Does Baptism Save? [Part 1 of 2]

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [1 Peter 3:21]*

It seems there are two extremes when answering the question posed in the title.

On the one hand, there are those who place baptism as an optional expression of faith. Most who place their tents in this camp would be more nuanced, claiming that it is not necessary for salvation—but it is necessary for church membership. This is the camp where most churches in the Baptist tradition plant their flags, along with churches in the Wesleyan-Holiness-Pentecostal traditions.

On the other hand, we find those who assert that unless one has been baptized, one has not been truly regenerated, is not saved, and will not escape eternal condemnation. The strange bedfellows who set up their tents in this camp and plant their flags are just as diverse as the first camp: many from the churches of Christ/Christian churches which sprang from the Stone-Campbell movement of the early nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic church, churches within the so-called “Apostolic Faith” movement [AKA “One-ness” or “Jesus only” pentecostals], Lutherans, Episcopalians, and sects within the Eastern Orthodox traditions.

Within both camps, one will find arguments that unless one has been baptized according to a specific ritual, reciting certain words, and administered by one holding ecclesiastical authority, one has not been truly baptized. In the latter camp, they would also hold that such persons, not having been correctly baptized, have not been truly regenerated.

It is my belief that neither of these extremes presents a fully developed theology of baptism based on all Scripture teaches.

The place to start in developing a theology of baptism is to look at all the Scriptures pertaining to baptism and attempt to adduce how they connect.

This is important because each flag that has been planted has been planted on a Scripture which is dear to that tradition—usually to the exclusion of other passages which disprove the exclusivity of that particular flag. Or the tradition will plant its particular flag as the starting and ending points of all discussion and not even develop a fuller understanding of all that Scripture may say on the matter.

Some traditions plant their flag on the mode of baptism. Within this battleground, some argue for the mode of sprinkling, in which a few drops of water are placed on the head of the person being “baptized,” while others argue for affusion [the highbrow term for pouring a small amount of water on the recipient], others may argue for no physical mode at all, claiming that “true” baptism is merely the spiritual “encounter” one has, and still others will argue for immersion. Finally, there are a few who would assert that any method is valid as long as the recipient has true faith.

I need to say before I proceed that I raise this point, not to plant a flag, but rather a surveyor’s marker, not to say beyond this point I will not proceed, but to try to map out as much as possible everything Scripture has to say on the subject.

It must be noted that baptism is a command—not an option. Don’t believe me? Look at Matthew 28:19-20—the Great Commission. Jesus commanded His apostles to make disciples. How are those disciples marked? They are not marked by going forward during an “invitation” at the end of religious meeting, nor are they marked by reciting a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Disciples are marked by being baptized according to the Great Commission. If those who present the Gospel are commanded to baptize those who desire to follow Christ, then it logically follows that those who truly desire to follow Christ are commanded to be baptized.

This logical connection is clearly demonstrated on the day of Pentecost. Those being convicted by the Holy Spirit asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37] What was the apostolic response? Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus for the remission of sins….” [Acts 2:38]

It is noteworthy that the mood of the verb “be baptized” is not optative, meaning that being baptized is merely a suggestion, the fulfillment of which is solely at the discretion of the hearer. Nor is the mood of the verb subjunctive, meaning that the speaker is hopeful the hearer will heed his suggestion. No, the mood is imperative. It is a command to be followed without qualification or hesitation. It should also be noted that the verb is in the singular, not the plural. So, although Peter was speaking to a large assembly of people, the command is for each individual to repent and be baptized.

Having established that baptism is a command, not merely a suggestion or an option on the part of believers, what is it’s mode?

To understand the mode, we must look at the word itself. The word “baptism” is not an English word, it did not come from into the English language from Anglo-Saxon or from the French. Both the noun “baptism” and the verb “baptize” came into the English language as transliterations [words carried over from a source language into a receptor language without being translated] of the Greek words BĂP-tēs-mă [the noun] and băp-TĒD-zō [the verb]. Why was this done? When the Bible began to be translated into English during the mid-sixteenth century, the words were transliterated rather than translated in order to avoid giving credence to the claims of the Anabaptists. This practice was continued by the men who translated the Geneva Bible, the men who translated the KJV, and every translation to the current time.

The fact of the matter is that whenever one reads a dictionary of Bible words, the basic and original meaning of baptism/baptize is to fully immerse or submerge the subject.† It has never been used in any Greek document dating back to Bible times to refer to merely sprinkling a few drops of water on a subject, or pouring a cup of water over the head of the subject. Those who argue for sprinkling or pouring as “valid forms” of baptism in fulfillment of Christ’s commands cannot use any Scripture to support their argument—only man-made traditions.

The second issue is the question of who is the proper subject for baptism. Interestingly, those who argue for unscriptural modes such as sprinkling or affusion, also argue for that infants are to legitimate subjects for their version of “baptism.”
Their reasoning is based on three fallacies. The first fallacy is that they equate baptism with circumcision; claiming that baptism is to the New Covenant what circumcision was to the Abrahamic covenant. I state this is a fallacy because nowhere in the New Testament can there be found any passage linking baptism with circumcision. Corollary to this heresy, it should also be noted that this who have adopted this fallacy with regard to baptism have also adopted the heresy of replacement theology.

Another indication as to why it is a fallacy to equate baptism with circumcision is that under the Abrahamic covenant, the only subjects for circumcision were males who were at least eight days old and were either in the direct lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or who were proselytes. Baptism, on the other hand, is for all who identify as followers of Christ—both male and female.

This also points to the second fallacy with regards to those who advocate for sprinkling or affusion as proper modes of baptism—that because baptism establishes a covenant relationship between the subject and God, infants are therefore to be considered as proper subjects for baptism. Again, they base their reasoning on a flawed application of Scripture. They can only find two passages Scripture as justification for their position. The first passage is Matthew 19:13-15. The problem with their interpretation and application of this passage is that nowhere does it mention or even hint at baptism.

The second passage they use is Acts 16:33, which states that the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized immediately following Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. They claim that this has to also refer to infants. The problem with their interpretation and application is that it is based on an assumption from silence and not the text itself. In other words, they read their theological tradition into the text and claim that theological tradition justifies their interpretation rather than letting the text speak for itself. In technical terms, the practice is called eisegesis—reading into the text a meaning which is not found within the text itself.

When one reads the Scriptures dealing with baptism carefully and according to the plain meanings of the words, one finds that in order for baptism to be valid, the subject being baptized must be a believer.

The first evidence that baptism is for believers and not for infants is an inference drawn from Matthew 28:19-20, the “Great Commission.” In this passage, believers is commanded to make disciples from all nations. It also states that disciples are to be marked by baptizing them. The verb “make disciples” is in the imperative mood. The verb forms for “baptize” and “teach” are participles, making them an appositional construct to the main verb “make disciples.” In other words, the participles describe the process by which disciples are made—first by baptizing them and then instructing them in sound doctrine and practice.

The problem with any view which suggests that baptism is anything other than the immersion of professed believers is that those who promote such teachings aren’t really fulfilling the Great Commission in a manner which is obedient to the word of God.

The second evidence that the proper candidates and subjects for baptism are people who have come to conscious belief in Christ as Lord, is found in Acts 2:38. In this passage, baptism is yoked with repentance. Both verbs for “repent” and “be baptized” are in the imperative mood in the Greek—meaning that both are requirements for one’s testimony to being a recipient of God’s saving grace to be considered as valid.
The command to repent clearly indicates the hearer must be consciously able to understand what repentance means in order to obey. An infant clearly has no conscious ability to comprehend the meaning of the word repentance—let alone obey the command—so one can clearly draw a legitimate inference that baptism is not intended for infants.

This is a good place to end for now. We have looked at the design of baptism as to its necessity, the design as to its mode by immersion, and the design of who may be baptized. In the next part, we shall examine the design of baptism for when and where it should be administered, the design of who may administer baptism, and the purpose and effects of baptism.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

† See The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New King James Version (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2015), pp. 2338-2339. See also Stephen D. Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), pp. 88-90.

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Christian Snowflakes and the Cult of “Non-Negativity”

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

For I have not shunned to declare to you the full counsel of God. [Acts 20:26-27*]

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

I hear/read of too many Christians who decry and castigate other believers for being “negative.” The problem is that they do not objectively define what they mean by the criticism. Are those being accused of being “negative” speaking things which are untrue? No. Are they speaking or writing things which contradict Scripture? No. In fact, the truth of the matter is that the writings/speech being criticized as “negative” actually defend Biblical truth and seek to apply it consistently. And those being accused of “being negative” apparently hold a higher view of Scripture than their accusers.

So I guess what these people mean by their oh-so-well-informed [NOT!] criticism, is that those they accuse of being “negative” are saying things which make them, the accusers, uncomfortable and convicted of their own theological shallowness, banality, and frivolity.

I am sure these same people would be put off by the following incidents from Scripture, then, since the actors are displaying “negativity” in their dealings with others.

For example, let’s look at Jesus Christ. On at least two occasions, He referred to those who opposed Him as a “brood of vipers.” [Matthew 12:34; 23:33] Now, how is that a “positive” message?

On another occasion, He told the residents of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin that, because of their hardness of heart, God would be more lenient to the sexual perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the pagans who glorified sexual perversion as a form of idol worship in Tyre and Sidon, than He would to those cities who had seen Christ and experienced His miracles. [Matthew 11:20-24] Again, that was hardly a positive message He was conveying to those who listened.

And let’s not forget when Christ addressed Peter as “Satan.” [Matthew 16:23] He also told Peter, in the same breath, “you are offensive.” Again, that’s a pretty negative message there.

And what about when He forced the merchants from the Temple using an improvised whip and called them thieves? [Matthew 21:12-13] Wasn’t that pretty negative?

And while we are listing the “negative” sayings of Jesus, let’s not forget what He said about some of the seven churches in Revelation. To the church at Ephesus, He told them that if they didn’t get their act together, He was going to destroy it because of their coldness toward Him. [Revelation 2:5] To the church at Pergamos, He told them if they didn’t clean up their mess, He would destroy them with a sword because of their tolerance of false teaching. [Revelation 2:16] To the church at Thyatira, He promised judgment for their toleration of sexual immorality. [Revelation 2:20-23] To the church at Sardis, He promised judgment because they were a church which was primarily composed of professing believers, but had few confessing believers. [Revelation 3:3] And finally, to the church at Laodicea, Christ proclaimed that they were so disgusting they made Him nauseous. [Revelation 3:15-17]

So, just how do the dear little snowflakes who wring their hands and cry out against “negativity” handle these passages of Scripture?

[Insert sound of chirping crickets here.]

Let’s look at what some other Scriptures say about others who spoke “negative” messages:

1: Peter

Peter is an interesting study in giving “negative messages. On the day of Pentecost, he accused his hearers of being responsible for crucifying Christ. [Acts 2:23]. This defies all seminary classes in homiletics—which tell wannabe preachers to never, ever accuse their audiences of sin and that no one ever converts under such preaching. Those listening to Peter must not have read that textbook, though, since we are told that 3,000 people were added to the church that day after hearing his sermon.

In another incident of Peter speaking “negatively” to another, he accused Ananias and Sapphira of lying to God and told Sapphira she would die because of her sin. [Acts 5:1-11]

Finally, we see Peter basically telling Simon Magus to go to perdition for seeking to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 8:20-23]

2: Stephen

Stephen called his accusers “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart.” [Acts 7:51] In other words, he accused them of being no better than Gentiles. His character assessment was spot-on, but I’m sure the modern-day cult of Christian snowflakes would have their delicate sensibilities offended by such blatant “negativity.”

3: Paul

Paul is another person who would invoke the scorn of the cult of Christian snowflakes for being negative.

Paul attacked and rebuked poor Peter publicly in Antioch. [Galatians 2:11-21] What had Peter done to merit such public shaming? He was simply exercising his freedom in Christ by living as a Gentile when no one from Jerusalem was around but then decided to clean up his act when a delegation from James came, and behave like a well-brought up Jewish boy. If the snowflake cult is to be believed, Paul was in error for not going to Peter privately and stating his opposition to Peter’s ways. [In addition, this incident totally destroys the Roman Catholic belief that Peter was appointed to be the earthly “head” of the church and that he acted infallibly after Pentecost, since he clearly deferred to the emissaries from James at first and then was publicly rebuked by Paul.] Was Peter offended by this very public “shaming”? If he was, he appears to have gotten over it since, at the end of his life, facing execution, he wrote that Paul’s writings were to be considered as Scripture. [2 Peter 3:15-16]

Paul’s letters are full of such negativity. For example, to the church in Corinth, he instructed them to remove someone who was openly engaging in sexual immorality from their fellowship. [1 Corinthians 5:9-13]. Didn’t he know he was supposed to just love and accept this man as he was without demanding any form of repentance or judging his chosen lifestyle? That’s what the snowflake cult would have us believe.

Another example is found in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica—in which he instructed them that someone who would not work was not to be allowed to eat from the community’s resources. He also told them that anyone who did not obey his teachings was to be removed from the fellowship. [2 Thessalonians 3:6-15]

To his young associate Timothy, Paul warned him that anyone who truly desires to follow Christ would be persecuted. [2 Timothy 3:12]

To Titus, Paul wrote that the natives of Crete were all “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons,” thereby not only being “negative,” but also perpetuating a negative stereotype of an entire ethnic group, according to post-modern snowflake thought. This is compounded by the fact that Paul instructed Titus to “rebuke them sharply” [the NASB uses the term “severely”]. The Greek term is apotomos, and indicates that one acts without hesitation to cut off a diseased tree branch. [Titus 1:12-13]

And during his time in Cyprus on his first missionary trip, Paul addressed the sorcerer Elymas as, “son of the devil.” [Acts 13:10]

The requirement of Scripture is that God’s people are to always speak the truth, regardless of whether or not those who hear us perceive that message as “nice” or “pleasant.” I’d rather have someone ticked off with me for expressing an unpleasant truth, than present them a falsehood simply because they find untruth more palatable. It is an obligation for which we will be held accountable in the day of judgment, according to Ezekiel 3:16-21.

The bottom line question is this: In the final judgment, who is more likely to have the blood of the unsaved on their hands—those who proclaimed the truth in uncompromising terms, or those who hedged because they did not wish to appear to be “negative”?

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Untwisting Scripture #5: Welcoming Illegal Immigrants

Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Deuteronomy 10:19*]

First, I need to clarify. I do not believe in providing amnesty to those who come into our country in a manner which circumvents and defies our laws concerning immigration. Those who enter this country in defiance of our laws should be prosecuted and deported. Those who are citizens of this country who give them aid and comfort should also be prosecuted.

I raise this issue because there are many so-called “Christians” who claim the immigration laws are wrong to prevent anyone from entering this country, and that believers have an obligation to violate those laws because obeying the law is not giving “fair” treatment [whatever that is supposed to mean objectively] to the strangers in our midst. They call for “open borders.”

And they cite the above passage from Deuteronomy as a Biblical basis for their beliefs.

But the question then becomes, is their use of this passage a valid application, or are they twisting Scripture? I believe it is another case of twisting Scripture and needs to be exposed as such.

These same people also insist that we should bend over backwards to accommodate those who come here contrary to our laws—by mandating that we learn their languages and customs instead of requiring them to assimilate into our culture and learn our language.

It is hypocritical, because the same liberals who cite passages like the one from Deuteronomy in support of open borders, are dismissive of passages such as Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 – claiming that such passages no longer reflect God’s will.

But does Deuteronomy 10:19 actually support the views of those who advocate open borders?  In a word – no!

The Old Testament demanded that the nation of Israel welcome immigrants:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger [foreigner] nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Exodus 22:21]

Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Exodus 23:9]

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  [Leviticus 19:33-34]

God had promised certain covenant blessings to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, blessings which were conditioned on faithful obedience to the Law. He also recognized that others, seeing the blessings He bestowed, would seek to come to Israel to get a piece of that pie, so to speak.

Therefore, God set certain conditions on those who would seek to enjoy those covenant blessings with Israel:

One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you. [Exodus 12:49]

You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God. [Leviticus 24:22]

And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Lord’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land. [Numbers 9:14]

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly [a native-born Israelite] and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generation; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord.

One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. [Numbers 15:15-16]

You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native -born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them. [Numbers 15:29]

It is clear from the text that there is one legal standard which applies to both the native-born Israelite and those who would seek to join themselves to Israel from the Gentiles. But that standard is not one of cultural accommodation to those who came into Israel from outside. It is just the opposite.

Those who came from outside of Israel to join themselves to Israel were required to assimilate into Israel. They were not allowed to retain their ethnic identity—especially since that identity would have included the worship of idols.

That assimilation would have required them to submit to the entire law of Moses—not just in part, but the entirety. They were expected to sever every tie with their previous culture.

So what is the application for today? The application is this—those who come to this country should be required to seek entrance according to our laws—not the whims of their desires. And as a sovereign nation according to the grace and authority given us by God [Romans 13:1-7], we have the right to determine what those laws shall say without interference from outside influences.

Immigrants should be required to obey our laws. That includes the process of applying to enter this country. If someone determines they will flout our laws by coming here uninvited and without submitting to the legal process, s/he has already proven themselves incapable of obedience to our laws. When someone determines that s/he will remain in this country after his/her visa has expired, the person has demonstrated disrespect for our laws and should no longer be welcome.

Immigrants should be required to learn our language. We should not be required to provide translation services or other amentities in their native languages. If someone wants to take up permanent residence in this country, learn English and expect to submit to the laws of this country. Significantly, only two ethnic groups in recent times seem to have trouble with this concept. And those two groups bring with them nothing by which this country will be benefited.

So should we welcome immigrants? By all means, if they come into this country according to the laws established by this nation and agree to follow those laws.

In the final analysis, those who claim some sort of mandate from on high for open borders are building on an exegetical foundation of sand, not a solid understanding of God’s word. In typical liberal fashion, they cherry pick and proof text only those verses which support their views, and preach disobedience to any text which disagrees with them.

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Untwisting Scripture #4: The False Claim that Jesus Was a Socialist

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [Colossians 3:5]*

One of the popular misapplications of Scripture with an attendant misrepresentation of Christ and His teachings, is the idea that somehow Jesus loved poor people more than He loved wealthy people and that Jesus condemned the accumulation of wealth.

Those who make such utterly ignorant statements demonstrate, by their mendacity, that they have not read the Gospels in their entirety, nor have they read the rest of the New Testament with any real comprehension or depth. If they had—they would not dare to utter such nonsense.

One of the more recent examples of this low-level of comprehension which I have encountered was a meme which appeared on Facebook with the caption to the effect that if Jesus was here bodily today, Fox News and the Republican party would seek to have him executed as a Palestinian terrorist with socialist [Marxist] teachings.

The caption on this photo displays its ignorance of Scripture in several respects. In the first place, Jesus identified Himself as being in the ethnic line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Matthew 1:1-2; Luke 3:34]. He did not identify Himself with the descendants of Ammon, Moab, Ishmael, or Esau [from whom are descended the modern-day Arabs]. Were any such person to make such a claim, he would be proclaiming a false Christ, an anti-Christ, if you will — and Jesus Himself warned His followers not to heed such people [Matthew 24:5, 24-26].

Secondly, nothing about the teachings of Christ can rightly be associated with terrorism –especially not that associated with Islamists. No followers of Christ have ever hijacked a jetliner and flown it into a skyscraper. No followers of Christ have ever strapped detonators and packets of C-4 or dynamite to their bodies, gone into a crowd of unsuspecting people, and detonated those explosives in the belief that such will grant them immediate access into paradise with an opportunity to indulge in eternal sexual hedonism.

Jesus stated that His kingdom was not one of this world. [John 18:36] He did nothing to encourage or incite violence against those who chose to reject Him. In fact, when He was arrested, He rebuked Simon Peter for using a sword to wound the High Priest’s servant. [Matthew 26:51-54; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11]

As a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus was an observant Jew. In fact, of everyone who ever lived, He is the only person who has lived His life in complete fidelity to the Mosaic Law — both in intent and action. Not only that, but He said that anyone who taught or encouraged others to live lives in disobedience to God, were to be considered as accursed [Matthew 5:17-20].

It must also be noted that Jesus Christ is more than a mere man. He is also God Incarnate, the very image of God in human flesh [John 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3]. To suggest that He would identify Himself with an ethnic group and culture which denies the Incarnation, as the Islamists and “Palestinians” do, is not merely logically inconsistent, it is blasphemy.

It must be kept in mind that Jesus would not have recognized Mohammed as a prophet. Jesus declared that for men to be acceptable to God the Father, they must honor and worship Jesus Christ with the same honor and worship as they would show the Father. [John 5:23] Conversely, anyone who dishonors Jesus by claiming that He is not the Son of God, is someone who is rejected by God. [1 John 2:23]. Since one of the key beliefs of Islam is that Jesus Christ is NOT the Son of God, for Christ to suggest any kinship with the beliefs of Islam would be for Him to deny Himself.

Finally, it should be noted that the economic principles espoused by Christ, especially as commanded through Moses, while protecting the poor, are not like contemporary welfare programs, which amount to government appropriating money from the productive by use of threats of imprisonment [a form of extortion] to reward indolence, immorality, drunkenness and other forms of idolatry. Under the Mosaic law, those who wished to avail themselves of charity, had to glean in the fields following the harvest [Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22], or they had to present themselves to one of the cities assigned to the Levites [Deuteronomy 14:28-29]. Individuals who went beyond that were only expected to give assistance to the needy as a LOAN — with the expectation of being repaid in full [but not with interest] — not as a gift [Deuteronomy 15:7-11]. But such loans were to be given only for proven NEEDS [food, shelter, and clothing] — not to subsidize luxuries such as satellite dishes, HDTVs, broadband internet service, or smartphones with unlimited voice, text, and data plans.

But these principles apply to the Old Testament people of Israel and are nowhere imposed on Gentile believers in Christ [Acts 15:18-29]. If one looks to the New Testament to seek instruction on dealings with the poor, we find such aid very restricted. Christians are NOT required to provide financial assistance to every person they may encounter — at least not on an ongoing, open-ended basis. In Matthew 26:8-10, Jesus dismisses the idea that such an ongoing, open-ended form of charity is necessary for His followers to fund.

The only form of charity imposed on followers of Christ towards unbelievers is patterned in Luke 10:30-37. It is situational — based on extreme emergency from circumstances outside of the control of the beneficiary [not because of poor vocational, educational, or lifestyle choices]. It is temporary [not continual and ongoing]. It is voluntary and based on the proximity of the donor to the beneficiary — not a general obligation to be imposed on an entire congregation — because a donor near in proximity would be presumed to have actually vetted the beneficiary to determine the genuineness of the need. For a more thorough development of the exegesis of this text, see my previous blog: https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/untwisting-scripture-1-matthew-2531-46/

Basically, those who claim Jesus was a socialist are imposing their own politics on Him and trying to sanctify their support for what amounts to government-imposed theft of private property. Jesus and the Apostles had no such view. Jesus, in His parable on the talents, implicitly condones and encourages the precepts of venture capitalism. In this parable, the servants who take use their master’s money to obtain a profit, are deemed worthy of reward and given a share of the profits, while the servant who does nothing except to hoard the portion he was entrusted with, is condemned and cast away from the master.

In Acts 5, we are instructed from the incident where Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. They were under no compulsion to sell their property and donate their proceeds to the church. According to Acts 5:4, it was their property to retain or sell as they pleased. After they sold it, the proceeds were theirs to do with as they willed. Their sin was NOT in selling the property and keeping some of the proceeds for their own pleasure. Their sin was in giving only part of the money to the church while claiming they were giving the entire proceeds of the transaction. In other words, the property, whether the land or the proceeds from the sale of the land—was theirs, not anyone else’.

Nor do we find any place in Scripture where Jesus or the apostles condemned people for having wealth. Jesus and the apostles had friends among the wealthy: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Barnabas possessed wealth, as did Lydia [Acts 16:14] and Philemon. What is condemned in Scripture is the worship of wealth or the acquisition of wealth by means which are illegal/immoral. Of course the liberationistas and their theological cronies would claim that all acquisition of wealth is immoral, if not illegal. But look at entrepreneurism: if I offer someone a product or service and the production of that product or service does not involve violation of either Scripture or human law, and someone is agreeable to pay a specified sum for that product or service, and I have made no misrepresentations concerning the product or service, who is harmed? According to the terms, they have received fair value in the exchange of my product or service for their money. Now if there is sufficient demand for my product or service that I accumulate wealth, again, no one has been harmed, no Scripture has been violated and no law has been broken.

Now someone may trot out James 5:1-5 as proof that the accumulation of wealth is condemned in Scripture. But a careful reading of the context shows that James is no more condemning the possession of wealth anymore than he is teaching one must work to earn salvation in James 2:14-26. What is being condemned here is the misuse of wealth as a weapon for harming people.

In the final analysis, those who try to create a Jesus who was a Palestinian Arab instead of Jewish, who was a proto-socialist and for whom the only unforgivable sin is the acquisition of wealth, create for themselves a graven image born of an idolatrous human mind—not at all reflecting the true teachings of Scripture.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Untwisting Scripture #3: The mistaken notion that we are only to follow the example of Jesus and not other people.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. [1 Corinthians 4:16*]

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. [1 Corinthians 11:1]

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. [Philippians 3:17]

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. [Philippians 4:9]

…not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. [2 Thessalonians 3:9]

A meme recently popped up on my Facebook newsfeed which states: “Jesus did not say ‘Follow Christians,’ He said ‘Follow Me.’”

The inference that people who subscribe to that type of “theopraxy” want people to make is that we should never follow the example of human conduct, the only one we should follow is Christ. It falls into the “WWJD” juvenile mentality of shallow theology and application of Scripture.

This is the flip side of the theopraxic coin expressed in the false gospel song “One Day At A Time,” where the singer begins by moaning the trite phrase “I’m only human,” and then bemoans his/her inability to live a holy life, but God is “obligated” to forgive his/her shortcomings because of His grace. Both the song and the meme are rooted in the view that fallen humans, even when regenerated and empowered by the Holy Spirit, are miserable failures and will lead people astray and therefore cannot be trusted or relied on as examples of godliness. More often than not, this is offered by professed believers as a means to justify and rationalize their own sinful behavior, as if it would relieve them of any obligation to provide examples of godly living to others.

In other words, when caught in sin, their rationalization goes like this: “Well, you shouldn’t be looking at me as an example of godly conduct because I’m only human. You are erring because you are examining my behavior instead of how Jesus behaved.”

The problem with such thinking is that there is no Biblical justification for it.

In the first place, when Jesus spoke the command “Follow Me,” it was not to believers, rather it was a call to non-believers to change their direction. In other words, He is not telling them to reject human examples of godly behavior — He is directing them to reject all human works as being inefficacious for salvation and trust only in Him.

In addition, if we carefully examine Scripture, this is not the only word on the subject. To be qualified to speak to the subject requires looking at everything Scripture has said on the issue.

And although He did not speak to the issue directly, He did expressly state that the apostles would carry His authority in determining orthodoxy [right teaching] and orthopraxy [right actions] for the Church. And that authority is conveyed through their writings canonized in the New Testament. [See Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.]

When we examine the apostolic writings, we can see a far different picture than what is displayed in the Facebook meme. It doesn’t get any plainer than when Paul told the Corinthians twice: “Imitate me.” Granted, the second time he qualified his command with the phrase, “just as I imitate Christ,” but the command is still not, “don’t follow me, follow Christ.” His command is rather, “Follow me, just as I follow Christ.”

To the church in Philippi, Paul wrote that the believers were to consider him as an example and a pattern.

To the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote that he was an example to be followed.

Nowhere in the writings of Paul does he ever write that believers are to not follow the example of human teachers whom God has placed in the Church for our edification.

The apostle Peter also held himself forth as an example to be followed in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

“But,” I hear objectors cry, “Peter and Paul were apostles and were supernaturally empowered to live holy lives.” This objection is nonsense for two reasons.

In the first place, neither Peter nor Paul led lives of sinless perfection following their regeneration and conversion.  Paul notes in Romans 7 his struggles with sin and the desire to have the old nature completely eradicated from his life.  Paul notes in Galatians 2:11-16 how he publicly rebuked Peter and Barnabas [who had been his mentor in the faith] when their conduct was not consistent with their teaching.  Luke candidly catalogs Paul’s shortcomings when he talks about the very “un-Christian” disagreement Paul had with Barnabas in Acts 15:36-39.ŧ  Luke also forthrightly records Paul’s disobedience in going to Jerusalem in Acts 21:4

And yet, in spite of their imperfections, Peter and Paul both held themselves as examples for believers to emulate.

In the second place, although the apostles were supernaturally empowered to perform signs and wonders to confirm their message and claims to apostleship, this empowerment is qualitatively different from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life, which is enjoined upon every believer, according to what Paul wrote to the church in Rome in Romans 7:6; 8:12-17, and to the churches in Galatia in Galatians 5:16-25.

Finally, it must be noted that Scripture does not merely presume that those who were apostles were empowered and commanded to be examples, but those who followed them were to be examples also. Paul commanded Timothy: …be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. [1 Timothy 4:12] He commanded Titus: …in all things to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility.  [Titus 2:7] Peter told the elders in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, …not by compulsion…, nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. [1 Peter 5:2-3].

Jesus Himself commanded all His followers to: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. [Matthew 5:16]

Therefore, when Christians say that we are to follow Christ as our moral example, while ignoring the examples of believers who live less than perfect lives, we are confusing the roles of Savior [a role which only Christ can occupy], teacher [a role and calling which the Holy Spirit gifts believers to occupy for the edification of the church], and pattern/example [a role and calling for which all who follow Christ are gifted and required to occupy].

Moreover, the doctrine of “Follow Christ, not men,” ignores Scripture, and instead offers a cheapened form of grace to believers with no accountability. It is an arrogant excuse for ungodly living and not a plea for grace and mercy.

*Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧ John MacArthur, in the MacArthur Study Bible, in his note on this passage, places the blame for the dissension on Barnabas [p. 1662], stating that since Paul was an apostle, Barnabas should have been in submission to him. No other commentary I have been able to consult follows MacArthur’s view. It should be noted that MacArthur’s interpretation of the event fails to recognize that Barnabas was also called and anointed as an Apostle in Acts 13:2. Therefore, Acts 15:36-41 presupposes a calling in which both men were of equal standing. Paul himself considers Barnabas an apostle of equal standing in 1 Corinthians 9:5-6. In this same passage, Paul is asserting his calling as an apostle in a situation where the believers were questioning his authority. That is why do not see him pulling rank on Barnabas on this occasion.

§ Typically, the passage is translated: And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. The NASB says they kept telling Paul not to proceed to Jerusalem. According to the construction of the phrase “not to go up,” the Greek uses the negative particle μη [pronounced “may”] with an active future infinitive. Such a grammatical construction always has the force of an imperative, such that Paul was being commanded NOT to proceed to Jerusalem or face severe consequences. [See A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, electronic edition. See also James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham, MD: University Press, 1979), pp. 138-139, on the “infinitive of command.”] Most commentators and study Bible notes gloss over this for fear of making Paul less “holy.” My belief, based on exegesis of the text in the original language, and not the language of a translation, is that the passage shows that Paul, like Peter, was far from a perfect human and that even he did not live a life of perfect obedience following his conversion and call to be an apostle.

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Orthorexia in the Church [aka The Heresy of Diet-ism]

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things.

For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. [Romans 14:1-4*]

More and more frequently, I am encountering an incursion of an ancient heresy I shall call for the sake of this blog, “Diet-ism.” Those who deal with eating disorders have a new name for it, “orthorexia.” It is a disorder in which people have a compulsion/obsession with only eating certain foods deemed to be correct.

It is nothing new in the experience of the church. Paul and Barnabas had to deal with it in the form of Judaizers in Antioch and Galatia who attempted to teach believers that they had to abide by the kisruth laws in the Mosaic code. They had to deal with it in the church of Rome because vegans were seating themselves in the judgment seat of Christ asserting their moral superiority over those who were not vegans, while the non-vegans were looking down their noses at the vegans for not enjoying their freedom in Christ.

“Diet-ism” takes many contemporary forms. One form, experienced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [aka, the Mormons] follows a dictate from their founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., which dictates that, “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” [Doctrine and Covenants 89:9, Utah Edition]ŧ With this command, that group deems it inappropriate for members to drink coffee or tea. While some believe this is because coffee and tea contain caffeine, the rule specifically states “hot drinks,” and is inconsistently applied. For example, there is no prohibition against consuming other beverages served hot, such as cocoa, herbal teas, Postum [a coffee substitute made from roasted grain and chicory], or hot spiced apple cider. Nor is it caffeine which is cited as the reason for the prohibition because there is no proscription against drinking carbonated beverages which contain caffeine [such as most cola drinks, Doctor Pepper, Mountain Dew, and even some fruit-flavored carbonated beverages]. This leads to an interesting [yet trivial] conundrum for Mormons: since the proscription specifies “hot drinks” and not caffeinated beverages, could a Mormon consume iced tea or frappecino without violating their moral code?

And while Mormons may not be excommunicated for failing to follow these provisions, strict adherence to the provisions is a requirement if one wishes to participate in their temple ceremonies. Failure to participate or being banned from participation in temple ceremonies means one will not experience deification.

Another form of “Diet-ism” is found in Sabbatarian sects like the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Church of God, and the Worldwide Church of God, all of which espouse avoidance of pork, shellfish, and other meats deemed unclean under the Old Testament law—in a revival of the Judaizing which Paul condemned at Antioch and Galatia. Many Seventh Day Adventists go even further by insisting that ALL meat should be avoided and that God only approves of a vegan diet.

This latter form of the heresy is now surfacing in the “evangelical” church. Rick Warren, that guru of the gospel of self-actualization, now promotes what he calls “the Daniel Plan,” a plan he developed in partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft, Dr. Mahmet Oz.ŧŧ

Warren’s partnership with a practitioner of witchcraft directly disobeys New Testament teaching [2 Corinthians 6:14-17]–but disobedience to Scripture commands and teaching is nothing new for Warren since his entire ministry is built on promoting a thoroughly unbiblical view of man and the Person and Work of Christ.

But where Warren’s brand of diet-ism becomes heretical is the fact that he uses this man-made plan as a means for determining who is to be accepted as a “serious” [aka “spiritual”] believer—presumably those who do not participate are deemed to be unspiritual.

It is this latter view which makes Warren’s practice even more heretical. He places himself as a judge of others over the issue of food—a practice specifically prohibited by the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul in Romans 14:1-4, and again in Colossians 2:16: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.

Yet another manifestation of diet-ism is the more recent view which claims people should only eat organic foods or should eschew any foods which might contain GMO ingredients. Proponents of this view make unfounded claims that organic/non-GMO foods are “better” [i.e., healthier] for people than non-organic/GMO foods.

There are two basic problems with this view. The first is that there is no objective, peer-reviewed research following accepted protocols which justifies the claims that foods grown/processed according to organic “standards” are nutritionally superior to non-organic foods. Nor is there any research to substantiate the claims that GMO foods are dangerous for human consumption. What is presented as “research” is anecdotal evidence which is non-verifiable, non-replicable, and cannot prove even a statistical correlation between health and consumption of organic/non-GMO foods vs. inorganic/GMO foods, let alone causation. And the so-called “experts” cited in such “studies” are not trained scientists in fields such as biochemistry, genetics, or other accepted disciplines—but instead have “doctorates” in such fields as “spiritual nutrition” and “zen biology” from diploma mill schools. The fact that Doctor Oz, the so-called “health professional” who advances this nonsense, is a noted practitioner of Reiki [a form of witchcraft], besides the fact that he also relies solely on anecdotal evidence, completely invalidates any statement he might have on the issues. As noted earlier, Doctor Oz is also the main architect behind the “Daniel Plan” being shilled by another huckster of occult name-it/claim-it nonsense, Rick Warren.

So what do we do when we are confronted by “believers” who promote orthorexia as an indication of Christian orthodoxy?

The first thing we must do is recognize that until and unless one has irrefutable scientific proof [not mere speculation or suspicions because one is truly ignorant of the science involved], that non-organic/GMO foods are toxic, the people touting any form of orthorexia are speaking in opposition to our liberty in Christ.

Jesus Himself spoke to the issue: So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” [Mark 7:18-19]

Of course, the argument could be made that Jesus was only referring to the issue of meat from animals previously deemed unclean—but that ignores the fact that orthorexics are, by and large, vegans. And I have encountered many such who vilify those of us who see no moral problem with consuming meat.

Paul went further to state in the passage cited above from Romans that those who are vegans are not to place themselves in judgment over those who choose not to be. And those who are not vegans are not to look down on those who are.

Unfortunately, orthorexics do just that. At a recent church family camp, I overheard one orthorexic telling people that GMOs are poisonous and anyone who eats GMO foods is killing themselves [and by implication–such people are sinning]. Now this person has no formal training in any scientific discipline—having only a high school education—and her knowledge is not based on any peer-reviewed research which supports her statements. Except for one study, all peer-reviewed research shows that GMOs are safe for human consumption—the only study which shows GMOs to be “possibly toxic” was rejected by the British Academy of Science because it was procedurally flawed, thereby rendering the conclusions worthless since the results have never been replicated.

Basically, the people who fall prey to this type of nutritional paranoia are scientifically illiterate and prone to gullibility when it comes to conspiracy theories. They hear or read something which fuels their paranoia, look up some articles via Google which support their paranoid conspiracy theories, and then build a pseudo-theological framework to rationalize their paranoia.

An example of this paranoia can be found at websites such as http://www.responsibletechnoloy.org, which regularly posts hysterical warnings of the dangers of GMO foods. The problem is that the person who operates this website, one Jeffrey Smith, has no scientific credentials, and the “evidence” he claims to support his paranoid conspiracy theories is undocumented and therefore unverifiable. The problem is compounded by the fact that this self-proclaimed expert is then the one cited as authoritative by the other conspiracy theorists to support their paranoia. Such paranoid thought processes steeped in conspiracy theories and presented in hysterical, apocalyptic tones are reminiscent of the King James Only cultists like Peter Ruckman and Tex Marr.

Contrary to the beliefs of orthorexics and those who promote orthorexia in the church—people like Rick Warren and Doctor Oz–eating meat does not make a person less spiritually mature, nor does eating a vegan diet bring one closer to God. [1 Corinthians 8:8]

If anything, the practice of orthorexia become in and of itself a sin, because it divides the body of Christ in a manner not justified in Scripture.

I cannot repeat this enough: As believers, we are commanded in Scripture not to hold in contempt or judge as unworthy anyone whose dietary practices differ from ours.

Those same people claim otherwise, but let me demonstrate how subtle the process works:

In 1 Corinthians 10:25-28, the principle is laid out that if we are invited to someone’s house for a meal, we are not to kick up a fuss about the source of the food. Paul’s specific reference here is to meat offered up as a sacrifice to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. But there is an application here for the “I only eat organic/non-GMO foods” cult: when someone invites you to their home for a meal, you do not ask whether or not the host/ess is only going to prepare organic/non-GMO foods. Now as a host, I would want to make certain there are no medical dietary restrictions such as whether or not a guest might have GIRD, Coeliac Disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance or food allergies, and plan accordingly. For friends who are vegans, I would of course, prepare a vegan meal—but I am not going to strain my bank account and consume massive amounts of time and energy to make sure every single item I prepare has been certified as organic and non-GMO just to assuage someone with orthorexia. My view here is, eat what’s set before you without question, or just don’t bother to come over.

Paul goes even further to say that those who promote orthorexia in the church are promoting a doctrine which originated with demons, not Scripture. [1 Timothy 4:1-5].

This means that when we are not under any compulsion to limit our diets to suit the orthorexics, who, by definition of Scripture, are manifesting a form of immaturity. However, we do not judge them or despise them, but we call them to respect our liberty in Christ.

*Unless otherwise noted, all passages are from the Holy Bible: New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

ŧTo be distinguished from the “Independence Edition,” followed by the Community of Christ [formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]

ŧŧDr. Oz practices an occult art called “Reiki” in which he invokes a familiar spirit to control his body in order to diagnose diseases and perform surgeries.

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Defining Essential Doctrine

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,

he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,

usesless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.   [1 Timothy 6:3-5]#

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  [2 Timothy 1:13]

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned to fables.  [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

For a bishop [elder, pastor] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,

but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,

holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.   [Titus 1:7-9]

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine….   [Titus 2:1]

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded,

in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  [Titus 2:6-8]

It is a disgrace to the Church in the twenty-first century that in many congregations, the leadership is an abysmal failure in promoting sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? It is that body of teaching which the Church has understood to be the body of apostolic teaching [and the necessary inferences derived from those teachings] which have been consistently taught since the first century. Basically, the issues of sound doctrine center around five questions:  (1) What do we understand the nature of God to be?  (2) Who do we say Jesus is?  (3) What do we understand the Bible to be?  (4) What do we say about the nature of man?  (5) What must one do to be saved [or be in right relationship with God]?  While there are other doctrines which are important, the answers for these questions are definitional for believers.  If anyone has an incorrect understanding of any of these doctrines, all of their doctrine is built on a very unstable foundation.

In answer to the first question we say that we believe in one God who has revealed Himself as three distinct Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We affirm that the Father is God [John 20:17;  1 Corinthians 8:6;  Ephesians 4:6], the Son is God [John 5:23;  1 John 2:23], and the Holy Spirit is God [Acts 5:3-4].  Each is co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existant. However, while God is One in His essential being, He is not one in Personhood.  Scripture affirms this distinction of Persons in three ways:  Firstly, there is the simultaneous manifestation of all three Persons in the Trinity at the same instant in Matthew 3:16-17.* Secondly, Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, draws a distinction between Himself and the Father.##  Thirdly, Jesus draws a distinction between the Holy Spirit and Himself [John 14:16-17, 26;  15:26;  16:7-8, 13-15;  Acts 1:8].  Finally, Jesus draws a clear line of distinction between the Father and the Holy Spirit [John 14:16, 26;  15:26].  Therefore, we cannot say that the Father is the same as the Son and both Father and Son are the same as the Holy Spirit — because in so doing, we would be stating an ancient heresy called modalism, not the doctrine of the Trinity.  This is important because I recently had the misfortune of hearing a Southern Baptist pastor proclaim a modalistic view of God in a Wednesday evening Bible study when he stated that the members of the Trinity are each the same Person.

Do you see the doctrinal confusion which results when one does not carefully express what he believes, or states it in a manner which is contrary to the teaching of Scripture?  The whole concept of modalism is fraught with such confusion:  If the Son and the Father are the same, to whom was Jesus praying in John 17?  If the Father and the Son are the same, who died on the cross and who forsook Jesus on the cross [Matthew 27:46]?

Of course it goes hand in hand with the doctrine of the Trinity that we also affirm that Jesus Christ was fully God Incarnate — as is taught in Scripture.§  This is in distinction from such errant views which would claim that Jesus was merely a man who was adopted as the Son of God [adoptionism—a heresy now advocated by liberals and those who identify their theology as “neo-orthodox”], or that Jesus was some form of semi-divine being who while called the Son of God, was less in majesty and rank than God [a heresy called subordinationism — its most prevalent form was called Arianism and is currently promoted by the Jehovah’s Witness cult].  We also affirm that He was fully human—in contrast to such views which teach that He only appeared or seemed to be human.  These two natures are distinct, yet conjoined in what is called “hypostatic union.”

These are crucial issues because if one denies either the Trinity, or the full Deity and humanity of Christ, one is preaching a different gospel.  And Scripture says anyone who preaches a different gospel is to be considered accursed [Galatians 1:8-9].  If anyone wishes to take exception to this remark and accuse me of being “judgmental” — I would remind them that this is the judgment of God and clearly stated in His word — not my mere personal opinion.

Another area where false teaching deviates from historic Christianity concerns the nature of Scripture.  The historic view of the Church has been, from apostolic times, that Scripture is the very Word of God.  In other words, on any matter about which Scripture has spoken, we are to take what Scripture has said as God’s word on the matter.  It is plenarily [fully, completely, totally] inspired by God [as opposed to the view that it is merely the writings of men and what they thought about God].  It is inerrant [without any error] in the autographs [original writings] in all that it affirms, either propositionally or by necessary inference.  It is totally sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes for us without resort to “natural wisdom.”  While I could say more, I have addressed these issues in other blogs and refer the reader back to them.¶

Typically, those who deny the primacy of Scripture may deny it in different ways.  First, they may deny the inspiration of Scripture, claiming that it is merely words about God, not the Word of God, or that it “contains the word of God, but is not the word of God.”  Another form of denial comes in the form of denying its inerrancy.  Both of these denials are common from those who have embraced some form of liberalism or neo-orthodoxy.

More insidious than either of the first two forms of denial, is that which affirms the inspiration of Scripture, and its authority, but equivocates on the issue of the canon of Scripture.  Liberals do this by asserting that the canon of Scripture, those books which have historically been recognized as the comprising the Bible, was not “determined” by any godly process — but is solely of human origin.  The other extreme claims that the canon of Scripture, while adequate for its time, is no longer adequate and needs to be supplemented by more up-to-date revelation [the view of cults such as Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and the New Apostolic Reformation].  The same Southern Baptist pastor who denied the Trinity, on that very same evening, denied that the Bible as we know it to be sufficient.  His statement was that the Bible as protestants know it was determined politically and that there are books which are included in the Bible which should have been omitted, and other books which have been omitted which should have been included.  In other words, this so-called “Christian” pastor told his congregation that liberalism has a better view of the nature of Scripture than almost two thousand years of church history.

It is sufficient to say that the pastor has a somewhat uninformed [if not theologically illiterate] view of Scripture.  Had he actually studied the issue [and it was evident that he had no knowledge to speak on the subject intelligently], he would have found that his statements had been thoroughly rejected by scholars of more ability and godliness than he, with better grounded explanations on how the canon of Scripture was recognized [not determined].ŧ  Regardless, his statements made to those for whom he is charged with teaching sound doctrine are such that he is leading them astray.

If I was stunned by such comments made to a small group gathered on a Wednesday evening, what was said from the pulpit on Easter morning of this year went beyond mere heresy into blasphemy.  In his Easter sermon, this same pastor stated.  “There is within all men [and women, I presume] an innate desire to seek God and please Him.”  Why is this blasphemous?  It is one thing to make a theological statement based on poor inferences.  It is another thing entirely to utter from the pulpit a statement which not merely contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture, but, by inference, also calls God a liar.

Let me state it plainly:  There is nothing in man which innately seeks God.  Romans 3:10-11 states:  “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands;  there is none who seeks after God.” [emphasis added]  Jesus stated:  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….” [John 6:44, emphasis added]  Paul is saying that we [in our natural, unredeemed state] do not seek God.  Jesus further states that we have no capacity to seek God — except He draws us.  Jesus went even further and stated that only those who are drawn by God will come to Him. [John 6:37, 45] So, if we agree with the pastor in claiming that man is innately drawn to God, we infer that Paul writing under the inspiration and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, was lying.  More than that, if one agrees with the pastor, one is, by inference, calling Jesus a liar.  What is being taught by this pastor is an ancient heresy called Pelagianism. It is a different gospel.

The problem with this pastor’s wrong view of the nature of man stems from a view that denies the doctrine of total depravity and the sovereignty of God in electing whom He wills to salvation.  The emphasis in such proceedings is not upon the sovereign grace of God, but on man’s capacity to autonomously decide for himself whether or not to accept God’s grace — as if man is doing God an immense favor in deciding to follow Him and therefore has “earned” grace by his decision.  Contrary to the word of God [John 1:13], this view of salvation makes man the measure of salvation, not the will of God.

Such a view is not surprising, however, last Wednesday night, this same pastor called the doctrines of man’s depravity and God’s sovereign grace, “a false gospel.”

It comes as no surprise that in this congregation, even the other leaders have no idea what salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone means.  One of the Sunday School teachers told his class on that day that Christians must do good works to prove they are “worthy” to enter heaven.  This emphasis on works righteousness has also been taught by the pastor in his Wednesday night “discipleship” training, where he taught that unless one performs certain actions [tithing, regular attendance, soul winning] one isn’t really a Christian and will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  To compound the error, the pastor then leveled a false accusation against all who follow reformed doctrine because one person he claims is a Calvinist supposedly told him that Calvinists have no need to engage in evangelism or mission work.  I know this to be false because I have two acquaintances who are firm in their convictions of reformed soteriology, yet are engaged in mission work.  And these are not the only ones.  One can point to such past Calvinists as George Whitefield, David Brainard, Jonathan Edwards, Cotton and Increase Mather, and Charles Spurgeon who promoted missions and evangelism.  In our time we can point to such people as Cornelius van Til, Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, R.C. Sproul, James R. White, and John MacArthur as Calvinists who promote evangelism and mission work.

The sad part of this saga is that the pastor really believes he is teaching the truth, when what is really being taught is riddled with so many misconceptions, distortions, and outright slander that it really is a false gospel.  Unfortunately, the congregation is proof of what the late Jim Strauss said about churches who promote growth via programs and promotions:  “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

ENDNOTES:

# Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* This was also manifested at the Mount of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17] and again during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry in John 12:27-30.

## Matthew 10:32-33; John 5:17, 19-23, 26-27, 36-37, 43, 45; 6:27, 29, 32, 37-40, 44; 7:28-29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29; 10:15-18, 25-30, 32-38; 11:41-42; 14:24, 28, 31; 15:9-10, 15, 16, 23, 26; 16:10, 27-28, 32; 17:1-26; 18:11.

§ Matthew 26:63-64; John 8:58; John 20:28; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1.

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/scripture-pt-1/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/scripture-pt-2/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/scripture-pt-3a/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/scripture-pt-3b/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/scripture-pt-4-translation-theory/

https://davestheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/scripture-part-5-the-sufficiency-of-scripture/

ŧ See Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 203-317. See also Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 20-32, 56.

 

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