All posts by richardbarker777

Author of "The Fellowship of the Secret"

THE NATURE OF REPENTANCE AND THE “ELIJAH” TO COME

 

220px-Elijah[1]

“Learn to do good, seek justice, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow: ‘come now and let us reason together’, says Yahweh; though your sins be as scarlet they shall become as white as snow” (Isaiah1:17,18)
I recall the above as a favourite sermon text from my Evangelical preaching days – verse 18 that is, less so the verse preceding it. The typical gloss has been to disassociate God’s offer of forgiveness from its conditionality: the pursuit of individual righteousness resulting in corporate social justice amongst His people (v17). Eight or so centuries after Isaiah a still greater prophet came on to the scene – Jesus considered John the Baptist to be the greatest man yet born of woman (Mt11:11), yet little attention has been paid to his preaching. In accordance with what I have been indicating in earlier posts, John will have understood that the realisation of the Messianic Kingdom and the judgement associated with it really were at hand: “And now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree that fails to bring forth good fruit is to be hewn down and cast into the fire” (Mt3:10). People, he believed, needed to “prepare for the wrath to come” and obtain forgiveness through baptism. But like God speaking through Isaiah before him he was careful to insist that the acknowledgement of past error must be accompanied by the pursuit of personal righteousness: “Share your food and raiment with the needy; be honest in business and be content with your wages” (Luke3:10-14). Likewise, a little later we observe Jesus delighted with tax collector Zacchaeus when he declared he would pay back those he had swindled: “Today salvation has come to this house”, He declared (Lk19:8-10). Such is the nature of repentance, and Paul (once rightly understood) taught nothing to subvert that principle.

Speaking of the Baptist, his birth like that of his Master was heralded with an angelic annunciation:
“And (John) will bring back many of the ‘Israelites’ to the lord their God. with the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before (Christ) to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the lord a people fit for him” (Lk1:16-17)
But did John in fact fulfil that expectation? In what meaningful sense did he reconcile fathers and children? If you imagine that referred to healing family relationships, then his work was about to be thoroughly undermined by the One he was heralding: Jesus had warned His coming would have the effect of tearing families apart! (Mt10:35). As for God’s chosen people being made ready for their Messiah in John’s day, nothing could be further from the truth (Mt17:12). Likewise, there is no meaningful sense in which John as the “Elijah” restored everything before he was beheaded. Hear the words of Christ again: “ELIJAH TRULY SHALL COME FIRST IN ORDER TO RESTORE ALL THINGS” (Elias men erchetai proton kai apokatastesai panta – Mt17:11 Greek text). So, whilst a messenger HAS already come in the person of John, God’s chosen nation accepted neither him nor the One he heralded as Jesus affirmed in the very next verse (Mt17:12b). As He said: “If you can receive (him), then John is the Elijah to come” – but neither John nor Jesus were received by God’s chosen race, particularly their leaders. Apart from which, given that the purpose of the final prophet is to prepare the Lord’s people for their Messiah and final judgement, the reconciliation and restoration that the prophet is to achieve must relate to the generation that lives to see the “great and awesome day of the Lord” (Mal4:5-6*). Through what I describe in shorthand as the Fellowship of the Secret that Paul refers to in Eph3:9, that wasn’t to be the generation of John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles. My book also suggests who the “fathers and children” to be reconciled may be referring to – for, after all, it does in part concern the reconciliation of the churches.

*Mal3:22-23 in Catholic editions

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Illustration: Icon of Elijah at Kizhi monastery – courtesy of wikipedia

A WITNESS TO THE UNITY OF DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE WITHIN THE SECOND CENTURY CHURCH

irenaeus

 

“The Church having received this preaching and this faith although scattered throughout the whole world yet as if occupying one house carefully preserves it. She also believes these points of doctrine just as if she had one soul and one and the same heart and proclaims and teaches them and hands them down with perfect harmony as if she only possessed one mouth. For the churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain or Gaul. . . But as the sun, that creature of God is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth”

So wrote Irenaeus (AD130-202 – pictured), acknowledged by many to be the major theologian of the second century, having been instructed by Polycarp a disciple of John the Evangelist. Such a depiction of universal doctrinal uniformity may be somewhat exaggerated but equally it could not have been the case that the essential doctrines concerning the nature of faith and salvation could have uniformly be in error given that each of the churches he refers to could trace its origins just two or three generations back to the apostles. They cannot all have interpreted Paul’s teaching wrongly yet none of their surviving writings bear much resemblance to the Reformers’ distinctive teachings on faith, works, law and grace or indeed the distinctive teachings of Augustine, who, particularly following his disputation with Pelagius came to reject entirely the principles of (so-called) natural law or innate spiritual enlightenment that I have been outlining. It is clear from their writing that such principles were understood by Irenaeus himself and fellow second century spiritual masters including Clement of Alexandria and Justin Martyr [1]. In terms of the essentials it is not that all the second century churches will have come to agreement through a sublimity of biblical exegesis, it is because a good number of these assemblies will have been founded and superintended by the great apostle to the Gentiles himself or his direct appointees. These leaders knew what Paul was writing about because they or their leaders had heard him and talked to him; they did not have to rely entirely upon his pastoral epistles that even his fellow apostle Peter observed were “hard to understand” and already being misunderstood by many (2Pet3:16). Such an historical affirmation with the earliest Church Fathers cannot be provided for ALL the assertions I make in my book, for as the blessed Origen (third century) later observed, certain mysteries were left to be explored and resolved over the course of the Church’s pilgrimage; but I say again that cannot apply to the means of obtaining eternal life through Jesus Christ which was made clear from the start and has always been adequately set forth within the Apostolic Church in East and West. The Holy Spirit is not so perverse as to leave the Church and therefore the world ignorant of His saving truth for centuries (as I once effectively believed), for our merciful, magnanimous God desires that all redeemable humanity be healed and come to a knowledge of the Truth. To that end He has elected a people to form a messianic community, informed by divine teaching and empowered by His Spirit to bring light, healing and salvation to the world that He loves:

“For the grace of God has appeared FOR THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts to live sensibly, righteously and devoutly in the current age, anticipating the blessed hope and Shekinah of our Great God and the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sake so that we should be delivered from lawlessness and be purified as a SPECIALLY CHOSEN PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF BURNING WITH ZEAL TO DO GOOD WORKS. This is what you (Titus) are to say, rebuking with authority; let no man despise you” (Paul’s letter to Titus ch2:11-15)

Note
[1] Irenaeus recognised that God in His providence is present with all “who attend to moral discipline, paying heed to the natural precepts of the law by which man can be justified” [“Irenaeus against heresies” Book IV chap 13 para 1] whilst Justin Martyr spoke of God’s benevolence towards those who walk uprightly and in accordance with right reason ; “a God who accepts those who imitate His own qualities of temperance, fairness and philanthropy and who exercise their free will in choosing what is pleasing to Him” [first apology of Justin chaps. 43 & 46]. Such a perspective on free will and a role for natural law is affirmed by the witness of Eusebius AD260-340. Known as the Father of Church History, Eusebius documented the succession of the apostolic sees in East and West, commenting on the faithfulness (or otherwise) of some of their bishops, providing in the process an invaluable perspective on the doctrinal understanding of his time. In view of his own perspective on the matter, Eusebius indicates that natural law, essential to the case I am making, was subsumed within the theological/anthropological perspective of the early Church:
“The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again, making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good”. [quotation from “The Christian Examiner”, Volume One, published by James Miller, 1824 Edition, p. 66 – my highlighting]

RECONCILING THE CHILDREN TO THEIR FATHERS

Johann-Tetzel-Selling-Indulgences

The Fellowship of the Secret outlines a prophetic insight concerning divine providence. But it also concerns the reconciliation of the churches. Here is an excerpt regarding the latter:

 “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” [attributed to Johann Tetzel, papal seller of indulgences – pictured]. Let’s face it: who would not wish to be a Reformer in sixteenth century Europe? Seemingly spiritually insightful men pleading scriptural truths against the deformed doctrines and practices of the seriously corrupted monolith that was the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the unifying Spirit of Christ requires us to take a step back from all that and, utilizing the resources available to us in the digital age, undertake a pan-bimillennial review of church history applying the rationale I have set out in chapter five. Then, if the Spirit is behind this work, many may come to perceive what is required for the fractured Body of Christ to be healed at last (cf. Rom12:5).”

{Excerpt from chapter three of The Fellowship of the Secret”}

 

Preview or purchases the book/e-book HERE (UK) or

HERE (USA/Canada)

THE BOOK OF REVELATION’S PROLOGUE (ch1v1-3) – NOT THE LEAST OF ITS SURPRISES

revelationjohn

The last book in the New Testament tends to be referred to as the Revelation of John; its prologue declares it to be the revelation of Jesus Christ given to Him by God (ch1v1 cf. Greek) – John being its witness and scribe. Its declared purpose was to inform, albeit symbolically, God’s servants (the Church) what would in due course come to pass (ch1v1b). It is therefore highly significant when something is revealed by Christ’s angel to John and he is immediately told NOT to write it down (ch10v4). It suggests it was not intended to be disclosed to the Church, at least not at the time of her inception. Its eventual revelation, symbolically set out in the small scroll (or little book) would be sweet as honey in the mouth but bitter in the gut (Greek: koilia). It has become my conviction that this pertains to the munificent nature of God’s reconciliatory intentions, hidden from the Church’s understanding for much of her earthly pilgrimage, being God’s final mystery/secret (ch10v7). That is still more likely to be the case IF what I believe I have received from the Lord/Spirit and set out in my book* is on the mark. That is for others to determine, in the meantime my main claim for “The Fellowship of the Secret” is that it resolves many doctrinal tensions within and between the New and Old Testaments, at least to my own satisfaction.

*Preview at Amazon.com  HERE  or

Amazon (UK) HERE

 

“ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD” [Gen5:22]AND ALLEGEDLY HE WROTE ABOUT IT

SCROLLENOCH

 

The book of Enoch is ex-canonical scripture that was nevertheless regarded as inspired and a genuine work of the Patriarch by a number of the early Church Fathers such as Clement, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine and Tertullian. This is hardly surprising since it is directly quoted in the New Testament (Jude14,15). Tertullian specifically regarded Enoch as falling within the remit of 2Tim3:16 concerning “all scripture” being inspired and useful. It was excluded from the Old Testament cannon (apart from that formulated by the Coptic Orthodox Church) and for valid reasons; perhaps most significantly there was an unacceptable degree of variation in the manuscript copies available to the early Church councils that determined the composition of the Biblical Canon. Apart from being directly quoted in the Bible, this scripture clarifies some otherwise obscure verses which themselves are quite important and cannot be properly understood by comparing canonical scripture with scripture. None more so than Genesis 6; explaining in great detail the context of vv1-3, necessary for a rounded understanding of God’s nature and modus operandi, together with the respective culpability of the human and celestial agencies that contributed to the Fall and the Flood. The latter was another reason it was more conclusively rejected by the later Fathers who believed it did not place sufficient emphasis on man’s culpability for those particular cosmic disasters, especially having endorsed Augustine’s austere take on the matter. This extra-biblical literature also clarifies less important but nevertheless intriguing issues such as “the blood that speaks better things than Abel” (Heb12:24), Enoch’s walk with God (in great detail) and the ethnicity of Adam, Eve and their offspring (hinted at in Genesis5:3). It also reveals, albeit cryptically, the ethnicity of Noah’s three sons, and for that reason alone, especially in view of Gen9:25, it was providential it was excluded, and until relatively recently not readily accessible.

With the aforementioned early fathers, I have no doubt the book is inspired and needs to be consulted in order to aid completion of the biblical jigsaw. In the context of “The Fellowship of the Secret” it also contains certain prophecies regarding God’s final providential mystery (cf. Rev10:4-7) that might not have remained a mystery had Enoch1 been received within the canon and historically focused upon within the churches.  But there is another reason to believe Enoch was not intended for the Church throughout its history yet is relevant for today as profitable reading – that is the very opening verse:

 “The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and the righteous who will be living in the day of tribulation when all the wicked and godless are to be removed” (Enoch1 ch1 v1)
And at the end of Enoch there is a prophecy concerning the book itself and other books:

“But when they write down truthfully all my words in their languages, and do not change or diminish anything from my words but write them all down truthfully – all that I first testified concerning them; then I know another mystery, that books will be given to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom. and to them shall the books be given, and they shall believe in them and rejoice over them, and then shall all the righteous who have learnt therefrom all the paths of uprightness be recompensed” (Enoch104:1113).

More on that in my particular book** but the writing attributed to Enoch provides a helpful reference source to enable us better to understand God’s rationale for the Flood by clarifying the context of the first two verses of chapter 6 concerning “the sons of God’s” union with human women, which made such a drastic remedy unavoidable.

 

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** More about “The Fellowship of the Secret” on my website HERE
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To examine or purchase my book/e-book:
** Amazon (UK) HERE
**Amazon.com (USA and Canada)  HERE

 Note: The e-book version is available FREE from Amazon for five days Wednesday 18th to Sunday 22nd July

 

 

ON HUMAN NATURE AND ORIGINAL SIN

paulwriting

 

Clearly, for those who believe in the existence of an eternal soul, the whole human psyche cannot be contained within the physical brain which along with other mortal remains is finally buried or incinerated, for what is eternal and spiritual within man returns to God in whose image he was made, “The dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God WHO GAVE IT” (Eccles12:7NKJV). Of course that is not the end of the story, which is resurrection, but in the interim Scripture makes clear that the disembodied spirit is conscious, sensual and retains a memory: “REMEMBER that in your lifetime you (the rich man) received good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, so now he is comforted and you are tormented” (Lk16:25)

All this needs to be kept in mind when seeking to make sense of Romans 7:14-21 and the nature of “original sin”. What I have come to understand is this: The eternal soul is not derived from human sperm but individually created by God – pure yet pliant (liable to corruption). Planted within the procreated intellectual vessel Paul describes as “the body of this death”, its concupiscent instincts are in contention with the conscience-directed soul/spirit. Paul’s “body of THIS death” refers to the condition (“death”) the man the apostle was depicting was CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING: not his mortality or future damnation but his inability by nature consistently to practice what his God-given spirit nobly aspires to, succumbing too often to the concupiscent instincts of his bodily members processed through the brain:… unless, that is, he is enabled by gospel grace and the Holy Spirit not only to aspire to what is good but TO PRACTICE IT even whilst inhabiting mortal flesh, in Paul’s language – possessing his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1Thes4:4).

This may be some way from the teaching of Augustine (the Fall resulting in “death of the soul” and an inability to do or even desire anything good), later reinforced by the medieval Reformers’ doctrine of “total depravity”, but it is what I have been shown (by the Spirit I believe) and fits in with the rest of the synopsis concerning broader providence and the nature of the age to come set out in the seven chapters of “Fellowship of the Secret”

Preview or purchase HERE (Amazon.com)

or

HERE (UK)

THE CHURCH – ROYAL PRIESTHOOD OF GOD

petersvision

 

Through his extraordinary indoctrination Paul understood what the original twelve hadn’t – the people of God were to be reconstituted. Only after special revelation did Peter perceive Gentiles were to receive AN IDENTICAL SPIRITUAL GIFT to the Jews (Acts11:17). Such is the Church – not the fortunate escapees from Augustine’s “Massa Damnata” – “But YOU (O Church!) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, HIS OWN SPECIAL PEOPLE that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pet2:9NKJ; cf. Ex19:6)

Illustration: Peter’s vision painted by Domenico Fetti – courtesy Wikipedia