Abner

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Abner, once chief of the Nazarite colony, became chief of the disciples of John the Baptist and became a devout believer in Jesus' teaching and eventually became head of a group of seventy teachers and the women's corps of teachers whom the Master commissioned to preach the gospel. During a time when Jesus and the apostles retired from Jerusalem due to agitation against Jesus, and while the apostles went to Samaria and the Decapolis, Abner accompanied Jesus to the Nazarite colony where many became believers in Jesus teachings though the majority did not due to no allowance for ascetic practices.

Abner had participated in a conference between Jesus and John's disciples that convened at the Gilboa camp assembling all his associates in preparation for entering into council with Jesus' apostles. This council lasted three weeks during which time was discussed the many differences between the two groups especially on the topic of baptism, a practice Jesus did not utilize.

After the death of John the Baptist, and when a few of John's disciples had gone to Herod requesting his body, later they later buried it at Sebaste that was the home of Abner. When Jesus' apostolic organization was expanded to include one of John's disciples for each of the twelve apostles, Abner became the associate of Andrew. While the differences between these two groups were always a challenge, they managed to get along rather well.

For lessons on the topic of Abner, follow this link.

At one point, through the efforts of Abner and his associates working throughout Judea did much to consolidate sentiment favorable to Jesus' teachings, so much so that the enemies of Jesus dared not be too outspoken in their opposition. This was one of the reasons why Jesus could publicly visit Jerusalem and live to go away. It was also through the teaching of one of Abner's associates that Rodan, a Greek philosopher from Alexandria became a disciple of Jesus.

There was a synagogue at Philadelphia that had never been subject to the supervision of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, and it was here that Abner taught three times a day with the result of Philadelphia becoming the largest group of persons embracing the teachings of Jesus in all the cities of Perea. As the Jews of Jerusalem had always had difficulty with the Jews at Philadelphia, after Jesus' crucifixion, the Jerusalem church, of which James, the Lord's brother was head, began to have serious difficulties with the Philadelphia congregation of believers. It was this congregation of which Abner became head and continued as such until his death, and this estrangement with Jerusalem explains why nothing is heard of Abner and his work in the Gospel records of the New Testament. This feud between Jerusalem and Philadelphia lasted throughout the lifetimes of James and Abner and continued for some time after the destruction of Jerusalem. Philadelphia was really the headquarters of the early church in the south and east as Antioch was in the north and west.

It was the apparent misfortune of Abner to be at variance with all of the leaders of the early Christian church. He fell out with Peter and James (Jesus’ brother) over questions of administration and the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem church; he parted company with Paul over differences of philosophy and theology. Abner was more Babylonian than Hellenic in his philosophy, and he stubbornly resisted all attempts of Paul to remake the teachings of Jesus so as to present less that was objectionable, first to the Jews, then to the Greco-Roman believers in the mysteries.

Thus was Abner compelled to live a life of isolation. He was head of a church which was without standing at Jerusalem. He had dared to defy the Just|James the Lord’s brother, who was subsequently supported by Peter. Such conduct effectively separated him from all his former associates. Then he dared to withstand Paul. Although he was wholly sympathetic with Paul in his mission to the gentiles, and though he supported him in his contentions with the church at Jerusalem, he bitterly opposed the version of Jesus’ teachings which Paul elected to preach. In his last years Abner denounced Paul as the “clever corrupter of the life teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the living God.”

During the later years of Abner and for some time thereafter, the believers at Philadelphia held more strictly to the religion of Jesus, as he lived and taught, than any other group on earth. It was in Philadelphia with Abner that Lazarus took refuge when persecutions in Jerusalem threatened his life due his being the most potent demonstration of Jesus' power over life and death. While laboring in Philadelphia, Abner heard of the plot to kill Jesus and sent a messenger to Jesus asking if he should join him in Jerusalem, but this runner returned to Abner with this message from Jesus "Go on with your work. If I depart from you in the flesh, it is only that I may return in the spirit. I will not forsake you. I will be with you to the end.”

After Jesus crucifixion, a meeting in the Philadelphia synagogue was opened by Abner and Lazarus who were standing together in the pulpit, when the entire audience of believers saw the form of the Master appear suddenly. He stepped forward from where he had appeared between Abner and Lazarus, neither of whom had observed him, and saluting the company, said:

"Peace be upon you. You all know that we have one Father in heaven, and that there is but one gospel of the kingdom—the good news of the gift of eternal life which men receive by faith. As you rejoice in your loyalty to the gospel, pray the Father of truth to shed abroad in your hearts a new and greater love for your brethren. You are to love all men as I have loved you; you are to serve all men as I have served you. With understanding sympathy and brotherly affection, fellowship all your brethren who are dedicated to the proclamation of the good news, whether they be Jew or gentile, Greek or Romans, Persian, or Ethiopian. John proclaimed the kingdom in advance; you have preached the gospel in power; the Greeks already teach the good news; and I am soon to send forth the Spirit of Truth into the souls of all these, my brethren, who have so unselfishly dedicated their lives to the enlightenment of their fellows who sit in spiritual darkness. You are all the children of light; therefore stumble not into the misunderstanding entanglements of mortal suspicion and human intolerance. If you are ennobled, by the grace of faith, to love unbelievers, should you not also equally love those who are your fellow believers in the far-spreading household of faith? Remember, as you love one another, all men will know that you are my disciples. "Go, then, into all the world proclaiming this gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men to all nations and races and ever be wise in your choice of methods for presenting the good news to the different races and tribes of mankind. Freely you have received this gospel of the kingdom, and you will freely give the good news to all nations. Fear not the resistance of evil, for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages. And my peace I leave with you."

This Eastern version of the message of Jesus, notwithstanding that it remained more true to his teachings, continued to follow the uncompromising attitude of Abner. It never progressed as did the Hellenized version and was eventually lost in the Islamic movement.