simon peter sutherland
Christian, Theologian, Musician, Songwriter https://simonpetersutherland.com/ http://shimeon.co.uk/
Posted in Christianity on September 24, 2019
Recently I visited the ancient City of Kameiros on the Greek island of Rhodes. This is now an archaeological site.
In ancient times Kameiros was one of the three ancient cities of Rhodes and today has some evidences of the spread of early Christianity on the island. Here the city was built upon three levels. There was a Temple of Athena, a Stoa and an Acropolis. There was even a reservoir.
Here, hundreds of people once lived in terrace type houses. On my visit I greatly admired an area where these ancient houses once stood. Here, archaeologists affirm many early Christians once lived.
This is interesting because the first and only time Rhodes is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts 21: 1 and my documentary explores that passage of Scripture. However, it must be pointed out that before the time of Paul’s visit to Rhodes in the AD 50’s, there is no evidence for Christianity on the island. We can only imagine that Christianity must have spread from either Rhodes town or Lindos, after the Apostles visit.
Here in Kameiros early Christians would have had to live amongst pagan temples and the worship of other gods. However, in 142 AD an earthquake destroyed the city. Today it lies in ruins.
Much of ancient Kameiros is yet to be excavated, some of the finds are in the British Museum. But what I learned from this visit was that Christianity was present on Rhodes very early. This is interesting because clearly someone brought the Gospel to Rhodes in the early days of Christianity. I propose that archaeology and history affirms that Luke in Acts was correct and that he and Paul brought Christianity to Rhodes on Paul’s third missionary journey.
The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended, is a classic hymn, greatly upheld as a favourite in Britain and the Anglican Communion, and is sung in many Churches of other denominations.
It was written in the 19th century by Church of England minister, John Ellerton (1826-1893). The story goes that in 1870, the Rev Ellerton was walking home after teaching classes at the Mechanics’ Institute and noticed how beautiful the night was. He wrote the lyric based upon that inspiring moment. Being customary in the Anglican Communion to give thanks to God ‘Morning and Evening’ the lyrics reflect 1 Chronicles 23: 30 and Psalm 113: 3. Christians from the earliest days of the faith, gave thanks to God both in the morning and the evening. This hymn reflects that practice.
It is easy to assume that the words and music of such great hymns were written entirely by one person, but this is not always the case. The melody for The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended is actually set to the Hymn tune known as St. Clement, in 98. 98. meter. This tune is generally credited to Clement Cotteril Scholefield (1839-1904) and first appeared in a hymnbook in 1874. This publication was known as Church Hymns and Tunes.
This inspiring and uplifting melody sets the lyrics in motion for an ever flowing waltz of affectionate love. These are no mere words of a self focused individual, but from the soul of a person devoted and affectionate to the One true God. They ascribe to God the honour and praise as the One who gave the sinner the gift of each day and night. The knowing that God hears the praises of His people. They give thanks to Him continuously for His provision and building of His Church. That she is unchanging, and “unsleeping” as the world worries its way through life. That men’s empires pass away, but the Kingdom Christ has established, will never pass away for He is her King.
For me, the lyrics “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” reflect the constancy of the Kingdom of Christ and the sovereignty of His reign. The word “Thy” reflects the singular focus upon the Kingship and person of Christ. “Thy Kingdom stands and grows forever” does not relate to any supposed Kingdom to come in our future, or during any futuristic millennium, but the identity of Christ’s Kingdom, being His Church, was expected and prayed for during the lifetime of Jesus (Matthew 6: 10). That the reign of Messiah (upon the Throne of David) was proclaimed, by the preaching of Peter, that the prophecy concerning the throne of David was fulfilled by and at the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2: 30-36). Who’s Kingdom knows no end (Isaiah 9: 7, Luke 1: 33).
The lyric speaks of the continuing growth of Christ’s everlasting Kingdom. That His people are everywhere beneath the “Western skies” and such can never be destroyed.
The hymn has continued to be sung in Churches everywhere and today it remains the official hymn of the Royal Navy and has also been included in many editions of the Scottish Psalter, and Methodist hymnbooks.
When I recorded instrumental versions of this melody for use my documentaries, I explored the melody from a purely musical perspective. I let the notes raise my soul to the spiritual realms of musical praise. Where music can take the soul into places where words cannot enter. Many modern chorus’ and so-called ‘praise and worship’ songs do not have the power or depth to attain that.
I love the idea and sound of traditional Anglican Church music, and although I have yet to ever attend a service where this hymn has been sung, it has quite possibly become my favourite hymn.
While on the Greek island of Rhodes, I revisited the site of Acts 21: 1. This location is Rhodes Town, the site of the Colossus of Rhodes and St. Paul’s Gate. Here Paul and Luke landed in the 50’s AD.
It is quite easy to miss but within the walls surrounding the Gate of St. Paul, there is a 15th century image of the Apostle high up on the wall.
The image itself is faded and undefined. But it represents the familiar image of the Paul we know.
This is Paul the elderly and powerful. His left arm is raised. His right arm is carrying a sword. Representing the sword of the Spirit. His head is leaning to the left.
The Gate of St. Paul was constructed during the 15th century and fortifies an area of the harbour known as the Kolona Harbour. The locals of Rhodes town generally accept that this was the precise location where Paul and Luke landed. This location satisfies me as the site of Acts 21: 1.
Once again, as always, it was wonderful to stand in the places written about in the Bible. The message is clear, keep our eyes fixed upon the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2: 42).
Over the last few years I had been attending a Baptist Church. However, due to a recent unnecessary, unorthodox, sectarian practice of ‘re-baptism‘ I have left the Baptist church and have returned to the Church of England.
For some, this decision may seem unhealthy. Liberalism, it seems, has corrupted the Anglican communion. Such views would not be entirely wrong.
However, things are not as simple as that. The Anglican communion is a very complicated establishment, and is deeply divided. Liberalism and a false gospel has indeed corrupted the establishment but it has not corrupted the true conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. This conservative evangelical branch, I argue, is the true Church of England. The liberal, revisionist branch is a false distortion. I believe it has forsaken the Bible.
Because of changing times, liberalism and church corruption, many churches are closing. Yet the many parishes that remain true to the Gospel, are in fact flourishing. It is to this conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England that I abide.
In the 16th century, many reformed Christians died for the faith. Tyndale, Frith, Latimer, Cranmer, Ridley, Bradford and George Marsh, were all Church of England men. Yet it was a fight even back then. Today, over four hundred years later, there is still a continuous movement to reform the Church of England from within. Organisations such as Reform and Church Society all continue to abide in loyalty to the Bible and the principles of the doctrines of the reformation.
For me, the true Church of England is the way forward. As a churchwarden of Deane once said to me, ‘I truly believe the Church of England is “the best boat to fish from”. I believe this is true. For me, Cathedrals are some of the most inspiring monuments a person can ever visit and I am in the historic presence of some of the greatest men Christianity has ever known. Unlike many independent churches, which are often self governing and separatist, the Congregation Christ spoke of in Matthew 16: 18 was one. It was not divided into denominations. It was simply the Congregation of believers.
I have faith that Christ will continue to build His Congregation, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Being in the Baptist church, was not all bad. I still have many fond memories and those memories will remain. But the Lord would not leave me there. There is a path that I must take. For me, my Christian journey has simply reached a new era. It is simply unacceptable that the Church of England has been robbed of the Gospel. We ought not to forsake her. Something needs to be done. There must be reformation.
Many years ago I read ‘The Sovereignty of God‘ by A. W Pink. This book is a well written work presenting the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God from the the Calvinistic perspective. It is well worth the read.
In this book the author affirmed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘. Because of the sheer weight of Scriptures Pink presented, I believed the doctrine as very Scriptural.
A. W. Pink was from Nottingham and in my opinion, Pink was the most consistent Calvinist I have ever read. He was a brilliant man and an excellent Christian Theologian. He proclaimed the doctrines of Calvinism to the fullest with no weakness on his part. Obviously it is not difficult to realise that a man of such Scriptural knowledge would have his collisions with the Church of his day. His biography shows us examples of that. But most of it may relate to his Calvinism.
A. W. Pink should be admired, even by his Theological opponents, because he did not shy away from the proper logical conclusions to the clear teachings of Calvinism. These observations (in my opinion), separate him from the more common, inconsistent and unconvincing Calvinist revisionist preachers and writers of our day.
When I read Pink, it would not be long before I became persuaded by the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. Over time however, and through the clear lens of openly reading Scripture, the impact of Calvinism lost its flavour with me. I began to see too many Scriptures contradicting the system and Calvinistic apologists failing to explain the contrasts with proper exegesis or convincing argumentation.
In answer to my title, the reason I once believed in ‘OSAS’ was because of the selective Scriptures which Calvinists use to affirm their doctrine. I am convinced, if people simply read the Bible and never listened to Calvinistic preachers, they would see that eternal security is conditional and apostasy is possible for true believers. Christians have the duty to abide in Christ and no one can abide in Christ if they never were truly saved to begin with.
As a person who once believed the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’, I understand it, not merely from knowledge, but from experience too. It is a very persuasive doctrine. However, over time I could see the natural progression of doctrinal bondage developing. Fear of departing from accepted doctrines and the teachings of popular preachers became easy to break when I digested and trusted the words of Christ “the Truth will set you free“.
The truth be told, people who believe in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ very rarely arrive at that conclusion by simply reading Scripture alone, but by listening to their favourite preachers or their pastors, or biblically external books. For many people and preachers, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is Scripture itself and for an individual to deny it either makes a person a half Christian or simply not born again. These opinions however are absolute none sense. No one need accept such attitudes or permit themselves to be bullied into beliefs that contradict Scripture.
Obviously I would not regard those who teach the doctrine as false teachers, but I would say that without their rhetorical skills, the doctrine has little Scripture to authenticate it. The facts remain, as I have written in a previous article, the doctrine of ‘OSAS’ is a historical anomaly and was not taught in the church until the 16th century. John Calvin was probably the first person to have properly taught the doctrine. As I have previously argued in an earlier article, the doctrine likely has Gnostic origins rather than Scriptural foundations.
Over recent years I have repeatedly re-examined the doctrine and the more I read the New Testament from this perspective, and explored the contexts and the Greek, I saw an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidences to claim the doctrine has little weight to it at all. In fact, there are so many Scriptures that contradict the position, many Calvinistic apologists and preachers are left scraping the barrel for argument, so much so that they are in danger of getting splinters under their finger nails.
The truth be told, there are over sixty or so verses in the New Testament which speak as warnings to Christians to remain loyal and in the faith and to abide in Christ.
It seems quite clear that the Calvinist claim that any believer who departs from the faith, was never truly saved in the first place, may well have some accurate Scriptural examples, but the majority of the doctrine is a violation of the plain reading of Scripture.
Around 197 AD, early Christian author Tertullian, wrote concerning the Roman Census of Cyrinius. In his writing Tertullian claimed that there was a reference to the Mary of the Gospels “among the Romans“. The English translation of his words read like;
“Jesus was from the native soil of Bethlehem, and from the house of David. For, among the Romans, Mary is described in the census, of whom Christ was born.” (c. 197, W), 3.164. (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. Birth of Jesus. Page 69. Hendrickson.)
This ancient historic claim is intriguing because it implies that Tertullian himself had seen archival evidence of the census written about in the Gospel of Luke. The text reads like so;
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.” (Luke 2: 1-2. NKJV)
This archival evidence has clearly vanished from our modern world, yet it seems that both Luke and Tertullian had access to documentation concerning the Roman census.
In a previous article, I theorised over the possibilities that the Census of Luke 2: 1-2 may have been referenced in The Mausoleum of Augustus on the funerary Res Gestae Divi Augusti in Rome. If this is true, then we have two Biblically external evidences that help collaborate the historicity of the Census of Luke 2: 1-2.
In the forum of Rome there are the remains of the ancient Curia Julia. The majority of the legal trials were held in that place. It is therefore possible that the census referenced by Tertullian was once held within the archives of the forum.
History tells us that Tertullian went to Rome after completing his education in Carthage. It was in Rome that Tertullian became interested in the Christian movement and did not return to Carthage until the end of the 2nd century. This places Tertullian as researching Christianity in Rome when documented evidence of the Census of Luke 2: 1-2 was still extant.