There are those who call themselves Catholics, others proclaim themselves as Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Fundamentalist or Evangelical Christians. And even among each of these, there are several different sects of the same denomination. Yet, for all their talk of unity, each of these denominations remain divided over various doctrines of faith.
The same situation existed in the early Christian church. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
Again, Paul speaks about the necessity of there being one faith, not tens or hundreds or thousands of different doctrinal beliefs. And why is this important? It was Jesus who taught, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matthew 12:25). Would this not also apply to Christians? Paul asked the question "Is Christ divided?" According to the Bible, the answer is a clear and resounding, "No!" Then why do so many Christians who believe so adamantly in the Bible have so many different ideas about what the Bible teaches?
Before we look at the answer to that question, it may be helpful to first ask: What does the Bible say about how Christians can attain this unity of the faith? In other words, what is the Biblical prescription for reconciling doctrinal differences between Christians so we all "speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among [us]; but [instead, we will] be perfectly joined together in the same mind?"
Paul gave the answer to that question when he wrote, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, (Ephesians 4:11-14, emphasis added).
It should be noted that this counsel is found in the same chapter of the same book where Paul talks about the need for Christians to have "one Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism." In other words, verses 11-14 are a part of, or a continuation of, the theme of oneness and unity which Paul is trying to explain to the Ephesians. According to him, the way we come to have this "unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God," is through the teachings of "some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." And it is because of these positions that we are kept from being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
But how do these positions bring about a "unity of the faith?"
The orthodox view of the vast majority of Christian denominations is that God no longer sends apostles or prophets to mankind as He once did. According to the accepted understanding of most Christians, in place of apostles and prophets, God has left us His complete and unerring word, the Bible. Therefore, they conclude, we can come to a unity of the faith by agreeing with and living by the words of the ancient prophets and apostles as contained in the Bible.
Although this sounds like a reasonable conclusion, at least in theory, unfortunately, in reality, such an approach has had just the opposite effect. Consider some examples. The Orthodox Presbyterian church (which is one of several Presbyterian sects) states: "The Bible, having been inspired by God, is entirely trustworthy and without error. Therefore, we are to believe and obey its teachings. The Bible is the only source of special revelation for the church today... As a faithful branch of the true church, the OPC [Orthodox Presbyterian Church] acknowledges Jesus Christ as her only head and his word as the final authority in all matters of faith and life. It is our desire to be faithful to our Lord, not only in matters of doctrine, but also in matters of structure, government, and order. Accordingly, we have a Presbyterian form of government. Each congregation is governed by a session, which consists of one or more ministers (teaching elders) and a number of ruling elders (depending on the size of the congregation). Elders must meet the scriptural qualifications for the eldership. They are ordained for life and installed to office. Ministers are licensed and ordained by regional presbyteries and are called by congregations; ruling elders are elected by congregations. Deacons are elected by congregations to oversee their ministries of mercy. They are ordained, but they do not exercise spiritual rule alongside elders." (see their website at http://opc.org/)
The Church of Christ denomination makes this declaration of belief: "[Ours] is an appeal to go back to the Bible. It is a plea to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent in all matters that pertain to religion. It further emphasizes that in everything religious there must be a `Thus saith the Lord' for all that is done. The objective is religious unity of all believers in Christ. The method is the restoration of New Testament Christianity... The strength of the appeal lies in the restoration of Christ's original church.
"There is a plurality of elders or presbyters who serve as the governing body. These men are selected by the local congregations on the basis of qualifications set down in the scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-8). Serving under the elders are deacons, teachers, and evangelists or ministers. The latter do not have the authority equal to or superior to the elders. The elders are shepherds or overseers who serve under the headship of Christ according to the New Testament, which is a kind of constitution. There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church." (see the home website of the Church of Christ at http://church-of-christ.org/)
Both churches unequivocally and adamantly maintain that the Bible is their only source of authority and that their organization, beliefs, and practices are based solely and exclusively on what the Bible teaches. As such, both of them base their church structure on the idea of a governing body of elders. But that's where the similarity ends.
Under the Church of Christ, ministers (or evangelists) come under the control and direction of the board of elders of the local church and are subservient and have less authority than the elders. The elders are also in charge of selecting and appointing their ministers. Each church is autonomous and operates independently of all other churches of the same faith. As such, there is no national or central authority or hierarchy. As stated earlier, "There is no earthly authority superior to the elders of the local church."
On the other hand, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church believes that "each congregation is governed by a session, which consists of one or more ministers (teaching elders) and a number of ruling elders." In other words, it is the minister who presides over "a number of ruling elders." Furthermore, "ministers are licensed and ordained by regional presbyteries" not by the local elders. Notice that above the position of ministers there are "regional presbyters." Obviously their authority is "superior to the elders of the local church."
Furthermore, rather than the local churches acting independently of each other, the OPC has a General Assembly which oversees the entire church. "It ordinarily meets once each year and is composed of ministers and ruling elders representing each presbytery. It provides training and educational materials for the churches. It arranges internship training for prospective ministers. It coordinates the planning, funding, and prayer support for the efforts of presbyters and local congregations in establishing new churches. It helps to oversee special diaconal needs. It makes health and pension plans available to its ministers and elders. It sends missionaries to foreign lands. And it resolves matters of conflict in regional and local churches, and administers judicial discipline as a court of final appeal."
Then there is the Southern Baptist Convention (one of several different Baptist sects) who likewise base all their beliefs and practices on what is in the Bible, yet they have no elders. Instead, at the local level they have a board of Deacons who serve for a stated number of years according to the by-laws and constitution of each individual church. Although the Church of Christ steadfastly maintains that the Bible clearly states only men can become elders or deacons, the Baptist church allows each local congregation to make that decision for themselves. The board of Deacons meets in committee and works in cooperation with their pastor, whom they hire, but who is ordained by the church at large. Each year the SBC holds a Convention to decide their position on various doctrinal issues as well as add, change, or amend their rules and procedures and appoint people to various national boards, such as the Sunday School, Missions, etc.
Then there are the smaller fundamentalist churches, who are steadfastly uncompromising in their devotion to the Bible as God's word, yet who have neither Elders nor Deacons. When we look at how the Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and other denominations practice their faith, we see even more diversity of ideas, despite each one honoring and claiming implicitly to obey the words of God as recorded in the Bible. The question that immediately arises is: How can all these churches, which profess to base their entire faith system by conforming strictly to Bible teachings, come to so many different conclusions? More importantly, if the Bible is God's word for mankind to follow, then why can't all these sincere and faithful followers of Christ come to a unified agreement on what the Bible teaches as Paul admonished the Ephesians?
The reason is because there is no one who can speak authoritatively for God as Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul and the others apostles did in the early church, and as Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other prophets did in the Old Testament. Since almost all churches teach that there cannot be any more prophets and apostles, that leaves them no other choice than to determine for themselves how to interpret the words of God.
Since Christians believe that all scripture was given by inspiration from God through holy men, and since they also believe there cannot be any more scripture, that leaves them no other choice than to admit that there cannot be any more holy men who receive inspiration from God. As such, Christians often behave as though God simply dropped His words on mankind's doorstep and left us alone to decipher what He wrote.
What that means is, whatever conclusion Christians reach concerning any doctrine can only be based on human reason and intellect because they readily admit there can be no direct revelation from God as happened throughout Biblical times. And without any divine inspiration or direct authority from God to speak in His name, each biblical doctrine which one man claims to believe in is just as valid and uninspired as anyone else's.
In such an environment of individual convictions and personal opinions, it seems that the words of Jesus would certainly apply to our day when He said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments [opinionated convictions] of men. (Matthew 15:9).
To understand this statement more fully, let's take a closer look at how people come to believe as they do. Almost all Christian faiths base their religious ideas on the authority of the Bible. But what exactly does that mean? Since Christians believe that God wrote the Bible through the instrumentality of man by means of inspiration, that means the Bible contains the official words which God has spoken. Therefore, when Christians quote the Bible, it can honestly be said that they have the authority to speak for God because they are only repeating what God has already officially stated.
But, whenever anyone attempts to explain what God's word means, then they have stepped beyond God's authority as contained in the Bible. In other words, whenever anyone states, "This is what this scripture means..." they are granting to themselves the authority to amplify, clarify, and add to God's official word. And when they do that, they are acting in a capacity that once was the prerogative of prophets. Yet prophets didn't rely on scriptures as proof of their authority. Instead, their ability to speak in God's name came as an appointment directly from God, either by visions, revelations, or inspiration. But none of today's preachers or scholars claim to have had any such divine appointment. Therefore, it can fairly be asked of them, "By what authority do they base their explanation of God's word?"
In the Old Testament days, the priests were the authorized representatives of God. When Paul spoke about Christ's authority to act as our priest, he explained that "no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Hebrews 5:4). Aaron didn't take it upon himself to be made a high priest. Rather, God spoke to Moses and told him to ordain Aaron to act in His name. Thus, we see that Aaron received his appointment directly from divine authority.
Paul explained that even Jesus didn't assume to take such an honor upon Himself, but was ordained to be a priest after the order of Melchesidec by God (Hebrews 5:5,6). On many occasions Jesus steadfastly declared that He taught only what His father commanded Him to preach (John 6:38). Thus, even Jesus was appointed to be a spokesman for God rather than taking such an honor upon Himself. As we look at the lives of each of the prophets we see that none of them appointed themselves to speak in God's name. Like Aaron and Jesus, they received their authority directly from God Himself.
The same was true of the apostles. Their authority to speak for God didn't come from their great understanding of the scriptures. Instead, as Christians we believe they were specifically chosen and ordained by divine authority to explain God's word. But when Christians claim that God no longer speaks to man in this manor, that leaves them no other choice than to admit they have no authority to interpret the Bible. As such, any conclusion they make about what the Bible teaches is at best an uninspired interpretation.
It's true that almost all denominations claim they don't "interpret" the scriptures. Instead they all steadfastly maintain that they only believe what the Bible itself says. However, those who make such a statement are deluding themselves because there is absolutely no way to completely understand the Bible without interpreting it. (For a more in-depth understanding of this, read The Interpretation Thereof ). If this wasn't the case, then why do so many loyal and devoted followers of Christ have so much trouble agreeing with one another on what the Bible teaches?
To illustrate this point, let's look at one example. A number of years ago there was a man named Walter Martin who wrote a book entitled, "The Kingdom of the Cults." In religious matters, he was a very learned man, with a firm conviction and knowledge of his beliefs. As a result of his vast Biblical understanding, he undertook an in-depth scholarly research into the beliefs of many different religious organizations. The question he posed to each one was, "Do you preach the orthodox religion?" Those who didn't past his test of what the Bible taught were labeled a cult.
But by what authority did he make this decision? Although he claimed that the Bible was his source of authority, why should we believe that his understanding of what the Bible teaches is the only valid one, especially when there are so many other scholarly dissenting opinions? In other words, by what authority did he have the right to say that his convictions were the only correct ones while any differing opinions were erroneous? The fact is, he had no real authority to play God and pass judgment on others. Therefore, it is clear that he had taken this honor upon himself without having received any divine appointment.
On the other hand, if we were to ask any of the prophets of God that same question, their answer would be that their authority came directly from God Himself. In other words, their authority didn't come from their own declaration or from scholarly analysis and intellectual study of the scriptures, as Walter Martin claimed as his source of authority.
Interestingly, there is an historical parallel to today's claim of scriptural authority. In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees made the same appeal to support their convictions. And, like many Christians today, they were just as convinced that God no longer spoke to man through prophets. According to their beliefs, Malachi was the last prophet, and, as such, upon his death, God had finished giving His word through divinely appointed men. Then they anointed themselves as being the only ones who correctly understood God's word.
From what the Bible itself illustrates, without divinely appointed men to declare God's word, there is no way for people to achieve a unity of the faith as Paul counseled us. When Christians no longer acknowledge divine inspiration in their leaders, it's no wonder there is so much disunity among them. As such, we see Christian people being "tossed to and fro, by every wind of doctrine" that someone comes up with according to their own self-appointed authority.
However, rather than admitting that their church is failing to maintain a unified faith, many denominations explain away their disagreements by talking about how there is "unity in diversity." In fact, one major Christian denomination issued a report entitled "The Nature of the Unity We Seek is in Our Diversity."
A popular Bible study book states, "Does unity mean unanimity? No. Christ's work on the cross is the basis for spiritual unity. Christians are united over essential of the faith (such as the authority of the Scripture, human sinfulness and need for a Savior, the deity of Christ, his death and resurrection, his promised return, and so on). But on less crucial matters Christians don't always agree. Believers can differ over non-essentials without being spiritually divided" (from The Quest Study Bible, page 1616).
Despite the fact that nothing in the Bible teaches such a concept as this and despite that such a statement is inconsistent with how different denominations disagree on such essentials as how the church should be governed, church leaders continue to preach that Christians are nonetheless united despite having a diversity of theological viewpoints. One prominent leader of another national Christian denomination wrote: "We have certainly recognized gender and racial diversity as an asset, even though we sometimes don't demonstrate it. I believe we also need to see our theological diversity as an asset. I don't want a church all like me, or all like you. We need each other. I need your corrective Christ, and perhaps you need mine. My faith has been enriched by those who have a different theological perspective than mine."
Still another church teaches, "United Methodists around the world are connected by a rich array of doctrinal and theological understandings. Listening to views that differ from our own is possible when we are in covenantal relationships that are intellectually honest where we strive together to seek common ground. The practice of Christian conferencing includes connecting and renewing, discerning and deciding."
There are two things which become apparent from statements such as these. The first is an implied admission on the part of Christian leaders that they don't fully understand what the Bible teaches and that through disagreements, debates, and striving to seek common ground in an atmosphere of intellectual honesty we can come to better comprehend what God's word actually says. The second evident conclusion is that there is no one in these churches who has the authority to give a definitive answer to the members of their church who look to them for spiritual guidance. Instead, they seek to find God through the medium of conferencing and reasonable discussions with one another. What they eventually end up with is theology by committee and doctrine by debate.
Contrast that to the early Christian church. Imagine someone telling Peter or Paul that maybe their views were not completely correct. Imagine John or James admitting that they could learn more about God's ways by "listening to views that differ from [their] own." Imagine the apostles commissioning a panel of experts to determine what it is they should believe. Instead of this method, the ancient apostles taught "as one having authority." However, they didn't declare the word of God from the vanity of their intellect or the arrogance of their position. They boldly taught their doctrine with a confidence that came from having received divine authority to speak for God as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
Yet, many Christians defend their lack of divine authority by pointing to Hebrews 1:1,2 which reads, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto our fathers by the prophets, hath, in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son" as scriptural proof that Jesus was the last prophet and that His teachings constituted the final and complete word of God. As such, they argue there cannot be any more inspired holy men ( see note )
But there is a serious, glaring error in their interpretation of this scripture. If this is a true and correct assumption, then we would have to disregard everything in the New Testament from Acts to Revelations, because all the events and preaching spoken of in those books took place after Jesus had died. It is inconsistent and illogical to say that Jesus was the last prophet and then say that the words of the apostles who came after Jesus were just as inspired as were the prophets of old.
The frequent response to this is that these men were only preaching what Jesus had already said, therefore, they weren't preaching their own doctrine, but Christ's. However, even a casual study of the scriptures shows this is not a correct statement either. It's true that the teachings of Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude were in full harmony with what Jesus taught, but they did not quote the words of Jesus. Instead they used their own words to explain, amplify, clarify and expound upon what Jesus taught.
Since this is what all preachers do, why do we quote the words of a preacher from Tarsus (Paul) claiming that he was a holy man inspired of God who gave us more scripture while saying that Jesus was the last prophet and that His words are the final and complete words of God? And if Paul and Peter were inspired holy preachers who came after the death of Jesus, why do Christians say there can be no more holy, inspired preachers? And what about the book of Revelation? That was a prophecy given to the apostle John while he was in exile on the isle of Patmos. Like the ancient prophets of old, John had a prophetic vision which formed the basis for the book he wrote. As such, John fits the definition of a prophet. Yet his vision, prophecy and book came after the death of Jesus.
Furthermore, the writings of the apostles after the death of Christ are more than just a rehash of what Jesus taught. During his life on earth, Jesus never addressed the issue of allowing Gentiles to have the gospel, let alone whether they should be circumcised or not. In fact, Jesus deliberately avoided teaching the Gentiles. And if He did teach such a doctrine, then why was there such a large dispute about this subject within the church, and why didn't the apostles appeal to the words of Jesus to settle the matter?
Jesus never said anything about the role of deacons, elders, bishops or any other officers of the church. Yet, today's churches build their whole organization around what Paul wrote rather than what Jesus taught. Jesus never taught what the role of women were in the church, nor did He ever give any counsel about the relationship between husbands and wives, especially if only one spouse was a believer. Yet it is the words of Paul, not Jesus, that ministers use to give counsel to married couples. Jesus never taught the need for the saints to collect money to provide for the poorer saints, nor did He teach communal property ownership as the apostles taught the early Christians to observe. And there are many other similar examples found in the epistles of the New Testament. Therefore, it is totally false to say that the apostles only preached the things which Jesus taught.
And the Bible itself confirms this. In Acts 2:42 we read "they [the early Christians] continued in the apostle's doctrine" not Christ's written word. Paul gave orders and commandment that the churches were required to obey (1 Corinthians 7:6, 1 Thessalonians. 4:2) and told them they were to "keep the ordinances" that he, Paul, had delivered unto them (1 Corinthians. 11:2). He also told the saints that if any one didn't obey his words, they were to disassociate themselves from such a person (2 Thessalonians. 3:14). Speaking about the Christian leaders, Paul also instructed the saints that they were to "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves [to them]" (Hebrews. 13:17). Peter taught that we should not only be mindful of the words which the ancient prophets had spoken but they were to also pay heed to "the command[ments] of us apostles" (2 Peter 3:2).
If Christ really was the last prophet, then why do we follow the words, commandments, orders, ordinances, and instructions of these men? The reason is because we believe they were holy men of God, inspired to give us more of God's word, despite all the arguments that Jesus was the last prophet.
However, many Christians still say that the reason we should base our doctrinal authority on the Bible is that we should follow God's words rather than the teachings of men. It is an accepted fact that anything a man says is subject to error and mistakes, while anything God says is always true and infallible. Even though that is absolutely correct, it's just as true that men's understanding and interpretation of what God's word means is just as subject to error. Therefore, the real question becomes, Who can we go to for the correct understanding of what God has written?
To answer that question, all we have to do is ask, To whom did the early Christians turn to for their source of knowledge about God? The Bible tell us they followed the teachings, instructions, orders, ordinances and counsel of fallible, mortal men, known as apostles, who had the divine authority to speak in God's name. Indeed, almost two thousand years later we also depend on the words of these fallible men to guide our understanding of God's ways.
This was the same way ancient Israel was led. It was through the teachings of living, inspired men that God spoke to His people, and whose writings future generations looked to for their guidance. Although it is true that men are fallible, yet it's inconsistent to say that God made sure that what holy men wrote was without error but that He didn't guide them in the things they spoke.
But let's take a closer look at this argument. Moses was just a man, but the Bible tells of many negative consequences the Israelites suffered for not following what he told them. At the same time, it also shows how they were blessed when they obeyed the teachings of this mortal man. Isaiah and Jeremiah were mere mortal men with weaknesses, yet Israel was taken into captivity, their temple was destroyed and they lost their national sovereignty all because they refused to follow the words of these men.
The apostle Paul was a man with many weaknesses both physically and temperamentally. Although he had a sharp, sarcastic tongue at times, yet people received salvation by following his message. Peter had his moments of weakness and yet he converted 3,000 people in one day because they followed the words which he taught them. On the other hand, the Pharisees and Sadducees refused to listen to the words of Jesus, claiming he was only a man, and an uninspired one at that. They argued He was a false prophet who was leading people away from God. Yet, those who followed the man Jesus of Nazareth found heavenly treasures, while those who didn't follow this man of God found sorrow and destruction when Jerusalem was destroyed.
What the Bible clearly shows is that God has always used mortal, fallible men to lead His people, and that when people refuse to follow God's appointed spokesmen, they do so at the peril of their own salvation. Whether people agree with the teachings of these divinely appointed men or not, doesn't change the correctness of their words. Whether people accept or deny the divine authority with which these men speak doesn't alter their commission. As such, their own personal weaknesses and shortcomings are irrelevant if they are truly speaking for God,
Since most Christians firmly maintain there are no longer any holy men being moved upon to speak for God, they've put themselves in a no-win situation. Acknowledging that the Bible teaches us not to privately interpret the scriptures (2 Peter 1:20), they've left themselves with no other option than to do the very thing which they say the Bible forbids.
However, Christians who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no such dilemma. We believe in living apostles and prophets who are moved upon by the same Spirit of God that inspired the ancient writers of the Bible. As such, we are not "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine" because we are led by men who have received divine authority to speak in the name of God. And because we are built on living apostles and prophets, there is a far greater degree of unity of faith within the LDS church than in any other Christian denomination.
If this church had only a few hundred members, that kind of consensus of conviction might be understandable, but with almost eleven million believers world wide, such solidarity of beliefs is astonishing! No other Christian church of any significant size has ever achieved the unity of faith, doctrine and practices which Mormons have. But then again, almost none of the other churches even claims to have anyone who can speak with the authority of God.
To say Hebrews 1:1,2 states that Jesus is the last prophet is a misinterpretation of these verses. What this scripture does tell us is that "in times past" God has spoken to our fathers at various times and in different ways through the use of prophets, but "in these last times" He has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. In this verse, the word "last" does not refer to Jesus. Neither does it say this is the "last time" God is sending His word to us through a mortal man. Rather it says that God sent His Son to us "in these last times."
What we need to determine is, What does the author of Hebrews mean by the phrase "in these last times?"
There are two possible meanings. Usually when the Bible talks about the "last days" it is referring to the second coming of Christ. It might therefore be argued that "these last times" has reference to the "last days" where the words "days" and "time" are synonymous with one another. And there is scriptural evidence to suggest that the early Christians did indeed think they were living in the last days and that they would see the second coming of Christ during their lifetime (see Phil. 4:5, Thes. 2:2, James 5:8, 1 Pet. 4:7, 1 John 2:18 Rev. 3:11, 22:7,10). In fact, shortly after the death of the apostles there were some in the church who taught that the second coming had already occurred.
However, nearly 2,000 years have past since then and Christ has not yet returned. Therefore, it's obvious this can't be the meaning of that phrase. That leaves only one other explanation. In verse 1 it talks about "in times past." We can correctly substitute the word "days" for "time" which would make this verse read, "in days that are past" God spoke to our fathers through prophets, meaning that these events took place before or prior to our present "time." Therefore, when verse 2 talks about "in these last times" it can more properly be understood as saying "in these recent times (days) in which we presently live" God sent us His Son.
When Hebrews 1:1,2 is read correctly as it is written, it can easily be seen that these verses do not say that Christ was the "last" prophet. Rather it clearly shows that He was the most recent spokesman for God to those who were living in that day and "time."