The Trinity in the Resurrection

One of the most amazing statements to come from Jesus is found in John 2:19. In reference to his own body, he says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (NASB). He echoes the same theme in John 10, saying in reference again to his life in verse 18, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

Who talks this way? Some men may talk about laying down their life for a cause or another person; but no one talks about taking up us life after he has given it as a sacrifice, except Jesus. There are many unique things about the person of Jesus Christ, but one of the most extraordinary has to be his willingness to give up his life and his ability to subsequently walk out of the grave.

As profound as this is, there is something even more elaborate going on here. While Jesus claims to be the one who brings himself back from the dead, Paul clearly refers to the Father who raised Jesus from the dead in Galatians 1:1. So, we see both the Son and the Father depicted as the one who resurrects Jesus body.

Yet, there is still more. In Romans 8:11, Paul refers to the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, we have three actors in the play . . . the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . and all three are said to be the one who raises Jesus from the dead.

The obvious conclusion, as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:21, is that God is the one who raises Jesus from the dead. While succinct teachings on the Trinity are hard to come by in the Bible, this is once instance in which all three Persons are described as engaging in the same act, an act that is distinctly reserved for deity.

So, while Easter is typically and rightly focused on the Son and his victory over death, let it also be a reminder that the God of the Bible is triune. He is one God who exists in three persons, each of whom act in harmony and agreement with one another in laying the cornerstone of the Christian faith . . . the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Filled With the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. 

-Ephesians 5:18–19 (NASB)

There are a few different ways in which a believer may be filled with the Holy Spirit. Those who began speaking in tongues at Pentecost are described as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Peter is described in Acts 4:8 as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he proclaims God’s word to his accusers. Stephen is said to be “full of the Holy Spirit” at his stoning (Acts 7:55).

Setting aside the debate over the continuation of the charismatic gifts (it is safe to conclude that the total of four tongues events in Acts do not constitute everyday activity), there are two remaining ways in which believers may be full of the Holy Spirit today. They may be empowered for ministry, as Peter is in Acts 4; or they may be given strengths or abilities to help them in their personal life, as Stephen is in Acts 7.

All believers experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit on that personal level, beginning with regeneration and continuing on through the process of sanctification. Whether everyone is also equipped by the Holy Spirit for ministry is a topic for another day. The point of this article is to highlight the fact that every believer, in some way, is filled with the Holy Spirit.

What is most interesting about this point is the Greek word pleroo that is translated into English as “filled.” In all of its uses in relation to the Spirit in the New Testament, it is used in a metaphorical sense and carries the meaning of being generously supplied with something. In other words, the Holy Spirit does not literally fill up the body of the believer. Human bodies are actually full of tissue, bone, blood, and water (and some other physical stuff). Rather, when the believer is filled with the Spirit, he is generously supplied with the Spirit. In other words, the believer has generous access to God the Spirit. Do not take this as just a general reference to “the believer.” The reality is that every individual believer, including each one reading this article, has generous and direct access to God the Spirit.

Consider the implications of this for a moment. The Creator of the universe, the one who holds the breath of all mankind in his hand (Job 12:10), the one who spoke everything into existence and sustains it by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3), he gives all Christians generous access to himself through his Spirit. The is an amazing truth that brings to life the promise that God himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

This promise is true at all times, in all places, through all circumstances, for all of God’s people. Through trials and hardships, in times of apparent setbacks in maturity and sanctification, in times of rejoicing and times of grief, nothing can separate God’s people from his love (Romans 8:38–39) because he has, of his own volition and for his own joy, decided to generously supply his people with the Holy Spirit.

So, be filled with the Holy Spirit; and out of that fullness, speak to your Christian brothers and sisters in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and rend your hearts to God as the symphony of his people, always giving thanks to God for all things.

Evangelicals Believe In Santa Claus

Although most Evangelicals would staunchly deny that they believe in Santa Claus, that is simply not true.  I think it is fair to say that most Evangelicals believe that carrying on the tradition of Santa Claus is carrying on a tradition that is a lie.  Even worse, substituting Santa for Jesus is a cardinal sin. But even a cursory examination of an Evangelical’s doctrinal beliefs is sufficient to prove that the god he worships is none other than Santa himself.  Do you doubt what I have written?  Consider these truths:

  1. The evangelical god lives up there somewhere and keeps an eye on everyone, seeking to discover if they are naughty or nice, just like Santa does.  Nice people are those who are nice to their neighbors and naughty people are those who do not make the decision to exercise their free will to believe in Santa.
  2. The evangelical god really likes everybody, even the naughty ones, and will give everyone a gift whether he shows up on the naughty or the nice list, just like Santa does.  The belief that Jesus died for everyone, making salvation accessible to anyone who is willing to use his free will to accept the gift, is exactly what Santa does each Christmas.
  3. The evangelical god is semi-powerful in that he is able to do nice things but not really able to control the evil that is in the world, just like Santa.  Santa runs into all sorts of problems.  From thick fog conditions without Rudolph to malfunctions in his sleigh’s engine to unruly reindeer on Christmas Eve, Santa has his hands full trying to do nice things for the world.  In the same way the Evangelical god is constantly thwarted by his arch-enemy Satan who is able to prevent him from doing what he wants by planting thoughts into the minds of people which keep them from exercising their free will to accept Santa’s free gift of salvation.
  4. The evangelical god really enjoys hearing the prayers of his people, especially those that constantly nag him to give his people more stuff, just like Santa.  Indeed, all Santa ever does is ask people what they want for Christmas.  His only joy in life is giving stuff to people.  Santa loves it when he gets long letters from people listing all of the shiny things they want him to bring for them.  In the same fashion the evangelical god does little more than listen to an endless list of petitions for health, wealth and prosperity.  And, if my understanding of evangelical teaching is correct, all their god really wants to do is give people more stuff.  Sadly, his people often don’t get more stuff because they don’t exercise their free will properly or Satan comes along and spoils the party.
  5. The evangelical god thinks nothing of promoting his own glory, that would be selfishness in the eyes of an Evangelical, and spends all of his time day-dreaming of his true love….the people of earth.  In the same way Santa is the classic epiphany of selflessness.  He never thinks about himself and he has no desire to promote his own glory in any way, shape or fashion.  All he cares about is the sum total  of the individual human beings who walk about the earth.  Oh, he just loves them so much!
  6. The evangelical god gets sad when individual humans do not accept the free gift of salvation he brings to them on Christmas day, but he continues to leave that gift for them anyway.  Santa also loves all human beings so much he would send all of his gift-bearing elves to men even if the men they were sent to brutally murdered them each time they showed up.  Santa is infamous for not “giving up” on people, even though they make him sad when they are naughty.  He knows that if he keeps giving people gifts even  the most hardhearted will eventually be softened and use his free will to accept his gift.  That is what keeps Santa going year after year.  Santa would never shake the dust off his feet and abandon any human being, just like the evangelical god.
  7. The evangelical god loves everyone, whether they are naughty or nice, and has a wonderful plan for them that he can’t possibly bring to fruition because Satan and man’s free will keep getting in the way.  Santa is the same predicament.  He has a plan for niceness all around the world but despite his best efforts every Christmas Eve he is incapable of preventing sin, war, hatred, death and evil throughout the rest of the year.  And, just like the Evangelicals’ god is not the “author of evil,” Santa is never held responsible for his impotency and broken promises.  Every year he promises a boatload of good and happy things and every year the world continues to wallow in its sin.

I have news for you Virginia…..Santa does not exist.  He is an interesting myth and, unlike the Evangelicals, I believe he is a harmless myth when properly taught, but he does not exist.  In the exact same way the god of the Evangelicals also does not exist.  Their belief in him, however, is far from harmless.  It will condemn their souls for eternity.

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.

Summer Seminar 2015: God Has Spoken

Why is I Corinthians in the Bible but I Clement is not? How did the Gospel of John make it into the Bible but the Gospel of Thomas did not? Who put together the books that make up our Bible and by what authority did they do so? Luther, Calvin and the other reformers taught that Scripture alone is the basis for all Christian life and doctrine. Is the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura that they taught still applicable to today or do we have other sources informing us of God’s will for our lives? One ancient figure by the name of Marcion was so disturbed by the apparent differences between the Old and New Testaments that he declared that the God who inspired the Old Testament was different than the God who inspired the New Testament. Vestiges of his beliefs still exist today. How do you resolve the differences between the Testaments? Indeed, are there any rules for interpreting the Bible at all? Theologians have labored for years to come up with principles that will allow us to interpret the Bible accurately. The art of biblical interpretation is called Hermenuetics and it is vitally important for all believers to understand how they interpret Scripture.

The Doctrine of Scripture is a historic Christian doctrine that answers those questions and gives us what we need to interpret the Bible correctly. Make plans now to attend “God Has Spoken: Understanding the Doctrine of Scripture” presented by the Session of Truth Reformed Bible Church of Golden, Colorado on Friday night, June 26th and all day Saturday, June 27th. The seminar will be held at Courtyard Denver West. There is no charge for a seat but advanced registration is required. Call 720- 248-8722 or click on “Summer Seminar 2015” to register for this valuable event.

Here are the details:

Seminar Name: God Has Spoken: Understanding the Doctrine of Scripture
Seminar Dates: Friday, June 26th through Saturday, June 27th
Seminar Location: Courtyard Denver West, 14700 West Sixth Avenue Frontage Road
Seminar Sponsor: The Session of Truth Reformed Bible Church, Golden, Colorado
Seminar Conditions: Free to all but advanced registration required.
Seminar Registration: 720-248-8722,, click on “Summer Seminar 2015”
Seminar Schedule:

  1. Friday night 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Introduction and Session 1
  2. Saturday morning 9:00 am to 10:30 am. Session 2
  3. Saturday morning 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. Session 3
    Catered Lunch: 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm. Free to attendees
  4. Saturday afternoon 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Session 4 and Conclusion/Q & A

Seminar Sessions:

  1. History of Scripture and Canonization – Maks Nelkin
  2. The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura – Jason Bolt
  3. The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments – Doug Brode
  4. Hermeneutics – Nick Sealy

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.