Cristo La Verdad

Christ the Truth - John 14:6

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Who or What is the Olive Tree in Romans 11?, Pt.1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Grafted in

 

‘Replacement Theology” teaches God has no more plans for Israel & the church has  ‘replaced’ them, but this is a doctrine that’s proved wrong by many bible passages one of them found in Romans 11 which tells us that God is not yet done with Israel, even they had rejected Him.

But on the opposite side of the coin we have another kind of ‘Replacement Theology’ were some teach that in order to be saved the ‘church’ needs to be part of Israel, (in other words the church is replaced by Israel). As one of their main points they use Romans 11, which they interpret that gentile believers are grafted into ‘Israel’, and for that reason have to become like them. But this is also wrong, to see it more clearly I’m sharing this next article that contains some nice illustrations:

 

“Grafting”

Written & illustrated by Brian R. Franco, used with permission

 

Preface
In Romans 11, Paul begins speaking to the Gentiles about their salvation, using the imagery of an olive tree and branches to explain the new life they are able to receive (and lose) with their belief (or lack thereof). The question, however, arises of “who or what is this olive tree the Gentiles are grafted into?” I’m going to present and attempt to defend the idea that Christ is the olive tree/root Gentiles are really grafted into. I’m going to do this by analyzing certain chapters, across the whole of Scripture, while explaining my understanding (with a fair amount of illustration to help visualize the ideas) of everything and how it ties together to form the basis for what I believe and why.

Romans 11

Defining Israel
The starting point for this exposition is Romans 11, which starts off as follows (I’ll be using the MEV translation for the most part, unless otherwise stated):

I say then, has God rejected His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah? How he pleads with God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed Your prophets and destroyed Your altars. I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. But if it is by works, then is it no longer by grace; otherwise work would no longer be work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it was seeking. But the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened. vv.1 – 7

Paul had just finished explaining (in chapter 10) how the Gospel has come to save all mankind. Jew or Greek, it didn’t matter; those who call upon the name of the Lord would be saved. The end of the chapter quotes Isaiah 65:2 and points out that the nation of Israel was a “disobedient and contrary people.”

Paul clarifies, however, that this does not mean a complete abandonment of God’s people. Of course, as a self-identifying Israelite (a physical descendant of the tribe of Benjamin), Paul is not trying to say that the gift of salvation has been taken away from his brothers, as he himself was graciously revealed the truth, which we all know had a profound impact on his life.

He draws a parallel with how even Elijah thought he was the “only one” of his people that was still following the Lord, which God corrected by revealing that 7,000 other men had still not fallen to idolatry. Likewise, God’s grace has allowed some of His people (Israel) to “obtain” what they sought (as did Paul) while the rest suffered a greater consequence for their rejection of the Messiah:

As it is written: “God has given them a spirit of slumber, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day. And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they may not see, and always bow down their backs.” vv.8 – 10

However, God does not allow His people to become blind out of malice, pleasure, or without cause. There was a bigger picture here, a plan:

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression means riches for the world, and their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fullness mean? For I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I may make my kinsmen jealous and may save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? vv.11 – 15

The plan was to expand the gift of salvation from a limited group of people (Israel) to the world (v12). A fortunate side-effect this may have on some, is to spark a jealousy among the Jews, which would hopefully draw them back to their God and save them (v14).

Before continuing, I find it necessary to establish something from Paul’s intro, before continuing forward with the actual “tree portion” of the chapter. I think the context of Chapter 10’s ending and Chapter 11’s beginning gives us a picture of something Paul mentions back in Chapter 9 (verse 6), “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”  There is a clear issue with Israel in that not everyone who is a physical Israelite is automatically a “child of the promise” (9:8), only a subset of these Israelites (the remnant) seem to partake in the blessings from their Father Abraham.

If the first portion of the dough (firstfruit) is holy, the batch is also holy. And if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and became a partaker with them of the root and richness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. If you boast, remember you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you. You will say then, “The branches were broken off, so that I might be grafted in.” This is correct. They were broken off because of unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God—severity toward those who fell, but goodness toward you, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. vv. 16 – 22

We get one final bit of imagery before we start with the the tree, and it’s simply to show a sort of inheriting property that occurs here. Paul compares a portion of dough with its batch and parallels it to the root and its branches. The root, being holy, would naturally produce holy branches. It’s an interesting and undeniable property, despite the fact that this has no bearing on whether that branch remains holy, and possibly broken off (should it lose its holiness, I’d imagine). …

Editor’s Quote: The first piece of the dough (firstfruits) describes Jesus (1 Cor. 15:23.). The “lump” or “batch” refers to the believers.

 

The Olive Tree
Now we start with the plant-based metaphors. We must immediately establish the elements Paul conjures up here. First off, a root. This root is holy. We switch over to a new element, leaving the root still somewhat undefined. We have some branches, and they too are holy. However, these branches have apparently been broken off, and then Paul makes the connection with the Gentiles (his current targeted audience, v13) to being wild olive shoots who are apparently a distinct set of branches as well who were grafted in among the other (unbroken) branches. We can deduce from the earlier portion of the chapter that Paul is referencing the Jews as the other (original, natural,  later on) branches. He warns the Gentiles not to boast against the Jews, because they (as branches) do not sustain the root, but vice versa. Although not directly stated, it seems quite clear that no branch sustains the root, the root sustains all the branches.

Paul goes back to what he had stated before about God’s people, Israel, receiving a sort of blindness to allow the Gentiles to rise. He parallels this by saying “the branches were broken off so that I [Gentiles] may be grafted in.” Now we must remember that it’s not as if God broke off all the branches to graft in the wild shoots. We are left with 3 types of branches:
The natural branch that remains, the natural branch that was broken off, and the wild branch that is grafted in among the first, partaking from the same root (which we’ve established, sustains all the branches). We can visualize this as so:

Now, I’ve summarized the characteristics of the elements in this chapter’s imagery to clarify some things. A natural question arises in that, being “natural” branches, wouldn’t they technically be the “same thing” as the root (i.e. why wouldn’t they be colored the same in the illustration above)? After all, a plum tree grows plum branches, and if you were going to graft a peach branch, you’d say you were grafting it into “the plum.” Similarly, it’s possible to conclude that, seeing as how Israel is the one branching out of the root, that the root is also Israel. However, I think it’s clear that the branches and root are completely different.

Root vs. Branches
For starters, we have the characteristics from the illustration above. The root:

1. Is holy (v16),

2. Is rich (v18),

3. Sustains (v18), and unlike the branches,

4. doesn’t seem to  be breakable.

Admittedly, the first characteristic is shared. However, it’s important to point out the cause and effect here (which we’ll recall is stated in v16): the only reason the branches are holy, is because the root is holy. The branches don’t obtain any sort of holiness on their own; they derive it from the root. The root, as far as we can tell, simply is holy by nature. The root provides its richness to the branches and sustains them. The branches cannot sustain themselves or the root. Considering that the (natural) branches are Israel (be it the whole nation of which most is cut off, or the remaining “true” subset known as the remnant), then it wouldn’t make sense that Israel is sustaining itself. Not only that, but we can see that the branches can be (and are) removed for their unbelief. If, hypothetically, you were to remove all the natural branches, then that would mean none of Israel would be partaking in the richness and life of the root (which continues to provide these elements). Of course, that is not the case here, but the differences between Israel (branches) and the root are too much to consider them one and the same.

I believe Romans 9-11 paints a clear picture: the nation of Israel rejected God. Through his grace and mercy, God doesn’t flat out cut off all of Israel from the promises He made but rather allows a (temporary) blindness to come upon (most of) them so that He can continue his plan of bringing salvation to the world. The illustration Paul paints in chapter 11 should solely be taken from this context. It’s a way to visualize God’s chosen people being removed from this gift (which was originally given to them) because of their rejection of the Messiah, and God bringing in the rest of the world (Gentiles) to experience the richness of life that the root provides, should they follow Christ. Israel (physical or “true/spiritual”) does not provide life, nor salvation. I feel like this is sufficiently clear simply from the verses we can see in Romans 11. However, it’s worth analyzing other portions of Scripture to see what they say. One of the obvious go-to’s is all the way back in Jeremiah, where we see yet another olive tree.

Continues . . ( Part 2)

Once Saved, Always Saved?

Some Christians believe that once you are saved you will always remain saved, and that no matter what you do after that, including sinning, your salvation is still secured. Some others will add that if you sin willingly, then it is because you were never saved in the first place; even after 20 or more years of walking faithfully with God, if you fall, it means you were never really saved.

We’ll try to explain our position on this subject. We are not attacking people who believe differently, we are not questioning their salvation or attacking their character. We believe this is a very important doctrine, but we also think it is still not an issue to divide over if the person has the Foundational Doctrines right,  unless ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ is used as a license to sin.  Sound Doctrine is very important because what we believe is going to affect our actions & way of living.

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Does God harden hearts? Pt.2

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Importance of The Heart

Those hardened or cut off are NOT born in this condition, but have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion , their hearts or conscience becomes dull or hardened because of continual & unrepentant sin in their lives (Acts 28:24-27, Matt. 19:8, 1 Tim.4:2, Rom.2:5, Heb 3:13).

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Does God harden hearts? Pt.1

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Importance of The Heart

God places on us the responsibility to guard our hearts from hardening. Deut. 15:7, Prov.4:23, Prov. 28: 14  We are warned NOT to harden our hearts.

So what about the passages where God hardens peoples hearts? The main confusion people encounter in this regard has to do with Calvinist’s teachings that say passages which speak of God hardening human hearts prove God’s selective election & determinism from the foundation of the world. That God hardens the hearts of people not elected for heaven so they won’t receive salvation.

But God is not saying one thing and doing another. God is Just! Deut. 32:4, Jeremiah 17:10Job 34:12 , etc.

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Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

It’s that time of year again when the controversy of whether or not Christians should participate in Halloween begins to pop up. I found that some evangelical pastors, evangelist, singers, etc. are recommending  Christians to not be afraid of participating in this holiday and some even say Halloween is really a ‘Christian’ holiday.

We should ask ourselves first,  what is the origin of Halloween ?  – As innocent as Halloween may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly.  The Word of God give us some principles on which we can make a decision. 1 Cor. 10:31 says: ” Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God“.   Do we glorify God by celebrating or participating in this holiday?

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  Romans 12:1-2

And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. Lev. 20:23

The name Halloween is derived from the term, “All Hallows Eve,” which occurred on Oct. 31, it was the eve of  “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Day” that was the next Day, Nov. 1st. This still is a Roman Catholic holiday,  where this Church commemorates every saint, known and unknown.  (Got nothing to do with defeating death, like one Halloween proponent said. You just need to look at their crucifix). The date was moved in the 9th century A.D. from May 13 to Nov. 1st by Pope Gregory III as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics, looking to Christianize a pagan holiday called Samhain.

Statues of Catholic Saints, they pray to on All Saints day

Later a custom developed where people, mainly kids would go door-to-door on Nov. 1 requesting small cakes or cookies in exchange for saying prayers for some of the dead relatives of each house. (This may have been also the precursor to Trick-or-Treat). This have to do with the religious belief that the dead are in a limbo before they go to Heaven or Hell, & that our prayers  can influence the outcome.   Catholics believe in a purgatory or limbo a place of penitence before reaching heaven.

I remember when I was a Catholic kid going once from door to door wearing an angel costume & asking for money.  Years later when I moved to the United States I didn’t like Halloween, even as a Catholic, because the festivity was obviously dark. In Latin America it is known as ‘Dia de las Brujas” or Witch’s Day.

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.  . . .  Generally, All Saints’ Day is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day, unless they have an excellent excuse, such as serious illness.  . . All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, when consecrated the Parthenon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. Boniface IV also established All Souls’ Day, which follows All Saints.    Catholic online

In some countries like Mexico, and others in South America, Catholics believe that the souls of children return to the world of the living on “All Saints Day”, November 1, followed by adult spirits on the Day of the Dead ( Día de los Muertos) on November 2nd.

Day of the dead- People bringing food to their dead relatives

Altar with offerings to a dead relative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children’s souls are believed to be little angels (angelitos), so “All Saints Day” is often called the Day of Little Angels (El Día de los Angelitos). The graves of children are cleaned and decorated with candles, toys, flowers such as marigolds, etc.

Dia de los Angelitos – All Saints Day

This day of All Saints started by Pope Boniface IV still is celebrated today & dedicated to all Saints of the Roman Catholic Church, (most of them Catholic monks & mystic nuns that passed away) Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day.  Why should Evangelical Christians celebrate this festivity?  Why are some evangelical pastors calling this Catholic feast a ‘Christian’ holiday?  All Saints day is a mix of pagan traditions with some Christian symbolism. None of these 2 holidays ‘All Saints Day’ or ‘Samhain’ have anything to do with true Christianity.

Some Reformers commemorate Oct 31, because on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany in protest to the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences. But this got nothing to do with a Halloween celebration.

Its important to know that the pagan holiday that Catholics were trying to Christianize, Samhain still exist today,  is a festival of the dead celebrated by witches & pagans around the world for 3 days on Oct. 31-Nov. 2 which involves rituals, incantations & human sacrifices.  This should be a day of prayer & intercession for the lost in the Christian Churches & not a day of celebration.

As a former witch high priest now saved by Jesus, I was astonished by how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor “haunted houses” and similar events on what is the Number One satanic “helliday” of the year. Halloween used to be called Samhain, and is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Unfortunately, just giving the date a “holy” name like All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve cannot change its grisly character. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice. The apostle Paul warns us: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20).   By William J. Schnoebelen

Not wanting to celebrate Halloween has nothing to do with been superstitious, as some like to put it. If we Christians who are suppose to shine the light of Jesus, don’t do that but instead decide to follow & imitate the world, do you think we still are going to be a light to a lost world?   Is this a holiday that Christians should celebrate alongside Wiccans & other pagans?

Some say Christians are demonizing Oct. 31 or making others believe that Halloween is an occult or evil day, but even secular media or pagans that celebrate it say so!.

Halloween. That was the eve of Samhain . . . firstborn children were sacrificed. . . Samhain eve was a night of dread and danger. (Secular Magazine – National Geographic. May 1977, pp. 625-626)

Halloween is one of the four major Sabbats celebrated by the modern Witch, and it is by far the most popular and important of the eight that are observed. . . Witches regard Halloween as their New Year’s Eve, celebrating it with sacred rituals. . . (Dunwich, Gerina. The Pagan Book of Halloween, p. 120)

Halloween is also among Satanism’s most cherished days. Anton LaVey, founder of The Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible writes:
After one’s own birthday, the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht (May 1st) and Halloween. (LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible, p. 96).

Still other Wiccans conceive of the Horned God dying on October 31, which Wiccans call Samhain, the ritual of which is focused on death. He is then reborn on Winter Solstice, December 21. Wikipedia

Some pastors go as far as to say that because Christmas and Easter were also pagan holidays and we celebrate them today, then we can also celebrate Halloween. (Not surprisingly, I notice most of them are involved with the ecumenic movement or with Rome). I personally don’t celebrate Christmas as the world does & I don’t celebrate Easter but Passover. But at least Christmas still celebrates the birth of our Savior and Easter looks to commemorates his resurrection. Both of these  holidays try to memorialize some aspects of the life of Jesus. Halloween has no such Christian characteristics, but  celebrates & glorifies death, exactly as witches do in Samhain.

Some writings also speak of Samhain as the “Lord of the Dead” but today many suggest that this is incorrect.  Still the celebration of Halloween glorifies death, witchcraft & darkness. The God honored at Samhain, is the Horned One, & according to them he is the keeper of the gates of death, and the Lord of Death.  But we that are follower of Jesus Christ celebrate life, because our God is the giver of life & He is the light of the world. John 1:5, 1 John 1:5-7

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.  Ephesians 5:8

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 1 Tess. 5:5

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14

You don’t need to do what they do in order to witness to them, remember Who are we working for.  We should think of Halloween as an opportunity to witness to others & to pray for a dying world, not to imitate it. 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

Please stay away from this pastors, evangelist, singers, etc. that are promoting this holiday, no matter how nice they seam, they don’t care for your soul. Be aware of them & avoid them (Rom. 16:17).

Update Nov. 2, 2015 :

Pope Celebrates mass for All Saints Day at cemetery   – Pope Francis assured people that the (dead) saints would intercede for them and for their beloved departed.

 

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