Commonly Misunderstood Verses

In this section, you will find common arguments people use about certain Scriptures. I explain the argument and then provide an explanation for the Scripture. I have a list of the subjects addressed below:

#1: Understanding the Meaning of Colossians 2:13-15.

#2: Understanding the Meaning of Colossians 2:15-17.

#3: Understanding the Meaning of I Timothy 4:1-6.

#4: Understanding the Meaning of Galatians 4:8-11

#5: Understanding the Meaning of Romans 14:5-6

#6: Christians are part of Israel as well.

#7: Some say there is only one Baptism. Others say that there are two Baptisms. Who is correct? (This is an explanation of Ephesians 4:4-6).

#8: Did the gifts of the Spirit Cease? (No, but scroll down to read the full answer… Examining I Corinthians 13:7-12).

#9 Do I need to speak in tongues to be saved? (Short answer, no, scroll down to the bottom to read the full answer)

 

 

Argument #1: Understanding Colossians 2:13-15

In Colossians 2:13-15, Paul wrote, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (KJV, emphasis mine throughout). Many people use these verses to say that Christ nailed the Law of God or the entire Old Testament to the cross. In this verse, the phrase “handwriting of ordinances” is the Greek phrase choriegraphon dogma. Choreigraphon means a bill of indebtedness written in the debtor’s handwriting. Dogma means a man-made decree. This phrase refers to our sin debt. This is reinforced by the fact that the phrase “blotting out” means to erase something that is written. The word of God mentions that a record of our deeds are kept in heaven (Revelation 20:12, Hosea 13:12, Nehemiah 13:14, Psalm 109:14). Christ erased our sin debt by nailing it to the cross. He also erased the record of sin that is recoded in Heaven! Revelation 12:10 explains that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses us because we have outstanding sin that we have not repented of! When we repent, our sins are blotted out of the books in Heaven, so that the powers and principalities of this world are put to an open shame! They are disarmed! Their accusations are rendered null and void. This should be very humbling to all of us. Our sin debt was nailed to the cross, not the Law of God (see also Galatians 5:25 as a second witness).

 

Argument #2: Understanding Colossians 2:15-17

In Colossians 2:15-17, Paul wrote “15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (NKJV) There are those who use these verses to say that Paul was teaching against keeping the Feasts of the Lord. One of the chief things to understand about the church in Colossae is that they were dealing with the false teaching of asceticism. Asceticism is a man-made philosophy that views enjoyment such as rejoicing, feasting, or anything that brings about happiness as morally wrong or incorrect. To give an example of this, Paul says a little later in verses 20-23 that: “20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (NKJV)

These ascetic teachers were teaching the Colossians not to participate in anything physically enjoyable because they viewed such things as sensual or indulgent. Paul rebukes this false teaching and says that it is merely a man-made teaching that cannot restrain sensual indulgence at all. Understanding this ascetic heresy is the key to understanding Colossians 2:15-17. Paul begins verse 15 by explaining Christ’s victory over the powers and authorities of this world through His crucifixion. He then continues in verse 16 by saying “So let no one judge you in food or in drink…” The Greek word he uses for food in this verse is the word brosis. This word refers to that which God made to eat in Leviticus 11 (see the section on I Timothy 4:1-6). He is actually pointing us to the dietary laws in this passage!

In the second half of verse 16, Paul says to let no one judge you “regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.” The Greek words he uses for festival (heorte), New Moon Celebrations (noumenia), and Sabbath (sabbaton) are words used only to refer to the Feast Days in Leviticus 23, the New Moon Celebrations in Numbers 28:11-15, and the seventh day Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3. Heorte is used 27 times in the New Testament, and it is only used in reference to the Feasts of the Lord. The Feast Days, New Moon Celebrations, and the Sabbath are often lumped together in the Bible (I Chron. 23:31, Neh. 10:33, Ez. 45:17). In the Bible, they are the most joyous times of celebrations and feasting. This is why the ascetic teachers began to judge the Colossian believers for keeping these things.

Paul concludes verses 15-17 by saying that these things “…are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” He tells the Colossians to let no one judge them for keeping the dietary laws or celebrating the Sabbath and Feast Days. Christ is the substance or reality of each one of these things. He is saying that the real meaning of the dietary laws, Feast Days, New Moons, and Sabbath is Christ. For instance, the dietary laws foreshadow that Christ would make our body the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Sabbath and Feast Days depict the plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. He made each of these things, so they all reflect Him! Since the real meaning of these things is found in Christ, Christians have yet another reason why we should obey them!

 

 

 

Argument #3: Understanding I Timothy 4:1-6

 

In I Timothy 4:1-6, Paul wrote: “1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They 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. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.”

Paul, speaking about the last days, mentions those who will depart from the faith and follow the teachings of demons. These ‘hypocritical liars’ will teach men to abstain from marriage and “from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” Some people have tried to apply these verses to the dietary laws in Leviticus 11 on clean and unclean animals. This interpretation runs into some problems. First of all, Paul says that this false teaching comes from demons. Did a demon speak the dietary laws in Leviticus 11? Absolutely not! The Bible says that the LORD spoke them. This eliminates the possibility that this hypocritical teaching refers to the dietary laws! The teaching Paul refers to came from demons, not God. What foods did God create to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth? Interestingly enough, Paul uses the Greek word broma in verse 3. It is translated as ‘certain foods’. This is a direct reference to the clean animals of Leviticus 11, which are called food for God’s people. Thus, this false teaching prohibits people from eating clean animals. The truth Paul refers to in verse 3 is the truth of God’s word and His Law. In Paul’s time, no New Testament existed. The only text that believers had to call truth is the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Jesus said that the Word is Truth (John 17:17). There is no other truth for Paul to reference and there are no other foods other than broma that God created to be eaten (brosis is another Greek word that means the same thing)

Paul then says that everything we eat should be consecrated (or made holy) by two things: the word of God and prayer. In the word of God, pigs, shellfish, and other unclean animals were never set apart for humans to eat. From the beginning, unclean animals were made for certain purposes, but never for human consumption! Prayer will not make a pig chew the cud or a shrimp grow fins and scales because God did not make those animals that way. These false teachers will teach people to abstain from the clean animals that God’s word clearly says are permissible to eat and to abstain from marriage. The word ‘and’ in verse 3 is critical in understanding these verses. Only one church, the Catholic Church, teaches that certain people (their priests) should not marry and that believers should not eat any meat on Friday (other than fish). I know many Catholic people who are very good moral people. I am not speaking against them as people. They did not start these teachings. I am simply pointing out that these two teachings are not Biblical. God never said to abstain from meat on Fridays in the Bible, and the Bible does not prohibit marriage for ministers. If you do not know God’s truth that some animals were made to eat and cannot be forbidden by man, then you will be deceived by this teaching. In verse 6, Paul commends Timothy for exposing this false doctrine. He also points out that we will be good ministers of Christ Jesus if we teach others that God made some animals to eat. We will be upholding a truth of the faith.

For more on this topic and a complete view of the New Testament on the dietary Laws, please order our book “Clean and Unclean: A Guide to Living the Holy Life”. Order information is located in the “store section”.

 

Argument #4: Understanding Galatians 4:8-11

In Galatians 4:8-11, Paul wrote: “8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature (by the order of things) are not gods. 9 But now that you know God – or rather are known by (under) God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable (lacking) principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” Many people assume that Paul’s letter to the Galatians is written to a group of Jews who are ‘going back’ to law keeping. First and foremost, we must understand that Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, not to the Jews. While he often went into a city’s Jewish synagogue, Paul always affirms himself as a preacher and apostle to the Gentiles. In Galatians 1:15-16, he wrote that his calling in Jesus Christ was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. A second thing to keep in mind is that one of the main issues in Galatia was adult circumcision. If he was speaking to a group of Jews ‘going back’ to law-keeping, then the issue of circumcision would not have arisen because the Galatians would have already been circumcised. Third, Paul begins this passage by saying, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you served those gods who were by nature not gods.” Paul is addressing a group of churches who at one time worshipped other gods. Fourth, the language used in this passage does not support any claim that Paul is preaching against observances found in the Old Testament. The phrase Paul uses – “days and months and seasons and years” – does not contain any of the Greek words used in the New Testament for the Sabbath (sabbaton), New Moon celebrations (neumenea), or Feast Days (heorte).

 

What are the “days and months and seasons and years” to which Paul refers? To understand this phrase, one must understand some of the history of this region (Galatia was a region located in modern day central Turkey). Between 279 B.C. and 189 B.C., the peoples of this region were influenced by their own traditions of pagan worship as well as Greek mythology. The region was conquered by the Romans around 189 B.C. By the time Paul wrote to these churches in approximately 53 A.D., this region was dominated culturally and politically by the Roman Empire. The days, months, seasons, and years to which Paul refers are the Greek and Roman worship practices that permeated Galatian culture over 300 years before Paul’s visit to Galatia (see Acts 14:8-20 for an example).

 

For an illustration of this, take into consideration the “days” that Paul mentions. Every day was dedicated to a specific god or goddess in Roman and Greek culture. The practice of naming every day of the week comes from this custom. The day we know as the second day of the week (Monday) was dedicated to the moon god (days). In addition to these days, the Romans also dedicated each month to a specific god or goddess. They held ceremonies during the month to commemorate that particular deity. The month we call January was a month dedicated to the goddess Janus, who was said to have two faces. The month of March derives its name from the Roman god Mars (months). The Romans also kept certain seasons or times of celebrations to their gods that coincided with events in nature. The Saturnalia was a seasonal festival held in December to commemorate the god Saturn during the winter solstice (seasons). The combination of observing all these events makes up years (years). These ancient celebrations involved worship practices such as making sacrifices to other gods and/or making vows to these gods, which are the “weak and miserable principles” Paul mentions in Galatians 4:9.

 

Paul links these days, months, seasons, and years to a time when the Galatians served or worshipped other gods. The Sabbath, New Moon Celebrations, and Feast Days were named by God and ordained by God, which is why they are called holy in the Old Testament. God is one, meaning he does not contradict himself or go against his own words. God gave everything in the Law, including His Feast Days, to show mankind how to serve and worship Him. Paul kept the Sabbath with Galatian churches in Acts 13 and 14. Therefore, he would never condemn observances of them. He is warning them about going back to celebrating pagan feasts they kept before being converted.

 

 

Argument #5: Understanding Romans 14:5-6

Another passage commonly used to say that Paul does not agree with keeping the Sabbath or Feast Days is Romans 14:5. In Romans 14:5-6, Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” Many have used these verses to say that Paul is changing the Sabbath or Feast Days. The first key to understanding these verses is to understand the audience he is addressing. He is writing to the Romans and he is applying these verses specifically to days that the Romans considered to be important. Paul’s intention is to turn the focus of the Roman believers away from specific days they observed in honor of other gods and to turn their attention towards the Lord. Secondly, the Greek word Paul uses for day, hemera, refers to any common day. Thus, he is addressing common days, not holy days like the Sabbath. The word for holy, hagios, is not even found in this chapter (Romans 14). If he were referring to the Sabbath, Paul would have used the Greek word for Sabbath, sabbaton. Third, he is not addressing which days God considers to be holy, but what days men esteem higher than others. God is the one who set aside the Sabbath, not man. The Romans considered some days to be good days to farm and other days to be good days to fish, but they dedicated these daily activities to other gods and goddesses. Paul is a very specific writer and he would not use such vague language to speak about the Sabbath, something that he has kept and studied his entire life. He is addressing this specific Roman cultural activity, not the Sabbath or any day declared holy by God.

God is the one who declared the Sabbath Holy (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 31:12-18, and Leviticus 23:1-6 to name a few). Man did not declare the Sabbath holy nor did man declare the feasts of the Lord as holy. Paul would not condemn anyone for keeping the Sabbath or Feast Days nor would he declare a new Sabbath day. God firmly established the Sabbath on the seventh day in the beginning. Christ even called himself Lord of the Sabbath! They are called His Feasts (Leviticus 23:1-2). Paul always defends God’s holiness and God’s holy ways.

Any argument that tries to say that Paul did away with the Sabbath or Feast Days does not take into account his example. He says in I Corinthians 11:1 to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Paul’s example in the Bible shows us that he did not condemn any observance of the law, but that he continued to keep and reverence the Sabbath and Feast Days after his conversion to Christianity (for a few examples: Acts 13, Acts 17, 18, Acts 20:16, Acts 27:9, and I Cor.16:8). In his letter to the Colossians, Paul says to let no one judge them for keeping the Sabbath, Feast Days, and New Moon Celebrations (Col. 2:16). All of the early churches kept the Sabbath and Feast Days because they reveal God’s plan of salvation.

 

 

Argument #6: Christians are considered members of Israel

There are those who argue that because they are Gentile converts to Christianity, then they do not have to obey any parts of God’s law, including the Feasts. This line of reasoning runs into some serious problems in the scope of the Word of God. First of all, God said that native born Israelites and foreigners who join into covenant with Him are to have the same requirements (Leviticus 24:22). He requires the same Law for both Israelites and Gentiles. Secondly, Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:11-22 how Christ’s death allowed Gentiles to be fellow citizens in Israel (some of which is reviewed above). Third, Christians are Israelites because the New Covenant is only made with the houses of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-12). To be in the New Covenant requires that you be a part of Israel because it was only made with the two houses of Israel. Unless you are a part of Israel, you cannot be in the New Covenant. Fourth, the Greek word used for church in the New Testament, ekklesia, is a direct translation of the Hebrew word used to describe ancient Israel in the Old Testament. In the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word ekklesia is used to describe ancient Israel. The word ekklesia basically means those who are called out or the called out ones. In Acts 7:38, this word is used to describe Israel! Whenever you read the word church in the New Testament, it is a direct reference to Christians being citizens in Israel. Christians are an extension of Israel, not something completely separate. Fifth, Paul explains how we are grafted into Israel in Romans 9-11. Lastly, consider that Christ is a natural born Israelite. If we are one with Him, then we too are a part of Israel because He is the perfect Israelite. Israel is God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22), Christ is God’s firstborn son (Romans 8:29), and we who are saved are also the sons of God (Romans 8:14). These examples in the New Testament prove that we as Christians are a part of Ancient Israel, God’s means to bring salvation and covenant to the whole world. This makes the commandments just as binding on Christians as on natural born Israelites.

 

 

Argument #7: Is there more than one baptism? Ephesians 4:4-6

Another verse often used to say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is done away with is Ephesians 4:4-6, which reads, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (KJV). Based on these verses, many people say that there is only one baptism – the baptism in water. The problem with this is that Christ Himself spoke about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:4-5. This means it is a legitimate, valid experience. Paul is referring to being baptized in water in Ephesians. It is the one baptism necessary for salvation. The writer of Hebrews mentions that there are baptisms plural. Hebrews 6:1-3: “1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.” The doctrine of baptisms (plural) is a foundation of the Christian faith. It is listed beside repentance, faith, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. It is not something we are supposed to neglect. The baptisms of water and the Holy Spirit are supposed to be fundamental teachings that all believers are familiar with. One of the reasons why Jesus came was to Baptize us with the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 18:24-26, a man named Apollos was ministering to a group of people. In Acts 18:25, it is written, “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the Baptism of John.” In verse 26, the Bible records that Priscilla and Aquila invited this man of God to their home to explain to him the way of God more adequately. Apollos only knew the Baptism of John. This word only is an important word to be found in Scripture. Apollos only had the baptism in water; he needed to learn about the Baptism in the Spirit. Not coincidentally, the very next story in the Bible is the story of Paul going to Ephesus (Acts 19:1-9). In this town, Paul encounters people who have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. He then prays for them to be filled with the Spirit, and they speak in tongues. The mention of Apollos only having the Baptism of John, and then Paul praying for people to receive the Baptism in the Spirit is not coincidental! The Bible is inspired! This means there is another Baptism we need. We need the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

 

Argument #8: Did the gifts of the Spirit cease? (No!) – Explaining I Corinthians 13:8-12

There are some verses used by people and churches to say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are non-existent. The first is I Corinthians 13:8-12: “8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (or be fully known in the NIV)” Those with this view say that “…the perfect which is to come…” in these verses is a reference to the New Testament Cannon. They also say that Paul’s reference to prophesy, tongues, and knowledge are references to the nine spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12. Thus, they believe that the complete New Testament caused spiritual gifts to cease.

 

There are several problems with this view. First of all, whenever a writer of the Bible refers to the Bible, the writer always specifically calls it the Word of God, the Scriptures, or the writings. Sometimes more specific references are used such as the Psalms and Law. Since no mention of a holy text is given here, then the above interpretation cannot be correct. Secondly, perfection in these verses refers to humans being made perfect in the image of our Creator. In Hebrews 5:9 and Hebrews 7:19, the writer mentions Christ being made perfect. Since Paul was an apocalyptic Jew and believed in the resurrections, the perfection he references is either the resurrection or New Heavens and the New Earth. At that time, a believer will not need to prophesy because they will be a resurrected spirit-being. Third, there is no indication from any verse of the Bible that the writers of the New Testament knew that there would be a compilation of the gospels, Paul’s letters, and other general letters into one book. The Bible says that everything must be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. There is not a second verse or set of verses to support the view that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit are done away with. Lastly, Paul said that when the perfect comes we shall know fully. Clearly, no one knows fully until the resurrection of the dead when we shall be as Christ (I John 3:2). The combination of these facts means that the verses in I Cor. 13:8-12 have nothing to do with tongues. They speak of the future time of the resurrection and the restoration of all things.

 

Question #1: Do I have to speak in tongues to be saved? (No!)

Some people believe that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation. I want to point out that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a requirement for salvation. In John 20:19-23, Jesus breathes on the disciples and they receive the Holy Spirit. They received an initial seed of the Spirit. We receive this when we first repent for our sins and receive Christ. The disciples did not speak in tongues until about 50 days later when they were Baptized in the Spirit. The verses in John show us that it is possible for a person to have the Holy Spirit, yet not be Baptized in the Holy Spirit or speak in tongues. Does this mean that we should be satisfied with salvation and only a portion of God’s Spirit? Absolutely not! Remember, the disciples did eventually get baptized into the Holy Spirit. There is an expectation that we will too. This is a promise of the Father! One of the reasons Christ came is that we might be Baptized in the Holy Spirit and with Fire! In our modern world, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is almost always a separate event from salvation. This is because so many churches speak against it. This is why some churches call this event a second blessing.

 

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