Author: Matt Sherro

Bible Train/ Family Worship for 5.21.18-5.27.18

Bible Train/ Family Worship for 5.21.18-5.27.18

This week, the Bible Train stops by Solomon’s Temple. From there, we will see Solomon ask the Lord for wisdom in governing His people and our final stops will take us into the Proverbs as we begin to explore godly wisdom

 

Monday Psalm 73
Tuesday 1 Chronicles 29:1-30
Wednesday 1 Kings 3:1-28, 4:29-34
Thursday Psalm 127
Friday Proverbs 1:1-2:22
Saturday Proverbs 3:1-35
Sunday Proverbs 10:1-32

 

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What does Psalm 73 teach us about focusing on the Lord when overwhelmed by our own trouble.
  2. What do we learn from David about giving generously to the Lord.
  3. Why was wisdom the most important thing he could ask of God?
  4. Why is it important to learn wisdom and discipline.
Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Last time we talked about signs of false believers/false prophets/false teachers. This week we will look at sings of true believers/teachers.

1st Let’s remember our text:

Matthew 7:15-23

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

 

Since false believers are a little harder to identify, we needed more signs by which to identify them but true believers require fewer signs to verify the truth of the claim. I want to remind you, before we continue, that in evaluating the truth claims of a believer, we are looking for the evidence to be there. The quantity, in the beginning, is not as important as this is a starting point for discipleship and fellowship. If you look at verse 19, you will notice that there is not an adjective of quantity there. It says every tree that does not produce good fruit as opposed to saying every tree that does not produce a large quantity of fruit and that brings me to my point; you identify a true believer in the fact that there is fruit present. Just like a literal vine or tree, disciples at various stages of maturity will produce various levels of fruit.

With that truth in mind, I want us to look at some of the fruits that we will see in the life of a believer.

Let’s start with a brief comment on verse 21: Lord, Lord. The doubling of a name was an address of intimacy (Gen. 22:11; 1 Sam. 3:10; 2 Sam. 18:33; Luke 22:31). It is not claims or feelings of intimacy with Jesus that matter, nor is it simply good works, even miraculous ones; only doing the will of the Father matters. Genuine intimacy with the Father means knowing God and being known by God (1 Cor. 8:2, 3). Today we are looking at signs of knowing God and being known by Him, the intimacy of a Father/Child relationship instead of the cold relationship of Judge and Accused.

Peter tells us that the true and mature believer will be growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. “If these qualities are yours and are increasing,” he says, “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-8).

A true believer obeys the teachings of Jesus and does the will of the Father. Only those who do the will of the Father are received into heaven. The question that needs to be addressed here is: “What is the will of the Father?” Faith and belief in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are the only answers. Willing and eager obedience is the hallmark of someone who has truly come to faith in Christ. They obey, not because they want to earn God’s favor, but because they feel delighted about already having received it. (Charles Stanley)

 

They do not neglect the local church (This is, perhaps, the most important because of the central role the local church plays in the life of the believer.) Hebrews 10:25 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

In both the Old and New Testaments, the necessity of setting aside a day each week to acknowledge God’s importance in our lives is not only stressed but commanded (Ex. 20:8). Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) was faithful to the Sabbath law and was regularly found in the House of God during His earthly walk (Luke 4:16). If the Son of God felt the need to attend a house of worship regularly, we, His followers, should do no less. The Sabbath as an Old Testament tradition gives way in the New Testament to gathering for worship on the first day of the week as a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. The day, however, is not the essential; the gathering together is.

 

I would like to quote Tim Challies, at length:

The local church should matter to us because it matters to God. The church is Jesus’ body on earth (see Ephesians 1:22-23) and it is made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life. “Together we represent Christ here on earth through our local body of believers. Therefore, the church is central to the purposes of God and is of benefit to the world around us—even today in our increasingly hostile culture.” The church exists for God’s glory and showcases it in a unique way. “The church is built for Jesus, by Jesus, and on Jesus. It is simply unthinkable then to separate Jesus from the local church. If the gospel is the diamond in the great salvific plan of God, then the church is the clasp that supports it, holds it up, and shows it in its greatest light for the world to see.” If it matters so much to God, it needs to matter to us just as much.

The local church is where the believer grows. It is primarily in the local church that Christians learn doctrine, receive reproof, and train in righteousness (see Ephesians 4:11-13). The local church provides opportunities for growth that are available nowhere else. Very often people will turn up on our doorstep having heard the gospel through some para-church ministry. Yet they almost always have large gaps in their biblical knowledge and Christian behavior. Without a local church committed to patiently teaching and training them, these people will flounder indefinitely.” We all need a local church if we are to become like Christ.

The local church is the place where believers must submit themselves to spiritual authority. Many people from many walks of life struggle with issues of authority, though this problem is especially prevalent in the schemes of Scotland. Mez says, “they will not accept criticism or input from anybody they regard as an authority figure.” This attitude needs to be dealt with immediately. God calls Christians to submit to spiritual authority within the local church (see Hebrews 13:17). All believers are called by God to put themselves under the care and oversight of elders. “A culture that despises any kind of authority needs to see healthy models of leadership and submission. And the place for people to see this modeled is in the local church.”

The local church is the best place for spiritual accountability. We have probably all encountered people who believed they were called to ministry or who even carried out some kind of ministry even though their lives were a mess. This happens where people do not have proper spiritual accountability. “All Christians need the spiritual accountability and discipline that being a member of the local church brings. It stops us from drifting. It offers a context for encouragement and rebuke. It provides a community to stir one another on to love and good deeds.”

The local church is the place from which discipline is biblically administered. The task of disciplining disobedient or unruly Christians belongs to the local church. This is a difficult task but one given specifically to the church as a means to show the deepest love and concern for the spiritual care of believers (Matthew 18:15-17). Discipline belongs to the church as one of its important functions. {https://www.challies.com/articles/why-the-local-church-really-matters/}

 

They love God’s truth and His word. The 119th Psalm is full of the glories of the word of God, often called the Law of the Lord. Without breaking down each one, I want to share 8 verses with you that reflect the attitude of the true believer toward the word of God.

Psalm 119:47-48

I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 119:97

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:113

I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:127

Therefore, I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:140

Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.

Psalm 119:159

Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:163

I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:167

My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly.

 

Perhaps the best teaching I have encountered, on loving the word of God, comes from Dr. R.C. Sproul:

 

My Duty to Read the Word

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone, and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. As the psalmist said, “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20).

 

My Delight to Receive It

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my delight to receive it. Again, think about receiving a present. The word present is just another way of saying “gift.” And what does the word gift mean? It means an act of grace—that a person gives you something not because you deserve it, but because they decided to express their love.

 

Ten times in the great Psalm 119 we read of the psalmist praising the Lord for receiving the Lord’s Word, saying he “delights” in the Word (Ps. 119:1416243547707792143174). Why? Because the Word is the living Word of the Lord to us, His people. The psalmist also describes his delight in the Word in comparison to other delightful things. He compares the Word to gold and silver, saying in verse 72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (cf. v. 127). He compares the Word to honey, saying in verse 103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Elsewhere in Scripture, we read of the Word being compared to other things such as these. The Word is compared to a sword that defends against spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:17). The Word is compared to a lamp that guides us (Ps. 119:105). The Word is compared to milk that nourishes our souls (1 Peter 2:2).

 

If you love God, it is your duty to read the Word and your delight to receive it as the very Word of the true and living God.

 

They show evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit. Ultimately the Fruit of the Spirit is a love of Christ and His Word. I am not talking about the kind of casual affection that many in the world have toward Jesus. There are many who have affection for Jesus as long as He is fixing their problems, or they love Him when He teaches us how to right socioeconomic and racial injustices. Some love Him as a great moral teacher and sage; to them He is some kind of life coach or some other nonsense. When I am referring to loving Jesus, though, I am talking about the kind of affection a bond servant would have for a master. Let me show you what I mean. Turn to Exodus 21. We will look at verses 4-6. In their historical context this is primarily referring to an indentured servant who is given a wife and has a family during his time of service. That being said, it does set the pattern for the bondservant in the Old Testament and this would be the implied reference of the Apostles when they referred to themselves as the bondservants of Christ.

 

Exodus 21:4-6

“If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.

 

We also need, for a moment, to take our attention to Galatians chapter 5. Galatians chapter 5 and verses 22 and 23.

 

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

I want to say, again, it is possible to have varying degrees of these fruits in your life. A variance in the amount of fruit that you have does not indicate a lack of salvation but it most certainly indicates different levels of maturity.

 

Beloved, a major mistake that we make is to look at the quantity of fruit and ask if a person is saved but this is the wrong question. In evaluating the fruit, we are looking at maturity not salvation. The presence of the fruit is the proof of the salvation and the quantity of the fruit is the evidence of maturity.

 

Look back to the Beatitudes and remember that they are an example of what a life hidden in Christ, that is a Christian life that is producing fruits of repentance looks like. A life producing fruit is poor in spirit, showing mercy to other sinners, helping them to make peace with God, growing in grace and having a pure heart. These are the fruits of a life that has turned its back on sin and instead bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus and embraced Him as Redeemer and King.

 

They teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1) I do not want to make a plug for my book or anyone else’s but I do want to point something out to you…Every true believer and every true teacher of the Word has some level of Theology and the are building on it daily. As Dr. White points out, every Christian is called to know God and that is theology of which sound doctrine is a nickname. The one who claims to teach God’s word will have a sound theology rooted in the Bible and glorifying of Christ. We may approach that theology through the lens of Dispensationalism (as I do) or Covenant Theology (as many of my friends do) but in the end, what you are looking for is a Theology that exalts Christ as Divine Son, truly God and truly man, Lord of the Church, and soon coming King.

 

Many churches will utilize the Ancient Creeds as part of their worship service so as to help their members to have an understanding of historical Christian orthodoxy. Other churches will recite one of the major Protestant Catechisms such as the London Baptist Confession, the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism as a way to help the membership to learn their faith. While both are excellent ideas, their presence or lack thereof does not make a church true or false. The point, rather, is that a true teacher will have a strong, Christ centered theology that they will share with the membership.

 

In parting, let me leave you with the words of the Nicene Creed, on of the oldest and simplest theological statements ever written…

 

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

 

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

 

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

The Bible Train/Family Worship 5.14-5.20

The Bible Train/Family Worship 5.14-5.20

This week, the Bible Train has stops at the rebellion of Absalom as well as Solomon’s Coronation as King of Israel. We will see David fall prey to the temptation to rely on the military strength of Israel. We will see David perceive and sing about God’s presence.

Monday 2 Samuel 15:1-37
Tuesday 2 Samuel 18:1-19:18
Wednesday Psalm 139
Thursday 2 Samuel 24:1-25
Friday 1 Kings 1:1-53
Saturday Psalm 72
Sunday 1 Chronicles 28:1-21

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is Psalm 139 impacted by how we view God?
  2. How does the psalm at Solomon’s coronation point to Jesus?
  3. Why was it wrong for David to take the census?
Knowing Their Fruit Part One: Signs of False Prophets and Other Apostates

Knowing Their Fruit Part One: Signs of False Prophets and Other Apostates

Text: Matthew 7:15-23

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.

 

1st, a question: what is a false prophet? A false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends. The Old Testament proscribed death for such a person although, now in the Age of Grace, that penalty is no longer carried out.

There are a number of people, today, who claim to speak for God; they fill pulpits every Sunday and preach to tens of thousands of people who blindly follow their lead, in effect they are the wolf in the house. There are many wolves in the house, these alleged teachers who intentionally teach heresy which attempts to rob Christ of the glory due Him.

There are a number of terms that we can use: false prophet, apostate, false teacher. As we explore the truth of Scripture, it is important to recognize the marks of an apostate, a person who at one time knew and maybe even taught the truths of the Bible but walked away. Jude, the Lord’s youngest human brother, points out several signs of an apostate.

I would like to add one sign to what Jude provides; a false prophet does not teach the Bible. They may teach things that sound like the Bible and they might even use passages of Scripture, but, relying on people’s ignorance of the Bible they teach strange doctrines.

Ungodly (v. 4)
When the New Testament writers say that a person is ungodly, it does not simply mean that the person does not know God, it also means that the do not have character that is consistent with the revealed Person and Nature of God.

Morally perverted (v. 4)
In the NIV, promiscuity is translated as license to commit immorality. Among other things these apostates teach that there is no need to struggle to overcome sin. The Greek word rendered as contend, or contend earnestly (NKV, NASB) is agonizomai from which we derive the word agonize. Because our sinful nature will not easily be transformed into Christlikeness, it can seem agonizing, at times to give up that sin in order to be more like Christ.

Many, many apostates teach instead that God will give you all the things you want: health, wealth, posessions, influence, etc and all you have to do is “sow the best offering that you can” without any call to true repentence or humility. These ignore the command of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). One of these so called teachers has even gone so far as to say that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is a messenger of Satan.

In truth, you do not even have to teach grace as license to sin however you please to turn grace into license, all you have to do is refuse to teach the truth of God’s grace, that it saves you from sin and its power not simply that it saves you from hell. And just in case you were going to object and say that such things are not perverted, the definition of perverse is something that is contrary to the generally accepted standard or practice. Since the Bible is our standard, anything contradicting the Bible or anything taught in the pulpit that does not match Scripture is, by definition, perverted.

Deny Christ (v. 4)
Ultimately, this leads to a denial of Christ; the Jesus taught and embraced by the apostates simply is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Defile the flesh (v.7& 8)
As we are seeing today, apostates defile the flesh in ungodly and unbiblical ways. Some of my evangelical brethren will immediately point to homosexuality but what about other sins: drunkenness, gluttony (I think I have only heard one sermon on gluttony in 25 years), fornication, domestic violence (yes the Bible actually addresses this topic which I have never in my life heard addressed in the pulpit).

Defiling the flesh refers primarily to sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18) which is a sin against one’s own body. Remember that Jude’s oldest half-brother, the Lord Jesus Himself, even went so far as to equate contemplating the sin with the actual sin itself (Matthew 5:27-28). When is the last time you heard a sermon about sexual lust (lust of the flesh), greed (lust of the eyes), or counteracting the boastful pride of life by being poor in spirit.

Rebellious (v. 8)
By not teaching what the Bible actually says, these apostates live in and encourage rebellion in others. A pastor once told me that 1% out of submission is equal to being 100% in rebellion against God. To deny a doctrine, the reality of hell for example (Rob Bell) and to teach that denial to others is absolute rebellion against God. To refuse to yield to the Authority of Scripture is to refuse to yield to the Author. They go hand in hand; authority entails submission.

Revile angels (v. 8)
This is a mark against many Pentecostals if I ever saw one. Growing up Pentecostal, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pastors “bind” satan or command him to do this or that; both of which are patently absurd. If Michael, the highest angel (archangel means chief angel) dares not speak against the devil, what in the world possesses a “Christian” to do so?

Ignorant (v. 8)
The behavior we have discussed so far demonstrates and absolute willful ignorance of both the Things of God and His Person. To know Him as He is is to submit to Him.

Having vain ideas (vs. 8-10)
Continuing with the idea of ignorance, apostates have vain/foolish ideas. Word of Faith teachers, for example, tell you that you can name and claim your promise from Scripture and activate a response from God based on your faith. This is hubris and is no different than the idea of “binding satan.” I have heard them justify this nonsense by saying all the promises of God are yea and amen. That is only half the truth and is therefore not the truth. All of God’s promises are yea and amen but only in so far as to the person(s) they apply to. I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you is a very true promise but it only applies to the Nation of Israel for that is whom God made the promise to.

It is utter vanity and foolishness to presume anything upon Him Who sits upon the Throne

Self-destruction (v. 10)
What is the natural end result of apostasy? Self-destruction. God does not have to directly do anything to these, all He has to do is say to them, “thy will be done” and step aside. How many ministries have been damaged and even destroyed by ministers who thought they could get away with this or that? I would list names but that is impractical.

I can say from personal experience, getting your own way can be deadly, to your soul as well as your body. After all there is a way which seems right unto a man and the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25)

Grumblers (v. 16) Fault finders (v. 16) Self seeking (v. 16) Arrogant speakers (v. 16) Flatterers (v. 16)
I will deal with all of these together: they are person centric and reflect the oldest sin in the book, pride. Pride is that sin which caused Lucifer to lose his place in heaven and it will do you the same favor. Pride looks at another, finds his/her deficiency and then exalts self because you don’t have that particular deficiency. It causes one to puff up and think of oneself more than he/she really is. Pride, the oldest known sin, is the truest and surest mark of the apostate. No matter what other signs you see, the Christian that demonstrates pride is on treacherous ground and in real danger of going where one does not want to be, apostasy.

Mockers (v. 18)
2 Peter 3:4, They will say where is the promise of His coming. I would add to that, they will say things like no serious Christian believes in Hell or, no loving, tolerant Christian rejects gays, or they will dismiss the creation account as a myth/a metaphor. Mark it out, every single apostate has some passage or doctrine that he does not like and by dismissing it, they make a mockery of God…for now.  What they forget it that even if they don’t believe in a Great White Throne Judgment, they have an appointment there and the works that will judge them worthy of condemnation are being written daily.

Cause division (v. 19) Worldly minded, Without the Spirit (v. 19)

Apostates cause division in the church because they are worldly minded and they are worldly minded because they do not have the Holy Spirit and they do not have the Holy Spirit because they are worldly minded.

It’s a vicious cycle once you walk away from the truth of Scripture and only the Holy Spirit can bring you back.

I promised I would name names, and here they are. These are just a few of the False Teachers that no Christian should listen to  (in no particular order): Andy Stanley, Christine Cain, Steven Furtick, Paula White, Juanita Bynum, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Priscilla Shirer, Jory Micah, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Beth Moore, Andrew Wommack, Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Paul & Jan Crouch, . There are a host of others. I would recommend this site: http://www.so4j.com/false-teachers

Now that we know what to look for in a false teacher, next week we will look at the marks of genuine faith, specifically with a recap of the Beatitudes.

 

Choosing the Right Path (Matthew 7:13-14)

Choosing the Right Path (Matthew 7:13-14)

This week’s lesson gives me pause; it gives me pause because in order to proclaim the truth of this text, I am going to have to say some rather hard things and those hard things are going to offend many. Please know that what I will say needs to be said and that it does not mean that I do not care about you. Quite the opposite actually, I am saying these things because I love you and I am concerned for your soul. Our text for this week is Matthew Chapter 7 and verses 13 & 14.

Jesus uses the metaphor of a gate and a road. The Narrow Way and the Strait Gate is the Gospel. The Broad Way and the Wide Gate are every other form of religion on the planet.

I have said before, the Mormons have a Jesus, the Catholics have a Jesus, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have one too and so does the crowd that embraces Positive Confession (also called word of faith). It is not enough that you have a Jesus. It is not even enough that you worship a Jesus. It has to be the Jesus in the Bible, otherwise your worship is an exercise in uselessness.

You will often hear it said that “all religions teach the same thing.”  Let me tell you that with a single exception, Christianity, that is a true statement as they will all teach you how to die in your sins and spend eternity in Hell. I do not make that statement without fear and trembling but it is true. All religions apart from Christianity will teach you how to die in your sins and go to Hell.

I am sad to say that many in the American Church, most in fact, are on the broad way that leads to damnation; they are on that path and probably don’t even know it. The “Church” is so ignorant of the Bible that many Christians probably cannot even tell you what the Gospel is, which is scary because it it the Gospel that defines our Christianity. That really is the point of the text; at the end of your life, you need to be sure that you have believed the Gospel if you expect to go to Heaven. I am going to clarify what that Gospel is, when we talk about the narrow way, but I want to spend some time talking about the broad way and what the Gospel is not.

There is a way that seems right; it seems good, seems God pleasing, sounds like Christianity but it is not, its final end is destruction and death. Two different passages in Proverbs state, outright, that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction and death. (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). Beloved, it is indeed very possible to think you are a Christian and not be. You can go to church every Sunday and say all the right sounding words, sing all the songs, put plenty of money in the collection plate and still end up in Hell. Why? By believing a false gospel.

The Lord’s youngest brother, Judah (Jude for thse that wish to use the Gentile form of his name) teaches that certain men have crept in unaware. Let’s look at verse 4 of his powerful epistle. Jude 4 (NIV) For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

I am not a big fan of lists i.e. 3 ways to have a better marriage, 7 steps to more fulfilling devotional time, 4 steps to keep your kids from _______ fill in the blank, but I do want to give you five things that the Gospel is not because it helps to know what a thing is not if you want to identify what it is.

License. The Gospel is not license to sin. The charge of turning the Gospel into license to live however we please is often used as an attack against the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. All true believers will endure to the end their lives. We will still sin because the flesh wars with our new nature, however, no true Christian will ever teach that you can live however you please and still go to heaven when you die.

 

We hold to the Baptist Faith and Message; here is what it has to say: All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

 

John 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Romans 8:30; 9:11,16; Romans 5:9-10; Matthew 26:70-75.

 

Will Christians still sin? Yes. Will they seek it out just because “they can?” Certainly not.

On “Christian TV” The Gospel, by and large, is not found on what passes for Christian TV.  This point is in parallel with another I will make in a minute but what you see on most of Christian TV has more to do with pagan mysticism and witchcraft than it does with anything scriptural. You will hear “pastors” on “Christian TV” talk about speaking things into the way you want them to be, you will hear about how you can claim promises in the Bible that aren’t even remotely connected to you and that isn’t event the worst of it. The alleged pastors on TV will make promises like “God wants you to have great health, money, possessions, and influence.” I think Job, Peter, and Paul might disagree. There has even been documentation of one of the TV “pastors” saying that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan, never mind the fact that Jesus Himself is the one who said to deny yourself (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23). These things are not the gospel.

 

Activism: The Gospel is not social activism. We have begun to see a resurgence of the “social gospel” and, while its goals may be admirable, they are more concerned with politics rather than the Gospel. Social Gospel was a religious social-reform movement prominent in the United States from about 1870 to 1920 and as I said, we are seeing a resurgence of this idea today. Advocates of the movement interpret the Kingdom of God as requiring social as well as individual salvation and sought the betterment of industrialized society through application of the biblical principles of charity and justice. Labor reforms—including abolition of child labor, a shorter workweek, a living wage, and factory regulation—constituted the Social Gospel’s most prominent concerns. During the 1930s many of these ideals were realized through the rise of organized labor and the legislation of the New Deal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The Biblical Gospel does address some of those issues, but resolving social problems is not the goal of the gospel. The goal of the Gospel is your redemption from sin and your being conformed to the image of Christ.

 

Walking and Aisle and Praying a Prayer is not part of the Gospel. There is a troublesome tendency to promote an idea called decisional regeneration, which is a patently unscriptural notion. More times than I can count, I have heard a pastor say, “the Bible says that if you pray this prayer and mean it in your heart, you will be saved from your sins.” Except that the Bible does not actually say that.

 

Yes, confession is part of the Gospel. The Greek word that we render confession is homolegao which literally means to say the same thing. Say the same thing as what? When you homolegao you essentially agree and say the same thing about sin and about Christ that God says and that is an integral part of the Gospel, but walking down an aisle at church and repeating a prayer the pastor told you to pray is neither repenting nor confessing. Now to be sure, there are some that do this that are actually converted but they are few and far between. Jesus’ call was always, “Follow me.” That is a call to discipleship and a lifetime of serving Him.

 

About you. The Gospel is not about you. The Gospel is entirely about God’s glory in redeeming sinners. As Jonathan Edwards pointed out, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” I have heard people say that Jesus loved you so much that He would rather die than spend eternity without you. I could vomit. Heaven is entirely, totally, 100%, utterly about Jesus and His glory. Heaven was created for Him, He is its centerpiece, and His Gospel is about the glory He receives from saving sinners.

 

Voddie Baucham once mentioned that the concept and images (which by the way are sinful-2nd commandment) of Jesus that we have in the American Church today is of this sissified needy Jesus who looks more like a shampoo model than a rugged Galilean carpenter. Both of us are disgusted by that idea. Jesus doesn’t need you- He is the absolute Sovereign of the universe and also the God who created everything- He is in no need of you and you need to realize that a day is coming when He is going to break you. If you do not break yourself and submit to His lordship while you walk this earth, you will be broken at the Great White Throne.

 

So then what is the Gospel?

 

Exclusive/The Narrow Way. In John 14:6 Jesus declares that He is the way, the truth, and the life and he further declares that no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is no other option. So many times, I hear someone say, “why should there be only one way to Heaven?” and like Dr. Sproul, my answer is, “why should there be any way at all?” Sin is so offensive to the holiness of God, such an affront to His nature that if He killed every sinner in their sleep, no one could say a thing about it because it would be perfectly just. Since God is the King of Heaven, He alone gets to decide who gets an audience with Him and under what terms that audience is granted. Here is what you need to understand…Anyone can answer the Gospel Invitation as God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30) but not everyone will. God knew who would respond when He set the terms of salvation and He called them “Mine elect”. Physically, it is not hard to respond to the Gospel- your knee was designed to bend in just the right spot to kneel before the Throne but it is pride, the oldest and, perhaps, strongest of sins that will not permit the knee to bow.

 

The Gospel is The Message of Redemption from Sin. There is a common aid to understanding the Gospel called the “Romans Road to Salvation” that I find most useful and many of you will be familiar with these verses.

  • Because of our sin, we are separated from God. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
  • The Penalty for our sin is death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ! But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  • If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins! For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13) …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

 

The Gospel is All About God’s Glory.  In the Greek Text, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence and it points out that God has predestined a people to adoption as sons and has appointed them unto adoption to the praise of His glory.

 

Let’s also read Romans 9:22–24

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

God’s treatment of the “vessels of wrath” shows us divine glory because this treatment manifests His justice. The elect will see the Lord justly condemn the impenitent, and so they will more clearly see His attributes of justice and righteousness, thereby receiving a fuller revelation of His character and thus His glory.

 

Now turn to Isaiah 42. Verses 1-7 speak of God’s work of redemption, His freeing of captives and giving sight to the spiritually blind. God alone will receive the glory in our salvation, for salvation is a manifestation of His glory. His omnipotence, His mercy, His love, and His holiness are in a sense all summed up in His glory, and all of these attributes are on display in His work of salvation.

 

 

Offered to All; Sufficient Only for Those Who Respond

Acts 17:30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” All men are called to repent but not all respond. Those who do not respond to the Gospel call to turn from sin have no atonement. On one hand it is sad that the impenitent will be punished for eternity for their sins and on the other, God is glorified in the vindication of His holiness.

 

Those who have responded to the Gospel call, will glorify God, in Heaven, for all eternity in response to His mercy in saving them.

 

 

How can I respond? What if I’m not elect? I run into the 2nd question so frequently that I cannot believe it. If you want to know if you are elect, here is how you tell…Do you want to respond to the call to turn from sin and be saved? Do you desire to be saved from your sin? Do you desire Christ? Would you leave behind your sin and live for His glory? Will you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, take up your cross and follow Christ?  If yes, be comforted that these are marks of election.

 

If you would respond to the Gospel, here is how…Confess that you are a sinner and need Christ’s righteousness. Confess He is Lord. Believe that Christ was raised from the dead.

 

Once you have done that, find a Bible teaching church and begin the process of discipleship. Your new pastor will help you to grow into the image of Christ.

 

Final Thoughts

 

As our time together draws to a close, I want to restate the Gospel for you and I will give you 4 words to ponder in your heart today, with a brief explanation of each. Maybe you have been part of a church for a long time and have never heard the real Gospel before. Maybe you never responded to the Gospel call, well today is the day of Salvation. Let me give you the Gospel one more time. You can respond today.

 

  1. God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
  2. Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
  3. Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
  4. Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).

 

Bible Train/Family Worship 5.7.18 to 5.13.18

Bible Train/Family Worship 5.7.18 to 5.13.18

This week, the Bible Train features several stops in the Psalms thus teaching us that even in times of trouble, we are still able to worship. If you like action and intrigue, the story of David and Bathsheba is full of it. The story of David and Bathsheba is a tale of illicit sex, plotting, murder, and finally judgment and at the end, David remains a man after God’s own heart by repenting of his sin and trusting himself to a just and holy God.

Monday Psalm 60
Tuesday 2 Samuel 9:1-13
Wednesday Psalm 103
Thursday 2 Samuel 11:1-27
Friday 2 Samuel 12:1-25
Saturday Psalm 51
Sunday Psalm 86

Discussion Questions

  1. Why was it important for David to remember Mephibosheth and show him kindness?
  2. What do we learn about giving sin an opportunity from David not going to the war when he was supposed to?
  3. What are we taught by the fact that David, a man after God’s own heart, fell to his lusts?
  4. What do we learn from Psalm 51 about true repentence?
Election and Predestination

Election and Predestination

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

Election.

There are three Greek words pertaining to election whose meaning is to choose or select. The first is eklégō. This word means to select, choose, and is translated choose, chose, chosen, elect. It involves preference and selection from among many choices. A relationship is established between the one choosing and the object chosen. This word is used twenty-two times. The second word is eklektós. This word means to choose, to select, and is translated chosen, elect. Same meaning as eklégō, as influenced by context. This word is used twenty-two times. The third word is eklogé. This word means choice, selection, and is translated chosen, election, elect. Same meaning as eklégō, as influenced by context. This word is used seven times.

The word eklégō means the selection of some out of many. The word eklektós indicates those who have been selected. The word eklogé refers to the act of selection. The selection of some out of many never indicates malice or prejudice toward those not selected. For example, Jesus chose twelve disciples out of many disciples to be his apostles. There is no indication of anything wrong with those not chosen, no indication of future prejudice or bias against those not chosen. Those not chosen continued to be disciples, even though they were not chosen to be apostles. Nor is there any indication of merit or special character in those chosen. In Acts 6:5 the Jerusalem church chose seven men to make the daily distribution to the needy. Obviously the many from whom the seven were selected was the male population of the church who met the qualifications set at 6:3. Many males met those qualifications; seven were chosen. Those not selected continued as they were.

In every use of these words, no reason is given as to why some were selected but not others. Acts 6:3–5 and 1:15–26 are not exceptions. The conditions set in these passages establishes who will be in the total number from which the selection is to be made. There is never any prejudice against those not chosen; they are left to continue as they were before the selection was made.

When we come to God’s choices in salvation these same conditions apply. God chose to save some. The qualification required to be among the group from which the selection was to be made was to be a sinner: the entire population of human beings from Adam forward to the eternal state. The reason why some sinners were chosen to salvation and others were not is never stated. There is no action, negative or positive, taken toward those not chosen; they are left to continue in their original state.

Statement of the doctrine. Election is the choice of a sovereign God, 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to some sinners to effect their salvation, and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny the salvation of other sinners. The decree of election includes all means necessary to effect salvation. An illustration of the doctrine:

The river of sinful humanity is justly racing toward the waterfall of death emptying into the lake of eternal fire; God reaches into the river and saves many; he prevents no one from swimming to the safety of the heavenly shore; he will receive any person who comes to him by way of Christ. The saved are standing on the shore urging everyone in the river to come to Christ.

The illustration communicates the important aspects of the doctrine of election: 1) every human being is a sinner and thus is justly due eternal judgment in the lake of fire; 2) God takes direct action to save some sinners from eternal punishment; 3) God does not take any action which would prevent any sinner from coming to him to receive salvation; 4) God sends his saved people to evangelize the unsaved.

Predestination

There is one word translated “predestination.” That word is proorízō. This word means to determine or decree beforehand. The word is translated “determined before, predestined, ordained.” This word is used six times. In four out of six uses the word proorízō refers to God’s purposes regarding the believer. To wit, the believer is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, be adopted as a Son of God, to be God’s heritage, and to receive an inheritance from God. Although the Reformers, and their spiritual heirs today, use proorízō in the sense of election, the Scripture testimony is that proorízō expresses God’s decrees affecting the believer after his or her salvation. The order in which predestination works out in the decrees of God is elected in eternity-past, saved in historical-present, and then the decree of predestination begins its sanctifying work.

Statement of the doctrine. Predestination is God’s decree to (1) to adopt the believer as his son and heir (Ephesians 1:5), (2) to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), (3) to give the believer an inheritance, and (4) to make the believer God’s heritage (Ephesians 1:11).

Brief explanation: the Reformation theologians (and their spiritual heirs today) often used “predestined” in the sense of election, a case of naming the cause from one of its effects. However, it is clear from the scriptures that predestination is not synonymous with election, nor is it the cause of election. Predestination is the result of election. The prior election of those predestined is seen in (1) that the elect were “called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28, before they were predestined, v. 29, and (2) that the elect were chosen, Ephesians 1:4, before they were predestined, v. 5. Predestination is a decree affecting the future of the elect after their salvation.

Election is a decree of God by which he determined those whom he will take positive action to save, which (decree) includes all the means necessary to the redemption of those whom he has elected.

Predestination is a separate decree of God affecting the saved after their salvation, which (decree) includes all the means necessary to effect the adoption the believer as God’s son, heir, and heritage, and to conform the believer to be like Christ.

The Believer and the Law

The Believer and the Law

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

What is the believer’s relation to “The Law?” The apostle Paul said the New Testament believer is “not under law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But then Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. Paul said, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully,” 1 Timothy 1:8, and “the law is holy,” Romans 7:12, and “the law is spiritual,” Romans 7:16. How do we resolve this seeming contradiction, as being not under law but not without law?

When Paul says the believer is “not under law,” he is speaking of the Mosaic Law—specifically the way his unsaved Jewish brethren used the Mosaic Law. The Judaism of New Testament times viewed obedience to the Mosaic Law as the only way to obtain the kind of righteousness that resulted in a saving relationship with God. Every negative use of “law” in the New Testament is a reference to this view of righteousness gained through obedience to the Mosaic Law. Paul specifically says this at Romans 9:31–32, “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” Paul’s statement at Ephesians 2:9, that salvation is “not of works” is partly a reference to the Jewish effort to obtain salvation through “works of the [Mosaic] law.” (The Gentiles had a similar view of obedience to their gods as the way to pagan heaven.)

What was the real purpose of the Mosaic Law? There are three aspects to the Mosaic Law. First, the Mosaic Law revealed God’s values through its precepts. These are the values by which human beings are to conduct their manner of life. Notice I did not say “these are the commandments” but “these are the values,” because some of the commandments do not make sense in these New Testament times, but the values and principles underlying the commandments remain valid. God’s moral values from the Mosaic Law are repeated in the New Testament—what some call the Law of Christ. God’s moral values do not change, therefore obedience to those values is still required.

Second, the Mosaic Law was a moral guide to protect God’s saved people from the destructive power of sin. “The [Mosaic] law is holy, the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). “Before faith we were kept under guard by the [Mosaic] law . . . the [Mosaic] law was our paidagōgós to bring us to Christ,” (Galatians 3:23, 24). The paidagōgós was originally a slave who accompanied the adolescent minor heir when he left the security of the home, whose purpose was to protect the heir morally and physically. One of the more frequent trips was to the school house (in modern terms) and thus the paidagōgós became identified with this frequent task. The original meaning is exactly what Paul has said, “kept under guard” by the Mosaic law.

Third, the Mosaic Law condemned the sinner by revealing his or her sin. The Mosaic Law is “a ministry of death” and a “ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9). And Romans 7:13, “But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good,” the Mosaic Law, 7:12,  “so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”  “I would not have known sin,” said Paul (Romans 7:7), “except through the [Mosaic] law.”

So, when Paul speaks of “the law,” he is usually referring to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament believer is “not under the Mosaic law but under grace,” Romans 6:14. But is the New Testament believer without law? No. We saw above Paul said he was “not being without law to God but within law to Christ,” 1 Corinthians 9:21. The believer has been set free from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law, but obedience to the moral values the Mosaic Law expresses are still required of the believer. The believer has been set free from the worldly pursuit of righteousness and salvation through the works required by the Mosaic Law. But the believer is not free to sin because under grace, Romans 7:15. Rather, there is still a law the believer must obey—not to gain righteousness, but as the expression of righteousness received.

No careful reader of the New Testament letters can fail to be impressed by the commandments to moral behavior. For example, Paul repeats the second table of the Ten Commandments at Romans 13:9 as required of the believer—he even quotes Leviticus 19:18 as a requirement for obedience, noting that love of one’s neighbor incorporates doing the commandments. The Hebrews’ Writer gives several commandments in chapter 13. The book of James gives many commandments to “do this” but “don’t do that.” Peter in his first letter says, “let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, a busybody” (1 Peter 4:15), and positively, “honor all people love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17), and many more “do this-don’t do that” commandments. John’s first letter is full of instruction for Christian behavior. When Jude says “contend earnestly for the faith” he isn’t just speaking of doctrine, but practice also, noting all the immoral behaviors s examples of the things believers are to not do. Paul gives a rather complete list of “do this” behaviors in Titus 2:1–11. The moral commandments of the New Testament, the Law of Christ, as it is sometimes called, tells the believer how he/she “ought to walk and to please God,” 1 Thessalonians 4:1, through the commandments of Christ and the apostles, 1 Thessalonians 4:2–7.

The believer, of course, is able to obey God’s commandments and lead a life pleasing to God, just because he/she has been saved and regenerated (born-again), and continually receives grace, guidance, and power from the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life. The believer has been justified and sanctified, and therefore strives to lead a life of sanctification—through obedience to God’s commandments—as the expression of his or her sanctification, 1 John 2:6. Thus the many New Testament exhortations. Calvin brilliantly describes the believer’s relationship to the law. “The whole life of Christians ought to be an exercise of piety, since they are called to sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7). It is the office of the law to remind them of their duty and thereby excite them to the pursuit of holiness and integrity” (“Institutes,” 3.19.2).

To summarize. The New Testament writers spoke against the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as a means to gain saving righteousness, teaching rather that salvation is not by doing but by believing. Thus the New Testament believer is not a participant in the Jewish effort to gain righteousness through obedience to the Mosaic Law. The New Testament writers, however, always exhort the believer to obey the law in the sense of God’s moral commandments, which express God’s moral values in specific precepts (thus the moral commandments of the Mosaic law are repeated in the New Testament for action by the believer), thereby urging a sanctified manner of living.

More simply, the New Testament commands obedience to God’s law as the expression of the believer’s salvific righteousness and sanctification, versus the wrongful use of the Mosaic Law as an attempt to gaining salvific righteousness and sanctification.

Understanding Heresy

Understanding Heresy

(Guest Post by James Quiggle ThM)

Heresy is an oft misused term and concept in Christianity. This essay will attempt to define the idea of heresy and its proper use. My sources are Geoffrey Bromiley, Gen. Ed., “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” (ISBE), s. v. “Heresy.” (The initials s. v. represent the Latin phrase, “under the word.”) Everett F. Harrison, Ed., “Baker’s Dictionary of Theology,” s. v. “Heresy.” R. K. Harrison, Ed. “The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary,” s. v. “Heresy.”  Spiros Zodhiates, Gen. Ed. “The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament,” s. v. “139. haíresis.” Gerhard Kittel, Ed., Geoffrey Bromiley, Translator, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” s. v. “haíresis” (1:180–184).

The basic meaning of the word haíresis is “choice.” The Greeks used haíresis to identify the various philosophical schools: the groups that in larger society follow the teachings of particular leaders in distinction from others. A Greek speaker looking at the FB groups I am a member of might identify the school (haíresis) of MacArthur, or the school (haíresis) of Sproul. To the ancient Greeks, a “heresy” was a teaching, a doctrine, or a school where doctrine was taught. At this time in history the word did not have the negative meaning it developed in Christian history.

The Jews used haíresis similar to the Greeks. For example, Josephus (“Antiquities,” 13.5.9) identified three religious “heresies”: Essenes, Sadducees, Pharisees. Josephus used the word in the neutral sense of a party with a distinctive emphasis. The New Testament, for the most part, uses “heresy” in the same sense as Josephus. Acts 15:17, the party (haíresis) of Sadducees; Acts 24:5, Paul is called a ringleader of the sect (haíresis) of the Nazarenes; Acts 28:22, “this sect (haíresis) is everywhere spoken against.” Paul, in Galatians and 1 Corinthians, further developed the idea of haíresis into dissensions, divisions, and factions. Peter (second letter) added the idea of incompatibility of opinion to that of faction, beginning the process that resulted in the technical sense the word is used throughout Christian history.

“Heresy,” as used in the history of the New Testament church, is a doctrinal departure from revealed truth, or an erroneous view held in opposition to revealed truth. A heretic is one who causes factions in the church through his heresy.

The key to properly using the word heresy is to accurately identify “a doctrinal departure from revealed truth, or an erroneous view held in opposition to revealed truth.” The key phrase is “revealed truth.” In the most simplistic terms, revealed truth is “what scripture says,” “what God says,” “what the Bible says.” I am not denigrating the Bible in using the term “simplistic,” because I know and believe and teach that the Bible is the source of truth. What I am doing is recognizing that an accurate identification of the body of revealed truth depends on what the Bible says *and* how the New Testament Church defines what the Bible says. To the Roman Catholic I am a heretic because I do not depend on works to gain or maintain my salvation. To the Reformed Covenant theologian I am a heretic because I follow Dispensational theology. To some in the Presbyterian or Episcopalian camps I am a heretic because I practice baptism by immersion. To the Anglican—and many other modern denominations—I am a heretic because I interpret the Bible to mean homosexuality is immoral. To me, but not others in the modern Christian camp, “Mormon” doctrine is heresy.

The early church, in its first 500 years (or so) spent a great deal of time and discussion and hard theological labor answering the question, “what is revealed truth?” Modern Christians must be equally careful. Too often “heresy” and “heretic” are used in the sense, “he is a heretic because he disagrees with . . .” and here fill in the blank: “what I believe; what my church believes; what my denomination believes.” No essential doctrine of the Christian faith is without controversy and dissent. To list only modern heresies requires a book (of which there are several, usually identified by the word “apologetics” in the title). Instead of a list, I will use three examples of recurring issues on my FB groups.

The fact of the second advent of Christ is beyond doubt. “I go to prepare a place for you. And when I should go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:2b–3). Any theology that denies Christ is coming again is heresy, because Scripture makes an unambiguous statement: revealed truth. Some deny this truth with a “spiritual” interpretation: Christ has returned in every soul he saves. That is heresy. Note merely in John’s Gospel, but in other New Testament writings, Christ’s return is a fact of future history, clearly and unambiguously stated.

On the other hand, disagreement as to when Christ will return will occur is not heresy. No one can point to particular scriptures that say when—calendar date—Christ is returning. As a premillennialist I have my opinion, but amillennialism and postmillennialism is not heresy. To me, these two views are erroneous, but the revealed truth is that Christ said, “No one can know when I am returning” (summarizing all he said on the subject). If no one can know, then divergent opinions on the when of his return are not heresy.

Dispensationalism is identified by many as a heresy, primarily because the non-dispensationalist believes Dispensationalism teaches more than one way of salvation. Dispensationalists have reproved this error time and again, but the error persists. Dispensationalism agrees with revealed truth: every sinner from Adam forward to the present and into the future was, is, and will be saved by God’s grace through the sinner’s faith in God’s testimony concerning salvation. On the other hand, few Reformed theologians would declare heretical the dispensational view that the NT church is not Israel. Most Reformed recognize that if they also consistently applied the historical-grammatical hermeneutic to ecclesiology and eschatology, they also would be dispensationalists.

A third issue that continues to appear on FB, (the groups of which I am a member) is (summarizing) “do angels have sexual gender?” Angels usually appear in Scripture as male gender—but not always, as the angels in Genesis 3; Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1; Revelation 4 demonstrate. Moreover, the use of the masculine pronouns “he, his, him” is often an artifact of good English, either because not present in the original language, or a matter of syntax, not gender, in the original language. You can see my opinion in the last sentence. But some look at the same textual evidence and do believe angels are sexually male, and thus angels are capable of sexual intercourse with female human beings. Others take a different view: angels do not have sexual gender as we understand gender, and therefore cannot engage in sexual intercourse with human beings. What do the scriptures say? The scriptures do not say. Neither view is heretical, simply different opinions. There are those on both sides of the interpretation who will disagree, some vehemently, but the Bible does not say—with the same clarity of, e.g., Christ’s return—whether angels do or do not have gender as we know it. Unlike the second advent of Christ, all opinions, pro or con, concerning angelic gender are inferred from what the little the Bible does say about angels.

Christians should take careful thought before applying the label of heresy to any particular opinion or person. The list of essential doctrines and unambiguous interpretations is quite short. There is room for different interpretations where the essentials of biblical doctrine are not present.

 

 

Understanding Grace

Understanding Grace

(Guest Post by James Quiggle, ThM)

The biblical word “grace” is one of the most used words in Christian vocabulary, and one of the hardest to define. Hebrew and Greek lexicons are very good at telling the reader what grace does, but not what grace is. The definition I learned as a new Christian was “God’s unmerited favor or blessing which we in no way deserve.” (That is a little redundant, because “unmerited” means “which we in no way deserve,” but I guess my mentor wanted to make sure I understood.)

In the Old Testament grace is used more often in a non-theological setting than theological. In the Old Testament, “grace” translates, hēn, a derivative of hānan, “a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need . . . an action from a superior to an inferior who has no real claim for gracious treatment [Harris, et al., “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament,” s. v. “694 (hānan),” “694a (hēn)”]. The word hēn, “bears the predominant sense of favor, with an undertone of meaning that the favor is undeserved” [Harrison, Ed., Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, s. v. “Grace”].

When the Old Testament speaks of grace in a theological sense, hēn may be translated “favor.” Thus, “Noah found hēn [grace, i.e., favor] in the eyes of the Lord.” God approved of Noah and looked upon him with the intent of blessing him. Moses said, Ex. 33:13, “if I have found hēn [grace, i.e., favor] in your sight, show me now your way, that I may know you and that I may find grace hēn [grace, i.e., favor] in your sight.” Moses was asking YHWH for reassurance that he was YHWH’s choice to lead Israel (see vv. 12–23).

In the New Testament, the Greek word is cháris, from chaírō, to rejoice [Zodhiates, Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament,” s. v. “5485”]. Grace, cháris, is said in the New Testament to do a lot of things. The basic theological meaning, however, is the same as in the Old Testament theological use: undeserved favor; the goodwill of God and Christ as exercised toward human beings; divine favors, benefits, blessings, gifts conferred on human beings through Christ.”

Thus, Luke 2:40, the grace [favor] of God was upon him [Jesus]. Acts 13:43, Paul and Barnabus “persuaded them [the Jews of the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia] to continue in the grace of God,” meaning the favor and blessing that came through Jesus Christ, rather than continuing in the grace and favor that came through Moses.

That the above interpretation of Acts 13:43 is correct is seen at John 1:16–17. This verses are best translated, “16 That out of his fullness we all received, even grace instead of grace [chárin antí cháritos], 17 because the law was given through Moses; the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ.” John’s point is a comparison between the grace that came through the Law given through Moses and the grace that came through Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus is the means in this New Testament age by which the merit of his propitiating death is applied to the spiritual needs of the soul. Thus, Acts 13:43, Paul tells those Jews and proselytes who wanted to hear more about Christ to continue in the grace that comes through Jesus rather in the grace that came through the law of Moses.

At Acts 20:24, grace means the Gospel of Salvation, “the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Romans 6:1, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Shall God’s favor and blessing abound if we ignore the regeneration salvation has brought and continue to sin as though unsaved? Romans 12:6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” etc., where the word “grace” indicates the Holy Spirit’s favor in giving his saved people various spiritual gifts. For, as 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, spiritual gifts are “the manifestation [the working] of the Spirit, and v. 11, the Holy Spirit distributes his gifts “as he wills,” which is to say, the spiritual gift is undeserved, given at the sovereign choice of God the Holy Spirit.

2 Cor. 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” God supplies the spiritual power that enables the believer to perform God’s will. 2 Cor. 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s favor provides the spiritual and physical strength to persevere in God’s will. Eph. 1:2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” A prayer for blessings in general. Favor and peace are often associated. Col. 3:16, “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,” is one of those occasions when the believer blesses God, which is to say, gives praise to God.

2 Tim. 2:1, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”: the blessing from Christ that gives the believer spiritual power to persevere in the faith. Heb. 4:16, “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” which is to say, come in prayer and faith to God who gives his people spiritual strength to persevere in the faith by faith, and causes all things to work together for good. James 4:6, “But he gives more grace. Therefore he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” God has favor toward those who submit to him and depend on him. 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Grace as spiritual gifts. 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Grace in the context of knowledge and growth is the power of the Holy Spirit interpreting and illuminating the Word while convicting and empowering the believer to obey the Word.

Grace, then, is a term that depending on context may refer to God’s blessing in salvation, perseverance, spiritual strength, spiritual maturity, spiritual gifts, or God’s blessing in general. When we speak and write about grace, we should reflect on the context.

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