Christian Theology

There are many differing theological ideas in the world.  The truth is that most Christians are unconcerned about theology.  Most Christians, if they know enough to say they believe in Calvinism or infant baptism, do so only because their pastor or their church does.  It is the hope of this ministry to be able to offer Biblical support for these positions.  If we succeed in this, Christians may make informed decisions about what they believe on a certain issue and not simply repeat verbatim what their church believes.

These articles are not to be the end all of these theological debates but simply an overview of some of the biggest theological differences that occur among churches.  We highly recommend further research into these areas for a fuller understanding.  Despite efforts to be fair to both sides of the debate, anyone who writes an article is bound to write it from their own angle and thus multiple views are best.

While we each may hold to a different view on these issues – each view supported by centuries of believers – it is our hope that these issues would not be divisive.  In the end, it is our duty to proclaim the gospel to the lost and as long as we can agree on how a person may know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior everything else is trivial.

There are numerous ways to navigate this section.  The easiest is to search for your preferred term in the search box on the upper left.  You can also find articles organized into categories as well as theological terms tagged on the right.

Who Replaced Judas Iscariot?

The answer to who replaced Judas Iscariot is fairly straightforward from a strictly biblical sense as the story of Judas’ replacement is found in Acts 1.  Matthias is chosen by lot to take the place of Judas Iscariot.

But the deeper question usually implied behind who replaced Judas is “who is the twelfth apostle?”  Some will say that the remaining eleven correctly chose Matthias to take the place of Judas.  Others maintain that Matthias was never God’s choice and that He intended Paul to be the twelfth apostle.

While we can’t say definitively as scripture never states whether the choice of Matthias was correct or not, there is a strong case to be made that the remaining eleven jumped the gun in selecting Matthias.

In Acts 1, Jesus ascends into heaven.  His final recorded instructions for the apostles were: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

We know that the disciples stayed in Jerusalem, but they didn’t wait long for something to happen.  Jesus’ ascension was 40 days after His resurrection and Pentecost is 50 days afterwards, so this takes place sometime in those ten days.

Matthias is chosen by the casting of lots.  This was an Old Testament practice that was used to determine the will of God.  It might sound superstitious to modern readers but within the context of “pre-Holy Spirit” this was fine.  But that’s the real problem.  If the disciples had waited just a few more days, they would have had the Holy Spirit and there would have been no need to cast lots to determine the will of God.

The next issue with the selection is the required qualifications of the options to chose from.  There would appear to be no problems with the criteria on the surface: Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.  But how do we know that these are the criteria that God has in mind.  It seems like common sense but man’s wisdom is not God’s wisdom.

Finally, there are two men selected.  Maybe these were the only two who were qualified or maybe there were other criteria – or more human wisdom – used to whittle the candidates down to two.  What if God’s choice wasn’t one of the two?  Well those are the only two options they gave God to pick from when they cast the lot.

Finally, they prayed before casting the lot.  This should have been the first thing that was done.  They should have sought the Lord’s wisdom and guidance before even determining criteria.  But as it is written, they only pray before making the final decision.

Matthias is chosen by lot and Acts 1 tells us that he was added to the eleven apostles.  But, was this God’s choice?  Matthias is never heard from again in scripture.  We know nothing of him outside of this passage.  In fairness, we hear of basically nothing of the other disciples aside from Peter, James, and John though.

Still, the New Testament is dominated by Paul and his writings.  Granted, this doesn’t mean anything in terms of him being God’s choice over Matthias.  But it certainly feels odd to think that God’s choice of replacement would immediately fade into biblical and historical obscurity.

Finally, there is the words of Revelation 21:14 – The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  It’s never a good idea to make theological assumptions based on feelings, but doesn’t it just feel like Paul’s name has to be included here?  Not to take anything away from Matthias who was obviously a great man of faith if he followed Jesus the whole time from beginning to end, but it seems like a guy who’s very name is written on the foundation of heaven would be mentioned more than once in the entire Bible.

All of that said, this is certainly not an issue that I’m willing to fight over.  When I get to heaven, if I see Matthias’ name there on the foundation I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it.  But if I had to guess which one God intended to take the place of Judas, I have to believe that God intended Paul to take Judas’ place.

What is the Difference Between Disciples and Apostles?

The difference between disciples and apostles is a bit tricky because they are used almost interchangeably not only in the current church but also in the Bible.  So in one sense, both words are used to refer to the same group of people and thus either term is correct. HOWEVER, the two terms do have very different meanings and it is at least useful to be aware of the meanings.

A disciple is a student.  That’s all it is.  We are called to be disciples – we are called to be students.  The twelve men who followed Jesus were called disciples specifically because they were his students.  Generally when we discuss the disciples, we are referring to these twelve men.  That being said, the term disciple is used in reference to other believers in the New Testament as well as the early church forms and grows.  So it can accurately be used for any believer as they are a student.

The term apostle means to be sent with a commission.  This is where things get a bit trickier.  The twelve disciples are also referred to as the twelve apostles.  Except Judas Iscariot is never called an apostle.  Judas was a student, but for lack of a better term, he flunked out.  The rest of the disciples graduated and were then “sent with a commission” and became apostles.  In case you need evidence of that commission, the Great Commission is recorded at the end of Matthew 28.

So if Judas is not an apostle, who is the twelfth apostle?  This will be discussed in another article but the short answer is either Matthias or Paul.  The eleven remaining disciples, plus one of these two men are the twelve who are going to turn the world upside down with the gospel of Jesus.

So, anybody can be a disciple, but can anyone be an apostle?  Just like the other questions, this isn’t quite as easy as you’d think.  There are twelve apostles, and regardless whether Paul is one of the twelve, he is also called an apostle.  But in Acts 14:14, Barnabas is referred to as an apostle as well.  So at the very least there are thirteen men who are referred to in scripture as apostles.

In 1 Corinthians 12:28-29, Paul states being an apostle is a spiritual gift and that not all are called to be apostles.  So not everyone could be an apostle, but everyone is expected to be a disciple.

Some will differentiate apostleship as a spiritual gift that was only possible in the early church.  Using the definition in Acts 1, the reason is given that to be an apostle, a person must have been with Jesus and have been a witness of His after the resurrection.  All applicable candidates would have thus died in the first century.

Others today believe that the gift of apostleship is still alive and well today.  We would call modern day apostles missionaries or preachers.  They are anyone who has been commissioned to preach the Word of God.

So, is there really a difference between disciples and apostles?  It depends on how you want to think of things.  You can use the terms interchangeably in reference to the men in the New Testament.  Everyone who was an apostle was also a disciple – even if we never speak about someone such as Paul being a disciple – because every Christian is to be a disciple.  However, not every disciple is an apostle.

And just in case you aren’t mixed up enough already, here’s two more verses to either confuse you or set you straight.  In Matthew 10:1-4 in verse 1 the men are called disciples, and then in verse 2 they are called apostles.

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Finally in Revelation 21:14 we’re told that the names of the twelve apostles are written on the foundations of heaven:

The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I feel confident in saying that one of those names will not be Judas Iscariot.  But there is a twelfth man that God specifically chose and commissioned for the job.  He is the twelfth apostle (even though there are more than twelve who are given that title in the Bible.)

Conclusions

A Part of Eternal Security vs. Conditional Perseverance

by Ray Moore and Mike Stine

We find that in these issues it is perhaps easiest and best to agree to disagree.  This is not an issue that affects our salvation; we are both going to heaven and have full assurance in that.

It would appear then that the issue is did these people truly repent and receive salvation.  Or did they come to the knowledge of God and Christ but never made Christ Lord over their life.  

For years we have watched people claim that they receive Christ as their savior and even get baptized.  After a couple of months, maybe even years, however, many all but disappear only to be found worse spiritually than they were before they became saved.  This is not salvation.

We find that whether there is a loss of salvation or that these people were never truly saved, they are in trouble.  Either way, whatever one believes on the issue of eternity security, these people face eternal damnation if they do not repent of their sins, just as an unbeliever needs to repent.

We have found some questions that have not been fully answered and perhaps cannot be fully explained within our finite minds.  We have asked numerous people as well as researched the answer ourselves and cannot find an explanation.  It is Revelation 22:19, “And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, from the Holy City and from the things that are written in the book.” (NKJV) [NIV and NASB says tree of life, not book, but this still references to eternity and a loss of eternity with God.]

While we do not believe that this is an unforgivable sin, mentioned right at the end of the Bible, we also do not believe that God is making an idle threat, proving himself to be a liar.  A good explanation for this passage we have not found.

We have found our views possibly best summarized by Erwin Lutzer in The Doctrines that Divides.  In it he says, “Arminianism is the name most often associated with the belief that a saved person can eventually be lost.  Yet Arminius himself did not teach this doctrine explicitly.  He simply said that it was an open question.  He thought that Calvinists who believed that all saints would persevere had no right to be so certain.”  This statement is probably the most intelligent either of us has heard on the issue and it is what we would like to close with.