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Friday, February 5, 2010

Did Paul Contradict Himself?

The well presented argument confronted nowadays is that Paul is the culprit who destroyed the simple truth of Jesus. Paul was the dastardly villain that led to Constantine and the Inquisitions.

In fact, neither Paul nor Jesus could have done so, as I've already shown, simply because of the simple logic of their statements regarding truth.

But Paul did seek to organize churches in various areas. He went to great lengths explaining how people should think about things, what should be tolerated, and how it should be dealt with.

That, in fact, is where Paul DID produce the systems of power and confusion we have today.

But was that Paul's fault? Was it wrong for him to try and establish principles by which people could freely live in service to God?

Of course not. The problem, of course, lay in human nature itself. Given the opportunity to organize, the opportunity to exercise some authority, it becomes so easy to begin representing ourselves as the symbol, the icon of "God's man".

Paul himself dealt with this issue. "Some like to say they are of Paul" he wrote, "and some say they are of Apollos". But notice what Paul actually said. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase".

In other words, no matter what men tried to do, it was God who controlled the growth of the church. Many are called but few are chosen.

Did Paul say the church had authority? Within the church, yes. And there was no reason why any community of people established toward certain ideals should not have authority over those who freely choose to join.

Did that mean all who wished to join were somehow "elect"? No, since Paul's teachings in Romans 8, 9 Ephesians 2:8-10, and other scriptures had clearly cancelled any possibility of anyone ruling in God's name. The "High Priest" of Christianity, said Paul, was Jesus, and Jesus wasn't on earth.

If the church had the right to declare authority, what was the limitation of its power?

Jesus had established the broad guidelines of that power when he said that his followers are not to seek "an eye for an eye", but to love those that hate them, pray for those that use and persecute them, bless those that curse them, etc.

The limits of the church's authority was quite simple: it had no authority to execute vengeance.

Paul himself confirmed that fact in Romans 12:19, and quoted the Old Testament to demonstrate it. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay".

Who DID have the power of vengeance? Look at the very next chapter, Romans 13. The "Higher Powers", the state, had the power of vengeance. They were "God's instruments of wrath".

That was a clear limitation of boundaries between church and state, and it demanded that there be a separation of church and state.

But both Paul and Jesus advocated settlement "out of court". Jesus had stated that where "two or three are gathered", whatever was "bound on earth would be bound in heaven".

That is not some special ethereal power given to the church. It is merely a statement that any two people can agree among themselves, and it will be fully recognized by God. That was fully consistent with the "Two Witness" rule of Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15.

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 6 that there was no need for people to sue one another at the law, since that itself, seeking vengeance against another, was actually a violation of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5. Paul said that the "least" of the church members could gather together and decide what should be done, but their decision was NOT to permit vengeance as a goal. That was left to the state.

We see in 1 Corinthians 5:5 that Paul wrote of delivering "such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord".

If we look at Matthew 4 and Luke 4, we see that Satan was in charge of all world governments. To "deliver unto Satan", therefore, was to deliver to the government for decisions regarding vengeance. The state' power was NOT primary. It was a secondary power, to be used only as a last resort.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 we see "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor effiminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind(etc)... shall inherit the kingdom of God".

Verse 11: "And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified...by the spirit of our God".

The church was permitted a kind of "self policing", but NOT with the power of punishment or vengeance. It was the church's job, as much as possible to nurture and show principles of love and tolerance.

Jesus had said in Matthew 18:15-18 that if your adversary didn't want to accept the verdict of the church, given in love and tolerance, to simply treat him as a "Gentile or tax collector".

Jesus obviously didn't care for tax collectors. Paul had simply said to "deliver him to Satan" if it was necessary, to "destroy the flesh".

So the state DID have the power over "flesh", over death (Hebrews 2:14), but the "spirit" was the domain of the church.

And what was that "spirit' that guided the church? How about "love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness, faith...". Remember that?

Could this "spirit" be reduced to mechanical, rational, finite definitions by which any man could rule in the name of God? No. There was no one who could claim any such special relationship, and Paul had already established that fact in Romans chapters 8 and 9.

Any group, anywhere, any time, any place, is free to organize by those principles. But NO group can legitimately claim to have any special relationship with God.

And, because no state can demonstrate any finite, rational, logical relationship to truth in any special sense, the state can claim no more power over the people than the church. In fact, the state can ONLY exercise authority by the permission of the people. That is also reflected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

So, while we can freely organize and profess to serve God, biblically, we CANNOT organize for the purpose of vengeance in any form, we cannot organize for the purpose of controlling others in any form. And the guarantee of Jury trial in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that the state (Satan) can only have access to the "flesh" once the people have decided there is no other way. That is proper government "by the people", and it is fully recognized, in principle, in the New Testament.

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