Arguing over a definition of a word, each knows he is right and may even come to blows, but how do we really know?
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There are literally thousands of different religions and sects. Every one of them has at least one major belief that contradicts a belief of other sects. The vast majority must be wrong in at least one major belief.
The Mormon, for example, has certain beliefs that severely contradict nearly every other religion and sect on earth. They claim to be Christians and say that the Bible is the inspired word of God. But, invariably, when clear, objective proof from the Bible is presented to disprove an important belief, they will fall back on "faith", "feeling the truth burning inside", and strong personal emotional experiences that absolutely "prove" the truth that Joseph Smith was one of the greatest inspired prophets of God of all time, and everything he wrote that is considered scripture to them is absolutely accurate and true. There is no way to reach someone (even with provable facts and objective truth ) who sincerely believes this way.
Hundreds of millions of Moslems cannot be reached with the truths from the Bible. Why? Because their faith burns so strongly within in them that they often outshine even the most zealous Catholic (for example) who "knows" in her heart and very being that Mary is her patron saint and receives her prayers and, in effect, worship. Both the Moslem and the Catholic have had soul-wrenching experiences and the absolute knowledge palpably burning within them that they have the truth (and that the other is terribly wrong)!
We could keep on this way with thousands of sects and religions. Of course, not everyone in these religions has such strong feelings. But many do .... in every sect, cult, religion, etc. The voodooist, satan worshiper, idol worshiper, tribal animist, ad infinitum, have feelings, experiences, certainty of knowledge actually burning within them to equal any professing Christian's. But the real Christian has something else on which to base his faith.
The majority of Israelites were deceived into mixing false worship with the worship of the one true God. (Even so they still never worshiped a three-in-one God, or a "God the Son" or a "God the Holy Spirit.") Even in the time of Jesus and his apostles most Israelites could not accept Jesus as the Messiah because they had been thoroughly deceived by their religious leaders and their own feelings and expectations..
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. - Ro 10:1,2, NIV.
Their great zeal was not the result of actual objective knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. No, it was a mix of Scriptural truths, deceptive teachings about the scriptures, and emotions within them. They could "feel" the truth of those charismatic teachers and absolutely "knew" they were right. But it was not based on proper study of the Holy Scriptures coupled with their God-given intelligence.
So what should people do when their religious guides (even when these guides are considered to be spokesmen for God by the most respected people around) are teaching truth mixed with essential, objectively provable falsehoods?
Leave them [the Pharisees - v.12]; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. - Matt. 15:14.
In fact, Bible scholars admit that most Israelites were deceived most of the time throughout their entire history. Some were self-deceived, others deceived by false teachers. Why, when they already had the worship of the true God, did they give in to the enticements of other gods and religions and add it to true worship?
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. - Jer. 17:9, NIV; cf. Prov. 28:26, NASB.
...the intent [or inclination]of man's heart [although, often not consciously] is evil - Gen. 8:21, NASB.
while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. - 2 Tim. 3:13-15, NIV.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires [even not consciously known to many of them but within their own self-deceiving hearts], they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. - 2 Tim. 4:3,4, NIV.
many false prophets will appear [in the last days] and deceive many people. - Matt. 24:11, NIV. [Both the false prophets and those whom they deceive are considered in Matt. 7:21-23 (see below) and Matt. 15:14 (see above)]we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
- 2 Cor. 4:2, NIV.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds [those of the congregation of Corinth: baptized, holy-spirit-filled Christians] may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those `super-apostles.' I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. .... For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. .... For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. - 2 Cor. 11:3-6, 13-15; 13:8, NIV.
So how can we keep from being deceived (by our own deceptive hearts or by "angels of light")?
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit,* but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. - 1 Jn 4:1, NIV.
* "spirit. A person moved by a spirit, whether by the Holy Spirit or an evil one."
- NIVSB f.n.
And Barclay comments on this as follows:
"Men could delude themselves into a quite subjective experience in which they thought - quite
honestly - they had a message from the Spirit." - p. 91, The Letters of John and Jude, `The Daily Study Bible Series,' William Barclay,The Westminster Press, 1976.
... the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus - 2 Tim. 3:13-15, NIV
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. .... A good tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good [agaqon: "what is upright, honorable, and acceptable to God" - Thayer, p. 3a., #2] fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' - Matt. 7:15-23, NIV.
The "fruit" by which we recognize false teachers from true, then, has nothing to do with miraculous experiences. It is by their teaching itself. Is it true? Only an accurate knowledge of the Bible will tell us. So it is the holy scriptures, the word of God, which determines truth and salvation - not any private interpretation or heartfelt emotion or soul-shattering experience (all faiths, sects, cults, etc., have those). We must determine exactly what that word of God is saying, not what our heart tells us or what any charismatic or persuasive individual may tell us. We do this by an objective examination of what the original text and original language actually said and implied. We become true Bible students in order to build our faith on truth.
What good is the great, absolute, heart-felt, burning faith of those who are deceived? Did those who died at Jonestown, who had the ultimate faith in Jim Jones and his teachings, have their faith based on truth?
Do those with equal burning faith in the Rev. Moon really have the truth? Is that absolute knowledge that he is a true prophet worthy of keeping against all objective, Bible-based truths?
Did the followers of David Koresh ... Mohammed ... Emperor Hirohito ... etc., etc.
We can actually destroy ourselves by accepting God's word and then adding (no matter how sincerely) doctrines and beliefs that contradict essential areas of that word.
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. - Mk 7:13, NIV.
Beware that you are not ensnared [`trapped', Beck; `fooled', NLV] to follow them [the surrounding pagan nations], after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, `How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; .... Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to or take away from it. - Deut. 12:30-32, NASB.
It is no secret that Baal (like Adonis) is a replacement title for the original personal name of that particular pagan god. In other words, the god originally had a personal name (e.g., Tammuz for the god who became known as Adonis [Lord]; Moloch, perhaps, for Baal [Lord]), but, for whatever reason, his followers began replacing his only personal name with the title "Lord" (Adonis in Greek, Baal in the language of those pagans around the Israelites).
Let's be perfectly clear about this. The pagan nations around the Israelites originally called a god by his personal name (Moloch?) and, in time, stopped using his name, but began using the title "Lord" (Baal) in their language instead. They may have adopted the superstitious idea that the personal name of one's god is too holy to pronounce, or were trying to avoid others from gaining power from that god by the use of his personal name (another common superstition of the time.).
But we have the True God, the God of Israel, proclaiming his personal name, Jehovah, and insisting that it be called upon by his true worshipers and known by all!
"`Yes, tell them, Jehovah, the God of your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you.' (This is my eternal name to used throughout all generations.)" - Ex. 3:15, Living Bible.
That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth. - Ps. 83:18. KJV.
"O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. .... Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name..." - Jer. 10:23,25, ASV.
"And I will send a fire on Magog, and on the secure inhabitants of the coasts. And they shall know that I am Jehovah. And I will make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel. And I will not let my holy name be profaned any more. And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel." - Ezek. 39:6,7, The Interlinear Bible. (By this one scripture we see that Jehovah wants his name to be known. And in the end time, at least, his name will have been profaned for some time, and He vows that it shall NO LONGER be so treated. The context makes us believe that the particular profanation of his name he is referring to is the abandonment of his name, and so he insists that even the nations SHALL know he is Jehovah!)
And, although those who worshiped the God of the Bible are shown actually using the name of God repeatedly (more than any other name in the entire Bible) in speech and writing for thousands of years, the time came (around the time of Christ) when the Jews stopped pronouncing the name of God aloud. Some scholars believe they stopped because of a superstition that the name was too holy to pronounce aloud. Others think they stopped in a mistaken interpretation of the first of the 10 commandments.
But, for whatever reason, they stopped using the name that God wants used. Even when they read the Holy Scriptures they would SUBSTITUTE a common title for that Holy Name. And after they "took away" that Holy Name from God's word, guess what common title they "added to" it. That's right they removed `Jehovah' and added `Lord' in its place!
And what have trinitarians done? Why they have actually taken God's name out of their Bibles. In the most respected trinitarian Bibles we never see "Jehovah" but always see instead in all 7000 instances "LORD" (RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV and many more). And a number of others use the name "Jehovah" in only a very few places and substitute "LORD" in nearly 7000 other places (KJV, MLB, NEB, LB, etc.) And, of course, you never hear the name "Jehovah" in the vast majority of trinitarian churches, but "Lord" is almost always substituted, even when reading from the scriptures.
So, let's examine Deut. 12:30-32 again.
"do not inquire after their gods, saying, `How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God" .... Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to or take away from it." is how the NASB renders it (and KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, LB, NIV, NEB, REB, NAB, GNB, and nearly all other trinitarian Bibles are in basic agreement). But, of course, the honest, original wording was NOT "the Lord" but "Jehovah"! See Interlinear Bible, and ASV
So in the very same scripture that commands that no one add to or take away from His commands, the huge majority of trinitarian Bibles take away God's very NAME and add a common title in its place!
Yes, in the very same way that those pagans around the Israelites did for their gods the Israelites began doing for their God. And trinitarians do the same (but more so since the Jews at least continued to copy the holy name in copies of the Holy Scriptures - they just wouldn't pronounce it)! They have substituted "Lord" (Baal in pagan nations around first Israelites and Adonis in later times) for the actual personal name of their God.![*]
Yes, the holy name of God has been terribly profaned by most who profess to be Christians, and only one relatively small group of Christians are actually declaring that holy name to all the nations in a large way. But, largely because of the resistance of trinitarian churches, that name has been rejected by the vast majority of those who are informed of it, and new Bibles continue to take it away from the scriptures where it was originally found and add a common title in its place!.
"`Through deceit they refuse to know me,' declares the LORD." - Jer, 9:6, NASB. Compare NKJV, NIV, NAB (9:5), REB, NRSV, etc.
* Although the context of the following scripture in Jeremiah may not perfectly support the situation we are discussing, the general principle is there, and the words themselves are highly significant:
[Jehovah while condemning his "prophets" who are falsifying his word:] "They are doing their best, ... to make my people forget my name in favour of Baal [`Lord']." - Jer. 23:27, NJB.
"take heed to yourself, lest you be snared to follow them ... and lest you inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? And I shall do so, even I. You shall not do so to Jehovah your God" - Deut. 12:30-32, The Interlinear Bible. We are commanded NOT to substitute "Lord" for "Jehovah" (among other pagan forms of worship).