There are various opinions concerning interpreting the Scriptures and how one goes about rightly dividing the Word of God. With numerous Christian schools and denominations today, having such variances in their doctrines, there is a multitude of commentaries, interpretations, and approaches to expounding Scripture. This should be alarming for anyone within the Body of Christ. The discrepancy we see today was not the case with the Ante Nicene/Early Church Fathers (pre 325 AD). Any person in the church who had a difference of opinion contrary to what the Apostles had passed down, were corrected. If they did not receive the correction they were cast out of the church, considered an Antichrist. There was no middle ground, no grey areas concerning God’s Word. You would have never heard Early Church Father Polycarp (70-155 AD) say to Marcion “Let us just agree to disagree” (as some do today), concerning a doctrinal dispute. In fact, Polycarp named Marcion a son of Satan, because of his heretical teachings.
The One Church
There is only one Church. During the Ante Nicene period there were no denominations, factions, or sects. Interestingly, the greatest enemies of the Church that arose, and whose teachings are alive today in most pulpits, came from within the Church. The Church today has truly departed from its origins. The word denomination is a synonym for sect and the Greek word for this is ‘hairesis’. This is where we get the English word heresy from. Accordingly, every denomination that is not a part of the original Church is in heresy. Hairesis is defined as “dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims” (1) which goes against what the Apostle Paul instructed the church in saying, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2). As we can see, the body of Christ today is not in one accord. Below, Ignatius (30-107 AD), a disciple of the Apostle John, discusses the gravity of such division and how those, who have a difference of opinion to the true doctrine, are viewed.
Brethren, be not deceived. If any man follows him that separates from the truth, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and if any man does not stand aloof from the preacher of falsehood, he shall be condemned to hell. For it is obligatory neither to separate from the godly, nor to associate with the ungodly. If anyone walks according to a strange opinion, he is not of Christ, nor a partaker of His passion; but is a fox, (Comp. Son_2:15) a destroyer of the vineyard of Christ. Have no fellowship (Comp. 1Co_5:11) with such a man, lest ye perish along with him, even should he be thy father, thy son, thy brother, or a member of thy family. For says [the Scripture], “Thine eye shall not spare him.” (Deu_13:6, Deu_13:18) You ought therefore to “hate those that hate God, and to waste away [with grief] on account of His enemies.” (Psa_119:21) I do not mean that you should beat them or persecute them, as do the Gentiles “that know not the Lord and God;” (1Th_4:5) but that you should regard them as your enemies, and separate yourselves from them, while yet you admonish them, and exhort them to repentance, if it may be they will hear, if it may be they will submit themselves. For our God is a lover of mankind, and “will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Ti_2:4) (2)
Ignatius explains that those who have followed a strange opinion, different from the true Church and who still call themselves Christians, are deceived. When someone brings in different interpretations and opinions, they are actually destroying the unity of the Church and are not the planting of the Lord, but are in fact tares. The penalty of such an offense is to be eternally damned to hell. One may quip “There’s no love here, this sounds legalistic and using fear to control people.” Well, allow me to retort, oh lawless one. The Apostle Paul eternally damned, or anathematized, any person who brought a different message into the Church, to what he and the apostles were preaching (Galatians 1:8). The standard is set, and it has never changed; the Church changed. Opinions have risen to the forefront of pulpits, instead of holding the course of truth. Though this may be a hard-hitting truth, one cannot escape the authority of the Scriptures and the Ante Nicene Fathers, who strongly followed the teachings passed down to them from the apostles.
We would like to think that the greatest, most destructive enemies of the Church come from outside of the Church, but this could not be further from the truth. Paul indicates that there are enemies within the Church that cause offenses and divisions, “I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them.” (Romans 16:17 AMP). By this we assert with assurance that Ignatius was not straying away from the doctrine and instructions concerning heresies. Heresy is a consequence of those who interpret the scriptures through their fleshly reasoning. The Apostle Paul also defined heresy as a work of the flesh and therefore those who are indulging in the works of the flesh are incapable of entering into the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21). Paul established that heresy is on par with sins such as murder, sorcery, and adultery. One cannot ignore the magnitude of error and deception that heresy brings, and cannot afford to be so prideful to not think that they do not have any error of doctrine.
The Apostle Peter warns that heresies are brought in very subtly; they will not be blatantly obvious (2 Peter 2:1). Jesus warned about the leaven of the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and explained that the leaven was concerning their doctrine (Matthew 16:11-12). The Apostle Paul gives further instruction for us, to purge out this false doctrine and he counsels that just a little leaven, a little false doctrine or false interpretation, will eventually corrupt the rest of the doctrine (1 Corinthians 5:7-9). We are instructed to “mark those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17). This may seem cruel, however in reality, it is protecting the purity of the flock from the defilement of heresy.
Correctly interpreting the Scriptures
There are various schools of thought regarding how we are to interpret the Scriptures, so how does one come to find the correct way? For one, we must understand, as aforementioned, in the Early Church there were not numerous denominations. There was only one Church, the others were heretics. Those heretics were preaching about Jesus, but were preaching a different Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4). If, for example, you were going to meet Donald Trump, and you have never seen him before, and I described him to you as a “6’7 Mexican with freckles and red hair”, when you would be looking for him, he could walk right past you. Due to my misinterpretation of him, you would miss the opportunity to meet him. The Jews expected Jesus to come a certain way, and they missed Him because they could not spiritually understand the revelations concerning Him, hidden in the Scriptures.
The Early Church was schooled in rightly dividing the word of God. There are some schools of thought today that believe in a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, however, the Apostle Paul explains that there is a mystical interpretation of Scripture. Mystical is defined as “secret meaning” (3) and we can see these examples in Paul’s epistles. He writes to the Church in Corinth,
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1:-4)
Early Church Father, Origen (c.185-c.250 AD) used this passage from 1 Corinthians to define the apostolic traditions, as he describes it as “Paul’s Tradition” (4). The Apostle Paul interprets that the food and drink were referring to a spiritual sense, and as we know, they point to the body and blood of Jesus (John 6:54). If we believe in the literal interpretation and “it means what it says” then we would have to literally eat the body of Christ and drink his blood. This is what the Roman Catholic Church believes when they eat the sacraments, referring to it as “transubstantiation”; meaning when they take the eucharist and wine it transforms into the physical body and blood of Jesus.
Exoteric and Esoteric teaching
We see again in Galatians 4:22-25 Paul reveals the mystery of Sarah and Hagar, explaining how they were a type (symbolic) of one giving birth to the letter (literal interpretation of the Word) and the other was symbolic of birthing the spirit. Paul describes this as an allegory. This is crucial to understand, as there are schools of thought that do not believe in allegorizing the Scriptures. Many today would refer to the way Jesus taught as occultic. Jesus taught the multitudes in parables or allegories, however to his disciples He taught the mysteries of the kingdom (Matthew 13:10-17). This is what is called an exoteric and esoteric style of teaching. Exoteric teaching is intended for the extended public, whereas esoteric teaching is intended for and understood by a small number of people (a remnant); hence Jesus had but few disciples. This terminology is controversial today, due to an irrational fear of misunderstanding the function of these two styles of teaching, and associating them with the occult. However, it is clear in the Gospels that Jesus taught in this very way.
Disregarding the way Jesus taught (in exoteric and esoteric form), is like saying “we don’t use the symbol of the cross because Satanists use it for their rituals”. It would be irrational to dismiss the cross because of this train of thought, yet we do this when we do not interpret the Scriptures in a mystical or spiritual sense. Those who oppose the Scriptures needing to be interpreted mystically or allegorically, simply disagree with how Jesus and the apostles taught. It is written that without an allegory He did not speak (Mark 4:34) and Paul said that he was a steward of the mysteries (1 Corinthians 4:1). The Ante Nicene Fathers, particularly those from Alexandria, have been accused that they learned to allegorize the Scriptures from philosophers. If that is the case, then did Jesus Christ and the apostles learn allegorical interpretations and mystical revelations from philosophers? It would be absurd to make such an accusation. The Ante Nicene Fathers were orthodox (strict adherence to doctrine) concerning what they were taught by the apostles and would condemn any such person in the Church who would teach anything on the contrary.
Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and was the Bishop of Antioch. There was a controversy between Alexandria and Antioch: the Alexandrian Church was teaching to interpret the Scriptures allegorically, whereas the Church in Antioch was teaching a more literal interpretation. However, this was not always the case. Below we see evidence that Antioch did not start out with believing in a literal, non-mystical, interpretation. Ignatius wrote,
The priests indeed, and the ministers of the word, are good; but the High Priest is better, to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been entrusted with the secrets of God. (5)
In another place,
Ye are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, inasmuch as he was “a chosen vessel;” (Act 9:15) (6)
And in another place,
It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire. (7)
Ignatius is very clear on his position regarding understanding the mysteries and secrets of Scripture, that the Church was “initiated” into. A stark contrast occurs 100 years later, where we find the stance in Antioch has changed, however it was not so in the beginning. Something changed- Antioch went in a different direction from its origins. Some may argue that this Church was established by Peter and Paul, but so was the Church in Rome and now look how far they have fallen. People change, but God is the same yesterday today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
How the Early Church refuted the heretics
In the second century another Bishop of Antioch, Theophilus, articulated the difference between the philosophical and Christian beliefs concerning creation. He reveals that philosophers did not understand the mystery of the days of creation and could not perceive the types, or allegories, that were intimating a much deeper revelation of the relationship between God and man.
On the fourth day the luminaries were made; because God, who possesses foreknowledge, knew the follies of the vain philosophers, that they were going to say, that the things which grow on the earth are produced from the heavenly bodies, so as to exclude God. In order, therefore, that the truth might be obvious, the plants and seeds were produced prior to the heavenly bodies, for what is posterior cannot produce that which is prior. And these contain the pattern and type of a great mystery. For the sun is a type of God, and the moon of man. And as the sun far surpasses the moon in power and glory, so far does God surpass man. (8)
This is most fascinating as some theologians accuse the Church of Alexandria of being influenced by Gnosticism to interpret the scriptures allegorically. These examples from two different bishops in Antioch, demonstrate that Alexandria was not the Church that exclusively believed in the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures. Moving forward, in the middle of the third century in Antioch, there arose the heretic Paul of Samosata. Paul, the Bishop of Antioch at the time, introduced a heresy that would later be known as Arianism, which denied the divinity of Jesus Christ; declaring that He was a mere man, infused with the Holy Spirit. His opponent, Alex from Alexandria, defends the divinity of Jesus Christ, refuting this grotesque heresy that was trying to slither its way into the Body of Christ.
For ye yourselves are taught of God, nor are ye ignorant that this doctrine, which hath lately raised its head against the piety of the Church, is that of Ebion and Artemas; nor is it aught else but an imitation of Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, who, by the judgment and counsel of all the bishops, and in every place, was separated from the Church. (9)
This is a clear example of the Early Church refuting others from within the Church for introducing heresies, and therefore being excommunicated from the Church. The Bishops of Churches everywhere unanimously cast out the men (regardless of their position) from the Church for introducing heresies that would destroy the unity of the Church. This may seem extreme, however the Early Church completely understood what the Apostle Peter described as “destructive heresies” that are introduced secretly and bring to themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1). The zeal to protect God’s House has been lost. Timidity has replaced this passionate standard for the sake of “love”, under a pretense of false humility.
As we have shown examples of how the Early Church handled heretics in the church, the case of Origen of Alexandria (who some accuse of being a heretic, for interpreting the scriptures allegorically and other false accusations) are thus rendered invalid. If Origen was truly a heretic, he would have been condemned in the same manner Paul of Samosata was. They were both alive during the same time period. For more insight on the Origen controversies, go to Exoneration of Origen.
The Early Church were interpreting the scriptures the way Jesus Christ taught them to. After His resurrection, Jesus interpreted the whole Old Testament to his disciples (Luke 24:27) and from that point on the Apostolic Traditions were carried throughout the Church. The apostolic traditions were not the same as the traditions of man (such as Christmas and Easter) or the Jewish traditions concerning extra laws. The apostolic traditions were the revelations of the Word that Jesus taught His disciples, and the apostles then instituted these traditions among the Churches they established around the world.
Irenaeus, (120-202 AD) the Bishop of Lyons, who was a student of Polycarp (a disciple of the Apostle John), gives us insight regarding how essential apostolic tradition is to the Church.
Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. … But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Savior; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself. … It comes to this, therefore, that these men (Valentinus, Marcion, Cerinthus, and Basilides) do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition. (10)
False accusations against the Early Church
The heretics are devoid of these traditions. This now brings us to the false accusation against the Early Church: that they learned to interpret the scriptures spiritually from Philosophy. Once again, this allegation is brought on the church of Alexandria. Here Clement of Alexandria (150-c.211 AD) addressed Philosophy not being able to attain the truth:
But the teaching, which is according to the Savior, is complete in itself and without defect, being “the power and wisdom of God;” (1Co 1:24) and the Hellenic philosophy does not, by its approach, make the truth more powerful; but rendering powerless the assault of sophistry against it, and frustrating the treacherous plots laid against the truth, is said to be the proper “fence and wall of the vineyard.” (11)
Philosophy was not fully acceptable to the Early Church, particularly in Alexandria, as some theologians have opposed, suspecting that they were influenced by philosophy because of their location, and by simply misunderstanding their writings. The Early Church understood that philosophers were missing the mark of truth, however commended philosophy for the discipline over this flesh, to understand truth. Although philosophy could not understand the truth, the lifestyle of self-denial to attain that truth was a preparatory exercise.
The Hellenic philosophy then, according to some, apprehended the truth accidentally, dimly, partially; as others will have it, was set a-going by the devil. Several suppose that certain powers, descending from heaven, inspired the whole of philosophy. But if the Hellenic philosophy comprehends not the whole extent of the truth, and besides is destitute of strength to perform the commandments of the Lord, yet it prepares the way for the truly royal teaching; training in some way or other, and molding the character, and fitting him who believes in Providence for the reception of the truth. (12)
Philosophy in the Early Church
The Early Church did not use philosophy as a way to interpret scripture, but they recognized the significance of living a disciplined lifestyle, as a means to prepare a people to receive the truth. Clement writes that in reality the Greeks received their moral philosophy in pursuing a life of virtue from Moses. Although they could not come to understand the truth, nor walk out the Word, they would live a life that some call today, minimalist, to come away from the distractions of the world, in order to understand wisdom. Knowing that they could not attain the fullness of truth, it is incomprehensible to assume that they attained their exegesis from philosophy.
The Jews understood the purpose of interpreting the Scriptures mystically, way before philosophy was around. They have long since used the acronym of “PARDES” to reveal different levels of interpretation.
P’shat- the literal meaning
Remez- hint to a deeper meaning
D’rash- investigating the deeper meaning
Sod- the secret meaning, mystery
Early Church Father Origen also spurns philosophy and even goes further to state that those who teach it will be guilty of judgment:
The waters of Egypt are the erring and slippery teachings of the philosophers. Since those teachings deceived some who were deficient in understanding and children in knowledge, when the cross of Christ shows the light of truth to this world, those teachings have to pay the penalty for the death of the children and the guilt of blood. (13)
Origen compares the teachings of philosophers to the plague that struck the waters of Egypt, and these teachings are guilty of the spiritual murder of those who are young and ignorant in the faith. As we have shown so far, two very prominent spiritual leaders in Alexandria did not uphold the teachings of philosophers, but in fact condemned it. This deflates the notion that the Early Church’s approach of interpreting the Scriptures was influenced by philosophy.
The consequences of departing from the truth
Departure from truth was not taken lightly in the Early Church. Irenaeus describes the characteristics of those who were departing from the original Church to start their own denomination, formed through their false interpretations of the Word:
Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, — those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God — namely, strange doctrines — shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. (Lev_10:1, Lev_10:2) But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hell (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron. (Num_16:33) But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. (1Ki_14:10) (14)
The judgment for falsely interpreting the Scriptures is an eternal judgment, and is likened to a strange fire that is forbidden to present to the Lord. Heresies (false doctrines) are the byproduct of leaving the prescribed path of investigating the Scriptures as instilled by the apostles, and instead following what one desires to believe; whatever their itching ears want to hear, no longer desiring sound doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:3). God always intended for the Church to be in complete unity. Today, there is a cry for unity in the Church, however it is a cry to come together by ‘putting doctrine to the side’. How can putting doctrine aside unite the Church when the Word is God? (John 1:1). The very key that is meant to unite the Church is being disregarded. A church without the true doctrine is a wall without mortar. Concerning the diverse doctrines that were festering in the body of Christ, Church Father Tertullian (c.150-c.220 AD) stated:
Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing. On those whose purpose it was to teach differently, lay the necessity of differently arranging the instruments of doctrine. They could not possibly have effected their diversity of teaching in any other way than by having a difference in the means whereby they taught. As in their case, corruption in doctrine could not possibly have succeeded without a corruption also of its instruments, so to ourselves also integrity of doctrine could not have accrued, without integrity in those means by which doctrine is managed. (15)
The Early Church was unified regarding interpreting the Word, and how they conducted themselves with those who brought in strange fire (false doctrine); this is distinctly different from the Church today. This poses a danger for today’s Church: How do we know what the correct interpretation of Scripture is? Who are we to learn from? These are the exact reasons we need Apostles and Prophets to teach the Church, until we come to the unity of the faith, and full knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-14).
Jesus warns the Church
Jesus warns about false prophets, stating the way we will know them is by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-16). The ancient Hebrew defines the word ‘interpret’ as “Open, Interpretation: A revealing of a text or speech in order to understand it. [from: resh (a mans head) pey (an opening of something) – breaking open to reveal fruit (the meaning)]” (16). The ancient Hebrew compares fruit being broken open, to opening up scripture to reveal the true meaning. The word ‘interpret’ is from the Hebrew word for ‘bullock’ and is defined as “‘opening the head’ An ox is led around the floor crushing the heads, opening them to reveal the seed inside. Also, the fruit of trees that are harvested.” (17). In Hebrew thought, the bullock (bull/ox) treads the grain, producing fruit by it. Thus, when Paul the Apostle states that you ought not muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain is referring to himself as an ox opening the seed to bear the fruit of the spiritual interpretation of the Word. Henceforth his following statement after giving the spiritual interpretation of that mitzvah, “Is it oxen God is concerned about?” (1 Corinthians 9:9). Though the Letter of the law is speaking of an ox, Paul understood the Spirit of the law was concerning himself (an apostle). Origen expounds on this, to reveal how we interpret the Scriptures accurately.
“The first glimpse of the letter is bitter enough: it prescribes the circumcision of the flesh; it gives the laws of sacrifice and all the rest that is designated by the letter that kills (cf. 2 Cor 3:6). Cast all this aside like the bitter rind of a nut. You then, secondly, come to the protective covering of the shell in which the moral doctrine or counsel of continence is designated. These are of course necessary to protect what is contained inside, but they too are doubtless to be smashed and broken through. We would say, for example, that abstinence from food and chastisement of the body is necessary as long as we are in this body, corruptible as it is and susceptible to passion. But when it is broken and dissolved and, in the time of its resurrection, gone over from corruption into incorruption and from animal to spiritual, then it will be dominated no longer by the labor of affliction or the punishment of abstinence, but rather by its own quality and not by any bodily corruption. This is why abstinence seems necessary now and afterwards will have no point. Thirdly you will find hidden and concealed in these the sense of the mysteries of the wisdom and knowledge of God (cf. Col 2:3) in which the souls of the saints are nourished and fed not only in the present life but also in the future. This then is that priestly fruit about which the promise is given to those “who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). In this way, therefore, the gradation of this threefold mystery runs through all the scripture.” (18)
Once more, we see by what method Origen understood how to interpret the scriptures- from the apostolic traditions and not from philosophy. Origen was a student of Hebrew and as we can see above, he understood that the process of interpreting the scriptures was characteristically foretold through the parabolic process of an ox treading the seeds. All evidence shows thus far that Origen’s exegesis was based on the Scriptures and the Apostolic Traditions.
Jesus forewarns the Church in the parable of the fig tree that when He returns, He is coming to find fruit and if the tree does not bear fruit, it will be cut down (Luke 13:6-9). The tree that does not bear fruit is cursed and cut off (Matthew 21:19). Jesus is the vine and we, the Church, are the branches (John 15:5). Jesus is coming back expecting to obtain fruit from His Church. What is the fruit that Jesus is searching for? Ecclesiastes says “Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1). “Interpretation” in Hebrew is “pêsher” which correlates to the Hebrew word “parah”, which signifies “to break open to reveal the fruit (meaning).” The fruit that Jesus is searching for is bearing forth the right interpretation of the Scriptures.
The Fig Tree represents Israel, however, the Church is the true Israel according to Paul: “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham… That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God” (Romans 9:6-8). Here, Paul is emphasizing that those whose physical bloodlines are of Israel are not truly the sons of Abraham, nor sons of God. Paul asserts that we, the Church, are not Jews after the flesh but the spirit. Therefore, we should heed with caution the parable of the fig tree.
God’s order for the Church
It is imperative that Apostles and Prophets are reestablished in the Church as God ordained them to be first, and head over the Church. Without this order, the Church cannot be equipped with understanding how to interpret the Word the way God ordained it. Some argue “I have the Holy Spirit, therefore I do not need anyone to teach me.” Why would God establish an order in His church and then allow it to not be followed? Irenaeus elaborates:
“For in the Church,” it is said, “God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers,” (1Co 12:28) and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns (Jer 2:13) out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed.
Alienated thus from the truth, they do deservedly wallow in all error, tossed to and fro by it, thinking differently in regard to the same things at different times, and never attaining to a well-grounded knowledge, being more anxious to be sophists of words than disciples of the truth. (19)
Those who do not follow the order that God established are not part of the Church and deceive themselves through perverse opinions. Instead of being able to drink from the living fountain, they drink bitter water that has given them a spirit of error. The Lord said He will turn His own people over to a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie because “they no longer had a love for the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). That is the fundamental dispute: simply not having a love for the truth, but rather choosing to follow their own perverse opinions.
John G. Lake was a formidable minister of faith who was used mightily by God. Many tend to focus on his miracles, however there was a key component to his ability to step into the realm of the supernatural as well as his hunger for truth. He understood that to go back to the power of the Early Church and how they walked, we need to know what they taught. He realized, even in his time (1870-1935), that there was a lack of understanding in the Church. He was in pursuit of teachings and instructions of how to correctly interpret the Word; he was in search of prolific fruit.
Jesus not only rose from the dead, but He determined in His own soul to take captive that power that had been captivating men and subjecting them to death’s control. So, Jesus entered into the grave. The early church was much more conversant (familiar with or knowledgeable about something) with this phase of the Lord’s victory than we are.
The literature of the early church fathers is full of the wonder of what took place in the life and ministry of Jesus after He was in the grave.” (20)
The Church today has departed so far from the primordial teachings that Jesus revealed to his first Church. We need to go back to our roots, back to the traditions that were imparted to the first Church. These lost keys are essential for us to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, for the Church to be found bearing the fruit that the Lord desires to see in His bride. There is no question that the exegesis of today’s Church has been influenced by the wisdom of man, philosophy, and even heresies, which are destructive paths. We need to quickly return the straight and narrow exegesis that was gifted to us, which is that of the Earliest Church.
- Thayer’s Greek definitions: ‘Sect’ (G139)
- Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians, Ch. III
- Webster’s Dictionary: ‘Mystical’
- Origen, Homily 7 on Leviticus
- Ignatius (Disciple of Apostle John), Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. IX
- Ignatius (Disciple of Apostle John), Epistle to the Ephesians, Ch. XII
- Ignatius (Disciple of Apostle John), Epistle to the Trallians, Ch. II
- Theophilus, To Autolycus, Bk. 2, Ch. XV
- Alex of Alexandria, Epistles1 on the Arian Heresy and the Deposition of Arius, Ch. I
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 3, Ch. II (parentheses mine)
- Clement, Stromata, Bk. 1, Ch. XX
- Clement, Stromata, Bk. 1, Ch. XVI
- Origen, Homily 4 on Exodus, Ch. 6
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 1, Ch. XXVI
- Tertullian, Prescription Against Heresies, Ch. XXXVIII
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible: ‘Interpret’ (H6622)
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible: ‘Bullock’ (H6499)
- Origen, Homily 9 on Numbers
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. III, Ch. XXIV
- John G Lake, July 15, 1920 Chicago, Illinois of Pentecostal Assemblies (Collection of his teachings).
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010, unless stated otherwise.