Category Archives: Christian Culture

The Plain Truth About Christmas

The Plain Truth About Christmas

I don’t want to seem like a Grinch, but what bothers me about this time of year is how we (the human race) celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Instead of celebrating His birth, we are too busy celebrating a pagan holiday, not the truth.

So, where did we get Christmas? . . . from the Bible, or paganism?

Here are the astonishing facts which may shock you! Test yourself. How much do you know of the origin of the Christmas tree—of “Santa Claus”—of the mistletoe—holly wreath—of the custom of exchanging gifts?

WHEN I was a very little boy, I was taught to hang up my stockings on Christmas eve. When I was awakened the next morning, they were filled with small toys and sacks or little boxes of candy and nuts. And beside the mantle, from which my stockings hung, a Christmas tree has suddenly appeared, decorated with shiny tinsel. And on it hung presents. Other presents for us children were piled on the floor underneath. I was told Santa Claus had come down the chimney during the night and left all these things.

But did I question what my parents told me? Of course not. I accepted it—took it all for granted. Didn’t you?

Stop and think a moment! Very few have ever reflected on why they believe what they do—why they follow the customs they do, or from where those customs came. We were born into a world filled with customs. We grew up accepting them without question.

Why? Sheep instinct? Well, not exactly.

But by nature we do tend to follow the crowd, whether right or wrong. Sheep follow others to the slaughter. Humans ought to check up where they are going.

How—when did Christmas originate?

Does Christmas really celebrate the birthday of Christ? Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Did the original apostles, who knew Jesus personally and were taught by Him, celebrate His birthday on December 25th? Did they celebrate it at all?

If Christmas is the chief of the Christian holidays, why do so many non-Christians observe it? Do you know?

Why do people exchange presents with family members, friends, relatives at Christmas time? Was it because the wise men presented gifts to the Christ-child? The answer may surprise you.

Most people have “supposed” a lot of things about Christmas that are not true. But let’s quit “supposing” and get the facts!

What Encyclopedias Say

The word “Christmas” means “Mass of Christ,” or, as it came to be shortened, “Christ–Mass.” It came to non-Christians and Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. And where did they get it? NOT from the New Testament—NOT from the Bible—NOT from the original apostles who were personally instructed from Christ—but it gravitated in the fourth century into the Roman Church from paganism.

Since the celebration of Christmas has come to the world from the Roman Catholic Church, and has no authority but that of the Roman Catholic Church, let us examine the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, published by that church. Under the heading “Christmas,” you will find:

“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church . . . the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” “Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas.”

And in the same encyclopedia, under the heading “Natal Day,” we find that the early Catholic father, Origen, acknowledged this truth: “. . . In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners [like Pharaoh and Herod] who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1946 edition, has this: “Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ). . . . Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church. . . .” It was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism.

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition, says: “Christmas. . . . It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth. . . .” (The “Communion,” which is instituted by New Testament Bible authority, is a memorial of the death of Christ.) “. . . A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

Now notice! These recognized historical authorities show Christmas was not observed by Christians for the first two or three hundred years—a period longer than the entire history of the United States as a nation! It got into the Western, or Roman Church, by the fourth century AD. It was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival!

Jesus Not Born December 25th

Jesus was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born “8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). This could never have occurred in Judaea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date. Notice that the Bible itself proves, in Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, 13, that winter was a rainy season not permitting shepherds to abide in open fields at night.

Song of Solomon 2:11 (NKJV)
11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.

Ezra 10:9 (NKJV)
9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

Ezra 10:13 (NKJV)
13 But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter.

“It was ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at commencement of the first rain,” says the Adam Clarke Commentary (Vol. 5, page 370, New York ed.)

Continuing, this authority states: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As . . . the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And, as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact. . . . See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”

Any encyclopedia, or any other authority, will tell you that Christ was not born on December 25. The Catholic Encyclopedia frankly states this fact.

The exact date of Jesus’ birth is entirely unknown, as all authorities acknowledge—though if I had space in this blog I could show you Scriptures which at least strongly indicate that it was in the early fall—probably September—approximately six months after Passover.

If God had wished us to observe and celebrate Christ’s birthday, He would not have so completely hidden the exact date.

How This Pagan Custom Got into the Church

Then how did this pagan custom creep into the Western Christian world?

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains clearly, in its article on “Christmas”: “How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the ‘new sun,’ . . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. . . . The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”

Remember, the Roman world had been pagan. Prior to the fourth century, Christians were few in number, though increasing, and were persecuted by the government and by pagans. But, with the advent of Constantine as emperor, who made his profession of Christianity in the fourth century, placing Christianity on an equal footing with paganism, people of the Roman world began to accept this now-popular Christianity by the hundreds of thousands.

But remember, these people had grown up in pagan customs, chief of which was this idolatrous festival of December 25th. It was a festival of merrymaking, with its special spirit. They enjoyed it! They didn’t want to give it up! Now this same article in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains how the recognition by Constantine of Sunday, which had been the day of pagan sun worship, and how the influence of the pagan Manichaeism, which identified the SON of God with the physical SUN, gave these pagans of the fourth century, now turning over wholesale to “Christianity,” their excuse for calling their pagan-festival date of December 25th (birthday of the SUN-god) the birthday of the SON of God.

And that is how “Christmas” became fastened on our Western world! We may call it by another name, but it’s the same old pagan sun-worshipping festival still! The only change is in what we call it! You can call a rabbit a “lion,” but it’s still a rabbit, just the same.

Again from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast, the birthday of the unconquered SUN . . . The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending . . . that the feast of December 25th, had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus. . . .”

The Real Origin of Christmas

But if we got Christmas from the Roman Catholics, and they got it from paganism, where did the pagans get it? Where, when, and what was its real origin?

It is a chief custom of the corrupt system denounced all through Bible prophecies and teachings under the name of Babylon. And it started and originated in the original Babylon of ancient Nimrod! Yes, it stems from roots whose beginning was shortly this side of the Flood!

Nimrod, grandson of Ham, son of Noah, was the real founder of the Babylonish system that has gripped the world ever since—the system of organized competition—of man-ruled governments and empires, based upon the competitive and profit-making economic system. Nimrod built the tower of Babel, the original Babylon, ancient Nineveh, many other cities. He organized the world’s first kingdom. The name Nimrod, in Hebrew, is derived from “Marad,” meaning “he rebelled.”

From many ancient writings, considerable is learned of this man, who started the great organized worldly apostasy from God that has dominated this world until now. Nimrod was so evil, it is said he married his own mother, whose name was Semiramis. After Nimrod’s untimely death, his so-called mother-wife, Semiramis, propagated the evil doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead tree stump, which symbolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Nimrod. On each anniversary of his birth, she claimed, Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25th was the birthday of Nimrod. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree.

Through her scheming and designing, Semiramis became the Babylonian “Queen of Heaven,” and Nimrod, under various names, became the “divine son of heaven.” Through the generations, in this idolatrous worship, Nimrod became the false Messiah, son of Baal the Sun-god. In this false Babylonish system, the “Mother and Child,” (Semiramis and Nimrod reborn), became chief objects of worship. This worship of “Mother and Child” spread over the world. The names varied in different countries and languages. In Egypt, it was Isis and Osiris. In Asia, Cybele and Deoius. In Pagan Rome, Fortuna and Jupiterpuer. Even in Greece, China, Japan, Tibet is to be found the counterpart of the Madonna, long before the birth of Christ!

Thus, during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the pagans of the Roman world were “accepting” the new popular “Christianity” by hundreds of thousands, carrying their old pagan customs and beliefs along with them, merely cloaking them with Christian-sounding names, the Madonna and “Mother and Child” idea also became popularized, especially at Christmas time. Every Christmas season you’ll hear sung and chanted dozens of times the hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night,” with its familiar “Mother and Child” theme. We, who have been born in such a babylonish world, reared and steeped in these things all our lives, have been taught to revere these things as holy, and sacred. We never questioned to see where they came from—whether they came from the Bible, or from pagan idolatry!

We are shocked to learn the truth—some, unfortunately, take offense at the plain truth! But God commands His faithful ministers, ” Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1) Shocking as these facts are, they are the plain facts of history and the Bible!

The real origin of Christmas goes back to the ancient Babylon. It is bound up in the organized apostasy with which Satan has gripped a deceived world these many centuries! In Egypt, it was always believed that the son of Isis (Egyptian name for “Queen of Heaven”) was born December 25th. Paganism celebrated this famous birthday over most of the known world for centuries before the birth of Christ.

December 25th is not the birthday of Jesus the true Christ! The apostles and early
true Church never celebrated Christ’s birthday at any time. There is no command or instruction to celebrate it in the Bible—rather, the celebrating of birthdays is a pagan, not a Christian custom, believe it or not!

Thus the ancient idolatrous “Chaldean Mysteries,” founded by this wife of Nimrod, have been handed down through the pagan religions under new Christian-sounding names.

Origin of Holly Wreath, Mistletoe, Yule Log

Now, where did we get this mistletoe custom? Among the ancient pagans the mistletoe was used at this festival of the winter solstice because it was considered sacred to the sun, because of its supposed miraculous healing power. The pagan custom of kissing under the mistletoe was an early step in the night of revelry and drunken debauchery—celebrating the death of the “old sun” and the birth of the new at the winter solstice. Mistletoe, sacred in pagan festivals, is a PARASITE!

Holly berries were also considered sacred to the sun-god. The Yule log is in reality the “sun log.” “Yule” means “wheel,” a pagan symbol of the sun. Yet today professing Christians speak of the “sacred yule-tide season!”

Even the lighting of fires and candles as a Christmas ceremony is merely a continuation of the pagan custom, encouraging the waning sun-god as he reached the lowest place in the southern skies!

The Encyclopedia Americana says: “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log . . . are relics of pre-Christian times.” Of paganism!

The book Answers to Questions, compiled by Frederick J. Haskins, found in public libraries, says: “The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era.”

What About Santa Claus?

Surely dear old Santa Claus is not a creature of pagan birth? But he is, and his real character is not so benevolent and holy as many suppose!

The name “Santa Claus” is a corruption of the name “St. Nicholas,” a Roman Catholic bishop who lived in the 5th century. Look in the Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 19, pages 648-649, where you’ll read: “St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on the sixth of December. . . . A legend of his surreptitious bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen . . . is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of St. Nicholas [Dec. 6], subsequently transferred to Christmas day. Hence the association of Christmas with Santa Claus. . . .”

Through the year, parents punish their children for telling falsehoods. Then, at Christmas time, they themselves tell their little children this “Santa Claus” lie! Is it any wonder many of them, when they grow up and learn the truth, begin to believe God is a myth, too?

Is it Christian to teach children myths and falsehoods? God says 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) It may seem right, and be justified by human reason, but God says “12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) “Old Nick” also is a term for the devil! Is there a connection? Satan appears as an “angel of light,” to deceive! (II Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9)

2 Corinthians 11:14 (NKJV)
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

Revelation 12:9 (NKJV)
9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And so when we examine the facts, we are astonished to learn that the practice of observing Christmas is not, after all, a true Christian practice, but a Pagan custom—one of the ways of Babylon our people have fallen into!

What the Bible Says About the Christmas Tree

But if the Bible is silent about telling us to observe Christmas, or recording any such observance by the apostles or early true Church, it does have something to say about the Christmas tree!

This will come as a real surprise to many. But here it is:

Jeremiah 10:2-6, “2 Thus says the Lord, Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. . . . For the customs of the peoples are futile; . . . For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”

There is a perfect description of the Christmas tree, termed by the Eternal as “the way of the heathen—the custom of the people.” We are commanded not to learn that way or follow it! It is also viewed in this passage as idolatry. The fifth verse shows that these trees cannot speak—cannot walk—must be carried. “Do not be afraid of them, for they [the trees] cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” They are not gods to be feared. Some people misread this to make it say there is no harm in having a Christmas tree, but that is not what it says.

Is Exchanging Gifts Scriptural?

But when it comes to the most important part of all in this Christmas observance—the Christmas SHOPPING season—the buying and exchanging of gifts—many will exclaim triumphantly, “Well, at least the Bible tells us to do that! Didn’t the wise men give gifts, when Christ was born?”

Again, we are due for some surprises, when we learn the plain truth. First, let’s look at the historic origin of trading gifts back and forth, then see exactly what the Bible does say about it.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153-155, we quote, “The interchange of
presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows.”

The fact is, this custom fastened upon people of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives at the Christmas season has not a single trace of Christianity about it, strange though that may seem! This does not celebrate Christ’s birthday or honor it or Him! Suppose someone you love has a birthday. You want to honor that person on his or her birthday. Would you lavishly buy gifts for everyone else, trading gifts back and forth with all your other friends and loved ones, but ignore completely any gift for the one whose birthday you are honoring? Rather absurd, when viewed in that light, isn’t it?

Yet this is exactly what people the world over are doing! They honor a day that is not Christ’s birthday by spending every dime they can scrape together in buying presents to trade back and forth among friends and relatives. But I can say by years of experience that when the month of December rolls around, almost all professing Christians forget to give gifts to Christ and His cause almost altogether! December always is the most difficult month to keep Christ’s work from dying! People are too busy trading gifts back and forth among themselves to think of Him and His Work, it seems. Then, in January and even into February it seems they have to catch up from what they spent for Christmas, so they seldom get back to normal in supporting Christ and His Work before March!

Now consider what the Bible says about giving gifts when Christ was born. It is in Matthew 2:1-11. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ . . . And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:1-11 (NKJV)
Wise Men from the East
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Why Gifts Presented to Christ

Notice, they inquired for the child Jesus, who was born KING of the Jews! Now why did they present gifts to Him? Because it was His birthday? Not at all, because they came several days or weeks after the date of His birth! Was it to set an example for us, today, to trade gifts back and forth among ourselves? No, notice carefully! They did not exchange gifts among themselves, but “they presented unto HIM gifts.” They gave their gifts to Christ, not to their friends, relatives, or one another!

Why? Let me quote from the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 46: “Verse 11. (They presented unto Him gifts.) The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages, without a present in their hands. The custom is often noticed in the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of the newly discovered South Sea Islands.”

There it is! They were not instituting a new Christian custom of exchanging gifts with friends to honor Christ’s birthday. They were following an old and ancient eastern custom of presenting gifts to a king when they come into his presence. They were approaching Him, born KING of the Jews, in person. Therefore custom required they present gifts—even as the Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon—even as many people today take a gift along when they visit the White House for an appointment with the President.

No, the custom of trading GIFTS back and forth does not stem from this scriptural incident at all, but rather, as quoted from history above, it is the continuance of an ancient pagan custom. Instead of honoring Christ, it invariably retards His Work, often sets it back, at the Christmas season every year.

Does It Really Honor Christ?

There are two arguments often used to justify Christmas observance.

1) Many will reason this way: “But, even though the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, should we not select some date to celebrate as His birthday?” The answer is positively NO! Did you not notice the statement quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthdays.” The celebration of birthdays is not a Christian, but a pagan custom, observed by sinners!

2) But, many still reason, “Even so—even though Christmas was a pagan custom, honoring the false sun-god, we don’t observe it to honor the false god, we observe it to honor Christ.”

But how does GOD answer in His Word? “30 Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [the pagans in their customs] after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31 NKJV).

God says plainly in His Instruction Book to us, that He will not accept that kind of worship, even though intended in His honor. To Him, He says, it is offering what is abominable to Him, and therefore it honors, not Him, but false pagan gods. GOD says we must not worship Him according to the “dictates of our own conscience”—a term we often hear. But Jesus says plainly, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). And what is truth? God’s Word—the Holy Bible—said Jesus is truth (John 17:17); and the Bible says God will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor Christ with it.

John 17:17 (NKJV)
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Again, Jesus said: ” 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9). Christmas observance is a tradition of men, and the commandments of God, as quoted, forbid it. Jesus said, further, ” 9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition..” (Mark 7:9)

That is precisely what the millions are doing today. They ignore the commandment of God. He commands, regarding taking the customs of the pagans and using them to honor or worship God: ” 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” (Deuteronomy 12:31) Still, most people today take that command of God lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.

Make no mistake! God will allow you to defy and disobey Him. He will allow you to follow the crowd and the traditions of men. He will allow you to sin. But He also says there is a day of reckoning coming. As you sow, so shall you reap! Jesus was the living Word of God in Person, and the Bible is the written Word of God. And we shall be judged, for eternity, by these words! They should not be taken lightly or ignored.

We’re in Babylon, and Haven’t Known It

Christmas has become a commercial season. It’s sponsored, kept alive, by the heaviest retail advertising campaigns of the year. You see a masqueraded “Santa Claus” in many stores. Ads keep us deluded and deceived about the “beautiful Christmas spirit.” The newspapers, who sell the ads, print flowery editorials exalting and eulogizing the pagan season, and its “spirit.” A gullible people has become so inoculated, many take offense when told the truth. But the “Christmas spirit” is created each year, not to honor Christ, but to sell merchandise! Like all Satan’s delusions, it appears as an “angel of light,” is made to appear good. Billions of dollars are spent in this merchandising spree every year, while the cause of Christ must suffer! It’s part of the economic system of Babylon!

We have professed to be Christian nations, but we’re in Babylon, as Bible prophecy foretold, and we don’t know it! “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”—now soon to fall—is the warning of  Revelation 18:4.

Revelation 18:4 (NKJV)
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

This year, instead of gift trading, why not put that money into God’s Work?

Can We Win People for Christ?

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more . . .” —I Corinthians 9:19

In John 10:35Jesus Christ makes a parenthetical statement that is easy to overlook, and yet it is a foundational principle when it comes to understanding the Bible. He says, “. . . and the Scripture cannot be broken. . .” (emphasis mine throughout).

John 10:35-36 (NKJV)

35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

The written Word of God is another part of His creative work, and in His inspired words, we see the same forethought, consistency, and magnificence that we see in everything that God does. Because His character is true and constant, the Scriptures can never be contradictory. When we encounter something in them that seems incongruous, the defect is only in our understanding, not in what God has provided for us.

The religious tradition that took root and gained prominence after the deaths of the first-century apostles did not hold this principle unscathed, and as a result, formal Christianity today holds doctrines that are an unholy mixture of portions of the Scripture, along with pagan beliefs and philosophies that have been picked up through the millennia. In contrast, true doctrines fit together in a unified whole, each one supporting and reinforcing the overall body of beliefs. Because of this, if one doctrine is changed or misapplied, the consistency of the whole begins to unravel.

A clear example of this is what the Bible steadfastly shows regarding God’s calling and election. Scripture teaches that a man cannot even approach the Messiah unless the Father draws, or calls, him (John 6:44: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”). In other words, salvation is not available to all people right now. But because not all professing Christians truly hold to the infallibility of God’s Word, many believe that anyone can accept Jesus Christ as his Savior, and all that is needed is for other Christians to win over the unsaved. Sometimes this belief is pure and altruistic, and at other times the belief is shaded by a desire to win a person over to a particular denomination or administrative entity. Either way, the conventional religious wisdom is that we can—and should — “win people for Christ.”

However, this belief does not exist in a vacuum. A person’s understanding of God’s calling is linked with his belief in the different resurrections. It is crucial to the understanding of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles because these festivals symbolize different physical and spiritual harvests—one early, smaller harvest and one later, much larger harvest. It shapes the understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom and tempers expectations on the effect when the world hears the gospel. If the scriptures about God’s calling are broken, then many other core beliefs begin to break down as well.

 Winning the More

However, one passage seems to suggest that Paul tried to win people for Christ. It is found in  Corinthians 9:19-22:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as wIithout law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul mentions five times here that he is trying to “win” different people, and in verse 22, he writes that he is trying to “save some.” This passage is commonly interpreted that Paul would present himself differently in various circumstances to win people for Christ; he became all things to all men in order to “save” at least some of them. This interpretation fits the general evangelical belief that Christians should do whatever is necessary to “win souls for Christ” and to get all manner of people “saved” before they die.

However, if that is what this passage means, then holy Scripture is broken! Such a reading contradicts numerous other clear biblical statements. For example, as alluded to above, in John 6:44,  Jesus says, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” A little later in John 6:65, He reiterates this: “. . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Without the Father providing an individual an approach to Christ, he cannot come to Him for salvation. The Father must intervene first—human intervention makes no difference.

Acts 13 contains the story of Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Luke writes in verse 48: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Even though the apostles preached to many, only certain people believed what they heard because only they had been appointed to eternal life.

John 17:3 provides a basic definition of the eternal life to which some were appointed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life, then, is not merely endless living, but is the quality of life that comes from having relationships with the Father and the Son—and only the Father determines who will have such relationships during this age. Those who are not appointed to eternal life now will have their opportunity in the second resurrection.

This parallels Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8 that grace and saving faith are both gifts from God (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”). He is not beholden to give the faith that saves—that is why it comes as a gift only to some. In fact, in II Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle says that “not all [men] have faith.” An interlinear Bible will show that the Greek contains a definite article— “the”—before “faith”: “not all have the faith.” There is a specific faith, but only those to whom God gives it have it.

Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Claiming Jesus as our Lord has no effect if He does not know us ((23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ verse 23), and as John6:44   shows, the Father determines whether a person can even approach Jesus Christ (44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”).

In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (verse 39). But without that calling, the promise does not apply. Likewise, Jesus declares that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:1622:14).

Many verses mention God’s specific foreknowledge, calling, and election of some and not others (Acts 13:222:14Romans 1:6-78:28-309:1111:216:13I Corinthians 1:91:24-28Galatians 1:65:8Ephesians 1:4;4:1Colossians 3:15I Thessalonians 1:42:124:75:24II Thessalonians 1:112:13-14I Timothy 6:12II Timothy 1:9Hebrews 3:19:15I Peter 1:22:95:10II Peter 1:10Jude 1Revelation 17:14).

Clearly, God has specifically determined who will come into a relationship with Him during this age—and it is not everyone!

If the scriptures are to remain unbroken, either all of these examples of God limiting salvation right now are wrong, or the common interpretation of I Corinthians 9:19-22 misses the mark!

 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NKJV)

 Serving All Men

 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU-Text adds though not being myself under the law.

b. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads God’s law.

c. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads Christ’s law.

d. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU-Text omits

To Win Is to Gain

What Paul means in this passage becomes clear when we understand the sense and usage of two Greek words, those translated as “win” and “save.” In the evangelical world, both of them have taken on lives of their own, but with just a little digging, we will see that no contradiction lies between this passage and the numerous other clear statements.

The word translated as “win” is kerdaino (Strong’s #2770), and its basic meaning is “gain,” which is how it is typically translated. It means “to acquire by effort or investment.” It can mean “to earn” or “to make a profit.” The flipside is that it can also mean “to cause a loss not to occur.”

This word is used infrequently, but the verses that contain it are well known. For example, Jesus uses it when He cautions against gaining the whole world yet losing one’s own soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36Luke 9:27). The gain is a physical or material one—it is not speaking of evangelizing the whole world. It also appears in the Parable of the Talents, where two of the servants gain more talents through their efforts and investments

(Matthew 25:16-22).

 Kerdaino is also found in the well-known Matthew 18:15, where Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The gaining here is not about “winning” someone “for Christ.” When we gain our brother, we are gaining a better relationship. We are keeping a breach in the relationship from continuing. We receive a profit, as it were, by enhancing the connection or bond between us. There is no implication that we are opening his mind to the mysteries of God’s Kingdom. It simply means that after bringing a sin to his attention, if he hears and receives us, then we have gained our brother because the relationship has been restored. There is a similar usage in I Peter 3:1-2:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

Quite a number of translators and commentators read into this verse that the example of the godly wife wins the husband to Christ. But Peter makes no mention of Jesus in these verses, nor is he saying that a godly wife has the ability to call, let alone convert, an unbelieving husband. As shown already, God alone retains the power to open a person’s mind and give him the faith that produces spiritual salvation.

This is not to deprecate the power of a good example in the least. Our example is a large part of whether we are upholding the holiness of God’s name or bearing it in vain. Our example gives evidence of our spiritual paternity, for either we will resemble Satan or we will resemble God. When we display the same characteristics as our heavenly Father, He is glorified, and those who observe our good example can see that God’s way of life produces good results.

However, even the very best example will not convert another unless God is also calling him or her. Even after 3½ years of walking and preaching on earth, the perfect witness of the Son of God did not convert everyone He encountered! If a good example were all that was needed, we could expect that everyone who observed Jesus would come to Him—but that is not what happened at all! After His death, there were only about 120 disciples (or perhaps 120 families; Acts 1:15). Obviously, God did not call every person who encountered Jesus—He will call them when they are resurrected.

Clearly, the conduct of a child of God is of utmost importance, particularly in the case of one spouse being called and converted while the other is not. Yet, even if the believing spouse sets a perfect example, “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” will not win the unbelieving spouse for Christ. Instead, the “winning” or the “gaining” in I Peter 3:1 is similar to the gaining of our brother in Matthew 18:15. Just as it may be possible (through our efforts) to have a more profitable relationship with a brother who sinned against us, so it may also be possible for a godly wife to gain the heart of an unbelieving husband, so that he respects her more and begins to let go of his animosity.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Submission to Husbands

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)

Dealing with a Sinning Brother

 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

This is similar to Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can cause an enemy to begin looking favorably upon one of His children, and thus the former foe is gained. By our efforts, though, we can only gain a person in terms of the human relationship. We cannot cause a relationship to occur between man and God—only God can initiate that.

In the same way, the winning or gaining that Paul is striving for in I Corinthians 9:19-22 is simply protecting or improving the connection he had with the people he encountered. His gaining of these people was not the same thing as converting them or of opening their minds to the reality of God. He was trying not to be unnecessarily offensive, but the scope of his behavior was entirely on the level of human interaction, not on getting people saved in a spiritual or eternal sense.

Save Some” From What?

This leads us to verse 22, where Paul speaks of “save [ing] some.” Sometimes we have an automatic tendency to think of eternal salvation, or at the very least justification, whenever we hear the words “save” or “saved.” However, that is only one facet of the Greek word translated as “save,” sozo (Strong’s #4982), whose basic meaning is “to make safe.” It can be expanded to mean “to deliver or protect, either literally or figuratively.”

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NKJV)

22 to the weak I became as[a] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:22NU-Text omits

This word is frequently used in reference to physical deliverance from a dangerous or undesirable situation, and is often translated as “heal,” “preserve,” and “make whole.” When healing people, Jesus would tell them, “Your faith has made you whole. He was essentially saying, “Your faith has saved you”but the salvation was a physical one. The person was saved from a condition of misery.

In the highest sense, a person is not ultimately saved — “safe”—until he or she is no longer subject to death or to sin, which earns death. That is, we are not truly safe until “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). Until resurrected or changed at Christ’s return—until we are “like Him” (I John 3:2), and “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8)—we are subject to the corruption of our human nature, the breakdown of our physical bodies, and the cessation of life, all things that keep us from being eternally safe. Until we are spirit beings, we will always be in need of deliverance, protection, healing, and restoration. Even the salvation that takes place upon our repentance and the forgiveness of our past sins does not guarantee our future safety, for until we take our final breath, it is possible for us to turn away from God and reject His way of life.

When analyzing I Corinthians 9:22, then, we have to consider what kind of salvation Paul is talking about. Since no man is saved eternally at the point of conversion, he is not referring to eternal salvation. We also know that he could not have meant justification here either, because even an apostle does not have the power to justify. Nor was he given the authority to impart true belief. As we saw, only those whom God appoints to eternal life at this time are going to believe. So that sort of saving is not what Paul is talking about.

Before we get to the full explanation, we need to take a step back and understand how this passage fits with the rest of the epistle. I Corinthians 8-10 relate to the controversy over eating meat offered to idols. Paul’s basic teaching throughout these chapters is that it was far better for the Corinthians to deny themselves a perfectly lawful thing than to risk causing a brother to stumble. Through much of this instruction, he uses his own pattern of self-denial as an example, showing in various ways that he would go without lawful things to keep from causing unnecessary offense.

Thus, if he were interacting with the Jews, he would deny himself things that could be offensive to them but that technically would have been fine. It is not that he would compromise with God’s standards, but he would limit himself for the sake of not turning people away. This is what he was doing to gain them. By these means, he was working for a more profitable relationship. His basic point in the overall context is that, if he were willing to do this to gain people who were not even converted, then the Corinthians should be willing to limit and restrain themselves for the sake of gaining their own brethren. A person who is “gained” is more likely to hear what we have to say, so we may be used to help them in some way.

Seeking Positive Rapport

So what does Paul mean by writing, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? He may have been referring to their eventual salvation, which he might play a part in, but which he could not actually claim as having brought about. As he had previously written: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”(I Corinthians 3:6-7).

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

However, there is a type of “saving” that Paul could have a hand in through his preaching: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

Bring Back the Erring One

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[a] from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Footnotes:

a. James 5:20 NU-Text reads his soul.

James is not referring to eternal salvation or justification. He means making a man safe by helping him to stop a sin. If a person is sliding into apostasy, and someone turns him back, a type of salvation has occurred, for the one who had been going astray is now on a safer trajectory. If an individual helps another avoid or overcome any sin, a type of salvation has occurred because there is always greater safety where sin has been diminished. This salvation is only a shadow of the kind that God gives, but a saving nonetheless occurs anytime protection or deliverance is provided.

Thus, I Corinthians 9:19-22 shows that, wherever possible, Paul practiced self-denial so that he could gain a positive rapport with others. In this way, he might help them because his preaching of the truth could stir repentance in some area. He is not suggesting that through his preaching or example a person would be justified and brought into a relationship with God, but that his life would be better because there would be at least a little less enmity toward God and His way.

Without compromising, Paul kept the door open so that he could preach, and perhaps his preaching would protect or deliver someone in a small way, even if God was not calling the individual. Nevertheless, Paul was not bringing people into a relationship with Christ, nor is he suggesting that we try to do that either.