Jesus Christ – Who was he?

Jesus ChristHere are some different views about who Jesus Christ was. Which one(s) do you think are correct?

1. Jesus Christ was only a mythical figure

Although part of the Bible story, virtually all modern scholars studying antiquity say that Jesus did exist historically. Most of them agree that Jesus was a Galilean, Jewish rabbi who preached his message orally, and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.

2. Jesus Christ was founder of a world religious tradition

Most people think of him as an eminent religious leader pointing to the importance of spiritual rather than material things.

For example in relation to what Buddhism calls attachment, and what the Jewish tradition refers to as coveting, Jesus said:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

This is similar to the teachings of the leaders of other religions:

“You use all your vital energy on external things and wear out your spirit” (Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage)

“It is difficult for a person laden with riches to climb the steep path that leads to bliss.” (The Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam)

Actually, Jesus Christ was a founder of a restoration movement within Judaism. Only after his death, did the community his followers formed eventually became the Christian church.

3. Jesus Christ was a very good man

He has been seen as a religious ascetic holy man and thus a symbol of perfect goodness and virtue. A role model we can aspire to copy. In washing the feet of others he revealed his humility, he showed care for the sick, and he asked for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying him.

“Jesus Christ. I mean, not only was He the greatest human being to ever walk the earth, He’s everything that I want to strive for. He’s everything that anyone should ever want to strive for.” (Sam Bradford, American football player)

4. Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher

The sayings attributed to Jesus, e.g. those known as Sermon on the Mount, are to do with forgiveness and compassion. They have been seen to have a healing quality directed not merely to some particular disease or misfortune but to the vital core of the individual, focusing as they on love and humility rather than demand and penalty.

“We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon.” (Jimmy Carter, ex-President USA)

5. Jesus Christ was God’s messenger and prophet

This is the idea that Jesus was Divinely inspired, differing from the wisdom of other men, not in kind, but only in degree. For example Muslims considered Jesus to be one of God’s important prophets chosen to spread God’s message.

If he indeed was a prophet some of his parables of judgment make uncomfortable reading about our destiny. The wheat was to be stored but the weeds were to be burned, the foolish virgins were to be excluded from the wedding banquet, the worthless servant who buried his talent was to be thrown outside into the darkness.

“Those who meet Jesus always experience either joy or its opposites, either foretastes of Heaven or foretastes of Hell. Not everyone who meets Jesus is pleased, and not everyone is happy, but everyone is shocked.” (Peter Kreeft, author of Jesus-Shock)

6. Jesus Christ was a miracle maker

The possibility of supernatural events is accepted by those who believe Jesus, like some other Bible figures such as Elisha and Peter, was able to use what they see as God’s omnipotent power. For example he is said to cause a huge number of fish to be caught, make a storm cease, and turn water into wine at a wedding. Whether seeing these stories as literally true or merely symbolic, Christian authors view them as works of love and mercy, performed to show compassion for sinful and suffering humanity.

7. Jesus Christ was a manifestation of God

Those following the Bahá’i faith see Jesus as serving as one of several manifestations of God reflecting God’s qualities and attributes and possessing simultaneous qualities of humanity and divinity.

Some Hindus consider Jesus to be an appearance or manifestation of the Supreme Being and point out similarities between Krishna and Jesus’ teachings. Some Buddhists, including Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, regard Jesus as a bodhisattva (i.e. a being with enlightenment motivated by great compassion) who dedicated his life to the welfare of people.

8. Jesus Christ is the Son of God

In his time the religious authorities in Judea asked for his death because they didn’t believe in his claim to be the Son of God which they saw as a great blasphemy.

Likewise today Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of God. Islamic texts emphasise a strict notion of monotheism forbidding the association of partners with God which would be idolatry.

However the cornerstone of the Christian faith has been a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. At the same time Christians ask how could a divine Jesus have been an ignorant baby who had to learn slowly by way of experience and instruction, as all children do? How could Jesus have prayed to his Father as if to another?

Today mainstream Christians respond by believing that Jesus was the Son of God. They point out that this was his own claim about himself. They think of him as a separate person of the divine trinity alongside God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Their idea of atonement by the sacrifice of the cross would be impossible apart from the concept of the Son as a person distinct from the Father.

9. Jesus Christ is God himself

This is the view that, although as to his body Jesus Christ was a person like other people, nevertheless his inner character was infinite and divine. According to this view, he was the one God himself, in human form, who came at a point in history as the infant child of Mary to grow and learn on earth, experience the natural side of life, overcome its allurements, and thus cause all evil influences in the world to be curtailed.

In other words he wasn’t the Son of God in the sense of a separate Divine person. He saw himself in this way because unless he felt apart from his own self as God, he couldn’t have experienced temptation. And so he wasn’t conscious of his full identity even when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and trial, and when dying in agony nailed to the cross when he cried out to ask why God had forsaken him. For a fuller explanation

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

16th September 2015CategoriesLatest post, Meaning of life, ReligionTags, , , , , ,  Leave a comment



A Sermon by Rev. Douglas M. Taylor Preached in Hurstville, Australia, August 30, 1992

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).

The Lord is here telling the disciples that those who believe in Him will not only do the works that He does but will do even greater works. This is a surprising statement indeed. How could a disciple do greater works than the Lord? How can a servant be above his master? Yet the statement must be both true and good, since it comes from the mouth of the Lord Himself, prefaced by the words, “Most assuredly, I say to you,” which can also be translated, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” So we cannot doubt the truth of the Lord’s statement. Our task is to understand just how it is true and good.

It is not difficult to see that the disciples could have power from the Lord enabling them to do the works of healing that He did. After all, the Gospels tell us that they had already gone forth as apostles and had cast out demons (see Luke 10:17). What is more, the Acts of the Apostles recounts many miraculous healings performed by the disciples after the Lord had ascended. For example, it is recorded that they healed a lame man (Acts 3:6,7), cast out demons, escaped from prison by supernatural means (5:19), healed a paralytic (9:34), also a crippled man (14:10), and even raised a woman from the dead (9:40,41). These miracles were similar to those of the Lord. But the apostles could do them only because they had been given Divine power from the Lord.

This power could be given only because they “believed in Him” and because He had gone “to the Father” (text). What is the meaning of these two requirements believing in the Lord and the Lord’s going to the Father?

The new revelation has much to say in answer to these two matters. To believe in the Lord includes much more than to believe that He existed on earth as an historical character or seeing Him as a wonderful man, even the most wonderful man who ever lived on earth. Such ideas of the Lord completely ignore or deny His Divinity. Even the scriptural statement that He was the “Son of God” is usually understood to mean only that He was in some sense Divine, but that He still has a human part inherited from Mary. This makes Him still the Son of Mary. True, this is better than the complete denial of His Divinity, but it nonetheless falls short of acknowledging His full Divinity or that He is the only God.

Yet the new revelation and the Scriptures themselves say that this is precisely what is meant by “believing in the Lord.” For instance, we read in the Apocalypse Explained that “`to believe in the Lord’ is to believe in `the Father,’ [as] the Lord Himself teaches … in John: `He who believes in Me does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me; and he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me’ (John 12:44,45). This means that he who believes in the Lord believes in Him not separate from the Father but in the Father; and it is therefore added, `He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.’ So elsewhere in John: `I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; and I go to the Father’ (16:28). `To come forth from the Father’ signifies to be conceived of Him, and `to go to the Father’ signifies `to be fully united to Him'” (AE 815:15).

In other words, His human part was now Divine. It was no longer the Son of Mary, but the Son of God, the Offspring of God, the Divine Human. He had glorified His human, that is, He had made it Divine, even down to the very bones of His body. Not only did God become man, but man had become God. This is what is meant by the Lord’s going “to the Father.” No one can dispute the proposition that if Jesus is Divine, then He must be the only God, for there can be only one God.

No miraculous works could be done without believing in the Lord in this way. For confirmation of this we have only to turn to the incident read as our first lesson. The Lord had gone to what was called “His own country,” that is, to Nazareth, where He had grown up. When He spoke in the synagogue there, the people were astonished and offended, for the reason that they did not believe in Him. They still thought of Him as one of themselves, as being merely human. They were too close to His Humanity to believe in His Divinity. Consequently, “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58). This explains why the Lord, before doing a healing, always asked: “Do you believe?”

We would note in passing that “to believe in the Lord” could not possibly mean to believe that He suffered for us on the cross. This had not yet happened. The Lord could hardly ask them to believe in something that had not yet happened. It could mean only a belief in His Divinity.

So we can see how the disciples could do the works that the Lord had done; they believed in the Lord, in His Divinity, His Almighty power to heal. They believed that He had gone to the Father. But “greater works” than those of the Lord? What could He have meant by that promise and prophecy? It is remarkable that, while the Heavenly Doctrine has much to say about the part of the text we have considered so far, there is nothing said about “greater works.” However, there are similar passages that are explained, and these shed light on the “greater works.”

Take, for example, these words to the disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” was nothing but an outward show eye-catching piety, all for the sake of self and the world. There was absolutely nothing spiritual in it at all. It was merely natural and physical. In saying that the disciples were to exceed the scribes and Pharisees in righteousness, the Lord obviously did not mean that they were to outdo them in outward-seeming good and do a greater number of pharisaic works on the natural plane. As is clear from the verses that follow, He meant that the motives of the disciples were to be spiritual in quality, that their works were to go beyond mere outward show, and were to have a soul, a spirit, a spirit of charity within them. In this way their good works, being spiritual in origin, were to exceed merely natural, good-looking (but empty) works, and so be greater works.

It was the spiritual content that was to make them greater. It is the same with the works spoken of in our text. While the Lord did many marvelous works of physical healing, the disciples were not only to do the same but also to do even greater things healings on the spiritual plane, healing the mind or spirit, not just the body.

The Lord’s miracles on the physical plane did indeed represent miracles of spiritual healing. His restoration of sight to the physically blind represented healing the spiritual blindness of ignorance as well as of prejudice or other evil feelings. After all, when He accused the Pharisees of being “blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. 15:14, Luke 6:39), He was not referring to ailments such as cataracts or glaucoma. He meant their spiritual blindness. Healing the deaf represented healing disobedience or a lack of heeding the Divine commandments. Healing the paralyzed represented healing the state of mind in which our intentions are good but when it comes time to action we are paralyzed. Feeding the hungry and the thirsty represented feeding those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Raising the dead represented raising the spiritually dead to a life lived from spiritual motives, such as love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor. It is the same with all the Lord’s physical miracles. They all represent miraculous changes in the mind or spirit. That is the level on which they are to be understood.

Now, while the Lord’s miracles represented spiritual things, the disciples were to do those very spiritual healings themselves. They were to do greater things. The general meaning of our text, then, is that if we really believe in the Lord as the Divine Human, we, as disciples of the Lord, can be given the power to do good works of a spiritual kind for ourselves and for others. We will be enabled to heal the spiritual blindness, spiritual deafness and paralysis, spiritual famine and thirst experienced by ourselves and others. We will be doing greater works than physical healings, for the spiritual is greater than the natural.

Understanding our text in this way does indeed increase and confirm our faith, and that is not a matter to be dismissed lightly. If the hells can induce us to doubt the Lord’s Word, they will have taken the first step toward destroying our faith and our commitment to following the Lord in our life. We have doubts whenever we do not understand what the Lord is telling us in His Word. That is why He said, when explaining the parable of the Sower, that the seed falling by the wayside corresponds to “one who hears the Word of the kingdom and does not understand it” (Matt. 13:19). Let us recall also that the cunning serpent in the Garden of Eden began his insidious attack on innocence by insinuating a doubt, saying: “Has God said, You shall not eat from every tree of the Garden?” (Genesis 3:1) and “You will not surely die” (verse 4).

But, besides telling us what we should believe because it is true the Lord also tells us what we should do because it is good and leads to real and lasting happiness. In regard to our life and how we should live it, the Lord is here reminding us that spiritual things are greater than natural things. In order to come into the greatest happiness possible, the happiness He wishes for each one of us human beings, we must learn to value natural and physical things only as means to spiritual ends or purposes, not as ends in themselves. This needs to be done in particular situations in order to become a general or ruling love.

The Lord is constantly reminding us of this. In the Old Testament He says: “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). “Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him” (Psalm 49:16,17). In the New Testament He says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27).

How do we apply this principle to our daily life? How do we in a practical way put our spiritual life before our natural life, both in general and in particular situations?

The first step is to recognize and accept the principle and resolve to follow it. Reading and reflecting on what the Lord has revealed is the best means of being given reminders and renewing our resolve, because it raises our understanding into the light of heaven, connecting us with heaven and the Lord, so that our spiritual blindness is healed.

The next step is to examine our life and loves thoroughly to see when and where and with whom we tend to put self and the world first before the Lord and charity toward the neighbor. The process would include identifying times when we seem to forget the Lord and His will entirely, when self-gratification takes possession of us, when the body and its appetites control us instead of being controlled by us. Bodily pleasures are, of course, not evil in themselves. They are necessary. But they become evil when indulged in for their own sake, when they become the great goal of life rather than a means to living a useful life.

But our words and works are only extensions of our thoughts and desires. So what goes on in our mind needs to be examined candidly if our outward life is to be ruled by good affections and true thoughts. Such evil feelings as contempt of others in comparison of oneself, or the hidden lust of adultery, or feelings of hostility or hatred or revenge against those who do not favor or flatter us, need to be shunned as sins against the Lord if we are to do the greater works of love and genuine charity.

We also forget the spiritual life when carried away by love of the world, when we dream of being famous, or even infamous, when the undeniable delights that the things of this world bestow upon us completely captivate us, and we think there is nothing greater, when we dream and act from personal advantage in all its forms rather than from principle.

As we all know, it is a basic teaching of the New church that “all religion belongs to life.” So we strive to apply the teachings to life. But which life? our natural, worldly life or our spiritual life, our life to eternity? Which is more important to us? Which is greater?

For example, psychological therapy does indeed help us function better in this natural life, and it works even for an atheist. But spiritual therapy, that is, shunning evils as SINS AGAINST THE LORD, is even greater, because it invites the presence of the Lord and connects us with Him. As a result, it helps not only our natural life but also our spiritual life at the same time. That is why the Lord said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

In order to make this the rule of our whole life, we need to ask ourselves: “In this situation, am I putting my spiritual life first or some worldly advantage? Am I doing this for the sake of the Lord’s kingdom or purely for my own sake? Do I really think, in actual life, that spiritual works done from the Lord are greater than natural works done from the love of self and the world? Am I worshipping God or Mammon?”

Searching our souls in this way can lead to doing what is good consistently from the Lord, that is, to doing the greater works that He promised. Amen.

Lessons: Matthew 13:53-58; John 14:1-12; AC 8364:6, 9031:3,5

Arcana Coelestia

8364:6 As diseases represented the hurtful and evil things of the spiritual life, therefore by the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have led to spiritual death. For Divine miracles are distinguished from other miracles by the fact that they involve and have regard to states of the church and of the heavenly kingdom. Therefore, the Lord’s miracles consisted chiefly in the healing of diseases. This is meant by the Lord’s words to the disciples sent by John: “Tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead rise again, and the poor hear the gospel” (Matt. 11:4, 5). Hence it is that it is so often said that the Lord “healed all disease and weakness” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 14:14,35,36; Luke 4:40; 5:15; 6:17; 7:21; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10).

9031:3,5 By “healing he shall heal” is signified in the spiritual sense to restore, because disease and sickness signify the infirmity of the internal man, which infirmity exists when he is sick in respect to his life, which is the spiritual life, thus when he turns aside from truth to falsity, and from good to evil. When this is the case, the spiritual life sickens; and when he wholly turns himself away from truth and good, it dies; but this death is called “spiritual death,” which is damnation. As this is the case with the life of the internal man, therefore such things as relate to diseases and death in the natural world are said in the Word of the diseases of the spiritual life and of its death. So also the cures of diseases, or healings, as in Isaiah: “Jehovah smiteth Egypt, smiting and healing; whence he turneth himself unto Jehovah, and He shall be entreated for them, and shall heal them” (Isaiah 19:22).

Surely He was pierced for our transgressions, He “was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and in His wound we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), speaking of the Lord.

As diseases and sicknesses, and also healings and medicines, are not said in the Word of the natural life, but of another life which is distinct from the natural life, it is therefore plain to him who gives some consideration to the matter that man has another life, which is that of his internal man. They who have gross thoughts with respect to the life of man believe that he has no other life than that of the body, which is the life of the external or natural man. They wonder what the life of the internal man may be, and even what the internal man is. If they are told that that life is the life of faith and charity, and that the internal man is man’s spirit, which lives after death and which is essentially the man himself, they wonder still more. And such of them as live only for the body and not for the soul, thus who are merely natural men, have no apprehension whatever of what is said about the life of faith and charity, and about the internal man, because their thought is merely from natural light and not at all from spiritual light. Wherefore, also after death they remain gross in respect to thought, and live in the shadow of death, that is, in falsities from evil; and they are wholly in thick darkness, and blind to the light of heaven.

“Beware of False Prophets”

“Beware of False Prophets”

A Sermon by Rev. N. Bruce RogersPreached in the Phoenix on June 21, 1998

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

In several places in the Old and New Testaments and Heavenly Doctrines, the Word either warns against or denounces false prophets. By false prophets are not meant necessarily people who claim to be prophets. Rather they are any and all who teach falsities as truths and who by means of them lead others away from genuine spiritual and moral good.(1) They may be people within the Church, and they may be people from outside the Church. What distinguishes them is their proclamation of ideas contrary to teachings of the Word. So, too, by false prophets are meant those ideas themselves, which, if not guarded against, seduce and lead astray.(2)

Therefore the Lord in His Sermon on the Mount warned the multitudes listening to Him, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”(3) He said that they would come in sheep’s clothing, because false prophets put on the appearance of morality.(4) But inwardly, He said, they are ravening wolves, because they are predators, victimizing the unwary who succumb to their persuasions.(5)

The danger to the Church posed by false prophets and their beguilements is not a new one, nor was it a new one at the time of the Lord’s advent. In one of his last great addresses to the Israelites, as they camped on the Plains of Moab, ready to cross the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan, Moses admonished the people to take care not to serve the gods of the nations who lay before them and said,

“If there arises among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams…, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods…and serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams….

“If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ …you shall not consent to him or listen to him….

“If you hear someone in one of your cities…, saying, ‘Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods”…if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword–utterly destroying it….(6)

So great was the danger to the Israelitish Church of false prophets who would entice the people to walk after other gods that the penalty prescribed for such prophets was death.(7)

Centuries later, after the division of the nation into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, and the people were faced with the threat of the advancing Assyrian empire, false prophets did in fact arise, who promised a continued state of peace and security from the threat.(8) We can imagine how welcome to the ears of their listeners their assurances were; yet the final result was the fall of the northern kingdom, and the people were carried off into captivity and scattered, never to return.(9)

Toward the end of the next century, the kingdom of Judah was faced with a similar threat, this time from the Babylonian empire; and again false prophets arose to assure the people with empty promises.(10) The prophet Jeremiah especially denounced them, saying,

Behold, the prophets say…, “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.” But the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.”(11)

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord.”(12)

Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers…, for they prophesy a lie to you….(13)

Even after the fall of Jerusalem, when many of the inhabitants of Judah were carried off into exile in Babylon, still, even in captivity, false prophets continued there to lie to the people.(14)

The danger to the church posed by false prophets did not end with the Lord’s advent. It was of this danger that the Lord in His Sermon on the Mount warned the multitudes, saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”(15) And in predicting the consummation of the Christian Church, He said:

Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many…. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold….

Then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There!” do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.(16)

Similar warnings were repeated in the early Apostolic Church. The apostle Peter wrote to the faithful,

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.(17)

The apostle John wrote,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.(18)

And on the Isle of Patmos John was commanded to write to the angel of the church in Thyatira,

These things says the Son of God…, “I know your works, your love, service, and faith, and your patience…. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality….”(19)

The Lord’s prediction that false prophets would arise at the time of the consummation of the Christian Church refers particularly to teachers of salvation by faith alone, a doctrine hatched in the 16th century by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. These teachers are represented in the book of Revelation by the beast that John saw coming up out of the earth, a beast that is afterward in the same book called “the false prophet.”(20)

The appeal of the doctrine of faith alone lies in the fact that its espousal allows its unsophisticated adherents to profess a faith in God and the Lord and yet at the same time live as they please, whether it is in accord with the Word or not.(21) And it is a doctrine that has given rise to a number of other false ideas and derivative philosophies that continue in the world to this day. The Heavenly Doctrines therefore affirm the Lord’s warnings against false prophets–teachers of falsities who may feign themselves angels of light, but who promote ideas opposed to and even hostile to real goodness and genuine truth.(22)

It is difficult for many to discern the character of the promoters of such ideas and the nature of the ideas themselves, because the ideas may be couched in language that appears to be quite insightful, even wise. Since the intellect can be elevated apart from the will, even the wicked may appear to speak and write knowledgeably and intelligently so as to persuade the innocent and unwary.(23) Even moral and spiritual truths in the mouths of people who at heart deny the Lord and His Divinity are, by misinterpretation and misapplication, either without substance, or falsified, or justifications for evil.(24)

Now there are in the Church three kinds of people, we are told. The first are people who are enlightened by the Lord to see the truths in His Word because they love those truths and employ them in their lives. Their role and function is to draw doctrine from the Word by which to enter ever more deeply into its truth. The second kind are people who do not draw doctrine from the Word themselves, but who compare the doctrine taught by others to what the Word teaches, assenting to what accords with the Word, and rejecting what does not. And the third kind are all others, who do not have the leisure or the discernment either to draw doctrine for themselves or to weigh critically the doctrine taught by others.(25)

It is these last people who are especially vulnerable to being led astray by the persuasions of false prophets, and it is these who are especially to be warned.(26) How are they to guard themselves if they are unable either to draw doctrine for themselves or to weigh critically the doctrine taught by others? Their recourse is to rely on those who do,(27) and to be slow to accept opinions before they these can be examined and either corroborated or rejected in the light of Divinely revealed truth.

The warning is as apt today as ever, because to a large degree we are living in the midst of a spiritual wilderness, exposed to ideas that owe more to the counterculture of the 1960s than to the tenets of any established religion. These ideas pervade the media, and it is a challenge to avoid being infected by them.

It is widely held, for example, that the differences between the sexes are in the main physiological, but that spiritually, intellectually and emotionally there is no fundamental difference. It is a Divinely revealed truth, however, that “nothing in the two sexes is the same.”

Indeed, masculinity in the male is masculine in every part, even in the least part of his body, and also in every idea of his thought, and in every bit of his affection. So, too, with femininity in the female.(28)

It is vain, therefore, to speak of a man’s having a feminine side, or of a woman’s having a masculine side, since the affections and perceptions of the two are so different that they cannot exist together in the same person.(29)

Again, it is widely held that one must learn to love oneself before one can learn to love others. Yet it is a Divinely revealed truth that people are by nature prone to love themselves more than others, and to seek their own good before that of others.(30) The fact is that the more one loves himself, the less he loves others.(31) To teach self-love, therefore, is not to teach any heavenly love. Heavenly love consists in learning to love self less, in order to be able to love others more.(32)

Again, it is held by many that all capital punishment is murder, and that the state has no more right than any individual to take the life of another. Yet the Heavenly Doctrines number among the covenant laws commanded to Israel as one “altogether to be observed and done” the prescription of capital punishment for premeditated homicide.(33)

Again, it is held by many that a woman has a right to her own body, and that she therefore has a right to abort her unborn child as a form of reproductive control,(34) under the theory that the fetus is not yet a human being, but only a mass of tissue that may be removed like any other unwanted growth. Yet it is a Divinely revealed truth that “in every human fetus the Lord forms two recipient vessels, one a recipient vessel of Divine love and the other a recipient vessel of Divine wisdom–a recipient vessel of Divine love for the person’s future will, and a recipient vessel of Divine wisdom for his future intellect.”(35) Moreover, “the fetus, being yet in the womb,” we are told, “partakes more of the good of innocence than after it is born.”(36) Whatever else the fetus may be, it is not simply another mass of tissue.

Again, it is held by many that divorce may be permitted and even recommended for a variety of reasons. Generally accepted grounds are adultery, desertion, and cruelty, but the trend is toward broader grounds, such as irreconcilable differences and the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Yet the Divinely revealed law declares that “marriages once contracted are to continue on to the end of life in the world,”(37) and though separations may be permitted for a variety of reasons,(38) the only Divinely sanctioned grounds for divorce are deliberate and purposeful adultery, extreme manifest obscenities, and malicious desertion that leads to adultery.(39)

We could cite as well the popular notion that truth is only relative, as if there were no absolute or universal truths; or the idea that values are only relative, as if there were no absolute or universal goods.

All of these ideas and more like them represent on the whole views and claims of present-day false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing to deceive, if possible, even the elect.(40) Be warned, therefore, and consider–consider well–the ideas and notions that insinuate themselves regarding what constitutes a moral and spiritual life, ideas and notions that may originate not from any Divinely revealed precept, but from merely human opinion, formed in many instances to justify merely natural desires and ends or to gain some merely worldly benefit.

“See, I have told you beforehand,” said the Lord, which is an exhortation to prudence.(41) For in the consummation of the Christian Church, “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many,” He said, and “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”(42) But He also said that “he who endures to the end shall be saved.”(43)

To endure to the end is not to permit oneself to be led astray, not to succumb in times of trial or temptation to the preachings of falsity.(44) It requires fidelity to the Word, to Divinely revealed doctrine, and the knowledge to know what it teaches. For truth is not truth because it sounds reasonable, but because it is factually so and leads to the Lord and heaven. And good is not good because it is to one’s liking, but because it is angelic and embodies the Lord’s will and the life of heaven.

“He who has the ears to hear, let him hear!”(45)



Deuteronomy 12:29-13:18

Matthew 24:3-27

True Christian Religion 590

Deuteronomy 12:29-13:18

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him….

“If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ …you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him….

“If you hear someone in one of your cities, which the Lord your God gives you to dwell in, saying, ‘Corrupt men have gone out from among you and enticed the inhabitants of their city, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods” ‘…then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword — utterly destroying it…, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of His anger and show you mercy, have compassion on you and multiply you, just as He swore to your fathers, because you have listened to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you today, to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord your God.”

Matthew 24:3-27

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us…, what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

True Christian Religion 590

But the character of the person whose intellect has been elevated, and not the will’s love by means of it, we will illustrate by comparisons. He is like an eagle flying on high, but which as soon as it sees edible prey below, such as hens, swans, even lambs, instantly swoops down and devours them. He is also like an adulterer who hides a harlot in a room below, and by turns ascends to the highest story of the house and there in the presence of his wife speaks wisely with their guests about chastity, and who from time to time steals away from the gatherings and satiates his lascivious lust below with the harlot. He is also like marsh flies which fly in a column over the head of a running horse, and when the horse stops, settle and immerse themselves in their marsh. Of such a character is the person who is in an elevated state as regards the intellect, but whose will’s love remains down below, immersed in the unclean attractions of nature and the libidinous appetites of the senses.

However, because people of such a character shine in respect to their intellect as though with wisdom, while their will is opposed to it, they may be likened also to serpents with shiny scales, and to beetles that glisten as though covered with gold, and likewise to will-o’-the-wisps in marshes, to luminescent pieces of rotting wood, and to phosphorescent substances.

Among them are some who are able to feign themselves angels of light, both in the company of people in the world and after death with angels in heaven; but after a brief examination they are stripped of their garments and cast down naked. The like cannot happen in the world, however, because their spirit is not exposed there, but covered with a mask, like that employed by comic actors on the stage. Their ability to feign themselves angels of light in countenance and speech is the reason, and also evidence, that they are able to elevate their intellect above their will’s love, as we said, almost to the level of angelic wisdom.

Now because a person’s internal and external character can run thus counter to each other, and because the body is cast off while the spirit remains, it follows that a dark spirit may reside behind a bright face, and a fiery one behind a bland mouth. Therefore, my friend, judge a person not by his mouth but by his heart, that is to say, not by his words but by his deeds. For the Lord says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. Judge them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15,16).

End Notes:

1. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 2534:5, 3010, 3488:5, 3900:2-4. The Last Judgment 59. The Apocalypse Explained 195:13, 624:5, 684:7.

2. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3488:5.

3. Matthew 7:15.

4. The Apocalypse Explained 195:13.

5. Cf. The Apocalypse Explained 195:13.

6. Deuteronomy 12:29-13:15.

7. Deuteronomy 13:5,9,10,15; 18:20.

8. Micah 3:5-7.

9. 2 Kings 17:5-18.

10. Jeremiah 5:30,31; 6:13,14; 14:13,14; 23:16,17,21,25-27,30-32; 27:9,10,14-16; 28:28:15; 29:31,32. Lamentations 2:14.

11. Jeremiah 14:13,14.

12. Jeremiah 23:16.

13. Jeremiah 27:9,10,14,16.

14. Ezekiel 13:1-10.

15. Matthew 7:15.

16. Matthew 24:5,11,12,23-25. Cf. Mark 13:6,21-23; Luke 21:8,16.

17. 2 Peter 2:1.

18. 1 John 4:1-3.

19. Revelation 2:18-20.

20. Revelation 13:11-18, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10. The Apocalypse Revealed 567, 594-610, 701, 702, 834, 835, 864. See also Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 2534, 7351. The Apocalypse Explained 999. A Brief Exposition 76.

21. The Apocalypse Revealed 417, 442.

22. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3900. True Christian Religion 590.

23. True Christian Religion 590.

24. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 8868.

25. The Doctrine of the New Church Regarding the Sacred Scripture 57, 59.

26. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3900:3-5.

27. The Doctrine of the New Church Regarding the Sacred Scripture 59.

28. Married Love 33.

29. Married Love 175:4.

30. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 4317:5, 8549.

31. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 760.

32. True Christian Religion 394, 395.

33. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 9349:4, in reference to Exodus 21:12,14. See Exodus 21:12-14.

34. Consider the following statements: “The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg (b. 1933), U.S. educator, Supreme Court justice. Quoted in: Ms. (New York, April 1974). “The compelled mother loves her child as the caged bird sings. The song does not justify the cage nor the love the enforcement.” Germaine Greer (b. 1939), Australian feminist writer. “Abortion,” in Sunday Times (London, 21 May 1972; repr. in The Madwoman’s Underclothes, 1986). “The one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.” Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941), U.S. author, columnist. The Worst Years of Our Lives, “Their Dilemma and Mine” (1991; first published 1989).

35. Divine Providence 324:11.

36. The Apocalypse Explained 710:1.

37. Married Love 276.

38. Married Love 251-254.

39. Married Love 255, 468.

40. Matthew 7:15, 24:24. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3900.

41. Matthew 24:25. Mark 13:23. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3900:5.

42. Matthew 24:11,12.

43. Matthew 24:13. Mark 13:13.

44. Arcana Coelestia (The Secrets of Heaven) 3488:5,7.

45. Matthew 11:15, 13:9,43. Mark 4:9,23, 7:16. Luke 8:8, 14:35.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see’; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9



A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinNovember 20, 1994


Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, “What is truth”. (Jn 18:37 & 38)

Today, there is a great variety of beliefs within Christian churches. Some are disturbed by this. They wonder how it could be possible that such broad discrepancies could be formed within Christianity. They all preach from the Bible, and worship the same God. Yet, through the course of time, there have developed wide varieties of doctrine, all claiming to come from the Word of God.

There are many reasons that can be given for the great variety of beliefs today. One, it is inevitable that there will be different interpretations to the same thing. It is a common occurrence that two or more people draw out different conclusions, even though they may have witnessed the same thing. So it happens with the Word. Even though the words of the Bible are the same to everyone, yet each person draws out something different. Gradually, as more and more people came in contact with the Word, more and more interpretations were taken from it. Different doctrines were brought out, even when many had good motives. It is possible for two or more people, each having the desire to simply teach what the Lord says, to come up with totally different conclusions. Indeed, we see this even within particular denominations and churches. Though each member adheres to the same general doctrines, yet they inevitably disagree and come up with different applications when particulars are discussed. Once again, each particular application can be formed with sincerity, without any intent of deception on the part of the person.

However, some beliefs were formed strictly for the sake of selfishness. Some have formed and advocated certain teachings, not for the worship of the Lord, but strictly to have control over others. They deliberately attempt to deceive others. These false teachers the Lord warned about when He told His disciples: … false christ and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (MT 24:24)

Therefore, there are those who put on a good display before others only with the intent to deceive.

Therefore, how can we know for sure who is teaching the truth? This can be especially difficult when we hear an articulate speaker advocating a certain belief or idea, and then we hear another speaker, equally talented, promoting another thought. It does not take long to feel like we are drifting from one opinion to another, not knowing what to believe. It is during these times we may feel like Pilate when he said to the Lord, “What is truth?”

This is why we need to have doctrine from the Word. We need doctrine to have stability in the Word. We need to read, study, and interpret the Word under general guidelines, so our applications will be consistent and effective. Without doctrine, our minds would wonder from one idea to the next, eventually leading to frustration and discouragement. (SS 52, TCR 348) Paul once stated to the Ephesians that we are protected from being deceived when our understanding of truth is conjoined with love. He wrote:

… we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but spreading the truth in love, may grow up in all things unto Him who is the head-Christ. (Eph 4:14 & 15)

We must have doctrine to live by, if we are to be guided by the Lord towards a productive and effective spiritual life.

It should be noted that just because a person may say that he or she believes in the Lord, does not necessarily mean that person is on the right path to eternal life. (AC 4683) Certainly, there are many recorded in the Word that made a confession that the Lord had the truth, but they really did not mean it. The Pharisees pictured such a person. They once said to the Lord:

Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. (Mt. 22:16)

Yet, they certainly were not sincere when they made this statement. They merely said this with the intent to trick the Lord, so the people would turn against Him. Likewise, there are those who confess the Lord with their mouths, not with their hearts. They believe that if they merely acknowledge the Lord’s existence and what He did on earth, that is enough for salvation. But that is not a true faith, because it is not conjoined with a love towards the Lord. The Lord spoke of such when He said:


Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart form Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Mt 7:21-23)

This is the condition of those who only display a confession of the Lord before others for the sake of themselves.

Those who are not in a true faith towards the Lord make matters of faith a higher priority over acts of good or charity. They believe that it is more important what we believe than what we do. When faith is regarded as the highest essential of the church, divisions are the result. (AC 6272) When salvation is regarded only according to what is known and believed, everyone else is condemned who disagrees with that belief. Such is the result when faith is not conjoined with a love towards the teachings of the Word.

However, we are graciously assured that anyone can have a true faith that leads to the lord Jesus Christ. Everyone can know Who the Lord is and how we can truly worship Him in our lives. Such a faith is put forth in Jeremiah

I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. (Jer 31: 33 & 34)

We all can enter a faith that has a real confidence that the Lord is present in our lives and actively leading us into His kingdom.

How can we enter such a faith? Simply, not just knowing what the Word says or teaches, but by actually living according to it. (AC 8987:3) It is just not our external deeds that must agree with the commandments of the Word, but our thoughts and intentions as well. If there is a genuine belief in the Lord, that belief will manifest itself in the conduct of our lives. The Epistle of James points out the importance of showing our faith in the Lord by our external actions. It states:


Show me you faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble. (James 2: 18 & 19)

When there is a genuine commitment to live according to what we regard as true, our faith is conjoined with love. Faith must be conjoined to love before it real and productive. (AC 4352:3, 7762) When there is such a dedication to live according to the doctrine we sincerely believe to be true, we will have a perception of the Lord leading and directing our lives towards heavenly peace and contentment. This perception gives us the assurance that the Lord is with us, and leading us to enjoy heavenly delights. (AC 5963, 8435) When the Lord removes the doubts and gives us the assurance that we are safe in His care, we will make the same genuine confession His disciples made after He calmed the storm, “Truly, You are the Son of God.” (Mt 22:16)

Nevertheless, before we can enter into such a faith that gives us the assurance that we are in the right path, we must go the Word. However, we must not study the Word just to have it confirm our prejudice or have it say what we want it to say. We must simply look to the Word to learn what the Lord would have us do to be united with Him. If this is the primary purpose for going to the Word, then the Lord will reveal to us truths that are contained therein. From the revelation of truth in the Word, the Lord will produce a conviction and trust that we are in His care. (TCR 137:5) It is the Lord that causes truths to shine forth in His Word. (TCR 349) Everyone can have clear direction in their lives by recognizing how the Word is to be applied in life. When this happens, these words of the Lord will become a reality in our lives:


When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (Jn 16:13)

If we have a commitment to live according to what we are taught in the Word, the Spirit of truth will come and guide us in all truth.

But before we can see truth in the Word, there must be the acknowledgment that the Lord is the Son of God. This acknowledgment is the first principle of true faith. (TCR 342) We must read and study the Word with a sincere, heartfelt confession that the Lord Jesus Christ has the authority to teach us how to live, because He is Divine Truth itself. If this is our sincere acknowledgment as we approach the Word, our minds are in the proper order whereby the Lord is enabled to enlighten us. When we have this acknowledgment of the Lord, together with the commitment to do what He commands, we are in a genuine worship toward the Lord. If this is the case, we are in the power of becoming aware of truth that is directly from the Lord. (TCR 354) Everyone is created by the Lord to learn genuine truths from the Word. Therefore, everyone, regardless of how they were raised or what they are taught, is able to recognize truth from the Lord. (351) This promise the Lord gives to all who desire to come to Him for direction in life. This promise He gives to anyone, regardless of their doctrinal belief:


… the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (Jn 14:26)

It is important to try to have a genuine doctrine in life. It is important to be able to interpret the Scriptures correctly, so they can teach us Who the Lord really is and what a genuine Christian life involves. Therefore, we should always approach the Word with the desire to learn what the Lord would want us to believe in. The more truths we receive from the Word, and the more they are orderly arranged, the more our faith in the Lord is perfected. We can know that our doctrine is genuine if it glorifies the Lord as the one God of heaven and earth. Our faith is pure if all creative and redemptive power is directed toward Him. Also, the particulars of our doctrine must agree, support, and enhance all other particulars. If the particulars are contradicting or at variance with the clear statements from the Word, that is a sign that we may have to prayerfully re-examine how we are interpreting the Word. Also, our interpretations must lead to what is good for everyone. If our doctrine does not perform uses towards others, then there is something lacking. However, if our doctrine leads us to useful deeds, then our faith is united with charity. If this is the case, the Lord will enlighten our understanding so we may have a sure confidence that we are indeed a part of the Lord’s kingdom. And when we are in a state of charity, we will still be able to see how those who differ with us are still a part of the Lord’s kingdom, because of the good they are striving to perform. When we look to the Lord as the source of truth, than this promise He made will be fulfilled in us:


If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.