ARE YOU COMMITTED TO BELIEVING “ALL THE SCRIPTURE?”
I consistently meet Christians who challenge parts of the Bible solely because they do not fit their denominational standard. Pastors are especially guilty. Calvinists reject “Arminian” teachings and Arminian believers reject Paul’s writings about election, predestination, and the sovereignty of God. What is our obligation? We are to believe all of the Bible regardless of our being able to reconcile it. It is in the theological challenge that we learn. Our first responsibility is to God--not our local church. Mental stretching does for our spirit what physical exercise does for the body. Such work-outs may be painful and tiring--but, they produce strength. What is my point? Some Christians heatedly reject what they call a “second work of grace.” After being born-again, they insist, there is nothing more for the Spirit to do in the believer. Instead of accepting Scripture's challenge, they deny it. The loss for them is tragic. For example:
The Apostle Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road and was born again; three days later in the Damascus Room through the laying-on-of-hands by Ananias he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8). Later, this same man wrote an 84-verse treatise on spiritual gifts–all being endowments of the baptism he had received (I Corinthians 12,13,14). Paul’s Biblical explanation provides the most comprehensive, authoritative, information we have. More importantly, It is the only resource bearing the seal of Divine Authorship. All conflicting opinions, no matter how cherished or long-established, are but human speculation and must submit to Scripture. The Bible is our final, absolute authority. All denominations must yield to it.
The Apostle begins his dissertation with the plea: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." 12:1. Interestingly, this appeal that we "not be ignorant" appears seven times in the New Testament concerning different topics. Once, by Peter and six times by Paul. Each time, the request reveals an especially deep concern of the writer. Its’ appearance here should command the attention of every conscientious believer. The Apostle then proceeds carefully to detail the operation of nine grace-works of the Spirit. These are the direct result of the Spirit's baptism. Having defended the need and purpose of the gifts, Paul then concludes his discourse with the stirring rebuke, "But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant!" 14:38. In other words, he says, "After this careful explanation of spiritual gifts, if anyone refuses to learn, I have nothing more to say to him. Let him remain illiterate!" Paul seemingly anticipated that some would reject his teaching on miraculous works of the Spirit and adds this harsh warning:
"If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." I Corinthians 14:37.
What are the "commandments" of which he speaks? The answer: The Apostolic teachings on spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12 and 14 speak with God's authority as much as any other of Paul's writings. We are no more at liberty to reject these Biblically mandated instructions than any other commandment of the Lord.
Until recent years, there was probably no other subject about which the Church was more ignorant than that of spiritual gifts. Instead of heeding Paul's instruction, the modern Church has engaged in open warfare against them. This was done in spite of Paul's exhortation that we:
1. "Earnestly desire spiritual gifts." I Corinthians 12:31.
2. "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." 14:1.
3. "Since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel." 14:12.
These admonitions do not indicate the reluctance that typifies the modern church's attitude against spiritual gifts. There was no such lukewarmness on the part of Paul or the Corinthians. Identically, believers today are encouraged to exercise the gifts for the benefit of everyone: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all; for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills ... But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant." I Corinthians 12:1;4-11;38.
The argument immediately arises, "These gifts passed away. They are no longer valid." Paul did not believe that. Nor does the New Testament teach it. In the introduction of his Corinthian letters (29 chapters and longest of all New Testament writings) Paul exhorted believers to " ... Come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." I Corinthians 1:7. In that brief statement, Paul equated the duration of spiritual gifts to be the same length as the Church's waiting for Jesus' return. Examine it for yourself. This is precisely what the Apostle said There is probably no greater ignorance in the Church today than of spiritual gifts and Jesus' offer of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. You may ask, "Why do I need the baptism in the Spirit and the imparting of spiritual gifts?" Here are a few of the many reasons:
1. Jesus said you needed it.
2. Without it, you are an incomplete disciple.
3. Good as you presently are, you will be better with it.
4. You need to be moved out of "soulish" effort into spiritual effort.
5. The baptism in the Spirit releases power in your life which can be had no other way.
6. Once you, your family, friends, recover from the shocking, personal change the baptism brings to your life, everyone will recognize you are a better person.
7. The Bible teaches it. Early Christians depended on it. History confirms it.
On the Day of Ascension, Jesus told the disciples at the Mount of Olives, "John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now ... You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." Acts 1:5,6. In a single statement, Jesus connected baptism in the Spirit to the imparting of His power. That wonderful event occurred on the day of Pentecost when 120 disciples in the Upper Room received the blessing. Scripture carefully explains that others who were not present at Pentecost experienced the same empowering later. That included the Samaritans, Acts 8:14-17, Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:17, the household of Cornelius, Acts 10:44, and the Ephesians, Acts 19:1-7. Young Timothy followed the example. II Timothy 1:6. Identically, today, multiplied millions around the world have stepped into the Spirit's wondrous baptism.
We are told seven times in the New Testament to "be no ignorant." The same Greek word for "ignorance," agnoeo, is used in all seven references though the King James version is probably the only one that translates it consistently. If you listen carefully you can detect the similarity between agnoeo and ignore. (agno/igno). It simply means "not to know;" that ignorance can come from lack of information, inadequate intelligence, or willful rejection of truths. These seven topics are fundamental to the Church. Notice they are in pairs. Two concern Israel, two concern the gospel, two foretell the end of the earth,, and the final topic, #7, the Church's spiritual gifts. Sincere Christians cannot deny the value of any. In all probability there is no one topic about which Christianity at large is more ignorant than spiritual gifts. Quoting from the King James Version, the seven are:
1. Israel's rejection and restoration; Gentile fullness: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Romans 11:25.
2. Israel's dual baptism in the cloud and sea: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." I Corinthians 10:1. Israel's baptism unto Moses in the cloud and sea portrays Christian baptism unto Christ in the Spirit and water. The parallel is exact.
3. Opposition to the gospel in Asia: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life." II Corinthians 1:8. Types of opposition which Paul experienced:
A. Physical infirmity. Galatians 4:13-15.
B. Stoning, shipwreck. II Corinthians 11:23-28.
C. "Contemptible speech." II Corinthians 10:10.
D. "Thorn in the flesh." II Corinthians 12:7.
E. "Weakness, fear," etc. I Corinthians 2:3.
F. Persecutions. II Timothy 3:11.
G. Apostolic division. Acts 15:36-40.
4. Opposition to the Gospel in Europe: "Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (but was let hitherto), that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles." Romans 1:13. Reasons for the opposition:
A. To prevent Paul's impartation of spiritual gifts. 1:11.
B. To handicap the gospel’s bringing salvation". 1:16.
C. To stop believers from living "by faith." 1:17
5. Jesus' Second Coming; Resurrection of the saints: "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." I Thessalonians 4:13.
6. The "thief in the night" destruction of the earth: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day ... But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night ..." II Peter 3:8,10.
II Peter 3:3-5. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water."
7. The Holy Spirit's miraculous gifts to the Church: "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant." I Corinthians 12:1.
The New Testament contains six passages in which gifts of the Spirit are identified. Since the New Testament is a Covenant, not merely a book–inalterably ratified by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ--not of bulls and goats, all these gifts are still active; none have been removed. Hebrews 9:19-26.
1. 1 Corinthians 12:8-12: "For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."
2. 1 Corinthians 12:28. "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."
3. Romans 12:6-9. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."
4. Ephesians 4:11-12. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers..."
5. 1 Corinthians 7:7. "For I wish that all men were even as I myself (unmarried). But each one has his own *gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 1 Corinthians 7:7. *chárisma ek Theoú
6. 1 Peter 4:9-12. "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Hospitality 1, 21. Speaking. 1, 22. Chastity. 1
It is probable that "speaking" and "exhortation" are the same gift; so also with "giving" and "hospitality." There is a blurring of distinction between others. While prophecy is mentioned four times, teaching three times, and the other gifts a lessor number, we are expected to believe all of them without challenge. If the Bible says something one time only we are to believe it without question.
HISTORY OF THE ARMINIAN CHRISTIANS
Armenian people made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. At the beginning of the 4th century A.D., it became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion. For the most part, control of the region shifted from one empire to another. During the 15th century, Armenia was conquered and absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, were Muslim. They permitted religious minorities like the Armenians to maintain some autonomy but viewed them as “infidels”--exposing them to unequal and biased treatment. Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims and they had very few political and legal rights. In spite of these obstacles, the Armenian community thrived under Ottoman rule. They tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish neighbors, who in turn resented their success.
This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottomans. At the end of the 19th century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II declared that he would solve the “Armenian question” once and for all. “I will soon settle those Armenians,” he told a reporter in 1890. “I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.” Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned pogrom. Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered. In 1908, a new government came to power in Turkey. A group of reformers who called themselves the “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government. At first, the Armenians were hopeful that they would have an equal place in this new state, but they soon learned that what the nationalistic Young Turks wanted most of all was to “Turkify” the empire. According to this way of thinking, non-Turks – and especially Christian non-Turks – were a grave threat to the new state.
In 1914, the Turks entered World War I on the side of Germany. At the same time, Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians except their allies, and that is when the massacre of Arminian Christians began. (My thanks to other historical sources. CC)