OASES, ILLUSIONS, AND KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS
At times this column may just feel like a whole lot of questions. The purpose of it is to dig deeply into The Word. This is not intended to be something you skim. The goal of this endeavor is to sink our teeth into strong meat; to take nothing for granted; to build the structure of every subject and teaching from the ground up - whether we think we have a good grasp of it or not.
Our Lord is so gracious with us. He carries the key to infinite knowledge and wisdom, yet always speaks to us on a level we can understand. And what’s more, He’s created the natural world, both around us and within us, to resonate the eternal spiritual truths we cannot see with our flesh eyes.
Because of this, we must work diligently to keep our spiritual eyes open, so we do not miss a single lesson He has for us by employing the false assumption that a tree, or a bird, or a blade of grass holds no greater instruction than that of its’ physical representation, or outward appearance.
Christ taught us this very truth through the writings of Paul in Romans 1:20:
* “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (The King James Bible, Romans 1:20).
We’re told here that the things of God may be clearly seen through THAT WHICH IS MADE. However, though we know this to be true, we must take care (just as we must in all things) as to how we apply such truth. The world is full of deception. There are a thousand teachings, and ten thousand interpretations on any one subject, be it biblical or non-biblical. How does one discern truth from fiction? How does one discern what is clarity and what is confusion? How does one know the difference between Israel and Babylon?
Many here might immediately jump in and say, “Well, read the Bible, of course”. And that is precisely the right answer. But how? Many teachers have many different teachings, and all claim to be reading the same book. Modern Christian scholars have vastly differing opinions on the very same verses and subjects, and yet are they not all students of the same text? How do we reconcile truth? How do we sift the chaff from the wheat?
I fear sometimes that we’ve become a nation of perusers. We assume certain truths about certain things that we think are inconsequential, or already proven out, and then construct the whole of our belief systems on shaky foundations because we accept the interpretations of others to be accurate, perhaps only because they speak their message with authority and a Divinity Degree, or because they lived a hundred years ago.
In order for us to answer these questions, we must first get a few fundamentals in line. If one desires to receive truth from God, there are some things that need to be in place from the get-go. The first of which being we have to accept Christ. Yet before we can even do that, we have to understand what exactly Christ is, and what He isn’t. This may at first seem obvious to some, and completely incomprehensible to others. And I do not mean to say that within the confines of this column I can put Christ in a nutshell. As far as my thinking goes, the whole of Christ is unimaginable, and probably always will be. But in the context of this subject - the subject of receiving truth - before we assume we know what He is or isn’t, perhaps we should explore a few verses:
* “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (The King James Bible, John 1:1-4).
* “And The Word WAS MADE FLESH, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (The King James Bible, John 1:14).
From these citations we know: 1) Christ is The Word; 2) Christ was with God in the beginning; 3) Christ was and is God, and all things that were made, were made by Him.
So the next question, I think, is: If Christ is The Word, what exact Word(s) is He? This, I believe, is made abundantly obvious to us in Scripture. He is after all the “Alpha & Omega, the Beginning and the End; the First & the Last” (The King James Bible, Revelation 22:13).
So if we are to “accept Christ”, we must first accept Him as our Savior and repent on the shedding of His blood as our sacrifice for one and all time. Furthermore, what can we ascertain from Christ’s words at The Last Supper:
* “Take, eat. This is my body...” (The King James Bible, Matthew 26:26)
* “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?‘ Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoso eats My flesh, and drinks My blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (The King James Bible, John 6:48-54).
* “And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, ‘Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which stands upon the sea and upon the earth.‘ And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, ‘Give me the little book.‘ And he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey’: and I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” - Revelation 10:8-10
Christ is The Rock; The Foundation and the Capstone. He is the Bread of Life; He is The Word. He is all in all. John tells us the Word was made flesh; Christ tells us He is the Bread of Life and that we must eat His flesh to receive eternal life. Thus, we must consume The Word. This is the action that John takes - this is the book in the hands of the angel that he must take and eat up in Revelation 10.
In order to properly understand His Words, we must have ALL of His Words. We must have within us; we must consume and digest EVERY PART of His Body. And His Body is The Word; The Whole Word - from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 - from Aleph to Omega. Christ’s walk on this earth was a stamp. It was the signet of The King that completed The Letter. When Christ spoke the words, “It is finished” from the cross, He was not simply stating that His sacrifice was complete. He was declaring that the whole of God’s plan of salvation had been established. He was declaring that finally, at this moment:
* “The Stone which the builder’s rejected is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (The King James Bible, Psalms 118:22-23).
In order to keep from being deceived we must have and accept ALL OF CHRIST. We must actively seek Him. We must “study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (The King James Bible, 2nd Timothy 2:15).
If the foundation, or the structure, or the capstone are missing, it is impossible to see the whole of the construct for what it truly is. Without the capstone, one could not properly see the shape of the building as a whole, and without the building, one could not properly understand the position or purpose of the capstone. It MUST BE ALL IN ALL.
Why? Why is it so vitally important that we have ALL of Christ? What are the potential dangers if we do not? What possible pitfalls await us if we comfortably settle for partial truths? To answer this question, we must return to the original subject addressed in this work. That subject was how our Lord teaches us spiritual truths by flesh manifestations.
Wikipedia defines an “Optical Illusion” as:
Characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality. The information gathered by the eye is processed in the brain to give a perception that does not tally with a physical measurement of the stimulus source. There are three main types: literal optical illusions that create images that are different from the objects that make them, physiological ones that are the effects on the eyes and brain of excessive stimulation of a specific type (brightness, colour, size, position, tilt, movement), and cognitive illusions, the result of unconscious inferences.
For those of you not comfortable with the credibility of Wikipedia, an online search of the topic will reveal the same fundamental results. I’ve added a second link for confirmation.
In short, optical illusions are a trick of the mind based on certain elements and the position of the perceiver; wholly subjective perspectives. The most stereotypical example would be the Hollywood movie scene of a man or woman walking through the desert, dying of thirst. In the distance, they spot a fresh pool of cool water. Instantly, they pick up the pace. They move faster believing that the end of their strife is in sight. Yet somehow the water never seems to get any closer. And by the time they realize what they’re seeing is an illusion, they’re in an infinitely worse situation because they expended the last of their energy pushing furiously for what they believed would be their salvation.
Without the whole of The Word; without ALL of Christ, we can find ourselves in a very similar situation. If we don’t understand the entire scope of a subject, in all its references and Biblical applications, it is very easy to, through a limited perspective, assume a false truth. And that false truth, given enough time, can have a severe impact on faith. This factor, I believe, is one of the major contributors to disputable doctrine within the confines of the Christian faith. I believe it is also greatly responsible for many people leaving a faith they don’t fully understand because of of incomplete and less than thorough doctrine. The fact is, finishing 75% of a puzzle does not give you a complete understanding of the image.
When Christ speaks to Paul, after striking him down on the road to Damascus, He uses a very interesting phrase:
* “And as he (Saul) journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus Whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks’” (The King James Bible, Acts 9:3-5).
We know this account led to Paul’s conversion. But it is the word “pricks” that holds an interesting key to our subject. In the Greek language, according to Strong’s Concordance #2759, the word has a different specificity that I believe should be considered. Most often we equate this word to a goad used by cattle or sheep farmers to keep them in line. The “prick” was a stick with a sharp end on it. That way if the cow, or sheep were to kick against it, they would feel a sharp prick in their foot that would discourage them from kicking again in the future. Yet there is another meaning for this word that I believe has an infinitely thicker profundity to it, and adds a deeper dimension to the incident overall.
“Pricks” - “Kentron” (#2759) - From “Kenteo” (to prick); a point (center), i.e. a sting (fig. poison) or goad (fig. divine impulse): --prick, sting.”
The Online Etymology Dictionary gives us this definition and origin for the word “center”:
late 14c., from O.Fr. centre (14c.), from L. centrum "center," originally fixed point of the two points of a compass, from Gk. kentron "sharp point, goad, sting of a wasp," from kentein "stitch," from PIE base *kent- "to prick" (cf. Breton kentr "a spur," Welsh cethr "nail," O.H.G. hantag "sharp, pointed"). The verb is from 1590s. Spelling with -re popularized in Britain by Johnson's dictionary, though -er is older. Related: Centered; centering. Center of gravity is recorded from 1650s.
So here we see this word “kentron” brought forward as a foundational component of the word “center”, or “center point”. In mathematical terms, a Drawing Compass is comprised of two movable, mechanical arms, one ending in a needle, the other in a lead pencil. The purpose of the mechanism is to draw a perfect circle. The needle, of course, holds the center point, while the pencil draws a circle around the center point, ensuring that all sides are an equal distance from center (i.e. from the prick).
In the context of this definition, we have an instrument that establishes a point from which all things can be seen in perfect relation to one another. From this “center point”, and on this “center point” resides the only place where all things can be seen in perfect objective relation to one another, and more importantly to that center point. It is from this Center Point, and only from this Center Point that all things can be seen in their proper context - thus making this position (in spiritual terms, at least) the ONLY position from which the created can see the Truth of the Creator.
So, if Paul was “kicking against the pricks” when he was seeking to destroy the apostles of Christ, and ultimately if he could, destroy Christ Himself, he was not just kicking the goad, he was kicking the Center Point. And not just the Center Point of his life or salvation, but The Center Point of the whole of creation; the absolute Center and Foundation Stone of all things; the only possible objective perspective in all of the universe.
The fact that the word in the verse is plural, could perhaps sway one to believe the inference was a “goad” rather than a “center point” - as there would naturally only be one center point in any given circle. But is the purpose of the goad not to get the animal back to where it will be safe? Is it not to get the entity back to center?
We see this same reality in other realms of science. Consider this explanation of light and sight from The Franklin Institute:
The color of anything depends on the type of light sent to our eyes; light is necessary if we are to have any perception of color at all. An object is “colored,” as stated above, because of the light it reflects - all other colors are absorbed into that specific object. So then, an apple appears red because it reflects red light.
White light from the sun contains all the possible color variations. Yet, the human eye can only respond to certain colors and wavelengths, and not everyone sees the same colors or exact same shades of a color. We are capable of seeing color because our eyes have light and color-sensitive receptors. These receptors are called rods (receptive to amounts of light) and cones (sensitive to colors). Being able to see color is a sensation, just like smelling a pie fresh out of the oven, or tasting your favorite meal. Different foods smell and taste different to each person, and likewise, no color is seen exactly the same by two people, because each person’s rods and cones vary. (1)
Here we learn that each person’s flesh sight is in itself subjective, and limited. Yet THE LIGHT, white light, contains all colors within it. It contains all information; all possibilities; all variables. In containing all things, it has no bias, but sees and displays all things AS THEY ARE based on their reaction to The Light itself (i.e. based on their subjectively biased position). Just as our spiritual position is not one of relative comparisons to other specific colors, but always in relation to The Light.
In light of this, when we are told later on in the account of Paul’s conversion how he regained his sight, does this scientific explanation not perhaps shed more light on the statement:
* “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose and was baptized” (The King James Bible, Acts 9:18).
Was it not the flesh that fell away from Paul’s eyes? Was it not his “subjective perspective” of flesh sight that was removed? If Christ, The Light; The Center Point, dwells in you, and you in Him, do we not begin to slowly but surely, with the application of faith and pursuit of knowledge, elevate above our flesh and see things with spiritual eyes? Through the eyes of Christ? From the perfectly objective position of The Center Point of all things?
Yet if we only have a portion of Christ, if we are closer to center, but still off center, our perspective is still not quite objective. And sometimes, if we are closer but not complete, we can find ourselves ignorantly bound in the false assumption that we have found truth, and as a result cease the pursuit of it. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
The ultimate example of this scenario would be to observe the methods of Satan. When Satan tempted Christ, did he not use Scripture? In Matthew chapter four, Satan quotes Psalms 91:11-12, but omits a small portion that applies the condition, and replaces it with a wholly different condition. Someone once said the best kind of lie is one that is 90% true. It is important not to forget that Satan’s entire focus is on God’s children. He knows very well that those who are not in Christ will do plenty to destroy themselves. They are not a threat to him - at least at present. So it stands to reason that all the faculties of the subtlety of the serpent would be directed toward those who seek Christ. It is The Word of God the devil wants to destroy, and he will attack it in every way possible.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Banquo warns Macbeth of this very danger:
“But ‘tis strange; and oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence” (1.3.131-135).
For God did not say His people would be destroyed for lack of faith. What God said was:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (The King James Bible, Hosea 4:6).
“For I desired mercy (lovingkindness) and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (The King James Bible, Hosea 6:6).
God through His prophets and apostles has warned us over and over and over again just how important it is to listen exclusively to no man. To take no man’s interpretation or subjective revelation as law. He tells us throughout Scripture at different times, in different places, that there are corrupt priests; corrupt prophets; corrupt kings, and corrupt fruit. He tells us there are wolves in sheep’s clothing and tares in the wheat. He tells us often that those who appear to be the most religious are at times the most wicked. He stresses time and time again that there is absolutely and unequivocally no way to be certain of what God is teaching you other than prayerfully reading it for yourself. ALL OF IT.
How else can we possibly discern right from wrong? Did Paul not say, when dressing down the Hebrews for their lack of study and research:
* “For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of USE have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (The King James Bible, Hebrews 5:13-14).
God warns Ezekiel regarding corrupt prophets in the 13th chapter of Ezekiel. Please read the whole chapter to get a good scope on what’s being said:
* “Because, even because they have seduced My People, saying, ‘Peace;’ and there is no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar; Say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it. Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, ‘Where is the daubing wherewith you have daubed it?’” (The King James Bible, Ezekiel 13:10-12).
What God has said here is that these men haven’t been given the answers. They don’t know. And instead of humbly admitting to the people that they don’t know, they make things up to fill the gaps with their own untempered philosophy. They would rather appear right, than to actually be right. They would rather look good to men, then be square with God.
Am I saying every teacher is false? Absolutely not! I am simply saying that there are false teachers. And without serious individual study; without the intimate cultivation of the relationship of every child of God with God, through Christ (The Word), there is no way to tell which is which. And the more knowledge a deceiver has, the harder he/she is to spot by one whose knowledge is limited.
And so we come to the purpose of this column: to dig into the meat; to deconstruct and reconstruct dense Biblical doctrine; to ask the tough questions; to deal with uncomfortable subject matter; to meditate on complex Scripture; to pursue a deeper knowledge of the fruit of God’s Word through His Christ; to pursue the fullness of The Word.
I ask for your help in this endeavor. I ask that if there is something you wish to add, please do so. If there is a topic that weighs heavy on your mind and you feel a little fuzzy about it, write in and ask us to do some research with you on it. And most of all, I ask that you take NOTHING of what I say as law.
If I can stress any one thing before we begin this journey, it would be to seek The Word of God through no intermediary. Do not be content with anyone else’s interpretation of anything. Pursue The Word through a completely unfiltered lens. Strive to get out of the commentaries and into The Word.
And now, finally, after we’ve accepted Christ - all of Christ - and endeavored to pursue knowledge within and through Him, we can press onto the next step that is absolutely mandatory for proper Biblical understanding. But we’ll save that one for next week. :-)
In Pursuit of Truth,
Decisions Based In Christ
The Companion Bible - The Authorized Version of 1611 with the Structures and Critical, Explanatory, and Suggestive Notes and with 198 Appendixes. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. Authorized Version of 1611.
Harper, Douglas. “Center.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. 2010. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=center
Strong, James. “Pricks.” The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible. Revised Version. Print.
The Franklin Institute. “Light & Color.” Resources for Scientific Learning. Web. http://www.fi.edu/color/
Kessman, Scott. “What is an Optical Illusion and How Does it Work.” Associated Content from Yahoo. Web. 24 July. 2006. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/45000/what_is_an_optical_illusion_and_how.html?cat=69
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