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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Regeneration Does Precede Faith (I Was Wrong)

Posted by Job on March 22, 2013

In the past, I have vehemently criticized the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith. The reason for this was my ignorance. I took regeneration to be another word for conversion in that it had the exact same meaning.

However, regeneration only refers to passing from death to life. It is what happened in the natural sense when Lazarus and a number of unnamed characters were raised from the dead by those such as Jesus Christ, Elijah and Elisha. Those natural regenerations were types, or prefigurements, of the spiritual regeneration that happens when a sinner becomes a believer. We can include the resurrection of Jesus Christ as this sort of natural regeneration, as Jesus Christ’s physical existence went from being dead to alive. Obviously, being the sinless perfect and pre-existing God and Son of God, Jesus Christ needed no spiritual regeneration of any sort. This is in contrast with Lazarus, who not only experienced natural regeneration after being dead four days, but being one born into original sin and having sinned – as the soul that sinneth shall die as Lazarus did – he needed to receive spiritual regeneration also.

The subject of confusion: being regenerated, being born again, is only part of the salvation process. The actual conversion process happens after regeneration. Further, the effectual calling occurs before regeneration.

1. Effectual call: this is when God (the Holy Spirit) calls the sinner to salvation. It takes place when the sinner hears the gospel. (Note: the providence of God must place the sinner in position to hear the gospel first.)

2. Regeneration: this is when the Holy Spirit raises the sinner from the dead.

3. Conversion: this is when the sinner receives faith from the Holy Spirit, believes the gospel of Jesus Christ and hence fulfills John 3:16, Romans 10:8-9 etc.

The effectual calling cannot and will not happen unless one has first been chosen (elected by God the Father unto salvation from before the foundation of the world). The regeneration will not occur until one has been called. And salvation occurs after regeneration.

Why must regeneration precede faith? I am certain that you have heard that “dead men tell no tales.” Similarly, dead men cannot have faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). How can a dead man have assurance or conviction? A secular dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” How can a dead man have trust or confidence of any sort in anything, let alone a complete and total one in the unseen God? A dead man cannot even have wishy washy confidence in the casket that he is lying in. Why? Because he is dead. He doesn’t even know that he is in a casket. He has no feelings, thoughts or emotions.

This is not a contrivance of philosophy or idle speculation, but a truth clearly taught in scripture. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.” Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But that is Paul’s doctrine, right? Well from the words of Jesus Christ in John 3:3: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now John 3:3 is key. Seeing the kingdom of God or entering the kingdom of God is always used by Jesus Christ to refer to salvation. Always. So, Jesus Christ explicitly states that one must be born again before that person can be saved. Again, when Jesus Christ said “except”, He was making a condition. So, the condition of being saved was being born again. Regeneration precedes conversion or salvation. And take a look at Ephesians 2:8, which says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God.” Regeneration precedes salvation. Salvation comes by faith. Thus, regeneration precedes faith. It is clearly, explicitly taught in scripture.

The doctrine of regeneration precedes faith is considered to be a Calvinist distinctive. However, many non-Calvinists believe so also without acknowledging or admitting it. Many non-Calvinists believe that God makes a change in the sinner that allows the sinner to make a choice to accept or reject him. Of course, the acceptance is a decision made through faith, and the rejection is a decision made through a lack of faith according to this doctrine. The non-Calvinist does not refer to this as regeneration, of course, because he recognizes that regeneration must necessarily result in salvation. So the non-Calvinist regards this as God’s merely opening the sinner’s eyes and hearts for the purposes of allowing him a free choice.

Problems with this doctrine are many. The Bible makes it clear that unsaved people are spiritually dead. So the person goes from spiritually dead to “sort of dead”, akin to the woman who says that she is “sort of pregnant”? Just as you are either pregnant or not, you are either dead or not … there is no in-between! Second, how can the “sort of dead/alive” person choose to believe and accept God on this basis in the absence of faith? Simple: he cannot. He cannot accept the gospel and believe without faith. And if God gives him faith, he will inevitably believe. There is no such thing as conditional, decision-based faith that is only activated on choice. So, for the sinner to choose God once God makes this choice possible requires the sinner to already have faith present within himself. And if this faith is present, he never was a sinner to begin with, and he was never spiritually dead to begin with. The Bible states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The converse would mean that those who have faith are already acceptable to God, meaning that they were righteous, justified, regenerate and converted already. Instead of being in a condition of original sin, this person would have had to have been inherently righteous already without having heard the gospel and without need of Jesus Christ. Moreover, if such a righteous person were to confess and repent of his sinful condition and state his need for Christ to be his savior, that person would be a liar!

The doctrine of regeneration coming after faith – or truthfully that regeneration and conversion are the same – is due to people being determined to believe that God must offer a man a free choice to accept or reject Him in order to be just and righteous. However, accepting God cannot be made in the absence of faith! The Bible is clear on this. Thus, denying that regeneration precedes faith is nothing more than an absolute determination to believe a lie.

This also solves the problem of those who fall away and confirms the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, or “once saved always saved.” Be not deceived: faith is not mere belief. Faith only comes by the Holy Spirit after the Holy Spirit regenerates you. And after conversion, the Holy Spirit seals you and keeps you in the faith. The Bible is clear on this. The Bible is also clear with the parable of the sower that it is possible to believe the gospel at one point but later renounce that belief. The Bible further states clearly that it is possible to believe the gospel, retain this belief but not bear fruit. The Bible further still states that it is possible to believe the gospel, do good works and bear fruit but not be obedient. These are the teachings of Jesus Christ, and Christ makes it clear that those people (the ones who renounce the gospel after believing at one point, those who believe but do not bear fruit, and those who believe and bear fruit but are disobedient) will be cast into the lake of fire! Why is this so? Because these people believed without receiving faith, and they did not receive faith because they are still unregenerate. You cannot have faith and be spiritually dead, but you can certainly believe and be spiritually dead. Hence, rejecting the truth that regeneration precedes faith is one of the reasons why many Christian denominations (Methodists and many Pentecostals for example) believe that it is possible to lose your salvation. The regeneration precedes faith doctrine provides both absolute proof that those who fall away were never saved to begin with, and provides absolute assurance that those who are truly saved will bear fruit, attain obedience and endure trials and tribulations until the end, even unto death!

So God will accept anyone who comes to Him through His Son, because those who come to God are those that God has called to do so. Is God calling you today? If so, repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. If you wish for more information on how to do so:

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Putting John 3:16 In Its Place: The Meaning And Purpose Of This Text

Posted by Job on March 19, 2013

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Some use passages like these to assert that those who believe in limited atonement (or particular redemption) instead of universal atonement deny that God loves everyone. The argument goes that if God loves everyone, then it means that Jesus Christ died for everyone and that those texts “prove” it and accuse men of twisting scripture in order to claim otherwise.. Well C.S. Lewis and other believers of religious pluralism and universalism use 1 Timothy 4:10 –“For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe “ – and many other scriptures to justify it. Is it similarly twisting scripture to say that they are wrong also?

Of course not. Why? Because we know that 1 Timothy 4:10 is not the only thing that the Bible says about salvation. So, it is because that we put 1 Timothy 4:10 in the context of all the other things that the Bible says about how God saves – including John 14:6’s “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – in order to deny that this text teaches that men above the age of accountability can be saved outside of personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus, the same is true of John 3:16. While that text is extremely popular, very well known and much beloved, that is no reason to make it the primary text on the issue of salvation through which all other texts must be judged, held subject to and viewed in light of. That is interpreting scripture according to human opinion and emotion – our tendency to grab hold upon and emphasize the things that please and comfort us while putting less emphasis on the things that disturb and challenge us – instead of letting scripture speak for itself.

It is all well and good to love John 3:16. But we cannot use John 3:16 to pretend that Proverb 16:4 “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ” isn’t in the Bible, especially since Romans 9:13-23 clearly uses Proverb 16:4 in order to explain the nature and purpose of God’s election as it applies to the Jews and the Gentiles? Now that is what requires the twisting of the Bible scriptures. Accepting those texts and putting them into the proper contexts is why the so-called 5 point Calvinists exist. The only alternative is to deny the meaning and application of those texts, which is what most theologians and other Bible students do … precisely what they accuse the believers of limited atonement of. Perhaps the best example of this is the common explanation of deniers of limited atonement that predestinate in Romans 8:29-30 doesn’t mean, well, predestinate, or the many others who claim that it really means “foreknowledge.” Similar explaining away is done with and who do the same with Ephesians 1:3-12 and also with the many “Calvinistic” texts that appear in the Gospel of John just as does John 3:16.

So, for example, using John 6:65’s “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” and John 10:26-29’s “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand.” to interpret John 3:16 is not imposing an artificial human framework on the Bible. Instead, claiming that John 6:37 is based on God’s foreknowledge – and doing so in the complete absence of textual evidence to support it and when so many texts like Romans 9:13-23 contradict it – is when the denying the plain meaning of scripture from its literal, contextual interpretation is being done.

Does this mean that God does not love the world — all people and not just the elect — with an unconditional love? That begs the question of whether unconditional love as our modern humanistic Enlightenment-driven society defines it is a Biblical concept to begin with. If it were, then that would necessarily mean universalism. You may ask whether “world” really mean world or does it mean only the elect and whether world can be both, meaning all people in general, but only or especially the elect in particular?

Many do precisely those types of interpretative gymnastics, but they are not necessary. The “world” of John 3:16 does mean the world. But understand this: God is perfectly capable of loving the world and saving only the elect. Again, making the case that God’s loving everyone obligates Him to save everyone can only lead to universalism. The non-Calvinist viewpoint deals with this problem by saying that God TRIED to save everyone but failed. Now if you limit this “failure” to those who made a free will decision to reject Jesus Christ then that “solves” the failure issue after a fashion. The problem is that “God tried to save everyone but His efforts were thwarted by the free will that He gave us to accept or reject Him” theology simply cannot be a sufficient answer for the fact that the overwhelming supermajority of humanity has never heard the name Jesus Christ, and moreover before His advent had never encountered Judaism or the pre-Judaic Yahwism.

Truthfully, the pluralism of types like C.S. Lewis and the Roman Catholics (purgatory) and contemporary religious moderates do a much better job of explaining this problem, which is so real and vast that it has been a source of great heartache for missionaries like Hudson Taylor, who knew that he could not possibly reach every person in the vastness of China with the gospel of Jesus Christ and fell victim to the slough of despond and the giant despair (see Pilgrim’s Progress) as a result. God rescued him from that fate with the instructions for Taylor to be satisfied with going to the people that that God sent Taylor to. (And incidentally Taylor was not a Calvinist).

And here is the real irony for those who reject the Biblical doctrine of limited atonement. Even if you do not believe in limited atonement, the requirement of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation serves as a practical limitation anyway. Again, the only way to avoid that practical limitation is to be a universalist or pluralist. How “general” is the atonement to the person who lives his entire life as a sincere, upstanding, devoted, honest moral adherent to the Hindu religion because he spent his entire life in India in the 1500s and Hinduism is all he ever knew? The only relevance of general atonement to that person is that even though that person had absolutely no possibility of ever being saved, Jesus Christ still died for him so that “proves” that God loved him. Christ’s death on the cross made this person’s salvation hypothetically, theoretically possible in the spiritual realm even though it was still impossible in the natural one. Which means that the true purpose of general atonement that it provides a comfortable, reassuring view of God to the people who hold it. The doctrine is of no use to the sinner whatsoever. Whether you hear the gospel and do not respond with faith and repentance or never hear the gospel at all, from the sinner’s perspective the extent of the atonement doesn’t matter because the fate of the sinner is still the same. The issue is all about whether serving a God who limits the atonement or serving a God who doesn’t IN THEORY but does IN PRACTICE “feels better.”

Still can’t look at John 3:16 and “see” limited atonement? Well, you may not see religious pluralism in 1 Timothy 4:10 either. But that is what C. S. Lewis saw when he looked at it … justification for the religious pluralism doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church – and Lewis fellowshipped with a lot of Catholics, including his friend J.R.R. Tolkien – and embraced by virtually all moderate (meaning neither evangelical or liberal) Christians and an increasing number of evangelicals like Rob Bell. So often we see what we want to see instead of what the Bible says, and that has to change.

Does limited atonement mean that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked? Ezekiel 18:23 would tend to say otherwise with “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?.” But just as we being in the image of God often have to do things that give us no pleasure but are necessary, God’s justice requires that His wrath must be poured out on the wicked. The key to remember that merely because destroying the wicked does not give God pleasure does not require God to act in order to avoid displeasure. Claiming that it does is judging God by arbitrary standards created by our own emotionalism; our refusal to accept things that appear to us to be unjust. But why do they appear to be unjust to us? Because we feel that God owes us something. The truth of what the Bible says, which is that we are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3) to do with as He pleases is denied because of our unwilling to countenance the idea that God is the measure of all things and not man; that the universe is God-centered and not man-centered.

It is curious: no Bible-based Christian (as opposed to the idolatrous animal rights activist) takes offense at the notion that man, a mere creature made in God’s image, has the right to breed sheep for the purpose of eating them even while they are juveniles (lamb chops, leg of lamb, rack of lamb etc.) Yet we are offended at the idea that God, who is worth more than the entirety of creation (meaning that the distance between man’s worth and a lamb’s worth is much smaller than the distance between man’s worth and God’s worth) has the right to do with us as He pleases or else be judged as unloving and unrighteous, so we stumble at Yes, the Bible does not say that God takes pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but texts like “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” and “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” as a result.To do this we must make God out to be worth less than He is or we make ourselves out to be worth more than we are at God’s expense. Either way it is man-centered heresy.

So if you are struggling with the question “how can I say that God loves you without knowing whether you are elect or not”, I emphasize again that this goes back to the fundamental question of whether God can love someone without electing them to salvation. This answer – yes – is most clearly given in Matthew 5:45 … “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Also, an excellent teaching on this topic can be found here: http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a294/the-love-of-god-and-the-nonelect

This brings about the inevitable question: how will this affect my evangelism? Well you can certainly everyone that God loves them, and use this truth clearly taught in the Bible as the basis for your evangelism. The Bible does not say to use the fact that God did not elect everyone to hinder evangelism, because quite the contrary God said that many are called (in that they hear the gospel … note that it does not say that ALL are called because all do not hear the gospel) but few are chosen (meaning that of those who hear the gospel, few will be saved). And this truth was illustrated by several of Christ’s parables, such as the parable of the sower of Matthew 13:1-23 and the wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14.

So John 3:16 does not have to be abandoned by the Christian who believes in limited atonement. It means that when sharing the gospel we can tell sinners that everyone who believes – whosoever believeth – will be saved.The key is to stop right there and not add anything to it. Don’t say “Jesus Christ died for all of you so that means all of you can be saved if all of you believe.” Why not? Because the Bible doesn’t say so. General atonement is nowhere in the Bible. If it were, I would believe it and so would you. So whether in mixed company, hostile company (all unbelievers like Paul at Mars Hill) or all believers like Jesus Christ at His high priestly prayer or the disciples in the upper room awaiting Pentecost, limiting yourself to what the Bible actually says is all that is necessary, sufficient and justifiable.

So evangelist, just say “Christ died so that all who believe will be saved” and you will be true to the Bible. And that is the true meaning of the John 3:16. Before it was written, there was no promise, assurance or guarantee that everyone who believed would be saved. Now we contemporary Christians presuppose that and take it for granted because we have always known it. But keep in mind that the apostle John was originally writing that gospel not to people with 2000 years of Christian tradition behind them like us. Rather, the first audience who received his gospel was made up of pagans with a very different view of salvation than we have, and also to Jews who believed in justification by the works of the law in addition to faith.

So for both the Gentile pagans and even the Jews, it was very possible to believe in God (or the gods for polytheistic pagans) and still not be saved. For the Jew, one could believe and still be condemned if you did not keep the law. As for the pagans, their gods were arbitrary, unpredictable, conferring – and withdrawing – their favor on whims. So the true purpose of John 3:16 is not to talk about the extent of the atonement, but to teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone, sola fide, to the Jews first and then the pagan Gentiles.

This is evident if you stop taking John 3:16 in isolation and instead look at the entire chapter of John 3. This chapter begins with the rabbi going to Jesus Christ to seek instruction on spiritual things because He recognized that as God was obviously with Christ due to Christ’s miracles, Christ would know such things to teach. Christ in response taught the rabbi about the need for, meaning and nature of regeneration, being born again. The context of Christ’s discussion with the rabbi was never who could be saved, but how people are saved.

John 3:3 – by being born again. John 3:5-8 – by a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. John 3:11-17 – Christ stating that it is by and through Him that this salvation will be achieved because of His divine sonship. And John 3:18-21 – the fate of those who do not believe, with 3:18 being the inverse of 3:16. In that context, the true context and meaning – it is crystal clear that the text never intends to claim that God gave Christ so that all can theoretically be saved! Instead, it states that God gave Christ so that all who believed would be saved, and that all who did not believe would not be saved! This fact that we today take for granted today was in complete opposition to the religious mindset of Jews and pagans of the time and place of John’s gospel. It was a truly radical, revolutionary groundbreaking idea that was foolishness to the Gentiles and an offense to the Jews.

So as this is all the scripture ever meant and was intended for, why claim that it says or was intended to proclaim more? Anything more is adding to scripture, which should not be done, chiefly because it is a sin, but also because there is no reason to. The sinner needs no more information than that, and the only reason to add more information than that is for the benefit of the evangelist sharing the message. It reassures the evangelist and makes his job superficially (by that I mean according to the flesh) easier, but the Bible makes it clear that our jobs in service to the God of the Bible are not going to be easy or flesh-driven to begin with.

John 3:16 is 100% true and very powerful. But the Christian should not and cannot impose meanings on it that do not exist because it makes us feel better. We Christians should cast aside such works of the flesh and acknowledge to ourselves that the Bible says what it means. God gives the evangelist the responsibility to share the gospel with all. God gives the sinner the responsibility to respond to the gospel with repentance. But the only ones who will be saved are those that God supplies with faith. Everyone who receives faith from God will be saved. No one who does not receive faith from God will be. It is this way because with our salvation as with everything else, God alone shall be glorified. That is the point of John 3:16, the point of the entire canon of scripture, and the point of all of creation in the first place. And when viewed next to the glory of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent perfect God, such notions that God only wants to be worshiped by those who choose to do so out of their free will – as if it is illegitimate for God to compel the sheep of His pasture to worship Him, and to train and condition us into doing so by conforming us into the image of His Son and providing His Spirit to live in us – must be rejected for the plain betrayals of the Bible and the picture of God that is revealed to us through His creation that they are.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

If you are saved, walk in this truth. If you are unsaved, you are without excuse. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ today.

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The Necessity Of The Holy Trinity

Posted by Job on October 26, 2011

Motivated at least in part by the current controvery over oneness heretic T.D. Jakes, (also here and here) please read two very good pieces on the importance of the Holy Trinity. Hopefully, this will help Christians understand that we are to separate with heretics, not dialogue with them.

On The Trinity: Part One – Hermeneutics

On the Trinity: Part Two – The Trinity, Central to Apologetics and Evangelism

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Luke 14:23’s Compel Them To Come In Refers To Irresistible Grace

Posted by Job on March 27, 2011

Luke 14:16-24 reads

And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden , Come ; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse . The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused . And another said , I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said , I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come .So that servant came , and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said , Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded , and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in , that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

As useful as was Augustine in combating the heresy of Pelagius, we must never forget that this fellow in many other respects oft labored to promote the political interests of the Roman Empire and its state religion, including but not limited to laying the groundwork for such endtimes views as preterism, amillennialism and postmillennialism because the Roman Empire wanted Christians to see it as the fulfilment of the kingdom of God, which make Christians far less likely to oppose it. The error of Augustine’s allowing the pulpit to be used to advance a state agenda was exposed when Catholicism later cast aside Augustine’s work against Pelagius and instead adopted what is clearly semi-Pelagianism when it suited its political interests. Contemporary pastors who wish to mix the doctrines of the holy God with the ambitions of the fallen state should take note.

But far more harmful than Augustine’s endtimes doctrines in service to the Roman state was his misappropriation of Luke 14:23. His wicked, evil use of this scripture was employed to justify a state doctrine that over the centuries caused the deaths of untold people by the sword, and kept scores of others in religious darkness with the threat of force. Though there were others before him and after him, it was Augustine who most effectively made the case that it was God’s will for the state to use the threat – and reality – of force to make membership in the state church compulsory. This made the ambitions of the state and the church shared, and allowed one to not only tolerate but promote any amount of corruption and wickedness from the other so long as it advanced the interests of both.

Augustine’s malevolent butchering of Luke 14:23 occurred during the time of the Donatist rebellion. Now history records the Donatists as heretics, a vicious smear which shows just how truthful the proverb “the winners get to write the history book” is. Any idea that the Donatists were heretics motivated primarily by political, nationalistic and ethnic/racial considerations to break from the Roman church in order to pursue strange doctrines was convincingly shattered by Leonard Verduin’s “The Refomers And Their Stepchildren”, and that so many church historians have disseminated Catholic propaganda regarding this sad incident is something that will have to be answered for by them.

The truth is that the Donatists should be considered to be as among the earliest Protestants. While it is true that some of their motivations were not entirely religious, it was clearly superior to what motivated the Anglicans (Episcopalians) to separate from Rome. Also, it is ridiculous to call them heretical based on doctrine because on most points the Donatists beliefs were similar to the Roman church from which they attempted to break, and where there were divergences, the Donatist position must be preferred. So, the only reason why history denounces the Donatists is because the Catholics call them so, and as the Donatist attempt to separate failed where other separatist efforts (the Eastern Catholic churches and the Protestant Reformation) succeeded, the unjust Catholic judgment against them stands.

So, during the time of the Donatist protest, even though the entity known as “the Catholic Church” was not yet fully formed in doctrine and organization, the Roman Empire had already started appointing “priests” for political and other reasons. Cronyism, nepotism, political payoffs and other forms corruption were oft used for the basis for selecting church officers, and this resulted in vain fellows with unsavory backgrounds and behaviour and questionable training – unqualified and unsuitable on many counts – being appointed as priests by the politico-ecclesiastical hegemony all over the empire, and the region of the Donatists (north Africa) was no different. When the practice of elevating unqualified individuals to the priesthood was challenged, the Catholic Church responded that the measure of qualifications of a priest is being ordained and appointed by the church, and not the spiritual or moral state of the church itself. When the sacraments (i.e. baptisms and the rite of communion) offered by priests who were deemed by those in a position to know (the parishioners that they were presiding over) to be unbelieving were challenged, the hierarchy took the position that the legitimacy of the sacraments were not a function of the priest who gave them, but rather of the church that ordained the priest. (This remains the position of the Roman Catholic Church to this day, and is used to retain any number of priests who exhibit severely aberrant doctrines and behaviour.)

The Donatists, then, took the “radical” position that church offices should be held only by those qualified to do so, and that ensuring this required that the officers be chosen by the local churches themselves. The Donatists stated that the baptisms performed by illegitimate priests were illegitimate, and had to be performed again. (Donatists were the original Anabaptists.) Further, Donatists held that the church must be “a church of saints, not sinners.” Now of course, this is not necessarily an unqualified defense of Donatists and Donatism. For example, they were still very much “Catholic” in doctrine and practice, believing in such abominations as a human priesthood, rites of penance, and the Eucharist.

The Roman church responded predictably to the Donatist protest: with brutal military action. They did not succeed in totally eradicating the movement. (That was accomplished by the Muslims in the 7th and 8th century.) But they did persecute the Donatists mightily, and as a result kept their ideas, influence and numbers within the empire to a minimum. So, while they did not succeed in wiping out the Donatists, they did accomplish their primary goal of preventing the widespread challenge of the authority of the Roman church, and please recall that challenging the authority of said church was the same as challenging the authority of the Roman empire.

However, some men of conscience did protest violent action being inflicted on other people who professed to be Christians, and also demanded to know what in the Bible justified compulsory church membership enforced by the state, especially since those who dissented did have strong Bible-based arguments on their side. Make no mistake: the Roman empire was being challenged on one front by the Donatist defection and another by their reaction to the former, and both fronts exposed the Roman church for the spiritual fraud that it was.

Into this crisis stepped Augustine. Now as a north African and one who so convincingly expounded such positions as justification by faith, one could have well expected Augustine to side with the Donatists. Instead, Augustine sided with those who paid his salary and elevated him to a position of prestige and power. In addition to siding with the imperial position concerning their right to appoint unregenerate officers and the legitimacy of sacraments administered by such officers, Augustine searched the scriptures to find something that would justify using murderous force to eliminate dissenting movements and thereby make church membership universal (save whom the church excommunicates!) with the sword. (Please note: this remains the goal of the Roman Catholic Church to this day … a global institution where everyone is a member … or else. In this way, the rule of Christ over the earth is accomplished through the church, and then Jesus Christ will return for the church.) And Augustine found Luke 14:23’s “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in , that my house may be filled.” Of course, this grotesque misinterpretation and misapplication of a Biblical text was more than good enough for the Roman empire, because it suited the purposes that they already had anyway. It is similar to the true but sad tale of the woman who used Ephesians 4:22-24’s “take off the old man and put on the new man” to justify her desire to un-Biblically divorce her current husband and marry a new one without being considered an adulteress. In her rebellious heart, she had already determined that what she was doing was not only permissble, but the will of God, and merely needed a Bible text to misconstrue to justify it, and would not be deterred, even when her pastor informed her of that text’s correct meaning and application (and of the Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage).

Augustine’s actual interpretation (eisegesis!) of Luke 14:23 is of little consequence, for it was used to arrived at an illegitimate meaning for an illegitimate intent in service to an illegitimate institution. Unless one agrees with – or is willing to in some context defend – the state using the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to compel membership in a “church” who regularly ordains and retains atheists, homosexuals, occultists and child molesters as its officers, then that could be taken for granted, and therefore there is no need to violate Proverbs 26:4 with regards to it. Instead, let us simply declare Augustine’s efforts to be thoroughly wrong and evil – with its use throughout history to justify many evils (including the magisterial church-state Reformers’ murderous actions against Anabaptists – whom the Reformers ironically politicized as Donatists! – Michael Servetus and others) as evidence of its great error – and move on to a proper interpretation.

In this parable, the “lord” is God the Father and the “servant” is “God the Holy Spirit.” It came to pass God the Father accomplished salvation (through the sending of His Son for atonement), and established the kingdom of heaven. (One does not have to reach far to arrive at this interpretation, because immediately prior to starting the parable, Jesus Christ stated “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God“.) The establishment of the kingdom of heaven is the meaning of the reference to “for all things are now ready.” Now the Bible declares that salvation is for God’s called (or elect) but first the Jew and then the Gentile. (We should also realize that Matthew 20:16 and 22:14 state that “many are called but few are chosen.” While all election of God is unconditional, not all election of God is unto salvation, but rather only the election as “chosen.”) So, the initial call goes out to the original olive tree, the natural seed of Abraham; the Jews of Israel. Due to their faithless condition (as faith comes from God) because of their not at this time being chosen for salvation (the salvation of the Jews will not occur until after the fulness of the Gentiles comes in), the original branch (save a few) demurs and defers.

So, the mission then goes to the Gentiles, who having not known the special revelation of Yahweh because of their not being in the Jewish nation and therefore not having received or lived under the Sinai covenant or benefited from instruction of the law, the writings and the prophets, are spiritually “poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” These may have been the ones who for some reason were aware of their sinful condition and the benefits of the kingdom of heaven (i.e. they are Gentiles who have already attached themselves to Judaism to some degree – such as the God-fearers, the Ethiopian eunuch and the centurion Cornelius – but did not fully convert to Judaism, but were yet “within the city” based on their faith and partial observance) and immediately with gladness believed the gospel of Jesus Christ when they heard it. If one recalls the account of church growth in the early portions of Acts, there was indeed a pattern of angry Jewish rejection on the part of all but a few, but enthusiastic acceptance and rapid growth among the Gentiles that had already been praying to YHWH, fasting, giving alms, attending the synagogues and worshipping in the outer court of the temple.

But after adding the relatively few Jews who had been with Jesus Christ and witnessed His resurrection, the Jews who believed after Pentecost and thereafter, and the Judaism-observant Gentiles who received the gospel with very little effort because of possessing pre-existing faith (some theologians refer to those such as these who lived between the advent and passion of Jesus Christ and the destruction of the temple as “transitional period faithful” akin to Old Testament saints), there was still “room at the table.” That was when this famous case took place. The lord, again in this parable God the Father, told his servant, representing God the Holy Spirit, to go out of the city into the highways and hedges (meaning away from the confines of believing Jews and Gentiles who merely needed to transform their faith from an Old Testament one where Jesus Christ was concealed to a New Testament one where Jesus Christ was revealed) and into the realm of the faithless.

Now the faithless, due to their original sin condition (doctrine of total depravity) these folks were not going to come “to the supper”, or into the kingdom of heaven or participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb with His bride, willingly. Instead, these unwilling people first have to be given faith and converted. Who gives faith? The Holy Spirit, or the servant in this story. Make no mistake: faith does not come from or is not produced by man, but is a gift of the Holy Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. After the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is the One who regenerates the sinner, see Titus 3:4-7. Make no mistake: this does not happen because the sinner wants it to. The sinner because of his total depravity is thoroughly unwilling, and thus comes into the kingdom not by way of a free will decision, but by God’s compulsion. God’s sheep, declared so before the foundation of the world, hear the voice of Jesus Christ and come when He calls, but Luke 14:23 reveals that a great many come because the Holy Spirit is the Staff that the Great Shepherd uses to pull them in with Its crook on their necks! This is the doctrine of irresistible grace, and gives support to the theory that the rider of the white horse of Revelation is not the anti-Christ, but instead is the Holy Spirit, and the conquering that the rider on the white horse goes about doing is not the nations, but of those called and chosen by God the Father from out among the nations to be the bride for God the Son.

So, in this parable you see 3 of the “5 points of Calvinism” (total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace) explicitly or nearly explicitly at work. Also, perseverance of the saints is implied, as those brought in by the Holy Spirit remain to fill the house and eat of the marriage supper of the Lamb; they do not fall away. Only limited atonement is missing, and this is only because this parable is not expressly Christological, but instead deals primarily with the decree and election of the God the Father and the work of drawing in  and regenerating of the Holy Spirit. So, in telling this parable, there was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity describing the role of the First and the Third Persons of the Holy Trinity in salvation, to the point that though the Third Person of the Trinity is the servant of the First, the Third Person is still sovereign in salvation because men do not have the option of saying no to the Holy Spirit! Those that the Holy Spirit compels must come, because the Holy Spirit is God, and God is Sovereign! Soli Deo Gloria!

Now the compulsion of the Holy Spirit is by no means limited to Gentiles. Instead, Romans 11 is clear that sometime after the Gentile mission is complete, all Israel will be saved. The Jews are currently “not in the house” or “even in the city” but like the Gentiles are faithless, but at the return of Jesus Christ will be drawn and regenerated by the Holy Spirit according to the election and decree of God the Father, and at that time the olive tree will be complete, with the original branches together with the grafted in formerly wild branches.

So, the compulsion of Luke 14:23 is not the servants of the state forcing church membership with the threat of the sword. Instead, it is the Servant of God conquering those captive to original sin and therefore because of their fallen natures and corrupt wills are unable to come to God, and for that matter do not even have a true desire to. (At the very most, they may have a desire for morals, ethics, religion, cultural conformity, tradition, pleasing the expectations of others, to assuage their guilty consciences, to avoid the lake of fire, or to receive the benefits of heaven. It is those things that man can come to and decide for himself of, and not truly of God, and indeed lest we forget a multitude of false religions offers all those things also.) Jesus Christ has bound the strong man and led his captivity captive, so now the Holy Spirit is free to go and spoil his goods. So against the false teachings and applications of Augustine, this is the true meaning and intent of the passage and in its correct context.

Thus, please know that membership in any church cannot save you (even if it is a legitimate New Testament local congregation headed by Jesus Christ) and neither can being the beneficiary of any sacrament, ordinance or ritual. Instead, only membership in the true church will save you, and membership in that church is only granted to those who are saved by the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ that is granted by that same Holy Spirit. If this does not describe you, then you are currently separated from God, at enmity with God, and the Bible states that all those who are found in that status on judgment day will receive an eternal punishment in the lake of fire. Do not let the doctrines of election, predestination and irresistible grace cause unnecessary confusion. Just as God’s sovereignty in salvation is a truth clearly set forth in the Bible, so is the responsibility of man to believe the gospel and submit Himself to Jesus Christ as his Lord. They are two truths that are not in conflict with each other, but are both true in their own right and work together in ways that are beyond our understanding to give God the glory. God is glorified both by being sovereign over salvation and by seeing those formerly trapped in original sin do what was impossible for them prior become possible with God (see Matthew 19:25-26’s “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed , saying , Who then can be saved ? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”, and over against not only their own sinful natures but also the desires and machinations of Satan.

So make no mistake, those chosen by God have as their duty to make their calling and election sure. If you have not done so, I entreat and implore you to do it, do it quickly, indeed do it today, and moreover right now!

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan!

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An Issue For Rapture Believers: Will The World Know That You Are Gone?

Posted by Job on January 2, 2011

It is the Christmas – New Year season, which means time for certain Christian broadcasters to air their cache of rapture/endtimes movies. Though I turned away from advocating a belief in the rapture a few years ago, I have never declared the doctrine to be clearly false and stated that its supporters are knowingly adhering to a false doctrine. (Now I should point out that some doctrines by some rapture/premillennial dispensational advocates are abominable heresies, but it appears that few pastors who teach the rapture and even fewer Christians who believe in it consent to them, and many of them are not not aware that these strange, outlandish doctrines exist.)

However, for those who do believe in the rapture, consider the “Left Behind” movies (and similar ones that were made before and since, not to mention a large number of novels) that depict this mass panic that grips the world upon the disappearance of a significant percentage of the world’s population, and that this panic is exploited by the one world government and the anti-Christ. First off, the “global hysteria” doctrine appears nowhere in the Bible, but appears to be based entirely on assumptions. Of course, it is very logical, but God’s works – and not just miracles – often exist outside of the boundaries of human logic. Second, the idea that the global hysteria will cause the one world government, one world religion and the rise of the anti-Christ is problematic, because – according to a literal reading of Revelation that assumes a literal timeline  (the preferred hermeneutic of rapture adherents) the beast does not truly take power until halfway through the seven years. This contradicts popular rapture movies, which show the beast taking over – and in many depictions taking over a pre-existing political/military/economic/religious apparatus – almost immediately after the rapture as a direct response to the global emotional trauma and economic, political, etc. upheaval that it causes.

However, Christians who adhere to this doctrine should consider the opposite perspective: after the rapture, will the world even know that you are gone? Will they miss you? Consider three angles to this question.

1. According to every single survey on religious attitudes and beliefs, the vast majority of Bible believing Christians, whether evangelical, fundamentalist or traditional, do not lead lives that distinguish them from non-Christian people. Every ounce of data exists shows that these Christians exhibit no outward evidence of their faith other than showing up to church on Sunday. Almost none of the fruit-bearing that the New Testament speaks of is present in the lives of such Christians, many of whom do not even so much as invite their neighbors or co-workers to church on Sunday or into their homes for Bible study. So, were the rapture to occur, what is it that would make people notice that it is a rapture of Christians, as opposed to just a bunch of random people going missing? More to the point, if you personally were to be raptured, would most/half/any of the people who know you consider that it might be because you are a Christian?

2. Related to 1, minority of Christians that adhere to the rapture belief only believe in a partial rapture, stating that not all born again believers who will eventually enter heaven will be raptured, but only those who are counted most faithful and fruitful. This view has its advantages, as it does deal with the various Bible references to believers who will be alive and suffer during the great tribulation. (The “complete rapture” believers who espouse such doctrines as the persecuted believers are those who will be converted after the rapture – such as by the 144,000 Jews – do so despite a ton of logical consistencies in this belief, such as the Bible evidence in places such as Romans 10 that it takes an believer’s preaching the gospel to convert an unbeliever, and also that conversion cannot take place without the Holy Spirit, which many/most “complete rapture” adherents believe will leave the earth with the church at the time of the rapture.) It also appears to be the view among the rapture adherents that makes the best use of scripture, including Jesus Christ’s promise to the church in Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

But if this doctrine is true, then only a small percentage of the members of Christian churches and megachurches will be raptured. Instead of the practically empty churches that you see depicted in many of these rapture movies, instead, most or nearly all of these churches will be mostly filled with believers that are lukewarm (i.e. the Laodicea church) or possess varying degrees of the ills identified by Jesus Christ in the other 6 churches. If Revelation 2 and 3 are a guide and should be interpreted literally and mathematically, only 1 out of every 7 Christians will be raptured, and (again using the Laodicea example) virtually none of those will be in the churches that show outward signs of piety (i.e. large size, huge amenities, middle/upper class congregants taught by eloquent erudite pastors with huge support staffs, etc). Again, now this is not to say that these people won’t be saved and ultimately wind up in heaven, but rather that they won’t be raptured. And since the vast majority of people who regularly, faithfully attend Bible-believing churches and even perform good works won’t be raptured because Jesus Christ will “have something against thee” (His common rebuke to 5 of the 7 churches, to all but Philadelphia and Smyrna, and it is pointed out that Jesus Christ didn’t promise to keep Smyrna from great tribulation but rather to strengthen them as they endure it!), how will this be recognized as “a Christian rapture”? Especially since many of the left behind will in fact be Christians who adhere to the complete rapture doctrine, and may likely be ones who deny before the media and the world that a “Christian rapture” occurred because they will (truthfully I might add!) state that if there was a rapture of the entire church, they would have been included! Again, if it is only a partial, seemingly random number of Christians raptured, other explanations for their disappearance may abound, and the continuing presence of born-again Christians will be the main enabler of those alternate explanations.

3. This is somewhat related to the prior point. Consider the great falling away that the Bible states will happen before the return of Jesus Christ. If this is applied to the larger rapture doctrine framework, it fits the teachings of a lot of dispensationalists that the information to the seven churches in Revelation were of 7 church ages, which the last age being the Laodicea one. If the church falls into widespread apostasy similar to that of Old Testament Israel (which was a type that pointed to the church in many respects) just before the northern and southern kingdoms fell to Assyria and Babylon, then whether the issue is a full rapture or a partial one, there will be very few Christians to be taken up in the rapture indeed.

4. Consider that the Bible speaks of a strong delusion being sent by God in the endtimes that will cause people to believe a lie. If this can be interpreted with respect and applied to the rapture, it can either be in terms of 3.) the great apostasy resulting in a very tiny legitimate church when the rapture occurs or the fact that when the rapture occurs, people will delude themselves, lie to themselves about these missing persons in the first place. Many have interpreted this to believe that the strong delusion will cause people to deny the rapture and contrive other reasons for the disappearances (including alien abductions according to one such movie), but it is very plausible that the delusion will be of the nature that denying that the raptured souls ever existed in the first place, something that many in the mental health profession would describe as a trauma-induced dissociation as a coping mechanism.

Add it all up and Christians who believe in the rapture must challenge and question the idea popularized by so many rapture teachers that we are so precious, beloved and important to the world that our presence will cause a worldwide turmoil of the people of this world. Of course, it strokes our own egos and vanity to regard ourselves as being so important … how once we are gone, the world will literally go down the tubes because we will no longer be around to be police officers, bankers, teachers, spouses, parents, community leaders etc., and that people of the world will be so frightened, grief-stricken and left leaderless and impoverished by our loss that they will obviously turn to the anti-Christ and his system!

Wow. Think how that sounds. Think of how that sounds to Jesus Christ, the One who came not bragging about Himself, but who emptied Himself, made Himself of no reputation, humbly submitted Himself to the Will of the Father, and suffered the humiliation and torment of public rejection and public execution. When Jesus Christ died and returned to heaven, the world continued. But we are so important than when we depart this earth, the world spins out of control?

Also, it rejects a key thing about what Jesus Christ teaches about the church: we are not loved, cherished, exalted, embraced, even liked by the world. Instead, we are despised, hated and rejected by it. The world hates, persecutes and rejects us just as it does to our Head and Master, Jesus Christ. If we are Christ’s own body, how can the world love us while hating Christ? If the world hates Jesus Christ because His light exposes that the world’s deeds are wicked, then how on earth can the earth love our light?

Again, we are beloved, treasured and adored by God. We were important enough to God that He sent His only Son for us, and we were important enough to Jesus Christ that He obeyed and died for us. But the world views us as precisely the opposite. The world’s father is not God but Satan, the prince of the power of the air, the same who was a murderer from the beginning and the truth is not in him, the same dragon who persecutes and afflicts the church.

So have no prideful delusions of our own importance, or of anyone loving and treasuring us but God. If the rapture doctrine is true and the event does occur, when it happens, rather than being driven to anguish and grief over our no longer being present, the world will rejoice and say “Good riddance … now we can REALLY get on with what we need and want to do!”

Any false notions otherwise are the product not of honest Bible study and interpretation but of human pride. Well please recall that pride comes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. This includes the fall of Satan, and the fall of Adam as well. Do not walk in their ways, but instead in the ways of Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself, lowered Himself, gracefully accepted His hard task, and never at any point deluded Himself about how hated and despised He was, not only by His own people, but even by one of His very own twelve that betrayed Him!

As Jesus Christ is our Master, those who adhere to the rapture doctrine must take a step back from what is commonly being taught and instead seek interpretations and applications of this doctrine that is consistent with the teachings of our Master and honors our Master.

If Jesus Christ is not your Master, then Satan is your master. If that is the case, when judgment day arrives, you will receive from Jesus Christ, who is Lord, the same punishment that Satan receives, which is eternal destruction in a lake of fire with no hope whatsoever of reprieve. Please turn away from your sins and submit to Jesus Christ as your Master. Do not delay, but do it quickly, for why would you wish to delay such a blessed thing as entering into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ? What is it that the world offers to make any delay worthwhile?

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan Today!

 

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New Testament Prayer: Acts 4:24-30

Posted by Job on October 27, 2009

This appears to be a prayer for evangelism that perseveres and succeeds despite and in the face of persecution and adversity, both political and religious. Note that the prayer specifically asks that signs and wonders be done by God for the sake of evangelizing the lost. This prayer also centers around the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how the coming, works and resurrection of Jesus Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies.

And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

The results of this prayer are below, verses 31-34.

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

This would appear to be an empowering of the Holy Spirit – a filling of the Holy Spirit if you will (consider the empowerings or fillings of the Holy Spirit in the book of Judges that were not the indwelling Holy Spirit, but rather the empowering of the Holy Spirit that equips someone to serve God and perform His work) – that gave the believers the ability to share the gospel. The Holy Spirit gave them boldness to speak the gospel, and the words of the gospel message that were to be shared. It appears that the focal point of the true gospel message is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Another result of this prayer is that the believers began to behave as a corporate community. As a result, individualism – of which materialism and the desire to acquire, possess and retain worldly things – disappeared.

Let us consider this prayer, pray it in private and in gathered fellowship, and in the Name of Jesus Christ may this prayer have the same purpose and effect for us as it did for the believers in scripture! For we know that the word of God is true, and that it is the power of salvation for all who believe.

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Christian Women With Weave, Was Your Hair Offered To Idols?

Posted by Job on October 14, 2009

Let us remember the verdict of the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 where the Jewish Christians decided the guidelines for sanctification and holy living for Gentile Christians. Consider this verse:

That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

Now consider this nugget from an article on the movie “Good Hair“:

… the movie, “Good Hair” … details the lengths to which some black women and men will go for straight hair … from a hair salon where a 6-year-old maintains a stiff upper lip as a chemical relaxer sits on her scalp, to the temples of India where the hair women sacrifice in a religious ceremony is swept up, sent to factories and exported as weave

Of course, I know the difference between eating something and putting it in your hair. I also know that Paul liberated this principle from being made into legalism in 1 Corinthians 8. However, allow me to propose this:  humans generally need to eat meat in order to be healthy. So, if there was a choice between damaging your health by doing all that one possibly can to obey Acts 15:29 and thus becoming malnourished or eating meat and being healthy, Paul said to eat meat. Also the context of 1 Corinthians 8 is that the meat that had been offered to idols was then mixed and sold with all the other meat, and it was impossible to tell which meat was which.

So while Acts 15:29 made it unlawful to KNOWINGLY eat meat offered to idols – which is practicing idolatry – UNKNOWINGLY eating meat offered to idols was not idolatry and thereby harmless. The reason is that the prohibition is not on the meat itself, which was fine, but rather the idolatry, which is sin. So this was not  a choice between being an idolater and not being an idolater. Instead, it was a choice between not APPEARING to be an idolater and being malnourished, or APPEARING to be an idolater and being healthy. Paul’s reasoning was that appearances don’t matter, only the heart does, so go ahead, buy your meat at the market with no worries as to whether it was offered to idols or not – because it was impossible to tell – and eat it.

However, where meat serves a vital human need, I would argue that hair weave does not. It is entirely cosmetic. So even though it may be lawful, is it nonetheless expedient (1 Corinthians 6:12) for a Christian woman to adorn herself with hair offered to idols? Is such a thing edifying (1 Corinthians 10:23)? Is hair offered to idols and then sold for a price an appropriate covering (1 Corinthians 11:15) for the body of a Christian woman, seeing that such a body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) as opposed to a pagan temple filled with idols? And is acquiring and wearing costly weave that has been offered to idols a way of keeping 1 Timothy 2:9-10?

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Now of course I am not going to claim that it is a sin for Christian women to use weave because it MIGHT contain hair offered to idols. Not only would I be guilty of violating 1 Corinthians in saying such a thing, but I would not even be able to rely on the literal interpretation of Acts 15 or Exodus 20:3-4 (the passages concerning idolatry specifically and practicing false religions – which includes participating in their rites and ceremonies – in general). Instead, I am just providing more information for Christian women (and men) to consider in our efforts to make better, more Christ-honoring decisions. After all, where does the idea to go out and put weave in your hair come from? Or the idea that we have to look a certain way come from? Generally the media, Hollywood, mass entertainment, Madison Avenue (commercials), and what have you. They sell you an image of beauty that is not real. I am not merely referring to this image because so much of it is literally fake, whether the product of airbrushing, lighting, cosmetic surgery, photo editing etc. but because it takes our minds and hearts away from the true beauty that is Jesus Christ that is revealed through us through the wonderful works of His creation (Romans 1) and causes us to exchange it for a lie, an image conceived not in God’s mind or made by God’s hands but rather created by man’s hands and conceived in his sinful, corrupt rebellious minds. And what are images conceived and made by man? Merely idols.

So the real issue is not that the hair MAY HAVE BEEN offered to some idol in some Hindu temple. The issue is that your DESIRE to use weave – wherever its origin – probably comes from looking at magazines, watching television, coming up with some false image of beauty that you desire. So, the false idol that is the problem is not in some temple in India, but rather is inside the temple of your own heart! And these false images and idols promoting a perverted, corrupted sense of beauty and attractiveness in the media have only two real purposes. The first is mammon, money. I fear continuing to sound like a leftist or socialist, but the fact is that these images are disseminated to cause you to buy the magazines that contain them, which contain still more images that cause you to want to buy the makeup, hair products, clothes etc. that make the magazine publishers a lot of money.

The second reason, make no mistake, is to challenge and attack Biblical notions of modesty, decency and sexuality. Most of the publications, TV shows, movies etc. that endlessly present these images also ceaselessly mock anything resembling notions of Biblical purity, including but not limited to marital fidelity. Even if they don’t directly attack it, they undermine it with the lie that a man and wife can sit and look at that junk 24/7 without either A) being tempted to stray (adultery) or B) fantasizing (which is also adultery Matthew 5:28), or similarly that our children can watch it without either being tempted to commit fornication or fantasizing about it. So similar to my challenge regarding tattoos, the issue is not whether weave is permissible according to scripture, but whether the motivation to get a weave is Christ-honoring in the first place.

That said, there may be many motivations for getting hair weaves that are completely legitimate, i.e. totally unrelated to wanting to look like the female vampires in these soft-core pornographic magazines and music videos. Some women may state that their husbands like the way that it looks. Others may profess that it is a look that they prefer for themselves. Others still assert that in their work environments (office or professional jobs, etc.) they must maintain a professional appearance. Again, I am in no sense asserting this to be some sort of law that has any bearing on anyone’s salvation, justification, sanctification or consecration. There are also many who may perceive me to be just totally off base, tilting at windmills and causing unnecessary division and confusion (stumblingblocks as it were) when I should focus only on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen, and will one day return. To such people, I apologize in advance, and please know that it is not my intent. Instead, my reason for dealing with this topic is this Biblical one: Christians, beware of and be separate from the world and things in it, whether it be its mindsets, its desires … or its idols. After all, we only have to look at the world of televangelism. Paula White, Medina Pullings, and many others are counted among those who market their own appearance, and tie it into their false health/wealth/family prosperity gospel doctrine. Jan Crouch, Juanita Bynum and Cathy DuPlantis are just among the many who proudly declare that they have had cosmetic surgery (or surgeries)! Extend it a little further and we have professed evangelical Christians Carrie Prejean’s lingerie modeling (and plastic surgery), Heidi Montag’s Playboy modeling, and Miley Cyrus pole dancing, all done for a little bit of fame and fortune that even were it to last 1000 years would be a mere flicker of an instant in the eternity that we will either spend with Jesus Christ in New Jerusalem or in the outer darkness where the worm never dies, the fire is never quenched, and there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Again, the issue is not the weave, but the heart and where it lies.

However, for people who are considering the issues raised in this post, allow me to refer you to an expert on the topic by following the link below:

I’m a natural systah

Also, for those who may be wondering what all of this is about to begin with, please play the video below.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted in Bible, christian worldliness, Christianity, church worldliness, Jesus Christ, media conspiracy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments »

To Whom Should We NOT Pray?

Posted by Job on October 11, 2009

His list is excellent. Pay attention to #2 on his list, which would in my opinion exclude iconography.

To Whom Should We NOT Pray?

While you are at it, read the following as well:

To whom should we pray?

Who should pray?

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Question For Jesus Only Oneness Pentecostal Trinity Deniers

Posted by Job on May 15, 2009

Oneness Pentecostals, as well as Christians who support and fellowship with oneness Pentecostals, here is a question of you.

The Bible declares God the Father, called the Ancient of Days (see Daniel 7, especially verses 9, 13, and 22) to be King in various places. The Bible declares God the Son, called the Angel of the Lord in His preincarnate form (see Joshua 5:14-15, also Exodus 3:4-6 cross referenced with Exodus 3:2Acts 7:30Acts 7:35 ) and the Word of God (John 1:1-18, Proverb 8 especially verse 30) and Jesus Christ to be King.

However, the Holy Spirit, called the Spirit of God the Father (Matthew 10:20Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18) and the Spirit of God the Son (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:9, Isaiah 61:1Luke 4:18) is never declared to be King by scripture at any time. Also, where both God the Father and God the Son are both spoken of as being glorified and exalted, to my knowledge God the Holy Spirit is never spoken of by scripture as being glorified or exalted at any time.

How is this possible? I welcome your replies. Thank you.

Posted in anti - Christ, antichrist, Apologetics, apostasy, Bible, blasphemy, blasphemy Holy Ghost, blasphemy Holy Spirit, Christianity, heresy, Jesus Christ, Jesus Only, modalism, oneness pentecostal, oneness pentecostalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Regarding Carrie Prejean, Evangelicalism And The Culture War

Posted by Job on May 12, 2009

I recall a very recent incident where I purchased my first
Christian rap CD, certain that it would provide edifying entertainment for my
very young son during our frequent automobile trips. However, when the music
began to play, my son put his hands over his ears, and began yelling for me to
turn it off, the reason being “it sounds like the devil’s music.” Now
as I was very much enjoying the CD in question, I tried to explain to the child
that it was in fact Christian music. The child replied that he would much
rather listen to one of HIS CDs. So, the Christian rap went out, and one of his
several CDs of classic hymns, Negro spirituals and similar took its place,
which included “Standing On The Promises of God.” I confess to not having
learned the lyrics to this song, but I do remember something about “standing on
the promises that cannot fail.”

And now I find myself reading Pilgrim’s Progress by John
Bunyan for the first time. I not long ago passed the section where Christian
succumbed to the temptation of one Worldly Wiseman to depart from the hard path
given to him to the Celestial City by Evangelist and instead set out for what
was promised to be the easier path over Mount Sinai to Mr. Legality and his
handsome son civility in the nice village Morality. And this reminds me of the
Carrie Prejean tempest: this where beauty pageant contestant lost the Miss
America pageant (which is owned by Donald Trump, who considers twice divorced
prosperity preacher Paula White his friend and pastor) for speaking out against
homosexual marriage.

As a result, this Miss Prejean has found herself many
supporters in the evangelical Christian community for fighting the good fight
in the culture war, having had the privilege of such experiences as being
interviewed by James Dobson, speaking at a prominent evangelical Christian
university, and being a presenter for the Dove Awards. Miss Prejean’s Christian
advocates have presented her as an example of a bold Christian woman who has
risked and suffered in warfare.

While this is certainly true, as Prejean clearly lost the
Miss America title, was very nearly stripped of the Miss California title, and
has had explicit pictures (some that she acknowledges to be real, others that
she alleges are fake) released by those seeking to force the Miss California pageant
to strip her of her crown for violating her contract, I have to ask: what battle
is it that she is fighting anyway, and is it a worthwhile one?

Again, go back to “Standing On The Promises Of God.” God’s
promises cannot fail, which means that God’s battles cannot be lost, because in
God’s battles, it is not us that are fighting, but rather God Himself that
fights for us. So as long as remain obedient and faithful to scripture and
adhere to the things that Jesus Christ commanded of us, we cannot lose. Our
success is guaranteed, predetermined, predestined.

However, when we depart from the path, leave behind the
commandments of Jesus Christ, and start seeking our own agendas, failure is
inevitable. Oh, we may win a victory or two here and there, but it is only a
temporary fleeting battle won at a huge cost – not the least a great diversion
of prayers and works by well meaning Christians – in a war that will ultimately
be lost. The person who bears witness of this best is none other than James
Dobson, the very same who interviewed Prejean. Upon retiring from his leadership
of Focus On The Family, Dobson acknowledged that he, his organization and its
fellow travelers had lost every single battle, including that against
homosexual marriage, which will become legal in many parts of the country
within a few years. And let us never forget that the great legal victory that
made homosexual marriage possible was a court decision, Lawrence versus Texas,
given to us by a Supreme Court stacked with appointees of the very conservative
Republican presidents that Dobson and his peers spent a generation getting
Christians to not only vote but contribute, volunteer, fast and pray to get
elected in the first place. What do we know from this? As Jesus Christ promised
us that so long as remain faithful to Him and do His Will that we shall not
fail, the very failure of Dobson’s efforts, shows that Dobson and those like
him were never fighting the Lord’s battle to begin with.

And consider further the supreme irony: the biggest defeats
have come from the very people aligned with Dobson! Recall that Ronald Reagan,
when given the opportunity to appoint justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade,
instead put not one but two pro – abortion judges on the court, and George H.
W. Bush, who became president due to being the vice president of Reagan thanks
in no small part to people like Dobson, appointed a third pro – abortion judge,
and yes all three of those judges cast their votes in the Lawrence versus Texas
decision to pave the way for homosexual marriage as well.

So gentle Christians, what we should learn from this is that
Jesus Christ, God’s own Word and thereby God Himself, did not come to earth as
a human to be slain on a cross to pay the debt of original sin, in order to
redeem the culture. He did not do so in order to lend political support to any specific
nation, whether the United States or Israel, or any cause. The reason is that
cultures, nations, and causes are worldly things, and the result of the death
of Jesus Christ was to create the church, which is ekklesia in Greek, and
ekklesia means “called out.” What is the church called out of? The world and
worldly things. Instead of trying to change the world in some vain, idolatrous,
blasphemous quest to transform its sin and wickedness into the image of the
holiness and righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, instead of
trying to give that which is destined to die the image of that which through
the resurrection of Jesus Christ will have eternal life, the only duty that I
have seen given through Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets to the New
Testament church is that of saving and discipling sinners. Even the good deeds
and charitable works that Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to love our
neighbors and by this way to also love Him was towards that end; acts by which
the unsaved are reached and the saved are to learn to grow in the grace and
knowledge of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now let it be known that evangelical Christians are supposed
to be sola scriptura Protestants. After all, the term “evangelical” was taken
up as a self – descriptive one by the Protestant Reformers. So, I challenge any
sola scriptural Protestant to identify me the Bible verse that commands
Christians to put aside the work of evangelizing the world and discipling those
who by and according to the grace and prerogative of God the Father (those that
the Father gave to the Son) respond to the gospel and start working to give the
unregenerate masses the appearance of righteousness, a form of godliness that
denies the power thereof, show it to me and I will repent of this missive. If
no such verse exists – and I have never encountered it in the New Testament –
then those who continue with this behavior should cease to call themselves sola
scriptura, which means they should cease to call themselves Protestants, which
means that they should cease to call themselves evangelical, which means that
they should cease to call themselves Christians.

This is no mere doctrinal dispute. Again, Jesus Christ gave us in His Holy Spirit – inspired word promises that work done in His Name would
never fail. The end result of not only decades of the religious right but many
centuries of church – states and church – cultures has been nothing but massive
thoroughgoing failure. If you refuse to consider me to be one qualified to
speak to this matter, then heed Søren Kierkegaard; read his Attack Upon Christendom (that is if you can abide theistic existentialism long enough to). So by committing all of these
efforts to works, by fighting all of these battles, that we claim to be in the
Name of Jesus Christ, what witness does the church bear to the promises, the
veracity, the power, the faithfulness, the very Name of Jesus Christ by which
we are saved and are to overcome death, be resurrected from the dead, and
inherit the Celestial City when these things fail? When WE fail?

Because like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we have abandoned
the path to the Celestial City and Mount Zion to the Morality Village, the
abode of Mr. Legality and Civility by way of Mount Sinai, that same is the way
of death. We have abandoned the counsel of the apostles, prophets and Jesus
Christ Himself for that of Worldly Wisemen politicians and hucksters, in
addition to not a few very sincere but ultimately misguided and sincere pastors
and theologians, which unfortunately included not a few of the very same
Reformers themselves, who were not long removed from the murderous yoke of the
Roman church – states themselves began drowning Anabaptists and burning
heretics. Indeed, John Bunyan himself spent twelve years in the dark prison of
a Christian nation, separated from his church and family, for the crime of preaching
the gospel.

Morality, legality and civility. Sound like “Christian
values”, “family values”, “American values”, “Judeo – Christian values”, “Judeo
– Christian heritage” and all the other buzzwords to you? It certainly sounds like
that to me. Well, those are legalism, an external righteousness of the
Pharisees, devoid of the religion of the heart that Jesus Christ gave us. It is
darkness devoid of the Light that came to this world that the darkness does not
comprehend. Of course, a person, a group, a movement, a nation can impose
morality, legality and civility for a period of time by expending no small
amount of energy or cost. Keep in mind however: such moral societies do not
have to be Christian … homosexuality, abortion, crime, divorce etc. are very
much kept under control in not a few Muslim societies, and such was also the
case in fascist regimes like those run by Pinochet and Franco. Also, a
democracy cannot maintain “moral societies” anywhere nearly as long as a
monarchy, totalitarian regime or dictatorship.

But it is only for a time. Remember Lot’s wife. Or better
yet remember the Holy Roman Empire! When Constantine allegedly converted (but in
truth began to exploit the faith for state power – including appropriating the
symbol of the Prince of Peace for warfare, a fact that we should think of when
so many evangelicals unconditionally support the war in Iraq as well as torture)
Eusebius and many other pastors and theologians of the time insisted that the
whole thing was the work of God, that Constantine’s making Christianity the
religion of the empire was part of God’s redemptive-historic plan for mankind,
and that through the Roman Empire the whole world would be subdued for Jesus
Christ. What happened? It failed. The Holy Roman Empire broke apart, falling to
the Muslims.

The reason why is that Jesus Christ did not come to earth,
conduct His ministry, die from the cross, and rise from the dead in order to
bring such things into existence. Those things are not wrapped up within the

promises of God, so they will fail. They are works of the flesh, not of the spirit, so they are vanity. You can fight it, you can delay it, but ultimately, as a dog returns to his vomit (Proverb 26:11) that which is sinful will return to sin. A system of laws and rituals can control an unregenerate person for a time, but that sinner will ultimately go back to sin just as
Pliable, Simple, Sloth, Presumption, Formalist, Hypocrisy, Mistrust, Timorous
and all the rest abandoned the true pilgrim Christian on the straight and
narrow path to the Celestial City. And as societies are by definition going to
contain large majorities of unsaved and in many instances shall be ruled by
them, they will go the same way.

This was the failure of the doctrine of the ecclesiola within
the ecclesia, the actual church within the political and cultural church-state
that was advanced in some form by Augustine (representing as he did Catholicism),
Calvin (representing church – state Protestantism) and various others, and it
is the same failure of the various modern dominionism movements -including but
certainly not limited to the religious right and some of the more robust forms
of premillennial dispensationalism and Christian Zionism – whose adherents
proclaim themselves to be taking (or taking back) cultures, nations and
ultimately the globe for Christ.

I am reminded of the words of the pastor character in Frank
Peretti’s novel The Visitation (not exactly Pilgrim’s Progress granted,
but a good read nonetheless!) who upon hearing an inexperienced and zealous
pastor state “we are taking this town for Christ” replied “not even Christ took
a town for Christ.” As Jesus Christ’s own nation, the Jews, rejected Him, what
more evidence is there that Jesus Christ did not die for a nation, a culture, a
political agenda, or any other worldly thing, but rather to redeem the church?
Now Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection did, against all odds, succeed. The
church was born, has existed for going on 2,000 years, and will live forever.
However, the failure of all of these movements proves that no matter the
sincerity, fervency, and honorable motives of many of the people who inspire
and are caught up in them, are sadly due to fail because they have no part in
Jesus Christ’s promises and thus will have no part in His resurrection.

I keep hearing Christians speak of how this can be changed
with a revival, and have taken it upon themselves to try to initiate one. They
recall how society was transformed in America and Britain through the Great
Awakenings, and long for another to happen. I remember the claims that great
outpouring of national unity and people returning to churches after September
11th 2001 may spark just such a revival, a return of this nation to
its “Christian values and heritage.” It was easy to suffer such fantasies when
George W. Bush was in office. Well, not only did George W. Bush prove to be
someone who does not believe that the Bible is literally true and the final
authority and also that Muslims and Christians (and presumably other religions
as well) all pray to the same god, but this nation is now saddled with a
president about whom no one can entertain such delusions. Alas, it was just
another failure by people who were never seeking the true Will of Jesus Christ
to begin with.

While Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the other
revivalists of these awakenings may have had some state – church or state –
culture sympathies, the reason why their revivals as well as the missionary
revival started by William Carey and Adoniram Judson and before them Zinzendorf,
Spener and the Moravians succeeded was because their aim was to preach the
gospel and save souls! Their goals were not social or political but spiritual.
That was why they could not fail. They accomplished the results that they were
seeking because the results were the Lord adding to the church such as should
be saved (Acts 2:47). And yes, that verse does say THE LORD adding to the
church, not man through his own efforts doing so. Why? Because as stated
earlier … it was the Lord’s doing, the Lord’s work, the Lord’s battle to begin
with. Do the Lord’s will, and the Lord fights for you. Do your own will, and the
Lord fights against you. Do you deny this? Well then ask King Saul. His
kingdom, his portion was taken from him and given to another because he stopped
fighting the Lord’s battle the Lord’s way and started fighting his battles his
way. Instead of establishing God’s kingdom, it became about Saul’s kingdom.
When Saul’s son asked him for what cause did he seek the life of David, who had
never done any harm to Saul, King Saul cursed his son, calling him the son of a
dog, and asked “don’t you realize that as long as David lives you will never
have MY KINGDOM?” But it was never Saul’s kingdom to give. Saul and his sons
died, God’s kingdom went to David, and through the One Jesus Christ who
descended from David, it will last forever.

So, Christian, are you laboring for Mr. Legality with
Civility in the village Morality for things that, like the Holy Roman Empire,
the Reformed church – states, and Saul’s kingdom, will not last because they
are of this world and are things that Revelation 20 and 21 states will be
destroyed with fire and replaced with a new heaven and a new earth? Or are you
going to love Jesus Christ by keeping His commandments, and thereby laboring
for things that will last forever, in the Celestial City where the rust and
moth cannot destroy?

Gentle Christian, I sincerely entreat and implore you to
turn aside from all that which is pertaining to Mr. Legality, Civility, and the
village Morality … things of Sinai that will fail. Instead, join Pilgrim on the
narrow path to the Celestial City so that your works will last forever. In
closing, let me give you some words by Russell K. Carter, circa 1886.

  1. Standing on the promises of Christ
    my King,
    Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
    Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Refrain:
    Standing, standing,
    Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
    Standing, standing,
    I’m standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises that
    cannot fail,
    When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises I now can
    see
    Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
    Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises of Christ
    the Lord,
    Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
    Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises I cannot
    fall,
    List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,
    Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

    Will The Holy Spirit Be Taken From The Earth During The Great Tribulation?

    Posted by Job on May 2, 2009

    Many premillennial dispensational pastors teach that during the time of the great tribulation, the Holy Spirit leaves earth along with the church. Now consider this. As God is a spirit (John 4:24), the Holy Spirit is the presence of God. For God’s presence to be removed from the earth during the great tribulation or at any other times causes real problems, because God sustains and directs creation, which cannot operate without God’s presence and involvement. (The idea that God accomplished creation and left it to itself without His needing to operate, sustain, or otherwise be involved in it is theological liberalism at best and deism at worst.)

    But apart from the larger question of precisely how creation will be sustained and operated for seven long years with God’s presence absent from it, there is the issue of salvation. Can anyone name a premillennial dispensationalist who denies that people will be saved during the tribulation? That would be very difficult, because Revelation does make reference to Christians that will be martyred after the time that according to this doctrine the church will have been raptured, and this is so for both the pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation rapture believers. First off, for this to even happen will mean that Jesus Christ’s promise concerning the Holy Spirit of John 14:16-18, that He will not leave us comfortless (meaning that the presence of God will never leave the church) would be broken. So … if John 14:16-18 can be violated, even for a time, then what secures John 3:16 and the other promises of God to the church? 

    But again, back to salvation. The Bible explicitly teaches that the Holy Spirit is what accomplishes salvation. The Holy Spirit not only draws the sinner and convicts the sinner of unrighteousness, but the Holy Spirit actually accomplishes rebirth. This must be the case, for salvation is quite literally a miracle, and all miracles are the work of the Holy Spirit. No miracles cannot occur without the presence, moving and working of God. But if the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth, how can salvation occur? Who will draw sinners? Who will convict sinners of unrighteousness? Most important: who will perform the miraculous work of regeneration, of new birth? 

    Recall what Jesus Christ told Nicodemus in John 3:5-8, which is that salvation, new birth, is impossible unless someone is born again, and born again can only occur by water and spirit, which is the Holy Spirit. But to repeat, if the Holy Spirit has been taken from the earth, how can the rebirth, the salvation that can only occur by the Holy Spirit occur?

    There is only one explanation. It is the doctrine that salvation is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but rather of human decision, of free will. Now claiming that it is totally or completely free will is Pelagianism, or shall we say hyperArminianism. The mainstream orthodox free will doctrine is that the work of the Holy Spirit empowers a free will decision to accept or reject Jesus Christ. An extension of this is foreknowledge, which states that God from His timeless perspective knows in advance who will accept and reject Him, so He elects those who will – or in truth have already – elected Him, and places them in human history in situations where they will hear the gospel. (In other words, God loves us because we first loved Him.)

    Now the free will doctrine which states that the job of the Holy Spirit is to empower human decision is necessary to reconcile decision soteriology with what the Bible actually says. However, we see that this really is merely a cover, an exterior. At the heart of this doctrine is that salvation is completely the work of human decision, and that the Holy Spirit is not necessary at all. That is why it is so easy for the very same free will Christians to declare that salvation is made possible by the Holy Spirit’s overcoming the effects of the fall long enough to empower man to make a free will choice to immediately turn around and assert that during the tribulation, the Holy Spirit is gone and yet people will still be saved!

    This makes the work of the Holy Spirit to draw, convict, and actually accomplish new birth a mere technicality to free will salvation, an accessory if you will, that while very useful can be discarded if need be, such as during a crisis. And during the great crisis for humanity and creation that is the great tribulation, the presence of the Holy Spirit for those being saved is no more necessary than is the presence of a second lung or kidney. It is nice to have, but ultimately you can get along without it. After all, you still have the other lung or kidney, right? Well, it appears that with free will doctrine, one lung or kidney is God (the Holy Spirit) and the other lung or kidney is human initiative, human decision, human righteousness and self – worth, human works. It is interesting that in a crisis, God is the one which is declared to be superfluous, not truly necessary for life, and therefore sacrificed, while our human freedom, what is truly valued and important above all else, are the horns of the altar to which we hold fast to (see 1 Kings 2:27-34). Perhaps, then, life as a slave or in an authoritarian culture (please recall that Christianity was birthed in the authoritarian, fascist Roman Empire which had no respect for individual rights or freedoms except for that of a privileged few, and most early converts to the religion were noncitizens and slaves!) is better suited to creating a mindset conducive to Christianity than previously thought. After all, the Declaration of Independence was written by a deist, not a Christ.

    According to all Biblical evidence including the words of Jesus Christ Himself, the idea that salvation can occur without the Holy Spirit is severe error, a rejection of a truth plainly taught in scripture, and also attributing the work of the Holy Spirit (salvation) to another, giving another credit for what God does. (However, it is not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin, which Jesus Christ states is attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Giving the glory for the work of the Holy Spirit to man is a sin, but quite different than attributing salvation to being the work of Beelzebub.) So is the idea that the church will be left without its Comforter, the Holy Spirit. So, what does that mean for this doctrine? 

    I suppose that the rapture doctrine itself can be salvaged for those who choose to adhere to it. However, one simply cannot claim that there will be no Christians afterwards, as the Bible clearly contradicts it … saints will be martyred during the tribulation according to Revelation and the Olivet discourses.  One also cannot claim that the “tribulation church” or the “tribulation saints” will be there without the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Christ said that such a thing would never happen. And one cannot claim that the “tribulation saints” will consist of a single person born again while the Holy Spirit is removed. 

    So, the only way to salvage the rapture doctrine is to abandon the claim that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the Earth during the great tribulation, or at any other time that the church will be on the earth or that people will be added to the church. While this is certainly possible, the question must be asked  A) where this “the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth during the tribulation” doctrine came from and B) why it was embraced. Why did not these people, these great pastors, theologians, and eminent Bible scholars, simply ask: without the Holy Spirit how can anyone be saved and “how can any Christian endure daily life, let alone tribulation and martyrdom, without the ministry of the Comforter?”

    Now the doctrines of God are supposed to be the head of all doctrines of Christianity and the focus of our faith. We are supposed to look at every doctrine and ask “How is God working in this? How does this glorify God? How does this accomplish God’s purposes? Where is God in this story”? That this “the Holy Spirit will be removed from the tribulation church” doctrine has been able to gain such unqualified support in huge swaths of evangelical Christianity shows that this is not the case. In it, God and His workings are not necessary to bring about conversion, to seal believers, to preserve them in the faith. Man is able to accomplish these things, to save himself, minister to himself, and persevere in the faith himself, without God’s help. Oh what a great, glorious, marvelous, fantastic, mighty to contemplate and behold, inherently virtuous thing this man must be! But if this was the case, then why did Adam, who knew not original sin, fall?

    Instead, this shows that for so many premillennial dispensational Christians, the head of their doctrines are not the doctrines of God, but rather the doctrine of the rapture and the doctrine of human decision. Now the Gospel of John depicts the sin sacrifice of God’s own Word on the cross as the climaxing event of human history, the ultimate act of revelation and self – disclosure to creation. Premillennial dispensationalism, on the other hand, places the rapture of the church as the climax of human history, and the cross as merely being an event that leads to it. Why? Because the cross was about God, Jesus Christ. The rapture, meanwhile, us about the church. The cross is about people. Saved people, yes, but still people. The rapture is about US.

    Which means, of course, that Christianity basically becomes about the desire to be raptured. Being raptured becomes our hope, our motivation, the main priority. And that explains so many of the strange actions in these last days. For example: our relationship with the Jews and Israel. The ingathering of Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of the temple is the main priority because of its importance to the rapture. So, Christians are required to deny the fact that Jesus Christ replaced Israel and fulfilled Israel’s mission in salvation and world events within Himself. Even further, Christians are required to pretend that modern Judaism is just another godless religion, no different from Islam, and pretend that there is any precious difference between a government and society  based around modern Judaism – a theocracy – and a similar Hindu or Muslim nation like India or Turkey. It has even reached the point where leading pastors can openly advocate dual covenant theology, that there a superior path to salvation for Christians and an inferior, harder, but still attainable and valid path of salvation for Jews, without causing a ripple of controversy. And it has reached the point where investing an incredible amount of resources to lending political and financial support to a theocracy who denies Christ and works to continue and further the denial of Christ by as many people as possible has taken priority over actually doing what Jesus Christ told us to do, which was the Great Commission. Again, where not one scripture can be honestly interpreted in a way that would command Christians to support the modern political state of Israel, the primary thing that Jesus Christ told us to do, evangelize, gets neglected. Why? Because evangelizing the world – the one thing that Jesus Christ actually said would bring about His return – is not as important as ingathering and protecting Jews in Israel, because obeying the commands of Jesus Christ has to take a backseat to getting raptured as soon as possible. So, given the choice between giving money to Israeli causes knowing full well that the Israeli charities forbid evangelizing Jews and also helping to rebuild the temple takes priority over obeying the commands of Jesus Christ by, say, making a concerted effort to evangelize the Palestinians. Why? Because though obeying God by evangelizing the Palestinians is nice and all, I would rather support the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (which adamantly opposes converting Jews to Christianity) and help breed heifers for the new temple (never mind that Hebrews stated that burnt offerings went away with Jesus Christ). Why? Because while obeying God is a good thing and all, supporting anti-missionary organizations and building a temple that rejects the work of Jesus Christ helps me by speeding up the rapture and getting me out of here faster, and pursuing my own interests takes priority over the commandments of God!

    So, it is apparent: doctrines of man, and particularly of man’s inherent righteousness and ability to do good works apart from God, including pursue his own interests, and of the rapture,  which provides a doctrinal construct to pursue these things, are at the head of this particular strand of premillennial dispensationalism, and not the doctrines of God. So the question is: does this go as far as being another gospel? Is it another gospel?

    This is a question that we must ask Reformed pastors who believe in the rapture as do Albert Pendarvis and John MacArthur. Such people state that salvation and perseverance of the saints are impossible without the Holy Spirit, that free will, human initiative, is impossible in these matters. If that is the case now, how can it be the case after the rapture? Reformed evangelical pastors emphasize grace. But how can the grace of God by which salvation and perseverance is only possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit no longer be necessary after the rapture? Reformed evangelicals also assert sola scriptura. Well, can any sola scriptura Reformed evangelical who believes that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth and the tribulation church following the rapture show where it states or even implies in scripture where it is so? I dare say that the scriptures that Reformed evangelicals use to support cessationism, a doctrine about which I am very doubtful, make a much stronger case. 

    Now my position is that the position that the church will be raptured, whether pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation (before the final bowl judgments) by itself is not. However, the position that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth during the great tribulation is another gospel, because it teaches that man can save himself and can persevere in the faith by himself without needing God to perform – or so much as even aid – either. That is a strong delusion, and from such a false gospel, I urgently beg, entreat, plead, and in the Name of Jesus Christ pray that you will turn away.

    Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

    Is The Gift Of Tongues Available To The Church Today?

    Posted by Job on March 1, 2009

    This pastor relies on 1 Corinthians 13:8 to make his case, but in doing so he leaves out the vital information in 1 Corinthians 13:9-10! So, I am still awaiting a convincing case for cessationism using the Bible in context to be made. However, this pastor does make a credible – and formidable – point on the issue that “glossolia” means “language” and “dialect” as opposed to “ecstatic utterance unintelligble in any language.” The private prayer language and other ecstatic utterance advocates need other Bible texts to justify the practice, Romans 8:26 perhaps.

    Posted in Bible | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    Seeking An Interpretation of Acts 8:12-17 That Answers The Pentecostal Challenge

    Posted by Job on February 16, 2009

    A little while ago, I happened to be watching an old Lester Sumrall sermon on Christian television. In it, he used the text Acts 8:12-17 to support the classic and core Pentecostal doctrine of being filled with the Holy Spirit. According to Pentecostalism, this is something distinct from the Holy Spirit’s indwelling born again Christians. 

    There is actually an Old Testament basis for the Pentecostal “filling of the Holy Spirit” doctrine. Consider most prominently the book of Judges where such figures as Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson were empowered by the Holy Spirit to lead Israel. Also, the Holy Spirit was required for Old Testament prophecy. Claiming that such figures had the indwelling Holy Spirit available to them in that dispensation is very problematic theologically, and becomes even more so when one considers that such extremely problematic figures as Balaam and Saul prophesied. 

    So, the text of Acts 8:12-17 is as follows:

    But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 

    Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

    Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

    Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

    (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

    Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

    Rather compelling I must say. At this point, the Samaritans in question were already baptized believers upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, they did not receive the Holy Ghost until 1) Christians prayed that they would receive it and 2) hands were laid upon them. 

    Now, it was Sumrall’s position that the Samaritans, having already believed and been baptized, already had the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that what the Samaritans received as a result of the prayer intercession and having laid hands on them was the empowering, the filling of the Holy Spirit. I find Sumrall’s position to be compelling, because rejecting it would have real implications for the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling the believer, because – and Sumrall made this a point of emphasis – the Samaritans were already baptized believers, that is born again Christians, before the incident of their receiving prayer and the laying on of hands.  

    So, if Sumrall’s explanation – reasonably if not perfectly supportable by the plain reading of the text and the context of scripture – that this text refers to the filling  or empowering of the Holy Spirit and not the indwelling Holy Spirit is not correct, then does a better one exist?

    Now I have seen a treatment of Acts 8:12-17 in the New American Commentary which asserted that the Samaritans received the indwelling Holy Spirit and the completion of their salvation process. Its justification of their position was plausible: that the salvation accounts in Acts never conformed to any rigid formula or pattern but instead depicted a diversity of salvation experiences, so in this case the receipt of the indwelling Holy Spirit by the Samaritans was delayed in order for the apostles to witness it, and thus see evidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not meant for Jews alone; a sign of divine approval for the Samaritan mission. 

    The New American Commentary’s treatment of the issue was plausible. But was it superior to Sumrall’s? Now I have conceded that Sumrall’s assertion was imperfect. It is not based on anything that the Bible comes right out and says at any point, but instead uses some assumptions. (For instance, Sumrall did not even mention the incidents of individuals being empowered by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament; that was something that I supplied to lend weight to Sumrall’s thesis.) But the New American Commentary’s explanation is guilty of the same. If anything, it is even less perfect than Sumrall’s, because it relies on speculation to supply a reason for why things transpired the way that they did.  

    As a matter of fact, the New American Commentary attempts to draw a parallel between the Samaritans in this instance and those of the Ephesians in Acts 19 to support their position. However, this is a false parallel and a completely inappropriate comparison, based solely on the fact that both the Samaritans and Ephesians had been baptized. However, the Samaritans of Acts 8 had heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and been baptized. Meanwhile, the Ephesians of Acts 19 had received their baptism from John the Baptist, and had not heard the gospel. The only parallel is that the Ephesians received the Holy Spirit after Paul laid hands on them, but it was that same Paul who baptized them in the Name of Jesus Christ. So even without including the Acts 19 example, the New American Commentary’s explanation is weaker than Sumrall’s, and so their seeing fit to include this incident as an attempt to strengthen their explanation makes it weaker still.

    However, Sumrall’s main flaw is that Acts 8:12-17 does explicitly state that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit upon being laid hands upon. As much as Sumrall would like for the text to say “the Samaritans were empowered by the Holy Spirit” or “the Samaritans received a second blessing”, it simply does not say it. So, the fact that Sumrall’s thesis – driven interpretation is superior to the thesis – driven interpretation of the New American Commentary does not change the fact that it is thesis – driven. Sumrall, being Pentecostal, has an agenda to use this text to support a second blessing. The New American Commentary, being written from the Baptist perspective, has the opposite agenda. (The commentary’s invocation of John 8:3 to state that the Holy Spirit comes when He chooses appears to be extremely helpful, but not only is it citing John 8:3 out of context, but as mentioned earlier, wielding John 8:3 in that fashion has real implications for the doctrine that the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, and the “indwells” in that doctrine is commonly understood to be a present tense and never a future tense.) 

    So, a straight interpretation of Acts 8:12-17, void of any agendas, would be useful in meeting the challenge posed by Sumrall. Otherwise, Acts 8:12-17 may well stand as a text that supports of Pentecostal doctrines. However, one should always recall that Pentecostalism was a direct outgrowth and logical extension of the doctrines of one John Wesley, who among other things taught that it was possible for a born – again Christian to lose his salvation, and furthermore was an apologist for the Roman Catholic Church (a fact for which Roman Catholics are both grateful to and proud of Wesley … see this link where the Vatican officially celebrated the 300th anniversary of Wesley’s birth; Wesley was to Protestants of his time what Billy Graham is today regarding the cult of Mary).

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