Servants' News

July 1998

How Narrow a Gate Are You Entering?

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 17:13-14).

Enter the narrow gateNeither main-stream Christianity nor Judaism has produced peace for their followers—neither between nations nor in the lives of their families. The average person who goes to a Church or Synagogue goes for an hour or so, then goes about his business—little affected by his religion. Most Servants’ News readers are familiar with the above scripture and are also accustomed to a religious lifestyle that appears somewhat “odd” to most people.

That is the way it has to be. Those preaching salvation through Yeshua (Jesus) in the first century seemed odd to the other Jews. Later, Gentiles who stopped practicing their pagan religions to believe in Jesus seemed odd to their neighbors. These believers were almost always in the minority. Indeed, many were ostracized, and some were persecuted and killed for their beliefs. They had to worship the Eternal as they understood. They knew of the many warnings against incorporating false religion:

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [false gods], after they [Canaanites] 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.” 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 (Deut 12:31-32).

Other Scriptures similarly condemn the practice of false religion (Lev 18:3; 20:23; Jer 10:2; Ezk 20:32). But does the fact that few people believe what you believe mean that you have the truth? Is something more likely to be true just because few people believe it? Do you feel like you have the truth because you are a member of a group with maybe only a few thousand, few hundred or maybe even just a few people? Christ said that His way was narrow, but He did not say that every narrow way was His! Servants’ News has been in contact with about a hundred individuals who have some unique religious teaching that they feel is vitally important. Of course, they are all different. Not every narrow gate leads to life.

Many of the people who have their own brand of teaching have identified some particular thing as “Pagan” in our society and preach that we must avoid it completely in our lives. However, we believe these people fail to distinguish the difference between removing false things from our worship, and removing things based on false religion from our secular society. The scriptures do not command us to remove paganism from every word, practice, and design that we encounter in our daily lives. If we find that the name of the street or city where we live is named after a pagan deity, are we required to move? If someone tells you that the picture of a cow on your milk bottle is a design used in a pagan temple, are you required to stop drinking it? Some people would say “yes” to both of these questions. But what did Paul say about eating meat that had actually been offered to idols?

Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one (1Cor 8:4).

We received the following article, written in April of 1997. The author meant well, and wanted to encourage everyone to live as righteous of a life as possible. Please read the following article, and we will comment upon it:

 

“Week End”

In our time near the end of the twentieth century (1997), a relatively old English dictionary would be one from near the beginning of the century. One such dictionary is the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language published in 1912 by the G. & C. Merriam Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. In that dictionary, the word that we are considering, “weekend”, is shown as a hyphenated word and is defined as follows.

week’-end’, n. The end of the week; specif., though loosely used, the period observed commonly as a holiday, from Saturday noon or Friday night to Monday; as to visit a friend for a week-end; also, a house party during week-end.

This word is also shown in the Second Edition, Unabridged, of the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language published in 1935 by G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, and has the same meaning but is shown without the hyphen. In the Tenth Edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, published in 1993 by Merriam-Webster, Inc., of Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., the entry is, in part, as follows.

1week-end n (1638) : the end of the week;. Specif : the period between the close of one working or business or school week and the beginning of the next.

The date shown, 1638, is the earliest date that the editors could determine that the word appeared in print in English. Consequently, the word “weekend” has been in print for about 360 years. And likely, “weekend” was in conversational use several years before appearing on a printed page. Consequently, “weekend” and its meaning has been a part of our English-speaking culture for generations and has influenced many of our forefathers who spoke the English language and many of us who now speak the English language.

The word “weekend”, as defined in preceding paragraphs, includes all or a large part of two days, the Seventh Day and the First Day.

The Seventh Day of the week starts at the setting of the sun at the end of the Sixth Day and ends at the next setting of the sun, just before the start of the First Day of the next week. The 24-hour period of time commonly referred to as Saturday partially coincides with the Seventh Day of the week.

The First Day of the week starts at the setting of the sun at the end of the Seventh Day of the preceding week, and ends at the time the sun next sets, just before the start of the Second Day of that week.

Since the word “weekend” includes the word “end” many people think that the last of the two days in the “weekend” is the last day of the week. This is a reasonable outcome since “end”, in the chronological sense, has the following meaning:

1end n 2 a: cessation of a course of action, pursuit, or activity b: death, destruction c:(1): the ultimate state (2): result, issue

In time, events have a beginning and only one beginning, and an end and only one end. Examples are (1) the first minute (beginning or start) of class and the last minute (ending or conclusion) of class, (2) the first hour of a trip and the last hour of the trip, (3) the first day of a month and the last day of the month, and (4) the first year of life and the last year of life.

Objects that are not obviously time related or that have no distinguishable starting and ending points can have two “ends”, points that determine the extent of the object. A shoe lace is such an object.

The week, a measure of time, defines the passage in time of seven distinct days. Thus the week has one beginning moment and one ending moment, one beginning day and one ending day. Terms and phrases such as “mid-week” (i.e. mid-week services), and “beginning of the week” (i.e. the delivery will come the beginning of next week), and “end of the week” (i.e. he plans to be here at the end of this week) correspond chronologically to time segments within the week, respectively the middle segment, the starting segment, and the concluding segment. These terms and phrases give a sense and meaning consistent with the passage of time within the period of a week.

But “weekend” does not give a sense and meaning consistent with that passage of time within a seven day week. “Weekend” at least implies, if not totally explicitly defining, that the First Day of the week is the last day of the week, which many people believe. Consequently “weekend” is a deceptive word that really ought not to be used unless clearly defined by the person using it that it only refers to the real last day of the week, the Seventh Day.

 

Servants’ News Comments:

Are you ready to purge the word “weekend” from your vocabulary? You might also notice that the writer of the above article avoided using the names of week days of the week: Sunday, Monday, etc. Is this kind of teaching making people more righteous?

Some would say yes, and use scriptures like this one to support the idea: “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth” (Ex 23:13). But what does this scripture mean? Does it mean that our mouths should never make the sounds of the names of false gods? How then could we read the Bible? It contains the names like Baal, Dagon, Chemosh and Molech in dozens of places. Furthermore, the Eternal himself uses place names named after false gods, some examples being “Baalzephon” (Ex 14:2) and “Baalgad” (Josh 12:7). Furthermore the Bible contains 6 of the 12 Bablyonian names for months (Esth 2:16; 3:7; 8:9; Zech 1:7; 7:1) where it contains only three Hebrew month names (Ex 13:4; 1Kngs 6:1,38). Several of the Bablyonian month names are derived from false gods. Even worse, a diligent teacher of the Scriptures and of Christ was named Apollos (Acts 18:24; 19:1; Tit 3:13). The name means “given by Apollo”—king of the Greek gods. Several other people in the Bible changed their name, but Apollos did not.

If the Bible teaches that we should not makes sounds like the names of false gods, then the Bible is not very good at following its own advice. Exodus 23:13 is better understood as “we should not address false gods”. In other words, we should never say the name of a false god as if it were some kind of real being. People should never get even a mistaken hint from our speech that we believe in false gods.

But when we use the terms “Sunday”, “Thursday”, or “Saturday”, does anyone today really think we are addressing a Sun god, Thor, or Saturn? Similarly, when someone uses the term “weekend”, does anyone really consider it a theological statement about the timing of the Sabbath?

If someone believes that the avoidance of words like “weekend” are so important that we try to correct people for using them, they will alienate almost everyone and not be able to reach them with the important Gospel message. Many evils have been done in the name of religion, but very little evil has come about from secular use of terminology with a biblically inaccurate origin. (We believe it is a significant mistake to replace Bible terminology with false terminology—a Sabbath service should not be named a “weekend worship service”).

Still, a few people may decide to stop using the word “weekend” “just in case the Eternal does not like it”. But should anyone let this uncertain idea override the clear commands to love others (1Thes 3:12), to be a light to others (Matt 5:14) and to give an answer for the hope within us (1Pet 3:15)? Eliminating “weekend” from one’s vocabulary might help us feel more “righteous”, but it will make our communication with others much more self-centered and ineffective. What happens if we greet an unbeliever on Monday and ask, “How did your previous seventh and first days of the week go?” We have let our religious terminology take center stage in our conversation, and apparently lessened our concern for the person we are talking to. By asking, “how did your weekend go?” we shift the focus off of ourselves and we are more likely to enter into a beneficial conversation with the other person.

All of us can learn a lesson from the apostle Paul. He did not practice pagan religion, but he was not afraid of talking about pagan religion and using it to teach others about Christ.

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you (Acts 17:22-23).

The Areopagus was named after Ares, the Greek god of war. Some people today might believe that the Eternal would not want them in such a place, but Paul willingly spoke there. Paul introduced the Eternal to them as the one represented by the altar “to the unknown God”. Did Paul worship at this Greek altar? Certainly Not! But he was not afraid to talk about it and to use it as a way to tell the Greeks that it was the God that they “knew nothing about” who created the universe.

The clear commands of the Bible make the gate to eternal life narrow enough. We do not help ourselves or others by trying to make that gate more narrow by adding technical requirements of speech, dress, food, Sabbath observance, etc. Let us place our main emphasis on “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matt 23:23)

— Norman S. Edwards


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