Protestant Reformation 0021 John 4:2-3 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 11, 2017 • Protestant Reformation
Andy Woods The Protestant Reformation 002
1 John 4:2-3
Good morning everybody. Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Colossians, chapter 2 and verse 8. We started last week a study on The Protestant Reformation and the reason we’re looking into this is because you’re going to start hearing a lot about it this fall because October 31st will make the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Most evangelical Christians kind of look at that as some odd event in history and they kind of look back on it and they don’t really understand its significance. So throughout these summer months we’re doing a Sunday School class explaining the significance of the Protestant Reformation, because it’s unlikely we would be sitting here today in the manner in which we’re sitting here and studying had it not been for a move of God 500 years ago in what’s called The Protestant Reformation.
It’s hard to understand The Protestant Reformation unless you understand what the apostles handed off to the early church and unless we also understand what subsequent generation of Christians lost. Until that is understood you can’t really understand the need to recover anything. So we are actually starting at the very beginning in our 8-part outline, systematically talking about this to get a better appreciation of the Protestant Reformation. So we’re not actually getting into, for the first couple of lessons, the actual Reformation; what we’re trying to establish is the need for the Protestant Reformation.
Last time you’ll recall we started with Roman numeral I in our eight part outline, entitled The Early Church. The apostles, as I tried to demonstrate, interpreted the Bible, Old Testament, literally, including the subject of Bible prophecy. And that’s the baton that they handed off to the first Christians. The mindset of the first Christians is represented by that circle up north in a place called Antioch, a school started there. Last time I tried to draw attention to the fact that that’s where Paul launched his first missionary journey from, Antioch. And it’s also the place where the early church was called Christians for the first time. And it’s also the place where the early church began to proliferate numerically, and you see that in Acts 11, around verse 25. [And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul;  and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”]
And the School of Antioch, as we tried to explain, and I gave you many, many citations, some from scholars, some from actual church fathers; they interpreted the Bible, including Bible prophecy, literally. So I’m going to work hard at not repeating what I said last week unless I run into something new and in my private reading this week I ran into this citation from Irenaeus. Irenaeus, as you can see from the screen, lived in the second century, A.D. 125 to 202, roughly, was his life span. And there is a direct link between Irenaeus and John the apostle. So here’s the way the link works: John the apostle discipled a man named Polycarp; Polycarp in turn discipled a man named Irenaeus. So Irenaeus is one generation removed from the apostles. You remember the old E.F. Hutton commercials, do they still run those? “When E. F. Hutton talks people listen.” So when Irenaeus talks we should listen because there is a direct chain that can be established through Polycarp back to John. So the beliefs of Irenaeus largely represent the beliefs of the apostles and this was the mindset of the school of Antioch, and this is the mindset that dominated the early church for its first two centuries.
And the quote I found in George Peter’s book, The Theocratic Kingdom, Peter’s says, “The literal, grammatical interpretation of the Scriptures must…be observed in order to obtain a correct understanding…The primitive church” that would be the church following the apostles, “The primitive church occupied this position, and Irenaeus…gives us the general sentiment…when he says of the Holy Scriptures:” now here’s the quote from Irenaeus, “‘that what the understanding can daily make use of, what it can easily know, is that which lies before our eyes, unambiguously,” and notice this next word, “literally, and clearly in Holy Writ.’” [Quoted in George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 3 vols. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1952), 1:47.]
So Irenaeus and the school of Antioch, having a tradition handed down to them from the apostles, which is the mindset that dominated the church for its first few centuries after the apostles left the scene, was all about literal interpretation. You’ll notice in Irenaeus’ quote literally, so they interpreted the best they could the whole Bible literally, including Bible prophecy. And this is what made them all believe to a man that the kingdom was not something that they were in now. Well, how could you interpret the Bible literally and believe we’re in the kingdom now? That makes no sense. The kingdom, according to Isaiah’s prophecies and others is a time period when the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and it’s a time period when the Dead Sea will come back to life biologically, Ezekiel 47. It’s a time period when the city of Jerusalem is going to be the head of the nations again, etc.
There’s no way you can interpret those prophecies literally and believe we’re in the kingdom. So because these men had such a great respect for the Bible they took a literal approach to the whole Bible, including Bible prophecy, which made them, what we call premillennialists, which is basically the belief that Jesus comes back first and then the kingdom follows. They didn’t call themselves premillennialists; they called themselves chiliasts, coming from the Greek word chiliad, which means a thousand. So you can add the Irenaeus quote to the other quotes I gave you last week concerning the general sentiment of the early church.
So things are rolling along pretty good for about two centuries and then something happens; unless you understand what happened you can’t really appreciate the Protestant Reformation. What happened is what I like to call the Alexandrian eclipse. And as you look at this map again and you go down to the bottom circle down south you’ll see it’s circled there, Alexandria, Egypt. Alexandria Egypt is a rival school that was established in Christianity. It was a school that rivaled the school of Antioch which took the Bible, including Bible prophecy, literally. Here’s another map, if you like this map better, you see those two circles and unless you understand those two circles you can’t really understand the Protestant Reformation because the Protestant Reformation is basically trying to get back to Antioch. Why did they need to get back to Antioch? Because of everything that was lost thanks to the influence of Alexandria, Egypt in north Africa. And Alexandria, Egypt introduced a method of interpreting the Bible called allegorization. And we talked about that briefly, did we not last time.
Allegorization basically says what the text says is really not what’s important. Now that’s not what they were teaching in Antioch but this is what they began to teach in Alexandria, Egypt. And this didn’t just start with Christianity, it actually started with early Judaism or latter Judaism I should say, just before the time of Christ through a man named Philo. And Philo took a look at the rivers that are described in the Garden of Eden, the Pishon and the Gihon and the Euphrates and the Tigris and he began to say things like well, those aren’t actual rivers, those just represent four parts of the soul. So he’s using the text to bring in a higher spiritual meaning.
And did I not take you last time through Nehemiah 3, and I showed you how the various gates, like the fish gate, the horse gate and in Alexandrian mindset is allegorized away and some kind of spiritual significance is attached to each gate. So that’s another example of allegorization. The point that the allegorist would say is not to describe a city wall with gates around it; I mean, that’s boring anyway, who wants to hear that. What you need is the higher meaning and so they began to attach some kind of spiritual significance to each gate. That’s a process of interpretation called allegorization.
So very quickly let me explain why allegorization is a wrong method of interpretation and why we at Sugar Land Bible Church do not embrace the allegorical method of interpretation. I found these four reasons sin Dr. Pentecost’s classic book, Things to Come, pages 4-5, he defines allegorization and he gives four reasons why it’s wrong. So here they are very quickly. Number 1, when you allegorize the test itself is not being interpreted; what’s happening is you’re bringing a bunch of ideas to the text that aren’t found in the text.
So Milton Terry wrote a classic book on hermeneutics; hermeneutics, as you might know, is the science and art of biblical interpretation. And Terry rightly criticizes allegorization and he says, “…it will be noticed at once that its habit” that’s allegorization, “is to disregard the common signification of words and give wing to all manner of fanciful speculation. It does not draw out the legitimate meaning of an author’s language, but foists into it whatever the whim or fancy of an interpreter may desire.” [Biblical Hermeneutics (NY: Philips and Hunt, 1883), 224.]
So when you get under allegorical teaching you might hear occasionally something that’s spiritually true but you look at the text that this is supposedly drawn from and the ideas don’t naturally come out of the text. And there’s a big difference, and you need to learn these two words, there’s a big difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis comes from the Greek preposition ek which means out of, so an exegete is someone who is drawing from the text what the text says, which is what you want in a Bible study because we believe God has spoken. Eisegesis is the exact opposite; eisegesis comes from the Greek preposition eis, e-i-s which means into, and an eisegesis is reading into the passage things that aren’t there.
So obviously of the two which should we prefer? Exegesis or eisegesis? Well, since God has revealed himself in this book and God is the authority, right? Who do I think I am to rewrite or edit God? So the practice that we follow in Bible study and in sermons and so forth is not eisegesis, that’s what they were doing in Alexandria Egypt, but exegesis which is what the school of Antioch represented and what the church of Jesus Christ role modeled for its first two centuries.
Here’s a little saying that may help you kind of internalize this: I’m not sure who I got this from but I like it. I don’t think it’s original with me but it says, “he or she who spiritualizes” now spiritualize is another way of saying allegorization, “he or she who spiritualizes tells spiritual lies,” because they’re making the Bible say a bunch of things that that particular passage is not saying. And you have to understand that, that when you’re under an allegorist you’re under a perpetual liar, someone who’s making the Bible say something it’s not actually saying. So allegorization becomes a dangerous practice. The text itself is not being interpreted.
The second danger of allegorization is there is a shift in authority from the text to the mind of the interpreter. What’s important is not what the text says; what’s important is what comes out of the mind of the interpreter of the text under allegorization. So Jerome, who actually practiced allegorization himself, as I’ll show you a little bit later, actually made this correct statement. He says: “…once we start with the rule that whole passages and books of scripture say one thing when they mean another, the reader is delivered bound hand and foot to the caprice of the interpreter.” So if I was an allegorist the authority in this church would be me, not what the Bible says. And so what’s happened in Bible interpretation is authority shifts from the passage to the mind of the interpreter, which is a dangerous practice because God has spoken and who is man to edit God?
Number three, there is no way to test the interpreter once you get under allegorization because allegorization is a highly subjective practice. You might remember last week as we were going around the walls here of the city of Jerusalem we came to the horse gate and many allegorists would say well, the horse gate represents controlling the tongue because James 3 talks about a bit placed in a horse’s mouth in reference to the tongue. Well, I look at an interpretation like that and I say well who says, I think the horse gate could refer to the second coming of Christ because Jesus Christ is coming back on a white horse. So which allegorist is right? And the reality of the situation is there’s no way to test which one is right because you can assign multiple allegories to anything you want it to mean. So one allegorist says one thing, another allegorist says something else and the nice thing about being an allegorist is you can never lose your job because you’re the only one that knows what the allegory means. So it becomes a highly subjective practice.
And then the fourth problem with allegorization is there isn’t any mechanism, you lose control of interpretation because there’s no mechanism for controlling the interpreters imagination. So a lot of Christians follow the practice of the sanctified imagination when they interpret the Bible and they come up with wild interpretations. And you look at the passages that they’re supposedly using and it’s not based on the passage, it comes from their own minds and essentially when you move into allegorization what starts to control is whatever just emanated out of the allegorist’s carnal mind.
So Bernard Ramm wrote a very important book on hermeneutics called Protestant Biblical Interpretation and he makes this statement. He says, “…to state that the principal meaning of the Bible is a second-sense meaning, and that the principle method of interpretation is ‘spiritualizing,’ is to open the door to almost uncontrolled speculation and imagination. For this reason we have insisted that the control in interpretation is the literal method.” [Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3d ed. (Boston: W.A. Wilde, 1956; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 65.]
I would add to it the literal method consistency applied; in other words, you interpret words or phrases in the Bible according to the ordinary sense of those words and phrases. And that’s a practice that requires a lot of discipline; that’s a practice that’s somewhat difficult, it requires some training to do it but you can do it, I can do it. And what’s happening when you’re following the literal approach is the speculation and imagination of the interpreter is not in control; the biblical text is in control.
So in Alexandria, Egypt, really starting with Philo and then is sort of took off as Christians migrated to Alexandria, Egypt following the first two centuries of the church, this practice took off called allegorization. And you might ask yourself, why in the world would the church of Jesus Christ, for about a thousand years, abandon a practice of literal interpretation that can be clearly traced back to the apostles at Antioch, why would they throw that out and why would they substitute allegorization? And I don’t mean to over simplify things but I think there’s at least five reasons why the church discarded the time and tested teaching of Antioch and embraced this more exciting practice down south in Alexandria, Egypt.
So here are the five reasons, every quickly. Number 1, once you move into allegorization your sermons and your teachings can be immediately relevant to the need of the listener. And what you have to understand is people today have very small attention spans. And they don’t want to come to church and have a guy stand up for half an hour like I do, actually a little more than half an hour, and explain the meaning of the passage. Your average churchgoer today wants to treat the church kind of like Burger King: we want it our way and you’d better say something fast, you’d better make your point quick and it’d better apply directly to my life, and if I don’t get what I need I’ll go down the street to another church that will do it the way I want it done.
So there is a very short attention span in people related to church. We treat church like we would … you would never treat your job that way, you would never treat your academic pursuits that way, but we treat church that way. And the preacher oftentimes succumbs to the pressure and wants to be relevant and so the fast way to be relevant is you just become allegorical. I mean, after all, who wants to hear a boring sermon on the gates around the walls of the city of Jerusalem, it’s more exciting to learn about evangelism, the Holy Spirit, and other things like that.
So once you become allegorical you can become relevant really fast. And it was Howard Hendricks at Dallas Seminary who put it this way and I very much appreciate what he said. He said, “Anybody can be relevant if they don’t care about being biblical. Conversely, anybody can be biblical if they don’t care about being relevant.” The discipline of preaching and teaching is to be both; it’s to establish meaning and explain it to people but then you don’t just leave them there, explain why what you just developed actually relates to their lives. But many people would rather just go fast into relevance until they become allegorical and this was the appeal at the school of Alexandria.
Bernard Ramm says, “But citing verses in the Old Testament, in themselves frequently very obscure, as if superior to verses in the New, revealed no understanding of the significance of historical and progressive revelation for hermeneutics…They considered the Old (especially) and the New Testaments filled with parables, enigmas, and riddles. The allegorical method alone sufficed to bring out the meaning” and you could put “meaning” there in quotes because they weren’t really getting the meaning, “of these parables, enigmas, and riddles.” [Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 30]
So this is why verse by verse teaching through the Bible has taken such a hit because when you’re going verse by verse you’re going to be running into subjects, like genealogies, that God put there but your average person listens to a genealogy and they say well, how does this relate to my life? So the temptation is to skip the genealogy or the temptation is to make the genealogy say something that it’s not saying because of the very short tension span of the listener.
A second reason the church went into allegorization is they started to merge human philosophy with Bible interpretation, and that’s why I had you open up to the book of Colossians, chapter 2 and verse 8, where Paul warned against this. Paul said to the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive” the word “captive” is interesting, once you move into human philosophy you’re now captive to that philosophy, “through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men,” it’s a manmade teaching, “according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Once you move into human philosophy basically what happens is you move away from the full wisdom of Jesus Christ, which is limitless, into a teaching of a man and Paul says it’s “elementary.”
So you exchange the majesty and the depths of the wisdom of Christ for some sort of elementary human philosophy and Paul says it’s like going back to kindergarten, you’re going back and learning the ABC’s all over again when you already know the alphabet, you already know how to write sentences, you know how to write paragraphs, you know how to write papers, you know how to write books, you have all of this wisdom in Christ and you’re abandoning that and you’re going back into the ABC’s. That’s what happens when you exchange the thinking of God for the thinking of man.
And what happened at Alexandria, Egypt is these folks became very philosophical. Now there are a lot of Christians today that are very philosophical. What I mean by that is they’ve bought into some kind of philosophy and they try to merge the Bible with that philosophy. And when you try to merge the Bible with a human philosophy what happens is the two separate at some point. So what do you do when your human philosophy separates from the Bible? Well, you just twist the Bible around, through allegorization, to make it your philosophy.
And this is a practice that people do all of the time; they do it in Genesis 1-11, they’re fallen in love with something Charles Darwin says and they to merge that philosophy with Genesis 1-11. And what’s the end game? Genesis 1-11 starts saying something that it really doesn’t say. Where this is very big today is people fall in love with psychology, human psychology, Freud, Skinner, Young, these types of beliefs, and they try to merge that with the Bible and you make the Bible start saying something it really was never designed to say.
Many people believe in human empowerment, that you can command things into existence through your words and many people try to merge that with the Bible and you come up with the prosperity gospel or the prosperity movement. And see, that’s why Paul is warning here about philosophy and to not let philosophy take over.
So Bernard Ramm says, “The outstanding Jewish allegorist was Philo…He was a thoroughly convinced Jew. To him the Scriptures (primarily in the Septuagint version) were superior to Plato and Greek philosophy…Yet, he had a great fondness for Greek philosophy, especially Plato and Pythagoras. By a most elaborate system of allegorizing he was able to reconcile for himself his loyalty to his Hebrew faith and” at the same time “his love for Greek philosophy.” [Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 27.]
So what he started to do, Philo, is he started to merge human philosophy with the Scripture and doggone it, the Scripture is kind of stubborn; it’s not submitting to my philosophy at certain points; I know what I’ll do, I’ll just allegorize that Scripture.
Ronald Diprose, in a book I highly recommend to you; if you get this and read it, it will explain a lot of these ideas. It’s called Israel in the Development of Christian Thought. Ronald Diprose said, “Clement of Alexandria (c. 155‒c. 220) was unashamedly a Christian Platonist and as such he quoted from Plato, and indeed from other philosophers, with the same ease the He quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Moreover, he interpreted the Bible in light of Platonic concepts…” So platonic concepts becomes the grid through which Clemet of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt, began to read the Scripture. “His dependence upon Plato is further evident in a speculative passage in which the Jews feature as ‘helpers’ while the Christians are considered ‘fit to rule.’” So those Jewish people, you know, God doesn’t have a future for them, the Jews are here to serve us Christians. And so he began to take certain teachings in the Old Testament and allegorize them and make it sound like that’s what the Bible is teaching. And that’s really the origin og what you call replacement theology. Diprose goes on and he talks about another well-known allegorist that I’ll call your attention to in a minute, a maned Origen. “Origen continued the Alexandrian tradition of interpreting the Bible in a way which harmonized with Greek philosophy.” [Israel in the Development of Christian Thought (Rome: IBEI, 2000), 157-58
So whatever philosophy you’re into you’d better be very careful about that because what’s going to happen at some point is the tale is going to start wagging the dog and you’ re going to start being tempted to make the Bible say something it doesn’t say.
A third reason why the church shifted into allegorical interpretation was the influence of something called Gnostic dualism. Alexandria, Egypt, everything we know about it was a hotbed of Gnosticism. Gnostics taught a lot of different things but one of the things that they talked about a lot was dualism and they would say this: the physical world and the material world is bad but the spiritual world is what? It’s good. By the way, is that even biblical? Is the physical world bad? Look at what God said after the six day week of creation: “God saw all that He had made” now what would that be, “all that He had made”? Sunlight, food, procreation, sexuality, all that’s described in Genesis 1, it’s all physical things, right? “God saw all that He had made, and behold,” He doesn’t just say it was good, but He says it was what? “it was very good.” So the physical world is not bad; the physical world has been marred by sin but the physical world in and of itself is not inherently evil. The Gnostics taught that it was.
Now once that becomes your philosophy it starts to wreak havoc on other doctrines of the Bible. One of the things it destroys is your Christology or your doctrine of Christ because the Gnostics would say well how could Jesus have come in a body (the incarnation) because the physical world is what? It’s bad. So something developed in the early church called Cerinthianism, named after the heretic, Cerinthus, and Cerinthus basically taught that Jesus was never the Christ or the Messiah, He was just a guy born into the world. Well, how did He become the Christ? Oh, Cerinthus said, you see the spirit of Christ descended upon Him and that’s how Cerinthus interpreted the Holy Spirit descending like a dove in Christ’s baptism. And the Spirit of Christ left Jesus just before His death, but Jesus was never the Christ. Jesus couldn’t have been the Christ because how could Christ come in a body, because the physical word is bad.
Once you understand that you start understanding what in the world 1 John is talking about. A lot of people try to read 1 John without this background and some of the statements John makes won’t make any sense to you without the background. So John says, 1 John 2:22, “Who is a liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the” what? “the Christ. This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” And that statement is a statement directly aimed at who? Cerinthus, and Cerinthianism, which is an outworking of Gnostic dualism.
Gnostic dualism also took the form of what is called Docetism; Docetism comes from the Greek word dokeō, which means to seem or to appear. And Doectists basically taught that Jesus really didn’t have a body. It looked like He had a body, it seemed or appeared like He had a body but we all know He didn’t have a body because how could God have a body because the physical world is what? Is bad. And this is why 1 John 4:2-3 says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the” who? “the antichrist, [of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world].”
So John, in his little book says Cerinthus is an antichrist, a baby antichrist, and so is the Doectists. The Doectists, the Doectists and Cerinthianism is an outworking of Gnostic dualism. And this Gnostic dualism was very prominent in the Mediterranean world and this is why when we read Paul’s speech on Mars Hill to the pagan philosophers in Greece, and I’ve actually been there and stood where… they didn’t have an X that said Paul stood here, but the general area where Paul gave this speech. Paul made this speech to unbelievers and it says this at the end of the speech: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead” because Paul concludes everything by talking about Jesus rose from the dead, it says “some began to sneer,” well why would they sneer? Because they’ve already bought into Gnostic dualism which says that the physical world is evil. And this mindset, Greece is not very far from Corinth, they’re neighbors basically, this mindset goes right into the Corinthians church in the first century and that’s why these guys in Corinth, although they’re saved they start to second guess resurrection. So Paul has to spend a whole chapter straightening these folks out. In 1 Corinthians 15:12 Paul says, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” How could a Christian church get to the point where they’re denying resurrection? Because they bought into Gnostic dualism which says that the physical world is evil.
And consequently Gnostic dualism gets a stronghold in Alexandria, Egypt, and so in Alexandria, Egypt, they start to deny something that Antioch stood for: Antioch was chiliast, or premillennial, they believed in an earthly kingdom which was yet future, and in Alexandria, Egypt, they start to deny that reality; how could there be a physical kingdom of God on the earth one day because we know that the physical world is what? Evil. And what starts to develop in Alexandria, Egypt, is a doctrine called amillennialism. The “a” prefix is a negation, millennium (as we explained last time) is a Latin word that means a thousand years. They said there is no thousand year kingdom. You know why? Because we’re in the kingdom now. Well, what do you do then with all the prophecies that teach a future kingdom of Christ on the earth? You just run through the grid of allegorization.
And as you study the kingdom of Christ it’s very clear that it’s physical, and there’s actually going to be eating and drinking in that kingdom. Did you know that? Matthew 8:11, Jesus says, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table” what do you do at the table… you eat, “with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” Luke 13:29 says the same thing, “And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” And Jesus, just prior to His death said this about the kingdom, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink” that’s a physical experience, isn’t it, “when I drink it with you” where? “in My Father’s kingdom.” Now in Alexandria, Egypt they said well, that can’t be, there can’t be a physical kingdom like is described here literally because we know that the physical world is evil.
So Renald Showers bring this point to our attention. He says, ““The…factor in his change of view was the influence of Greek philosophy upon his thinking. Before his conversion Augustine was deeply immersed in the study of this philosophy, much of which asserted the inherent evil of the physical or material and the inherent goodness of the totally spiritual.” Before Augustine even got saved Augustine became influenced by Gnostic dualism. “This philosophy continued to leave it’s mark upon him even after his conversion.” Let me read that sentence again. “This philosophy continued to leave it’s mark upon him even after his conversion.”
People think that once you get saved the old baggage just disappears. It says “the old has become new” and positionally that’s true but here’s the reality of the situation: you get saved, especially later in life, you’re dragging your bad way of thinking with you into your new Christian experience. And that’s why Paul commands us in Romans 12:2 to do what with our minds? Renew them. [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”] The mind thinks like this; God says no, I want it to think differently, I want to do some recalibrating.
Augustine, a brilliant man, never went through that change and, “It prompted him to reject as carnal the pre-millennial idea of an earthly political kingdom of God with great material blessings. He believed that in order for the Kingdom of God to be good it must be” what? “spiritual in nature” or non-physical. [John Ankerberg and Renald Showers, The Most Asked Prophecy Questions (Chattanooga, TN: ATRI, 2000), 326.] And thus what you see starting in Alexandria, Egypt is a terrible doctrine called amillennialism.
Now this is a citation from Augustine’s own book; he wrote a book called The City of God in the fourth century which is your first formal treatment of amillennialism in church history. And Augustine says this, “‘And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God; for I myself,” referring to what Antioch taught and chiliasm and premillennialism, “for I myself too, once held this opinion.” But what won in Augustine’s mind? Not the Bible? His Gnostic dualism. Look at what I’ve underlined here: “But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets,” you notice anything physical he calls carnal, anything physical he calls bad, so what is he being influenced by here? Not the Bible, dualism, Gnostic dualism. “… furnished with an amount of meat and drink” gosh, you can’t have meat and drink and get in the kingdom, even though Jesus said they would be sitting at the table and drinking together, “furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only to shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal. They who do believe them are called by the spiritual Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians.” [The City of God, trans., Marcus Dods (NY: Random House, 1950), Book XX, chap. 7, p. 719.]
So what he is saying is Antioch with its chiliasm and millenarianism is wrong; there can’t be an earthly kingdom because the physical world is evil.
Another major influence on the church that shifted it from Antioch to Alexandria is the decline of the Jewish population in the church. There are no Gentile believers in the church until the conversion of a man in Acts 10. Anybody know who that is? Cornelius. Once Cornelius gets saved, Acts 10, you’ve got your first Gentile convert. And by the time Paul launches his missionary journeys outside of the land of Israel, from Antioch, you start to see a pattern. Everywhere Paul goes the Jews, the Hebrews, with very few exceptions are rejecting the gospel. The people that are embracing the gospel are the Gentiles. And the first place this occurs is in Paul’s first missionary journey to southern Galatia and it says this in Acts 13:45, “45 “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming.…”
So everywhere Paul goes he goes to the synagogue first and he almost gets thrown out of the synagogue because they reject his message and in many cases he literally gets thrown out of the synagogue. Then he turns to the Gentiles and the Gentiles start getting saved like crazy. So when I gave my test to my students on Acts and I say what happened in this and this city, in Paul’s missionary journeys, just say this and you’ll get the answer right: Paul went to the Jews, the message was rejected, he turned to the Gentiles and the message is received, because that happens almost everywhere Paul goes.
So in Acts 13:48 it says, “ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing” what the Jews were jealous of the Gentiles were rejoicing and “they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” So what starts to happen with the first missionary journey is the ethnic population of the church changes. You move away from an entity that is almost all Hebrew or almost all Jewish to an entity which the Hebrews become the minority and the Gentiles become the majority. And here we are in 2017 in Sugarland, Texas and we see the same thing, right. We do have a few Hebrew Christians here at Sugar Land Bible Church but that’s not the majority. The majority are Gentiles.
And this get so bad in terms of a switchover that Paul, in Romans 11:17-21, has to straighten these Gentiles out because these Gentiles are becoming derisive or arrogant towards the Hebrews, who are in unbelief.
[Romans 11:17-21, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,  do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;  for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.”]
So Paul uses this example of an olive tree and he talked about the natural branches being taken out of the olive tree (that would be the Hebrews or the Jews in unbelief). And then he talks about these wild olive branches coming… they’re not even olive branches, they’re unnatural branches coming into an olive tree. So who would those unnatural branches be? Gentile Christians. And Paul has to explain in Romans 11:18 that you Gentiles “do not be arrogant towards the natural branches.” The Jews that have been cut out of the tree, for this simple reason: if God can bring into a tree wild branches that don’t belong, which is you, how hard do you think it is for God one day to reach out His hand and take the natural branches, the Jews, and bring them back into their own tree.
And Paul explains in Romans 11 that in fact following the rapture of the church that’s exactly what God is going to do but what I want you to see is the Gentiles, because of the ethnic changeover in the church are becoming very arrogant towards the Jews. So my point is Augustinian, Alexandrian thinking would have never taken over the church if the composition of the church remained Jewish. Why is that? Because Jews from birth are steeped in the Old Testament. They love the Old Testament; they interpret the Old Testament literally.
So if you had taught there before Paul’s first missionary journey the doctrine of amillennialism you would have been laughed right out of the church. But things are different now with Gentiles becoming predominant because Gentiles, what do they know about the Old Testament? Almost nothing; they had no training in the Old Testament, they had no training in Hebrew. So when somebody with the gift of gab sort of stands up and says all of those prophecies are just spiritual the dumb Gentiles (for lack of a better expression) say you know, that sounds good, that sounds spiritual, and I like the way he talks, and he gave me my liver quiver of the day. He’s got the gift of gab which is the three things you need for success in the ministry, the three “g’s”, right: you need good looks, you need the gift of gab and you need a guitar. You got those three things you’re going to go far in ministry.
And so the Gentiles who don’t know anything about the Old Testament just gravitate around the fine sounding orator who sounds a lot like the Greek philosophers and orators that they already knew. And so amillennialism, spiritualizing, all of this sounds really good. A Hebrew audience would have never bought into that. So I think the shift ethnically from Hebrew to Gentile in Christianity paved the way for amillennialism, Gnosticism, human philosophy, allegorization.
And there’s one other thing that happened that caused the shift and it was Constantine’s Edict of Milan which was where this edict was formally made in A.D. 313.
What’s the deal with Constantine, a Roman Emperor in the Edict of Milan? Constantine came on the scene and he said you know, all this persecution of Christianity that we’ve had for all these centuries, the last couple of centuries, that’s all over; no more is there going to be a formal Roman persecution against Christians. And beyond that, we’re going to make Christianity the formal religion of Rome. Now I want you to understand something; Christianity, going back to Nero, around A.D. 64, which is a good couple hundred years or more earlier, which is almost as long, think about this, as the United States of America has been in existence. It’s a long time.
Ever since the days of Nero Christians were persecuted formally by Rome, and this is where the coliseums come from, where Christians were thrown to starving animals to the delight of the masses, and Nero basically… he would look at his garden parties and say you know, we need a little light around here, the sun’s going down, here’s what we’re going to do, let’s take a Christian over there and let’s light them on fire and that’ll be kind of our Christmas tree light or whatever, that will illuminate our garden party. And this is how Christians are treated from A.D. 64, roughly all the way to 313. Then all of a sudden this guy, Constantine gets on the throne of Rome and he says that’s over, and not only is it over, this empire wide persecution, but Christianity is now going to be elevated.
So with the stroke of a pen Christianity with the edict of Milan from being persecuted to being promoted. Now what would you think if you were a Christian living in that change, in that transition? You would think the kingdom is here, wouldn’t you? That would be a logical thought. All of the prophecies of Revelation 20 are being fulfilled now because Revelation 20, doesn’t is say that they are going to reign and rule with Christ? Well, that’s happening right now, so the politics of the day created the right spiritual climate for allegorization and amillennialism to just take off like a rocket. And this is why the church goes under an allegorical spell for over a thousand years, which is an awful long time, isn’t it.
Renald Showers puts it this way: “That new view became known as Amillennialism. Several things prompted this change in Augustine. First, the political situation of the Church in the Roman empire had changed radically around the period of his life. By his time the Roman persecution of the Church had stopped, and the state had made itself the servant of the Church.” I mean, we can’t even get the state to be the servant of the church here in the United States, can we? But that’s what happened in Rome. “As the Roman empire crumbled, the Church stood fast, ready to rule in the place of the empire. It looked as if Gentile world dominion was being crushed and that the Church was becoming victorious over it. Under these circumstances Augustine concluded that Premillennialism” that’s the chiliasm that was taught by Antioch, “was obsolete, and that it did not fit the current situation. In the place of it he developed the idea that the Church is the Kingdom of the Messiah foretold in such Scriptures as Daniel 2 and 7 and Revelation 20. In his book, The City of God, he became the first person to teach the idea that the organized Catholic (Universal) Church is the promised Messianic Kingdom and that the Millennium began with the first coming of Christ.” [John Ankerberg and Renald Showers, The Most Asked Prophecy Questions (Chattanooga, TN: ATRI, 2000), 325.]
Augustine’s ideas would have never really taken a foothold prior to Constantine. But once Constantine comes to the throne the things that Augustine and those in Alexandria, Egypt, were saying become very palatable.
So what shifted and caused the church to reject 200 years of tradition taught in Antioch, emanating from the apostles? Why in the world would they shift. There’s some reasons for it:
Number 1, the Bible teachers wanted to be relevant.
Number 2, the church fell in love with human philosophy and incorporated that into its interpretation of Scripture. They did the very thing Paul said don’t do.
Number 3, Gnostic dualism began to dominate and you can’t have a physical kingdom of God on the earth because the physical world is evil and that’s where the doctrine of amillennialism comes from and it’s hampered other doctrines related to the incarnation.
Number 4, you have a decline of the church’s Jewish population. A Hebrew audience would have never bought into this but a Gentile uneducated audience in the Old Testament began to buy into it and finally it fit the politics of the day because Constantine elevated Christianity and reversed the trend of persecution. And so consequently the whole church shifts.
Now I’m not going to go any further than this because I’m out of time but next week I want to show you two key men who orchestrated this change; one is named Origen, I made a few references to him out of Alexandria, Egypt, and another is Augustine. Augustine is the most influential theologian in church history. And when I use the word “influential” I’m not using the word influential for good, although he did do some good things, but influential for bad because he took the amillennial doctrine and systematized it in his book, The City of God. So by the time The City of God is written the church now has its first formal published treatise defending amillennialism and amillennialism just takes off. Allegorization takes off and you know what that led to? The third part in our outline, the Dark Ages which lasted over a thousand years. There’s always faithful remnants throughout the Dark Ages; God always has faithful people. But it wasn’t the majority opinion.
So by the time the Spirit of God gets His hand on Martin Luther and the Reformers, what they’re doing is they’re pulling us out of the Dark Ages, and a lot of them, like John Huss, were burned at the stake for trying to do it. The same with William Tyndale. And see, you can’t appreciate what God did through these Protestant Reformers until you see what the devil did to destroy the doctrine of the church. And so that’s sort of the direction we’re going. So I’ll take you into Origen and Augustine next week and I’ll get into a time period called the Dark Ages.
So, 10:45, I stopped on time. See, I’m Antiochian in my beliefs in literal interpretation: 10:45 means 10:45, right. I guess if anybody has a fast question we could try to answer that.