recalling the main purpose of Jude's Epistle—which was to eliminate, or cast out, the false prophets and their erroneous teachings from the Christian church. There are times when we also are called upon to cast out some false prophets from our consciousness. These "false prophets" are the erroneous thoughts and conditions that take up their abode in our mind and body; and just as the false prophets wrought havoc in the early church, so do these erroneous thoughts and conditions tend to wreck our health, happiness, and peace of mind. If we are to function harmoniously, the "Jude" within us must be brought into action.
But, we may ask, how is this to be accomplished? How can we cast out these erroneous thoughts and conditions from our consciousness? Seeking an answer to this question, we should note that the work Jude sought to accomplish corresponds, very largely, with the activity of denial. Erroneous thoughts and conditions may be denied out of existence, thus bringing a thorough cleansing to our consciousness. How denials may be used in this connection, and what may be accomplished by their use, is indicated in the following quotation:
"One of the methods that they have found will work every time in getting rid of troublesome conditions (which are all the result of erroneous thinking and feeling) is to deny them in toto: First, to deny that any such things have, or could have, power to make us unhappy; second, to deny that these things do in reality exist at all. ... Denial is the first practical step toward wiping out of our minds the mistaken beliefs of a lifetime—the beliefs that have made such sad havoc in our lives. By denial we mean declaring not to be true a thing that seems true. Negative appearances are directly opposed to the teachings of Truth. Jesus said, 'Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous [right] judgment' " (John 7:24). (Emilie Cady Lessons In Truth 4:9, 4:14).
First Epistle of John
I John 1:5-10; I John 2:7-11; I John 3:1-3; I John 4:7-12
The Author: While the writer's name is not actually mentioned, this Epistle is usually regarded as the work of the Apostle John. After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the break-up of the Apostolic Council, John journeyed to Ephesus, and became the head of the Christian church in that city. John at that time was also regarded as the presiding elder, or bishop, of the Christian groups in the western area of Asia Minor.
Main Purpose: The "false prophets," already mentioned in this lesson, also sought to introduce into the Christian groups some heretical teachings regarding the person of Jesus Christ. This caused some Christians to think of Jesus as a phantom. They began to deny the reality of His earthly manifestation, and regarded Him as only a temporary manifestation of Deity. The Epistles of John were written in an effort to counteract all these false teachings, with the writer placing great emphasis upon the reality of Jesus Christ, and declaring that He had indeed "come in the flesh" (I John 4:2).
The First Epistle of John should now be carefully read in its entirety, using the following outline as a reading guide.
OUTLINE OF FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
Opening statement (I John 1:1-4.)
The writer opens his Epistle by emphasizing the reality of Jesus Christ. He declares that his teaching is not merely fine-spun theory—like unto the teachings of the "false prophets"—but is drawn from personal experience: "We have seen with our eyes ... and touched with our hands."
Note: This section should be compared with the teaching given in the opening verses of John's Gospel (John 1:1-14). Both passages make clear that God was made manifest in Jesus Christ.
Two Important Points in Christian Teaching. (I John 1:5-2:17)
(1) Fellowship with God: This fellowship is possible only through righteousness—and righteousness is attained only through Jesus Christ. (I John 1:5—2:6)
(2) The New Commandment: This section is based on the words of Jesus, as given in the Gospel of John: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). Note how the writer of this Epistle applied this teaching to all persons, and to all phases of life. (I John 2:7-17.)
The Antichrist (I John 2:18-29.)
This section deals with the false prophets and their teachings. The writer clearly states, "I write this to you about those who would deceive you" (I John 2:26). He further strongly asserts: "Whoisthe liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist" (I John 2:22).
Distinguishing marks of God's Children. (I John 3:1-5:5)
They are called "children of God," and are distinguished from "children of the devil," because God's love abides in them, and they are accounted righteous before God through Christ (I John 3:1-24); they do not accept the teachings of the "false prophets" (I John 4:1-6); they manifest God's love by maintaining a loving attitude toward their fellow men. This section contains the oft-quoted statement, "God is love" (I John 4:7-21); they keep God's commandments, not because of fear, but because they love God (I John 5:1-5).
The Threefold Testimony. (I John 5:6-12)
This Epistle seeks to emphasize the truth that Jesus Christ was indeed God made manifest. Hence three infallible witnessesare mentioned: "theSpirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree" (I John 5:8). This indicates that God (Spirit) was being made manifest throughout the entire ministry of Jesus Christ, from His baptism (water) to the cross (blood), thus opposing the teaching of the false prophets that the Spirit departed from Jesus prior to His crucifixion. The Authorized Version of the Bible adds a verse not given in the Revised Standard Version, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." However, this verse was not part of the original text, but is regarded as an early interpolation by someone copying the manuscript.
True Knowledge. (I John 5:13-21)
The false prophets were deceiving the converts with their claims regarding the "higher knowledge." John therefore closes this Epistle with a repetition of the word know—thus emphasizing that true knowledge is to be found only in the Christian teaching. "You may know that you have eternal life" (I John 5:13); "We know that he hears us" (I John 5:15); "We know that any one born of God does not sin" (I John 5:18); "We know we are of God" (I John 5:19); "We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding" (I John 5:20).
Second Epistle of John
II John 1-13
In the opening verse, the term elder has reference to the writer of this Epistle (the Apostle John), who was then presiding elder, or bishop, of the Christian church at Ephesus, with jurisdiction over other Christian groups in that area. The phrase "to the elect lady and her children" clearly refers to a Christian church—probably at Pergamum—with the converts designated as the "children." The closing verse, "The children of your elect sister greet you," is easily recognized as a reference to the church at Ephesus.
This short letter was written to warn the Christian converts against the false prophets and their erroneous doctrines, and follows a similar line of thought to that of the First Epistle, only in abbreviated form. While this message is quite brief, it is also very emphatic. Note how the writer urges the converts to keep clear of these erroneous doctrines. He says: "Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for. . . Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God" (verses 8-9). It would appear that John was planning to make a visit to this church in the near future, and he felt that a "face to face" explanation of the dangers involved would be more effective. Apparently, some other matters also needed straightening out, "so that our joy may be complete."
Third Epistle of John
III John 1-15
This is a brief personal letter, written by the Apostle John, and addressed to a highly esteemed friend named Gaius. It is interesting to note that a man bearing this same name was closely associated with Paul during his ministry at Ephesus. (See Acts 19:29.) However, this Epistle of John was not written until many years after Paul's ministry at Ephesus, so the two men mentioned could scarcely have been the same. The Gaius mentioned in this Epistle was apparently a wealthy and influential layman, having membership in one of the "seven churches of Asia."
John's main purpose in writing this little Epistle was to secure the support of Gaius in connection with a controversy that had arisen between the apostle and a church leader named Diotrephes. Apparently Diotrephes had acted contrary to instructions, and was also seeking to repudiate the authority of John, who was then the bishop, or presiding elder of the Christian churches in that area. John states that he had written a letter to Diotrephes, which had been disregarded. John further charges that Diotrephes "likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority ... he is ... prating against me with evil words ... refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church." The word brethren, as used here, would refer to some traveling evangelists of those days.
Two possible reasons for Diotrephes' strange conduct may be suggested. About that time (A.D. 100), some Christian churches in that area were making changes in organization, and the controversy mentioned in the Epistle may represent some breakaway from the old patterns. However, what seems more likely is that Diotrephes had come under the influence of the false prophets mentioned in connection with John's other Epistles, and this led to the break between Diotrephes and John. Possibly this is why John hesitated to "write with pen and ink"; preferring to make a fact-finding visit, and assure himself the support of Gaius, before taking any drastic steps in dealing with Diotrephes. The Demetrius mentioned was, in all probability, the bearer of this Epistle.
The Apostle John symbolizes love, this was fully explained in Lesson Nine, in connection with the study of John's Gospel. However, there are two important activities of love which, although frequently overlooked in metaphysical discussions, are clearly indicated in John's Epistles. Some attention should now be given to these activities.
(1) The Protective Activity of Love: John's First Epistle is written in terms of parenthood, and on several occasions the phrase is used," I am writing to you, little children," or something similar. In the Second and Third Epistles the term the elder is used, and although this indicates John's official position, it also suggests seniority in both physical age and spiritual development. John's purpose in taking this attitude is easily discernible. As a spiritual "parent," or "elder," he seeks to protect his readers (his spiritual children) against the dangers of false teaching. This false teaching, referred to earlier in this lesson, was presented in a plausible manner, and many of the younger converts were being led astray. John sought not only to reclaim the erring ones, but also to throw this protecting wall of love around all the converts, so that they might be secure against all future attacks upon their faith.
This protective activity of love is also associated with several well-known incidents in Jesus' ministry. Note how Jesus sought to protect His disciples when the Pharisees complained about their violations of the Sabbath law (Mark 2:23-29) and Jesus' conversation with Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail" (Luke 22:31-32). Notealso how Jesus, even when He was on the Cross, sought to make provision for His mother Mary, so that she might be protected against hardships in the future (John 19:26-27).
(2) The Disciplinary Activity of Love: Usually we think of love as being associated with gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, an "easygoing nature," and so on. Seldom do we think of love and discipline as being connected. However, there are times when love is called upon to function through disciplinary action, for the good of all persons concerned. Under such circumstances, discipline is not to be regarded as punishment, but rather as an effort toward correction; for without such action, the erroneous conditions would continue unabated. All this is seen in John's Third Epistle, where the apostle was called upon to deal with some serious conditions in one of the Christian churches. Discipline was to be exercised, but rightly understood, this was an activity of love. The situation thus indicated finds many parallels in present-day life and experience, and all that is involved places additional emphasis upon the oft-quoted statement, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6 A.V.).
The Epistles of John (together with James, First and Second Peter, and Jude) are sometimes referred to as "Catholic Epistles." This has no reference to any section of the present-day Christian church. It indicates rather that these Epistles are of universal character, and their message is for all Christian people.
Fifth Problem: Defecting Christian Converts
Heb. 1:1-5; Heb. 2:1-3; Heb. 6:1-6; Heb. 12:1-13
In order to understand the nature of this problem, it should be recalled that in the early days the Christian church was mainly Jewish in membership. The Apostles were Jews, and their converts were drawn for the most part from the synagogues. For a brief period these converts maintained what may be termed dual membership. They attended the Christian assemblies and received Christian instruction, but they also maintained their connection with the Jewish synagogues. However, the Jewish leaders soon called a halt to these proceedings, and the Jewish Christians were compelled to choose between membership in the Christian church and membership in the synagogue. If they desired to be "in" with a Christian group, they were ruled as definitely "out" as regards their connection with the synagogue.
During the early period of Christian activity, this excommunication from the synagogue did not greatly concern the Jewish Christians. Their enthusiasm for the new teaching, coupled with Christian fellowship—and above all, their belief in the speedy return of their Lord—enabled them to accept without question whatever hardships they were called upon to endure. But with the passing of the years, their hopes regarding the return of the Lord were not fulfilled, and their enthusiasm began to wane. Then came the persecutions, in which Jewish Christians suffered severely because of their beliefs. Small wonder, therefore, that many of these Jewish Christians began to have second thoughts regarding their severance from the synagogues. In those days the synagogue was regarded as the center of the community, and excommunication meant being cut off from practically all the worthwhile things of life. Therefore during this period (approximately A.D. 70-85) there was a marked defection of Jewish Christians from the church. This happened not only in the Holy Land, but also in those parts of Asia Minor and Europe where Paul had established Christian groups or churches.
Thus it was that a very important New Testament book was written in an effort to stem this tide of defection and to win back those who had already defected—the book we now know as "the Epistle to the Hebrews." This Epistle is an outstanding literary work, in which the writer presents Christian teaching as superior to all the Jewish beliefs and traditions. He does not detract from Judaism in any way, but points out in various ways the superiority of Christianity as compared with Judaism. He indicates that Judaism is good, but Christianity is by far the better way. He therefore urges all Jewish Christians who may be wavering in their faith, or losing their earlier enthusiasm, to press forward, and "run perseverance the race that is set before us. looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).
The following notes will be of assistance in making a careful study of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Author of the Epistle: In most modern versions of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews is given without the author's name. But the King James Version still follows an old Eastern tradition, and attaches Paul's name to the Epistle. Possibly this tradition had its origin in a praiseworthy desire to insure an undisputed place in the New Testament for such an outstanding piece of Christian literature. However, even in ancient times the Pauline authorship was questioned, mainly for the following reasons: (1) All of Paul's Epistles start with his name and indications of his apostolic authority, but in Hebrews no author's name is mentioned. (2) Paul's style of writing is altogether different to that found in Hebrews-and this difference can be readily recognized, even when reading from a translation. (3) All of Paul's Epistles are addressed to specific groups or persons, but Hebrews makes no mention of its destination. (4) Paul's theology and his teaching, as given in his Epistles, differ considerably from that given in Hebrews. (5) The writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a "high priest for ever" (Heb. 6:20), whereas Paul was too familiar with the character and activities of the high priest at Jerusalem to make any such comparison. (6) The New Testament makes clear that long before this Epistle was written, Paul had been repudiated by the Jews, and many of the Jewish Christians were strongly opposed to his teachings and activities. Paul therefore would have been personanon grata with the Hebrews, and his writings would not have been given a moment's consideration by Jewish people, Christian or otherwise.
In regard to other possible authors, the names of Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Aquila and Priscilla have been suggested. However, since all these were closely associated with Paul, it would seem likely that their teaching would be along Pauline lines; whereas the theology and teaching of this Epistle differs considerably from that of Paul. Martin Luther is credited with the suggestion that possibly Apollos (see Acts 18:24 and I Cor. 1:12) was the author of Hebrews, and there are several indications, both in the Epistle and elsewhere, which support this suggestion. Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew—possibly educated at the University of Alexandria; and Hebrews is written in what is termed the Alexandrian style. Apollos is described in the New Testament as "an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24), and this description would apply to the writer of Hebrews. Furthermore, Apollos spent considerable time at Ephesus and Corinth, and possibly this was the area first affected by the defecting Jewish Christians. It would certainly appear, therefore, that Apollos was a man well qualified for this important piece of work.
Date of the Epistle: The main purpose of Hebrews, together with its contents, indicates that the Epistle was written about A.D. 80, or shortly thereafter. This date of writing is a further indication that Paul was not the author, since he suffered martyrdom about A.D. 67, as mentioned in Lesson Eight of this course.
Outline of the Epistle: In following the outline given below, the student should read the chapters mentioned at the head of each section. Thus, after noting the heading given for Section One, the first two chapters of Hebrews should be read together with the comments given in the outline. Then the second section should be studied in a similar manner, and so on throughout the Epistle. Note carefully how the writer of Hebrews presents his arguments, and then urges his readers to take action accordingly. In many sections the word therefore may be regarded as the connecting link between the truth as presented and its practical application.
EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
Theme: The Superiority of Christian Teaching
Prophets are here regarded as channels of the divine message, while angels are messengers of God, and both prophets and angels are recognized as good; but the direct message of Jesus Christ is superior to that of prophets and angels. Prophets prepared the way, but Jesus said, "I am the way." "Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For. . . how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" (Heb. 2:1-3).
Section 2: Jesus superior to Moses (Heb. 3:1-4:13.)
"Moses also was faithful in God's house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house" (Heb. 3:2-3). The readers are then warned, "do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion ... where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works forty years" (Heb. 3:7-9). "Let us therefore strive to enter into that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience" (Heb. 4:11).
Section 3: Jesus superior to the High Priest (Heb. 4:14-7:28.)
This section presents some difficulties for the present-day reader. Jesus is here described as "a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:6). This is a direct quotation from Psalms 110:4, and the Jewish people regarded it as referring to the coming Messiah. The writer of Hebrews uses Melchizedek as symbolizing the perpetual priesthood of Jesus, in contrast with the many changes in the Jewish priestly system. Melchizedek "is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:3); whereas "the former priests ... were prevented by death from continuing in office" (Heb. 7:23). Thus, argues the writer of this Epistle, Jesus "has become a priest, not according to legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life" (Heb. 7:16). Of course, this type of argument would not be regarded as valid nowadays, but it was quite acceptable when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written.
Section 4: The New Covenant superior to the old (Heb. 8; 9; 10.)
The writer states that just as the ministry of Jesus Christ is to be regarded as superior to the old systems, so "the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For, if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second" (Heb. 8:6-7). The word covenant is here used as indicating a solemn agreement made between God and His people, wherein God promised to protect and prosper them if they, on their part, would abide strictly by His commandments. The writer of Hebrews then gives some details regarding the working out of the old covenant, emphasizing the activities of the Jewish priesthood. But he points out how, "when Christ appeared as a high priest ... he ... offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb. 9:11-14). The writer then urges his readers to "enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us ... and ... let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:19-22).
Section 5: The work of faith (Heb. 11; 12.)
This section forms an outstanding dissertation on faith, wherein the writer shows how this spiritual quality sustained many of the Old Testament heroes, and enabled them to accomplish mighty works. The writer of the Epistle then urges the defecting Christians to exercise their faith, and press forward, "looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).
In order to understand this section, careful consideration should be given to the opening verse, which describes the nature of faith. The better reading for this verse is: "Now faith is that spiritual quality which gives us assurance of things hoped for, and convinces us regarding the reality of things unseen." Faith is thus presented as a perceiving power, and the writer of this Epistle tells how the heroes of old were enabled to look beyond appearances by the exercise of their faith. Noah was made aware of "events as yet unseen"; Abraham "looked forward" to a land which he was to inherit; Isaac and Jacob foresaw the development of their nation; Moses "endured as seeing him who is invisible"—and other instances are given. Then in closing this section, the writer urges the wavering and defecting Christians to "lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet" (Heb. 12:12-13).
Section 6: Closing salutations and exhortations (Heb. 13:1-8.)
"Let brotherly love continue. ... Remember your leaders ... Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Then follows a noteworthy benediction.
Problems of defection were not peculiar to the early church. Defections of various sorts continued throughout Christian history, with individuals or groups drifting back to their former ways of thinking and living. Even today, there are persons whose enthusiasm for high ideals and Truth principles tends to wane, and then there is a noticeable falling off in their interest and activities as regards spiritual things. Thus the entire theme, besides many passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews, may be regarded as having important present-day application. We can still profit by the admonition to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us," and to "lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet" (Heb. 12:1-12).
Also, the method of presentation used in this Epistle is one that can be profitably followed today. It will be noted that the writer does not condemn the older forms of religion, but places emphasis upon the advantages of the new way. He recognizes that many of the old forms and customs were good for former times; but he then points out that the new revelation through Jesus Christ is infinitely superior, and leads to higher spiritual developments. Such a method of presentation does not arouse antagonism, but opens the way for a fair consideration of all the new possibilities.
The word Hebrews is also significant. This word has been explained as indicating persons who have pressed onward, or have passed over, to regions beyond. All of this is exemplified in the call and activities of Abraham, when the Lord said to him, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). Metaphysically, "The Hebrews surely represent the thoughts in man that have come up out of the purely material and passed over to a higher concept of God and H is laws, into a closer and clearer relationship with God. These thoughts are, however, still under law, the law of sin and death; for true freedom, spiritual understanding and realization, life and peace, come only by the still higher way—which is the Christ method, the way taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 267).
Then, in all this "passing over," recognition must be given to the work of faith. Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (John 7:24)—and we are enabled to "judge right judgment" by the perceptive power of faith. Under these circumstances, we are not disturbed nor dismayed by appearances, but we press forward to "receive as an inheritance" wherein is that "city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:8-10).
Questions for Lesson 10
- Who was Jude? Explain briefly why he wrote his Epistle. What was his attitude regarding the "false prophets"?
- Why was the First Epistle of John written? What official position did the Apostle John occupy at the time when this Epistle was written? What attitude did he take toward the "false prophets"? In your answer give some quotations from this Epistle, with references.
- What was John seeking to accomplish by writing his Third Epistle? Who was Diotrephes? Mention two possible causes for the disturbed conditions indicated in this Epistle.
- Why was the Epistle to the Hebrews written? Give a brief explanation of the conditions in the early church which gave rise to this Epistle.
- What is the main theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews? How does the writer emphasize the superiority of Christianity? Give at least three instances of this superiority, with references from this Epistle.
- What is represented metaphysically by Jude? Explain briefly how the activity represented by Jude is brought into operation in our life and affairs.
- What is indicated by the term "protective activity of love"? How is this shown in John's First Epistle? Also mention some activities of Jesus which reveal this "protective love" in operation. Give Scripture references.
- How does love function through disciplinary action? In your answer explain how this "disciplinary action" appears in John's Third Epistle. Illustrate the connection between love and discipline by relating some personal experience.
- What is indicated by the word defection in connection with Hebrews? Why did the writer urge his readers to "run with perseverance"? (Heb. 12:1.) How does this apply today?
- What is the metaphysical meaning of "Hebrews"? Explain briefly how this is exemplified in the call of Abraham (Gen. 12). In what way or ways may we regard ourselves as Hebrews? How does faith help in this regard?
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