Korah’s Rebellion 

Korah’s Rebellion 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

For the next few weeks we will look at some of the lesser known Biblical accounts, and the lessons we can learn from them. 

In Numbers sixteen there is a strange and terrifying event that unfolds. It has all the ingredients of a great movie. There’s rebellion, jealousy, vengeance, and drama but it’s so much more than a story. It’s history, and it’s been divinely recorded for our learning.

Korah seems to be the individual that starts a rebellion against God’s chosen leader, Moses. He hops up on his high horse and rallies together two hundred and fifty other leaders among the people. This group, no doubt, gave him the confidence to directly confront Moses face to face. He says, “You’ve overstepped yourself, Moses! Take a look around at the people you’re trying to lead. They are just as righteous as you, and God is in their midst!” Moses falls on his face, then says, “Tomorrow, God will make His stand with who He chooses.”

When morning comes, Korah and his fellow rebels bring incense to the Tent of Meeting to offer up to God. In the meantime, an intense conversation between God and Moses takes place. God, filled with righteous anger, is about to demolish every one of them in their tents, but Moses pleads with God to give them a chance. So, a warning is given to the people, “stay away from the tents of these evil men!” No sooner had the warning been given, the earth opens up and Korah and all those belonging to him are swallowed up by the earth. Fear spreads among the people as they were afraid for their lives, and who could blame them? God then strikes down the two hundred and fifty leaders with fire— the worship offerings still in their hands. What an account! Of course there are several applicable lessons for us, but here are just three.

Mind your Maker.

God chose for His people who He wanted to be in the leadership positions. When Korah felt that he knew better, the consequences were fatal. May we never fall victim to the mindset that tells us that we know better than God. Our Lord wants us to live a certain way, and worship a certain way. When we make changes to His divine commands, just like Korah, we have overstepped our bounds.

Mind your mingling.

How did so many band together with Korah? They were all mingling in the wrong crowd. Every one of those men made a choice. They chose to grumble and complain together, then they died together. It doesn’t matter how many people think the same way we do if that thinking isn’t Patterned after God’s thinking.

Mind your motives.

What drove these men to take such a stance? They were motivated by pride, discontentment, anger, greed, and self-righteousness. All of these attitudes are toxic for the church today, and all of them still lead to destruction.

While this account is a humbling reminder of God’s reaction to disobedience, there’s more to the story. Although Korah was out of line, his descendants would prove to be more upright (Numbers 26:11). They even go on to write some of the Psalms in the years to come, including Psalm 42. Your upbringing and roots do not have to dictate your eternity. Like Korah, we all have a choice. My prayer is that as these historical events are read we learn from them and press forward, more determined to be faithful children to a perfect Father.

“As the dear thirsts for water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” 

Psalm 42:1-2

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CHURCH INVADERS

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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God’s “House-Law”

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

New Testament Christianity

New Testament Christianity

Neal Pollard

  • The New Testament claims to be the source of authority for all we do of eternal importance, no matter when or where we live (Col. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:3,20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • The New Testament will not share authority with any other book or “revelation” (Gal. 1:6-9; Jude 3).
  • The New Testament reveals how a person becomes a Christian (Acts 2:37-47; Eph. 4:4-6).
  • The New Testament teaches us that the Lord adds Christians to His church (Acts 2:47).
  • The New Testament shows us how that church is organized and led (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-12; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
  • The New Testament gives us the day the Christians met to worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2).
  • The New Testament clarifies for us the various roles and responsibilities God has given to each gender of Christians in the work and worship of His church (1 Tim. 2:8-15).
  • The New Testament teaches the Christian how God wants to be worshipped (John 4:24).
  • The New Testament outlines the Christian’s purpose and work (Eph. 4:11-16).
  • The New Testament is dedicated to showing how one, as a faithful Christian, has eternal life and the hope of heaven (Ti. 1:2; Rev. 2:10; ch. 21-22).
  • The New Testament helps one understand how God wants marriage and family to function, to build Christian homes (Mat. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-6:4; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
  • The New Testament urges Christian growth and thoroughly teaches how that is accomplished (2 Pet. 3:18; Ti. 2:11-14; John 15:1ff; etc.).
  • The New Testament constantly speaks of how the Christian needs to and benefits from developing an intimate relationship with the Godhead (1 Th. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15; John 15:14; Mat. 22:36-40).
  • The New Testament teaches that Christians prove to others their discipleship to Christ by loving one another (John 13:34-35).
  • The New Testament reveals that Christians are tasked with duplicating themselves by teaching the gospel to those outside of Christ (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4; Col. 1:23).
  • The New Testament asserts itself as the unfailing, universal guide regarding anything that will ultimately matter (2 Pet. 1:3; John 14:26; 16:13; etc.).

If what we are after is divine guidance for who a Christian is, what he or she does, and how God wants one to live, where else would we turn but to the New Testament? A God who engineered us for eternity and tells us we have but two eternal dwelling places would be cruel and unloving if He did not give us clear, thorough answers to any matter that is important to Him. How loving and faithful for God to give us such an unambiguous guide.

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Observations From Perhaps The Most Difficult Passage In The New Testament

Observations From Perhaps The Most Difficult Passage In The New Testament

Neal Pollard

What is perhaps the most difficult statement in the Bible is not grammatically complex or difficult to comprehend from an intellectual standpoint. But what elder, preacher, or other member has not agonized over it many times. Asked point blank for His teaching on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, Jesus says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Mat. 19:8-9). There are quite a few observations that can be made from this reading.

  • Jesus makes a timeless statement (“from the beginning”).
  • Jesus makes a universal statement (This applies to “whoever”).
  • Jesus makes an authoritative statement (“I say to you”)–Matthew often reveals Jesus’ contrasting His teaching with the inferior Law of Moses.
  • Jesus does not mandate (necessitate) that divorce occur in the case of fornication.
  • Jesus identifies the exception to the rule (“whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery”)–It is fornication (BDAG–“Unlawful sexual intercourse”).
  • Jesus’ teaching here cannot be negated by other Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 7; 2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Jesus teaches that another marriage (excepting for one’s spouse’s fornication) is adulterous.
  • Jesus does not free the guilty to remarry.
  • The duration of adultery in the second marriage considered by Jesus persists as long as that subsequent marriage persists.
  • The teaching has been difficult from this inception (see Mat. 19:10-12).

This passage must be taught patiently, lovingly, wisely, compassionately, and prayerfully! Yet, on what grounds can we decide not to teach it? Treating it with the reverence it deserves, why would we seek to dismantle or discredit it? Of course, we would not.  By teaching it, we risk losing good will and favor with many but by teaching it as Jesus taught it we show respect and fidelity to His supreme authority. May God grant us “a spirit…of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7) on this eternally important passage. 

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Are You Dogmatic?

Are You Dogmatic?

Neal Pollard

Brett Petrillo, one of my co-workers at Bear Valley, showed me a word (in Colossians 2:20) I did not know was in the Bible. Actually, it’s in the Greek Bible, and the word is “δογματίζω  (dogmatizo). According to BDAG, it means “to put under obligation by rules or ordinances; obligate” (Arndt, et al, 254). Kittel adds that these are rules that seem to be right but are put forward as if “to establish a decree” or “to publish an edict” (Kittel, et al, 178). The shorter form, “dogma,” is found a few times and simply means a formal, governmental decree that may or may not be in accordance with God’s will (Lk. 2:1; Acts 17:7; Heb. 11:23; it’s also used of the Old Law in Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14, translated as “ordinances” or “decrees”). In Colossians 2:20, the longer, verb form is translated “submit yourselves to decrees” (NASB), “submit to regulations” (ESV), “subject to ordinances” (KJV), and “submit to (the world’s) rules” (NIV). 

It was dogmatic people asking these Christians to submit to their rules. Paul describes and defines the specific rules in the circumstances plaguing the Colossians. Some were acting as their judge regarding food, drink, festivals and days (16), adding fleshly (and, in some cases, heretical) requirements (18), and making rules which did not originate with Christ (21) that he describes as “the commandments and teachings of men” (22). Paul condemns such rule making (19,23). 

How does this teaching apply to us today? We are right to point out those who tell us we don’t have to obey things which God requires of us. Lessening God’s requirements in areas He holds us responsible for is spiritually fatal. This is replacing divine commands for human ordinances. 

Yet, we cannot miss the point that the other extreme is just as wrong. To make laws, regulations, and commands and bind them upon brethren is still to replace divine commands for human ordinances. This very context points out how God feels about this.

The Lord does not need our help. He knew what His will for us was, and we cannot improve upon that. We must make sure that we’re not pressing our opinion, preference, tradition, or judgment, saying that such is the more righteous, spiritual, or godly course of action. If it is a matter of divine indifference, we should never make it a test of fellowship. Those who decide differently from us are not “less sound” or somehow “suspect.” A humble effort to follow God’s revelation will truly make us “people of the book.” To obligate people to more than that is to be “dogmatic.”

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HOW IS TRUTH DETERMINED?

HOW IS TRUTH DETERMINED?

Neal Pollard

Recently, I received some feedback on a recent article (Truth Is Truth, No Matter Who Disagrees With It). Negative feedback is not rare, but expected when we put ideas down on paper (or on electronic media like blogs). This feedback was not personal, nor unkind. Yet, it reflects the thinking of so many who shun the idea of absolute, objective truth. Consider the major arguments made by the one who wrote:

—No matter what you believe, the majority disagrees with you.
—You are no smarter or more sincere than those who disagree with you.
—Everyone is certain their religion is right, but this is a function of the brain and proof of nothing
—Conflicting views within the “Restoration Movement” shows the fallacy of being certain about truth
—Certainty is dangerous because it does not allow for change

The last three arguments seem more of a confrontation of certainty than arguments against truth, but consider each of these individually.

Does the inevitability of disagreement nullify the idea of absolute truth? If someone argues our answer that two plus two equals four, and were able to get a majority to side with them that the answer is five, does that nullify the truth of what two plus two equals?

If a person with demonstrable intellectual capacity and apparent sincerity nonetheless avers that two plus two equals five, do we rewrite the laws of addition and reprint the textbooks? If not, why not? Is it not because we can take two of something, add it to two more of the same something, like integers or apples or books, and find the inescapable, universal truth that now there are four?

Can any religion be certain that they are right, but be wrong? Universalists believe everyone will ultimately be saved. Those who believe that murdering those they deem “infidels” pleases their God and they teach others that this is truth. Cults often dub their leaders the Messiah. On what basis would we object or oppose any religious tenet, like these, without an objective standard of truth?

Does the imperfection of people in applying revealed truth impugn the reality of absolute truth? It will never be suggested that anyone is perfectly interpreting or applying the perfect standard of truth, including those trying to restore New Testament Christianity (which, incidentally, implies belief in a perfect, objective standard of truth). But, does that mean restoration can or should be rejected for ideas which clearly contradict what the New Testament says (i.e., “sinner’s prayer’ versus how the New Testament teaches people were saved)?

If there is a conflict between the certainty of New Testament teaching and the desire for change, which is to be preferred and chosen? The religious world has changed a myriad of things that the New Testament explicitly teaches must be done or taught a certain way. Isn’t it a faulty premise to choose change proposed by men, when it assaults a certainty revealed by God?

That there is religious confusion and division is indisputable. It is disheartening. The Bible warns that articulate, polished religious leaders would teach things contrary to the revealed truth of the New Testament (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19). Let us never put confidence in man, but let us ever put confidence in the truth of Scripture.

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The Rasputin Rule

The Rasputin Rule

Neal Pollard

Very little good can be said of Gregory Rasputin. Robert Goldston, in The Russian Revolution, writes that he “was, like his father before him, essentially a rowdy peasant. He soon developed a reputation in his hometown as a horse thief, drunkard, seducer of young girls, and general good for nothing. He had no education and remained largely illiterate all his life. His one apparent attribute was great physical strength. He was a coarse-featured man with a heavy black beard and strangely piercing eye” (82). Because times in Russia circa 1905 were desperate and grim, a rascal like Rasputin could rise. He went to Saint Petersburg, weaseled his way up the ranks of nobility, and eventually rose to become the most intimate advisor of Czar Nicolas II and especially the superstitious Czarina Alix. Many historians believe that, in the fateful, final years of the Romanov dynasty, Rasputin was the unofficial, yet undisputed, ruler of Russia.

He was grossly immoral and unscrupulous. At his words, jobs and even lives were spared or taken. Though he had abandoned his wife and children, Rasputin made his way as a self-professed prophet and “holy beggar.” The Czarina, in all her correspondence, simply called Rasputin “the Friend.” The royal family implicitly trusted Rasputin. Rasputin, in turn, urged the royal family to rule by absolute despotism. Many thought Rasputin to possess powers of hypnotism and the ability to do magic. Giving him the control of hundreds of millions of peoples’ lives, the Czar contributed to his own murder and that of the entire royal family in the revolution of 1917. For Rasputin’s part, he was murdered in 1914 by a small group of conspiring nobles who lured him to one of their houses and shot him repeatedly after poisoned food and wine did not do the trick.

The most amazing part of this story involves the irony of it all. A ne’er-do-well essentially becomes head of the largest country in the world. A grossly immoral man is viewed as a “holy man.” The head of a dynasty that had lasted hundreds of years put all its trust and hope in such a one. What incredible folly!

However, the majority of humanity has done the same thing from time immemorial. The prince of darkness, the king of ne’er-do-well, is their spiritual advisor. As foolish as it is, people stake their eternal destiny on his wholly corrupt guidance. They risk it all, mesmerized by his wiles. Consequently, they are duped into calling “evil good and good evil…who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21). Yet, it is not a revolution but The Judgment that will undo them. They stand to lose more than physical life; they will lose their souls (Mat. 10:28). Beware of the pied piper of souls! Be careful who you make your spiritual counselor. It matters!

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The Eye Of The Beholder

The Eye Of The Beholder

Neal Pollard

The theme of our recently completed lectureship was, “Every Man Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes.” This seems to be the summary statement of this entire period of Bible history. It is interesting that this idea shows up more than in just the two verses where the statement appears (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Samson wanted the woman of Timnah because “she looked good to” him (Judges 14:3,7; literally, “she was right in his eyes”). In reality, she was a loose, treacherous, and idolatrous woman, but she seemed right to him. In that dark story about the Levite man, the elderly Ephraimite man, the Levite’s concubine and the Ephraimite’s virgin daughter, the old man, seeking to placate the wicked Benjamites, offered the women to them “to do with them whatever” they wished (Judges 19:24; literally, “the good in your eyes”). Obviously, what was right in these men’s eyes was reprehensible and vile. It is one of the most extreme examples of wickedness recorded in the Bible.

Elsewhere, the Bible says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15a), and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a). We often think things seem right when they are far from it (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; 18:17).  After talking about those who mix up right and wrong and good and evil, Isaiah tells us why they do this. He warns that they “are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).

In the world, the church, and our own lives, we are tempted to do what is right in our own eyes. We justify habits, relationships, desires, religious practices, lifestyles, and choices about which God warns in His Word by ignoring that and rationalizing, rewording, and reframing them. We use emotional arguments. We twist Scripture. In the end, when we do these things, we reject God’s authority and seek to become the standard ourselves. The book of Judges was written, in part, to show us what happens when we do it and how God feels when we do it.  The well-worn phrase goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That may be. But right and wrong is not such as is in the eye of the beholder. That is determined by the One who possesses “the all-seeing eye” (Proverbs 15:3).

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Misguided Anarchists

Misguided Anarchists

Neal Pollard

In her excellent book about the many events leading up to World War I, Barbara Tuchman, in The Proud Tower, spends a chapter talking about the anarchist movements swirling particularly around Europe and the United States. It was the inspiration for several assassinations of important political figures, including one of our presidents—William McKinley. In the wake of the industrial revolution, many immigrant, uneducated, illiterate, and otherwise disadvantaged people, worked an incredibly high number of hours each week for less than living wages. They lived in deplorable conditions and had nearly no prospects of improving their plight or the plight of their children. A growing proposal around the industrialized world was to throw off all government and institute what amounted to a global commune with a total sharing of assets. It was not Communism because it did not want any organization or officials to rule and govern. Those who truly embraced the cause put total faith in man, in every case, to be noble and devoid of base motives like greed, power, and self-interest. It was anti-religious, anti-capitalist, anti-authority of any kind. Other than inspire attacks on famous people, the anarchists never came close to materializing their desired revolution. Rationale people knew there must be order and law.

Periodically, a similar movement rears its head even within the body of Christ. Christianity, in their view, is reduced to a single, undefined maxim: “Love Jesus.” While it can seem appealing, when it is viewed uncritically, it is unsustainable and self-defeating. When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment in the Law, He replied by saying it was a total love of God. He added that the second greatest command was loving others. Yet, throughout the gospels, Jesus expressed so many other specific commands for His followers that build upon that vital foundation. The men to whom He delegated authority to reveal His will and commands (John 14:26; 16:13) revealed His expectations of His followers. Pulpits and leaderships that deemphasize, avoid, or attempt to nullify these commands may be acting from high motives and noble desires, but they are more harmful than those anarchists of over 100 years ago. They encourage more than civil disobedience. They encourage disobeying the God who will one day judge mankind. Human governments may rule from corruption, self-service, and oppressive intentions, but God’s Word never does. What God commands for us is only for our good. How should we respond? We should humbly, reverently, lovingly, and totally submit to His reign and rule in our lives. May that be our highest aim!

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