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The Discernment Series

What About Curses?

Roger Sapp

© Copyright 2005 Roger Sapp All rights reserved. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. This book may not be copied or reprinted for commercial gain or profit. The use of short quotations or occasional page copying for personal or group study is permitted and encouraged. Permission will be granted on request. Unless otherwise identified, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, King James Version, public domain. Order this book from: All Nations Publications P.O. Box 92847 Southlake, Texas 76092 1-817-514-0653 Order from our secure website: www.allnationsmin.org and from www.lulu.com/rogersapp ISBN: 0-9702341-8-X The Discernment Series: What About Curses?

Contents

Chapters 1 Why a Book on Curses? 2 Are Christians Vulnerable to Curses? 3 Humanity Curses 4 Christ Curses the Fig Tree 5 God's Curses 6 Introduction to the Law of Moses 7 One Complete System of Law 8 Cursed Objects 9 The Trojan Horses of Legalism 10 The Father and His Children Page 1 11 26 35 40 46 57 69 91 106

1 Why a Book About Curses?

The author of this book is a traveling minister. He travels in healing ministry more than 40 weeks a year and as a result gets to observe trends in the Church. In the past two years, he has seen a change in the Body of Christ in America and elsewhere. It appears that believers are increasingly fearful about their vulnerability to curses. We seem to be quick to embrace supernatural explanations for difficulties that have unproven merit. Additionally, some tend to interpret negative events in their lives as the work of a curse when Christians in the past might have called the same circumstances something different. They might have called a negative circumstance an accident, a misfortune, a tragedy, a trial, a test, discipline, judgment or even reaping what you have sowed. Natural problems with sickness are now being interpreted as the effect of a curse spoken against them. For example, recently a woman suggested to us that a physical problem that she was having consisting of a few small bumps and some minor swelling was the effect of a curse. She indicated that when she had prayed about this matter that the Lord said to her the phrase spoken words. She believed that this problem was the result of someone's negative spoken words about her. I asked why she thought she was so vulnerable to someone speaking words about her. She didn't have a good answer and asked if I thought that the Lord didn't actually say those words to her. I shared with her that it is easy to project our own theology and thoughts on God and mistakenly believe that our thoughts are His words to us. We interpret things happening to us within the framework of our understanding and certainly our misunderstandings. A few months ago, a woman called us and asked if I would break a curse over her. I asked her to tell me why she believed

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? she was under a curse. She then told me that she walks her dog every day and has to cross a busy and dangerous intersection where drivers regularly ignore the pedestrian crosswalk. She recently had been bumped and injured by one of these drivers. She told me that she felt that this accident was the result of someone cursing her. I questioned her about why she felt so vulnerable to curses. She didn't have a good answer. I asked her how she believed that a curse could be dealt with. She indicated that curses must be broken verbally in the name of Jesus. I asked her if she understood the implications of her belief. She didn't understand what I was indicating so I explained. Her belief would mean that whoever spoke last would win this spiritual battle. If the person cursing her stayed up late into the night and cursed her after she had broken the former curses, then she would be cursed the rest of the night. If this person spoke after the Christian woman, then the Christian woman would be cursed. If she broke the curses regularly, then she would only be cursed for short periods. Whoever spoke last and most often would win. I told her that I believed that this is an increasingly popular Christian superstition and can't be the truth. I told her that I believe this belief in vulnerability to be incompatible with the power of the New Covenant. I told her that Jesus Christ never reveals a need for dealing with the spoken words of others in the New Testament. However, it is clear that believing this popular superstition created unbelief and fear in this Christian woman. It completely negated her faith in Christ. Christ's redemption of believers cannot be this weak and subject to the whims of others as they speak negative words or even to those purposely practicing witchcraft. God's blessed children redeemed by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ cannot be this vulnerable to someone's curse. I believe that this woman misinterpreted the accident as the work of a curse because she had this fearful superstitious paradigm about curses working in 2

Why a Book About Curses? her mind. Because of this belief she will have a tendency to interpret difficult events in her life as the work of a curse. About a year ago, I was speaking to a pastor of a small church. He told me that the church was suffering from an assault of curses coming from a coven of witches that had moved into a house near the Church. He told me of various difficulties related to curses that had come against the church. The church often had spent time in prayer breaking the curses sent against them. A few months ago, I was speaking again to this same pastor and he told me that they had discovered that the group across from the church was actually a Christian house church and not a group of witches after all. It was clear that this pastor and his group had for many months misinterpreted the negative events happening in the church as curses when they were something else all together. This pastor and his group had this fearful superstitious paradigm about curses working in their minds and they interpreted the negative events in the Church through it and came to a wrong and near paranoid conclusion. Fear seems to run rampant through this group of believers. They feel incredibly vulnerable to unknown persons in unknown places speaking unknown negative words about them. This is superstition. It is amazing to me that the mere suggestion to a Christian that someone is uttering a curse against them has the power to produce unbelief in Christ's power to protect them. Their faith in Christ is so fragile that the suggestion of a curse makes them immediately fearful and causes them to cease abiding in Him. They immediately step off of the solid rock of Christ back to shifting sand of circumstances. Their focus quickly changes from expectation of good from Him to expectation of evil from the devil. They believe more in the devil's power to afflict than in Christ's power to protect. We believe that this teaching has done great damage to the faith of believers. It has presented the salvation won at the cross at great price as being very shallow and fragile. Indeed, our salvation must be very shallow to be affected so easily by the servants of the devil and our own 3

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? innocent and unintentional confessions. No! It is our own superstitious fear and unbelief in the power of Christ's cross and resurrection that is separating us from our God's power to bless and protect us. Let us repent of fear and unbelief in the sufficiency of Christ's work and person to protect. Nothing, including a real curse spoken against us, shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Interpreting History Through a Curse Paradigm As I was studying the subject of curses in writings advocating that Christians are affected by curses, I encountered a number of odd and suspicious interpretations of events. One well-known author attributes the difficulties that the Jews have suffered in the past two thousand years to a curse incurred by them because of their declaration of His blood be upon us and our children to Pilate during the Passion. Of course, nowhere does the Bible say that this caused a curse on the Jewish people. It is entirely a speculation. This would mean a handful of jealous religious leaders could create a horrible curse over their entire nation of Israel for thousands of years even when the entire nation then and at other times does not hold their same attitude towards Christ. Doesn't anyone else's opinion about Christ matter to God? How did a handful of unbelieving men get such power to afflict all God's covenant people supernaturally for centuries? Why would God choose these particular unbelieving men to represent Jews throughout history? Why not chose Peter and the other believing Jewish disciples to represent Israel if you must chose representatives? This idea of a national curse on Israel simply doesn't pass the common sense test nor does it appear to be in effect in modern Israel. The New Testament writers do not seem to know about this socalled curse on the Jews. The New Testament does not refer to God's dealings with Israel in the past or present as a curse. In fact, it does appear at present that millions of Jews have returned to their homeland through amazing divine intervention. It appears that they have restored an ugly wasteland to its former beauty by planting millions of trees. It appears in the 4

Why a Book About Curses? numerous wars against them in the past half-century that they have experienced amazing divine protection. Numerous stories of angelic intervention in battle are recorded. Indeed, it appears that they are blessed and not cursed at all. The Jews had severe problems in their past including captivity and slavery to the Egyptians after Joseph and until the time of Moses. It is clear that this was part of the plan of God. God had sent the family of Jacob to Egypt to be protected by Joseph. They were God's blessed covenant people and yet had great difficulties during that time to be followed by great blessing. Later they were captive to the Assyrians and Babylonians due to their disobedience to the Law of Moses. During the time of Esther, they were protected from a planned extermination of them as a race. In other words, even before Christ appeared, the Jewish people had severe problems caused by differing things. To interpreting their present and past problems though the idea of a First Century curse seems to ignore their history before Christ appeared. Interpreting historical problems through a supposed curse is common in this teaching but often seems to ignore other historical facts that contradict the idea of a curse. Another example by those who teach about curses is a supposed curse that Jacob uttered. This curse supposedly caused his beloved wife Rachel to die in childbirth. The teaching goes like this... Jacob's wife Rachel had stolen her family's household teraphim gods in Genesis Chapter 31. Her father Laban confronted Jacob about the missing teraphim. Jacob, not knowing that Rachel has the teraphim, utters a supposed curse in reaction to the accusation that he has stolen the teraphim. He says If you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live. This supposed curse supposedly caused Rachel's death in childbirth in Genesis Chapter 35. There are several things that are important to note here. First of all, neither Old nor New Testaments explain Rachel's death as being the result of Jacob's supposed curse. This interpretation certainly could be revealed but is not found anywhere. It is 5

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? another speculation. Secondly, the actual words of the supposed curse do not fit the interpretation. While this teaching about curses seems legalistic overall, it is very flexible in interpretation when it wants to be. If Jacob's words are the issue, then we should be careful to see what Jacob actually said. Jacob said if you (Laban) find anyone who has your gods, then there would be deadly consequences. This condition that Jacob placed in this so-called curse was not fulfilled. Laban did not find the teraphim; therefore there should be no consequences. However, this detail does seem to be ignored by those who teach on curses. Thirdly, there is no intent here to bless or curse on Jacob's part. He was actually saying if Laban found the teraphim, then the person who had them was going to be executed by Jacob or Laban on the spot at that time. The idea that God would then take up this so-called curse and cause it to be enacted in the lives of those God had called to Himself for a special purpose presents God as a very odd God. God would be acting in a legalistic way that seems contrary to love, grace, mercy, compassion and even contrary to His own purpose to bless this family. Jacob actual words and the conditions he uttered were never fulfilled in the situation. Jacob had no intent to bless or curse. The actual meaning of his words was to speak of execution by him or Laban on the spot and not of a supernatural judgment from God. However, in this teaching, God ignores all this, reinterprets Jacob's words and intent and then causes Jacob's beloved wife to die shortly thereafter. This interpretation of these events presents God as arbitrary, hard, and unkind. This is highly superstitious and fear-laden teaching. This is hard to reconcile with the New Testament revelation of God as a Father who is full of grace and mercy who acts on behalf of those whom He loves. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no curse in this passage. An advocate of the Vulnerability to Curses teaching, stated in an email to the author that Job's problems recorded in the Old Testament Book of Job were a result of curses. He wrote in an email: 6

Why a Book About Curses? Job's fear, and constant stream of negative confessions against God (there are 74 of them) and cursing himself (there are 17 of them) gave license for Satan to attack the whole family, which was under Job's authority. Of course, this sincere man has things a little backwards. A casual reading of the Book of Job uncovers the facts that Job's problems were happening before his negative confessions about God and himself began. When he lost his family and when he got sick, he was making good confessions. It was only after many days of difficulties that he began to make negative statements. It is common in this teaching to look for and find statements in the Scriptures to declare as curses and then to attribute the difficulties to a so-called curse. In just about all the cases, the scriptural passages themselves say nothing about curses. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Job did not cause his own problems by cursing himself. One minister, who often serves European Gypsies in Christian ministry, believes that he has a revelation about the Gypsies being under God's curse and this curse causes them to be vagabonds. He believes and teaches that this curse has come through the generations because the Gypsies are descendents of the betrayer of Christ, Judas. He believes that Judas had two daughters and the Gypsies are descendents of the two daughters. Of course, there are serious problems with this idea. First of all, Judas did not have children after he betrayed Christ because he committed suicide. So if Judas had two daughters, they would have had to be born before he betrayed Christ. Therefore, this sin or curse would have been applied to them by God after Judas' betrayal despite their own innocence. They would lose their father and be cursed by God despite their own innocence. This does not seem consistent with Christ's new revelation of God as Father. God is being presented as arbitrary, hard and legalistic rather than loving, kind, gracious and merciful. There is no evidence of this so-called curse in the New Testament. The authors of the New Testament do not seem to know about it. It is another extra-biblical speculation. 7

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Secondly, there is strong genetic evidence today that the Gypsies do not have a Jewish heritage. Most historians say that the Gypsies originally migrated from India about 1000 A.D. The modern science of genetics also supports the contention that Gypsies are of Indian descent. The Gypsies share the same genetic diseases that Indian's do. They do not share the genetic diseases of Jewish people. Thirdly and most importantly, this minister shares how the Lord sets the Gypsies free from all sorts of problems when he presents that they are under this particular curse and then breaks it. This is often the proof that is offered about this particular curse on the Gypsies. This is common reasoning in this teaching. Someone will present that they had good results when they broke a curse that they discerned over someone. The good results are offered as the proof that the curse actually existed. However, in this case, it is apparent that the Gypsies are a highly superstitious people. They believed very much in curses even before this minister taught them about curses. Cursing and being cursed is part of their tradition and superstitious cultural beliefs. It is likely that an explanation of their vagabond lifestyle from an authority figure that involves the idea of God's curse would be highly acceptable to them since a solution to their problems is being offered. They would then react very positively to this minister's breaking of this curse. The power of suggestion and the placebo effect would certainly help these superstitious people. They would gain the sense of a new start in life if they believed what this minister was saying. They would gain a new expectation of blessing from God. They would receive many real blessings from God as this minister prays for them in this positive emotional environment. The minister would then think that the blessings coming to these people from God are proof that his revelation of a curse is correct. However, the blessings would be because of God's grace in Jesus Christ and not because he broke a curse over them. God loves people and blesses them because of what 8

Why a Book About Curses? Jesus has done not because a minister's theology or interpretation of events is correct. We might take a moment and remind ourselves that our Savior lived a vagabond lifestyle. He owned little. He had no consistent place to sleep. He was seriously misunderstood by His own family members. His own hometown rejected His ministry. He was despised by the religious rulers. Once the people He was trying to help tried to stone him. Once they tried to throw Him off a cliff. Eventually, He was unfairly and illegally sentenced to death and crucified between two thieves. His message was misunderstood. His message was twisted and misrepresented. He was accused of blasphemy. He was verbally cursed by His enemies. Some today would probably offer counsel to Jesus Christ that He needs to break the curses that are obviously affecting Him. No! What we are seeing in Christ are the afflictions of the righteous not the cursed. Using this curses paradigm, some today could say that the apostle Paul must have been cursed. Consider Paul's own experience. He was shipwrecked and he spent a night and a day drifting in the sea. He was stoned once. He was beaten with rods three times. He was whipped five times. Each time he was whipped, he was given thirty nine lashes. Many Jews and even some Christians were hostile to Paul. He escaped murderers in Damascus and other places. The Church sometimes did not understand, appreciate or even help him. At the end of his life, Paul said that he had only Timothy as help1. He suffered hunger and thirst and financial lack at times. He chose to support his ministry by making tents at times. He was arrested several times. He spent many months in prison. Eventually, he was beheaded by the Emperor Nero. Some today certainly would have tried to convince the apostle Paul that he was cursed and he needed to break those curses. Certainly, there were those who spoke evil words about Paul.

1

Philippians 2::19-21

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Are we seeing the effect of those evil words in Paul's life? Since the New Testament doesn't record anyone breaking a curse, it is extremely unlikely that anyone would have convinced Paul that his difficulties were a result of curses spoken by his enemies. He clearly saw the difficulties in his life as related to his commitment to serve Jesus Christ through preaching the Gospel. We believe Paul was right in his interpretation of his difficulties. Indeed, ten of the original twelve apostles were eventually murdered. Is this evidence of a curse? No! They were amazingly blessed by God. We need to stand firm, confident in our salvation and blessing from God and not let a superstitious fear overcome our faith in Christ. This is a strong wind of doctrinal superstition sweeping nearly unchecked through the Church. Sadly, large portions of the Church seem unable to discern when a popular teaching is absolutely missing from the apostolic record contained in the New Testament. As stated earlier, we often travel to American and International locations as we serve Christ in healing ministry. When prayer is offered in these healing meetings, an increasing number of believers present themselves as being under a curse. After questioning these fearful, doubtful and confused persons, we have reached a conclusion that a book is needed to analyze carefully this teaching on curses and what the New Testament actually says and does not say about curses. We will review the teaching and all the references to curses in the New Testament in the next few chapters.

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2 Are Christians Vulnerable to Curses?

The Popular Teaching Reviewed In the next section, we will simply review the Vulnerability to Curses teaching without thorough analysis. We want to state what appear to be the common elements in this teaching today. As we have spoken to those teaching about curses, we find that they are somewhat nebulous about their beliefs and several told us that to understand about curses you must have revelation. This is a way to tell us that they could not state clearly the teaching or support it from the New Testament. However, some have published on the subject so we draw much from these writings about curses. We must say from the outset that it is a very complex and difficult teaching. However, we will attempt to lay out the basic beliefs in the next few pages. Curses Exist. The first point that is usually made by those who teach about curses is that curses do exist. They often point to Old Testament passages in the Law of Moses to prove this. They may refer to a few New Testament passages as well. However, we did not find much use of the passages in the New Testament in writings simply because they don't seem to say what the authors are saying about curses. Sometimes, the authors use passages to teach about curses that say nothing about curses in a direct way but the idea of a curse seems projected or imposed on these verses. We saw this projection in the previous chapter in the example of Jacob's so-called curse

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? on Rachel and in the example of the Jewish leaders cursing the entire Jewish race by their statement of rejection of Christ before Pilate. Defining a Curse. Sometimes these authors don't define what a curse is but piecing together their teaching; we could state that a curse is a spoken negative expectation of a person, a group or thing that has supernatural capacity to harm that person, group or thing. Some will quote the various dictionary definitions of the word curse but often fail to note that these definitions are more narrowly defining a curse as something intentionally spoken to supernaturally harm. The idea of an unintentional curse, such as a bad confession or a so-called self-curse, is not found in the dictionary definitions but is often found in these teachings. The idea of an unintentional curse doesn't seem to be in the Bible either when carefully studied. Bible examples of unintentional curses from the teachings do not seem to hold up to scrutiny that they are actually curses from a biblical perspective. Many Things are Curses. Many things are being called curses. This ranges from Old Testament scriptural passages of the Law of Moses that are God's curses to someone saying negative words about themselves or someone else. What might be called a bad confession in the past now has been given the status of a curse by many teachers. The various judgments of God found in the Old Testament are sometimes called God's curses even when the passages themselves don't say anything about curses. Because of the broadness of the definition of curses, curses are found in passages that don't say anything specifically about curses. This broadness of the definition of curses is widespread and creates difficulties in clarity when speaking about curses. Any negative spoken words are currently being called curses by many and thought to have supernatural power to harm. Curses are Spoken. Anyone with capacity to speak, including God, can speak a curse. Of course, some curses were spoken 12

Vulnerability to Curses

originally by God and are now written in Old Testament Scripture, primarily part of the Law of Moses. The capacity to curse is clear in the New Testament. The New Testament warns believers not to curse but to bless. However, as we will observe in future chapters, there are no direct references to anyone breaking a curse. The phrase breaking a curse is not found in any form in the Bible. Authority Figures Can Curse. Most of those who teach on curses agree that authority figures, such as parents, have a strong capacity to curse those who are under their authority. This idea is supported theologically but no one seems to have any support from the Bible that teaches this in a direct way. It is mostly taught by piecing verses together that say nothing about curses and examples from the Old Covenant. Since authority gives one capacity to curse in this teaching, this would make a submitted person very vulnerable to a curse from an authority. It is also unclear and confused in this teaching is whether the effect of a curse or a negative spoken word from an authority figure is natural and has a psychological effect or is supernatural and has a spiritual effect. The idea of authorities cursing submitted persons also seems to contradict the protective covering idea of authority that some teach. There may be a contradiction in this idea of protection and the idea that a curse must have a legitimate cause. There are a lot of unanswered questions in this confusing teaching. Does the authority of a person make his curse legitimate? If so, can an innocent and submitted Christian person be cursed by his authority that is supposedly his protection? Where does the submitted person's own relationship with Christ fit into this teaching? Because Christ makes the believer completely righteous through faith, how can a curse ever have a legitimate cause? How can a curse spoken by any human being supernaturally affect a blessed child of God in covenant relationship with Father through the sacrificial work of Christ? 13

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? We hope that the reader can see that there is confusion, fear and unbelief in this teaching. Curses can be Intentional or Accidental. Some believe that a servant of Satan may intentionally curse a person. Conversely, they often teach that a person may unintentionally curse themselves or others by speaking bad things about themselves or others with no real intent to harm. However, the negative spoken word apparently is believed to have a life in itself inflicting supernatural harm even if the person had no intention of harming themselves or another. In the counseling methodology of the curses paradigm, there is an attempt to find these unintentional curses in the self-talk and beliefs of the one receiving counsel. It is difficult to support biblically the idea that either a blessing or a curse could be accidental and unintentional. What we mean by this is that the person speaking a curse must know that they are cursing for that which they are speaking to be a real curse from a biblical standpoint. We examined examples of these socalled unintentional curses in the Bible in Chapter One to see if they are actually curses. These examples did not prove to be curses. We will look at several more examples before finishing this book. Curses Affect Groups. Some believe that historical problems of ethnic groups such as the Jews can be explained by curses. They see families, nations and ethnic groups all being affected by curses. Many seem to believe that mistreatment of another people group brings a curse on the entire group that did the mistreatment. They attempt to break curses over nations and people groups by publicly asking forgiveness of a representative of the mistreated people group. This is the theology of identification repentance. This theology seems to be missing from the New Testament. Repentance on the behalf of others is not revealed in the New Testament as New Testament ministry. Neither does Christ commission His disciples to break curses over nations or people groups. Nowhere do we find anyone 14

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purposely trying to break curses in Old or New Testaments. We do see prophets in the Old Testament confessing the sins of the Jewish nation but not breaking curses. In Chapter One, we also examined several examples of curses supposedly affecting nations that authors had offered as proof. We found these examples unconvincing. Past and Present Curses Affect Christians. Curses are seen to be a present problem in the lives of Christians. Sometimes this is presented as a lingering problem that exists before a person is a believer that must be dealt with separately after they believe. The focus is generally upon occult involvement before a person was a Christian but some teachers add many other things. Most of what is presented comes from a "Christianized" form of the Law of Moses. There is also a widespread belief and fear that the human servants of the devil; witches, witchdoctors and other practitioners of the occult have demonic power to supernaturally affect Christians. Sometimes even overbearing parents and other family members are added to this evil list of servants of the devil. This idea seems only to be supported by stories of things happening to Christians. This may simply be a fearful superstitious mindset misinterpreting events. Superstitious Christians often misinterpret events by virtue of the curses mindset. We found nothing in the New Testament to support the idea of curses affecting Christians except for warnings about embracing the Law of Moses and coming under the curse of the Law. Interestingly, many seem to ignore this warning and draw curses out of the Law of Moses and apply them to Christians. Curses Produce Bad Effects. Teachers of this paradigm seem to agree that curses work many ill effects in the lives of people. One author says that frustration in any area of life is characteristic of a curse working. Often stories of a person's ongoing difficulties being solved by breaking a supposed curse are offered as proof that this is true. However, no one seems to 15

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? find a single example of someone breaking a curse in the New Testament. Curses Must Have Legitimate Legal Cause. Nearly everyone teaching this paradigm teaches that a curse must have a legitimate legal cause. Explanations of this seem to center around a single Old Testament verse. This verse is Proverbs 26:2. All the teachings seem to think that this verse is important. Generally this verse is interpreted to mean that there must be some moral justification, a deserved cause, for a curse to be effective in the life of a believer. However, this seems to be contradicted by the idea that an authority figure can utter an effective curse even upon an innocent person. Again, this is a confused teaching that often contradicts itself. This places it in the category of being a fearful superstition rather than being the truth. All authors seem to agree that curses are a kind of legal arrangement with humanity, God and the devil involved. This seems rather important to this teaching. There is much theological explanation of this belief but little direct support from the Bible. Support for this belief is usually drawn from tragic situations described in the Bible and interpreted through the lens of the idea of a curse affecting the persons involved. However, a careful examination of these passages often fails to find a single reference to a curse. The idea of a curse seems to be imposed on these passages. The texts themselves do not state that the problems described in the passage are the effect of a curse. Curses Give Authority to Evil Spirits. Authors seem to believe that the devil, fallen angels and demons have authority to harm a believer through legalities due to a curse. This seems very important to this teaching. There seems to be a theological explanation about this but nothing to support it in a direct way from the Bible. There don't seem to be any verses anywhere in the New Testament that say in a clear way that the devil has authority over a believer for any reason. Actually, the opposite is 16

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taught by the New Testament in a very clear fashion. Christ says that believers would have authority over evil spirits. Christ says nothing about any conditions to this authority other than their relationship with Christ as His follower. Christ does not say that the believer must be obedient, faithful, of good character, or wise to have this authority over the devil. Christ does not say that this authority is dependent upon anything that the believer must do. He does not teach that this authority over the devil comes by renouncing the occult or dealing with curses. These are ideas added by this teaching that do not have any basis in the New Testament. The New Testament does warn believers not to give the devil a place but it never gives the devil authority over a believer for any reason. Arguments are raised that speculate what would happen then if a believer returned to involvement with the occult in support of this idea of the devil's authority over a believer. It is clear that that believer would suffer great problems, possible deception and loss of much but not because God is giving the devil authority over him but because he is would not be any longer exercising his authority over the devil and resisting the devil's destructive activity in his life. In our understanding, the devil does not need legal authority to challenge a Christian. He operates as a spiritual criminal outside of legitimate authority. Christ has permanently stripped the devil of all this authority. The devil cannot get his authority back from Christ under any circumstance. Spending time trying in counseling to take away the devil's authority in a believer's life is fruitless activity since the devil has none. There are no longer any open doors since Christ's atonement has shut them all forever. It is finished. We need to continually and consistently exercise our legitimate authority bought by Christ over the devil in faith without any doubting that there is something else we must add to Christ's sacrifice. Inheriting a Curse. Teachings state that curses can be inherited generation after generation. The proof for this idea that 17

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? is offered is found in the Law of Moses in the passage where the Ten Commandments are revealed. The second commandment forbids creating idols to worship, bowing down to them and serving them as gods. In that context, God says that He is a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God1. We note that this passage doesn't call this a curse and it doesn't apply generally to everyone. It only applies to those Jews living under the Law of Moses and those who hate God and are practicing idolatry. We are still looking for a true Christian who hates God, who is living under the Law of Moses and is practicing idolatry. I doubt seriously that we will ever meet one. This is one of the problems with this teaching. The specific details of these passages are glossed over, ignored, and then only one aspect of the passage is applied in a general sense to everyone. This passage does not teach a general inheriting of curses or iniquity by everyone. It only applies to Jewish idolaters who hate God. The other passage that is often quoted to prove that curses are inherited is about a curse that affects ten generations.2 This is coupled with information about how certain problems affect families generation after generation. These two things together are seen as proof that curses must be affecting these families. Occasionally, someone has asserted that something as ordinary and common as loneliness or feelings of rejection is evidence of this curse. It has been called the curse of the bastard by some. This passage doesn't say anything about a curse either. It actually doesn't say anything about an inherited problem either. This passage's meaning has been spiritualized and erroneously applied to Christians. Teachers of curses might present that loneliness, rejection or difficulties in relationships are caused by this curse. According to this teaching, these emotional problems, caused by the curse, prevent someone from entering the Christian assembly of the LORD and having true fellowship.

1 2

Exodus 20:4-5 Deuteronomy 23:2

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Of course, this is not what the passage is actually saying. It has nothing to do with emotions. This teaching actually reverses the actual situation. The actual situation was that those Jews in the assembly of the LORD were to bar the bastard and his descendents from entering the assembly in a physical way. The bastard was to be refused entrance into the assembly. It had nothing to do with how the bastard or his descendents felt emotionally at all. This curse wasn't even supernatural in the original context. This passage is not describing Christians and the Church. This is only about the nation of Israel under the Law of Moses. This passage is part of the Law of Moses. It is not to be ripped out of its context, spiritualized, twisted and imposed on Christians. If this verse applies to Christians, what about the verse before these verses? That verse says that a male who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the congregation either. Shall we reject men who are injured in such a fashion from Christian churches? No! Shall we spiritualize this verse also? No! The Law of Moses does not apply in any fashion to the Church. The Early Church would have rejected this way of applying the Law of Moses to the Church. This teaching about generational curses has become widespread in the western Church. Many people now fear that they are under a generational curse of some kind because they observe that certain problems have appeared in their family line generation after generation. This should not be a revelation. It is rather obvious. Secular psychologists and psychiatrists note it also. They often map out generational problems using means such as genograms. A genogram is a family tree noting specific actions and problems generation after generation. Secular mental health workers were doing this a long time before these generational curses superstitions appeared in the Church. We find this teaching very odd since all human strengths, weaknesses, problems and sinful tendencies are inherited. They are all inherited originally from Adam and Eve. Human fallen19

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? ness is inherited from our parents who inherited it from their parents3. It comes from our genetics and of course the learned behavior and wounded-ness of family members being passed on generation after generation. Demonic activity is pitted against us generation after generation as well. This is universal human experience. All human beings everywhere experience this and not just a few that are under a specific so-called curse. Some of these inherited problems are simply more obvious than others and are being interpreted as curses by these authors. Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to the need of every person without some sort of special ministry to generational matters. Christ ministered to the specific needs of everyone in the multitudes and never indicated that anyone had a special need for dealing with generational sins or curses. The apostles would have not known about this kind of ministry and yet powerfully duplicated the supernatural ministry of the Savior. Disobedience to Law Produces a Curse. The Old Testament is often used in this teaching without discrimination from the New Testament. The words of God found in the Law of Moses are often quoted in these teachings as describing curses from God that affect Christian believers. The thought that disobedience to God's commands in these passages makes one subject to the curses in these passages is often presented. It appears that many of these authors do not understand the profound distinction between obedience to Law in the Old Covenant and faith in Christ in the New Covenant. They freely mix these very different approaches to God without acknowledgement or discrimination. There does not seem to be any acknowledgment by these authors that the New Testament repeatedly warns believers about coming under any aspect of

3

The author heard a secular rock song recently that had this theme... "We didn't start the fire"... the theme of the song was that the singers were born into a world of problems and were not responsible for causing those problems. We hope that they understood that their parents and grandparents were also born into a fallen world. They didn't start the fire either; however we all keep the fire going until redemption in Christ transforms us.

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Vulnerability to Curses

the Law of Moses. These authors use commands out of the Law of Moses and the curses associated with them in their teachings without comment about these being part of the Law. The New Testament has much to say about the Law and its relationship to Christian believer that seems to be ignored in the writings of those teaching about curses. We will review some of the New Testament's warnings about this later in this book. Curses are Discerned. According to this teaching, curses must be discerned by revelation of the Holy Spirit. Some would add that the cause of the curse must be revealed by God and repented of in order for the curse to be broken. This heavy dependence upon revelation makes this whole matter very subjective and extremely vulnerable to the power of suggestion, fears and misinterpretations. We have observed that the misinterpretation of events and problems is the rule in the practice of this teaching rather than the exception. We related examples of this in Chapter One. Once the mind has accepted this superstitious paradigm, the power of Christ to protect is doubted and minimized and then negative events of any type begin to be misinterpreted as the work of curses. Curses are Broken Individually. This seems to be a common thread in all the teachings. According to this teaching, curses must be individually discovered by revelation and broken one by one. We didn't find this practice anywhere in the New Testament and for that matter in the Old Testament either. There is not a single example of this anywhere in Scripture that refers to a specific curse being broken. The idea of breaking curses seems to be drawn from popular superstition. No one seemed to be able to offer any biblical support for breaking individual curses except for a comparison with healing ministry. The comparison goes like this... even though Christ paid the price for all our healing, we still have to receive healing one sickness after another. Some are still sick even though Christ has paid for their healing. Curses are similar in their thinking. They must apply Christ's sacrifice to each as they are 21

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? subjectively discerned. The assumption here is that a Christian has hidden curses that need to be dealt with which is questionable since no example exists in Scripture. This comparison itself lacks real substance. Christ commissioned His followers to heal the sick but He had nothing at all to say about breaking curses. Neither are believers carrying all our sicknesses and injuries with us at present in some sort of hidden way. Sickness and injury happen to us as we live out our lives. Sicknesses and injuries do not need to be revealed supernaturally to be observed. They are objective realities and not subjective revelations. Applying Christ's Work Breaks Curses. According to this teaching, curses must be broken though the cross of Christ. If the person was the cause of the curse then they break the curse by repentance, confession and verbal renunciation of the curse and its cause. Replacement with appropriate verbal blessings after the curse is broken seems to be indicated by most teachings on curses. All this can seem very logical but we remind the reader that there is not a single instance in the New Testament of anyone doing this. Christ doesn't demonstrate dealing with curses in His ministry. He doesn't teach about curses needing to be broken to His disciples. None of the apostles seems to know anything about dealing with curses. The apostle Paul in his writings that constitute approximately half of the New Testament doesn't seem to know anything about breaking curses. This appears to be a superstitious mindset that draws much of what it teaches out of the Law of Moses and then "Christianizes" it and applies it to believers. Interpretative Methods In these teachings, verses that say nothing about curses are often used to teach about curses. For example, the passage found in Exodus Chapter 20 where God speaks about visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children is used to teach about curses. This passage says nothing at all about curses. When someone has this particular paradigm in their thinking, 22

Vulnerability to Curses

they will tend to interpret the Scriptures through it and find curses everywhere. They will tend to explain all the negative events in the lives of those found in Scripture through this superstitious lens. Our methodology in this book will be to look at the verses in the New Testament that actually speak about curses. These verses seem to be largely ignored in teaching about curses. This is probably because the actual verses about curses don't seem to say what this teaching is saying. We will explore those verses actually found in the New Testament about curses first determine what Christian teaching says about curses and their relationship with Christians. Then we will explore what the Old Testament says about curses and their relationship with Christians. Ignores Truth about the Old Man's Crucifixion In reviewing teaching about curses, it became increasingly apparent that this teaching is trying to fix problems in the lives of people through means that the New Testament doesn't reveal. What Romans Chapter 6 teaches about the breaking of the power of sin in the lives of believers is absent in these teachings. Instead there seems to be attempts to fix the fallen old man's inclination towards sin rather than reckoning that the old man is crucified with Christ and buried in baptism. We now live in the blessed new nature made in the image of Christ. This new nature is not part of the world that is passing away. It is not part of the world that curses and is cursed. This blessed new nature cannot be successfully cursed by men. Only the fallen old man could be successfully cursed but God has an answer for that problem in Christ. We are crucified with Christ. A dead man cannot be enticed to sin or successfully cursed either. Instead of using our faith in Christ's amazing work at the cross to deliver us from the problems of the old nature, we are encouraged in these teachings to fix problems of the old nature in a piece-meal manner. This approach will have believers spending the rest of their lives discovering that there is never an end to the problems of the old nature. The old nature is fallen 23

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? and cannot be successfully redeemed. Instead of focusing on the old nature, we should reckon our sinful nature is dead and buried with Christ and then live out of the resurrected Christ-like new nature. This is the real and comprehensive solution to sin that Father offers us. Instead of having our focus on Christ as the comprehensive solution to all our issues, we will be continually looking inward for the next hidden cause of our problems. Attempting to dig out curses and other problems of the old nature will make us fearful, introspective, increasingly weary and eventually totally defeated. This is not the yoke of Christ. Christ Commission Specific Ministry It seems appropriate as we conclude this chapter by considering Christ's actual commands to His disciples about their ministry. For instance, Christ says to the Twelve: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8 Christ commissions them to do exactly the same type of ministry that He has done. Jesus doesn't commission His disciples to break curses in this passage or any other. We don't see Him dealing with curses as He ministers deliverance from demons or heals the sick. We don't see any of the Twelve apostle's dealing with curses either. Jesus didn't teach them to do it either by word or example in ministry. It is clear that the apostolic leaders of the First Century knew nothing about dealing with curses as we have some doing today. Yet, these first apostles powerfully dealt with demons and sickness just like their Lord had before them without dealing with curses. Likewise, we don't see the Seventy that Christ sent out dealing with curses either. They successfully cast out demons and healed the sick. Likewise, the apostle Paul doesn't seem to know anything about breaking curses either as we review his letters and life outlined in the Book of Acts. As we consider the other authors of the New Testament, not a single 24

Vulnerability to Curses

one seems to know anything about the need for Christians to deal with curses except for the curse of the Law of Moses. This important matter about the curse of the Law and Christians will be discussed later in this book after we review all the verses that discuss curses in the New Testament. We believe that the curse of the Law of Moses is the real issue at stake as Christians consider the present teaching of curses. It may be the devil's snare, a spiritual Trojan Horse, to get Christians to embrace aspects of the Law of Moses and thereby coming under the all-encompassing compound curse of the Law.

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3 Humanity Curses

Introduction It is clear that references to curses are found in the Bible. It is clear that curses do exist. What is not clear is what should be done about curses. There are many who are advocating that curses must be discovered and broken by Christians. We call this teaching the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching. It is important to see just what the Bible has to say about this matter. We are particularly interested in what Christ teaches His disciples about this matter. For any modern teaching about dealing with curses to be valid for Christians, we should find some evidence of it in the New Testament writings. First of all, the words and actions of Jesus Christ should show us the importance of this matter. If the Lord Jesus is silent about a particular teaching or matter, then either that matter is unimportant to His disciples or perhaps there is something wrong with that teaching in whole or part. Likewise, we should be able to find the first apostles of Jesus Christ revealing of the importance of a matter in their writings to the First Century Church found in the New Testament. If Christ and His first disciples validate a particular teaching or practice, then we should heartily embrace it as being apostolic and foundational. If they are silent, then we should be cautious and even suspicious that that teaching might be wrong in whole or part. Therefore, we must carefully observe just what the New Testament says about curses and our relationship with them. We also need to observe what the New Testament does not say about curses that others are saying. There are not many references to curses in the New Testament in comparison to other subjects so we will be able to complete a

Humanity Curses thorough review of these verses in a few chapters. A few of the references to Christ's statements about curses are repeated in several of the Synoptic Gospels. Therefore, we do not need to repeat the verse again in the text if the verse was identical or nearly identical. We simply have made a reference near the verse quoted in the text. There is a single important matter that we should observe in this chapter about each verse and passage we review. We will ask and answer a particular question... Does the verse or passage teach or imply that there is a need for Christians to deal with individual curses? Answering this question will begin our search to know the truth from a Christian perspective about curses. If we cannot find the teaching in the New Testament, then we must be wary that the teaching in whole or part may not be apostolic or of the New Covenant at all. Our survey will cover a number of words related to curses. It will cover the various words curse, curses, cursed, cursing and accursed in the forms that appear in the King James Version. When we are writing about the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching, we will often just use the word curse or curses to describe all the references. We chose to use the King James Version not because we believe it to be a superior translation but because so many that teach on curses use this version to teach. There is a logical division in the references to curses. These verses can be divided into two sections: Curses by human beings and curses by God. In this chapter, we will review all the references to human beings cursing with a purpose of discovering if there is any hint of a Christian being vulnerable to a curse and therefore needing to break a curse.

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Bless and Curse Not The first time that curses are mentioned in the New Testament is found in Matthew's Gospel. In the message often called the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ says to His disciples: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you... Matthew 5:441 (see Luke 6:28) Here Christ teaches His disciples not to curse but to bless. The Greek word here is kataraomai. It primarily means to pray against or to wish evil against a person or thing, hence uttering a curse. This Greek word does have the idea of intentionality in it. We also note that Christ began this long discourse by that portion that is called the Beatitudes which is a list of blessings. What is notable about the Sermon on the Mount is that it only contains blessings in the discourse and no curses at all. (This is very different than the Law of Moses which contains both.) Only having blessings seems absolutely consistent with Christ revelation of God as Father. Our Father does not curse His redeemed and forgiven children. Instead, He shows them abundant grace and mercy. Christ does not indicate in this verse that His disciples will need to deal specifically with curses that are spoken against them. In fact, the only reaction to a curse that Christ teaches is to bless the one who curses. The Sermon on the Mount would have been an opportune time for Christ to teach His disciples to deal with curses if He believed that curses would be a problem. He does deal with many other specific subjects including prayer, fasting, lust, anger, marriage, making vows and other subjects. The absence of Christ's concern about dealing with curses spoken against His disciples is revealing and it should arouse

1

The verse is not found in this form in all the ancient manuscripts. Some manuscripts do not contain the Greek word translated "curse" here.

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Humanity Curses suspicion that something might be wrong with the Vulnerability to Curses teaching in whole or part. In this case, Matthew, one of the original Twelve apostles, doesn't tell us about the need for the followers of Christ to deal with curses in a passage where Christ speaks about curses. The apostle Paul makes a number of statements about curses. We will review all of his statements in this book. Here is Paul's statement about curses that is very similar to Christ's statement above. He writes: Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Romans 12:14 The Greek word here is also a form of kataraomai. Again, the idea of intentionality is present here. There is no idea that a person could accidentally curse someone or themselves in this word. This statement is extremely similar to Christ's command to bless and not to curse people, particularly those who persecute us because we are believers. Here is an opportunity for the apostle Paul to comment on the need for believers to deal with curses and yet he seems to be unconcerned about that matter in this passage. James also speaks about curses in a similar way in one passage. The context of this passage is about getting and maintaining control over our tongue. James tells us about the dual capacity of the tongue to both bless and curse. He writes: Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. James 3:9-10 The Greek word translated cursing here is a form of the word kataraomai. It means to pray against, to wish evil against a person or thing, hence to curse. Again, the idea of intentionality is present. The idea of an accidental curse is not found here. 29

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? This instruction from James is similar to Jesus' and Paul's admonitions to bless and not curse people. However, it still lacks the idea that curses need to be dealt with by Christians. Here again, James, like Jesus and Paul had an excellent opportunity to tell us about the need to break curses and yet he failed to do so. We must conclude from his silence (and the silence of the other writers of the New Testament), that there must be something wrong with the idea that Christians must break curses. Fallen Humanity Curses Paul, in the Book of Romans, describes the sinfulness of humanity in great detail. As part of that description of humanity Paul writes: Whose mouth Romans 3:14 is full of cursing and bitterness...

The Greek word here translated cursing is ara. It means a malediction, a prayer for evil to befall someone, a curse. It means that their mouths are full of evil prayers. This verse does not seem to add much to our discussion but since it is in the New Testament, we have included it to assure the reader that all the verses have been covered. It does reveal that a curse, as defined by the New Testament, cannot be accidental. It must be intentional. Therefore, someone's innocent words, such as a bad confession, do not rise to the level of a curse in the New Testament. Again, the great theologian Paul misses a good opportunity in this verse to tell his readers that they must deal with curses. The silence of the First Century writers of the New Testament on the subject of breaking curses so far in our survey of verses is unanimous. It seems obvious that Paul did not believe this to be a problem worth mentioning to His Christian readers.

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Humanity Curses Cursing Your Parents Matthew's Gospel has another reference to curses found in a passage where Christ is interacting with His critics, the Scribes and Pharisees. It uses a different Greek word. Here the passage says: But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:3-6 The Greek word translated curseth in this passage is kakalogeo. This Greek word literally means to speak evil. Some commentators note that the King James Version translators improperly used the word curseth here. They should have translated it more literally. It should read he that speaks evil of father and mother. Many other versions use speak evil here. The Greek word does not have the sense of supernatural fulfillment in its definition like the other words translated as curse. This word, unlike the other Greek words, does not have the idea of intentionality in it. It is neutral on that matter. Perhaps that is another good reason not to translate it as curseth. In this passage, Christ reveals that some religious traditions can prevent God's will from being done. He mentions that the Law teaches that children should honor their parents and those that curse their parents can be executed. He then reminds them that they have a tradition that allows an adult child to avoid helping their parents by dedicating their money to God. In other words, they have a tradition that invalidates God's intention for grown children to care for and honor their aging parents. Here again, it is noteworthy that Jesus does not take the opportunity here to 31

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? teach that curses or evil speaking must be dealt with in some manner by His followers. Again, the absence of this concern is revealing and should make us suspicious that something might be wrong with the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching. Peter Curses Christ Matthew records another place where the subject of curses is revealed. During the time just before the crucifixion of Christ, Peter is confronted by onlookers with the fact of his close association to Jesus. Matthew records that Peter denied his association with Jesus in this manner: Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. Matthew 26:74 (CR: Mark 14:71) Here Matthew uses a form of the Greek word katanathematizo. It is a strengthened form of the Greek word anathematizo. It means to utter strong curses against a person or thing. It certainly means that the person intentionally meant to curse. It may indicate that Peter uttered curses against Christ to falsely prove to the hostile crowd that he was not a follower of Christ. This is speculation since the verse doesn't actually tell us what was being cursed by Peter. Matthew tells us that Peter began to curse and to swear. He mentions both things. Matthew appears to be much more concerned about Peter's swearing that he did not know Jesus. Matthew does not seem nearly as concerned about Peter's curses since he did not record any of the specific curses. Matthew, being one of the Twelve Apostles, could have told us in this passage about the need to deal with curses and yet he does not. Since Peter might have strongly cursed Jesus, this would have been an appropriate place to mention the need to break curses, yet the apostle Matthew again is silent. Again, we must conclude that since no hint of the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching is found in this New Testament passage (or any other) 32

Humanity Curses that there may be something wrong with the teaching in whole or part. Some have noted that Peter denies Christ three times in this passage and is later restored by Christ asking Peter three times if he loves Him. They also note that Peter had lost his standing as a disciple and therefore was singled out separately by the angel at the tomb. Mark writes: But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. Mark 16:7 While these facts from the passages are undeniable, there is nothing in any of these passages that says anything about a curse on Peter for his denial. In fact, the only mention of curses is that which Peter may have spoken against Christ. It doesn't appear that Peter's curses are the issue here but rather Peter's denial three times that he is a disciple. It appears that a superstitious paradigm about curses imposes the idea of a curse on Peter when the actual passage says nothing about it. The Holy Spirit Doesn't Curse Christ It seems appropriate for us to discuss this verse just after Peter's curses. This is the only verse on curses found in the book of First Corinthians. The apostle Paul writes: Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1 Corinthians 12:3 The Greek word used in this text by Paul again is anathema, meaning the condition of the strong disfavor of God. This curse cannot be accidental but clearly must be intentional. Here Paul gives the Corinthians an objective measure leading to proper discernment of spoken utterances. Any spoken message, prophecy, teaching or testimony that is negative about Jesus is 33

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Any utterance that makes Jesus' Lordship the preeminent issue is much more likely inspired by the Holy Spirit.2 Again, we note that this verse does not indicate that Christians must deal with curses in any way. This leads us to the longest passage in the New Testament dealing with a curse. Because of its length, we have, for the sake of organization, reviewed it in a separate chapter. This passage is found in the next chapter entitled Christ Curses the Fig Tree.

2

Christ-centered-ness is a characteristic of all Holy Spirit inspired matters. Recently the author analyzed a well-known Christian prophetic website by downloading all their prophecies. There were 1382 paragraphs of prophecy, 12,678 words and only 8 references to Christ. Actually 6 of the references to Christ were in one paragraph so that meant only 2 other paragraphs had references to Christ in them for a total of 3 paragraphs for less than onequarter (1/4) of one percent of the paragraphs having a reference to Christ. How connected to Christ the Head is this prophetic mouth?

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4 Christ Curses the Fig Tree

We continue our study of curses by discussing the longest and possibly the most important passage in the New Testament about curses. From this passage we can learn what Jesus Christ considered important about curses. We can see if Jesus felt that His disciples would need to deal with curses in some way. This story starts with Christ speaking words to a barren fig tree. Mark tells us: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:13-14 A short time later, the fig tree has withered. Mark tells us this: And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:20-24 (Matthew 21:19-22)

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Mark uses a form of the Greek word kataraomai here translated in archaic King James English as cursedst. It means to pray against or to wish evil against a person or thing, hence uttering a curse. Clearly, this must be intentional. We can observe here from this passage that Christ does not teach that curses are a problem to Christians. Christ does not teach that curses must be dealt with in some manner such as breaking them. Christ does not teach that God, the Father curses His children. Again, this would be an ideal place for the Lord Jesus to reveal to believers that curses would be a problem for His disciples and would be an important matter of ministry to others. We also note that Matthew tells us the same story as Mark. Neither Matthew nor Mark considers it important to tell us about the need for Christians to deal with curses. They certainly could have told us about Christ's concern about this matter and did not. This is strong evidence that there is something wrong with the Vulnerability to Curses teaching. The passage seems much more a demonstration of the teaching of how believing prayer and confession work to receive answers from God. It seems more of a reverse of the popular teaching about believers' vulnerability to curses. Instead of revealing our vulnerability to curses, it reveals the possibility of incredible blessing and cursing power of the believer through faith in God. It reveals that disciples of Christ through faith in God can see the miraculous power of God moving mountains. This is Christ's only teaching on curses beyond telling us to bless and not to curse our enemies. Since Christ's teaching and example are foundational in determining what Christian ministry is and what it is not, we will expend some further effort on this passage. It is important to see what this passage actually says and what it does not say. Let's now review what the passage says. Peter describes Christ's words to the fig tree as a curse. The New Testament does validate that curses do exist. We do not 36

Christ Curses the Fig Tree deny the existence of curses. We are determining if the New Testament reveals if they are a problem to believers and if believers must break curses. Christ does not disagree with Peter's assessment of His words being a curse. We must assume that Christ agrees that what He has done is cursing the fig tree. Therefore, we can examine these words to determine just what a curse is from Christ's perspective. Christ said to the fig tree... No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. This short statement is Christ's curse. An analysis of this statement finds that it is a verbalized negative projection of the future of the fig tree. It simply means that the fig tree will no longer provide figs for people to eat. It is easy to draw a simple definition of a curse from this. A curse is an intentionally spoken negative expectation of a person or thing with supernatural potential for fulfillment. The word curse and its various forms found in the New Testament do seem at times to have shades of other meanings but this definition is consistent with the Greek word used here. We note that Christ does not curse a human being which He has taught His disciples never to do. He does curse a living thing, a fig tree. This is consistent with His command to bless and not curse people even those enemies who harm us. Christ's statement, the curse, doesn't provide any details about how the fulfillment of the curse would occur. It doesn't say that the fig tree would wither. Christ simply says that no one would eat from the tree again. What can we learn from this? Perhaps that we should leave the results in God's hands and not somehow try to dictate to Him how something must occur. The statement doesn't appeal to God in a direct way or have any of the normal aspects of prayer or invocation. Apparently, curses do not have to be religious in nature to be effective. Christ doesn't bow His head or pray in the name of His Father. He only speaks to the fig tree. This is reminiscent of the fact that Christ doesn't pray to heal the sick. He simply ministers healing to people. 37

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? The fig tree withered from the roots up. In other words, the curse began to work invisibly with no apparent effect at first. It only became apparent that the curse had worked after a time when the tree had dried up. Since Christ relates this situation to prayer a few verses later, it seems wise to understand that prayer may also appear to be unanswered to a human observer at the same time that God is working unseen in the situation. Jesus' explanation of His capacity to do this miracle begins with Him encouraging His disciples to faith in God. In addition, Christ continues His encouragement by encouraging His disciples to believe twice more in the next few verses and discouraging doubting once as well. In some of the teaching about vulnerability to curses, it seems that they are teaching that you can accidentally curse others or yourself. This does seem to be contrary to Christ statement about believing. Likewise, there seems to be intentionality in this event. Christ says ...but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass. This doesn't seem to support the idea that curses or blessings can be accidental as some of the teaching on Vulnerability to Curses seems to indicate. Active believing seems to be necessary. This means that a curse or blessing must be intentional on the part of the speaker to be a curse or a blessing. The curse worked through Jesus speaking. Jesus says that the disciples can speak to mountains as well and they will move. He then says that they should speak twice more and then Christ begins to teach about believing prayer. We must assume that if the verbal curse through faith has such a strong effect, then verbal blessing through faith will also have a strong effect. Christ explains this miracle on the basis of believing what He spoke to the fig tree would come to pass. He explains that His disciples would have the same capacity if they believe and don't doubt. Finally, at the end of this teaching, Christ relates this event to prayer. He says: 38

Christ Curses the Fig Tree Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. This summation statement tells us that the whole event and the teaching following it were to illustrate the power of believing prayer. It was not to illustrate to us that curses might be a problem in the lives of believers. In fact, Christ's silence on this matter that is considered so important by many today is very revealing. This would have been an ideal place for Christ to teach that believers would need to break curses and yet he does not. It would have also been possible for Mark to comment on this himself. Yet, no one of those who record this episode in Christ's ministry reveals the need for Christians to break curses. The silence is revealing. This concludes our study of curses uttered by humanity in the New Testament. We now turn to a final set of New Testament passages that reveal curses but are not uttered by humanity. These are God's curses.

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5 God's Curses

Previously, we have reviewed all the places in the New Testament that concerned curses spoken by humanity in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, we looked at the one and only place where the New Testament says that Jesus Christ spoke a curse and what Christ had to say about that curse. Now we turn to the final group of verses in the New Testament that speak about curses. These verses do not concern humanity speaking a curse but are references that seem more related to God's curses. Again, we are reviewing these passages to determine if any of them reveal that Christians are vulnerable to curses and if Christians need to break curses. Curse as God's Judgment by Separation Paul speaks about curses by writing this verse in the Book of Romans: For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh... Romans 9:3 The word that is translated accursed here is the Greek word anathema. In some English versions, this Greek word is actually used in the text without translating it. It means to be in the condition of the strong disfavor of God. It is clear that this could not be accidental. It must be intentional. Read in the context, Paul uses this word here to denote how strongly he wished the Jews to acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah. He uses the word in the same way that someone might use the word damned. There is no indication in this verse that Christians need to deal with curses. The last of the four references about curses that Matthew makes in his Gospel is found in Chapter 25. This reference is 40

God's Curses found in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ about the separation of the sheep from the goats in judgment. Christ says of the goats: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels... Matthew 25:41 Here Christ describes those who are lost as being the cursed. Matthew uses a form of the Greek word kataraomai here. Its root word is ara. It means to pray against or to wish evil against a person or thing, hence uttering a curse. It this context, it means one who is cursed, one who has incurred the final displeasure and judgment of God. This cursedness would be the eternal fire that God has prepared for the devil and his angels. Christ describes the blessed earlier in this passage. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... Matthew 25:33-34 In this passage, Matthew tells us that the characteristics of the cursed and the blessed are revealed by how they responded to those in need around them. Again, there is not a hint of teaching by Christ that individual curses must somehow be dealt with by His disciples. In fact, those who inherit the kingdom are called the blessed. The cursed are those who are lost and sent into everlasting fire with the devil and his angels. There seems to be nothing in the passage that would validate the idea that Christians might need to deal with curses in their lives. How can God's born again children be cursed by God? How can those who are the blessed of My Father according to Christ be successfully cursed by people? As we will elaborate later in this book, the only concern expressed in the New Testament about Christians coming under a curse is the curse of the Law of Moses. The solution offered in those passages is not to break the curse of the Law but rather not to come under any aspects 41

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? of the Law of Moses. Finally, there is no hint in this passage that either group; the cursed or the blessed, could have come into that group in an accidental fashion. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles, only mentions curses four times in 28 chapters and none of these references teach us that breaking curses is a necessary matter. This idea is simply absent from the minds of the New Testament writers and needs to be absent from our minds as well. This superstitious paradigm needs to be uprooted because it creates fear in believers and undermines our faith in God's amazing comprehensive provision for us in His Son Jesus Christ. The Pharisees Assume Others are Cursed The first place where the apostle John records information about curses is a quotation from the arrogant Pharisees. John records the Pharisees saying: But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. John 7:49 Here the apostle John uses the Greek word eparatos1. It is the adjective form of ara which simply means here God's disfavor, rejection and judgment. We shall discover in subsequent chapters that everyone living under the Law of Moses was cursed who did not keep all the aspects of the Law of Moses. So the statement has some truth in it but here the speaker is implying that the Pharisees were not under the same curse. Christ greatly offends the Pharisees by pointing out their hypocrisy and their twisting of the Law of Moses for their own benefit. In other words, the Pharisees were just as guilty under the Law but were less willing to admit it than the ordinary Israelite. This verse also points to a condition of being cursed rather than a verbal curse. It does not support the contention that Christians need to deal with curses by breaking them.

1

Textual variance. Not all existing manuscripts have this word.

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God's Curses Fallen Humanity is Cursed Peter has a single verse in his two books where he makes reference to a curse. The context of the verse is not about Christian believers but is a description of fallen humanity. Peter calls unrighteous people cursed children. He writes: Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children... 2 Peter 2:14 The Greek word translated cursed here is katara. It is a form of the word ara. It is an execration, imprecation, a prayer uttered out of malevolence or pronounced by God in His righteous judgment. Clearly, here Peter is using the word as pronounced by God in His righteous judgment. This verse is not about a spoken curse but rather the condition of being cursed by God as opposed to being blessed. Peter is not describing Christians in this passage. It is not very helpful in our quest except that there is no hint from this verse that Christians or anyone else must break curses. It doesn't support the idea that a curse could be unitentionally spoken negative words either. The Idea of the Curse as Metaphor The writer of Hebrews offers only one verse that speaks about curses. He writes: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:8 The Greek word translated cursing here is katara. It is a form of the word ara. It is an execration, imprecation, a prayer uttered out of malevolence or pronounced by God in His righteous judgment as on a land doomed to barrenness2. The context of this verse is a warning about falling away from the Christian faith. The word that in this verse is a reference to the ground. The verse before says that the ground that gets rain is intended

2

Page 254-5, The Expanded Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? to bear good fruit but if it bears thorns, it is worthless and near being cursed, and ends up being burned. In this case, the word cursed doesn't seem to be describing what someone would say about another person. It is not describing a spoken word. It seems to be describing metaphorically the condition of being fruitless, lost and potentially destined for eternal fire. Here, as with the other writers of the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews has not told us that Christians need to break individual curses but told us that they need to respond to God's blessing so that they do not end up in a condition of being cursed. In other words, this seems opposite to the teaching of believers having curses affecting them. This passage seems to indicate that the condition of being cursed comes from frequent blessing from God without the person responding properly. In other words, it is entirely opposite of the curses teaching. Being cursed does not come from someone speaking a curse over us and that affecting our fruitfulness. It comes from frequent blessing from God not causing fruitful response from us. It certainly does not support the idea that curses must be broken. No More Curse This brings us to the last verse about curses found in the New Testament. John writes: And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: Revelation 22:3 The Greek word katathema3, a noun, is translated curse here. It means the pronouncement of the ongoing disfavor of God in judgment. There seems to be little doubt that this verse is referring to the original curse in the Garden of Eden. It is clear that this curse will not be completely removed from humanity or the earth until after the end of this age.

3

Some manuscripts have a longer form of this word katanathema.

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God's Curses As we have observed before, there appears to be no indication here that believers need to deal with curses. None of the verses that we have observed seem to indicate to us that anyone in the First Century knew anything about dealing with curses with one exception, the curse of the Law. However, they did not attempt to break this curse but rather had a much different solution. After we examine the four references contained in two verses in the Book of Galatians, we will complete this survey of the subject of curses in the New Testament. We predict that the reader will be surprised at the biblical conclusion that we will come to as we pursue understanding of these important verses in the chapters to follow.

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6 Introduction to the Law of Moses

To finish our review of references to curses in the New Testament, we have one other passage to review. This passage consists of two verses in the Book of Galatians about the curse of the Law of Moses. We will accomplish this in the next chapter. In this chapter, our purpose will be to acquaint the reader with what the Bible says about the Law of Moses so that these important last references in the New Testament make sense. There are increasing numbers of Christian believers who are unable to draw distinctions in the Scriptures. They often have not been taught to understand the distinctions between the Gospel of Christ and the Law of Moses. They often have been taught a theological synthesis of these two very different ways to approach God that would have been rejected and refuted by the apostolic leaders of the First Century. Much of the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching seems to be a synthesis of the Law of Moses and the Gospel. It draws curses out of the Law and applies them to Christians and then applies the remedy of the sacrifice of Christ piecemeal to these supposed curses in the lives of believers. Leaders teaching this synthesis of these two very different covenants often put those that they preach to under the curse of the Law without realizing that they are doing it. How does this happen? In the next few pages we will review the nature of the Law of Moses and then make some important applications to answer this question. The Law was Instituted by Moses It seems important to the message of this book to review the nature of the Law of Moses. The first thing that is obvious is that

Introduction to the Law of Moses the Law was given to Moses on Mount Horeb just after the Exodus from Egypt by the Children of Israel. The book of Exodus records God calling Moses to the Mount in this way: And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. Exodus 24:12 The Law was given to Moses by God to teach to the Children of Israel. God told Moses to write these things down during that forty days Moses was on the mount. And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. Exodus 34:27-28 The Ten Commandments was the centerpiece of the Law of Moses but was not the only law. In fact, some commentators say that more than six hundred specific commandments are found in the Law of Moses. The Old Testament also records the fact of Moses completing writing out the words of the Law given to him. And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. Deuteronomy 31:24-26

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? This complete document that Moses created is often called the Book of the Law in the Bible1. The Old Testament contains this document in four of the first five Books of the Bible: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Book of Genesis is not part of the Law of Moses. The book of Genesis covers the long period of history2 between the creation story and the death of Joseph when there was no Godgiven divine law. This statement from Moses makes this clear. He says: And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. Deuteronomy 5:1-3 Note that Moses says that the covenant was not made with their fathers but with them. In other words, Old Testament persons such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Twelve patriarchs including Joseph were not under the Law of Moses. In other words, we can divide Old Testament history into the period between Adam and Moses when there was no divine law and the period after Moses where there was a complete system

Deuteronomy 28:58, 28:61, 29:21, 30:10, 31:24, 31:26, Joshua 1:8, 8:31, 8:34, 23:6, 24:26, 2 Kings 14:6, 22:8, 22:11, 23:24, 2 Chronicles 17:9, 25:4, 34:14, 34:15, Nehemiah 8:1, 8:3, 8:8, 8:18, 9:3, Galatians 3:10, Hebrews 9:19

2

1

Genesis covers from about 4000 BC to 1600 BC which is about 2400 years approximately. This is a longer period of history than all the other books in the Old Testament put together. The period from Moses to Christ is from 1600 BC to 4 BC which is about 1600 years. This includes 400 years at its end that the Old Testament does not really address. No prophet spoke during that period at least at the level of having his prophecies recorded in the Scriptures. This 400 year period of prophetic silence is often called the Inter-testamental Period meaning the period between the Old and New Testaments.

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Introduction to the Law of Moses of divine Law given to Israel contained in the four books in the Bible following Genesis. The New Testament makes mention of these historical facts in the writings of the apostle Paul. Paul writes: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. Romans 5:13-14 Here Paul tells us that sin existed in the world before the Law was given by Moses but it was not imputed. The Greek word ellogao translated imputed here means to charge to one's account or to lay to one's charge3. This simply means that where there is no law, there is no violation or penalty. God did not account sin in the era before the Law on the basis of specific commandments simply because there were no commandments. For example and illustration, the German Autobahn (highway) has no speed limits. It may be extremely unwise to travel at great speed on this highway but it is not a crime. There is no law restricting speed on this highway, therefore there is no violation no matter how unwise the choices of the drivers concerning speed. So it was in the era before the Law of Moses. There were no laws; therefore there were no violations before God. Sin was not imputed despite the unwise actions of the people who lived during that period. These verses go on to tell us that death of humanity as a penalty for Adam's transgression of the single command of God in the Garden continued even over those who had not sinned in transgression like Adam. Even those who were more righteous than Adam that lived in this period experienced death4. There are two important phrases worth noting in this verse. The phrase until the law and the phrase from Adam to Moses

3 4

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, pg. 582. The one exception is Enoch who didn't die because God took him.

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? describes the same period of time that which is covered by Genesis. We can add another significant New Testament verse to this discussion that allows us to divide history again. This verse says: For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17 This verse tells us something important about the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses is not about grace and truth. The Law is about works of obedience to specific commandments. This verse allows us to divide history into two periods as well. It gives us the period of the Law given by Moses and the period of grace and truth through Jesus Christ. In other words, this verse gives us a third period to consider that we have not yet defined; the period of grace and truth through Jesus Christ. In summary, the three periods of human history up to the present time according to the New Testament are: · From Adam to Moses. The period before the Law of Moses covered by the Book of Genesis and ending with the death of Joseph and the children of Israel living in Egypt until the time of Moses. From Moses to Christ. The period beginning with the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law to Moses and ending with the announcing of Jesus as the Christ by John the Baptist. From Christ to the Present. The period of grace and truth beginning with the announcing of the adult Christ by John the Baptist to the present time.

·

·

These three periods are highly significant. In each period God differed in how He dealt with humanity. In each period, God revealed Himself in a greater way than the previous period. The Old Testament, of course, covers the first two periods of humanity. The New Testament covers the beginning of the third period of humanity. 50

Introduction to the Law of Moses New is Greater than the Old Just as a further explanation that the Bible itself makes these divisions and reveals that each period's revelation was greater than the previous. Christ Himself tells us: Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. Matthew 11:11-13 According to Christ, John the Baptist was the greatest of all the righteous persons born of women. We must assume that Christ means those born before the era of the New Covenant if we read this statement in its context. This may be a surprising revelation for some thoughtful readers. This would mean that John the Baptist was greater than Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob including Joseph. He was greater than all those born before the Law. He would be greater than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah and all the other prophets. John was greater than David and Solomon5. He was greater than all those born after the Law of Moses was given. Amazingly, John the Baptist would be greater than the Lawgiver Moses according to this statement by Christ. What made John the Baptist greater? Only one very important thing makes John greater. John had a greater revelation of the Word made flesh. He had a clearer understanding of who Christ was than any person who came before him including Moses. He had a clearer revelation of the supreme importance, the absolute centrality and the majestic preeminence of Jesus Christ in God's plan. This revelation of Christ is what made John greater than those who lived before him.

5

See Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31 for Christ's statement about the fact that He is greater than Solomon.

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Beyond this, Christ says that those who are least in the Kingdom of Heaven are greater than John the Baptist. What a powerful and unexpected statement from Christ! What makes those believers in the Kingdom greater than the greatest of the Old Covenant righteous people? Exactly the same thing as before! Even the most humble believer in Christ's kingdom has a clearer understanding of the Christ than John the Baptist. Because of this revelation, believers have accepted His sacrifice in their place. They have entered into the New Covenant with Christ. They are able now to seek and enter the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. This covenant was not available to the Old Testament righteous persons. Believers today have status with God as His born-from-above children that none of the Old Testament righteous men and women ever had. At best, they were only God's servants but never His children. True Christians are God's beloved children through faith in Christ. He is now Abba-Father to everyone who receives His Son. Christ says at the end of this surprising statement... For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. This simply means that Word of God contained in the Law of Moses and prophets was entirely in force and had ongoing divine purpose until John appeared announcing the coming of Christ. There was no greater way to come to God until Christ appeared. The Mosaic system of righteousness, while still very much in effect, is now obsolete since there is a greater revelation and a much better covenant now in force. Christ again makes the point of the old era of Law passing and the new era coming through Him in saying: The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Luke 16:16-17

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Introduction to the Law of Moses Here Christ divides time into eras again for us. He says that the law and the prophets were until John. Christ tells us that John the Baptist ended the era of the Law and the prophets. Christ then says since that time meaning since the time of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God is preached. Since John's ministry, a new message greater than the Law and the prophets, the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been proclaimed. As a result of this new message, people are for the first time able to press in and enter the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, Christ also tells us that every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses with its compound all-encompassing curse is still completely in effect although we remind the reader that it is very much an obsolete way to worship and serve God. The Law Instituted for Israel Alone Today, it is evident that many Christians spiritualize portions of the Law and apply these ideas to the Church. They attempt to synthesize the Law of Moses with the Gospel. It is clear that the New Testament reveals that there is real spiritual danger in doing this. The curse of the Law then begins to be a problem to the Christian. Perhaps it is necessary and helpful to remind Christians that the Law of Moses was only given to the Nation of Israel. The prophet Malachi, near the end of the Old Testament, writes: Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Malachi 4:4 The Law of Moses was given for all Israel. The Law of Moses was not given to the Gentile nations although it had a provision for Gentiles to become proselytes or converts and to embrace the Law as if they were Jewish. These proselytes were required to keep the entire Law as well and to adopt the Jews as their people. However, this does not change the fact that the Law was given to the one nation of Israel. It was not given to the Gentile nations around them. Those nations were not judged by God by their obedience to the Law of Moses. Only Israel was 53

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? judged in this fashion. This may seem rather obvious but some are confused on this point. They think that the Law of Moses applies to everyone. There has been historical confusion on this point from the beginning of the Church age. The Church had to decide whether or not Gentile believers should keep the Law of Moses. One of the early Church councils of apostles and other leaders convened to discuss this very issue. There were some, known historically as Judaizers, in the Church that were teaching that Gentile male believers needed to be circumcised and to begin to keep the Law of Moses. Luke records this happening in Chapter 15 of the Book of Acts: And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Then therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. Acts 15:1-2 After they arrived in Jerusalem, these events transpired. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. Acts 15:4-5 After gathering the apostles and some apparently heated discussion, the apostle Peter made this statement: Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy 54

Introduction to the Law of Moses Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Acts 15:7b-11 Peter makes an important observation about God's dealings with the Gentiles since Christ has come. He notes that after hearing the Gospel, they received the same salvation, the same Holy Spirit and the same cleansing of sin that the Jewish believers had received simply by faith in Jesus Christ. They had not received the blessing of salvation by keeping the Law of Moses but by faith in Christ. He then warns them not to put God to the test by placing a yoke on the necks of the Gentile disciples that neither their Jewish fathers nor they, the Jewish believers in Christ, have been able to bear. The unbearable yoke that he is speaking about is the Law of Moses. It is clear that Peter believed that Gentile believers should not try to keep the Law of Moses at all or any Christianized form of the Law. The apostle James summed up the decision of the apostles and elders by saying: Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. Acts 15:19-20 The apostles and elders determined not to trouble the new Gentile believers with keeping the Law. They instructed them to avoid pagan sexual or idolatrous practices and those things in food preparation that would be offensive to Jews. They obviously wanted Gentile and Jewish believers to be able to freely fellowship with each other. They did not instruct them to embrace the Law of Moses' food laws or any other aspect of the Law of Moses. 55

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? If the laws and commandments in the Law of Moses do not apply to Gentile believers neither do the curses for disobeying them. The New Testament reveals this important truth in this way... where there is no law, there is no violation. It is very important for us to not embrace the Law as Christian believers. We are to live by grace not law. The moment that we seek to obey the Law, we also come under its compound allencompassing curse. We should be alert when someone tries to apply a curse or a commandment out of the Law of Moses to our situation. We need to kindly reject the idea and not embrace any aspect of the Law of Moses. In the next chapter, we will consider the nature of the Law of Moses as a complete system of law.

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7 One Complete System of Law

The Law is One Complete System The Law given by Moses is an entire, complete, and comprehensive system. It has hundreds of commandments that cover every aspect of the life of an Israelite. It has a specific compound blessing for complete obedience and a specific compound curse for any disobedience. This is why Paul speaks of the curse of the Law rather than the curses in the Law. This is very important to our discussion and we will spend some effort in elaborating on it as we continue. Moses tells us of the completeness of this system of law. He says: Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I (Moses) teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.1 Deuteronomy 4:1 Moses commands that no one should not add or diminish anything in the Law. Nothing should be taken away or added to the Law. It is a complete system. Likewise, failure to obey any aspect of the Law of Moses places that person in violation of the entire Law of Moses. The apostle James relates this important truth to us. He writes:

1

Author added words in parenthesis for clarity.

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. James 2:10-11 James tells us that the person who breaks one point of the Law of Moses becomes guilty of all the Law. In other words, the Law is a complete system. One cannot properly take a few things out of the Law to obey and ignore the rest of the hundreds of commandments in the Law. It does not matter that someone is obeying a few points of the Law of Moses. If they are attempting to obey the Law, then one violation of the portion of the Law that they are not attempting to obey makes them in violation of the entire Law. Keeping the Whole Law There are numerous encouragements throughout the Old Testament for the children of Israel to keep all the Law. We will review a few of these places. Note these words to Joshua: Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:7 Joshua must keep all the Law in order to prosper. Joshua himself encourages the same thing to the children of Israel. He says: Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left... Joshua 23:6 The children of Israel must keep and do all that is written in the book of the Law. Very near the end of the life of Moses, as they 58

One Complete System of Law prepared to go into the land of promise, Moses commanded the children of Israel to do all the words of this law. Moses says: ...observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. Deuteronomy 31:12b-13 There are many other passages that encourage the keeping of the whole Law in every respect; however for the purposes of this book we will quote only one more. This verse contains a promise from God about the children of Israel remaining in the land if they would keep the whole Law. Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. 2 Chronicles 33:8 Two phrases are obvious in this verse. They are: do all that I have commanded them and according to the whole law and the statues and the ordinances. No one can properly pick a few commandments to obey and ignore the rest. Unfortunately, the next few verses in this passage tell us of Israel's failure to keep all the Law. God's judgment did remove them from the land through their defeats by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The Curses in the Law are One Curse We told the reader in the previous two chapters that we would review the final set of references in the New Testament concerning curses. We wanted to have some background about the Law of Moses before we looked at these final verses. Some have probably noted that the apostle Paul in Galatians Chapter 3 speaks of the singular the curse rather than the plural curses. He writes: 59

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Galatians 3:10 It is hard to miss that Paul relates the same truth about keeping the entire law. He says that the person attempting to keep the Law must continue in all things that are written in the book of the Law. Should that person fail to obey all things in the Law, then he comes under the compound all-encompassing curse of the Law. And just a little further in the passage, Paul writes: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree... Galatians 3:13 Here we see that Christ has paid the price for violations of the Law of Moses. Christ has become a curse for us. We note here that Paul says nothing about Christians breaking curses. In fact, context of this passage has been about those attempting to keep the Law. This passage has not been about Christians who are not attempting to keep the Law of Moses. Again, Paul uses the singular by writing curse of the Law rather than writing the plural curses in the Law. To the casual observer there may seem to be many curses in the Law of Moses but actually they are just varying expressions of the effect of the one compound curse of the Law. This curse affects every aspect of life. In other words, the various curses together are the curse of the Law. If someone attempting to obey the Law fails to obey the Law in any respect, they come under all the aspects of the curse of the Law. Here are two short verses that reveal this truth in the Law of Moses. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them... Deuteronomy 27:26

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One Complete System of Law We note that the curse in the verse above affects anyone who tries to do only a part of the Law. They must do the entire Law of Moses, all the words of the Law if they intend to do any of the Law of Moses. Those who are teaching about curses often draw verses out of the Law of Moses and apply them piecemeal to Christian believers. If believers embrace any portion of the Law of Moses, they must do all the words of the Law of Moses or be cursed. Therefore, we highly recommend doing nothing to fulfill the Law since Christ has done it for you. Remember where there is no law, there is no violation. We will say more about this. In the next chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, another curse is spoken that has the same conditions. The person under the Law must do all the commandments and statutes or all the curses in the Law will come upon them. Moses says: But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee... Deuteronomy 28:15 This verse applies to God's statutes which Moses commanded on that day. In other words, it applies to the Law of Moses and nothing else. It does not apply to things outside the Law of Moses or God's commands since that day. Remember nothing was to be added to the word that Moses had spoken to them. The Law of Moses was complete in every way. However, for us who know about Jesus Christ, it is an obsolete way to approach God which has some dire consequences for those attempting to do it today. The Curse of the Law Outlined We note according to Deuteronomy 28:15 that those who are under the Law must do all the commandments and statutes or all the curses will come on them that are listed in Deuteronomy Chapter 28. What are these curses? These curses together are the curse of the Law. The next verses in this passage declare the all-encompassing nature of the curses: 61

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. Deuteronomy 28:16-20 A few verses later, Moses tells us again of the seriousness of not obeying the entire Law. Moses says all the curses shall come on a person not obeying the commandments and statutes in the Law of Moses. Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee... Deuteronomy 28:45 Maybe it doesn't yet seem apparent that every Christian believer should avoid trying to keep any of the aspects of the Law of Moses. Much of the confusion in the Body of Christ and the experience of sickness, weakness, powerlessness and lack come from attempting to keep a part of the Law and live in faith in Christ at the same time. Mixing these two very different covenants creates the effect of voiding the New Covenant and putting believers back under the curse of the Law. It is the problem of believers in the First Century that the New Testament speaks more to than any other problem. It is also the most common problem in today's church. It is often called the problem of legalism, that is, the problem of trying to live by works of the law, principle and precept rather than by relationship through Jesus Christ's atoning work.

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One Complete System of Law While the New Testament does not seem to reveal that curses are a problem that must be dealt with by dealing with individual curses, it does reveal an important and common problem with the curse of the Law. The solution to this curse is not to discern the individual curses in the Law working in a believer's life but rather not to come under the Law of Moses at all or in any aspect. We are complete in Christ and blessed already. We simply need to remove any law-keeping from our midst that is interfering with grace. The attempt to deal with curses in the lives of believers often has an unintended affect. Some teachers seem to borrow the many horrible curses from the Law by their "revelations".2 The borrowing of curses from the Law of Moses and reapplying them to believers is a way of putting believers back under the Law of Moses. In other words, while the motive was good and the desire was to free the person, the real long-term effect is to put the person under the compound curse of the Law. Once under the Law, the inevitable breaking of a single point of the Law of Moses invokes the entire, compound curse of the Law. The breaking of the Law and the impact of its compound curse is absolutely inevitable for those attempting to keep the Law because of one fact. There is no longer any provision for the forgiveness of sin through the Law. The Temple sacrifice has ceased. No one can keep this provision of the Law any longer in the specific ways that the Law commands. No one can make the offerings for sin in the way that the Law says that they must be done. There is no longer any anointed priest of the Levitical order to offer sacrifices for sins. Jesus Christ is not of this order of priests. He is of the tribe of Judah. He cannot offer proper sacrifices according to the Law of Moses.3 Indeed, Christ is the High Priest of a higher, different order of priests and a new and better covenant. Indeed, no one is required by God to keep the Law in any respect any longer because of what Christ has done

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"Revelations" can be supplied to Christians by the devil and by superheated, emotionally charged imaginations, as well as God. 3 Hebrews 7:11-16

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? at the cross. The Law is fulfilled in Christ. Christ is the end of the Law for those who believe. An Illustration of the Two Covenants To illustrate in a limited way, a man lived on an island that was the home of two nations. The island was divided right down the middle with the sun shining brightly on one side and the other side experienced deep shadows. The government on bright side of the island was a benevolent Kingship. The all-powerful King was an approachable, patient, kind and wise man. He owned all the property on the island but graciously shared with the residents. His son was a very gentle, kind and approachable prince of very great wealth. He had personally paid all the debts of the people on the bright side of island. Once he had generously spent an enormous amount of money on a huge sacrifice once and for all for the sins of the people. As a result of this sacrifice, he had encouraged his father to adopt all the people who remembered this sacrifice into his family. All the people who remembered this sacrifice called the King "father" out of genuine love and respect and a real sense that they were included in his family. All the residents of his side of the island knew "father" and could speak to him regularly. He had but one law and that was to love him, to love all the other residents of the island and to love oneself. He himself freely offered guidance and encouragement about how to apply his law of love in daily situations with each other. When there was failure, he was quick to forgive his adopted children and encourage them to change their minds. There was righteousness, peace and much joy on that side of the island. On the side of the island in the shadows, there was also a King who was also all-powerful. He was seldom seen among the residents. This King was near impossible to approach closely and only a few of the residents seemed to know him at all and they were often unclear about all his intentions. He seemed mysterious. He also seemed easy to offend and difficult to please. He owned all the property and charged such a high rent that all the residents were deeply in debt to him. The residents 64

One Complete System of Law were often unsure about their relationship with him to the point of being cautious about even saying his name out loud lest they offend him. He once wrote down more than 500 specific laws in a book. Within the book, there were specific, harsh punishments for violations of his law including many curses that would punish them and their children generation after generation. Indeed, he had a history of horrible punishments on his people when they violated his laws. The King also created a means of continually making sacrificial offerings to appease him for violations of his laws. The cost of these sacrifices was extremely high. It was difficult for the people on this side of the island to know all the commandments and how to apply them since the King was not often among them to guide them. Occasionally one of the people who seemed to know him would speak on his behalf to explain a command but this was infrequent. The King's law itself said that all the laws must be kept or curses and judgments would be the result. Therefore, many of the people lived in fear of the King's coming to account with them for their debts and violations of His law. Many became weary of this King, his many laws, his expensive sacrificial system and desired something better.4 Occasionally, rumors came to the shadowy side of the island about the King's son on the bright side of the island paying all the debts and the King's great love as a father. Some didn't even believe that there was a bright side of the island. Their eyes had adjusted to the dimness and thought that they were living in the light. However, some quickly escaped the shadows and crossed the border into the bright light. They were received by the father as if they were prodigal sons. Others when they heard the rumors did not believe them and continued living in the shadows. Others believed but were very cautious. They moved to the border between the two nations and crossed back and forth freely. The King of the bright kingdom told those along

We understand the limitations and power of such an illustration. We understand its power to offend the more sensitive among believers by using such strong words as shadows. However, the New Testament describes the Old Testament law to be shadows: Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 8:5, 10:1

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? the border that they could stay with him all the time and know him personally but they broke that fellowship by returning to the shadows. Each time they crossed over to the shadow nation, they became more indebted and fearful about punishment. When they would return to the light, the son would pay their debts and the father would receive them again. They were a miserable lot as they went back and forth across the border. On one side, they were an indebted servant to an unapproachable King. On the other side, they were an adopted and beloved son or daughter whose debts had been paid by the prince. Such is the lot of those who try to live in both covenants at the same time. There is much improper synthesis of Christianity with the Law of Moses happening among the most spiritual in the Church today. Verses and commands taken out of the Law are often quoted to prove that Christians should be doing certain things like dealing with curses found only in the Law of Moses. The danger is that once one has obligated himself to submit to a single portion of the Law, he must keep it all or become a violator of the whole Law and come under its compound curse. It is a trap that many are falling into today. It is the devil's Trojan Horse of legalism. They attempt to deal with individual curses found only in the Law of Moses which puts the believer under the entire Law's compound curse negatively affecting every aspect of life. Christ Fulfills the Law Jesus Christ tells us that He is the fulfillment of the Law in the New Testament. Luke records: And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Luke 24:44 This reveals that the Law of Moses had a purpose of revealing Christ. In other words, while it was all-encompassing and covered every aspect of life, it was still incomplete. It lacked the 66

One Complete System of Law most important element. It lacked the ultimate once and for all sacrifice for sins. It lacked the grace that changes our nature. It lacked Christ Himself revealing the Father. The Gospel of John records something similar in the early ministry of Jesus Christ. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. John 1:45 Jesus Christ is the prophetic fulfillment of the Law and prophets. The Early Church noted this in their preaching. The Book of Acts tells us about the ministry of the apostle Paul. It says: And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. Acts 28:23 Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. Paul in Romans tells us that the Law's purpose for righteousness has ended because of Christ. He writes: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:4 Righteousness now comes through faith in Christ and not by keeping the Law of Moses. Paul tells us a similar truth in the Book of Galatians. He writes: Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Galatians 3:23-25 This passage also tells us that the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in those of us who have come to Christ. The Law was supposed 67

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? to lead us to Christ and after we have Christ we no longer are under this tutor. The purpose of the Law is complete when we have Christ. This is a similar truth that we explored in an earlier chapter. We discovered that the New Testament tells us that the era of the Law and Prophets was over with John the Baptist. When Christ came, the tutor's purpose was over. We are not to live under the Law of Moses but under grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The next verse in this passage says: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26 The Law of Moses could not do what Christ has done for us. Believers are now adopted sons and daughters of God, the Father. They are blessed and not cursed in any way in Christ. They must stand fast in this blessedness and not let others convince them to return to the Law of Moses and its all encompassing curse.

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8 Cursed Objects

Introduction In this chapter, we examine from a New Testament perspective the theology that cursed objects can cause Christians to be cursed or at least cause them to have significant problems. There are many today that teach Christians to remove objects that may have some connection with occultism or false religions because these objects will bring a Christian under a curse or the influence of evil spirits. Our focus is not whether Christians should remove and destroy these objects but whether or not they bring a curse on a Christian. We do recommend removing and destroying these objects for reasons that we will detail later in this chapter regardless of whether or not a curse is involved. We will examine pertinent passages in the New Testament to examine this teaching in detail. Our focus in this study will be on passages that deal with the sin of idolatry. After all, an idol, a worshipped representation of a false god would certainly be an accursed object according to this teaching. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us: What say I then? That the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.1 Corinthians 10:19-20 Paul writes that when the Gentiles sacrifice to idols in actuality they are sacrificing to demon spirits. Therefore, what we may say about idols certainly would represent any object that might be considered cursed. We will return to this passage later to discover what else it tells us. We begin with some general statements drawn from the New Testament about idolatry and idolaters.

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? The New Testament's Negative View of Idolatry The first apostolic council dealing with a crisis in the Early Church over whether or not Gentile Christians should keep the Law of Moses made it clear that these new Gentile Christians should not keep the Law. They also decided that these same Gentile believers should in no any way be directly associated with idolatry and its practices particularly with eating food that had been sacrificed to these idols.1 The Book of Revelation also reveals the risen Christ judging Jezebel because among other things she encouraged the servants of Christ to eat things sacrificed to idols.2 This is consistent with many other statements by the New Testament writers about avoiding idolatry and those practices associated with it.3 While the apostle Paul draws some important distinctions about food offered to idols that the other writers of the New Testament don't seem to present, he is also very negative about idolatry. There are several statements in the New Testament written by the apostle Paul about idolaters not inheriting the Kingdom of God and being forever excluded from the New Heavens and the New Earth.4 There is a statement from Paul about pagans being led by demons to the worship of idols5. Christians are commanded by the apostle Paul to avoid other Christians if they are still practicing idolatry but not to avoid unbelieving idolaters6. Paul encourages Christians to mortify and put off covetousness which is idolatry7. The book of Acts records new converts to Christ through the ministry of Paul publicly destroying their literature that was associated with pagan worship, specifically the practices of pagan magic8.

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Acts 15:20, 15:29, Acts 21:25 Revelation 2:14, 2:20 3 Galatians 5:20, 1Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Peter 4:3, 1John 5:21 4 1Corinthians 6:9, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 9:20, 21:8, 22:15 5 1Corinthians 12:1 6 1Corinthians 5:10-11 7 Colossians 3:5-12 8 Acts 19:18-20. There is nothing in this passage that indicates that this burning was necessary for protection of the converts from demonic power. However, it is wise in light of repentance from these pagan practices.

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Cursed Objects Paul gives us much information in his writings to understand the issues of idolatry, food sacrificed to idols and Christian freedom. Particularly in Corinth there was a close connection between sexual impurity and idolatry. We will look at the issues in Corinth as the apostle Paul reveals them in two long passages in the Book of First Corinthians. We state these things at the outset before we try to deal with whether or not Christians are affected by objects from false religions lest someone think that we are minimizing the seriousness of idolatry. We are not in any way discounting that idolatry is a grave sin. We are simply trying to examine one issue alone; whether or not so called cursed objects have a negative supernatural effect on Christians. This question leads us to the teachings of the apostle Paul on eating things sacrificed to idols. Paul gives us significant information on the spiritual nature of idols and objects associated with paganism. This information should reveal if Christians are being cursed or otherwise affected by demonic power through objects associated with paganism. Eating Things Offered in Sacrifice to Idols This passage in First Corinthians discusses two different perspectives that were in the Corinthian church over the eating of food offered to idols. There was often a portion of flesh left over after a heathen sacrifice. This left-over part was either eaten sacrificially, or taken home for private meals or sold in the marketplace. A debate developed whether or not a Christian could eat this food. The more enlightened and knowledgeable group believed that a Christian was free to eat this food. The other group, which Paul calls the weaker, felt that you should not eat this food because it was contaminated by the idolatry. From the point of view of the Vulnerability to Curses Teaching this would be cursed food since it was offered to a false God in the form of an idol. The New Testament's teaching about the eating of food so closely related to the worship of demons should give us good information about whether or not Christians are vulnerable to curses from objects associated with paganism.

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? One person is described by Paul as having knowledge about idols and therefore liberty in conscience about eating food offered idols. He teaches that this knowledgeable brother has an obligation to live out love in a particular way that does not offend the other brother that he describes as a weak brother. This weaker brother Paul describes as not having that same knowledge about idols. He describes this weaker person as having a weak conscience. We will see all these things as we work our way through this passage. Paul starts this passage with an important admonition about love which runs through this passage and governs the behavior that Paul teaches to these two groups. Paul writes: Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Paul notes that both groups believed that they have knowledge about the proper relationship of a Christian to food sacrificed to idols. This knowledge, true or false, can make them arrogant toward the other group. If they allow their convictions obtained through this knowledge to dictate their behavior toward each other then, they really don't know what they should know. Both Christian groups love God and have strong convictions because of this love for God. Both groups are accepted by God as His children in Christ. Paul continues his teaching by writing: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 1 Corinthians 8:4 Here Paul tells us that an idol is nothing in the world. What does he mean by this? The Greek word translated here as nothing is ouden. It means no one. The meaning of this phrase is that there is no such thing as a god represented by an object. An 72

Cursed Objects idol is nothing. It is no one at all. It means that idols have no real existences as entities. The gentile Christians had come to know what the Jews and Jewish Christians already knew. They knew that there is no other god but God. For our discussion about cursed objects, we note that Paul's attitude here about idols or things associated with them is not to anoint them with supernatural power to help or hinder despite the fact of their worship being the worship of demons. He writes that they are nothing. He continues on the same theme in the next two verses. He writes: For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many), But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 Paul writes even if there are a lot of so-called gods acknowledged by others, for Christians there is just one God, the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ. There are two phrases that Paul connects to the Father and to Jesus Christ. He writes of whom are all things and by whom are all things and we by him. This is extremely important. Paul links the fact of an idol being nothing with the fact of God being the ultimate source, creator of all things. An idol is nothing because God created all things including the material substance of the idol. The substance of the idol actually belongs to God because He created it. This is true of all so-called cursed objects. Their substance belongs to God. Paul then tells us something that is important that divides the Corinthians into the two groups. He writes: Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 1 Corinthians 8:7

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Paul writes that the specific knowledge that God is creator of all things and that an idol is nothing is not in every man. For those weaker Christians who don't understand this, if they eat food that has been sacrificed to idols, they do so with a guilty sense that it is an idol's sacrifice even though they no longer worship idols. The food is tainted in their minds and if they eat it, their conscience is defiled. Paul's concern here is that a defiled conscience with lead these weaker Christians back into sin. This would be true of those who believe in cursed objects. Their conscience would be defiled and therefore, they would fear God's displeasure and demonic influence. Because of this doubt in their minds, they are no longer living by faith. The belief in the power of cursed objects disconnects these weaker Christians from Christ's power and protection. Paul then writes: But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 1 Corinthians 8:8 Here in this context, Paul tells us that eating or not eating food or particular foods does not affect our relationship with God. Food cannot pollute us before God. However, having a guilty conscience because we ate the food is a serious problem. This brings us back to our original intention in reviewing this passage. We want to know if Christians can be affected by socalled cursed objects. We begin to see what the moreenlightened, stronger group in Corinth in the First Century would respond. They would say that an object used in false worship is nothing because God created all things. Obviously, Paul would agree with this. Because of God's creation and Christ's redemption, the object has no effect. The weaker group would be concerned that the power of the demons behind the idol had cursed the food and thereby partaking of it might make them sick or even something worse. Paul's concern was not that the weaker group is right but rather that their weaker conscience might be corrupted and they might be lead back into sin. This is what Paul says next: 74

Cursed Objects But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9 Here Paul encourages the stronger knowledgeable brother not to use his liberty to eat food sacrificed to idols to cause the weaker brother to stumble. Again, Paul in no way is saying that something might be spiritually wrong with eating food sacrificed to idols except that a weaker Christian might be encouraged to act against his conscience. Paul explains further: For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols... 1 Corinthians 8:10 Again, we note that Paul says that the stronger brother has knowledge. The knowledge he is referring to here is knowledge that idols are nothing because God created all things. That knowledge gives them freedom to eat things sacrificed to idols without difficulty but the liberty group should restrict this freedom for the sake of those who do not have this knowledge. Paul does not seem to be concerned that even eating things in a pagan temple could affect a believer supernaturally. Those that teach about curses certainly would not take Paul's attitude here. They would certainly be fearful that eating things sacrificed to idols and eating in a cursed pagan temple would have potential to put a believer under a curse. However, it is extremely doubtful that the apostle Paul would agree with this assessment. He would see no danger of a curse or demonic activity against the Christian for his presence in a pagan temple. Paul would discourage eating in a pagan temple not out of fear of God's displeasure or that contact with idolatry would somehow supernaturally affect these believers but because of concern for those believers who are weaker in their faith and understanding who might believe that they were contaminated. Therefore, believers ought to remove occultic objects from their homes for the same reason. Questionable objects in a person's home will have the potential of causing weaker Christians to stumble. 75

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Pagan objects should have no place in a Christian's home for this reason but not because of potential curses. Paul continues this instruction by writing: And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ... 1 Corinthians 8:11-12 There does not seem to be a hint of concern about paganism's objects of worship contaminating a believer in some way. The concern is entirely for the weaker brother's conscience. Another Passage on the Same Subject The second passage on this subject is found also in First Corinthians. Our object in this discussion, like before, is to determine if objects used in false worship can affect Christians by their presence. Paul begins the discussion in this passage with a clear prohibition for Christians. Christians are not to be involved in the worship of idols. Paul says: Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. 1 Corinthians 10:14-15 Paul says to flee from idolatry. There is no debate. Christians cannot worship God and practice idolatry at the same time. Paul continues this prohibition by pointing out that when Christians partake of the elements of the Lord's Supper that they are partaking in much more than bread and wine. They are partaking in the blood and body of Christ. They are in communion with Christ through these things. Paul writes: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16 This passage is often used by those who teach curses to point out that objects can be used by God to transmit blessing. Here 76

Cursed Objects the cup is called the cup of blessing meaning that it can transmit a blessing to the one who partakes of it properly. Other passages from the Law of Moses are also used to prove that God will transmit His curses in the Law through a physical object. However, there doesn't seem to be any passages that "prove" that demonic power can be transmitted through a physical object. This seems like an important omission from the Scriptures since much teaching is being offered on demon power's ability to operate through pagan objects. Paul reminds us in this passage, that the Church is the body of Christ and is also represented by the bread. He writes: For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 1 Corinthians 10:17-18 We, who are the body of Christ, are also partakers of Christ through the communion bread. Paul also makes the point that those Old Testament priests who eat the sacrifices partake of the altar. His point with all of this is that those who engage in worship of a deity partake of that deity. After making this point, Paul turns his attention to idols. He writes: What say I then? That the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 1 Corinthians 10:19 Here Paul again tells us that idols are nothing and food sacrificed to idols is nothing more than food. This is important as the Vulnerability to Curses teaching would tell us that the idols and the food would be cursed and would have supernatural power to afflict Christians. The food, like communion, would be able to transmit demonic power. It does not seem that Paul would agree here. Paul then tells us more specifics about idolatry. He writes:

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:20-22 Paul tells us that the worship of idols is actually the worship of devils or a better translation would be demons. Paul tells us that we cannot worship Christ the Lord and demons at the same time. This would provoke the Lord to jealousy. Again, this is a clear condemnation of idolatry and the pagan worship of demons. However, it does not indicate that idols or food sacrificed to idols has any supernatural ability to harm believers. Paul then writes: All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 It may not be clear what Paul is referring to here until the next verse is read. The next verse says: Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. 1 Corinthians 10:25-26 The shambles is the marketplace where food offered in pagan sacrifice was often sold. Paul says that a believer should not question where the food has come from. He does not need to do this because the food is part of God's creation and belongs to Him. This is the knowledge that some have but some do not that we discussed earlier in the passage. A person with this knowledge can eat freely. It is permissible for a person with this knowledge to eat of food sacrificed to demons. There is no danger in transmission of supernatural power or contamination. Neither God nor the devil is afflicting people because of eating 78

Cursed Objects things sacrificed to demons. However, for the sake of the person who does not have this knowledge, we should not seek our own way even if we have the freedom. Paul then gives specific instructions about eating with unbelievers. He writes: If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 1 Corinthians 10:27 The first part of Paul's specific instruction is not to ask about the food because it cannot harm you no matter where it comes from. This seems much different that those who teach curses. They would be concerned about transmission of evil spiritual power through contamination. However, Paul seems completely unconcerned about this because he has the knowledge that God is creator of all things including the food. Paul then writes another specific instruction about this matter: But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof... 1 Corinthians 10:28 If the unbelieving man makes a Christian aware that the food has been sacrificed to an idol, then the Christian should not eat the food even if he knows that the food is fine. Paul then explains why the Christian should not eat the food by writing: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 1 Corinthians 10:29-30 The Christian should not eat the food for the sake of the weaker person's conscience. Paul then asks and answers the question of why should the knowledgeable Christian's restrict his own liberty. He gives us an important principle of Christian behavior. He writes: 79

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 Paul tells us that giving no offence for the sake of winning other people to Christ is a higher purpose than exercising your personal freedom in matters of eating and drinking. This brings us back to our original intention in studying of these two passages in First Corinthians. Our intent was to determine Paul's attitude toward the idea that pagan objects could transmit curses. We chose these two passages because they seemed to speak directly to the subject. There are three kinds of pagan worship objects in these passages: pagan temples, idols and food sacrificed to the idols. Paul clearly writes that worship of idols is the worship of demons. Paul, just as clearly, writes that these idols are nothing for the person who has knowledge that God has created all things. Paul does not seem at all concerned that these objects of false worship could harm a Christian by spiritual power. He is also unconcerned that a Christian's presence in a temple in which an idol is worshipped could somehow harm him. Neither is he concerned that eating the food sacrificed to idols could harm a Christian by transmission of a curse or spiritual power. Interestingly, Paul tells us that a believer who believes that he or she could be contaminated or affected by these pagan objects is the weaker Christian who does not have knowledge. Today, many are presenting these ideas as if they are cutting edge revelation. They have affected multitudes to fear these objects. They are actually teaching a superstition that undermines the true knowledge found in the New Testament that these objects are nothing because God is creator of all things. Christ has completely defeated the enemy. However, for the sake of the weaker Christians, more knowledgeable Christians should avoid 80

Cursed Objects contact with these pagan objects because they will offend the sensibilities of the weaker Christians. It may encourage the weaker Christian to act against their conscience and therefore sin in their own minds and be subject to the enemy's condemnation. Cleansing from Filthiness of Flesh and Spirit There is one other passage that is often quoted in these writings about curses. The focus is a particular verse that has a particular meaning imposed upon it. This verse is: Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 This verse is often quoted to prove that Christians should get rid of objects associated with false worship. While it is a good thing for Christians to remove objects associated with false worship for other reasons, the motivation for quotation of this verse is often the idea that these objects will somehow contaminate the believer with their demonic power. Does this verse actually teach this or is it actually saying something else? To answer this question, we will put this verse back into its context. We invite the reader to note that the verse has the word therefore in it. It is a summation statement of the verses before it. Paul's thoughts that lead to this verse actually start back in Chapter Six of Second Corinthians. The chapter division has been placed in a particularly uninspired place. If we go back four verses, we can determine precisely what Paul is referring to in this much quoted verse. Four verses back, Paul writes: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Paul's concern here is that believers would not be yoked together with unbelievers. The Greek word here for yoked means to be yoked as with two animals yoked together. However, it means yoked with another of a different sort like having a horse and an oxen yoked together. He writes what fellowship, concord or part does a believer have with an unbeliever. He relates the Christian to these things in this order; righteousness, light, Christ, and believing. He relates the unbeliever to unrighteousness, darkness, Belial, and to being an infidel. Nothing has been said about pagan objects that might affect a believer by a curse or demonic power. Paul continues this passage with similar statements in the next verses. He writes: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 Paul writes that believers are the Temple of God and belong to God as His children. We are to come out from among the pagans and be a separate people. The specific kind of separation is clear in the context. This passage is about being yoked. We are not to be yoked to unbelievers. We are not to touch the unclean thing meaning an unclean unbeliever in the context. We are not to be involved with covenantal relationships with unbelievers such as marriage9 or business partnership. The passage is not about getting rid of pagan objects but is encouraging believers not to enter into covenantal relationships with unbelievers. Paul then writes the verse in question:

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If we are already married to an unbeliever before we became believers, then Paul has other instructions for us in other places in the New Testament.

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Cursed Objects Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 The promises that Paul is writing of is the promise of God being Father to believers and believers being sons and daughters to God. This is a promise of relationship and fellowship with God. As a result of these promises, believers should cleanse themselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. In the context, this would mean that believers should not yield to anything that would make them want to enter into an improper relationship with an unbeliever. This passage certainly could have a larger application that a believer should cleanse themselves of any kind of tendency towards sin. However, there is nothing here that teaches that a Christian needs to remove objects associated with pagan worship because they will create some sort of filthiness of flesh or spirit. We remember that Christ taught that people are not contaminated by things outside of themselves because those things cannot enter the heart of a person. So called cursed objects and the curses of other people cannot harm believers who actually believe in the work of Jesus Christ. People are contaminated only by expressing their sinful inward tendencies. Jesus Christ said: Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mark 7:18b-23 Therefore, it appears that there is nothing in these very pertinent passages that indicates that a believer would be cursed or supernaturally affected by having contact or proximity with an 83

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? object associated with pagan worship. It is actually quite the contrary; Paul tells us that those believers who would be concerned about contact with these objects are actually the weaker Christians. We would call them superstitious Christians. Paul also tells us that love would make us concerned not to cause one of these weaker Christians to stumble through our freedom. We do not restrict our freedom out of fear of contamination but because of love for the weaker brother. Therefore, it is in the best interest of everyone for believers not to involve themselves with items associated with paganism. Contact with Pagan Objects This brings us to the last matter that we need to consider concerning so-called cursed objects. What about the Law of Moses condemnation of items associated with paganism? In searching the Old Testament, we found a few verses. Here is one that is pretty clear. The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned. All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. Deuteronomy 7:25-8:1 Typically we find the Church today spiritualizing and generalizing these verses as if they applied to the Church. This has the appearance of wisdom and this is all very innocent until we realize that we are back keeping the Law of Moses and therefore responsible for keeping it all. Lets consider what else this book says about idolatry. Six chapters later in the same book, we have more instruction on what else should happen 84

Cursed Objects when the issue of idolatry has arisen. If we are going to keep the verse above, then what about these verses? If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods" (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Deuteronomy 13:6-10 Here the person keeping the Law of Moses must show no mercy, expose and kill anyone in their family or among their friends who is practicing another religion and worshipping another god. Hopefully, the reader can see how contradictory that this behavior is with the New Testament's revelation of Father revealed in Jesus Christ. We cannot keep the Law and follow Christ at the same time. We are to bring the Good News to these people not kill them. Should this not be enough to convince the reader, let us continue in this passage. It reads: Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you. If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods" (whom you have not known), then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. And if it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of 85

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? the sword. Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. And nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers... Deuteronomy 13:11-17 We note first of all that the passage itself says all Israel. All of the Law of Moses applies only to the Children of Israel. It does not apply to the Church. This portion of the Law instructs inquiry into rumors of idolatry. If the inquiry proves that the sin of idolatry has happened in a particular city, then all the people and all the animals in that city must be killed. This portion of the Law of Moses doesn't even require that everyone practiced the idolatry. They all must be killed, even those who were not involved. The city and all its property must then be burned and never rebuilt. If Christians were to practice this, then practically every person of oriental descent today would have to be killed and the most populated cities in the world burned to the ground. It should be obvious that our relationship with idols and those practicing idolatry as Christians is very different than those in the Old Testament. Anyone trying to keep the Law as a Christian is simply ignoring this passage or spiritualizing it in some way. In other words, they are already disobeying this portion of the Law the moment they try to keep another portion of it. The Presence of Cursed Objects Often the story of the disobedience of Achan to the word of the LORD concerned banned objects is used to teach Christians that they may be negatively affected by occultic objects. Often the facts of this passage are glossed over. Here is the command of God to Joshua and all Israel concerning the destruction of Jericho: 86

Cursed Objects And the city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. Joshua 6:17-18 God gave special instructions concerning this city. The city was to be destroyed completely and nothing was to be taken as booty. However, there was disobedience. But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel. Joshua 7:1 After many supernatural victories in battle, the Israelites suffered their first defeat. Joshua sought the LORD about this matter. God then spoke about disobedience to the specific commands before the battle for Jericho to Joshua. God said: Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. Joshua 7:11-12 Joshua made this matter public knowledge and says to the nation of Israel:

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? And it shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel. Joshua 7:15 Through the unusual means of drawing lots, Achan is exposed supernaturally and confesses to the deed. Then the Book of Joshua tells us this: Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day." And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day. Joshua 7:24-26 Achan and his own family were executed as a result of Achan's sin. What shall we learn as Christians from this passage? First of all, we see that this punishment is consistent with what the Law of Moses teaches. It is not consistent with what the New Testament teaches. The Church doesn't kill people for their sins as did the Children of Israel. Our Father never requires us to kill those who are disobedient to the New Covenant that Christ has made with us. Of course, the tendency of some Christians here will be to attempt to "Christianize" this passage and make killing mean something else. Secondly, the idea that sin in the camp will affect the entire camp is an Old Testament idea that has no application in the New Testament. The Children of Israel are not the Church. We 88

Cursed Objects are not being required by the Savior to seek out sinners in the Church and kill them. In fact, the Lord Jesus has revealed to us that the tares and the wheat, the true and the false believers, will grow together until the end of the age. Jesus Christ has encouraged us not to try to remove the tares from the wheat because we will likely uproot the immature wheat as well.10 Therefore the nature of the Church is wholly mixed and will remain so until the end of the age. The most that we are required to do is to discipline believers, particularly elders, who are engaged in sinful practices. The purpose of this discipline is not to remove them from the Church but to encourage their repentance and restoration. Excommunication from the Church is only if they refuse to repent after a patient process has occurred. The person can still be restored. Therefore, at any moment, the church has many unexposed and exposed people practicing sin. If Father were judging all believers for the hidden sins of some believers, then none of us would experience any blessing at all. Thankfully, it is clear that God is dealing with His children differently than He dealt with the nation of Israel under the Law of Moses. Thirdly, this is God invoking judgment not the devil. There is a great deal of confusion on this point. If these items were cursed and under the ban, who was cursing them? In the Law, it was always God. In fact, nowhere in the Law do we see anyone else other than God involved in judgment due to the sin of idolatry. Where did we get the idea that contact with so-called cursed objects give the devil authority to afflict us? There does not seem to be a single verse of Scripture that substantiates this idea. It appears that this idea was so often passed around that no one even questions it any longer. It has become a common superstition accepted by a large number of Christians without examination. It gives the devil an advantage over superstitious believers when the Bible actually gives him no authority.

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Matthew 13:29-30

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Fourthly, it was not the object itself that brought the judgment. It was the act of disobedience in taking the object. This is an important point. Particularly for this situation, the objects taken were not idols or occultic objects. It was simply gold and silver that was taken. The idea that Achan was judged because he had possession of a cursed object is misleading. Everything in the city was banned by God. There was nothing occultic or pagan about the gold or silver. More precisely, Achan was judged because he disobeyed God's direct commandment concerning this city and its contents. Therefore, this idea that God is judging a group or a person because they possess a particular occultic object cannot be supported from a careful reading of this passage. We might remember that Jacob was greatly blessed of God while living with his unrighteous father-in-law Laban. We know that Laban had household idols and yet Jacob was blessed. The distinction that we need to draw here is that Jacob was not living under the Law of Moses. Where there is no law, there is no violation. The Christian who unwisely places himself under the Law of Moses must certainly be concerned about contact with occultic objects. However, for the knowledgeable Christian living under grace, they are nothing. For the earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof. In conclusion, these passages validate that Christians should not be involved with occultic or pagan objects. The reasons for avoiding these objects have nothing to do with fears that these objects might curse a believer or give the devil authority over a believer. There is no validation of these commonly taught erroneous ideas in the New Testament. Instead, the apostle Paul teaches us that these objects are nothing for the knowledgeable believer who understands that all things including idols and pagan objects belong to God. The apostle Paul tells us that we should avoid these objects out of love for other less knowledgeable Christians. We should not use our freedom in such a way that violates the sensibilities and consciences of the weaker, more superstitious Christians. 90

9 The Trojan Horses of Legalism

The story of the Trojan Horse seems applicable to the Church's present situation. A Trojan Horse is a clever way to get your enemy to accept something that will ultimately defeat him. A Trojan Horse appears as a wonderful gift but is actually the means of your defeat. We believe that the devil has cleverly introduced at least three Trojan Horses of legalism to the Church. First of all, the Vulnerability to Curses teaching seems to be introducing the Church to new levels of embracing the Law of Moses by a synthesis of Old and New Covenants. Additionally, the New Covenant is subtly presented as being very weak and shallow by this teaching. In this unbelieving teaching, our Lord Jesus Christ, ruler of the universe, doesn't seem to be able to protect us from the curses of the servants of the devil or even the unwitting words of ordinary people. Since this book has been about this problem, we will not elaborate further on this. Secondly, there also seems to be a new surge of confusion about whether or not Jewish culture is redemptive. Gentile Christians in many places seem to be trying to acquire an ancient form of cultural Jewishness as if that culture was somehow superior and redemptive to other cultures. The blowing of ram's horns, singing of Hebrew melodies with lyrics about Messiah, wearing of prayer shawls, using the Old Covenant name Yahweh, and addressing Christ as Yeshua instead of Jesus is all very innocent until Christians think that it is somehow more righteous or acceptable than another form of Christian practice. These innocent practices can be the unwise 91

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? beginning of embracing the Law of Moses and thereby coming under the all-encompassing curse of the Law. We seem to easily forget that Jesus was rejected by the majority of those who were Jewish in His own day. Their cultural Jewishness did not lead them to faith in Christ. On the other hand, the First Century Gentiles, who did not embrace Jewishness, found faith in Christ by the millions. God does not require or expect us to become Jewish to be fully His son or daughter. It might even be unbelief and insecurity that leads believers to think that something more is necessary beyond Christ's sacrifice for them to find complete acceptance by the Father. Embracing cultural Jewishness will not make us closer to God. It will not make us more authentic believers in Christ. It may be, however, just what the devil ordered. A little leaven of legalism will leaven the whole lump and invoke upon us the allencompassing curse of the Law. Thirdly, the most common way that believers have allowed a Trojan Horse of legalism into their lives is through the practice of tithing of their incomes. The promise of financial blessing and the threat of a curse from a "Christianized" version of Malachi Chapter 3 has seduced millions of Christians. This is the most widespread practice of legalism in today's Church. Unfortunately, we cannot completely investigate the practice of Christians tithing of their incomes in this book. In this book, we simply want to give the reader some things to think about. We will simply lay out the facts about tithing without much discussion. The author has written three books on the subject of New Testament finances. One of these books covers the subject of tithing in great detail. Some of the material in this chapter is taken from that book. We highly recommend anyone who tithes to read the author's book The Children are Free. The Church's leadership is often confused on the subject of tithing and therefore the people of God are confused as well. Many, however, are not aware that they are confused until they begin to seriously study the Bible on tithing. Like many other 92

The Trojan Horses of Legalism things, the details are highly important. Anyone using honest interpretative methods and carefully studying the Bible can know the truth about tithing. However, sometimes we can arrogantly believe that we know the truth because we have heard so many leaders express our view so often. However, Church history reveals that the majority of Church leaders have been wrong themselves on many important matters and unwilling to examine their views. They often resisted those who were divinely sent as reformers. They resisted learning the truth in matters that they thought they understood. The three main views on tithing are briefly outlined here. The claims of each view are not examined in any detail in this chapter. They are simply expressed here. The supporting or contradictory evidence for each of these three views is examined in great detail in the author's book The Children are Free. These three views might be expressed as: the Tithing Obligation teaching, the Freedom in Giving teaching, and the Tithe as a Standard teaching. The Tithing Obligation Teaching This teaching has these thoughts and claims as its basis as it is taught in churches throughout the world. · · · · · · Tithing is a mandatory biblical practice taught in both Old and New Testaments. The practice of paying tithe is validated by several examples before the Law of Moses, by the Law of Moses in many places and by Christ Himself. Paying tithe is not an expression of law-keeping because it is revealed before the Law as a universal principle. The fact of the New Testament's near silence on tithing proves that it is a carry-over universal truth needing no further validation. The principle of giving firstfruits to God is a carryover principle in the New Testament validating tithing. When we pay tithe to the Church, we are actually paying tithe to our High Priest Jesus Christ. 93

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? · · · · · · The tithe is to be used to support ministers in the Church just as the tithe was used to support the Levites and the Priests in the Old Testament. Beyond paying tithe, we are expected by God to give offerings for other matters and alms to help the poor. When we fulfill our obligations to pay the tithe and to give offerings and alms, we can expect financial blessings as well as other blessings from God. When we fail to fulfill this obligation, we come under a curse and will see financial difficulties as a minimum. The Church cannot fulfill its mission on the Earth without its members faithfully paying tithe. There are many believers who have become prosperous as a result of tithing.

This expression about the tithe is known to many of us. It is traditional thought in many religious circles today. However, the actual teaching of tithing might be expressed in a gentler or sterner fashion than the above. For instance, the idea of a curse from Malachi Chapter 3 might be muted in some teaching. The blessing idea for tithing is seldom muted. We will examine this view in detail in this text. For the writer, this was the primary view that he had been exposed to in the Church's public teaching in more than 30 years of church attendance. It is by far the most popular view in conservative Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic churches in North America. The Freedom in Giving Teaching This opposing second view began to penetrate the author's consciousness in pieces slowly over a period of time. The author's own mixed experience with tithing generated his interest in a more detailed study. He decided that he needed to understand this view more fully and began to study. The author never heard anyone publicly express this view in preaching or teaching. However, he has found since that time that many believers do hold this view even though their churches may not teach it. It is not a very popular view among those in ministry. This view is being expressed in writing in many places, 94

The Trojan Horses of Legalism particularly on the Internet, and seems to be rapidly gaining acceptance. This view, the Freedom in Giving teaching, says this: · · · · · · · The practice of the ongoing tithing of income is a serious distortion of an Old Testament practice of tithing food in the Law of Moses. There is no obligation to pay a tithe. Tithing in any form was never valid for New Testament Christians. Those who teach tithing ignore much of what the Old Testament actually reveals and commands concerning tithing. The two Old Testament examples of tithing before the Law of Moses were one-time voluntary acts and can not validate a lifetime obligation of ongoing tithing. The two Old Testament examples of tithing before the Law of Moses do not resemble what the Church teaches and practices in tithing. Those who teach tithing fail to reveal that the tithe in the Law of Moses was strictly a food tithe on agricultural produce, crops and food animals. Those who teach tithing fail to reveal that the biblical tithe in the Law was never a tithe on money. There was never a tithe on income produced by means other than agriculture or husbandry. Those who teach tithing fail to reveal that there were many individuals in ancient Israel who earned their living not producing food and therefore did not tithe at all because it was not commanded of them. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, has nothing to say about ongoing tithing from occupations other than agrarian and husbandry. Weavers, fisherman, carpenters and many other occupations in ancient Israel did not tithe at all. Jesus Christ would not have tithed because He was a carpenter. The apostle Paul would not have tithed because he was a tent-maker. The apostle Peter would not have tithed because he was a fisherman. None of these occupations were required to tithe anything. 95

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? · Those who teach tithing fail to reveal that there were at least three mandatory food tithes required by the Law of Moses. They only teach a spiritualized version of the one food tithe used to support the Old Testament Levitical ministry. Spiritualizing the food tithe for the Levites to teach money tithing is justifying a distorted practice of the Law of Moses in the Church. It will invoke the curse of the Law on those who practice it. Spiritualized versions of the writings of prophets under the Law of Moses are used to teach tithing such as Malachi Chapter 3. Therefore, the mandatory legal requirement of tithing money places believers under the curse of the Law. Ministers of the Gospel are not Levitical ministry. They are not commanded to receive tithes. Unlike the Levitical ministry, they may work at other occupations to support themselves and often did as revealed in the New Testament. Continually giving ten-percent of monetary income is completely arbitrary and has no biblical foundation at all. There is not a single example of the ongoing tithing of money in the entire Bible. The doctrine of tithing is pieced together from various passages but not a single one of those passages are similar in themselves to what the Church does today. Christ does not validate the practice of monetary tithing for New Testament believers when His statements are read in their contexts. Christ's only statement about tithing validates the tithing of food for Jews living under the Law of Moses. It does not validate believers continually tithing money. There is no carryover principle of giving firstfruits found in the New Testament. None of the references to firstfruits in the New Testament are about giving or money. They are mostly how Christ and His Church have become the firstfruits. In other words, Christ and the Church have fulfilled the requirement for giving firstfruits in the Law. Christ and the Church are the prophetic fulfillment of giving firstfruits in the Old Testament. Christ Himself and the Church are the firstfruits. Teaching firstfruits as a principle of giving puts 96

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The Trojan Horses of Legalism believers back under the Law of Moses and invokes its curse. All New Testament authors teach that giving should be voluntary and generous but never obligated. They teach that the standard is what is in your heart. When the Jerusalem Council in Acts Chapter 15 decided what aspects of the Law of Moses that Gentiles believers must keep, they did not validate tithing as a special exception. The Jerusalem Council did not set tithing money apart as a universal principle. Clearly, they saw tithing as part of the Law of Moses. While the New Testament is nearly silent about tithing, it is not silent on giving. There are many long passages devoted to the subject of giving. However, there is no support for tithing money or receiving a tithe in any of these passages. The practice of tithing actually comes from the seriously compromised Medieval Roman Catholic Church. The Old Testament Law was spiritualized and reestablished in this sadly apostate church. The Temple was reestablished as cathedrals and sanctuaries. The Old Testament priesthood was reestablished in Roman Catholic priests. The priestly Old Testament garments were reestablished for the Roman Catholic priests to wear. The Old Testament sacrifice was transformed into the Mass where Christ was sacrificed each week. Like the Old Testament priest, these priests offered incense to God regularly. Finally, a spiritualized version of Old Testament tithing was established in support of the priests. The tithing of food was transformed into the tithing of money. This is a serious distortion of what the New Testament reveals. The first time that historians note the practice of tithing by Christians is in the 6th Century Roman Catholic Church. It was not a practice of the First Century Church. It was not taught or demonstrated by Jesus Christ or His apostles. While there have been individuals in Christian history who tithed who have become prosperous, this does not prove that tithing was the cause. Giving, no matter what the percentage or amount, was likely the cause. 97

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? · Many non-tithing Christians have also become wonderfully prosperous. Some unbelievers who have never given anything have become exceedingly prosperous also. Prosperity doesn't prove tithing money is correct. Tithing money is incredibly unfair. It is extremely hard on the poor and very easy on the rich. Ten-percent is much too little for many prosperous Christians. However, ten-percent of their income can be a serious burden for the poorest Christians and those in serious debt. In the Old Testament, the poorest were not required to tithe. They had no harvest to tithe from. They were able to glean the corners of the fields of the more prosperous. There are a great number of believers who have tithed for many years and are in serious debt. Some have seen their debts increase since they started tithing money. Many believers who have renounced tithing money as a legalistic practice have seen blessing in their finances as they gave generously as the Holy Spirit led them. When believers voluntarily obey the Spirit as stewards and give freely and generously, not as a requirement but as a grace, then they will be financially blessed and the Church will have an abundance of funds to do the work of Christ.

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This view is less familiar to many of us and therefore may require more explanation. We encourage those who are struggling with this issue to read the author's book The Children are Free for much more detail than is being offered here. This view of tithing sometimes creates fear in some of those in ministry. They seem to think that the finances of the Church will suffer if believers do not tithe. These same leaders may complain about how few people actually tithe. However, if the Freedom to Give view is correct and tithing is a spiritualized practice of the Law, the Holy Spirit will not validate a false teaching in the hearts of believers. We do believe that this is what is happening. Law, in the form of obligations and requirements, always stirs up sin. Law makes the flesh of people greedier. Law makes the flesh of people more fearful 98

The Trojan Horses of Legalism about loss. Grace, on the other hand, gives believers ability to give freely by faith in Christ. When believers obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit rather than trying to follow requirements, they will experience ongoing financial blessing from God. Churches that teach grace in giving rather than obligation will see believers manifest generosity above that which law could ever produce. The Tithing as a Standard Teaching The third view tries to find a compassionate and logical middle ground between these first two views. It could be expressed this way: · · · · · · · Christian tithing is done from the heart by faith. Tithing is not really a legal requirement but a voluntary act of faithfulness. The Law of Moses was binding for Jews under the Law but serves only a guideline for Christian believers. Tithing is a carryover principle of giving firstfruits to God. While there is no actual requirement, believers living under grace should give more than those who were living under the Law. Any ongoing giving less than a tithe is inadequate and will not please or appropriate blessing from God. The tithe is a kind of minimum level of giving and after that, God guides believers to give offerings and alms to support other needs.

While this view may sound initially like it encompasses both of the other views in a good way, in the author's opinion, this view is much weaker than either of the two earlier views. It tries to gently synthesize the Law of Moses with grace in Christ. It is a popular view where ministers don't want to be aggressive about giving but still want people to give ten-percent of their incomes. The previous views are at least trying to base their belief and practice on what the Bible teaches. However, this view doesn't seem to have much of a biblical basis when thoroughly examined. It draws information strongly from the Tithing 99

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? Obligation teaching but softens the obligation without any real biblical permission to do so. It changes the legal obligation to pay tithe in the Law of Moses to a gentle standard for free-will giving. It is still using the Law of Moses. This is still presenting a requirement for righteousness before God no matter how much it is softened. This teaching changes the must pay ten-percent to ought to give ten-percent. It will often use the idea that Christians need to be more righteous than the Pharisees in giving. It still presents the erroneous idea that the Pharisees were giving ten-percent of their income. They were only paying tithe on food grown or produced. They were not tithing their incomes if their income came from other means. Besides this, this teaching makes the Law-keeping Pharisees the standard that should be exceeded. This is still a presentation of the Law of Moses in a more subtle fashion. It still validates the ten-percent standard of the Tithing Obligation position which is clearly drawn from the Law of Moses. It accepts those arguments, many of which are erroneous. It is ignorant or seems to ignore the strongest Scripture-based points of the Freedom to Give position that invalidate the ten-percent standard. We encourage the reader who tithes to consider further study of this issue. Avoidance of the Law of Moses is so essential to maintaining grace in Christ that it is worth committing a few hours to further study. What About A Curse on Those Who Don't Tithe? Sometimes those who teach tithing don't make believers aware of the three different tithes in the Law of Moses. All three tithes were food tithes and were not tithes on money earned. The first tithe was for support of the Levitical ministry. This was taken three times yearly to Jerusalem during the festivals and the food was presented to the Priests. Another tithe of food was collected by these families to support their trip to Jerusalem. This tithe was called the festival tithe. It was entirely consumed by these families during the festival. This leaves us with one other tithe to 100

The Trojan Horses of Legalism consider. This tithe was in support of the poor, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner and the Levite. It was collected every three years. This amounted to two years out of seven years because one year out of seven the land was commanded to be at rest and unproductive. This food tithe was stored locally to support those in need. The Law says: At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (See Deuteronomy 16:22) This food tithe was stored locally and those who were in need could partake of it. The poor did not tithe at all. They had no harvest to tithe from. They could obtain help from the local storehouse or they could glean the corners of the fields of others. Needy widows, orphans, foreigners and needy Levites could partake of this local storehouse of food. Since there was an ongoing failure to pay the first food tithe, the Levites were often in need. Those that teach tithing fail to notice that the poor did not pay a food tithe. Tithing money today is incredible hard on the poor and easy on the rich. If a person who needs every cent of their income to pay for food and shelter is obligated to pay tenpercent of their income to the church, it becomes an incredible burden. However, if a person is rich and is only living on a small fraction of their income, then paying a tithe of their income is no burden at all. Teaching the poor to tithe their income places upon them a heavy burden that Christ never intended them to carry. The Church seems to ignore the second food tithe for the poor in its teaching of tithing money. In fact, many leaders confuse 101

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? this tithe with the first tithe in support of the Levites. The poor tithe is mentioned in Malachi, Chapter 3. This is a very popular text used in the Church to teach the tithing of money. This passage is often wrongly taught as pertaining to the Levites and Priests and then spiritualized to apply to the ministry of the Church. The food tithe for the Levites was brought to Jerusalem and paid during the festivals. It was not stored locally in the storehouse. This tithe in Malachi, Chapter 3 was the poor tithe and was brought to the storehouse in their localities. Malachi also says that this is a food tithe of produce rather than money. Malachi writes: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that here may be food in My house, and test Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need. Malachi 3:10 The Church has often sincerely but ignorantly misused this passage by spiritualizing it. The storehouse in the passage by interpretation becomes the local church rather than the literal Jewish town's storehouse for the poor. The literal food in the passage by interpretation becomes money. The blessing by interpretation becomes more money rather than God opening the windows of heaven and pouring out rain that produces more food. How do we know that the passage is referring to rain? The phrase windows of heaven is used in Genesis to describe the rain that caused the Great Flood. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. Genesis 7:11-12 (KJV) And also in Genesis...

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The Trojan Horses of Legalism The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained... Genesis 8:2 Beyond this, the money collected by misusing this passage is not generally used to support the poor either. It is used to support the ministry of the Church. This is a general spiritualization of this passage that improperly takes the passage out of its context and reapplies to it to Christians without biblical license. This spiritualized teaching makes believers feel that they are under some sort of New Testament law of giving with a curse attached. This is poor teaching at best. This Trojan Horse puts forgiven believers back under the Law of Moses and its curse. Here is the spiritualized version of these verses taught by some in the Church: Bring (as an act of worship) the full amount of your tithe (tenpercent of your ongoing income) into the storehouse (the local church), that there may be food (spiritual food) in My house (the local church), and prove Me now (presently) by it, (put Me to the test, give Me an opportunity to prove Myself) and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven to you- ­ and pour out on you so much (financial, material) blessing that you will not have room enough to contain it. Then I will rebuke (protect your income from) the devourer (the devil) for you ­ I will stop the thief (the devil) from destroying the fruit (money, material goods) of your labors. Spiritualized version of Malachi 3:10-111 But here is what these verses mean literally: Bring the full amount of (the once every three years food) tithe into My storehouse (the local storehouse for the poor and

1

The author compiled this version from a dozen or more verbal and written teachings of those proposing tithing money to the Church.

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The Discernment Series: What About Curses? needy), that there may be (real) food in My storehouse and prove Me now (during the time of the Law of Moses) by it, and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven (the sky) to you (Jews growing crops)- - and pour out so much blessing (rain) that you will not have room enough to contain it (the harvest). Then I will rebuke the devourer (those things that destroy crops; insects, bad weather) for you, so that it (those things that destroy crops; insects, bad weather) may not destroy the fruits of the ground (the crops) nor will your vine in the field cast (drop prematurely) its grapes. Malachi 3:10-112. The New Testament authors never refer to this passage when writing about giving or anything else. This Old Testament prophet was living under the Law of Moses. He prophesied to those Jews living under the Law of Moses. This prophecy has been spiritualized to place believers under a spiritualized version of the Law. The apostles and writers of the New Testament did not see this prophecy as applying to the Church at all. They would have seen it as applying only to those living under the Law of Moses. The original apostles would have recognized and rejected this spiritualized form of the Law of Moses if it had been presented to them. There are no biblical grounds for Christians tithing. There is no Old Testament curse on Christians for not tithing. However, because this teaching is so dependent upon the Law of Moses, there may be an invoking of the curse in the Law as Christians try to meet a twisted obligation out of the Law of Moses. In other words, this may be a Trojan Horse promising blessings but actually producing the curse of the Law of Moses in a believer's life as they come under the obligation to continually tithe found only in the Law of Moses. We believe that there are important spiritual reasons to avoid accepting these three Trojan Horses since all three seem to be drawn from the Law of Moses primarily. We need not be culturally Jewish to be completely acceptable to God. We need

2

This is the author's expanded version of the literal meaning of these verses.

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The Trojan Horses of Legalism not tithe our incomes to be financially blessed by God. We should know steadfastly that we are not cursed but blessed children of our Father in Heaven through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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10 The Father and His Children

Since 1992, Roger Sapp has evaluated everything through Jesus Christ's revelation of the Father. This has produced amazing results in releasing the power and ability of God in two realms in his life. The first realm was healing and miracles.1 From 1992 to 1994, Roger Sapp daily meditated on Christ's healing and miracle ministry. The Holy Spirit through this meditation crushed his doubt by seeing how Christ revealed the will of the Father in healing. This caused an amazing breakthrough that has led to thousands of healings and miracles in the author's traveling ministry. In 2000, the author studied the area of finances in the same Christ-centered manner.2 This quickly led to an adjusting of his understanding of Father's will and a renouncing of legalistic giving practices particularly tithing. During that season, he experienced a financial breakthrough that included a quadrupling of his income without a single financial appeal to human beings. The blessings in finances have continued unabated since that time. Therefore, we think that it is appropriate to complete this book with the statements of Jesus Christ about the Father. We are not attempting to include everything that might be appropriate in this chapter but those statements that seem rather obvious that speak to the subject of the Vulnerability to Curses teaching. It does appear to the author that many who are embracing the Vulnerability to Curses teaching do not seem to understand that

1

The author has published books on the subject of healing. miracles and on biblical mediation. 2 The author published a series of books on finances called the "Paid in Full" series.

The Father and His Children

a good Father doesn't curse His own children. We are not even to curse our enemies much less those that we love and are in covenant with. God is certainly doing no less than this. He cannot be actively cursing His own children. One of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew records the words of Jesus Christ about this matter. He writes: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:44-48 And the words of Christ in Luke's Gospel: But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 Do we really think that God acts differently than what Jesus Christ reveals? Christ tells us that Father is actively helping the evil, unjust and the unthankful. Let us not think that the curses in the Law of Moses are applied by God indiscriminately to all people. These curses apply only to those attempting to live under the Law. God is merciful, patient and kind even to the evil unbeliever. How much more to His children! Christ's statements about God's desire to bless His children are very much out-ofsync with this teaching that presents God as a legalist. Hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ again about God our Father. 107

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:11 Here Christ tells us that we can understand what God wishes to do by simply understanding what an imperfect earthy parent would wish for their children. If we understand that we give things to our own children because we love them, then we can understand how God gives to us. We don't give things to our children because they have fulfilled requirements. That would be a reward or a wage for work. No! God gives truly undeserved gifts to us because of His love for us. He gives by His grace not according to our works. It is amazing that those who believe the Vulnerability to Curses teaching can't seem to see that Christ's presentation of Father is so contrary to this legalistic teaching about curses. What about those servants of the devil that might want to curse us? There doesn't seem to be one iota of concern about a wicked person's curse affecting a believer in the New Testament. In fact, again the words of Christ about the Father reveal a very different attitude than the fearful Vulnerability to Curses teaching. Christ tells us the attitude that we are to have about our enemies. He says: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:28-31 We are not to fear what human beings can do to us. Here Christ tells us that human beings have the power to kill the body. However, Christ tells us that human beings do not have the power to kill the soul. This would have been a good place for Christ to tell us about the ability of some demonically inspired 108

The Father and His Children

people to affect the soul and body by use of curses and yet Christ's attitude seems very different. He points us away from the influence and capacity of people to harm us to focus on the power and ability of God our Father to care for and protect us. Christ tells us that Father knows precisely what is happening in the lives of birds. Father is present and deeply involved in the lives of the least valuable of His creatures. In comparison and contrast to this intimacy that God has with the birds, Christ tells us that the hairs of our head are all numbered. We are immense value to the Father. Christ reveals that Father's care of us extents to the smallest and least significant details of our lives. Father values us as His children beyond many sparrows. Christ then tells us that we should react in a particular way to the revelation of God's value of us and His intimacy with us. What is the appropriate reaction to this revelation? Simply, we should not be afraid. We should not fear what man can do to us. This would include curses from the servants of the devil. These teachings that promise freedom actually interfere with faith in Christ's provision for us at the cross. The very teachings that promise blessings put us under the curse of the Law of Moses. In this way, they become the devil's Trojan Horse. Christ teaching here about Father seems very different than the presentation of God as One who actively or passively curses you if you don't meet all His requirements. The Vulnerability to Curses teaching presents God as unwillingly or unable to help, care or protect His children if they haven't legalistically renounced involvements with the occult or discovered hidden curses in their family lines. The devil seems to have much more authority and freedom of action in the lives of believers than God the Father in this teaching. All of these ideas and practices are simply absent from the New Testament. Not once do we discover a believer dealing with a curse. Not once do we see Christ or His disciples dealing with a curse in ministry or teaching that it is necessary. The Vulnerability to Curses teaching creates unwholesome and unjustified fears in God's people. It undermines our faith and confidence in Father's 109

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? protective care of us. The apostle Paul reminds us of the nature of what God has done for us. He writes: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:153 Paul reminds us that we are already in an intimate relationship with God our Father. We should not fear again because of being adopted into Father's family as a result of our faith in Christ. We need the confidence that faith in Christ gives us complete access to the Father and ability to come boldly into Father's presence. There are no other requirements other than faith in Christ. Any teaching that suggests that Father curses His own children needs to be quickly rejected. Any fear that results from thinking that there are specific conditions to be met to be accepted by God needs to die with Christ on the cross. We must reject all legalisms, all condition fulfilling on our part. We are already accepted through the work of Jesus Christ. We are already adopted by Father. We are already blessed by the Father. There is no hint of Father's curse on His children. There is only blessings. The apostle Paul writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ... Ephesians 1:3 Here God has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. The teaching on curses, however, has God also cursing His children. It has God allowing curses from human beings to affect His children. This, of course, would be double-minded on the part of Father. He cannot be cursing those whom He has blessed. He cannot be allowing evil men to successfully curse those whom He has blessed. God's

3

See Galatians 4:6

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blessings on His children cannot be negated, upset or overcome by the curses of men. This would be schizophrenic behavior on the part of God the Father. This cannot be so. The apostle James declares this wonderful truth about our Father. He writes: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. James 1:17-18 James tells us that every good and perfect gift is coming to us from the Father. Then James gives us some interesting information about the nature of our Father. James tells us that Father doesn't vary. Father doesn't have any shadow of turning. This simply means that there is never a change in Father's purpose to bless those who believe in Jesus Christ. Father is consistently giving good gifts to all. He doesn't vary or change in His blessings to His children. His will in the beginning was to make us His children and bless us always with spiritual blessings. Father has not changed and will not change from that purpose. Any teaching that says that Father now either curses or allows human beings to successfully curse His children is inconsistent with Jesus Christ's revelation of God our Father. Jesus prayed to the Father just after successful sending seventy ordinary men to do His ministry. He said: At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. Matthew 11:25-26 The wise and prudent in Jewish culture were unable to duplicate the ministry of Christ. The Pharisees and the Sadducees never accomplished what these seventy ordinary men were able to accomplish. The Pharisees were depending upon fulfilling every 111

The Discernment Series: What About Curses? precept and commandment of the Law of Moses. They were trying to fulfill conditions to be blessed. They were not blessed like the seventy who simply believed in Christ. The Sadducees were depending upon their priestly pedigrees and their positions in the Temple. They were not blessed like the seventy. These seventy ordinary men were blessed because they believed and therefore learned from Christ about God. They were able to do what He did because they learned from the living Word, the Word made Flesh. Obedience to the Law, authority, position and pedigree did not produce Christ-like ministry in the Pharisees or the Saducees. Christ then said at the same time: All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Matthew 11:27 Here Christ tells us that all things are delivered to Him of the Father. Christ has become the one and only way to God the Father. No man apart from Jesus Christ knows anything of God the Father. Christ, the Son, reveals the Father perfectly. The seventy had seen this revelation of Father in Jesus Christ and this enabled them to duplicate the ministry of Christ. They knew the will of God because they had seen Jesus Christ reveal it as He healed and delivered all who came to Him. Those who were wise and prudent, who were depending upon something other than following Jesus Christ, had missed it all. Then, Jesus said: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 This is the simple key that seems missing in most of what is being taught by those who are teaching about curses. They seem to be burdened by taking upon themselves another yoke. It is the yoke of the Law of Moses. The seventy were not 112

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bearing this yoke but another yoke, the yoke of Christ. The Law of Moses was a yoke that they children of Israel were not able to bear according to the apostle Peter.4 It is neither an easy yoke nor a light burden. It is not the yoke of Jesus Christ. Christ does not impose this burden of discovering hidden curses. Christ neither teaches nor demonstrates that curses are a present problem in the lives of those who follow Him. Instead Christ reveals the Father's multiple blessings on those who believe. Every believer should stand firm in their freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ and not yield in fear to this superstitious teaching. It is finished!

4

Acts 15:10

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