Archive for category The Bible

Ancient Kameiros, and the spread of early Christianity on Rhodes

Kameiros © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

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Hymn Stories: The Day Thou Gavest Lord, Is Ended

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.

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A 15th century image on St. Paul’s Gate, Rhodes

St. paul's Gate © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Apostle Paul on Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

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.

Apostle Paul, Rhodes Town © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

St. Paul, Rhodes Town © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

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).

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Why I once believed in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’

Once Saved Always Saved © 2019 Simon Peter SutherlandMany 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.

 

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Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia's river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia’s river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

Over recent times I have been made aware of the ever growing trend of “rebaptism”. For some, “rebaptism” by immersion is baptism, nothing else. Modern ‘rebaptisers’ claim that there is only “one baptism” and the reason they baptise someone for a second time, is because the first baptism was not legitimate at all.

As always with all my beliefs and Christian practices, I claim that I do not believe or affirm anything in the name of Christianity, if it is not in the Bible. But these days almost all Christians claim that. Some ‘Christians’ claim they hold to ‘Scripture alone’, yet their doctrines are so broad, and unorthodox that it is difficult for me to read or hear them with a straight face. Others have so many variant doctrines, that I have absolutely no idea where their beliefs come from? All I know is they do not come from the Bible.

One of these ideas is the growing trend of ‘rebaptism’ by immersion.  An unorthodox practice that is largely associated with ‘Oneness Pentecostals’ and ‘Southern Baptists’ and ‘youth groups’. This ‘baptism’ by definition is a baptism of a person who has been previously baptised, but some denominations or individuals do not accept previous baptisms as valid, because they were done in other churches. The common claim is that the person who has been previously baptised, did not actually fully believe in Jesus when the previous baptism occurred. The proposal is that the person must be “rebaptised” or simply “baptised”.

This trend of ‘rebaptism’ is absolute none sense! The facts remain that there is not a single reference in the entire New Testament for anyone to be ‘rebaptised’ or baptised more than once in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus the answer to the rhetorical title: “Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?” the answer is a direct no. ‘Rebaptism’ simply denies Colossians 2: 12 and the power of God to raise a person up from being dead in sin unto new life, regardless of where that person was spiritually when the baptism occurred.

The harsh and real truth is, baptism by immersion is irrevocable. If someone is foolish enough to get baptised, and yet that person did not truly believe, then that person should take responsibility for their unbelief and actions and seek God for forgiveness. A minister should not allow his congregation to move beyond the realm of Scripture and orthodoxy because a false convert or persons in his congregation have previously made a foolish mistake of being baptised while they have an evil heart of unbelief.

Likewise, a person who goes into a new church and is pressured into being ‘rebaptised’ because the minister or teacher has convinced them they are not really saved, should search the entire Bible first. All people who experience this pressure should ask their pastors why there are no rebaptisms or repeated baptisms, or two baptisms in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Likewise people should ask why there are no denominational rebaptisms in the Bible? Is a single baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit insufficient?

Likewise, the idea of rebaptising false converts is also destroyed by the Bible. In Acts 8 when the sorcerer was baptised, and after ward tried to purchase the Holy Spirit with money, Peter told that person “your money perish with you” (Acts 8: 20). Peter told the man to repent and seek God for forgiveness, in the hope that God may forgive him (Acts 8: 22). Peter did not mention anything about a rebaptism and neither did Luke the author of the Book of Acts.

What is clear is that the modern unorthodox revisionist and emotionally charged practice of ‘rebaptism’ by full immersion in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is nothing less than fiction.

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Discerning Biblical truth from fiction…

Bible lands © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

The term Biblical truth does not always mean what the individual person considers the term to mean. Each person has a definition of every word. What is Biblical truth to one man is heretical to another and vice versa. The Bible has a habit of contradicting many of our ideologies and theologies. But for me, when something is clearly stated in scripture and plainly referred to, the ideas and opinions of men mean little to me. Where the truth is concerned, what does it matter what men may think?

It is a fact that the many spurious gospels employed by modern secular critical scholars when dealing with the historical and spiritual life of Christ were written much later than the canonical Gospels and letters. It is not difficult to conclude that many of these writings are fictional fabrications and interpretations of real events and real people. Since many apocryphal texts are not conclusive in terms of dating due to the lack of historical reference in the texts they cannot all be deemed as truth but rather fictionalised truth.

I bring to attention the “Acts of Paul” which Tertullian claimed was a forgery by a Presbyter who wrote it out of his “love for Paul” 1. These texts, though interesting, are not as good as the biblical texts. They have very little majestic quality to them and I conclude the reason why so many were not included in the Biblical canon, is because they were not authoritative. Some of them contain stories that are so fictional, they appear unbelievable. Yet they come in useful to help us understand the minds of the ancients. If they are a record of beliefs and myths and factual traditions from the early Christians era’s, they can be useful. The problems happen when modern critical secular scholars use those texts in relation to Jesus in their attempts to disprove the New Testament. Too often they make out many of these books are modern discoveries and that the New Testament contains blatant errors. Yet scholars have been debating textual issues from the earliest days of the church. The arguments when presented today are merely part of a much larger soup of recycled argument. Re-packaged, re-marketed and re-developed for a modern audience.

EXCERPT FROM UPCOMING BOOK BY SIMON PETER SUTHERLAND
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

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P52. St. John’s Fragment

 

Popular thinking has it that the Bible is unreliable and the manuscripts differ widely. It is often thought that the manuscripts contain large amounts of copying errors. But a tiny fragment found in Egypt, challenges this view. In John Rylands Library, Manchester UK, there is the oldest fragment of the New Testament to date. This fragment was acquired in Egypt in 1920. In 1934 the text was translated into English and it was found to be a fragment of the Gospel of John. This manuscript fragment is known as ‘P52’ and contains the words of Jesus and the words of Pontius Pilate. Some claim the fragment dates to 125 – 150 AD, others think an earlier date of writing is possible.

I visit and view P52 often. It is about 9 cm and written in Greek and is at present on public view. There are few greater pleasures for me than to view this fragment. Often after a long day of voluntary Theological research, it brings my focus back to the Biblical text. For me, it is a breath of fresh air, that during an age of modern critical scholarship and its heavy denial of Biblical texts, we have a great testimony in direct contrast to many critical claims of modern textual scholars.

In contrast to many modern scholars who deny the authenticity and early composition dates of the Gospels, P52 stands as a testimony against the claims that the New Testament accounts were written much later than they actually were. When I see this fragment as I do on a regular basis, its surviving words never cease to amaze me as it could for all who trust in Jesus Christ. These words are a pure testimony to the reality of the absolute identity of Jesus Christ, son of God, who was and is, and is to come, “the Truth”. Not truth, but ‘The Truth’.

The Greek fragment, of John 18: 31-33, on the recto reads as follows;

“the Jews, “For us it is not permitted to kill
anyone,” so that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he
spoke signifying what kind of death he was going to
to die. Entered therefore again into the Praeto-
rium Pilate and summoned Jesus
and he said to him, “Thou art king of the
Jews?”

The Greek fragment of John 18: 37-38, on the verso reads as follows,

“a King I am. For this I have been born
and (for this) I have come into the world so that I would
testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears of me my voice.” Said to him
Pilate, “What is truth?” and this
having said, again he went out unto the Jews
and said to them, “I find not one
fault in him.”

Is it not amazing that the oldest fragment in the world of the New Testament, dated possibly earlier than 100 AD and no later than 150 AD, speaks of such a great testimony to the word of God. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24: 35.

EXCERPT FROM UPCOMING BOOK BY SIMON PETER SUTHERLAND
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

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