Category Archives: Pastor Doug’s Corner

New Covenant Nonsense: Covenant Theology

This is part of a series of posts on New Covenant Nonsense. Click here to see the entire series.

To describe the essentials of covenant theology I have selected two historic Reformed confessions. Those documents are the London Baptist Confession of 1689 and the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have extracted the statements relevant to covenant theology from each of these confessions and they are quoted below:

The Westminster Confession of Faith says this about the doctrine of the covenant:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life except by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, and this He has been pleased to express in the form of a covenant….Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (‘That covenant’ is a reference to the ‘covenant of works’ which had been previously stated in this confession as a covenant God made with Adam prior to the fall. The Baptists rejected the notion of a ‘covenant of works’ and did not include it in their confession, ed.), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the Covenant of Grace: whereby he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belong to it, therein bequeathed. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel; under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.
Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 says this about the doctrine of the covenant:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their Creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life except by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, and this He has been pleased to express in the form of a covenant. Moreover, as man had brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace. In this covenant He freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring from them faith in Him that they may be saved, and promising to give to all who are appointed to eternal life His Holy Spirit to make them willing and able to believe.

This covenant is revealed through the Gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by further steps until the full revelation of it became complete in the New Testament. The covenant of salvation rests upon an eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect. It is solely by the grace of this covenant that all the descendants of fallen Adam who have ever been saved have obtained life and blessed immortality, because man is now utterly incapable of gaining acceptance with God on the terms by which Adam stood in his state of innocence.

Although the Baptists and Presbyterians were united in their belief in regards to the “covenant of grace” in general, there are significant differences between the two confessions on the doctrine of the covenant of grace in particular. Both parties agreed that God saved His people by means of the covenant of grace. Both parties agreed that His people were saved by this covenant both under the Old and New testaments. Both parties agreed that membership in the covenant of grace was determined by the Triune God before the creation of the universe. As the London confession says, ” The covenant of salvation rests upon an eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect.” Both parties, however, did not agree on all elements of the covenant of grace.

The Westminster Confession goes into much greater detail about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and how both fit into the covenant of grace. The London Baptist Confession omits, or ignores, all of these items. Indeed, the entire Old Testament period is described as a period in which God simply took “further steps” in revealing His plan of salvation. Those further steps are not described or detailed in any way.

The Westminster Confession goes into great detail describing the relationship of the sacraments in the two testaments. The logically necessary connection between circumcision and baptism is made. The unity of the two testaments had been an essential part of Reformed theology from the time of Calvin. Indeed, Calvin devoted two entire chapters in his “Institutes” to the topic. The Baptists were aware of this fact but made the decision to ignore the doctrines that were, in the mind of the Presbyterians, logically necessary if the doctrine of the covenant of grace was true. This, of course, allowed the Baptists to preserve their doctrine of credo-baptism.

It is my assertion that the Baptists were able to maintain their doctrine of credo-baptism only because they made the conscious decision to not push the doctrine of the covenant of grace to it’s logical conclusion with respect to the sacraments. The Presbyterians had done so and integrated it into their confession. The Baptists did not. The end result was a factionalized church in which a great deal of energy was expended in throwing theological bombs and calling each other names. That, of course, has continued down to this day. The war between credo-baptists and paedo-baptists continues.

Despite all of the theological infighting over the doctrine of baptism, a truce of sorts managed to evolve. Each group realized it was not going to change the other and Baptists and Presbyterians were able to coexist. Presbyterians accused Baptists of not following through on their doctrine of the covenant of grace and Baptists accused Presbyterians of going too far with their doctrine of the covenant of grace. Then, the new covenant theologians came along. They changed all the rules.

New Covenant Nonsense: Introduction

This is the first of a series of posts on New Covenant Nonsense. Click here to see the entire series.

There is a theological movement afoot that has gained ground in Evangelicalism in recent years that is, I believe, very dangerous. The members of this theological movement call themselves “new covenant” theologians and they allege that they are bringing an entirely new theological perspective to the Christian Church. In this essay I will prove that they are, in fact, just another version of the ancient errors of antinomianism, Marcionism and mysticism. The historical background from which they come allows them to believe that they are unique, but they are not.

In this essay I will attempt to describe what new covenant theology is. This is a difficult task to accomplish because there is a great deal of theological variety within the camp of those who refer to themselves as new covenant theologians. It is also a difficult task to accomplish because new covenant theologians pride themselves in not presenting a comprehensive system of theological thought that can be systematically analyzed. Instead, they have a very limited set of doctrines on which they make positive assertions and everything else seems to be made up as they go along. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to present theological positions that are generally held by the majority of those who call themselves new covenant. I will make every effort to present their views accurately and not create a straw man based upon the aberrant views of some new covenant extremists. (A note about punctuation. Some might consider new covenant theology to be worthy of being a proper noun and, therefore, subject to capitalization. I do not. All references in this essay to new covenant theology are lower case.)

I will also show where new covenant theology really comes from. New covenant theology vainly attempts to reconcile logically contradictory theological traditions. Although new covenant theologians believe they have succeeded in their attempt, I will prove they have failed miserably. Not only have they failed, they have created dangerous theological positions that flirt with theological heresy. In many cases the logically necessary conclusions that must be drawn from new covenant theological positions are heretical. A good portion of this essay will consist of dealing with a hodge-podge of theological ideas that are generated by a small number of new covenant positions. In each of those cases I will attempt to show that new covenant theology falls apart because it is inherently contradictory. The contradictory nature of new covenant theology does not seem to bother it’s proponents. They blithely go on making their limited number of theological propositions all the while ignoring the necessary consequences of their assertions.

As is the case with all modern heresies, a distinction must be made between heresy and being a heretic. I believe new covenant theology is necessarily heretical. It does not follow that all who hold to the views of new covenant theology are heretics. Indeed, I suspect most of the preachers of the new covenant simply refuse to push their theological positions to their logical conclusions and, therefore, avoid heresy in that manner. I draw no conclusions about the state of the souls of those who believe in the new covenant. It is none of my business. I will draw many conclusions about the stream of theological nonsense that is coming out of this camp of professing believers.
New covenant theologians love to present themselves as operating without a theological system. In one sense this statement is correct. Their doctrines are very limited in scope and they by no means present a comprehensive theological system to the Church. They then profess to take the theological high ground over their opponents, whom they allege are hopelessly mired in theological error because of the theological system that they have adopted. In this sense, new covenant theologians love to describe themselves as “biblical theologians” rather than “systematic theologians”. They believe that they avoid all of the eisegetical doctrinal errors inherent in a theological system and they profess to operate under a pure exegesis that deals with the biblical text alone. This claim will be examined.

As far as professing to not operating under a theological system is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth. New covenant proponents have a well established system and they use it constantly. I will prove that below. There is a great air of arrogance surrounding most of the adherents to new covenant theology. Just as Dispensationalists love to assert that they are superior to all their opponents because they are the only group to use the “literal” method of biblical interpretation, so new covenant theologians claim to be the only group without a man made theological system impeding their interpretations of the Bible. I will prove that most of them suffer from a tremendous amount of spiritual pride. Whether their pride is the result or the cause of their position is open to debate. Nevertheless, they are generally a group of men who are quite arrogant and prideful. This will be seen in what follows. Before discussing what new covenant theologians believe it is worth taking a moment to review what covenant theologians believe. Then, a comparison can be made. We will get to that in a moment.

I must make a comment about the credo-baptist/paedo-baptist debate. I have no intention of entering into a
debate on baptism. I adopt the paedo-baptist position and assume it throughout this essay. I consider all Baptists to be weaker brothers on the doctrine of baptism. I recognize and accept their convictions with respect to the doctrine of baptism. I also assert that a doctrine will be known by it’s fruits. No biblical doctrine, when pressed to it’s logical conclusions, can bring about confusion, contradiction and heresy. If a doctrine does bear this negative fruit, it is not a biblical doctrine. This essay will show that new covenant theology bears a tremendous amount of rotten fruit.

I will conclude this essay with some tales of the pastoral fruit of new covenant theology. In a very short period of time I have witnessed a massive amount of spiritual carnage that was the direct result of applying new covenant doctrines to pastoral/counseling situations. These men need to be held accountable for the damage they are doing. These men need to repent of their erroneous views and stop persecuting God’s people. But first, what is covenant theology?

Poison of Pietism: Conclusion

This is the last of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

There is not one shred of Biblical evidence to support the almost universally-held doctrine that personal evangelism is to be the over-arching activity in every Christian’s life. Quite to the contrary, based on the complete lack of verses supporting the doctrine of personal evangelism, we have seen that Christ does not consider personal evangelism to be a requirement to fulfill the mission of His Church.

What, then, is the mission of the Church? The plethora of verses we looked at that contain exhortations and prayers for the churches show that the mission of the Church is to love and glorify God through the love for one another within the Church, to build up to maturity the Body of Christ through the teaching and preaching of the elders, to engage in the breaking of bread together, to fellowship in unity with one another, and to encourage, pray for, exhort, and serve one another.

For a church to focus on evangelism to the detriment of the true mission of the Church, building up the Body, will likely result in a church that is spiritually immature, that does not understand the true character of God, and that does not practice deep Biblical fellowship.

What would I hope the result of this paper be?

For those who have a passion for personal evangelism, they should continue to evangelize.

For those who do personal evangelism out of guilt, not wanting to, but because they think they should, they should continue to evangelize. They should not go against their conscience. If they believe that they are required to evangelize, it would be sin for them not to continue to do personal evangelism. (1 Corinthians 8)

For those who do not do personal evangelism but believe they are required to, they should begin evangelizing. (1 Corinthians 8)

For those who do personal evangelism out of guilt, although they do not believe that it is required of them, they should no longer feel compelled to evangelize.

For those who do not do personal evangelism and do not believe that it is required of them, they should be allowed to continue to not evangelize without being accused of being in sin.

Poison of Pietism: The Great Commission for Apostles Only Part 2

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

1 Thes 2:3-4 – For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

Paul and his co-workers are “men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”. They were given the task of spreading the gospel of Christ. If every Christian was “entrusted with the gospel”, this statement would be quite superfluous and would add no value to his argument that his teaching is authoritative.

1 Thes 3:2 – We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…

Again, the use of the phrase “God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ” would be meaningless unless it was meant to differentiate Timothy from others for which the spreading of the gospel was not their calling.

I Thes 4:9-10 – Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

As always, Paul exhorts the believers to grow in love for one another and to mature in unity.

1 Thes 5:14-22 – And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

The closing exhortation of Paul in 1 Thessalonians includes many actions but does not include evangelism. From this passage it appears that not only is evangelism not to be the highest priority of the Christian, it may not be important at all.

2 Thes 1:3 – We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

2 Thes 1:11-12 – With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is thanking God for the Thessalonians and praying for them that “He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” This prayer is very general in nature. I would expect that if evangelism were important, Paul would specifically mention it, especially in light of the fact that nowhere in either of his two letters to them does he mention that they should be active in evangelism.

Titus 1:3 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness …and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…

Once again Paul acknowledges that his gift of evangelism was entrusted to him by God, not by an inherent ability instilled in every believer.

1 Peter 3:8-12 – Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:8-11 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

These two passages begin with “finally” and “above all”, respectively. These words usually precede statements which are meant to be closing, important statements in an argument. In this case, the statements describe behaviors that the readers were to exhibit. Not surprisingly, evangelizing the lost is not among the commanded behaviors.

I will conclude this paper with still more verses that argue that love, maturity, and fellowship within the church are to be what the Church is all about.

2 Cor 13:11 – Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 2:10 – Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

1 John 3:16-20 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.

1 John 4:11-12 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 5:2-3 –This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his
commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands.

3 John 2-4 – Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

By our love for one another, the world will see Christ and glorify God. We are to be God’s witnesses when opportunities arise, but are never commanded to passionately and actively evangelism our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anybody else.

Poison of Pietism: The Great Commission for Apostles Only Part 1

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Some of the following passages further support my argument that Christ gave the command of the “Great Commission” solely to the apostles and, later, to those who were/are given the gift and passion of evangelism. Other passages are used to show the true purpose of the Church and what God requires of His people.

John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:8-14 – This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

These two passages in John reiterate the second most important commandment, “Love each other as I have loved you.” While it is important that we love “our neighbor”, it is more important that believers love one another.

John 17:8-23 contains a portion of Jesus’ prayer for the eleven disciples. In verses 8 and 9 Christ prays, “For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”

Then, starting in verse18, He states:

John 17:18-23 -As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Christ’s physical ministry on earth is ending and He is sending his chosen apostles “into the world”. (verse 18) He prays for “those who will believe in me through their message” that they “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” He continues in verse 23 with “may they brought to complete unity.” As believers, we are to have unity with one another, and not be factionalized. However, based on the number of so-called Christian denominations that exist today, the Church has failed miserably to obey this command.

John 20:19-21 – On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

There is no evidence that the group gathered together consisted of anyone other than the apostles (minus Thomas) although some of the Marys may also have been in attendance. Thus, there is no reason to contend that when Christ said “I am sending you”, he was referring to all who were to become believers.

1 Cor 16:15-16 – You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.

If evangelism is to be the priority of every Christian, why is Paul praising the household of Stephanas for “devoting
themselves to the service of the saints”? Should he not be rebuking them instead and insisting their efforts be focused on expanding the kingdom instead of serving those who already know Christ?
Eph 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It would seem that if evangelizing is the primary purpose that man is left on earth after being saved, this verse should have been written “…created in Christ Jesus to evangelize …”. Paul should be driving home the point that if the Ephesians are not reaching out to the lost, they are missing the reason for their existence on earth. “Good works” definitely does not preclude sharing the gospel, but I think Paul would have been a bit more specific if evangelizing was that important.

Eph 3:7-9 – I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

Paul is emphasizing the fact that the grace to be an evangelist was given to him, the “least of all God’s people”, by God. If all believers are evangelists, then obviously even the least of all God’s people would also have the grace to be an evangelist. That totally destroys his argument that, out of all God’s people, he specifically was chosen to evangelize the Gentiles. After the dispersion in Jerusalem, there were likely many believers scattered throughout the countries of the Gentiles. Paul does not mention that believers throughout those countries should also be preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.

Eph 4:1-3 – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Eph 4: 25-32 – Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Eph 5:15-21 – Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
There is still a glaring omission in Paul’s exhortations. There is no mention of proclaiming the gospel to the lost. There are only commands to fellowship with one another.

Eph 6:19-20 – Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

In verses 19 and 20 of this chapter, Paul does mention evangelism. However, he is asking the Ephesians to pray that he, not that the Ephesians, will be bold in proclaiming the gospel. Since he is taking the time to address sharing the gospel, would he not certainly exhort them also to “declare it fearlessly” if he believed they should be fearlessly, passionately, and actively sharing the gospel?

Phil 1:9-11 – And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.

Phil 3:18 – For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

These passages do not contain any exhortations or references to evangelism. If evangelism is the primary duty of all Christians, that is a glaring omission! Paul is in tears because of the unbelievers (those who “live as enemies of the cross of Christ”). Should he not have immediately followed verse 18 with a strong exhortation that the readers get out and evangelize their unbelieving neighbors, friends, and family? Maybe he didn’t believe it was their duty?

Col 1:3-4 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.

Why is Paul thanking God? Because of the faith of the Colossians and the love they have for one another. Should he not be admonishing them for being more concerned for one another than for unbelievers?

Col 1:25 – I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness…

Paul is acknowledging that the reason he is proclaiming the gospel to the Colossians is because he was commissioned by God. If everyone is commissioned by God to be an evangelist, his statement makes little sense.

Poison of Pietism: Examination of the Remainder of the New Testament Part 4

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

In Titus 1:6-9, Paul has the chance to correct the glaring omission of evangelism in 1 Timothy 3 as a requirement for a person holding the office of elder. However, once again, he fails to list the passion for actively spreading the gospel as a requirement or duty for the office.

The entire second chapter of Titus contains behaviors and personality traits that Titus is to teach to various categories of individuals. It appears that Titus has limited understanding of how the knowledge of Christ and the scriptures should be applied to the lives of the people in his congregation. If evangelism is a requirement of every believer, I don’t understand how Paul could have failed to mention it in his instructions on what Titus was to teach his flock.

Philemon 1:6 -I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Finally, here is a verse that seems to support the “everyone should evangelize” doctrine. However, unlike many of the epistles which were written to an entire local church, often with instructions to forward it to other churches, this letter was written to Philemon, with only a passing salutation to Apphia, Archippus, and “the church that meets in your home.” (verse 2)

Since the church is meeting in Philemon’s home, we can assume that Philemon is one of the elders in the church. Given that, I will grant that this verse could be used to argue that elders should evangelize. However, given the complete lack of any reference to evangelism in the requirements for the office of elder given to Timothy and Titus, I suspect that Paul has had fellowship with Philemon in the past (verse 19) and believes that he has the gift of evangelism.

1 Peter 2:11-12 – Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires,
which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 3:1-2 – Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

These two passages in 1 Peter talk about pagans receiving saving faith. In both cases, it is the result of the non- believer seeing the behavior (“good deeds”, “purity and reverence”) of the believer. In neither case does it describe an active act of evangelism. Being the light of the world and the salt of the earth, the fact that we are different should be apparent to the world and, if the Spirit is drawing a person to God, bring them to repentance.

1 Peter 3:15-16 – But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
This is a continuation of the theme from verses 1 and 2. Outsiders should be drawn to question us about our behavior because it is so different from the behavior of the world. We are to always be prepared to act as a witness for what God has done for us and to accurately proclaim the gospel. Does this interaction ever occur? Hardly ever, because our being different is usually unseen by a blinded and depraved world. (John 12:40, Acts 28:27)

2 Peter 1:5-11 – For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This incredible list of vital qualities of a true believer does not contain anything about caring for, sharing with, or even talking to the lost in hopes of bringing them to salvation. However, Peter says that by exhibiting these Godly qualities we will “receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He doesn’t say anything about us “grieving Christ” if we fail to actively evangelize out of a passionate concern for the salvation of others. We will still be welcomed into eternity with our Lord. In fact, if we exhibit the listed qualities, verse 8 says we will be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord. This does not sound like we are “grieving Christ” if we do not also actively evangelize.

2 Peter 3:10 and 3:11a says “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” Is the answer “We are to be extremely diligently in evangelizing because when the Lord returns there will be no more chances for the lost to be saved.”? No, verse 11b answers the question with “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” What does a holy and godly life look like? Peter has already provided the answer in the 2 Peter 1:5-11 passage that we looked at previously.

Jude 22-23 – Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Here is finally a passage, in a book that is written to all “those who have been called” (Jude 1), which at first glance appears to support the argument that everyone should evangelize, snatching unbelievers “from the fire” to “save them”. However, the entire book addresses the fact that “godless men” have “secretly slipped in among you” (verse 4) and are teaching that tolerance and freedom in Christ allows them to behave immorally. It is dividing the
church and causing some within the church to doubt Christianity. Jude’s exhortation is for those within the church. They are to be merciful to those who doubt, teaching them the ungodliness of the immoral behavior, and to drive out the godless men who are destroying the church. God’s Church, His Body, is to be pure and blameless. The passage is not meant to say we are to talk to unbelievers by snatching them from the fire and saving them.

The first three chapters of Revelation contain Christ’s letters to the seven churches. If Christ believes evangelism to be the over-arching priority of the Church and that the primary concern of every believer should be to perform personal evangelism, surely His belief will be evidenced in the letters to the churches, where eternal life or death of the believers hang in the balance. Of all the godly behaviors that Christ tells the churches are commendable, not one of them has to do with evangelizing or being His witnesses. Not one! Of all the criticisms that Christ uses to rebuke the churches, not one of them is because of a lack of evangelism. Not one!

So as not to belabor the point, I have omitted many Bible passages which could have been utilized to further argue against the requirement for personal evangelism. I have included an addendum section, after the “Conclusion” paragraphs, that contains the additional passages, which you can read if you are not already convinced that personal evangelism is not a requirement for every believer, and that evangelism is not the primary purpose and function of the Church.

Poison of Pietism: Examination of the Remainder of the New Testament Part 3

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Col 1:7-12 – All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Verse 7 talks about the spreading of the gospel all over the world. How is this taking place? In the case of the Colossians it was because Epaphras evangelized them. Why was Epaphras evangelizing? Because he was Paul’s “fellow servant, who is a faithful minister on our behalf.” He was ordained as an evangelist (minister) and was preaching the gospel under Paul’s authority. He was one who was “sent”. (Romans 10:15) Paul prays many things for the Colossians in this passage. As he regularly does for the churches he has planted, he prays for their growth and maturation in Christ. One thing he does not pray for, and has not prayed for any church, is that they fearlessly proclaim the gospel to the lost.

Col 3:12–16 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Paul likes lists and here is another one that details how the Colossians are to live in Christ. Every item on the list is either a behavior trait or an action pertaining to life within the body of believers. The maturity of the believers and the love and unity they have for one another is of paramount importance. If personal evangelism was the number one duty of every Christian, it seems likely that Paul would have mentioned it specifically.

Col 4:2-6 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a
door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
In verses 2-4, Paul is asking for prayer that a door may be opened for his evangelization efforts. He does not pray that doors be opened so the Colossians could evangelize.

In verses 5-6, interaction between believers and unbelievers is discussed. Does it say we are to be wise in what we tell an unbeliever when we witness to them? No. It says “be wise in the way you act toward” unbelievers. Our day- to-day lives and actions are to be a beacon to the lost world. When they ask us why we live the way we do, that is an “opportunity” that we are to “make the most of.” We are to share the gospel and “know how to answer” questions about our faith in Christ. If we are embarrassed or ashamed to proclaim the gospel in these situations, our souls are in grave danger, for Luke 9:26 says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory.”

1 Thes 4:11-12 – And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

In GFL’s “Welcome to the Church” class, we were presented with an excerpt of a paper written by Rick Warren where he says that “‘mind your own business’ is not a Christian phrase.” Apparently he never read 1 Thessalonians.
The life of an evangelist is anything but a “quiet life”. To continually challenge people with the fact that they are sinners whose best deeds are but filthy rags in front of the one Holy God, and that they need to repent and be saved is guaranteed to result in being the object of much anger, resentment, and hatred. Just ask Paul.

Our daily life, shining as a light in a dark and depraved world, is what is to win the respect of outsiders and, if God’s Spirit is drawing them, cause them to inquire about what makes us different than everyone else.
Instead of telling the believers that they should care more about spreading the gospel, looking back at verses 9 and 10 provides the focus of Paul’s exhortations.

2 Thes 3:1-5 – Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

This passage contains the first and only mention of evangelism in this epistle. However, Paul is asking for their prayers that the Lord prosper his evangelistic efforts, not theirs. He prays that they grow in God’s love and Christ’s perseverance but does not encourage them to be evangelists.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 describes the qualifications for those holding the offices of elder and deacon. While these are offices whose function is to build up the Church, should not a person holding one of these offices also be an outstanding example of a personal evangelist, if indeed every Christian is to evangelize. However, the only mention of non-believers in this passage is when Paul says of an elder that “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” Having a good reputation with outsiders is far from saying that he should evangelize outsiders. In fact, the remainder of that verse shows that even the reason for having a good reputation with outsiders has nothing to do with sharing the gospel with them.

1 Tim 5:9-10 – No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her
husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

A woman could be added to the list of widows only if her life was a light for Christ. This passage even mentions specific actions which constitute “good deeds”. If evangelizing was the primary reason for her being on earth, is it not reasonable to expect that it be number one on the list of good deeds? Is it not reasonable to expect that it would at least be listed as a qualification for the widows list?

1 Tim 5:17 – The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teachings, gifts which are used to build up the body of believers, are of more value than other gifts. Since the ability to evangelize is also a gift (Eph 4:11), this means that preaching and teaching (maturing the body of Christ) is of higher importance to God than evangelizing (numerically increasing the body of Christ).

2 Tim 4:1-2 – In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Tim 4:6 – For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
Paul recognizes that his ministry is almost over and that he is about to die. If I were him, giving a final charge to a co-worker who I loved like a son, and I believed that spreading the gospel was the primary goal of every Christian, I would say “Spread the gospel; tell others about Christ; send your flock unto the fields so that they might reap an exponential harvest!” Instead, Paul talks about preaching the Word (preparing the believer for good works), correcting (making sure doctrine is sound), rebuking (church discipline), and encouraging (strengthening the body). It definitely sounds like Paul wants Timothy to focus on building up the body of Christ in maturity as opposed to spreading the gospel to all nations.

Poison of Pietism: Examination of the Remainder of the New Testament Part 2

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

1 Cor 9:9-14 – For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Let us allow for a moment that personal evangelism is required of every Christian. This passage states that if we sow “spiritual seed” (tell others about Christ), as evangelists we have the right to be paid (“reap a material harvest”). As the priesthood of believers, we “work in the temple” when we share the gospel with others. Should not every believer also share in the income of the church if they are performing the primary work of the church, evangelism?

1 Cor 12:14-26 – Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

This is a parallel passage to Romans 12. God apportions abilities to his servants according to His will. The evangelist has received that ability through the grace of God. The evangelist does an extremely important work in the body of Christ: that is, working wholeheartedly to grow the Church through the proclamation of the gospel. However, the evangelist is only one part of the body and not every believer is that same part.

1 Cor 12:27-29 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Based on Ephesians 4:11 (“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”), the rhetorical question “Are all evangelists?” could be added to the list.

2 Cor 5:18-20 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

The authors of the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul and Timothy, are referring to themselves as “Christ’s ambassadors”. “Ambassador” in this context could be a synonym for “witness” or “evangelist”. If every believer were an ambassador for Christ, the argument that Paul and Timothy use to claim they have the authority to implore the Corinthians, “as though God were making the appeal through us”, to be “reconciled to God” would be meaningless. It would be like them saying “We are therefore Christians… We implore you…”. The position of “ambassador” is a position of authority from God.

Gal 6:10 – Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Christ said that the second most important commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Thus, it seems reasonable that Paul should say “do good to all people, pagans and believers alike.” It is interesting that in this passage Paul says we should be especially good to fellow believers. He appears to believe that our fellowship with, and love for, believers should have a higher priority than our interaction with non-believers.

Eph 1:15-17 – For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Paul says in verse 15 that having “love for all the saints” is something to give thanks for. If evangelizing is to be of the utmost importance to every Christian, I would think that Paul would have either given thanks for the growth of the church due to the faithful witness of the Ephesians or rebuked them for not being faithful witnesses. Once again, Paul seems to be more concerned about the love and unity of the believers than he is in them reaching out to the lost world.

Eph 3:16-19 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with powerthrough his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This passage contains lots of great things that Paul desires for the Ephesian believers: that they be strengthened in their “inner being”, that Christ may dwell in their hearts, that they be “rooted and established in love”, and that they might grasp the extent of the love of Christ. Should Paul not also have prayed for them to have the passion to actively evangelize if, indeed, evangelizing was of the utmost importance?

Eph 6:13-18 – Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

If evangelism is to be the top priority of every Christian, it seems unfathomable that no part of the armor of God specifically addresses that duty. The fact that Paul concludes with “always keep on praying for all the saints” instead of “always keep on praying for all the unbelievers” seems to reflect Paul’s belief, which we’ve seen so far to be consistent throughout all his letters, that the maturation and unity of the body of Christ is to be the most important facet of a believer’s life, while evangelizing one’s family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers is not even important enough to mention.

Phil 2:14-16 – Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

In this passage Paul states that we are to “shine like stars” as we become “blameless and pure.” How are we to shine? In the previous chapter, Paul prays that our “love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” and that we be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” By our righteous actions before the “crooked and depraved” world, we will be shining stars.

Some may argue that the phrase “as you hold out the word of life” means proclaiming the gospel by evangelizing. I will not try to refute that interpretation. However, Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” It is the good deeds that are illuminating God.

Poison of Pietism: Examination of the Remainder of the New Testament Part 1

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Let me grant for the moment that I am completely wrong. Let us suppose that Christ has commanded every believer to an evangelist (“witness”) and that evangelizing their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers is to be their “over-arching” goal and their main purpose for being on this earth.

If indeed Jesus taught that the primary purpose of man on earth is to passionately perform personal evangelism, it would seem highly likely, in fact a near certainty, that letters written by the apostles to various churches would reflect that fact, strongly encouraging the churches to engage in active evangelizing. Let us look at appropriate passages from most books of the New Testament and examine the importance of personal evangelism. If
evangelizing is to be the believer’s top priority, we should expect the authors to be exhorting believers to evangelize, and to care for and reach out to unbelievers. We should expect that Paul, Peter, and John would be diligently praying for all believers, that they leave the comfortable confines of the church to rub shoulders with, meet the physical needs of, and share the gospel with unbelievers.

Romans 1:5-6 – Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Paul announces that he received grace from the Lord to be an evangelist (“to call people from among all the Gentiles”). He does not say that everyone has received that grace.

Romans 10:10-12 – I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

What is Paul’s desire for his first face-to-face encounter with the Roman church? That they “may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” It seems that if evangelism was the over-arching concern of all Christians, Paul would strongly desire to preach about the importance of sharing their faith with unbelievers, not sharing their faith with each other.

Romans 10:14-15 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?

People often use this passage to argue that everyone should evangelize. However, they tend to ignore verses 14b and 15: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” They are sent! A sinner believes when an evangelist is sent (ordained) by the Church to preach the gospel to unbelievers, and the Holy Spirit uses that spoken Word to convict the sinner of sin and bring them to repentance and faith in Christ.
Romans 12:4-6 – Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

Paul said in chapter 1 of Romans that he “received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles”. That is his primary function in the body of Christ. His argument in chapter 12 is that not everybody has the same function within the body. To say that everybody should be a mouth, for example, would directly contradict Paul’s main point. To say that everyone has been given grace by God to be an evangelist is just as contradictory.

Romans 12:10-16 – Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Here is a long list of behaviors and attitudes that Paul submits to the Romans as being godly. Sharing one’s faith with non-believers is not on the list. That is odd if personal evangelism is to be of the utmost importance in the life of every Christian. Interestingly, the only philanthropic behavior in the list excludes non-believers: “Share with God’s people who are in need.” Is it Biblical to provide handouts to pagans when there are needy people within the church?

Romans 12:19-20a – Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine
to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

These two verses could be used to prove that we must show kindness to unbelievers and that we must provide for their physical needs, even if they have made it obvious that they are belligerent enemies of Christ. What better way to evangelize? After all, James 2:16 says, “If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” However, using these two verses in Romans without including the second part of verse 20 is a misrepresentation of the intent of this passage. Verse 20b explains the purpose for feeding a hungry enemy and providing him with drink: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Thus, by providing for the needs of our enemies we are increasing God’s judgment on them. A difficult teaching, but Biblical nonetheless.

Romans 15:15-16 – I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Once more Paul reiterates that he received grace from God to perform the “priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God” to the Gentiles. Paul is stating that the activities of an evangelist are priestly in nature, requiring special grace from God. One may argue that we are all priests (1Peter 2) and therefore have the authority to be an evangelist. While all followers of Christ do belong to the royal priesthood of believers, why would Paul use the term “priestly” unless he was arguing that his “proclaiming of the gospel of God” was somehow an authoritative activity that God imparts to those whom he calls to be His witnesses?

Poison of Pietism: Examination of the Gospels in Regard to Evangelism

This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.

Shown below are passages in the four Gospels that may, in some way, pertain to personal evangelism. For many of the passages there are multiple references given because there are parallel passages in two or more of the Gospels. In such cases, the quoted text is from the first passage listed.

Luke 9:59-60 – He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Luke 8:38-39; Mark 5:18-20 – The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

I will admit that these two verses could be used to argue for the necessity of personal evangelism. However, as seen by the following two passages, there were also times where Christ specifically told a person not to be His witness:
Mark 8:25-26 – Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”

Luke 5:13-14; Matt 8:3-4; Mark 1:43-44 – Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

It seems that in each of the last four passages Christ is giving specific instructions to individuals. It would be a stretch to apply any of these passages, either for or against witnessing, to believers in general.

Matt 5:14-16; Luke 8:16 – “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

The parallel passage in Luke 8 uses the phrase “those who come in” instead of “everyone in the house.” Both passages make it sound like the light is providing illumination to those that that come to the light. The light is not being sent out to illumine the darkness outside. Additionally, it is our “good deeds” which become visible because of the light. There is no indication in the texts to believe they are saying we, as “lights of the world”, must go out and audibly evangelize.

Luke 9:1-6; Matt 10:1-23; Mark 6:7-13 – When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. … If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

Luke 10:1-16 – After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. … and do not greet anyone on the road…. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. … “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The Lord is appointing (ordaining) seventy-two others to be evangelists, to specific places, for a specific time, to prepare the “towns and places where he was about to go” for his arrival. There is no indication that these disciples were required to preach other than during the time period specified in Luke. Interestingly, the method of evangelism is extremely odd compared with how missionaries are supposed to behave nowadays. Instead of wiping the dust of an unrepentant, obstinate town off their feet in judgment, a missionary is now seen as extra godly if he works for twenty years in an aboriginal tribe to see just one believer.

Luke 21:12-15; Mark 13:9-10 – “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
The context of these comments by Christ are as part of a private conversation with Peter, James, John, and Andrew.
Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:45-49 – Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The content of the “Great Commission” has already been examined in the Acts 1:7-8 and Acts 10:39-42 critiques and will not be discussed again here.