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Church and  the Holy Bible

orthodox2Dear Friends…..”Ann & Pastor series is continuing. Today’s discussion is on”Church Festivals and the Holy Bible”

Ann:  Hello, Pastor, Hope you are doing fine

PastorI am fine in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!

Ann:     So how is the ministry?     

Pastor:   I came to convey a message to you.  I am convinced that by the grace of God that you have some Biblical knowledge.  Therefore you have to be baptized and be anointed in the Holy Spirit and need to be in communion with, saved sons of God. I have come to convey this message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ann: I am already baptized!

Pastor: That was when?  Long time ago when you were a baby, isn’t it? You didn’t know what faith was at that time, and certainly you could not have believed in Christ. Bible commands  ‘believe and be baptized’. Therefore Bible commands adult-baptism.

Ann:  I say, your opinion is contradicted in the 4:3 verse of the Letter to Laodiceans by St. Paul

Pastor:  Letter to Laodiceans ? We can refer…. (Sings a song as a he turns the pages of the Bible.Ann smiles.  After a while looking at Ann).  There is no such book in the Bible.

Ann: If I show such a letter in the Bible, would you believe?

Pastor: I say there is no such letter by Paul in this Book?  Are you making fun of me?

Ann: You could only tell me that there is no such book in the Bible after turning over all these pages?  There is a letter written to the Laodicenas and the Bible talks about such a letter, but probably you may not have read it. Even if you did read it, you may not remember it.  Any way read Colossians 4:16.

Pastor: “And when this letter is read before you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans and you yourselves read the one from Laodicea”.

Ann: So what do you think? Is there such a letter or not?

Pastor: I understand now that there is such a letter. I had never heard this before. But it has not been added in the bible.

Ann: Apostle Paul wrote both these letters, one to the Colossians and the other to the Laodicenas. One has been added to the Bible and the other was not.  Who’s fault is this?  Actually, church members were commanded to read both. There also are other books which are not included in the Bible.

Pastor: That is new to me.  Which are these?

Ann: Ok, I will explain.  Before we discuss infant baptism and other theologically controversial subjects, we need to understand the Early Church and the Bible. Without this, it is difficult to explain these subjects.

Pastor: This is interesting. The letter to Laodicenas is Biblical. Likewise I need to hear about books or letters, which are referred to in the Bible but are not in the Bible.

Ann: Ok, read 1 Corinthians 5:9 

Pastor:  “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people”.

Ann: In which letter did Paul write this? There is no such verse in 1 Corinthians. Then where did Paul write this verse?  So Paul might have written a letter before this one, which we consider as 1 Corinthians. But we misplaced or lost that letter and was not included in the Bible.

Pastor: I agree. Any more letters like this?

Ann:  Yes.  1 Chronicles 29:29 “Now the deeds of King David, first and last, can be found written in the history of Samuel the seer, the history of Nathan the prophet and the history of Gad the seer”.   Again 2 Chronicles 9:29 and 2 Chronicles 20:34 refers to some books. (a) Prophesy of Ahijah the Shilonite and (b) in the visions of Iddo the seer son of Nebat; and (c) Chronicles of Jehu”).  None of these books are included in the Bible. And we have not got it.  In Mathew 2:23, the author says that prophets have mentioned “He [Jesus] shall be called a Nazorean”.  But none of the present Old Testament books have this verse.  Jude (1:14) mentions Prophesy of Enoch, which is not in the bible. (This is quoted from the Apocryphal Book of Enoch 1,9).

Pastor: Ok I agree to all this.  Let us talk with what is available now

Ann:  Please don’t be mistaken.  I will prove my point only with Biblical verses. All I am telling here is that, there are so many books we are suppose to read and obey, but are not included in the Bible.  In other words, Bible is not complete.

Pastor:  Let us talk about the ‘Church, the bride of our Lord’

Ann: Read Ephesians 1:22-23

Pastor:  “And he put all things beneath his feat and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (As God ‘fills’ Christ, Christ in turn ‘fills’ the church and the believer).

Ann:  Here two things are said about the church:  1) Church is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ 2) The church is complete and is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Now read Ephesians 4:11-13.

Pastor: “And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers to equip the Holy One for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until we all attain the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God to mature mankind”.

Ann:  What this says is Jesus has appointed in his Church apostles, evangelists, and pastors for ‘filling’ the Church or they are appointed for the spiritual enrichment. Now read Colossians 1:24 

Pastor:  “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church”

Ann:  Here also it is said that the Church is the body of Christ. In Colossians 1:18 it is said that Jesus is the head of the church and church is His body. In Ephesians 5:23 it is said, “For husband is head of his wife just as Christ is the head of the church “.  In Ephesians 3:21 it says “to him glory in the church and in Christ to all generations.”  All this verses says church is Holy, Complete, and gracious.  Now Read 1 Timothy 3:14, 15.

Pastor: “You know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”

Ann:  We can learn three things from this:  1) Church is the pillar of truth 2) Church is the foundation of truth 3) Church is of living God.  Now read Mathew 16:18 

Pastor: “And I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.  

Ann: This is the command from our Lord.  We have to note two things.  1) The church is established on  Faith proclaimed by Peter.  2) The forces of netherworld will not prevail against it, because church is so powerful and rock solid.  Now read Mathew 18:17 

Pastor:  “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector” 

Ann:  This is also very significant.  Our Lord commands that any one who does not obey the church, which is the pillar and foundation of truth, and which is established on the faith proclaimed by Peter and which cannot be defeated by any forces, should be expelled from the church. Please read Acts 20:28. 

Pastor: “(to the presbyters of the church) Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood” 

Ann: This verse says Holy Spirit appoints the presbyters or overseers of the church.  Our Lord told the Apostles that he chose the apostles and not vice versa.  Holy Spirit selects the anointed presbyters. 

Pastor: I agree with all this.  But the basis of the church is the Bible.  Then why is that teachings of your church not according to the Bible. This is what I want to know. 

Ann:  Let us look at the Bible itself to learn the truth. The basis of faith is not the Bible but the Church. We learned from 1 Timothy that the pillar and foundation of truth is the church. But you say it is not. Do you know that the Bible was compiled 300 years after the church was established? 

Pastor:  We have to talk based on the Bible. Show me the proof from the Bible. Praise the Lord. 

Ann:  First, you have to understand that everything that Christ taught and did is not in the Bible. 

Pastor:  Ann, you should not say so.  It is an unforgiving sin. This is the word of God and it contains everything Christ taught and did.  I will not agree to anything not in this Bible. Praise the Lord. If this is your faith, let us not continue. Praise the Lord. 

Ann:  I am sorry Pastor. This is not my opinion. Actually I quoted from the Bible. 

Pastor: Where does it say so? 

Ann: Read John 21:25 

Pastor: “There are so many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” 

Ann: What do you think now?  Didn’t I quote from the Bible?  John 20:30 also says that Jesus did “many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.” Every thing I said is as per the Bible. 

Pastor: That is… (Keeps quiet) 

Ann: You did not answer me. You told me that you would agree to the evidences from the Bible.  

Pastor: This verse says that there is lot more to be written about the life of Jesus. But it does not say that any of his teachings are missed. May be they added all his teachings! 

Ann:  Why you are saying like this?  Jesus taught through his life. Read Acts 1:3 

Pastor: “…Until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God 

Ann: I hope that it is clear now. Jesus was teaching the apostles for 40 days about the kingdom of God.  But the 4 epistles contain only things up to the resurrection.  So what ever Jesus taught in those 40 days are not in the Bible.  Don’t you think we have to obey the things He taught during those 40 days also? Don’t you agree with me that the Bible is incomplete? Even Jesus said “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he come, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth”. (John 16:12,13).  These things, which our Lord should have taught and which subsequently taught by the Holy Spirit, are not in the Bible. Still our Lord has commanded as to obey and do as per those teachings from the Holy Spirit. 

Pastor: I agree many teachings are not in the epistles.  But they are in letters.  Bible does not mean epistles alone. 

Ann: The letters in the Bible were meant as reply to letters the apostles received and/or doubts asked to them. Those letters are not complete.  We saw a letter to Laodicenas before. Any way read Philippians 4:9 

Pastor: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you” 

Ann:  I am sure this verse is very clear. Paul says that the church members should obey not only what is written to them, but also what ever he taught them orally or even observing what he did. So the things written in letters are necessary things. But Paul clearly says that this is not enough.  So don’t you agree that everything that we should do and practice is not in the Bible?  So think of it. You base your faith on the Bible. But the Bible says your faith should be based on the apostles oral teaching and even by observing them. 

Pastor:  Since it is a Biblical verse, I will agree.  But since it is not in the Bible how do we know all those things? 

Ann:  That I will say later on.  But for now read 2 Thess 2:15 

Pastor: “therefore brothers stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter to ours”.

Ann: From this verse we can learn three things.  1) The teachings to the church were delivered by letters or orally. (By mouth).  2) The church member have to obey both teachings, not one.  3) If some one says that he will accept only the written teachings and not oral one, it is disobedience to Gods commands.  It is disrespectful to these Biblical verses.  Can you agree to this truth? 

Pastor: I agree, this is what we can infer from these verses.  But how do we know what is being taught orally or what the early church members learned by observing the apostles?  There is no way we could know all this. 

Ann:  There is a way for everything. In 2 John 12:  “Although I have much to write to you, I do not intend to use paper and ink.  Instead I hope to visit you and speak face to face so that our joy may be complete”.  That was John’s opinion.  He says he has to teach many more things, which is not written, which he will visit them and teach them.  Now Read 3 John 13,14. 

Pastor: “I have much to write to you, but I do not wish to write with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, then we can talk face to face “

Ann:  Are you listening to all this pastor?  All this things, which John says that he will teach face to face, is also required for salvation. He says he does not wish to write down those things.  So it is clear for you that every thing that is required for salvation is not in the Bible. And so the basis of faith is not the Bible, but the church.  Now Read 1 Corinthians 11:34. 

Pastor: “ The other matters I shall set in order when I come.” 

Ann:  Paul writes to Corinthians that they are some things, which need to be set in order, and he would do it when he visits them.  Isn’t it obvious that those things are not written in the letter to Corinthians?  Now read 2 Timothy 2:2 

Pastor: “What you have heard from me through many witness entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well” 

Ann: It is also clear that – such things heard or witnessed from Paul is not in this letter.  So I have a question.  By learning the Bible in full, can someone learn everything about the faith in complete? 

Pastor:  Ann, All these are Bible verses.  I understand and I agree.  These are all new information for me. I had never thought this way before.  I am surprised.  But you still did not tell me how to understand the faith that is given orally.  Is this Bible unimportant or incomplete? 

Ann:  Whatever books are included in the Bible are complete and holy.  But to learn Christian faith in total, we have practices and faiths that are not described in the Bible.  We must receive them also.  Bible commands this. 

Pastor: We believe that basis of faith and church is the Bible. 

Ann:  Many new churches believe so.  But I will show the foolishness of that thinking. Do you know when the epistles and letters were written? 

Pastor:  That is many years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first epistles were written by Mark at around AD 60 and 65 and last one by John at around AD 100 

Ann: Good. But when was the beginning of the church? 

Pastor: On the day of Pentecost, when Holy Spirit came down and anointed the apostles. 

Ann: So, wasn’t the Church established before the Bible books were written? 

Pastor: Yes, I have no doubt in it. 

Ann:  So how is this possible?  How is that Bible that was no were around when the Church was established; be the foundation of the church?  How can we build a house with out proper foundation? Can we build a foundation after the house is built?  So how did the church start when there was no Bible?  We have found that the Bible is incomplete.  But our Lord is complete and so His church is also complete.  Therefore Bible, which is incomplete, cannot be the basis of Church, which is complete. 

Pastor:  Since there was no Bible, how did the Church establish the faith of the church? 

Ann:  The disciples taught the believers things that they learned from our Lord by seeing and hearing from Him. The practices of the church were shown to these church members. Paul commanded to the believers “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.”(Philippians 4:9)  And they did.   And as ordered in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, ‘stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by oral statement or by a letter of ours” and they obeyed. The Church grew that way.  Bible was never written as a constitution for the church nor was the church created based on the Bible. “I am sending you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ, just as I teach them everywhere in every church” 1 Corinthians 4:17” 

Pastor:  Then what is the relevance of the Bible? 

Ann: Bible is a Holy Book approved by the Church.  It is accepted by the Church for meditation, prayer, improving one’s faith and improving ones knowledge.  It is read and studied with great reverence. These holy books inspired by the Holy Spirit have been written in different era proves that the practices and faith of the church are right and true.  Every faith and practice of the church is Biblical.  “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let the one be accursed.” (1 Galatians 1:8).  So whoever it is, you should not be obeying any thing other than what is being taught. Or else one is cursed. 

Pastor:  How do we know for sure that the practices and faith not in the Bible, are truly taught by the apostles? 

Ann:   We have to learn the early church practices through the Bible. Luckily we have letters and articles written by early church fathers also. Our Lord promised us that he will send us the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit will be with us forever.  He sent us the Holy Spirit. Because of this, the Holy Spirit dwells in the church and leads the church in truth. Church is always faultless. To lead the church and its folks in truth and justice, Holy Spirit has anointed Presbyter and leaders. God separates them. “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has pointed you overseers” (Acts 20:28). The apostles asked Timothy to entrust to the faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well, what Timothy had learned from apostles. (2 Timothy 2:2). “As they (Paul and Timothy) traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisionsreached by the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.” So the people “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42).  The people where also given a command to “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you “ (Hebrews 13:17).  The teachings entrusted to those people have been preserved and is passed on from one generation to another. Paul said “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them to you.”(1 Corinthians 11:2).  “Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us.” (2 Timothy 1:13). It is our Lords command that “to Go and preach to world.”  Thus apostolic faith has been passed on from generations to generations till this date. 

Pastor: So we don’t have to follow the teachings in the Bible? 

Ann:  No, we have to obey everything in the Bible.  Along with that we have to obey what is being taught to us orally also.  This is what the Bible teaches us.  You also practice some things which are handed down orally. 

Pastor:  Me?  Practicing things not in Bible.  No, I only live as per the Bible. 

Ann:  Is Sunday a Holy day for you? 

Pastor:  Yes. It is Lord’s Day. 

Ann: The Bible tells us to observe Saturday as Holy Day.  But you are observing it on Sunday.  Why is that? 

Pastor: Because every one does so. All Christians do. 

Ann: It was the early church fathers that decided that the Lord’s Day should be Sunday and not Saturday. Though it was against Bible instruction, we all accept it because the church decided it. Like that we have to accept every thing the church taught us. 

Pastor:  I learned a lot about the Bible and its relevance to the Church. I am glad I did. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah 

51RC5K98C5LAnn: The teaching and prayers of the church has been shaped based on the Bible and as per teachings of the apostles (Philippians 3:8). All orthodox churches all over the world have practices that are learned thus. These are as per the teachings of the apostles.  None of the churches prayers or practices are against the Bible.  We are asked to obey both written and oral teachings.  But what is being taught orally cannot be found in written teachings. Isn’t it?  Therefore we should not demand that every church practice should be shown in written teachings.  Church is a visual institution. Our Lord established it and appointed presbyters and elders in various positions to guide and grow it. They were entrusted to guard and teach the teachings and practices of the church. They are asked to make disciples of the people who believed them.  Those who believe and saved were added to the church.  Our Lord decided an act or procedure called baptism as a necessary first step for joining the church.  He gave them his blood and bread for spiritual prosperity and to be one with Jesus Christ.  He sent the Holy Spirit to lead the church till the end of the world. Our Lord promised  “I am with you always, until the end of the age” and promised that “You ask any thing in my name and it will be given”.  Our Lord established the church and commanded to obey the church like one would obey our Lord. Dear Pastor, one has to obey this Church and not a book which this church has approved. The Bible supports and proves teachings of the church, its practices and procedures.  It is not meant for interpreting as one pleases or to create confusion among people and to lead them astray.  That is why Augustine said, “I believe in the Bible because it belongs to the church”.  Therefore, one has to obey the church and learn the book of the church, which is the Bible. 

Pastor: I am very glad to hear it. I learned a lot.  Praise the Lord.  Every thing that you told me is as per the Bible. To tell you the truth, I had grossly mistaken the Orthodoxchurch and its practices. I am convinced that I am wrong and I deeply regret it.  I will rejoice in Christ that I am able to learn this Biblical truth.  Praise the Lord. 

Ann:   Bye, See you later.  Please come back and visit us.

 

Courtesy: This is an English translation of the book “Ann ammayumPastarum” originally written in Malayalam, by Late Fr.Geevarghese Anchal.