The Bible speaks much of the beginning of things. In understanding beginnings we are able to properly understand both the physical and spiritual world about us. If we do not properly identify beginnings our beliefs and doctrines will invariably be distorted. During the years in which I have labored as a minister to the body of Christ as a teacher I have encountered many erroneous ideas about the beginning of things. Some of the beginnings that God has given us information about so that we might be established in truth are:
The beginning of the creation of God.
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this…
The beginning of the heavens and the earth.
In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.
The beginning of sin.
I John 3:8
The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The beginning of murder and lying.
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.
There are Bible teachers who are promoting errant doctrines and false understandings of these beginnings. They have fallen short of rightly dividing the word of God. I frequently have occasion to converse with members of the body of Christ whose minds have been misled by indiscriminately feeding upon that which is false. I am not seeking to cast stones at such ones.
Many people come to the Lord through the evangelistic efforts of Christians who are members of churches that have long ago fallen away from an understanding of truth. People tend to trust those who lead them to the Lord. Those who are babes in Christ often lack discrimination in that which they are imbibing. They lap up whatever Biblical instruction is given to them, not suspecting that it is tainted.
Some years ago I read a tragic story of a newborn baby who died in a hospital when a nurse mistakenly grabbed a container of saline water thinking it was nursing formula. Any adult who tasted the saline water would have recognized what it was at once, and would have rejected it. The baby, however, did not have its sense of taste developed and eagerly devoured the solution. The small infant died as a result of saline poisoning, an excess of salt in the body.
What I have found to be true in my life, and that of a great many other sons and daughters of God, is that once we began to mature spiritually we started to test the things that were being fed to us by our pastor, Sunday School teacher, parents, or other individuals who acted as teachers. Having personally been brought up in church from the time I was a young child, I innocently imbibed many doctrines that I never suspected contained error. I trusted the adults in my life. I had no reason to suspect that they were teaching me things about God, the world, and Yahweh’s kingdom that were not true.
Consequently, I spent many years of my later life testing what had been delivered to me in my physical youth and spiritual immaturity. I found that a great many things, including some important foundational doctrines, had been delivered to me in a highly adulterated state. As I began to be taught of God, and to apply myself to a pursuit of truth, I was at times shocked by the great disparity between what I was taught in my youth and what God was teaching me as an adult.
Many people stumble at this point. If their hunger for truth, and a desire to stand approved before God, does not exceed their regard for the people around them, the traditions that are dear to them, and the continued fellowship of men and women in the church, they will often balk when they encounter teachings that contradict what they first received. Additionally, if a person has a pride of knowledge, they will be hindered from casting off their errant beliefs. It requires humility to be corrected. The proud do not like to receive instruction, or to admit that they once held to error.
As a Bible teacher with an Internet audience, I frequently encounter people who disagree with the things I am teaching. Quite often their beliefs are traceable back to their upbringing in a particular church, or denomination. People frequently form strong emotional bonds to doctrines. They associate their beliefs with a respected minister, or beloved saint. They may remember their experiences in a particular church with much fondness. Some view it as an attack when another Christian calls into question any of the doctrines that were imparted to them.
Many times I observe people getting quite emotional when they express their disagreement with something I am teaching. One might think I had insulted their parents, a beloved pastor, or their best friend. Christians need to recognize that even the best intentioned and sincere individuals can, and often do, pass along false doctrines to others. The motive of the person teaching error need not be malicious. I suspect most do so in ignorance, and often with great fervor of conviction. It is quite possible, however, to have zeal that is not in accordance with knowledge (Romans 10:2).
Because of people’s strong emotional attachments to their beliefs, and the anger that arises in their soul when they encounter teaching that is contrary to what they have previously received, I frequently find myself urging those who write to me to exercise the fruit of the Holy Spirit, while ruling over their fleshly passions.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Yahshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
It really is not possible to make progress in God’s kingdom apart from exercising the fruit of the Spirit. If a Christian does not manifest the patience to listen intelligently to what another is saying, they cannot benefit from what is shared. If a man or woman is not humble, they cannot be taught. Therefore, I entreat those with disagreements to clothe themselves with the Spirit of Christ. Carnal believers who are irascible, quick to speak and slow to hear, condemn themselves to remain fixed in error.
If you find that some of the things I share in this series relating to beginnings are contrary to what you were taught by others, I exhort you to manifest the patience to intelligently consider what is shared. I entreat you to pray to the Father, asking Him to disclose to you truth and error and to lead you in the path of understanding. I fully anticipate that many, indeed most, readers have been taught something different. (I was.) It will require patience on your part to search the Scriptures, laying aside all bias. You will have to rise up in spirit and rule over any emotions that are stirred up due to a personal affinity to an individual, group, church, denomination, or to a doctrine itself. If your goal is to apprehend truth and walk in the understanding and wisdom of God, you should do well.
As important as truth is, I believe it is even more important that believers demonstrate love for one another. The apostle Paul wrote:
I Corinthians 13:1-2
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge…, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If you or I possess truth, or an understanding of the mysteries of God, but fail to communicate with others in a spirit of love, we have become nothing more than a discordant noise in God’s ears. He is not pleased when men speak truth while their attitude is devoid of love. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love.”
Accurately Identifying Beginnings
Not long before Christ’s crucifixion and ascension, He spoke to His disciples about His departure. He disclosed to them that He was going to send to them the Holy Spirit who would bear witness of Him. He then added:
You will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
What beginning did Christ refer to in this statement? Those familiar with the Gospel accounts will rightly infer that Yahshua was speaking of the beginning of His earthly ministry when He called forth twelve men to walk with Him. Would we not err greatly if we concluded that Christ was speaking of His beginning, the beginning of the creation, or the beginning of the world? This may seem a simple question. I have chosen this particular verse because I do not believe there will be too much controversy from readers as to its meaning.
If you are like me, and have concluded that Christ is in fact speaking of the beginning of His earthly ministry when He called forth twelve disciples to walk with Him, I would ask you how you can be sure of this? What if someone challenged you on this point? How would you demonstrate that your understanding is the right one?
I would suggest that there are a number of ways to do so. A good place to begin would be looking at the statement itself to see if it lends itself to other interpretations. In this instance I would allow that it does indeed do so. The wording of the sentence itself does not clearly identify what beginning Yahshua was speaking of. Just by the phrasing itself we could not rule out the possibility that Yahshua was speaking of any number of possible beginnings. Following are some variant meanings.
You will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning (of my earthly ministry).
You will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning (of My existence in heaven).
You will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning (of the creation).
You will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning (of the world).
Seeing that the sentence itself does not clearly identify the beginning Christ had in mind, a next step would be to look at the word translated as “beginning.” We could see if it is only rightly used in a particular way. Having looked up the word we would have to conclude that it does not help us to resolve this matter. A next step might be to check the context of the passage in which these words of Christ were spoken. If we see evidence that He was speaking about the beginning of His time with the disciples on earth in this passage, or we find other evidence that would point to the beginning to which He was referring, the matter might be easily settled. Following this course, we actually find some help. Here is the passage with a little more context.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
We see in this larger portion of Scripture that Yahshua is speaking of the Holy Spirit and of His disciples bearing witness of Him to mankind. What they are bearing witness of is His identity as the Hebrew Messiah, the ministry He conducted, the life that He lived, and the words that He spoke. We can deduce this from the gospels, for this is indeed what they focus upon. Additionally, in the book of Acts we find Christ’s disciples bearing witness of what they had seen and heard while walking with Christ. There are also some very clear statements in other books such as the following.
I John 1:1-3
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life… what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us…
John clearly states here that he is testifying of that which he has heard, seen with his eyes, and touched with his hands regarding the Son of God. John is identifying experiences in this mortal life. With these words of John we are able to confidently assert that the beginning that Yahshua was referring to in John 15:27 was the beginning of His ministry when He called twelve disciples to walk with Him, that they might experience daily life and ministry with the Son of God.
One other thing we could do is to look for similar statements, or parallel passages, that might shed light on this matter. For example, we could look to Luke’s opening statement from the Gospel account he penned.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
Note that Luke tells us that he is writing an account “of the things accomplished among us.” He is not writing of things that occurred before the creation of the world. Luke’s account is a terrestrial one. It is focused on the life and ministry of the Son of God on the earth as He dwelt among mankind. There are other Bible passages that affirm this same truth that the disciples of Christ were called to bear witness to what they beheld during their earthly sojourning with the Son of God.
I John 4:14
And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
John echoes the words of Christ in the gospel that he penned. He states that the disciples “bear witness” to Yahshua. He specifically says the witness is of that which they “beheld.” John does NOT say that the disciples beheld Christ in ages prior to His coming to earth, or that they walked with Him in realms that are celestial before this present age. The disciples of Christ bore witness to what they beheld when the Son of God walked among them.
Yahshua Calling His Disciples
I want to point out that it was necessary to look beyond the immediate context of John 15:27 to properly resolve this question of what beginning Christ was referring to. If we had looked too narrowly at this passage, we might have come up with some very strange interpretations. Someone might have used this verse as a proof text to declare that the disciples existed with Christ in heaven before His earthly ministry. Some might use it as evidence to suggest that the Bible teaches reincarnation, or the pre-existence of the soul. If they look at no other Scriptures they could very well build a case to suggest that this was in fact what Christ meant when He said His disciples had been with Him “from the beginning.”
You may say, “Joseph, isn’t it obvious that Christ was speaking of His disciples being with Him from the beginning of His earthly ministry? Surely no reasonable person would suggest otherwise.” A search of the Internet reveals that some are misconstruing Christ’s words here, using them to build a case for the pre-existence of the soul. Having failed to properly identify the “beginning” to which the Son of God was referring, they are falling away into error.
My purpose in sharing these things is to demonstrate that there is a danger of misinterpreting the meaning of the Scriptures if we fail to consider the entire counsel of the Bible. It requires patience, an intimate acquaintance with the Bible, and a heart that yearns after truth, to rightly divide the word of God. Any Scripture, or portion of it, can be wrested out of its context and used to assert a false understanding. These wrong understandings in turn serve as the foundation for false doctrines.
In the ensuing chapters I am going to address some of the beginnings spoken of in the Bible. I will seek to lay a solid foundation for accurately understanding the truths of God’s kingdom.