Archive for category Christianity
In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.
To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.
Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.
Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.
Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.
It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.
Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.
At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.
However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.
Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.
Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.
I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.
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.
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 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.
“In 2017 I revisited the Mamertine prison, and forum, Rome and explored a number of new discoveries made at the Mamertine the previous year. I believe Paul wrote 2 Timothy from that prison. I also think it possible that 2 Peter and Acts of the Apostles was written from here.
The Mamerine Prison is one of my favorite Biblical places in the world. I have visited the proposed cell of St. Paul at Philippi, I have visited St. Paul’s Grotto, Rabat, Malta, but the Mamertine has won me. It is or was, a cold, damp, dark and dingy place, and such is what I love about it. It is highly primitive. Ancient. Biblical!
In the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls, Rome, there is an ancient ‘chain’ reputed to have been used to bind St. Paul during his time in Rome. The chain was found in the ancient tomb of St. Paul over which the Basilica was built. When I visited the basilica in 2014, I noticed in 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain”. This in the Greek and the English is in the singular. For me, it perfectly matched the description given by Paul. It also fit perfectly with the type of chain that would have been used to bind Paul at the Mamertine.
Having read through an excellent series of books entitled “The Book of Acts in its first century setting” Volume 3, Paul in Roman Custody by Brian Rapske, it is explicitly clear that the Apostolic era was a time of great suffering. Here at the Mamertine, Paul suffered greatly and wrote to Timothy about his departure being at hand (2 Timothy 4: 6). He had stood trial before Casear, probably at the Curia and Eusebius in Ecclesiastical history 2: 22, informs us it was on Paul’s second visit to Rome that he was martyred under Nero.
At the Mamertine when Paul was held there about 60 AD and later, the 2016 excavations revealed that the cell did not have an upper floor like we see today. The upper floor is only about 500 years old and was constructed into the building when it was used as a Church. The original cells were more in the format of a cave rather than a fixed upper and lower level structure. Visitors for many years have believed that Paul was lowered into the lower dungeon via the circled hole in the upper cell floor. But the 2016 excavations revealed that the entrance to the lower cell area came from the upper roof, not the upper floor. When Paul was incarcerated here before his execution, he would have been lowered into the lower dungeon from the upper roof.
This practice often left prisoners physically damaged. Sometimes the broke a leg or an arm. We do not know of the level of damage Paul suffered here, but we know that his time at the jail, within the cell, would have been to face death. Once prisoners were put in here, it was to await execution.
The excavations revealed areas not seen by the public for centuries. These areas were around the main cell, and raised somewhat. If Peter was ever held here, he would have been held in the upper cells until his trial, and when condemned, dropped into the lower cell from the upper roof to await his death.
As I previously mentioned, it is also possible that 2 Peter was written in this cell. Although some modern scholars claim that Peter never wrote 2 Peter, I disagree entirely. While in Rome I attempted to view the letter from the perspective of the ancient city. Upon my return to England I researched the letter internally and found hints of ancient Rome in the text. One of which involved the great fire of Rome, of whom Nero, by tradition, is believed to have blamed the Christians. If Peter was in Rome at the time, he too would have been accused of either arson or inciting it. This could reveal insight into his references to “fire” in 2 Peter 3: 7, 12. He may well have been using the ‘fire’ reference to provoke believers to remember that a coming judgment will bring about the destruction of the world, by “fire”. There can be little doubt from this perspective that the great fire of Rome, would have been the fresh and current hot topic of the city. If Peter was being held in the Mamertine while the great fire was fresh in the minds of the Roman people, it is not difficult to see why he used this reference to remind people of the coming greater judgment at the end of the world. This would place the composition date toward the summer/autumn of 64 AD, because the fire took place in July of that year.”
Excerpt from upcoming book by Simon Peter Sutherland
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland
On my last visit to the Greek island of Kos I largely explored the island from the perspective of St. Luke, and the impression the Island of Hippocrates might of had on him as a physician. I made a film about it which you can be viewed here
Recently I revisited the island and explored it from the perspective of St. Paul and his mission as recorded in Acts 21: 1. I also took the refreshing perspective of early Church history and how Paul’s visit impacted the island during the early centuries of Christianity.
As always, it was refreshing to me to walk once again in the Apostles footsteps because I regretfully wrestle so deeply with many claims of so many modern ‘Churches’ that a swim in the ancient waters brings me back home. There is nothing quite like washing off the filth of half-truths and misconceptions with a dip in the ocean of Scripture followed with a drink of historic Christianity at the local cafe of consistency.
Kos town and the ancient city of Kefalos are two of those places. My prime locations are the ancient Agora and harbour Stoa of Kos town and Ayios Stefanos near Kefalos. The latter for its ecclesiastical archaeology and the former for its Biblical locations and insights.
We can be certain that Paul and Luke visited the ancient Agora of Kos and although the majority of it now lies in ruins, the discoveries of archaeology provide some very insightful things concerning the cults and cultures the Apostle faced when he and Luke visited the area.
On first entry to the town Paul and Luke would have entered into the Agora (marketplace) from the harbour stoa, from here they would have met with the influence of the ancient Greek gods of Aphrodite and Dionysos.
It is true that these ancient sites are just historic ruins, but when a believer is walking through them with presence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ and a Bible, they are anything but ruins.
This year my wife and I and our sons spent ‘all hallows’ and ‘Reformation day’ in Oxford remembering the true meaning of the so-called ‘Halloweeen’. Visiting the ancient sites associated with historic Christians such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicolas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and Welsh Bible translator William Salesbury.
Oxford is one of those cities where history and the present meet together on every street. If one looks closely, stories and histories can be told on every street corner.
One of those stories which stood out to me on this trip was that of the trial of Hugh Latimer. A great reformer of the 16th century.
Latimer had studied at Cambridge and became a Bishop in the Church of England and for a time served as Chaplain to King Edward V1. However on the Coronation of bloody Mary to the throne, Latimer was brought to trial for his Biblical teachings and would eventually be condemned and burned at the stake with Nicolas Ridley, outside the city walls and Balliol College, on Broad Street where John Wycliffe had been Master.
During our time in Oxford we visited St Mary’s Church where the trial took place. As I stood in the centre of that room Latimer’s words echoed through my mind. Upon being questioned concerning his denial of Transubstantiation, Latimer declared that his memory had “plain gone” and that his teachings were true to Scripture and agreed with the Church fathers, when the Church fathers agreed with Scripture.
Concerning the Eucharist, Latimer was presented with a series of articles of which article 1 said “In the sacrament of the alter, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really present the natural body of Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, under the kinds of appearance of bread and wine; in like manner His blood.”
To this doctrine, Latimer replied;
“I answer that for the right celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there is none other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we abide in Christ, and Christ abideth in us, to the obtaining of eternal life, if we persevere therein.”
Note that Latimer held to the very Biblical position that faith in Jesus Christ is ‘past, present, continuous‘ and ‘if’ we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us and by this abiding faith, we obtain eternal life, “if we persevere therein”.
For many Christians, these truth’s are nothing less than exactly what Scripture teaches. But concerning the case of Latimer, the enemies of Biblical truth were the Roman Catholic Priests and the Anabaptists. Of whom he goes on further to say; “And this I here rehearse lest some sycophant or scorner should suppose me, with the Anabaptists, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign.”
As I stood in the exact location in the Chapel where Latimer stood and the location where Cranmer made his defence, I was reminded of the cost of following Christ and being true to His Word. I know that from my own trials over the years within the Christian Church, my loyalty to Scripture has cost me the pulpit more than once.
Being loyal to Scripture is a battle from start to finish, and the Church is often the one that prevents the Christian loyalty to the Biblical text. So often it is a historic fact that the so-called Christian Church has been one of the major opponents of true Christianity. But in all this I count it all as part of the cost of knowing Christ. We lose in this life, but Christ wins. Even amidst persecution, Christ wins. After all, was it not the so-called Christian Church which persecuted the reformers? Was it not the official legal priests who insulted and accused my Lord Jesus Christ? Was it not the priests who murdered the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles? How much more then will the hypocrites continue to accuse those who obey Scripture rather than the whims, fictions and fairy tales of men.
Christians, be encouraged, stand with Latimer in the Truth and know that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and abide in Him, you will never perish.
On that note Christians, I leave you with the echoing words and memory of Hugh Latimer, who, proceeding his trial, on his way to being burned at the stake, declared his salvation to men, saying thus;
“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”.
Recently I acquired a 19th century scrapbook.
The scrapbook contains a lot of truly interesting things. Newspaper articles, letters, pictures, concert advertisements, and toward the front there is a poem. This poem is called “The Love of Money” and speaks against money preachers and ministers of the 19th century. It begins with a quote from 1 Timothy 6: 10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.
In that text, Paul was stating that many had been led away from Truth and walked away from Christ and lost what they had and in doing so fell into a life of misery.
The poem is an insightful warning and one that is even still so relevant to our day, where so many people fall away from Truth and into error out of their love of money, and the pursuit of acceptance. As Bob Dylan once wrote; “money doesn’t talk, it swears“.
The old poem reads like so;
“MONEY ! oh money ! thy praises I sing,
Thou art my Savior, my God, and my King;
Tis for thee that I preach, and for thee that I pray, And make a collection twice each sabbath day.
I have candles, and all sorts of dresses to buy,
For I wish you know that my church is called high-
I don’t mean in structure of steeple or wall,
But so high that the Lord cannot reach it at all.
I have poor in my parish who need some relief –
I preach to their poverty, pray for their grief;
I send my box round to them, morning and night,
And hope they’ll remember “the poor widow’s mite.”
I gather my knowledge from wisdom’s great tree,
And the whole of my Trinity is £,s, and d ;
Yes, pounds, shillings, and pence, are all that I crave.
From my first step on earth to the brink of the grave.
When I’m laid low, and my body at rest,
Place a box on my grave, – ’tis my latest request,
That friends may all see who come for reflection,
I can’t rest in peace without a collection.
Money’s my creed, I’ll not pray without it,
My heaven is closed ‘gainst all those who doubt it;
For this is the essence of parson’s religion-
Come regular to church and be plucked like a pigeon.
My pay may be hundreds or thousands a year-
Double it, treble it, still I’ll be here
With my box or my bags, collecting your brass,
For I can’t do as Jesus did -ride on an ass.
I’ll have carriage and horses, and servants, and hall, –
I am not going to foot it, like Peter and Paul;
Neither like John – live on locust and honey, –
So out with your purses, and down with your money.
Fools sometimes ask what I do with this money !
They might just as well ask what bees do with honey !
I answer them all with a wink or a nod;
I keep three-birds myself, and give praises to God.
In the cold silent earth I may soon be laid low,
And sleep with the blest that went long ago;
I shall slumber in peace till the great resurrection,
Then be first to my legs to make a collection.”
Earlier this year I found an old Welsh book in Wales on Christian martyrs dating to 1813. The book itself covers the lives of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Marsh, John Bradford, Nicolas Ridley, and so forth and the pages appear in good condition for the age. However, a page that stood out to me contained an image of William Tyndale. The 16th century martyr and translator of the New Testament into English. The reason the print stood out is because Tyndale’s image had been ripped out.
Tyndale was a good Christian man and dedicated his life to the delivering of the Word of God to all English speaking people. The Church of his day rejected him, but his translation work laid the foundations of the Coverdale Bible, Bishops Bible, Geneva Bible and the King James Bible of 1611 and all significant English translations from 1535 to this day. 80-90% of the New Testament in the King James Bible has been shown to be the translation work of Tyndale.
The torn image seems to be deliberate? I say this because the book appears to have no damage elsewhere. However, even if the tare is coincidental, it still begs me to think upon how torn apart true Christians can be at times. Men like Tyndale held fast to the Bible and would not deny the text even in the face of danger, excommunication, imprisonment and execution. And how often has it taken place since his day that men and women who stand firm upon the text of the Bible are either rejected by the Church or ridiculed, mocked, insulted, and maligned by the world.
How true is that of our day.
I have recently returned to England from my visit to the Greek island of Crete.
Travelling thousands of miles across Biblical landscape is always insightful and my primary goal on Crete was to seek out the historic locations written about in Acts 27 and Paul’s letter to Titus. My desire was to gain a more historic understanding of Titus 3: 5;
“for this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting”.
2000 years ago Paul gave commission to Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete. My aim in visiting Crete was to discover those ancient cities and gain an historic understanding of the work Titus did on Crete. Along the way standing face to face with the ancient law code of Gortyna, the mysteries of the Phaistos disc, ancient Minoan culture, and in some cases frustration at the sheer amount of unexcavated sites, leading to a general lack of information.
However, travelling over 100 miles across the island, visiting the ancient cities of Heraklion, Gortyna, Lasea and the spectacular mountains to port of ‘Kalio Limenes’ (fair havens) proved insightful to the Biblical narrative yet left many unanswered questions.
Part of the reason for this is that much of the history of ancient Crete has little connection to the New Testament era. Ancient cities such as Knossos have connections but they were long gone by the 1st century AD. But Gortyna and Kalio Limenes are key locations.