The Visitor

It was a cold day at the close of February, even as far south as Hinterlands, Texas, and those who gathered there for the Disputing for the DoctrineTM Lectures were grateful for a warm church building.

A few minutes before the first lecture was to begin that Sunday morning, a smiling visitor in a three-piece suit and carrying a clipboard took his place behind the lectern and the crowd quieted out of curiosity.

“Thank you,” he greeted. “I won’t take much of your time; I’m just here to take an informal survey of sorts and a quick show of hands will take care of the answers I need.

“The theme for this year’s lecture is ‘Portraits of Heresy #2,’ which makes me assume that last year’s theme was, of course, #1. I see from the program that it consists of refutations of books, sermons and other works by others within the fellowship.

“First question: Has anyone contacted any of these authors directly to discuss with them any difficulties they may have had with the content of those books before preparing his remarks here? Anyone? Show of hands, please.”

The visitor looked as perturbed as the people in the audience. No hands went up.

“Okay,” the visitor acknowledged, and wrote something on his clipboard sheet. “So we have a potential procedural violation of code 40.18.15-17 and 40.5.23-24.

“Got it. Second question: How many of you can name all of the false teachings, heresies and apostasies described the New Testament? Hands?”

Again, though there were no hands going up, there was a considerable amount of consternation apparent.

“I’m not going to ask you to list them all; I’m just asking if you know them all,” the visitor smiled sympathetically. Looking about, he saw no response and inscribed another character on his clipboard sheet, muttering: “Complete unfamiliarity with 48.5.6, 54.1.3-10, 61.2.1, 62.4.3, 63.1.7 … and all the rest.”

“What are you talking about?” hollered a fellow sitting near the front, trying to rise to his feet and suddenly finding himself unable to do so.

“Oh. Your legs have fallen asleep.” The visitor appeared to consider it. “Appropriate. – I’m talking about law. You do consider scripture to be law that must in every case be fully known and obeyed, do you not? No, no; I wasn’t asking for a show of hands on that one. – What I’m doing is simply expressing scripture as citations of law; I thought that might be your preference. I’ll convert back, if it will make things clearer. Third question: Everyone’s aware of, uh, Matthew 7:1-2 … ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you …?’ How many of you believe that does not apply to you because you are, in fact, disputing for the doctrine?”

Thunder sounded outside, a little more threateningly than it had before.

A few hands started to go up, but there was some confusion over the phrasing of the question and they quickly went down. A middle-aged fellow jumped to his feet and shouted, “Listen here … Who are you? What gives you the authority to …?” But his question was interrupted when he suddenly gasped, clutched at his chest and sank back into the pew dumbstruck.

The visitor’s smile had faded. “Ouch. Chest pain? Heart, I’ll bet. Perhaps you should take it easy. – I must compliment you on intuiting the subject of the last two questions, by the way, identity and authority – although in reverse order. Fourth question: How many of you believe that everything regarding worship and service to God must be specifically authorized in scripture ….” At this, virtually every hand shot up and even the cautious ones – seeing the majority vote enthusiastically – joined eventually. “… and that anything not specifically authorized in scripture is of sin and leads to God’s judgment and to eternal damnation?” No hands wavered, though, even as the visitor added in a clarifying tone, “Including instruments used in worship, cooperation in giving to aid the poor and widowed and orphaned, purchased places of worship with heating and air conditioning units …?”

Outside, the storm was audibly growing closer, and the snowflakes falling more furiously beyond the stained-glass windows.

Counting with his stylus, the visitor etched what must have been simply a rough estimate of the total attendance on his clipboard sheet. “Thank you; last question. This is a purely hypothetical one, of course: If I just happened to be an angel of the Lord, can anyone here give me even one reason why I should not call down fire from heaven to consume this place and all who are in it?”

That was the last straw; dozens of people launched themselves in the general direction of the lectern at the front. Shouts began: “Now see here!” “You have no right!” “Stop this very…” But at that very moment, a colossal flash of lightning through the windows whitened the image of every soul present and a simultaneous sonic boom of thunder pounded the rafters, the pews, the floor, and the center of each heart there. Though the lights flickered out, they did not stay out – yet they returned much dimmer. There was a sizzling electrical noise nearby that died out a few seconds later, and the hint of a scent of smoke.

As the crowd looked around, they realized that the visitor was gone from the lectern. No one had seen him go during the instant of brilliance and then darkness. He simply was not there.

The host of the Lectures rose to his feet, his knees still a bit wobbly from having just regained prickly wakefulness. He took his place at the lectern and said haltingly, “Well … heh, heh … that was unusual, wasn’t it? Can’t ever remember a Lecture beginning quite like that before; can you?”

There was some nervous laughter. He reached for a song book. “Well, let’s sing a song to begin.”

As the strains of Will the Circle Be Unbroken filled the auditorium, punctuated at the end of nearly every phrase by staccato thunder, the sense of anticipation returned … though this time, with a good measure of apprehension. Eyes occasionally darted up to the ceiling, creaking under the weight of newfallen snow, or toward the windows as thunder sounded. And the warmth in the auditorium slowly seeped away.

Which was no great mystery; the bolt of lightning had fried the HVAC unit out back.

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25 thoughts on “The Visitor

  1. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    Some seem to draw this from it’s holster, like a colt 45, and take dead aim on their fellow man, without knowing the true meaning of what was said.
    But when you accuse your fellow man of being judgmental, you yourself have just broken that “law” by judging him. But of coarse this post was not meant to judge others, it just seemed that it was going in that direction.

    • And of course, I’m not being judged for quoting Matthew 7!

      The important part of the verse tells us to remember that we will be judged the way we judge others. So it’s a given that we will judge others. If we judge their actions without passing judgment on others (since we can’t know their hearts and motivations), we are judging for ourselves (Luke 12:57) and judging wisely. If we judge in order to condemn, that is how we will be judged; if we judge with a desire to forgive, that is how we will be judged (see Luke 6:37ff).

      Yet we are called upon to pass judgment on those in the church and expel the wicked (1 Corinthians 12:13ff), for there will come a time (not yet) when saints will have a role in judging the world (6:2).

      If we do not point out the dangers of judging to those who make a career of it (and do not understand the difference between judging to condemn and judging for oneself), then we have shirked our own responsibility to love our brothers.

  2. Keith, you know, and I know that everyone who attends a lecture does not always agree with what is being said. Yet in your (make believe, it is make believe isn’t it?) gathering, you condemn every person in attendance, except the questioner, of coarse, he was not condemned because he comes from your imigination, and beliefs, in other words he was actually you, not the real judge. The man in the three pieced suit, was your opinion. Or was it, you do have magical powers, I remember where another man walked through walls and dissapeared, if you are claiming to be that questioner on that stormy night in Texas, then you have done what I have asked all along, give us proof you are indwelled by the “Holy Ghost”.

    • It’s a work of fiction, laymond.

      Give us proof that you are not indwelled by the Holy Spirit, brother!

      Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

  3. 1Cr 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

    Keith, look at the context in which this was said, then break it down and tell me what was said. Do you think it says, no man can call Jesus Lord, unless the Holy Spirit says so.
    Or do you think it says Jesus was made Lord, by “the Spirit of God” and no one can say different.

    • Because the context is clearly about the Holy Spirit and God giving spiritual gifts through Him, I think it says – as you put it – “no man can call Jesus Lord, unless the Holy Spirit says so.”

      Neither the verse nor its context/pericope has anything immediately to do with God making Jesus Lord. (I don’t argue that this is untrue – Acts 2:36 plainly says that God made Jesus both Lord and Messiah. But that’s not the focus and point of this verse in 1 Corinthians.) The word “made” is not there, with reference to the relationship between Jesus and God. No causal relationship between Jesus and God is part of the chapter. Nor the previous chapter. Nor the following chapter.

      Anyone who taught you that interpretation added the word “made” to the verse.

  4. Keith, I believe you are wrong, but we would have to wake Paul up, to be certain, as to what he meant, but the evidence is stacked against your belief of what Paul said.

    Mat 14:28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
    (this is but one of many times, that is recorded, where man called Jesus lord,
    and evidence suggests it was without the help, of an indwelled “holy ghost”)

    Jhn 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

    Are you suggesting this is wrong. Are you saying that no man could rightly call Jesus Lord until after he was glorified, and the holy ghost was given to men.?

    • I don’t think we’d have to awaken Paul from the dead to know that he wrote what he wrote after the resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, laymond.

      Does the fact that others had the Holy Spirit before He was specifically given to the apostles (John the Baptist, for instance) negate the fact that Jesus breathed on them and instructed them to receive the Holy Spirit?

      You’re trying to make laws and rules for God to follow out of facts and incidents, brother, and that does not always work.

  5. Keith, these are the facts,of our conversation. you said ” I think it says – as you put it – “no man can call Jesus Lord, unless the Holy Spirit says so.”
    The fact is in Mat 14:28 Peter called Jesus “lord”.
    Fact In John:7:39 it is written no man had received the holy ghost, until Jesus was glorified.so, ( when Peter called him lord, he had not been glorified) if what you said is true? it runs counter to facts written in the bible.
    Many other times it is written that people called Jesus, the man lord, face to face. Why did Jesus deserve that title, because Acts 2:36 plainly says that God made Jesus,Lord. (I don’t know of any way Jesus could have become lord, without God making him so) I believe Paul was speaking of gifts given by God. Even the greatest of all, was given to his son , by the same Spirit/ The Spirit of God. That has been my point all along, The Spirit of God, and the comforter/ holy ghost/ spirit of truth, are not one and the same. The spirit of God, is God. The spirit of truth/ comforter, is a gift from God.
    I have 1 Corinthians 12:3 quoted many times as proof of the indwelled H.G. and it just ain’t so.

  6. Sorry, I can’t see scripture making that distinction.

    If you can demonstrate that what Paul wrote states that the only way from that point forward and backward, then and forever, that someone could call Jesus Lord was through the Spirit only as given through Jesus, you might have a point.

    But you’d still have to explain how David, inspired by the Spirit, called Jesus “Lord” before Jesus was born to be able to give him the Siprit in the same way (Psalm 110:1ff, as quoted in Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34).

    Frankly, I get the impression that the specifics of this argument aren’t as important to you as having the argument in order to berate me once again for disagreeing with you about the relationship among ghe Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is really all you seem to care about, and you never miss an opportunity to try to bait and berate me, and to be honest I don’t find it engaging or anything that I really want to engage in.

  7. Keith said, ” the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is really all you seem to care about”

    Keith it is not “all” I care about, but a belief has to have a beginning, and if we get the foundation of our belief wrong it becomes the “house built upon sand” and when the foundation washes away the house falls down.
    I try to build my doctrine on the following, scripture.
    Deu 32:1 ¶ Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
    32:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
    32:3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
    32:4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

    I believe Jesus’ doctrine came from the same source. A recognition of one God almighty.
    Jhn 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

    Your foundation has it’s beginnings with the doctrine of man, you have readily admitted that the doctrine of the “Trinity” is no where to be found in scripture, unless it is pieced together by man. (yet you say , in the beginning there was God the father, Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit) you seem to give great authority to what is called “The church fathers” and their doctrine, and quite frankly, even leaders in the church today, what they say seems to carry more weight with you than what is found in scripture.

  8. I think what I said ws that the word “Trinity” is not found in scripture. And there are many doctrines – true as well as false – that are pieced together from scripture.

    If you can find on this blog or any other even one comment I’ve made quoting early church fathers or current church leaders in order to defend a doctrine of trinity, I’d be happy to send you $20 toward the purchase if a good steak dinner.

  9. Keith, if you look more closely at what I said you will find this “you seem to give great authority to what is called “The church fathers” and their doctrine, and quite frankly, even leaders in the church today, what they say seems to carry more weight with you than what is found in scripture.”
    Keith when I say “it seems” I mean it appears to me. I have never accused you of quoting others to defend your doctrine. But that said the acceptance of the “trinity doctrine” as fact was adopted 300+ years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    the emperor called a council at Nicea in 325 AD Bishops of the catholic church were called to resolve this dispute, it is said that only a fraction of existing bishops, 318, attended. And a small fraction of those were opposed to the “Trinity” many more who were opposed were not allowed to attend.

    The church hierarchy determined this doctrine.
    Keith do you know who was spoken of in Revelation, that God hated ? This very hierarchy is who is referred to as the Nicolaitans. Why because there is but one leader of Christ’s Church. In God’s eye there are no Christians master of the other, they are simply brothers/sisters, as we have heard God is no respecter of man. So when we follow a creed /doctrine established by any other than Jesus Christ, who taught the doctrine of God the father, we are substituting the knowledge of man for that of God. Nicolaitans is a combination of three smaller words, look this up and see what they are.

  10. Next you’ll be arguing over what the definition of “is” is, Laymond.

    And, as you say, there was a formal debate over the doctrine of the Trinity in 325. That’s hardly when it was “adopted,” “resolved,” or “determined.” If it had been resolved, we wouldn’t have the pleasure of your repeated diatribes against it.

    You still have to wrestle with the fact that Origen and Tertullian and Polycarp and Ignatius and Justin Martyr were using trinitas and other divine three language to describe what they read in Scripture, as far back as the late 100s and early 200s. Now, you’ll really have to help me understand why I should be swayed by your arguments, and why I should not be swayed by the arguments of these godly men. If agreeing with them is the same as “giving great weight to their doctrine,” wouldn’t agreeing with you be the same as “giving great weight to your doctrine?”

    Ahh… but you will reply, “Not so! They went beyond Scripture with their teaching, while I only teach what Scripture teaches!” But your Nicolaitan doctrine goes well beyond what Scripture teaches, thus refuting your very claim that you only follow creeds/doctrines established by Jesus Christ.

    If *you’re* allowed to do some cipherin’ on Scripture to come up with doctrines, why would you disallow that privilege from men who lived far closer to the time when the Scriptures were written?

    What is true is that whether doctrinal exposition comes from the pen of Justin Martyr or the pen of Nick Gill or the pen of Laymond Meredith, it must be tested against the Scriptures. And on that account – which was the whole point of the Nicea debate – the idea of the Trinity stands firm as the best model to describe the Father-Son-Spirit relationship we see throughout Scripture. NOT necessarily every doctrine that has been surmised about the Trinity – since Scripture is no more about the inner relationship of Father-Son-Spirit than it is about the work of angels, we should not be surprised that Scripture does not neatly and exhaustively exposit that relationship – so there are going to be some wrong-headed conclusions drawn, even if the idea is headed in the right direction.

    “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
    “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
    “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

    • Nick, “But your Nicolaitan doctrine goes well beyond what Scripture teaches, thus refuting your very claim that you only follow creeds/doctrines established by Jesus Christ.”

      First off, Nick the doctrine or teaching is from one who is much more versed in Greek than I. But it is much more understandable than, an unknown sect, which has not been heard of before or after it was spoken but twice in Revelation..

      Greek Construction of the word Nicolaitans
      The word Nicolaitan (Greek: Νικολαΐ́της or Nikolaitës, Strong’s Concordance Number #G3531) is a compound word which is composed of THREE Greek words. Because of it being a proper noun, the word Nicolaitan is TRANSFERRED instead of being translated into English. Thus, it is subject to the laws of Greek construction in regard to ellipsis, contraction and phonetics.

      The three Greek words used in the construction of the word Nicolaitan are:

      •NIKOS, of which we use the English equivalents instead of the Greek letters, as we shall also of the other two. Nikos is defined as “a conquest; victory; triumph; the conquered; and by implication, dominancy over the defeated.” Another transferred name in which this term is used is “Nicopolis,” which is composed of Niko, which means conquest and polis, which means city. Hence, the city of conquest, or city of victory.

      •LAOS, which means people. Another use of this word is found in NICOLAS, which is transferred and is composed of Nikos-laos and means one who is “victorious over the people,” the letter “s” being in both words the nominative case ending, which is retained only at the end of the word to denote the case, while “a” short and “o” short are contracted into “a” long.

      A still further transferred use of LAOS is found in the name Lao(s)diceans (Greek: Λαοδικεύς or Laodikeus, Strong’s Concordance Number #G2994), compounded with DIKE or DICE as the Greek “k” is the equivalent English “c.” Thus, in the name Laodiceans, we have LAOS, meaning the people, and DICE, meaning judgment or vengeance, i.e., the people of my judgment, or of my vengeance. Also the Greek word la(ic)os, which means “laymen,” of which LA-OS is the root and stem, which selfsame word, with the “o” short contracted to “i”, to which root and stem the plural definite article TON is joined to form LAITON, which is a Greek phrase meaning “the laity.”

      •TON is the third and last word entering into the construction of the proper name Nicolaitans. TON, in which Omega, the long “o”, is contracted into long “a”, thus making the word TAN which is the genitive case plural in all the genders of the definite article ‘the.’
      We therefore have, without the legal Greek construction, the English hyphenated word NIKOS-LAOS-TON, but which, with its lawful elisions and contractions, becomes the English name: Nicolaitans.

      The full meaning of the word Nicolaitans
      The full meaning of Nicolaitans, in its native tongue and in its ecclesiastical setting, is that the bishops and prelates of the Church have gained a triumphal victory or conquest over the LAITON, the laity, until they have been compelled to submit to the arbitrary dominion of men who have become that thing which God hates – ‘Lords over God’s heritage’:

      Written by: J. H. Allen

      • More accurate, I think, is “Conquerors of God’s People” and the subsequent parallelism with the name Balaam.

        “Nicolaitanes-Irenæus [Against Heresies, 1.26.3] and Tertullian [Prescription against Heretics, 46] make these followers of Nicolas, one of the seven (honorably mentioned, Ac 6:3, 5). They (Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 2.20 3.4] and Epiphanius [Heresies, 25]) evidently confound the latter Gnostic Nicolaitanes, or followers of one Nicolaos, with those of Revelation. Michaelis’ view is probable: Nicolaos (conqueror of the people) is the Greek version of Balaam, from Hebrew “Belang Am,” “Destroyer of the people.” Revelation abounds in such duplicate Hebrew and Greek names: as Apollyon, Abaddon: Devil, Satan: Yea (Greek, “Nai”), Amen. The name, like other names, Egypt, Babylon, Sodom, is symbolic. Compare Re 2:14, 15, which shows the true sense of Nicolaitanes; they are not a sect, but professing Christians who, like Balaam of old. tried to introduce into the Church a false freedom, that is, licentiousness; this was a reaction in the opposite direction from Judaism, the first danger to the Church combated in the council of Jerusalem, and by Paul in the Epistle to Galatians. These symbolical Nicolaitanes, or followers of Balaam, abused Paul’s doctrine of the grace of God into a plea for lasciviousness (2Pe 2:15, 16, 19; Jude 4, 11 who both describe the same sort of seducers as followers of Balaam).”

        from several commentators listed at Biblos.com

        Since the clergy-laity split is a concept foreign to the context of the letters of Revelation (whether the early or late date of publication is accepted), I find the Balaam parallelism much more convincing.

  11. Nick,

    More often than not (and truly, sometimes not) you write things that I find absolutely brilliant. This is a “more often” event.

    Edit that comment and put it in a blog post. I want to retweet and Facebook the living daylights out of it.

  12. Nick, my whole point of ever bringing up the Nicolaitans, was the Bishops of the council at Nicea, could be lumped right in with them, and what makes us think God liked anything they did? If he hated them in the two churches in Revelation, what makes us think he loves them in the church at large.

    • And therein lies the problem with your position, brother: it begs the question of whether or not the bishops at Nicea “could be lumped right in with them.”

      The interpretation you found is convenient for your argument, but it doesn’t fit the context of the Scripture in question.

      And the larger question, I think, would be, “Why should I ‘give great authority to the doctrine of’ JH Allen?”

  13. Nick, Because it is not a doctrine, it is an analysis, a factual analysis of the meaning of a word, which nearly everyone else has overlooked. He was not talking about anything here except the meaning of the word, and why Jesus hated it.I am not a big fan of Mr Allen, but when you are right, you are right. Why do you think the Nicolaitans, were not on Jesus Christmas list.

  14. “which nearly everyone else has overlooked”

    Lovely.

    Unsubscribing from e-mail updates for these comments. It was mildly amusing for a time.

    Again, great post Keith, and good thinking on your part Nick.

  15. Keith……umm, GREAT post. Having said that, the comments section is a BEATING!
    I’m not blaming you for that. But, I do appreciate the spirit in which all of you seem to communicate with. Love in the midst of disagreement! I do find THAT encouraging! 🙂

    The Trinity is NOT an easy thing to discuss.

    Blessings all around,
    DU

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