What About the Gospel of Thomas?

Question and Answer.

Question:

“Why don’t you believe in the Gospel of Thomas and use it? I think it is so much better than the other gospels since it is Jesus’ own words. If I were a Christian, I would rely on this gospel more than any other writing.”

Answer:

The “gospel of Thomas” is one of many “gospels” written using the names of the apostles. There is a “gospel of Peter” and an “Acts of Peter“, as well as a “gospel of the Egyptians“, a “gospel of the Hebrews” and so on. All these writings date from the late second century after the apostles or later. None of them is included in the canon (or inspired) books of the Bible.

The “gospel of Thomas” spends most of its length describing the childhood of Jesus. The Jesus revealed there is not very appealing and seems to have divine power while acting like a child. There is little doubt the text was composed long after all the participants in the life of Jesus were dead. Either the author received a special revelation or the information is spurious.

The “gospel of Thomas” (unlike the inspired books of the New Testament) has only a few copies and they are different in language and style. It seems the author misquoted or mistranslated. The books that make up the New Testament are supported by over 5,000 pieces, fragments and whole copies of the same Bible we use today. Translators of the original Greek have more copies to work from today than ever, due to ongoing archeological discoveries and research.

While the books of the New Testament are well attested, are well documented and of first century origins, the “gospel of Thomas” is not from the first century, is not well attested and is not well documented. Further, this “gospel” has concepts and teaching that would refute or contradict the four gospels of the New Testament. Either Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are wrong or this “gospel of Thomas” is.

Many authors of the second century saw the impact the inspired gospels and letters had on the church. In order to influence the church in various places, writers would use the name of a first century hero to gain respect for the document. That is why so many later “gospels” and “epistles” use the names of Peter, Paul, Barnabas and many others.

The first century church (very early on) began to collect the writings that it considered inspired. Many were rejected outright and many others were rejected after close examination with some authors confessing they forged the names of the supposed writers. After a long process (by the end of the second century) the New Testament as we know it had been gathered. And almost universally accepted by the churches of the time.

Since that era, nothing has been done to alter the findings of the early church. The fact is we can rely on the Bible as we know it – undoubtedly because God had a hand in its composition, collection, preservation and dissemination. This is no small matter. As Christians, we do not want to reject any material that God inspired for our benefit.

On the other hand, we do not want to accept any material that claims to be from God and is not. That will only lead us away from Him. But, due to history and God’s providence, we can be confident in the New Testament as it is composed of the twenty-seven books today.

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Should We Keep the Law Today?

Question:

“Jesus said He came to fulfill the law, not destroy it (Matthew 5:17). We are told in Revelation 12:17 and 14:12 that we are to keep the law. Why does the church teach that we do not need to keep the 10 commandments?”

Answer:

When Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses, its purpose ended. That is when the law was taken away. . .

“God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross. There Christ defeated all powers and forces. He let the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory. 

Don’t let anyone tell you what you must eat or drink. Don’t let them say that you must celebrate the New Moon festival, the Sabbath, or any other festival. These things are only a shadow of what was to come. But Christ is real!” (Colossians 2:14 – 17; Contemporary English Version)

“That is how it is with you, my friends. You are now part of the body of Christ and are dead to the power of the Law. You are free to belong to Christ, who was raised to life so that we could serve God. When we thought only of ourselves, the Law made us have sinful desires. It made every part of our bodies into slaves who are doomed to die. But the Law no longer rules over us. We are like dead people, and it cannot have any power over us. Now we can serve God in a new way by obeying his Spirit, and not in the old way by obeying the written Law.

Does this mean that the Law is sinful? Certainly not! But if it had not been for the Law, I would not have known what sin is really like. For example, I would not have known what it means to want something that belongs to someone else, unless the Law had told me not to do that. It was sin that used this command as a way of making me have all kinds of desires. But without the Law, sin is dead.” (Romans 7:4 – 8; Contemporary English Version)

There are many other passages that show that the old law was taken away when Christ died on the cross. But did that include the ten commandments? Note the two passages I cited above. 

The Sabbath day (Colossians 2:16) was in the law that was nailed to the cross. In the law that no longer rules over us is the command that forbids wanting “something that belongs to someone else” (i. e. coveting) (Romans 7:7). Those two commands are part of the ten commandments. The law that was nailed to the cross (and from which we are made free) includes the ten commandments.

The two passages in Revelation do not refer to our keeping the law of Moses at all. In Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 14:12, we are told that we are to “keep the commandments of God”. That is not speaking of the commandments of the old law, but of the teachings of Christ.

We do not worship idols, commit murder or lie today. Not because it is in the law of Moses. But because these things are prohibited by the gospel of Christ. We are living today under the “New Testament” or “New Covenant”, which is ratified by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:15). 

If we try to go back to the old law (the law which God gave through Moses to Israel), we betray Jesus Christ. . .

“And if you try to please God by obeying the Law, you have cut yourself off from Christ and his wonderful kindness. But the Spirit makes us sure that God will accept us because of our faith in Christ.” (Galatians 5:4; Contemporary English Version)

Sprinkling of the Blood

Question:

“Can you explain the ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ as recorded in 1 Peter 1:2?”

Answer:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

          – 1 Peter 1:1, 2 (New American Standard Bible)

The apostle Peter writes to the Christians who are scattered throughout the Roman Empire. He calls these believers “chosen” and then briefly describes what that means. 

First, it means God is working in their lives as they were chosen by His foreknowledge. Second, it means they have been sanctified (set apart) by the Holy Spirit. Third, it means they have obeyed Jesus and been sprinkled by His blood (forgiven).

The sprinkling comes from many Old Testament texts that describes animal sacrifices such as Exodus 24:5 – 8 . . .

“He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'”

Scripture passages such as this help us to understand the sprinkling Peter mentions. The blood was sprinkled on the altar as a symbol of its cleansing and sanctification. The blood was sprinkled on the people to show they had come under God’s covenant.

Therefore, the meaning of Peter’s words are clear. When a person obeys Jesus through faith, repents and is baptized by immersion, he or she is cleansed by the blood. Just as the sprinkling set apart the altar and the people under the old covenant, the blood of Jesus (symbolically sprinkled on the believer) sets that believer apart for God’s service. Since many of Peter’s readers would have been Jews before becoming Christians, they would quickly grasp his meaning here.