Friday, July 28, 2006

A Refreshing Article on Leadership

When I was wrestling with the question of eldership and what is the biblical response to an elder who shows himself to no longer be above reproach (Titus 1:6,7) specifically regarding sexual immorality, I sent some messages to various pastors and teachers that I respect. I also made a point to send this question to ministries with varying doctrinal positions (some were more Armenian and some were more reformed) so that I would get sort of a cross section of where different ministries fall on this issue. One of the responses that I received (a very nice and personal one at that) from a leader at a more emergent style church said,

"If there is evidence that character issues that may have contributed to past failings have been addressed and overcome, and if the person has done all he or she can do to repair damage caused by past decisions, our conviction is that the individual may by God’s grace aspire to any ministry he or she is called to."

I responded to this e-mail requesting a response that used scripture, not just vague concepts that may not necessarily apply to this type of situation. I then received this response,
"As Christians we should attempt to be as forgiving and grace-filled as God, impossible as that might be. But that doesn't mean that our actions won't have unpleasant consequences in our lives here with other people. In the case you're describing, that might mean someone taking a break from church leadership while they deal with the 'fallout' from their actions. They might need to rebuild their reputation with those they feel called to lead. They also might need to do some difficult work on a potential character issue that caused them to stumble. Whatever the situation, though, the prayerful and God-led judgment and discernment of church leaders is necessary."

This response (a) didn't seem to be pulled from exegesis concerning church leadership and accountability or (b) reference a bible verse at all. I was not totally surprised with this response because I know a bit more about that specific church and some of its teachings. I did receive a response from another teacher who is definitely not emergent in ecclesiology where he said this, "An act of adultery would make the man not blameless and would also have a bad reputation. 1 Tim.3:2. Let me say this, if I committed adultery, I would be outta here."

If you are at all familiar with my blog, you will not be surprised to know that I really enjoy the teaching and preaching of John MacArthur. I had written a few articles a while back regarding elders and the requirements to be an elder (elders: qualifications and tasks and more thoughts on eldership), and I am becoming more and more concerned with the church and the leaders who she accepts and allows to preach and teach the word of God. Below are some excerpts from an article that John MacArthur's ministry posted online concerning this topic.
"Some time ago I received a cassette tape that disturbed me greatly. It was a recording of the recommissioning service of a pastor who had made national news by confessing to an adulterous affair. After little more than a year of “counseling and rehabilitation,” this man was returning to public ministry with his church’s blessing.

That is happening everywhere. Restoration teams—equipped with manuals to instruct the church on how to reinstate their fallen pastor—wait like tow-truck drivers on the side of the highway, anticipating the next leadership “accident”. Our church has received inquiries wondering if we have written guidelines or a workbook to help restore fallen pastors to leadership. Many no doubt expect that a church the size of ours would have a systematic rehabilitation program for sinning leaders.

Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church. But an even greater problem is the lowering of standards to accommodate a leader’s sin. That the church is so eager to bring these men back into leadership is a symptom of rottenness at the core."

"We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be regarded lightly. The foremost requirement of a church leader is that he be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it."

When referring to his body, Paul obviously had sexual immorality in view. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 he describes it as a sin against one’s own body—sexual sin is in its own category. Certainly it disqualifies a man from church leadership since he permanently forfeits a blameless reputation as a one-woman man (Proverbs 6:33; 1 Timothy 3:2).

Where did we get the idea that a year’s leave of absence and some counseling can restore integrity to someone who has squandered his reputation and destroyed people’s trust? Certainly not from the Bible. Trust forfeited is not so easily regained. Once purity is sacrificed, the ability to lead by example is lost forever. As my friend Chuck Swindoll once commented when referring to this issue—it takes only one pin to burst a balloon.

What about forgiveness? Shouldn’t we be eager to restore our fallen brethren? To fellowship, yes. But not to leadership. It is not an act of love to return a disqualified man to public ministry; it is an act of disobedience.

By all means we should be forgiving. But we cannot erase the consequences of sin. I am not advocating that we “shoot our wounded.” I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t rush them back to the front lines, and we should not put them in charge of other soldiers. The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented. But that does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to a man who has disqualified himself and forfeited the right to lead. Doing so is unbiblical and lowers the standard God has set. "

"What should you do in the current crisis? Pray for your church’s leaders. Keep them accountable. Encourage them. Let them know you are following their godly example. Understand that they are not perfect, but continue nonetheless to call them to the highest level of godliness and purity. The church must have leaders who are genuinely above reproach. Anything less is an abomination."1

1 Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored? by John MacArthur (Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church, © 1991 by John MacArthur. )

Friday, July 21, 2006

More on Apostles

I skimmed the piece that Marc (comment on my previous post) provided the link to, specifically Chapter 35 "True Apostles Should Decide Doctrinal Matters". Here is a quote, "I believe that if the church would scrap an awful lot of their missionary concepts and go back to the Bible instead of trying to educate people to know the languages and to understand all the cross-cultural things and just major in the heart of the missionary that is sent out." Other than the fact that there is an “if” but not a “then” part in his writing here, he seems to be advocating for missionaries not to learn either the language of the people that we are going to see and evangelize or that we shouldn’t learn the biblical languages and just go with a heart for people. There are a myriad of problems that could come with this, but one danger is that we would be getting passionate people who don’t know the gospel and aren’t familiar or trained in the Word.

The title of the chapter is what caught my eye. He makes another comment, “Never, never, never! Hear me! I'd like to say "never" four hundred times to emphasize it - Never!! Never let anything come out of your mouth derogatory against anybody that has any sphere of influence that is attempting to preach the Word of God. It's important that we realize that the world sees us as one.” This is utterly shocking and horribly wrong even if the motivation is correct. If we follow this, we cannot denounce T.D. Jakes as a heretic , we cannot denounce Robert Schuler as a heretic, nor can we call out Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar for their “little gods” theology that they promote and teach because they use the name of Jesus and they have a sphere of influence.

Paul denounced people (whether they were teachers or laymen, they were known by the readers of his letters) who were using the name of Christ in their ministry distorting and opposing the truth of Christ (1 Timothy 1:19,20; 4:14,15). Also, one issue that I did not deal with in my article was the qualifications for an apostle as laid out in Acts 1 as basically someone who witnessed the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22). Modern day men cannot be apostles in the sense of the apostolic office of Peter, Paul, John, and the others in the New Testament because they didn’t see the resurrected Lord and were not taught directly by Him.

As for Mr. Ravenhill’s comments (I do think that I know you by another pseudonym), I think that there is a danger that we can fall into if we use Western culture to define Christianity. I do not think that this is what MacArthur does, though. His focus, and I believe that it is the right focus (whether or not you agree with his conclusions or not is a matter for another discussion), is that the Word of God is our only source of judging what we experience as being true or false. “But God's church is a global body not just centered in the west and the testimonies and experiences of believers outside of our educated western mind set has led me to reject my secessionist upbringing because it didn't fit with God's church universally.” We need to do all that we can to divorce ourselves from presuppositions that say either “miraculous gifts are for today” or “miraculous gifts aren’t for today” and search the scriptures to best understand things and then judge our experiences or stories in light of what the Word says. There are mystical experiences and miraculous type things that are associated with the devil too! I am not saying that people who believe in the prevalence of Gifts today are demonic or anything like that, but I am referring to how the false prophets in Pharaoh’s court copied most of the signs and wonders that Moses performed (Exodus 7:8-13). Mormons experience a genuine “burning in the bosom” to confirm what they believe, but what they believe is not in line with Scripture.

Bottom line, scripture is the final authority and all experience (mine included) need to be judged against that standard. If the Bible says that something that I genuinely experienced was not of the Spirit of God, I must hold fast to that Word and plead for understanding.

Glory to God! Let us seek Him through His revealed Word by the power of His Holy Spirit.

1 The Ministry of An Apostle by Clifford A. Rice p.87

2 Ibid. p. 86

3 See my article on Oneness Theology for more information.

4 Robert Schuler does not affirm that Christ is the only way – he says that the only sure way that he knows of to get to heaven is by naming the name of Jesus, but he leaves the door open to other ways. This is one small example of the horribly heretical teachings of Robert Schuler.

5 quote from Leonard Ravenhill’s comment to a previous article

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


What is an apostle? What does it mean to be an apostle? What makes one an “apostle”? Are there modern day apostles, or was this only a first century anomaly in the Church? These are the questions that I want to address.

To set the stage for this investigation, I want to briefly look at baptism. Just like the word apostle, we get the name or action of baptism as a result of a transliteration of a Greek word. The Greek root word for baptism is baptizw (bap-ti-zo). It literally means to to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge.1 The point that I want to make is that instead of translating this word into English, the translators just wrote the same Greek word in English. This is not normal when translating material except when translating proper names. For instance, the English word “man” or “mankind” when it appears in the New Testament usually comes from the Greek word anqrwpoV (an-throw-pos) and we get the name for the scientific study of human beings, anthropology, from this Greek word. The point is that the translators used a word that was already in the language of the hearers instead of transliterating this word for man or mankind. A possible equivalent way that they could have translated the word “baptizw“ instead of just transliterating it into “baptize” would have been to write something like this:

"I immersed you with water; but He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:8)

Leaving aside the debate about how we are to observe baptism (whether it is to dip, dunk, splash, sprinkle, or whatever) the meaning of the passage as it was communicated by Christ is clearer. We make a few mistakes, if we are not careful, when we read the passage with the word “baptize” in it. First of all, we may think that we need to be sprinkled, dipped, dunked, or splashed with the Holy Spirit if we don’t understand what Jesus is truly saying. We also might connect the indwelling of the Spirit of God with a physical act, and thereby make salvation available by undergoing some form of water baptism.

The Greek word that is behind the English word “apostle” is the word apostoloV (a-pos-tol-os) and it is transliterated in the same way as “baptize” is. So, in order to understand who or what an apostle is, we need to articulate what the word or title of apostoloV would have meant to the readers back when the New Testament was written.

The Greek word for apostle literally means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders”2 and it also contains the idea that the person referenced has authority by the one who sent him out. So, in the most literal sense of the word, an apostle of Jesus Christ is a person telling about Jesus Christ (being a messenger) who clearly and unapologetically speaks the truth of God as communicated to him (authority).

It seems that all of the disciples of Christ were also called Apostles and held a special apostolic office. This office was of supernatural commission and had supernatural power to authenticate the message that they brought. We see that Jesus gave His disciples special power over unclean spirits and over sickness (Matthew 10:1-4) and that all of 12, even Judas Iscariot, were commissioned in the same way. After the declaration of the power given to them, they were referred to as apostles for the first time.

Luke refers to Paul and Barnabas as apostles (Acts 14:14) and it seems that Paul indicates that there were many apostles over and above the 12.3 The clearest indication that there were a number of men who were apostles is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

The James who is specifically mentioned above would seem to be the half brother of Jesus. Both James and Jude were the natural sons of Joseph and Mary.4 We also see Paul reference James specifically in another letter, “But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother.” (Galatians 1:19) He was clearly not one of the 12 disciples, but he was one of Jesus’ many siblings. “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? ‘Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?’” (Matthew 13:54,55)

However, one of the clearest indications that an apostle is someone who goes out with power and authority by the one who does the sending as opposed to a title only reserved for the 12 close disciples of Jesus is found in the book of Hebrews. “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;” (Hebrews 3:1). Here we see that Jesus Christ Himself is an apostle from God. This does not negate or diminish His deity or any of His other attributes in the same way that being called our High Priest or our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) does not diminish this but serves to describe different parts of His ministry.

It seems that an apostle of Jesus Christ is someone who goes out to represent Him and speaks with the authority that He has given. I also believe that there was a special apostolic office that was only around during the first century where men spoke and wrote the infallible word of God for the people to hear, believe, and obey. Once the scriptures were completed, there was no need to have more apostolic teaching because the teaching was already contained in the written word. So in the sense of the power (to do miracles) and authority (to speak and write the infallible word of God) of the apostles that we see recorded in the Bible, that office no longer exists. However, in the sense that believers are sent by Christ and have the power of His Word (the Bible) to bear witness of Christ and to seek and save the lost, there are apostles today.

In short, the word “apostle” is not intended, and should not be limited, to only refer to the 12 men who made up the inner circle of the followers of Jesus. It was applied to many different individuals, including Christ Himself, and was referring to someone who was sent and had authority.

1 Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Baptizo". "The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon". . 1999.

2 Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Apostolos". "The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon". . 1999.

3 After Judas betrayed Christ and killed himself, another man took his place and was numbered with the 12.

4 Joseph and Mary were not to be intimate until after Christ was born (Matthew 1:25), Luke refers to Christ as Mary’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7) and not her only son, and the word adelfoV (ah-del-fahs) that we see in Matthew 13:55 most properly refers to brothers, not cousins or other close kin.

Monday, July 17, 2006

a bold request

Recently, someone has taken up my challenge to "be a contender - submit a post (or to submit an idea that you want ME write about" and the subject is that of praying to saints - am I for it or against it, and what are the reasons why. Now, without "tipping my hand" as it were, it should come as no surprise that I am categorically against praying to saints. I am going to look at the issue, search the scriptures to find out how exactly prayer described and to whom prayer is ascribed. Then, I will look at the specific question of whether or not praying to saints is compatible with the Biblical model.

Also, there have been some comments to my blog about the apostleship of Paul, and I want to deal with that again from a different angle. One of the issues (maybe the main one) has to do with the word “apostle” and what it means, both generally and specifically.

In short, with these two large topics along with my last two weeks of teaching Christology, I have my work cut out for me. I know that not everyone will agree with my findings and conclusions about anything that I write, but I only ask that you test what I write in light of scripture to see if it is true. If I am shown to be wrong in what I say by means of searching the scriptures, I will have to change my position so that it lines up with the truth that was once and for all delivered to the saints. If I am arguing with people who employ "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), then my response, although it will not be original, will be "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."1


Friday, July 14, 2006

theological candy

Now, I don’t normally take quizzes or take part in many online forums, but I was checking out a couple of blogs that came across my radar recently and I found a quiz that asks about 30 questions and attempts to zero in on where the quiz taker is coming from pertaining to theology. Well, it shouldn’t surprise you that I was intrigued, and I took it straight away.

As anything online, or anywhere for that matter, the quiz was not perfect and it had some interesting questions. The most confusing thing for me was that each question had 6 possible radio buttons to select from in order to answer the question. They ranged from disagree (way on the left) to agree (way on the right) but there were no specific gradations in the answers like “somewhat agree” or “n/a” or whatever. Nonetheless, the questions were quite good, the answers will show if you are an Arminian or Calvanist, or if you believe in any kind of works righteousness. Basically, it was fun.

You scored as Martin Luther.
The daddy of the Reformation.
You are opposed to any Catholic
ideas of works-salvation and see
the scriptures as being primarily

Martin Luther


Karl Barth


John Calvin


Jonathan Edwards




Friedrich Schleiermacher


Paul Tillich




Charles Finney




Which theologian are you?
created with

Final note: I call it theological candy because it "tastes good" and it may be fun, but it's not worth much more than a mouth full of holes and a stomach in need of real food, and we should not look for theological validation from a web survey...obvious, I know, but I had to say it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Was Paul a false apostle?

If you have not read a comment made on my previous post by a reader, let me summarize it for you. A blogger seemed to copy and paste much of a very long article entitled “Paul was a false apostle: Paul Vs. Jesus” where he makes the argument that scripture affirms that Paul was a false apostle because he didn’t qualify to be an apostle, his doctrine is proven false, he apparently lied about his conversion, Paul’s doctrine contradicts Christ’s, to name a few.

Normally, with a line of reasoning like this that would call Christ into question or that would call the Bible itself into question, I might use historical facts in my defense of the Bible or the conscience in my defense of the my Savior, but this attack upon Paul is a different animal all together. Honestly, this idea that Paul is a false apostle as well as arguing it from scripture seems dangerously similar to people who believe that Jesus was not a real person in history and that he was just concocted out of thin air.

I have not decided how or if I will respond to any, many, or all of the specific allegations that the blogger made, but I do want to respond quickly, at least. Also, I feel that this battle, over Paul and the doctrines that he articulates, is one that will be going on in the forefront of the “internal” battle in Christianity. Why? Well, you need not look farther than pro-homosexual lifestyle “Christian” groups when they say things like, “Jesus never condemned homosexuality, only Paul.” Jesus also never condemned rape, but do we think that he gave His stamp of approval to rape? Of course not, that would be absurd. The wolves among us will want to change the gospel, and why not start with the single most prolific writer in the New Testament. If you can discredit Paul, then it is easier to make Jesus’ sayings so esoteric that any conclusion drawn from them is ok.

Now that I have set the stage (somewhat)...where to begin. Leaving aside the fact that taking a stance like this, against the Pauline epistles and His apostleship, goes against everyone who has preached Christ from the beginning of the Christian faith, including the apostles themselves, if we are to throw out the Pauline scriptures, we must cast off Luke's gospel and Acts as well. It was because Luke was a student of Paul that he possessed the necessary “credentials” for even having his writings considered to be in the scriptures. Luke was not an apostle, nor do we know much about him from, but he seems to be inseparable from Paul (as evidenced by his descriptions of Paul’s journeys from a first hand standpoint). Also, Luke would have heard, many times, Paul’s claim to apostleship and if he was a disciple of Paul, and if Paul was a false apostle with false doctrine (as the blogger argues), then could we take the writings of an unbeliever or a believer who was duped by this man?

Not only would we need to call into question all of Luke’s writings if we didn’t just discard them right away, but because one of the writings of Peter specifically references the letters of Paul (with a clear hint of the validity of his writings), we then must call into question Peter's writings. And if Peter could be so flawed as to refer to Paul as "our beloved brother Paul" (2 Peter 3:15) instead of as the "false apostle Paul" as well as make the undeniable statement that Paul's writings were scripture (as the context demands in 2 Peter 3:16), then Peter's writings, if not the apostle himself, must be called into question and thrown out. For if Peter, in the very letter where he is addressing false teachers, doesn't mention that Paul is a false apostle but states that "letters" of Paul are scripture, then the Bible loses its stance as being inherent and infallible.

But it doesn't stop there. We'd not only through out Paul (of course, if he were a false apostle), the writings of Luke (Acts and the gospel of Luke), and now Peter because he was obviously flawed in his understanding of who and what Paul was...but we'd also have to through out the gospel of Mark. Because, again, Mark was not an apostle, but he was a disciple of Peter (I believe) and, in the same manner as Luke had authority/credibility because he was Paul’s student, Luke had credibility because he was Paul's disciple. And if Peter, being the teacher, was not coherent enough to denounce this false apostle, then his students were less likely to be able to do this or to be able to discern truth from error.1

So now, we are left with the gospels of Matthew and John; James, the 3 Epistles of John, Jude, Revelation, and maybe Hebrews. I say “maybe” regarding Hebrews because we do not know who the author is. It is a common belief held that it was actually a writing by Paul, but it is not confirmed as a fact. So, do we dare leave this in the Bible if the content is so close and in seeming lock-step with Paul?

This attempt to discount and discredit Paul is not new. It seems that he had this thrown at him in his day and that is why he repeatedly makes his case for his apostleship (Romans 1:1; 11:13; 1 Corinthians 9:1,2; 15:6-9; Galatians 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:7). Let us not throw away the doctrines and the letters of Paul because some who are among us or who claim to be from us are spreading lies. Let us look to the words of Peter, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 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. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,” (2 Peter 3:14-17)

1 See “Mark: Introduction, Argument, and Outline “ at and refer to the section on external evidence for the authorship of Mark to see the connection between Peter and Mark.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Repentance and Faith: two necessary sides of the same saving coin

I was listening to some different pastors preaching about true salvation and the life-changing ripples that necessarily flow out from it. It rekindled my desire to affirm what the Bible says as opposed to what many people think and many churches teach.

Perhaps one of the reasons that sin is taken so lightly today and there is so little brokenness among God's people is that this truth is not taught in the church. Instead people are taught that your assurance of salvation has no relation to whether you obey God or not. We are taught that saving faith is such a weak and powerless thing that it cannot guarantee any changes in life, and therefore to look for those changes as the evidence of saving faith is wrong.

If that is so, the First Epistle of John is going to have to come out of the Bible. Because no matter how hard they try, the easy gospelers cannot make it mean that. Chapter 3:14 says, "We know (i.e., we have assurance) that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death." You cannot have assurance of having passed out of death into life if you are an unloving person. Persistence in sin destroys the assurance of salvation.

A whole branch of "evangelical" theology has come into existence to provide assurance of salvation to lukewarm, disobedient people who call themselves Christians. And this book was written to blow that theology out of the water. Sin is serious because it jeopardizes our assurance1

Perhaps you have never been confronted with this debate, but whether or not you have, I am going to discuss it now because it is of great importance. There is a teaching, and a fairly pervasive one, in evangelical circles that says that as long as you accepted Jesus at one time in your life, you can be assured that you are going to heaven. I heard a conversation between a Lutheran pastor and a Baptist church member where the discussion of confirmation class and infant baptism was addressed. Now, the other issues raised aside, Pastor Tom Brock made a comment that I have adapted into a personal saying of mine.

The saying: The Lutheran heresy is that people get saved through confirmation whereas the Baptist heresy is that people get saved by asking Jesus into their hearts.

Explaining the saying: I use the word “heresy” in a hyperbolic fashion primarily for shock value. Once the conversation is initiated, I can then articulate more clearly what I mean by it. Any good Lutheran church preaches the same saving gospel message as any good Baptist church, but the key here is that they must be “good” churches. The practices of infant baptism and confirmation are traditional2 expressions and a format for instructing the people about the gospel. I will say that one thing, and that is that those of us who don’t have this format for youth (or general member) education could possibly take a note of the importance placed upon the deeper things of the Christian faith that are taught in these classes.

Again, the reason that I bring this up is because of the pervasive idea that if I pray to accept Christ, that is all that is needed for salvation. If we take that at face value, then the gospel is boiled down to knowing and saying the magic words! This is ridiculous, of course, but how far off is that from how many churches articulate the saving message of the gospel. Many churches that preach this horrible mockery of the gospel use the language of “accepting Jesus into your heart” or that the reason that Christ came and died was that He loved you. While we do need to rightly put our faith in Christ (one may say “accept” but I don’t think that this is the best term to use) and it is true that Christ does love people, the primary reason that Christ had to die on the cross is not clearly mentioned, and that is sin. In much of evangelicalism when sin is mentioned, and it is not always addressed using the term “sin”, it is danced around instead of being driven home as humanity’s greatest problem and the chasm that separates us from a holy God.

One does not simply mentally agree with the fact that Christ is Lord, and the Bible addresses this fact (even going further) in the letter of James. “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) I heard a great sermon by a man named Paul Washer where he gave, what I thought to be, a profound metaphor as to the difference between saving faith in Christ and other faith or knowledge of Christ. “You say the most important thing on the face of the earth is to know Jesus Christ. That is not true. The most important thing on the face of the earth is that Jesus Christ knows you. I am not going to get into the white house tomorrow because I walk up the gate and tell everybody, ‘I know George Bush.’ But they will let me in if George Bush comes out and says, ‘I know Paul Washer.’”3

The difference could not be more astounding. If someone hears the message of Jesus and “accepts” the message, they may know who Jesus is, but the only way to be known by Jesus (in the sense of being saved from eternal damnation by Him) is to do what Jesus says. He tells us that we need to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Many people may kind of understand what this means, but they do not understand what Jesus’ audience did. His Jewish audience reverenced (even if in an incorrect manner) the Law of Moses or the 10 Commandments and they knew that when Jesus or John the Baptist or any of the Apostles told them to repent that they were clearly saying that they needed to repent of the transgression of the law given by God. And that is what sin is – it is a transgression of the law of God, or lawlessness (1 John 3:4). A Greek word used for sin (hamartia) means to miss the mark, and a good way to understand this is not that sin is just a jump that doesn’t quite get you high enough to dunk a basketball, but “sin was not simply missing the right mark, but hitting the wrong mark.”4

Once we understand what sin is, and how pervasive and horrible sin is inside of us, then we have need to know that the only just way for God to deal with sin and sinners is to be eternally condemned to hell for the offense against God. Now that someone understands what sin is and how God views sin and then we look at the cross to see what God had to do in order to reconcile a sinful humanity to him, that same person now has the correct frame of reference to approach the cross of Christ and plead for forgiveness at His feet. Once true forgiveness is received and the person is born again, it should now appall this same person to contemplate willingly living a sinful life and this forgiveness should fuel a continuing life of confession of and turning away from sin as we live the rest of our lives.

The false teaching that makes me so angry is the one that separates repentance and faith or that calls repentance legalism (adding something to salvation), and therefore decries this as being heretical. The Bible is very clear that not everyone who claims the name of the Lord will be saved. When speaking about false prophets, Jesus said that false prophets, who can be known by what they do, will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Christ is specifically referring to religious leaders who will lead many astray, but I think that the broader implication is that anyone who holds to and confesses Christ but yet denies Him by how they live will be thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:19) Continuing, Christ said that if you (having heard this message) do not act upon it (by repenting of sin and putting your trust in Christ), your faith will be shown to have been built upon the sand instead of being built upon the saving rock of Christ, and you will not be saved. (Matthew 7:24-28).

If we claim to be saved and yet our lives are not distinguishable from the world or that our hearts are not distinguishable from the Pharisees, then we lie to ourselves, and we have never been saved by God. (see John 14:15; 1 John 2:3; 5:3) “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 John 1:6)

James, in the second chapter of his epistle, is saying this very thing. "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) It is not our works that reconcile us to Christ, but our works are an evidence of the inward work of grace that has truly been done. When giving an analogy, Paul Washer was telling a youth conference that he was late because he was run over by a 30 ton logging truck going 120 miles per hour…and that is why he was late to the meeting. His concluding statement was very powerful, “You would say, ‘Brother Paul it is absolutely absurd…it is impossible, brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.’ And my question would be to you, ‘What is larger, a logging truck or God?’ How is it that so many people profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and yet are not permanently changed?”5

1 “Jesus Christ Is an Advocate for Sinners” a sermon by John Piper (2/10/85)

2 I mean that this is traditional in the sense of the Lutheran church’s heritage. Whether or not it is historical in the sense of the Christian church since the apostles is seriously questioned and debated.

3 I transcribed (attempted to) Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society speaking at a youth conference. I heard this on the Monday, July 3, 2006 Way of the Master Radio program (2nd hour).

4 “The Doctrine of Sin” by Lehman Strauss , Litt.D., F.R.G.S.

5 I transcribed (attempted to) Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society speaking at a youth conference. I heard this on the Monday, July 3, 2006 Way of the Master Radio program (2nd hour).

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