Category Archives: Gospel

Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

timothy

We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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Rosh Hashanah

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As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Offensive for Christ

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What does it mean to be salt and light?

… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-13).

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We understand that salt is used as a preservative, or flavoring. The lesson is that we are to preserve the Word of God in our hearts, and share it with an unbelieving world. To season our speech with salt is to make the Gospel message more palatable. Bible commentators suggest that we can present an offensive message without being offensive, but how is that possible? When salt is poured into an open wound it stings:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Certainly, we don’t want to be offensive nor alienate our worldly friends and family. So we live our lives almost embarrassed, or ashamed of the Gospel. And who wants to be outcast as strange and foolish? Who among us will stand up and be offensive for Christ?

Red Letter Christians are probably offended at the suggestion. Jesus, they will say, was all about love and forgiveness. Oh, so Jesus Christ never offended anyone?

When His disciples had been upbraided by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating, Jesus confronted the lawyers for elevating their religious traditions above the commandments of God. He said to the assembled crowd that what defiles a man is not unclean hands but an unclean heart.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12)

If the Pharisees were offended how much more the merchants whose tables were overturned by an irate Christ. The Son of God offended the world system — religious and civil. Can we do no less?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:24).

This is not the Jesus worshipped by flower-power hippies who have hanging in their VW van a poster of Jesus smoking pot nor liberals who co-opt Christ to promote a social gospel that is lean on theology but heavy on environmentalism, abortion rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization and feminist radicalism.

I have long-wondered why our nation is so morally bankrupt. If 80% of the populace identify themselves as Christian then how has the nation become so degraded? How do we elect leaders that swear an oath upon the Bible, but don’t believe what it says?

Liberalism.

Government and education long ago were compromised, and now the covenant body of Christ is being sub-divided by false teachers who, like Thomas Jefferson, excise all but the red letters of Holy Scripture.

Red Letter Christians (RLC) are essentially anti-Marcion. Whereas Marcion, branded a heretic, rejected the canon of Scripture (with the exception of the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters) the RLC adopts a theology that cedes authority only to the words of Christ.

For some time I have researched “Christian” websites that are anti-Pauline in doctrine. At the core of these ministries is an agenda that promotes freedom of choice and gay marriage. Their theology is based on Matthew 22:36-40 (love is the greatest commandment); and Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats as suggestive of a works-based salvation — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick.) The faith-based teachings found in the Pauline epistles are only subordinate text. It is evident that Paul is rejected solely on the basis that his teachings are at odds with contemporary society. So we have the right to make the Bible conform to our inclinations?

John Gerstner (Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary) classified the liberal gospel as a gospel of self-esteem. Doing good works makes us feel good, and it softens the ugly truth that there is no good dwelling in us. Like the observant Muslim who thinks he has to do good works to please God, but on the Day of Judgement Christ will say, Depart from me; I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).

Tony Campolo, activist leader of RLC, wrote:

The primary focus of we Red Letter Christians is on what Jesus had to say about the poor. We realize that the only description that He gave of Judgment Day (Matthew 25) was through a parable in which people were evaluated as to whether or not they fed those who were hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned. Because Evangelicals have been steeped in the theology of the Pauline Epistles before they scrutinize the teachings of Jesus in the red letters of the Bible, they have read Jesus through the eyes of Paul.

While he doesn’t deny that evangelicals are very generous towards the poor it does make you wonder what is his real agenda. Campolo insists that RLC is a non-partisan effort to wrestle Christianity from conservative evangelicals who, he says, have hijacked the faith in alliance with Republican politicos who are anti-gay and anti-feminist.

His Christian agenda sounds like the reading of the Democrat platform at the party’s presidential convention. The Gospel is somewhere hidden in a mishmash of environmental activism and wage inequality. When asked his party affiliation, Campolo will typically answer, “That is not the issue.”

So he rails about conservative Christians, but refuses to identify himself as a liberal Christian. Like Hillary Clinton, he is more comfortable with the term progressive as if that can hide a leopard’s spots. Curious how liberals define (or, in the case of marriage, redefine) certain absolutes. Abortion, for example, is not infanticide but free choice.

What liberals have to do is re-interpret Scripture that both Jews and Christians have understood for thousands of years. Progressives (oh, they are so enlightened) will say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality; Leviticus 18:22 suggests that it is unclean for a man to lie in a woman’s bed, and not prohibitive of gay sex; and Paul’s indictment of homosexuality was only a judgement against prostitution.

In any case, they will say, it doesn’t matter what Paul wrote because he doesn’t speak with the authority of Christ.

There is a deception in the church that is blinding the eyes and clouding the minds of those who have not a discerning spirit. The disparagement of Paul within the church is troublesome. Is it Satanic? To diminish Paul’s credentials would be to undermine two-thirds of Christian canon.

We have to be able to answer this question: By what authority did Paul speak?

Peter wrote:

… and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Of course, there are some within the church who doubt the authorship of 2 Peter so this passage would be inadmissible. Very well, then, may I present the testimony of Luke — acceptable even to Marcion:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:10-16).

Paul was anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul, himself, testified to the assembly at Galatia:

Paulus an Apostle, not by the children of men, neither by a son of man, but by Yeshua The Messiah and God his Father, he who raised him from among the dead …(Galatians 1:1). — Aramaic Bible

With what, then,  are we left? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master …

… and …

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is light, though, within the RLC. An article, posted on their website, disagreed with Campolo’s interpretation of marriage. The silence of Scripture — that is, Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality — is not an affirmation of an act that is clearly condemned in both Jewish and Christian canon. The article honestly cited the Bible’s clarity on marriage, and that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the Biblical norm.

We’ve only peeled a few layers off this theological onion. Liberals within the church dispute essential Christian doctrine regarding the deity of Christ, resurrection, faith and salvation. They teach that confession and repentance are unnecessary in this age of grace. Feed the poor and you’ll be okay. Everything else is religion. Jesus, they will say, had no problem with sinners, but with religious people.

How should we respond? Meekness does not mean that we dim our light or lose our savor. In this ongoing spiritual battle we must courageously decide to be offensive for Christ — in the world and from the pew. Let your light be a blinding light, and your words like a two-edged sword.

Remember: Christian love is corrective — not permissive.

Reference:

The Liberal View of Justification, article by John Gerstner.

Red Letter Christianity: A New Name for Progressive Evangelicals, article by Tony Campolo.

When Red Is Blue: Why I am not a Red-Letter Christian, article by Stan Guthrie.

The Problem with Being a Red Letter Christian, article by Ian Paul.

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Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Law and Gospel

(A personal note: I want to thank all of you who are praying for my health. I believe in the healing power of prayer.)

Melissa was driving to work on an overcast day — a reflection of her dreary soul — as she contemplated why her Christian girlfriends were not showing the fruits of their salvation. Quite the opposite of Melissa’s spiritual growth, her friends continued walking in the world — partying, drinking, drugs and immorality.

Donald sought counsel from his pastor regarding his Christian brothers who had no interest in going to church or studying the Bible. Their attitude was that the Bible is just a collection of ancient fables and tales.

Gathered around a lunch table were several young Christian women. I approached them expecting to hear a fruitful discussion on some deep, theological doctrine; but these unmarried, twenty-somethings were talking about their prescriptions for birth control pills.

Kristy, who had introduced me to Calvary Chapel, enjoyed sitting around the pool smoking pot. “It’s natural,” she said,” … and not like tobacco.”

(Excuse me? They’re both weeds!)

Brad asked Jeannie — a supposed Christian — to attend a Saturday night Bible study. Jeannie was leery as she asked aloud, “Who stays home on Saturday night reading the Bible?”

(Well, I do.)

Church can be a dangerous place for the unsuspecting elect. Where are the truly saved who are justified by the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit? Brothers and sisters who have renounced the world and walk in reverence and obedience?

Some will accuse me of preaching legalism — that we are saved by works not by faith.

Legalism is a heresy, but so is antinomianism (against the law). Paul, with his gospel message of faith by grace, was thought by some Reformers to be antinomian in his theology. In some quarters of the modern Church, Paul is denounced as a heretic, and his epistles are disregarded.

… because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight .(Romans 3:20).

… nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified  (Galatians 2:16).

Conversely, the Book of James was resisted by early Church fathers who thought it preached legalism.

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone  (James 2:24).

Careful study will reveal that there is no contradiction between Paul, and the brother of our Lord. James is speaking of justification not salvation. Both men would agree that we are saved by faith to perform good works as Paul explains to the ecclesia at Ephesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Law of Moses has not been abrogated at least in the moral sense. Otherwise, what did Jesus mean when He said:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

Understand, Christ is not speaking of all 613 mitzvot (ceremonial ordinances), but the commandments of God. Indeed, through the end of the chapter He not only specifies, but elevates the moral precepts given to Moshe at Mt Sinai.

For example, if you are angry with your brother you are guilty of murder … if you look upon a woman with lust you have committed adultery … and so forth.

And yet … and yet … there are Christians who believe that Christ saved us not from sin, but from the Law.

To some, going to church on Sunday is nothing more than punching a ticket to heaven. If you go to Church with a hangover — well, that’s just exercising your Christian liberty. You don’t have to repent nor confess your sins. That is taking grace to the nth degree.

My brothers, this doctrine is prevalent within the modern, evangelical church — and it is a heresy as described by Paul.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

This is so troublesome to me that I have devoted much study trying to discover the genesis of this false theology. Examine the following quote from one of the leading Reformers:

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides … No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. (1)

Was the author suggesting that we freely sin — even to commit murder and adultery — or was he glorifying a God who is so merciful that He will forgive even the vilest of transgressions?

Hyper-Calvinists will refer to this quote of Martin Luther to defend their doctrine of eternal security. John Agricola, a disciple of Luther, preached an antinomian interpretation of the stated quote, and was defamed as a heretic when he died in 1566.

In his Solus Decalogus est Aeternus (Antinomian Theses and Disputations, published in six volumes, ca. 1537), Martin Luther sought to refute the Antinomians who were teaching that man is neither condemned by works of the flesh since the Law was an instrument of the old dispensation, nor justified by righteous deeds since man is saved in the new dispensation by grace alone. (Readers of this blog know I have serious theological issues with dispensational theology, Some church historians trace the modern Dispensational movement to Agricola.)

Paul had to correct the Gnostics who were preaching the same doctrine — that man is an independent creature, no longer under the Law and free to follow his own impulses and desires.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” (gnoseos, Gr.) which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

The clarification of his later writings are evidence that Luther understood the harmonious teaching of Paul and James.

Therefore it must be that those who would rid the Church of the Law are either devils themselves, or siblings of the devil. It doesn’t matter that they preach and teach a great deal about God, about Christ, about grace and the Law. (They are) libertines, who give permission to all kinds of infamous deeds. (2)

You have heard frequently that there is no better way of teaching and preserving the pure doctrine than that we follow this method, namely, that we divide Christian doctrine into two parts, law and gospel; as there are also two things which are set before us in God’s word, namely, either wrath or grace, sin or righteousness, death or life, hell or heaven. And these matters are certain and clear. (3)

Luther explains in a lengthy dissertation that the Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was the first fruits of God’s righteous plan of salvation. The moral law is not erased, but made manifest through the power of the Holy Spirit working a perfect work in those who are called.

Kathy, a Catholic sister, confessed that she sleeps with a different man every weekend. “Oh, we don’t do anything,” she said, “… just sleep together, get up in the morning, take a shower and fix breakfast.”

Incredulous.

Look, Christ would not approve, and Kathy would say I’m being judgemental. However, Jesus did not say, “Do not judge.” Study the entire passage in context — Matthew 7:1-6. Our Lord commands us to not judge with hypocrisy. If I’m sleeping with my girlfriend then I have no right to judge Kathy. Since I have lived a celibate life I have every right to judge her. Paul said to not associate, or eat with one who claims to be a Christian, but lives an immoral life (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Of course, Christians must judge (and righteously so) according to both the Law and Gospel, but I fear the narrow path has become less crowded (Matthew 7:13-14).

Suggested Reading: Christ Our Lord, Messiah Gate, 15 October 2014.

Notes:

1. A letter from Martin Luther to Melanchthon, Letter 99, 1 August 1521.

2. Don’t Tell Me That from Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses (Lutheran Press 2004).

3. First Disputation Against the Antinomians, from Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses, 18 December 1537.

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Christ Our Lord

(Revised, 10-17-2014, 11:25 am)

Quisquis natus est ex Deo, peccatum non facit, quoniam semen ejus in ipso manet; et non potest peccare, quia ex Deo genitus est.

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (1 John 3:9).

The young woman — newly born in Christ — apologized for her flakey behavior. The girl sheepishly confessed, “I’m stoned.”

I have known far too many professing Christians who live like pagans. They smoke, drink, have sex, go to bars, use drugs and live out-of-wedlock. Sometimes I want to shout from the mountaintop, “Is there anyone who has not bowed down to Ba’al?” (See the story of Elijah, 1 Kings 19.)

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

How can the “church” be a light unto the world when so many of its members are walking in darkness? What does it mean to be saved? People seem to think they can go on sinning because they are covered by the blood of Christ — and confession of sin is unnecessary because they have eternal security.

Those who love the world, but are afraid of God’s judgement, are easily seduced by this false doctrine which gives them permission to go on sinning guilt-free. But what about repentance?

unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:5).

Harry Ironside wrote:

The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed.

Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past.

Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all. [1]

Ironside (ca. 1876 – 1951) was a Canadian-American theologian whose Plymouth Brethren (Dispensational) background was in doctrinal alignment with his fundamental contemporaries Dwight L. Moody and Cyrus Scofield. (Readers of Messiah Gate know that we have serious theological differences with our Dispensational brothers.)

A schism within the church developed in the 1980’s between those who believe in faith-based salvation, and those who adhere to the doctrine of Lordship salvation. One side holds to Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith, not works …

Yet we know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified (Gal 2:16).

… and those who side with James that a man is justified by works, and not faith alone (James 2:14-26).

A more careful reading of scripture will dispel any misunderstanding of these passages. Paul is clearly referencing the works of the law — all 613 articles of Mosaic code — while James is citing works of righteousness.

James affirms that we are saved by faith, but justified by good works. We’re talking about two different things. Lordship salvation exhorts us to bear the fruit of our submission to Jesus Christ.

This debate has also been presented in the context of saving faith versus consecrated faith. Saving faith is that which is prescribed by the Gospel while consecrated faith reflects our submission to Christ as Lord. According to some fundamentalists, the former is essential while the latter is voluntary.

Where does the Bible teach this? There is only one faith … (Ephesians 4:5).

We are, therefore, dead to sin  (Romans 6:11). Not turning from our iniquity brings shame to the Gospel, and is a powerless witness unto the world.

What are we to do with professing Christians who live in sin? Understand, we are not talking about faithful believers who may occasionally stumble, but unrepentant followers who willfully transgress.

Recall that Ironside said repentance is not necessary.

The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future.

Paul noted that we are, indeed, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul and James are in agreement though seemingly at odds with fundamentalist thought.

Does John mean to suggest that a believer never sins? John Calvin offers this interpretation:

(John) says that they sin not who are born of God. Now, we must consider, whether God wholly regenerates us at once, or whether the remains of the old man continue in us until death. If regeneration is not as yet full and complete, it does not exempt us from the bondage of sin except in proportion to its own extent. It hence appears that it cannot be but that the children of God are not free from sins, and that they daily sin, that is, as far as they have still some remnants of their old nature. Nevertheless, what the Apostle contends for stands unalterable, that the design of regeneration is to destroy sin, and that all who are born of God lead a righteous and a holy life, because the Spirit of God restrains the lusting of sin. [2]

Calvin’s assessment is fair. Regeneration is an ongoing process. Paul wrote that he had not yet attained perfection, but that was his goal (Philippians 3:12-16).

If I correct a wayward brother I am accused of being judgemental. But what does the Bible say?

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). 

I (Paul) wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Certainly, a discerning spirit is necessary to sift the many people who occupy a Sunday pew. Church can be a compromising place for not all who call themselves Christian are, by example, in Christ.

Granted, not all brethren are at the same level of spiritual development, but the doctrine of saving faith suggests that it is not even necessary to submit completely to God for we are saved by grace, and not of ourselves.

On the other hand, there are people who are healed (or delivered) immediately from their sins. They turn from their transgressions, and seek after the righteousness of God. A truly saved person will display the visible fruits of their salvation. In essence, that is the message of James. Some think it is heresy to say, but I agree. You might error or even fall away for a time, but the seed planted within you is like an ember that burns in the ashes. I know this to be true from my own walk.

Lordship salvation — our submission to Christ — seems to be defined by one precept, and that is repentance. Compare the teaching of Ironside with the words of Peter after he delivered the Gospel message in Jerusalem:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).

Repentance means that you forsake or turn from your sins. From what has Christ saved us if we do not stop sinning? If we are saved by grace shall we go on sinning so that grace will abound? By no means declares Paul (Romans 6:1-2). And what did Christ tell the woman caught in adultery? Go and sin no more (John 8:11).

What is this seed that keeps us from transgressing?

Calvin explains:

The Apostle means the same thing by the seed of God; for God’s Spirit so forms the hearts of the godly for holy affections, that the flesh and its lusts do not prevail, but being subdued and put as it were under a yoke, they are checked and restrained. In short, the Apostle ascribes to the Spirit the sovereignty in the elect, who by his power represses sin and suffers it not to rule and reign. [3]

Augustine so derived that this seed is the word of God which the Holy Spirit brings to fruition in the heart of a truly saved person who, though he may stumble, will not habitually sin.

Of course, we have examples in the Bible where people are not instructed to repent. Paul told his jailer that he had only to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved (Acts 16:31). It is faulty exegesis, however, to not compare scripture with scripture. If all one has to do is believe — well, the demons believe and they tremble in fear (James 2:19).

I could simply confess belief in God and go back to living in the muck and mire from whence Christ saved me. Even as Paul coped with the struggle between flesh and spirit it is comforting to know that God will not forsake us (Romans 7:21-25).

As to whether we can sin or not, Barnes concludes:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin – This passage must either mean that they who are born of God, that is, who are true Christians, do not sin habitually and characteristically, or that everyone who is a true Christian is absolutely perfect, and never commits any sin. If it can be used as referring to the doctrine of absolute perfection at all, it proves, not that Christians may be perfect, or that a “portion” of them are, but that all are. But who can maintain this? Who can believe that John meant to affirm this? Nothing can be clearer than that the passage has not this meaning, and that John did not teach a doctrine so contrary to the current strain of the Scriptures, and to fact; and if he did not teach this, then in this whole passage he refers to those who are habitually and characteristically righteous. [4]

In other words, our desire is to be perfect and sin not, but if we lapse (and confess our sin) He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Consider that salvation is contingent upon our abiding in Christ. He said that we are to bear fruit, but whosoever does not remain in Him will be gathered as a branch and burned in the fire (John 15:1-6).

Doesn’t sound like eternal security — not if you say a prayer and light your pipe. After all, it’s hard to walk the narrow path … when you’re stoned.

Notes:

1. Dr. Harry Ironside, Sermon, What is the Gospel?

2. Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, John Calvin, 1555.

3. Ibid

4. Barnes Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes, 1834.

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Who is Israel?

(revised 08-06-14, 9:30 am)

There have been no recent posts on Messiah Gate as I’ve been immersed in the study of God’s land promise including this seven-part study linked at Fundamentally Reformed.

Was the land promise fulfilled as declared with certainty in Joshua 21:43-45? Dispensationalists say, no — that the land promise is yet to be fulfilled in modern Israel. But how can some deny what Joshua confirmed — that the LORD gave to Israel all that He promised their fathers?

That promise conveyed to Abraham was then transferred to his seed, Jesus Christ, according to Paul in Galatians 3:16  — and extended to all the nations as so stated in Galatians 3:8. (See also Romans 9:6, Romans 2:28-29.)

Those within the church who criticize spiritual eschatology have not only a problem with New Testament writers, but even Jesus Christ who spiritualized the Old Testament through parables. Indeed, there are Christians who dismiss the Pauline epistles, and who claim that the Apostle was a false prophet sent by Satan to deceive the world. They are looking for the physical restoration of the land of Israel with a re-built temple and animal sacrifices — all of which denies the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

The ultimate land promise, however, is that the meek will inherit the whole earth (Matthew 5:5, Psalm 37:11) though many Bible commentators understand that this is not an inheritance of a carnal realm, but heavenly:

The blessing instanced, in which they shall partake of, is, they shall inherit the earth; not the land of Canaan, though that may be alluded to; nor this world, at least in its present situation; for this is not the saints’ rest and inheritance: but rather, the “new earth”, which will be after this is burnt up; in which only such persons as are here described shall dwell; and who shall inherit it, by virtue of their being heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; whose is the earth, and the fullness thereof (Gills Exposition of the Bible).

The Old Testament is typology — Jesus Christ is the reality. Dispensationalism is a stumbling block to this ultimate truth. 

Double fulfillment of prophesy is a dispensational tool that is at least problematic. Jesus clearly did not believe (as is commonly taught) that the “Abomination of Desolation” was fulfilled at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (167 BC) when He interpreted Daniel’s prophecy in Matthew 24:15 — a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

As Milton S. Terry wrote in his book Biblical Hermeneutics:

…the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain a double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all (hermeneutic) interpretation. If Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all. I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense and that our first objective should be to discover that sense, and adhere to it rigidly. [see note 1]

We might also consider this passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit (Mt 21:43).

Here, Christ our Lord tells Israel that the Kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a nation — that is, Gentiles — who will produce the fruits thereof.

Our dispensational brothers call this Replacement Theology — a heresy, they claim. Would they say that Jesus was a heretic? Well, the Pharisees thought so.

As well, followers of John Nelson Darby might re-examine their interpretation of Revelation. Will Jesus literally reign 1000 years over a carnal world? He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Clearly, the thousand years is Biblical symbolism for the completeness of the age between the two Advents of Christ during which time our Lord is reigning in heaven with the souls of the departed saints who died in Him (Revelation 20:4).

It would take a millennium — hyperbole intended — to cleanse the body of Christ of, essentially, the fanciful doctrines of men.

When Christ said, I am the true vine (John 15:1), He boldly declared that He is Israel for the vine is an Old Testament reference to God’s holy nation (Psalm 80:8, 14-15) which today comprises both believing Jews and Gentiles who, by grace, have been grafted into the body of Christ — similarly described as an olive tree (Jeremiah 11:16).

(NLT) But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree (Romans 11:17-18).

That all Israel will be saved, according to Paul (Romans 11:26), has always been understood as the LORD having preserved a remnant of believing Jews that, together with elect Gentiles, comprise a holy nation that will dwell eternally in the new Jerusalem. It is granted that how the Bible has been historically understood is at odds with some evangelicals who — like the zealots that wanted to coronate Jesus — are looking for a carnal fulfillment of prophesy. And it does influence how we interpret not only the Bible, but our understanding of world events especially with regard to Israel. (See our post, The Preemie Gospel).

Hear me, my brothers. All of scripture points to Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Law and prophets. If we don’t understand this we miss the central theme of the Gospel.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). 

And the Son offered Himself back to the Father as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice wholly acceptable for the remission of sin. 

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:54). 

The Gospel message is an amazing covenant of grace and mercy that you can receive by putting your faith and hope in Jesus Christ. He confounded the religious leaders of His day, and continues to be a stumbling block for many Christians (two thousand years later) who don’t understand the meaning of the last day.

There will be a last trump of the last day (at the end of time) when Christ returns to claim His bride [rapture, see note 2], and incinerate the physical universe. Then, the new heaven and new earth — adorned to perfection — will welcome us home into the arms of an awesome God and glorious Savior.

Where Israel is only the type, the Kingdom of God is the fulfillment. Come to the cross and receive Jesus — for now is the day of your salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Next: My Hebrew Brother

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Notes:

[1.] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (New York: Easton ; Mains, 1883), p. 383.

[2.] 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

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Seek Ye the Truth

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:6-9)

This is a difficult topic to discuss because it risks sowing division within the body of Christ. There are six things the LORD hates, and a seventh that is an abomination which is spreading strife among brothers (Pr 6:16-19).

Paul wrote to the assembly at Rome:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Ro 16:17-18). 

Dissension and discord are spread when pastors and teachers corrupt or distort the word of God. Let’s examine the following passages:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13).

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mk 11:24). 

Kenneth Copeland recently aired a week-long series titled How to Believe God for a House — that by simply exercising their faith a person could boldly claim the promises of God and receive the home of their dreams fully furnished to their heart’s every desire.

This is what is called the Word of Faith Gospel, or (in derision) Name it and Claim it.

Copeland told this story on his blog:

I remember in the early days of this ministry when Gloria and I reached the point where we needed a station wagon to get us and our children from one place to the next so I could preach. Like anything else we needed, we went to God’s promises concerning our need, then we prayed, sowed seed, believed God and started speaking the Word. That’s what we did for that car.

He recalled they were short $3000.00 for the purchase of the car until a man called a few days later:

In less than a week, a man called me, crying. “Oh, Brother Copeland, I’m so ashamed of myself. God told me to send you $3,000 a few days ago and I didn’t do it. I’ve hung on to it until I cannot stand it anymore.” The first time that man heard God tell him to send us the money was the same time we talked about getting the car.”

Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar (and many others on Christian television) exhort believers to simply exercise their faith to get from God whatever they need. The gospel they preach (gleaned from Malachi 3:10) emphasizes that sowing seed into their ministries will reap material blessings. It is not uncommon for Hinn to ask for thousand dollar (or more) donations to his program. The foundation of this false gospel is built upon a distorted interpretation of Scripture:

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Lk 6:38).

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2Co 9:6).

These passages are ancient Jewish allusions to the substance of giving, and dealing fairly with all people. We will be remembered in our time of need by those to whom we give liberally in their time of poverty. A Hebrew understood, however, that his charity might not be returned in the form of material but spiritual blessings.

The prosperity gospel emphasizes, as well, this passage from Paul’s second letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness (2Co 9:10).

Word of Faith preachers interpret this to mean if you donate $1000.00 to their ministry, God will increase your abundance so you can give even more. But, here, Paul is alluding to a passage found in the Tanakh:

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12). 

We sow, then, to reap spiritual blessings which YHWH may choose to confer in this life, or after. Warning: If you give $3000.00 to Benny Hinn don’t expect that God will give you the house of your dreams. That is a perverse understanding of the Jewish custom of giving. To give money with the expectation that the LORD will pay you back with interest reflects not a generous heart, but one that is wicked.

One final note on this subject — it is interesting that the New Testament does make reference to the word of faith. In Paul’s letter to Rome he mentions the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Ro 10:8-9).

My question to our readers is this: Which word of faith gospel do you believe? The gospel of prosperity, or the gospel of Jesus Christ?

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False teaching abounds within the Charismatic movement that is seen worldwide on Christian television. That was the featured discussion of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. MacArthur is pastor of Grace Community Church, host of the media program Grace to You and president of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is a Reformed Theologian and Five Point Calvinist whose teaching is framed by a Dispensational eschatology. His credentials, at least, afford MacArthur a respected seat in the assembly of Christians who are diligently seeking the truth of God.

Strange Fire, as a reminder, is a reference from the Torah relating to the sons of Aaron, brother of Moses:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD (Lv 10:1-2).

Briefly, the priests were to approach the altar in a manner of holiness acceptable to YHWH. Aaron’s sons violated the commandment of the LORD, and died.

MacArthur’s point was that many within the charismatic movement are approaching God in a manner that is unholy in attitude and practice. Their style of worship might even be considered blasphemous. The crux of the issue is a debate between continualists and cessationists — those who believe that the assigned gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles, signs and wonders) which were given to the apostles as confirmation of their authority) ended when the last Apostle died, and those who believe that these gifts continue today. [It is important to note that MacArthur believes the Holy Spirit is still active in the world drawing people to Christ, and restraining Satan.]

Those who disagree with MacArthur were quick to respond:

So, it’s about time someone started a broader public discussion and issued an open challenge to some of this (charismatic) theology. But what we got instead was a reckless condemnation of half a billion Christians with little distinction maintained throughout. MacArthur did put in a little qualifier in his opening discussion, but did not maintain it at all later. Indeed, he did the opposite. When the moderator would bring up extreme cases as examples for discussion, MacArthur seemed to use them as a launching point to speak in broad generalities, and with sweeping condemnation of “these people” to hell. With his careless rhetoric, MacArthur locked charismatics and anyone who could be associated with them all in the same building, and then burned the place down, standing proudly in righteous self-justification as he tossed the match. (Reckless Fire, Dr. Joel McDurmon, The American Vision Biblical Worldview Ministry)

Countered by those who agreed:

If you believe in truth and error, facts and falsehood, right and wrong, then you recognize the need to seek truth as opposed to false teaching. This is the position of John MacArthur, and it should be the position of every evangelical Christian, including those who disagree with MacArthur’s cessationist views. Here’s the fact of the matter – the continualist who believes MacArthur is wrong and the cessationist who believes MacArthur is right are closer to each other than the person who says this debate doesn’t matter or cannot be decided. Why? Because both the committed continualist and the committed cessationist believe God has revealed Himself on this issue and that we are accountable to live according to God’s revealed truth. If MacArthur is wrong, he is in the frightening position of attributing the work of the Spirit to satanic deception. If MacArthur is right, charismatics should repent of false belief and practice. As you can see, the stakes are high. (The Right and Wrong Way to Engage John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference, Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition) 

John MacArthur’s summation:

There is one other group we’d like to address in the wake of Strange Fire—the folks on either side of the debate who are simply sad, tired, and wish the whole matter would just go away. That group is made up of cessationists, continualists, and charismatics who had set aside their differences in the name of unity and love, and now feel as though a bomb has gone off in the midst of their beloved middle ground. If you’re one of those people, please understand that the decision to hold the Strange Fire conference was not made capriciously. Strange Fire was a response to a tidal wave of dangerous, damning lies that are leading hundreds of millions of people to hell. Unity through silence has not held back that tidal wave—it’s sweeping across the global church. Truth does matter, and it’s worth fighting for.

When does our search for truth violate the faith of fellow believers? Will God judge me as I have judged the Word of Faith teachers? Or as John MacArthur has judged the charismatics? John the Apostle said that we must test the spirits for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1Jn 4:1); Paul warns against the deceitful workmen who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2Co 11:13); and Luke wrote, Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

We might note that when Paul and Silas were sent to Berea the resident Jews diligently searched the Scriptures to examine the truth of the Apostle’s teaching (Acts 17:10-11). A charismatic, or Word of Faith teacher is not validated just because they are seen daily on Christian television.

Test the spirits — because truth matters.

Suggested Reading: The Gift of Discerning Spirits

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View Part 1 of this Q&A here.