Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: divisions

The Epistles of the Apostle Paul

There is no serious doubt that Paul was the author of these epistles. It appears from the comment of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:16) that they were considered Scripture from a very early period and collections of these letters would have been distributed to all the churches.

From time to time we should read each of these letters at one sitting, ignoring the chapter and verse divisions. These were added much later to help us find a particular portion more easily, but they also break up the letters in an artificial way. If we allow ourselves to be too much governed by these division we may not catch the full message the Apostle intended for us to hear.

He dictated each letter to a scribe, who is sometimes named in the letter, but added a portion in his own handwriting at the end of each. Galatians 6:11 “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” should probably be taken to refer to the size of the letters he wrote as compared to the uniform and tidy writing of his scribe. Many reasons have been proposed for this: he was not as skilled in writing as a professional scribe; he wanted to emphasize that this was his own writing; or perhaps he had a vision problem that hindered his writing ability.

Several themes appear frequently in these letters:
– the united status of the church of God, depicted either as a temple with Christ as the foundation, or a body, with Christ as the head.
– it was God’s purpose from the beginning that salvation would be offered to all mankind on the same basis, but is only now fully revealed as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
– the reality of spiritual warfare; Christians are in enemy territory, we can only be victorious through the power of Jesus.

Romans: probably written while Paul was at Corinth. The believers at Rome were of both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds and Paul emphasized that in the gospel era these differences no longer had any meaning. This had been God’s plan from the beginning and was now fully revealed and all believers were to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians: Corinth was a large and wealthy city where what we would call sexual immorality was commonplace and considered normal. There was also a hereditary class structure. These social divisions did not immediately disappear when they became Christians. One can readily imagine that the wealthier and better educated members would have preferred a gifted orator such as Apollos whereas the poorer would have identified more with Paul the tent maker.

2 Corinthians: This letter was probably written a year after the first. The first part gives commendation for the corrections made and instructions on the way to help one who has repented. There are hints that Paul is still looked down upon by the upper class church leaders. The fact that he has never taken money from them for himself is an affront to them as they feel it their duty to pay their teachers.

Galatians: The Galatians were Celts living in Asia Minor, now Turkey. Paul had introduced these people to the gospel, but now Christian Jewish missionaries had been teaching them that they needed to be circumcised to become Christians. Paul tells them we are all one in Christ and to go back to trusting in Jewish observances will separate them from Christ.

Ephesians: Written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Most people of that day believed their lives were ruled by Fate, as revealed in the stars, and they had no hope of escaping from that Fate. Paul tells them that God has a better plan for them, that He had planned from the beginning of time to offer salvation to all people through Jesus Christ.

Philippians: Written from prison, probably a year after the letter to the Ephesians. This was the first church established in Europe by Paul and they were devoted to him. There appears to have been some rivalry or difference of o-pinion between leaders of two house churches and Paul exhorts them to unity.

Colossians: Colossae is a city in Asia Minor, or Turkey. There appears to have been some drift into mysticism which Paul addresses in the second chapter.

1 Thessalonians: Thessalonika is in Macedonia, the letter may date from as early as AD 50. It is largely a letter of thanksgiving and praise.

2 Thessalonians: probably written shortly after the first to correct a mistaken belief that the resurrection had already come.

1 Timothy: Probable date is AD 62-64, towards the end of Paul’s life. He instructs Timothy to see to ordaining ministers and deacons in every place to provide leadership and stability in the face of false teachings.

2 Timothy: Written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome. It is generally assumed that his martyrdom took place AD 64-66, this was probably written not long before that and constitutes a fond farewell and final instructions to Timothy.

Titus: Titus was a Christian of Gentile origin. Paul had left him in Crete, the largest island in the Mediterranean, to establish leadership in the churches there. This epistle is thus very similar to 1 Timothy and was probably written at much the same time.

Philemon: Philemon was a prominent citizen of Colossae who was converted by Paul. Onesimus, a slave, had run away and then sought out Paul in Rome where he became a Christian. Paul sends him back to Philemon with this tender exhortation. No doubt Philemon received the exhortation willingly, as history records that Onesimus was later bishop of Ephesus. If Philemon had not received the letter graciously, it is highly unlikely that he would have kept it and then allowed it to be circulated among the churches.

Man-made churches of God?

John Winebrenner was a minister of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania who was severed from that denomination in 1828 for being too evangelical, i.e.: not Calvinistic, in his preaching. He continued preaching wherever people would hear him and in 1830 he and his followers organized the denomination now known as the Church of God, General Conference. This new Church of God had no written creed, taking the Bible as the sole guide to faith and stated that their objective was to unite all true Christians in one body.

Daniel Warner became a minister of this body in 1867. In 1877 he claimed to have an experience of entire sanctification. The Winebrenner church rejected this doctrine of perfectionism and Daniel Warner was expelled in January of 1878. He continued preaching this doctrine and found many in agreement.

In studying the 7th chapter of the book of Daniel, he calculated the time of the supremacy of the Roman Catholic church as beginning 270 A.D. and lasting 1260 years (counting a year for a day) bringing him to 1530. He was on pretty solid ground thus far, but then turning to Revelation 11:11 he came to a period of three and a half days when the witnesses of God appeared to be dead. Now reading 100 years for a day he discovered that the true witness was scheduled to revive in 1880 A.D.

Thus he organized a new Church of God in 1880 with full confidence that this was the fulfilling of Bible prophecy. I would not call Daniel Warner a charlatan, but it would appear that he was susceptible to mistaking his own wishes and imagination for the leading of the Holy Spirit. He believed that his new movement, with a twin emphasis om the restoration of the Church of God which had long been absent from the earth and on the full and entire sanctification of believers by a second work of grace after conversion.

The new church had many talented and prolific song writers, including Warner himself. Others were Andrew L. Byers, Charles W. Naylor, Benjamin H. Warrren Clara M. Brooks and many more. Most of their hymns were sound evangelistic hymns, but a few point to their distinctive doctrines. Much mention is made of the “evening light,” Warner having interpreted Zechariah 14:7 to be a prophecy that the gospel light would once again shine at the end of the age. Warner died in 1895. The church is now known as the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.

There have been a number of schisms in that body over the past 75 years. One was the Church of God (Restoration) which was led by Daniel Layne until his death in 2011. There were many who felt the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana had drifted from its original fervency into worldliness. Layne took his inspiration from Revelation 8:1 which speaks of silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. Now taking each minute for a year, Layne concluded that the former church had become apostate in 1950 and the silence in heaven ended when he began his restoration movement in 1980.

The Church of God (Restoration) has about 20 congregations. Some in Canada are made up largely of German-speaking people who were formerly part of Mennonite denominations. These German language congregations are known as Gemeinde Gottes.

All these churches began with considerable sincerity and a fervent desire to unite the people of God. Looking back over their history it seems they have done more to divide the children of God.

%d bloggers like this: