The Tension Between Peter and Paul

Bob Enyart's life's work: The Plot* Bob Enyart's Life's Work - The Plot: All stories have a plot. The main story line in a narrative forms the plot. Millions of books, including historical texts, cannot be understood apart from recognizing the plot, getting to know the characters, and learning the setting. The setting refers to the backdrop for the action, when and where, in time and space, the action occurs. Does the Bible have a plot?

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* Learning from the Plot: Most Bible students readily agree with this basic plot of the Bible.  Yet within the structure of this plot lies the key to understanding almost all of the major disputes that divide Christians.

Listen to Bob teach through The Plot in downloadable audio or on MP3 CDs

* Stories Often Deliver Morals: "The moral of the story is," ends many anecdotes.  A typical morality tale attempts to teach a good lesson, but the story itself is fictitious.  The Bible presents its message through the vehicle of a true story (although it does of course contain parables).  To understand the moral of a story, one must understand the story itself.  Misunderstanding the story by missing the plot or a vital plot twist makes it difficult to ascertain the moral of the story.  How can someone see all the details in a murky big picture?

God informs men that His Word has a plot, and that plot twists possibly may occur.  Thus Bible students must remain alert when reading the Bible for the major steps of the plot and the plot twists.

Ignoring the Plot: Ten big doctrinal debates divide millions of believers.  Attempting to resolve all ten questions by traditional means is a daunting task.  Is there one root cause for all ten disagreements?  Does a common theological thread tie these ten seemingly unrelated doctrines together?

If all ten disputes derive from one fundamental cause, might there then be a single solution to these questions?  Imagine resolving all ten disputes with one simple biblical fact found in one single verse based on the overall plot of the Bible.  If such a fact exists which alone could solve all ten disputes, imagine how crucial that Bible idea would be.  However, ignoring the Bible's big picture consigns these disputes to irreconcilable differences.

A young political observer once wondered why American conservatives and liberals separated themselves so distinctly along opposing ideas.  Consider these generalities:

Left-Wingers

Right-Wingers

Support welfare

Oppose welfare

Support foreign aid

Oppose foreign aid

Support high taxes

Oppose high taxes

Support giving children condoms

Oppose giving children condoms

Support pornographers

Oppose pornographers

Support killing unborn children

Oppose killing unborn children

Oppose killing murderers

Support killing murderers

Oppose gun ownership

Support gun ownership

Weaken America's military

Strengthen America's military

Worship trees

Cut down trees (a renewable resource)


Chart the views of liberals like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Al Gore.  They, along with most liberal leaders, agree with the column on the left.  Conservative leaders like Alan Keyes tend to concur with the issues on the right.  The respective supporters of these two camps tend to hold their party line.  For example, of these ten issues, millions of liberals will hold to most issues of the left and millions of conservatives will stand for most issues on the right.  But why?  Why do people line up along such well-defined battle lines?  Why is there not an equal number who agree with five issues on the right and five on the left?  Why do most leaders who support killing an innocent unborn child oppose killing a guilty murdering rapist?  Why does almost everyone who supports welfare also defend a right to exploit women sexually through pornography?

If these disagreements arose randomly in a disconnected fashion, then no pattern of adherents would likely exist.  A line of demarcation appears, however, because these issues do not arbitrarily arise, but result from society acting out underlying principles.  Once a man commits to certain fundamental precepts, then experienced observers can guess many of his future political preferences.  Some defend the existence of absolute truth.  Others reject the notion of absolute right and wrong and put their hope in relative morality.  The Ten Commandments become ten suggestions, if that.  The world calls these relativists left-wingers.  The defenders of absolutes believe that truth descends from God.  The world calls us right-wingers.

This political observation makes a good analogy.  Patterns of disagreement can reveal much about underlying presuppositions.  Different foundational ideas then lead to various, though related, disputes.  Likewise, exploring ten major doctrinal disputes can reveal an incredible biblical pattern.  The Plot traces the origins of these debates to the first century Christian leaders.  Then the Apostle Paul's handling of early doctrinal disagreements provides the guidance to resolve today's debates.  The Epistles become the compass, the whole Word of God the map, to traverse the terrain of human existence.

God does not have doctrinal difficulties.  Why?  As the author, He knows the meaning of Bible passages.  God does not have "problem texts."  Therefore, when God opens eyes to solve doctrinal disputes, "problem texts" disappear for men also.  Thus the doctrinal answer offered in this book turns problem texts into "proof texts!"  Readers will see that the opposing sets of Bible verses often used in traditional doctrinal debate will all support true theology.

Get the Big Picture

Two young guys, Stephen & Josh, teach through The Plot with Bob in this great Bible Study

At the outset of taking an awesome biblical journey in The Plot, realize the goal is to grasp the Bible's big picture. The successful student masters the wider context of debated issues. The meaning of a word depends partly on its context within the sentence; the meaning of the sentence depends partly on its context with the paragraph; the meaning of the paragraph on the chapter; the chapter on the book; and the proper understanding of even the book depends on its position within the context of the Bible.

Those who understand the big picture avoid getting lost in the details.

Now the fun begins.  Brace yourself for excitement, but proceed with maximum alertness!

The Challenge for The Plot

The primary biblical details this book attempts to clear up include the following ten doctrinal debates:

Some Believe

Others Believe

Believers can lose their salvation

Believers cannot lose their salvation

Baptism is necessary

Baptism is not necessary

Believers speak in tongues

Believers do not speak in tongues

God will answer prayers of faith

Many good prayers go unanswered

Miracles and healing are assured

Miracles and healing are not assured

There is no pre-tribulation rapture

The rapture is before the tribulation

Believers must keep the law

Believers are not under the law

Salvation by faith requires works

Salvation requires faith and not works

Believers must keep the Sabbath

Sabbath observance is unnecessary

Unclean foods are prohibited

All foods are clean


More than anything, this author wants to thoroughly communicate the overall plot of the Bible to each reader.  As a secondary effect of having a solid understanding of the big picture of any book, the reader then has a much easier task grasping the details of that book.  Knowing the plot helps identify the twists.  Knowing the twists helps explain a myriad of details.

A Daunting Task

To resolve these ten disputes, someone could prepare ten arguments, one for each issue.  All pros and cons must be evaluated for each issue.  The student analyzes only a few dozen Scriptures for certain disputes; for others, he analyzes hundreds.  A number of scholarly books defend each opposing doctrine.  Limiting the effort to only two authors advocating each position requires reading forty books that mostly contradict one another.  Many students consume years in this effort.  In the end, the student sides with one position or the other, for each dispute, weighing countless factors.

Regardless of the student's conclusions, millions of believers will disagree with him.  The masses of Christians cannot be right on these doctrines, because the masses disagree with one another.  Even after such a colossal effort, how many of these ten doctrinal questions would the average reader get right?

A Single, Simple Solution

Imagine, for the moment, that someone could resolve all ten questions simply by learning one single Bible verse.  Is it possible that one single concept, one idea, one thought, revealed in a single Bible verse, could resolve every debate listed above?  This book presents just such a verse for the reader's consideration.

Listen to Bob teach through The Plot in downloadable audio or on MP3 CDsSome will think it impossible for one Bible fact to answer all these dilemmas.  If, however, someone asked God to unravel these mysteries, could He do so in a single statement?  If He could, then perhaps His Word does also.  If God could not, then the author should stop writing this book.  The Plot of the Bible argues, though, that God could, and that He has, proclaimed the answer to these ten debates in a single verse.

Consider any discipline-criminal law, physics, Shakespeare.  Imagine that within that field of study ten apparently unrelated debates rage.  Imagine that one discovery or one observation or one perspective, when applied to these disagreements, had the ability to resolve, neatly and completely, each and every dilemma.  The fact that one simple idea can address ten different quandaries inherently gives that idea credibility and makes it worthy of full examination.

For example, a good law well enforced will bring about unimagined benefits in countless circumstances.  Whereas a bad law, though designed to address a specific problem, actually creates more problems than it supposedly solves.  Historically, a law against adultery reduced infidelity and divorce as expected.  But it also lowered rates for murder, rape, kidnapping, and child abuse; this law can even improve the economy thereby raising the standard of living.

When one simple biblical idea resolves many seemingly unrelated troubles, that idea merits great attention.  Similarly, if someone invents a Bible "answer," that idea will likely create more problems than it supposedly solves.  Thus the Christians who argue that men have a "right to fornicate" help to unleash a tidal wave of destruction.  If, however, one concept helps effortlessly to avoid numerous problems, the concept may very well be valid.

No Problem Texts!

A typical doctrinal argument emphasizes certain biblical passages (its proof texts) while de-emphasizing other passages (its problem texts).  This very approach makes many students uncomfortable because they want to embrace the whole word of God.  Ignoring or diminishing certain texts that appear to contradict a conclusion unsettles them and rightly so.

Any number of arguments can be presented for or against the ten doctrinal disputes listed above.  These arguments traditionally pit one set of Bible verses against another.  Someone trying to prove that a believer cannot lose his salvation will cite certain proof texts (i.e., Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6) and dispute other problem texts (i.e., Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).  Those who argue that a believer can lose his salvation swap the passages, so that they heartily endorse their proof texts (i.e., Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22), while contending with their problem texts (i.e., Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6).

Listen to Bob teach through The Plot in downloadable audio or on MP3 CDsWhat if God has presented one biblical key that would not only answer all the confusion, but would also erase the tension between the traditional proof and problem texts?  The student would then see both sets of proof and problem texts merge into a single grouping of proof texts.

Christians expect exactly this in heaven.  Once in heaven "I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Cor. 13:12) by God, without confusion.  Heaven admits no "problem verses."  God's Word will exist in heaven (Mat. 24:35) open, honest, simple to understand and true at face value.

The solution to these ten doctrinal debates does not require diminishing or obfuscating, explaining away or twisting scores of problem verses.  The solution lies in understanding the big picture of the Bible.  Those well versed on the biblical plot and the plot twists can read Bible passages and accept them for just what they appear to say without harboring a sense of internal conflict.  The Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible makes sense and does not contradict itself.

Today's Resource: Learn the key to the plot twist in Bob Enyart's best-selling book, The Plot! Or, you can listen to his seminars on The Plot and The Tree! Or get the entire set of all five of Bob's Plot Bible Study Albums or check out The Plot Boys for Bible students of all ages! You'll love this powerful teaching through Scripture as you see that the overview of the Bible really is the only valid key to its details!

* Historical Notes on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture: Chapter 11 of The Plot includes a response to the widespread claim that pre-tribulation rapture teaching began with the Plymouth Brethren and John Darby (d. 1882). That chapter references this webpage, as kgov.com/pre-trib, for more information. In the past, many Christians who wrote of the tribulation saw it as a three and a half year period. (The Plot observes that Jesus mentioned that the Tribulation may be "shortened" and that Peter called for the "hastening" of the coming of the Lord. Thus it is correct that the coming tribulation may be less than a full seven years. The text also shows that the Twelve Apostles saw, correctly, that Joel's end-times prophecy began its fulfillment at Christ's ascension. Therefore they, also correctly, expected His soon return. However, one year after the resurrection Luke 13:6-9, God temporarily cut off Israel Romans 11:11-15, 19-20, 23-26, when He grafted in the Body of Christ. So while the Great Tribulation will likely be longer than the three and a half years held by many generations of Christians, as Jesus said, those days can be "shortened", so we can expect the Tribulation to be less than a full seven years.)

On what we today call the pre-tribulation rapture, Morgan Edwards, a graduate of Bristol Baptist College, prominent religion historian, Baptist pastor, and a founder of Brown University, wrote in 1788:

The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more—, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ's "appearing in the air" (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many "mansions in the father's house" (John xiv. 2), and disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for "now the time is come that judgment must begin," and that will be "at the house of God" (I Pet. iv. 17)."  

For other instances of the teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture in history, for example, including from 1300 A.D. and 400 A.D., please see chapter 11 of my book The Plot. Here's an excerpt...

Belief in a specifically pre-tribulation rapture can be traced back in various ways, including to more almost 400 years before Bunyan in Italy, and more than a thousand years before him in what today is Turkey on the Syrian border. In northern Italy a treatise on the Apostolic Brethren says that their followers, "would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah… preserved unharmed from the persecution of the Antichrist… then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth… would be killed… and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time", after which Christ returns to the earth with His saints.

Further, a Latin manuscript of the sixth century exists which some scholars believe can be traced back to a prominent Syrian church father, the prolific Ephraem of Nisibis (306‑373 AD). A passage from a sermon on prophecy and the antichrist translates into English as:

"For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."

For more, see online A History of Pre-Darby Rapture Advocates by Dr. Thomas Ice.

* More On Baptism: Sadly, a ritual that takes perhaps five minutes out of an 80-year life has divided Christ's followers on many lines and into often strongly opposed camps splitting churches and helping to divide tens of millions of believers into opposing Baptist, Adventist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, and Presbyterian denominations. Believers disagree over:
- the method – sprinkling, pouring, or emersion
- the qualification – none or conversion
- the age – infant, child, or adult
- the agent – a lay person, minister, or the Holy Spirit
- the formulation – in Christ's name alone or that of the Trinity
- the nature – symbolic, moral, or spiritual
- the effect – obedience, identification, or salvation

Yet with foresight the Holy Spirit inspired the greatest evangelist in history to write "I thank God that I baptized none of you" except for a very few, as the Apostle Paul explained that, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:14-17). From that godly perspective, the church has descended into extreme disagreements, teachings, and practices... 

 

 

Check also: Grant Jeffrey, When the Trumpet Sounds, p. 108, references this Ephraem quote, from Ephraem or Psuedo Ephraem's "On the Last Times, the Anti-Christ and the End of the World." Circa A.D. 373