Faithful or Faulty Preaching?

30 12 2011

Truth Matters Newsletters – December 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 12 – Faithful or Faulty Preaching? – Rev. Robert Liichow

 Discernment Ministries International

 Faithful or Faulty Preaching?

 It is my prayer that this particular article makes our entire readership pause and take a hard look at what passes for preaching in today’s pulpits, especially our own pastors. I am not referring to the style in which the message is delivered. Every pastor has a unique God-given personality, thus the “aroma of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:15) given off varies from person to person. Delivery style is pretty much a synthesis of personality, observed behavior, training and culture. Some preachers are animated, jovial and demonstrative; others are more somber and stately. Preaching style is never an issue biblically speaking. One may or may not be appreciative of the manner in which the news is delivered, but to the mature (2) ultimately it comes down to the message itself and not the messenger.

 One thing that separates truly confessional Lutheranism (3) from every other denomination is the focus of every sermon preached from a pulpit. This is quite a statement to make I know, but allow me to buttress my comments upon the following foundation. As many of our readers know this author has been around the block spiritually speaking: (1) I was raised a child in the United Presbyterian Church, 2) joined The Word of God charismatic community {shepherding/discipleship movement} in Ann Arbor, 3) was a member of the Pentecostal Church of God, 4) preached for the Church of the Brethren, 5) did pulpit supply at Calvin East Presbyterian Church, 6) was a staff minister at Grace Community Church (church growth Baptists), 7) Associate pastor at Greater Faith Christian Center (Word of Faith church), 8) helped found Eastside Community Church (Southern Baptist), 9) pastor of Word of Life Fellowship (charismatic), 10) joined St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 11) Teaching/Preaching Elder at Jubilee Christian Church {apostolic movement}, 12) currently members of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, English District. (4) These are only the groups I have worked for and with, the list of places we’ve visited would fill the page. I share this to prove “I’ve been around” and while I have obviously not been everywhere nor have I heard every pastor, however I have taken a pretty large sampling over the years and things have not gotten better in pulpits over the years, in fact, I suspect even worse than when I began my search for the purity of the gospel over twenty years ago.

 The manner in which one approaches Holy Scripture will shape and form the content of the sermon preached. Modern American evangelicals view the Bible as a divine book of instructions on how to live a life pleasing to God. I grew up with this acronym for “Bible” — Believers Instructions Before Leaving Earth. I grew up reading the Bible as the inerrant user’s manual for Christian living. Is this wrong? No, not really, the Bible is filled with God’s law, what He demands of people, and His wisdom for daily life. The central focus of all Scripture however is Jesus Christ and nothing else.

 Sadly the vast majority of sermons preached on Sunday fail to pass the litmus test given in the very Bible these people claim to faithfully proclaim. Due to the abovementioned errant approach to the Bible God’s people end up being fed a consistent diet of what can only be called “preaching the Christian and not the Christ.” Sermons are all about Christian living, how to have a successful marriage, stewardship series, spiritual gifts and human potential. For example, America’s most famous and favorite preacher, Joel Osteen can be seen daily on television. Mr. Osteen preaches to a mob of over forty thousand (40,000) each week in his stadium. One can listen to Joel’s sermons and not hear anything about the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes Osteen does not even mention His name let alone proclaim His virtues. He preaches how to be a successful upwardly mobile self-actualized individual of incalculable value. Joel is an easy target. How about your church? What is preached from your pulpit as the sermon? Is it some topical message taken from the Bible? Is the message geared on giving you something to “do,” to work on, steps to better yourself, a principle to enact, a habit to break or start? All these types of messages are derived from reading the Bible as a rule or guidebook.

 There is another way in which to approach the bible, it is the manner which Luther brought back to its rightful place in the Church. Luther saw Christ in the Scriptures from beginning to end and that is what shaped what he believed confessed and taught. This does not sound all that revolutionary to our ears today, but this is precisely because of Luther! In Luther’s day the sermon to God’s people was rife with superstition, nonsense, error, heresy and in many cases was presented to God’s people by an uneducated and untrained clergy (sounds exactly like our situation today). There was plenty of “law” directives in what to do, when and for how long being proclaimed but where was the Gospel? Where was Jesus Christ in this proclamation?

 Upon a closer inspection of the scriptures Luther began to see what we take for granted today and all willingly pay lip service regarding its validity, by this I mean the Christocentric nature of the scriptures.

 Luther saw:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 1

 Eternal life is not in knowing the scriptures, it comes from knowing the Subject of the scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ, He Himself is eternal life. All of the Bible points to Christ either in His forthcoming, His incarnation, death burial and physical resurrection — they testify of Christ!

 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeded from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. 2

 As a former charismatic extremist I got an “A” in Pneumatology and folks the bottom line is very simple; the Spirit of Grace always and only glories Jesus Christ. Anything that points anywhere other than the Person and work of Jesus Christ is simply not the Holy Spirit in operation. Simply listen to a “sermon” by Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen. Listen to how much of the focus is upon themselves, what happened to them, virtually nothing about Jesus Christ.

 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 3

 Jesus Himself instructs these disciples to open their eyes to see that the scriptures concerned Himself! The Bible really is, as silly as it sounds, “His-story” from Genesis to the book of The Revelation of (who?) Jesus Christ!

 What do we read in the Book of Acts concerning the message declared? Did Peter get up and preach “three steps to a better Sabbath rest” or “five keys to answering Pontius Pilate?” No he preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified (Acts 3:35-37). Before being stoned Stephen boldly declared Christ to his executioners (Acts 7). The original message was revolutionary then and it still is where it is faithfully proclaimed. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scriptures, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water, and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? 4

 Philip did not proclaim the joys of celibacy to the eunuch but was able but was able to preach Christ from the text the man was studying. Philip could not have preached Christ if he had not seen Him there, after all the Jews read the same text for centuries and never got who it was referring to.

 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 5

 The Apostle Paul said that all he focused on instilling in these disciples was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He did not try to persuade his hearers by enticing words or with a strikingly handsome physique. He did not preach his experience in heaven, he allowed the Gospel, the power of God (Romans 1:16) to be the anchor of men’s faith. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), tell me then what kind of faith is being developed that is not taught about Jesus Christ?

 Some spiritual adepts might say “well preaching about Jesus and Him crucified is fine for babes, but I understand that truth and now I am ready to go onto deeper truths.” The thinking of such people indicates that Jesus is nothing more than a piece of their inner greater cosmic puzzle.

 Those who think they no longer need to hear about their desperate condition before a holy God (Law) and the gracious provision given by the father in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of their souls (Gospel) are people who do not recognize the seriousness of their sin and the glory of our redemption from it.

 If you stop to think about it all the people running around with “WWJD” bracelets are often functionally illiterate regarding exactly what Jesus did do and does for them right now. The vast majority of the sermons they have heard all their lives surround various aspects of Christian living and not the Christ who supplies the grace to enable all of us to live for Him.

 As one hears about Jesus in the Gospel’s preaching faith in Him is birthed. Through this knowledge, which has become a living faith and koinonia with the risen Lord now forms and directs our reactions to life. Issues cease to be a speculative pondering about what would/might Jesus do but the believer knows what Jesus did on the cross for us because he has been fed a diet consisting of Christ Jesus.

 The truly productive Christian life has to be nourished on Christ Jesus, in fact He and Him alone is to be the foundation of our existence:

 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 7 Matthew 7:23-27

 Jesus is the “Rock” (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 10:4) that if we are established on Him then when the storms of life strike us (and they will) we will survive them due to our foundation. How are we established on the Rock? Through the foolishness of preaching (1Cor. 1:21) Christ . . . . Nourished on knowing Him, who He is, what He has done, and what is He currently doing for His Church.

 Read what our Lord says concerning the content and topic of the Scriptures on the following page:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. (13) Luke 4:18-21

 The text was and is about Jesus, it is not about financial prosperity, physical healing or lifting oppression as separate categories of truth. All these blessings are ancillary to the One producing them, the Lord Himself.

 In closing ponder this additional fact when considering what passes for preaching today; biblical prophecy. Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies, meaning HE, Jesus, is the specific focus of these prophecies. Any prophetic words yet to be fulfilled refer to His return, His Second Coming. Biblical prophecy is concerned with our Lord. Ergo any preaching about prophetic events must logically find their loci in Christ Jesus.

 Is what is being proclaimed from the pulpit focused on Jesus Christ or is the message or the “series” being preached about anything else but Jesus? D.M.I prays that you are being fed a solid diet of God’s Word, our Lord Jesus when you gather together for worship.

 

Copyright © 2011 Robert S. Liichow

 

End Notes

 

1. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS: Discernment Ministries International uses the SAME “scale of judgment” FIRST on ourselves; next on our own local communion & denomination and LASTLY others. I say this lest anyone think I am writing about “other pastors.” No my friends, I am writing this for you to examine your own house FIRST then apply it to those we wage war with. Judgment begins in the House of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17) and we are not hypocrites and hold ourselves and brothers to the same standard we hold the heretics to.

 2. The spiritually immature often get “caught” as in enamored by the personality/charisma of the preacher and really never hear what he is proclaiming. Others are turned off by a speakers manner and fail to receive whatever was to be their portion of that service’s “manna” from them.

 3. I am a member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod and as an ordained minister I feel free to speak of what I know. Sadly, within our own ranks there are many congregations being led by pastors who are not genuinely faithful to their confession and vows as Lutheran pastors. My wife and I have the distinct good pleasure to sit under an excellent pastor who is faithful to our Lord and the call on his life and through him we have met many other great men of God, all is not lost, but it is getting very dark outside.

 4. These are not in amy chronological order.

 5. If history describes Paul correctly he and I share what is nown as “faces best seen on radio.”

 6. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Jn 5-39-40

 7. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Jn 15:26-27.

 8. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Lk 24:25-27

 9. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Ac 5:41-42

 10. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), Ac 8:34-36

 11. The Holy Bible King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2009), 1 Co. 2:2-5

 12. The Holy Bible English Standard Version, (Wheaton Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt. 7:23-27

 13. The Holy Bible English Standard Version, (Wheaton Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 4:18-21.

 

 

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REJOICE – CHRIST JESUS HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD

25 05 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – April 2010 – Vol. 15   Issue 4  -REJOICE –   By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

REJOICE

CHRIST JESUS HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD

By Rev. Robert Liichow

When we come to realize that everything we are and have is wrapped up in Christ Jesus and Him alone, then we are free. His victory over death, hell, and the grave is now ours through faith. All Jesus did He did on the behalf of us, His people. This Lent, let us all look unto Jesus and accept His work on our behalf and then by His grace let us live accordingly. Selah…

 





Let Us Not Grow Weary…

25 05 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – April 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 4 -Let Us Not Grow Weary… – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Let Us Not Grow Weary…

By Rev. Robert Liichow

It is easy to grow discouraged especially when our focus is not placed on Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. All our prayers, support, work, time, and labor done for the glory of God, usually unseen by others is seen by our Father in Heaven. What is more He does lavish us daily with His grace and one day we shall receive our reward from the hand of our Good Shepherd Himself.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10

We thank God for all of our faithful partners that enable DMI to continue to Teach Truth & Expose Error. Your support is both vital and deeply appreciated!

Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International





The Need For Discernment

17 02 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2009 – Vol. 14  Issue 1  – The Need For Discernment – by Rev. Bob Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Need For Discernment

By Rev. Bob Liichow

In these last days many within the Church are being swept away by unbiblical enthusiasm. False doctrines are taught with unfailing regularity on television to a global audience. Many deny the Trinity; others declare that Jesus ministered only as a man and never as God. Millions believe that salvation is possible only when one has been baptized by immersion in Jesus name only. Numerous popular errors abound concerning physical healing, financial prosperity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If the myriad of false doctrines were not enough there are a plethora of false practices impacting the spiritual lives of many professing Christians. These include things such as being slain in the spirit, speaking in other tongues, holy laughter, spiritual drunkenness, and making animal noises. Some boldly proclaim that God is filling believer’s teeth with gold and platinum; others declare that God is manifesting gold dust and gem stones in their services. Several congregations are now reporting angel “feathers” miraculously appearing during worship!

You may wonder how it is possible for Christians to be misled by such false doctrine and practices. To begin with it is nothing new. Satan has always twisted God’s Word to misled people (ask Eve). Both the Old and New Testament are filled with warnings about the danger of counterfeit spiritual teachings and practices. Let me cite a few scriptural examples:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-16

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many peopleMatthew 24:10-11

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24:24-25

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:10-11

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 2 Peter 2:1-2

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

These are just a few of the texts that warn us to be aware of the reality of being misled by false prophets, teachers, and apostles. The question is how do we keep from being led astray? The answer lies in hiding the Word of God in our hearts. David said “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psl. 119:11). From the beginning God told the Israelites how to discern the truth from error in their daily lives by keeping the Word of God ever in the forefront of their mind.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Virtually every waking moment of their lives was to be saturated with God’s holy law. It as not just something they did for a couple of hours on the Sabbath. Their discussions were filtered through the lens of God’s law. When they rested and sat around the hearth they spoke of His ways, when they walked to work, again they talked in light of what He had commanded. Their last words at night were His words and the thoughts in their minds as they drifted off to sleep were His precepts. Thus if someone came and presented something off kilter to them they would immediately recognize it as false and reject it. Why? Because, the way to keep from being deceived is to be grounded in the truth of God’s Word.

Today as God’s people nothing has changed. We too are to live lives saturated by the Word of God. Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak. Listen to yourself and others, what do you and they speak about the most? Whatever it is I can assure you that it is what fills your hearts. I’m not talking about becoming some phony-baloney super-saint. Yet I am saying that our words are to be seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6) and full of grace.

This does not happen automatically as part-n-parcel of your baptism. No it comes from a lifelong pursuit of renewing our minds according to God’s Word (Rom. 12:2). It takes diligence and desire on our part. This is why we are encouraged to “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2)

So as this New Year begins make the most of every opportunity to dig into the Word of God by becoming involved with your congregation’s Sunday school, mid-week Bible study and any other venues they have for digging deeper into the Word of our Lord. Make it a point to read good solid spiritual books. A good way to impress the Word on your heart is to listen to the Bible in your car or at home (in fact DMI will give anyone Bible CD’s to anyone who requests them).

As you faithfully make use of all the ways God has given us to grow in His Word you will find yourself among those who ”…are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. “ (Hebrews 5:14).

Copyright © 2009 Robert S. Liichow

 





The Axis of Evil

14 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 2 – The Axis of Evil – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Axis of Evil

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

(KJV)

One thing that is missing in my seminary experience thus far is any real discussion of spiritual warfare.

There is a thing called “victory” in living this Christian life. I am not referring to our ultimate victory when our bodies are fully redeemed from death and glorified. No, I am referring to living a victorious life in the midst of our fallenness. I readily acknowledge that I am a saved “sinner” or in good Lutheran parlance “simil Justus et pecator” (justified at the same time a sinner). Yet to me there seems to be an inordinate concentration on the reality of our “old man” and our fallen condition. The other side of the “coin” is just as real, i.e. our ability in and by Christ to be victorious over what I am calling in this article “the Axis of Evil”

In order to be a victor in a war, one has to understand who the enemy is, what are his tactics and discover his weaknesses and exploit them to the fullest. Too many Christians are simply ignorant of Satan and his devices when the Bible tells us not to be (see 2 Cor. 2:11). It is a fact that Jesus defeated Satan on the cross making an open show of him:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:14-15

Yet the New Testament is clear that we still have to contend with Satan and his forces in this life. We need to realize that although we have been delivered out of the dominion of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1:13) through the life giving waters of our Baptism and through faith in Gospel message of the cross of Christ; we still have an enemy to fight. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we need to:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Eph. 6:11-13

Many Christians get no further then “we wrestle not” in their lives when it comes to contending with the enemies of their faith. It is my hope that as we begin this new year we all will stand victorious in God’s armor and by His power and to His glory over all the works of the evil one.

Some time back President Bush shocked the world and the politically correct by declaring North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as comprising an “axis of evil.” What the President meant was that these three nations were in league together to expand terrorism and increase their own power.

As Christians we too face an axis of evil comprised of (1) the world, (2) the flesh and (3) the devil. All three work in concert to keep us from growing spiritually and effectively shining as lights amidst a wicked and perverse generation. (Phil. 2:15).

Enemy Number One: The Devil

Satan marshals these forces together against us to keep us ineffective and shames us into silence about our Christian faith. For example, when you are at home and ou see your neighbors and you think “I should go and invite them to church this Sunday.” Immediately the thoughts come faster than machine gun bullets — “you can’t do that, who do you think you are? Religion is a private concern. What if they got offended?

Brothers and sisters let me tell you those thoughts come from Satan and his minions. Remember what Jesus said of him? Jesus in John 6 says “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” In Rev. 12:10 Satan is called “the ACCUSER of the brethren.” So when Satan and his demons speak to your mind telling you, that you can’t or that you are not a good enough Christian to share Christ with others…simply remind the hosts of wickedness of a few things, one of my favorite verses is:

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:15

Remind this LIAR that he has been disarmed and that Christ Jesus has triumphed over all his hosts by the cross! Tell him that you are baptized into Christ, and in Him you can do all things INCLUDING sharing your faith with your neighbors and friends. REMEMBER Satan goes about as a roaring lion, but he is not one! (1 Peter 5:8). He is a defeated foe whose ONLY POWER is to get you to believe the lies he tells you.

Usually Satan works along these lines, first he tempts us (he is called the “Tempter” in Matt 4:3) with some sins, when we give into his temptation he then immediately accuses us. In these cases his accusations are not lies because we did give into temptation and sinned. At this point most Christians are silenced by shame. The correct response is to immediately turn to Christ and confess our sin knowing that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our transgressions and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jh. 1:9). The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb. 4:14-16

As we grow spiritually and learn to depend upon God’s grace more and more Satan must employ other, sometimes more subtle means in order to attempt to defeat us. He must call upon another one of his “partners” in his axis to assist him in the battle.

Enemy Number Two: The World

The world, cosmos in the Greek and this term refers to everything that adorns this world-system and that is against the Kingdom of God. Our opening text tells us that the cosmos is comprised of (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life.

We all succumb to the Tempter (1 Thess 3:5) from time to time when he offers up the baubles of this decaying world before our eyes. Think about the programs and commercials on television almost all of which are directly opposed to godly living. The images projected tell us that we’d be happier with a new car, new husband or wife, bigger house, more money, etc…Satan uses the manifold pleasures of the world to blind us to that fact that we as the people of God are not “of” this world, we are “in” it but not of it. This world is not our home an our lives are to be lived as stewards of what God graciously gives us.

Yes we all fail and give into our sinful fleshly desire for the world but read what Jesus says of US!

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth John 17:14-17

Let me ask you one question — do you believe that the Father answered Jesus’ prayer? ABSOLUTELY! Jesus says we are not of the world any more than He is! In fact, He says that TWICE! We have to begin to see ourselves as Jesus does. Yes we are IN the world but we are NOT of it! Let us echo our brother Paul when faced with the enticements of the fading system of sin and say with him:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14

Our attitude towards the world is this: We are not it! We are set apart from it by the POWER inherent in God’s Word and by the means of His grace! Our boast is not in fleshly achievements bt only in the cross of our Lord Jesus through whose sacrifice the world has been CRUCIFED and I have been CRUCIFIED to the world!

As we renew our mind through the power of God’s Word (Rom 12:2-3) and allow His Word to set us apart from the world we begin to become bolder witnesses for our Lord and vessels fit for honor. (2 Tim. 2:21).

Enemy Number Three: our Flesh

The last axis of evil Satan calls upon is our fallen flesh. We all carry about with us that fallen man who was drowned in the waters of our baptism…yet as the late Professor Marquart said “the old man is a great swimmer.” Nonetheless what Paul says to us in Romans is true:

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:4-6

This is the ongoing power of our baptism. Our old man WAS and IS crucified with Christ and henceforth we should not serve sin. Paul goes on to encourage us in the same chapter saying:

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Rom. 6:11-14

We all carry with us the fallen nature. Yet it is equally true that the old man died a real death just as we have received NEWNESS of LIFE through faith in Christ. I believe the new man recreated in Christ is stronger than the old man who is easily led by Satan.

The devil has no power over us at all! Jesus defeated him and his forces on the cross openly! The victory Jesus won on the cross was for YOU and for ME! We are in Christ and we share His Triumph! Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus won the victory for us, He had no need of victory He had not lost anything to the devil.

The world is not our home, we are to wear it as a very loose garment, knowing that we brought nothing into this life and we will take nothing with us when we leave apart from what we did for Christ. We are now citizens of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). Our joy is to shine as lights amidst this wicked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15).

The flesh is with us, but we MUST reckon it DEAD, because it really is. It will try to resurrect itself in the face of Satan’s temptations…but we are not to yield to its desires. The good news is by the virtue of our Baptism into Christ we are now empowered to be what God says we are in:

No, in ALL these things we are MORE then conquerors through HIM who loved us. Rom. 8:37

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30

 

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow  





THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

28 12 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – October  2007   Vol. 12 Issue 10 – THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE – Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

As we studied last month all of the aberrant practices and false doctrine stem from an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures. In fact, all errors in “Bible” based cults can be traced back to using a faulty hermeneutical system. Every Christian should understand and apply some basic hermeneutical principles when they study their Bible. Unfortunately most pastors do not equip their people with the skills necessary to become good Bereans. Sadly, many pastors across America have little or no theological training and thus they lack any real understanding of how to correctly teach the Bible of to their congregations (Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar are just two examples) and we end up with a case of the blind leading the blind.

Apart from incorrect biblical interpretations with all its attending problems there is another difficulty plaguing God’s people and that is the widespread practice of accepting personal spiritual experiences as authoritative. Millions of professing Christians readily accept the subjective “revelations” of various leaders, or their own private experiences as being as valid as the written Word of God.

The Word of God is seen as not being the only guide for many Christians. It is not viewed as complete and totally sufficient when it comes to faith and practice. Many people are augmenting the Bible with extra-biblical data that is proclaimed as “new” revelations from the Holy Spirit through a host of roving self-proclaimed Apostles, Prophets and revivalists. Admittedly this is not a new problem; in fact the Apostle Paul spoke of people who were misplacing their faith in alleged mystical experience:

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not see, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. 2:18,19

It seems that people have a propensity to be drawn away from the objective truth of God’s Word into their own fallen subjective experiences.

 Today we see this enthusiasm for experience over God’s Word vividly in the Charismatic movement. For example the recently departed Kenneth E. Hagin built a great portion of his SINistry on his alleged face-to-face encounters with our risen Lord. Many of these he wrote about in great detail in his book I believe In Visions.

 

Another widely followed heretic, Jesse Duplantis expanded his influence tremendously after publishing his farcical tale about going to heaven in his book Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind. Jesse regales his readers with not only a very detailed account of “heaven” but also shares about his visible experiences with angels, he and his car being teleported across the state of Louisiana and other bizarre experiences.

Mary K. Baxter wrote a book which plunged her into charismatic fame & fortune about her being taken to hell on forty (40!) consecutive evenings allegedly by Jesus Christ. The Divine Revelation of Hell has been reprinted several times and in over ten languages. The book is filled with graphic details of what awaits the damned soul and Baxter claims thousands of people have come to faith in Christ due to her book! If that was not enough she went on to write another spurious tome entitled The Divine Revelation of Heaven and then another book called The Divine Revelation of Glory.

Discernment Ministries International was among the first Apologetic ministry to expose the nonsense in Cho Thomas’ book Heaven Is So Real about her rapturous transport to heaven. Thomas reveals to us that there is death in heaven when Jesus takes her fishing and kills the fish and cooks it for her.

Every one of these books (and there are many more I could mention) has sold well over 100,000 copies each, and all of them are printed in foreign languages for wider consumption by the sign-seeking crowd (don’t forget there are videos, DVD’s, and cassettes of these accounts by authors for sale too). The authors go all over the world sharing their experiences with untold numbers of people.

These examples demonstrate my concern that people are leaving the sufficiency of the Scriptures to listen to someone’s latest experience. I can tell you that DMI receives a great deal of vitriolic email from devotees of these deluded heretics. Some of the gentler complainers say things like “don’t you believe God can take someone to heaven? Look at the Apostle Paul for example!”  Yes, let’s consider Paul for a moment:

I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 2 Cor. 12:3-4

Virtually all commentators agree that Paul is writing about an experience he had being caught up to heaven. What is interesting about his account is that he does not share any of what he saw or heard.  Why not?  Today when someone says they were taken to heaven they create an entire “ministry” out of their experience. Paul did not relate any of his experience precisely because it was just that…his own “experience” and as such would not benefit others.

Here is what the NIV Commentary says about this part of Paul’s life:

What Paul head (and saw?), human words were inadequate to relate (v.4b). Furthermore, he was not permitted to try to share the content of the revelation, perhaps because it had been designed for him alone, to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Ac 9:16; Ro 8:18). Glimpses the NT does give of the coming glory are intended to strengthen faith and promote holiness (cf. 2 Pe 3:10-14;p 1Jn 3:2-3) not satisfy curiosity.

Nothing that Hagin, Duplantis, Cho or Baxter wrote about strengthens faith nor does it promote true holiness. What all those books do is to point to the human authors and imply that they are special vessels chosen for these last days to prepare the Church for the return of Christ. Nothing in their mythological writings do anything to encourage their readers to get into the Holy Bible and let God speak to them via its inerrant pages.

As I stated earlier this phenomenon of people promoting doctrines and practices that are based on their personal experiences is nothing new. During the Evangelical Reformation led by Martin Luther he constantly had arguments with various sects of what he termed “enthusiasts.”

Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world –fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon. It is the source, power, and might of all the heresies, even that of the papacy and of Mohammed. Therefore, we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external word and sacrament. Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a word and sacrament is of the devil. (1)

The enthusiasts then as today looked within to feel something or to attempt to hear God speak to them directly and personally apart form the Holy Bible. This is exactly what is taking place on a massive scale within the charismatic movement. I’ve been involved in many meetings where the “Spirit” began to move in a mighty way so much so that the Word of God was never preached. These meetings were declared to be of the highest order! Various people “prophesied” the so-called word of the Lord, others were slain in the spirit, some danced in the aisles, others just sat and watched the show. 

One well accepted restored-prophet, Bill Hamon carries with him a 5 inch 3 ring binder filled with 100’s of “personal” prophecies that have been uttered over his life for the last 40 years. Obviously he takes these extemporaneous words to be true or why collect & carry them?

What does the Bible say?

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3

Yes God did speak through the prophets in the past. Yes God spoke in various ways, by dreams, visions and at times angels or through Theophanous. However, in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter knew of his impending death (2 Peter 1:13-15) so what he said was vitally important to him as a pastor. He reminds his readers that he was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and he actually heard the voice of God speak. Yet what does he then tell the Church?

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Even though Peter was there in person to hear God’s voice he goes on to tell the Church that they have a more sure word of prophecy (the written Word) and they would do well to take heed to It a a light that shines in a dark place. Peter does not preach his experience but points to the Word of God and warns them to take heed of the Word.

Why this emphasis Peter, what is the big deal?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The problem today is that the “more sure word” is now deemed passé and there is a desire to seek what is termed “present day truth” (see 2 Peter 1:12) by the charismatic extremists. This is alleged truth that is arrived at through mystical or metaphysical means, i.e. subjective belief as opposed to the objective inerrant truth set out in the Bible.

One very popular charismatic heretic, Tommy Tenney, wrote a hugely popular book entitled The God Chasers. Tenney denigrates the written Word of God and expounds that people need to seek a direct encounter with God. Here are some of his comments regarding the Bible:

We just keep going through the motions, lighting the lamps and shuffling from dusty room to dusty room as God was still speaking to us. (2)

There’s no need for me to preach [the Word] if God shows up in His glory. (3)

They [the early disciples] walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasn’t necessary for them to pour over dusty love letters that were written long ago. (4)

Folks Tenney’s comments are the voice of millions enmeshed in charismatic extremism. Note the very low view of holy scripture—the books of the Bible are “dusty rooms” that we shuffle through with the mistaken belief that God is still speaking to us through these biblical letters! Tenney echo’s the statements of many of today’s revivalists by saying there is not even a need to preach the Word of God if “God” shows up, i.e. some paranormal manifestations or unchecked emotionalism breaks forth. Lastly, Tenney says that the early church members communed with God on an intimate one-on-one basis APART from pouring over the “dusty old love letters” that were written long ago. What does my book of dusty old love letters say in response to Mr. Tenney and the other heretics?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. Acts 17:11-12

The people in Berea heard Paul preach and then they went immediately to those dusty old love letters to validate by objective truth what Paul was proclaiming. What was the end result? MANY of them believed the gospel that Paul preached!  ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

Endnotes:

1. Oswald Bayer, Theology The Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, p. 53

2. Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1998) p. 31.

3. Bid. p. 44 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis

4. Bid. p. 74 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis.





Hey, Kenny, Where’s the Glory Fire?

25 09 2009

Truth Matters Newsletters – December 2006 Vol. 11 Issue 12 – Hey Kenny, Where’s the Glory Fire?by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Hey Kenny, Where’s the Glory Fire ?

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

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Anyone’s who has been around the charismatic circus for any length of time knows that in the center ring is no less than Mr. Kenneth Copeland along with his capable assistant Mrs. Gloria Copeland.

I suppose it is only fair to those of our readers who are unfamiliar with the origins of Mr. Copeland and the Word of Faith Movement (WOF) (1) which he has become heir to due to the untimely (2) death of Mr. Kenneth E. Hagin Sr. to give a little background before we launch off into the deep.

In a nutshell the WOF movement believes that God created the universe by using a force called “faith.” He did not create the universe out of nothing (Ex Nihilo) because according to WOF dogma faith is something, an actual substance (Heb. 11:1). According to their teaching faith is a spiritual force that is released by words, hence the pejorative appellation “the Positive Confession movement.” God created man in His exact image and likeness in the Garden of Eden:

God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself. I mean a reproduction of Himself and in the Garden of Eden He did just that. (Adam) was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even…Adam is as much like God as you could get just the same as Jesus…Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was God manifested in the flesh. (3)

“This eternal life He came to give us is the nature of God.” He then adds, “It is, in reality, God imparting His very nature, substance, and being to one human spirit…Zoe, then, means eternal life, or God’s life. This new kind of life is God’s nature,…Even many in the great body of Full Gospel people do not know that the new birth is a real incarnation…Jesus was first divine, and then He was human. So He was in the flesh a divine-human being. I was first human, and so were you, but I was born of God, and so I became a human-divine being!” (4)

Man was created as a god, and like God Adam could create reality by releasing faith filled words. According to WOF doctrine and Mr. Copeland Adam committed high treason by sinning. He lost his divine nature and partook of Satan’s nature thus in the fall of Adam, Satan became the “god” of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Mr. Copeland teaches that redemption did not take place on the cross, as the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Redemption took place in hell, after Jesus was tormented by Satan and demons for three days. God looked down and said it was enough and the Holy Spirit came back into the formerly sinful spirit of Jesus (you see WOF people believe Jesus did not bear our sins, but literally became a sinner on the cross) and then Jesus, as the first born-again MAN defeated Satan and demons and secured redemption for all who would make a decision to receive Him as their Lord. All of this can be read in the following book: What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, by E.W. Kenyon {the true Father of this apostate group}. Mr. Copeland’s blasphemous and damnable doctrine is still available from his web site on audio cassette for $5.00, “What Happened From the Cross to the Throne.” (5)

Kenyon, Hagin, Copeland, Duplantis, Savelle, Meyer, Hickey, Tilton, Capps, Price, Crouch, and a host of others seen on Television regularly teach that the redeemed person is basically in the same situation as Jesus was when He was in human flesh, we are in essence little gods. Their logic behind such beliefs is based upon a hodgepodge of biblical texts ripped from their contexts. Passages such as John 14:12 state that the believer shall do the works of Jesus and ever greater works. Copeland and others all stress that Jesus did nothing as Almighty God in flesh, He operated only as a man “anointed” with the Holy Spirit.

Now the charismatic Christian has also received the indwelling of the Spirit, just like Jesus, so it is only natural that we are expected and empowered to do His same works and greater works…assuming we know who we really are in Christ and whom it is that indwells us and how to release the Spirit to flow through us.  In order to gain access to such knowledge we need to listen to and follow men such as Mr. Copeland! This brings us to his most current revelation as set down in his monthly magazine The Believers Voice of Victory entitled “Ready to Reveal His Glory.”

Copeland begins to spin his twisted tail of “the glory” by citing a couple of Old Testament Theophanous Ezekiel 1:27-28 and Habakkuk 3:4. In these examples the Lord God appears as a glorious rainbow (Eze. 1:27-28) and then as One with lightening like power flowing out of His hand (Hab. 3:4). From there Kenny jumps into the revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:14-16) which describes our risen Lord’s countenance like the shining sun. Maybe out of context, but Copeland has biblically-described our Lord as seen by a couple of the Old Testament Prophets and a New Testament Apostle.

Like Superman ®  Copeland leaps from one skyscraper to the next, exegetically speaking. He posits that since Jesus in His true nature (6) is a glowing power emitting spirit and He now indwells us that means we too can or should be working on manifesting the same type of glory as our risen Lord possesses. The goal of the overcoming Christian is to become literally glowing Holy Ghost empowered lords of this world, after all, Jesus is “Lord of lords,” and according to WOF dogma we are the lords Jesus is Lord over.

What is more, the charismatic aka “Spirit-filled” Christian is actually just like Jesus and then some! I quote Copeland’s article:

That image in itself is stunning enough. But what’s more astonishing is this: That blazing, all glorious King of Kings and Lord of lords with lightening-like power shooting out from His hands and the life of God Himself roaring in Him with such white-hot force that His very body glows with it, that Jesus is the One who is living inside us, our spirits have been recreated in His image. (7)

He anticipates his readers question of how can this glory be made manifest in our bodies as it was in Jesus. So he adds a rhetorical question:

But, Brother Copeland, how could that be? We’re still just flesh and blood. We live in earthy bodies. That kind of glory can’t shine through us! Yes it can. (8)

Before I allow Copeland to dig his exegetical grave deeper let me report that I have been hearing him teach this garbage since 1979. One would imagine that after almost thirty years of no manifestations of such confessions would make one stop proclaiming it. I believe Mr. Copeland is emphasizing this specific aspect of the Manifest Sons of God teaching (9) now because he is growing older, he turns 70 in January and he and Gloria among others have been faithfully confessing this to make it reality. They are so deceived in their minds that they really believe what they are saying must come to pass in order for Jesus Christ to return. You must understand that Jesus Christ CANNOT return to the earth UNTIL the restoration of ALL THINGS (Acts 3:20) which would have to include this manifestation of the shekinah or manifest glory of God shining literally from our spirits through our bodies.

Kenny begins by citing Moses as his initial example of what we are to experience as end-time believers:

In Exodus, when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the commandments for Israel from God, he spent so much time in God’s glory that his face shone with it. He had so much fire coming out of his face that he had to wear a veil over it to keep from killing people when they got close to him. (10)

His relating of this account is false in several areas. Yes Moses did go up and meet with the Lord God and received the commandments. Moses was even allowed to see a glimpse of the back of God who hid him in the cleft of the rock and covered Moses with His had as He passed by (Ex. 32:22). Moses was not up on the mountain with God just basking in His glory per se. The Bible plainly tells us that when he returned back wit the commandments he did not even know his face shone at all.

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. Ex.34:29-33

Naturally when Moses returned and his face shone brightly it was frightening to Aaron, the leaders and the people. But READ what the text says (1) Moses was unaware of it, he did not seek to become a glory transmitter. (2) Moses called the leaders to come to him and “all the rulers returned unto him.” Nobody was killed by the reflected glory on Moses, nobody even got the sniffles from it. (3) Lastly, “all the children of Israel came nigh.” None of them were killed either and then Moses according to his own volition placed a veil over his face until he spoke with the Lord again (v.34). When he spoke to God he removed the veil and he left it off until he was done sharing the directives from the Lord to the people (v.35) so they could see his shining face Copeland’s statement regarding Moses is simply a fabrication and he embellished God’s Word (which is a sin) by making the text say more than it does.

But as we were fond of saying “let everything be established by two witnesses” Mr. Copeland brings forth his next witness concerning the glory we are supposed to be manifesting by appealing to the account of the transfiguration of Jesus:

…His earthly body was so transfigured by the fire of God’s glory that ‘His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them (Mark 9:3, NKJV).’ At that time Jesus’ body was just as natural, just as much flesh and blood as ours, yet it was totally lit up with the fire of God! (11)

The WOF cult has a long well documented history of demoting Jesus to a mere man and lifting sinful man up to the level of God. What Mr. Copeland seems to forget, if he ever knew it, was that Jesus’ body was not exactly like our bodies. Yes, His body was a real flesh and blood body with one significant difference; Jesus was without sin both body and soul. His was and is a sinless body. However we live in bodies that are sinful and subject to the ravages of this fallen world, sadly it decays daily (2 Cor. 4:16) just take a look in the mirror!

By now you have probably guessed where Copeland is leading the blind who follow him into this new revelation of glory. (12)

If that is not enough to convince you that God’s glory can shine through you, consider what happened in the book of Acts when the fire of God’s fell again…this time not just on a few special saints but on all 120 ordinary believers who had gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. (13)

Any careful exegete who examines the account of Pentecost originally set forth in Acts will easily determine that the 120 people cited by virtually all Pentecostal and CRM people falls apart, leaving only the 12 Apostles who initially received the endowment of Holy Ghost power. As in the above cited statements Mr. Copeland’s fevered mind continues to spin out of control:

The sound the 120 believers heard wasn’t an earthly wind at all. It was a sound from heaven. It was the sound of heaven pouring itself into earth, filling the atmosphere with God Himself. God left the throne and came to Jerusalem that day, and the roar that accompanied Him was so loud that everyone in the world heard it. (14)

God is omnipresent, how could God “fill” anything pre se in a philosophical sense? What texts state that God left his heavenly throne to pour Himself into the upper room? I guess Jesus was left sitting alone at the momentarily vacant throne to His immediate left. We know that the Holy Spirit’s “throne” (if He ever has one) was vacant because as Jesse Duplantis learned in his visit to heaven that the Holy Spirit is on earth and not in heaven! (15) The Bible never says that “everyone in the world heard it”? According to our research no ancient historians mention such a global sonic effect. Again we see Mr. Copeland off into la-la land. Sadly, he goes from bad to worse in this article alone:

Along with that heavenly sonic blast came the very fire of God’s glory…He sat on each of them, entering them in full power and glory and they absorbed it. They took into their reborn human spirit’s the blazing glory of the Holy Spirit Himself. (16)

The original twelve Apostles appear to have been able to absorb the full power and glory of God within their reborn human spirits. Does not the Bible teach us that the fullness of the godhead dwells bodily (Col. 2:9). Oh sure, the text is referring to Christ, but are we not “in Christ now? The text in Acts says no such thing, this is fantasy on Copeland’s part. He asks another rhetorical question “what does all that have to do with you? Here comes the astounding answer, I hope you are sitting down because when you read this you’ll become shout’ in happy and probably do the Pentecostal two-step unless you restrain yourself!

If you’re born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit, that same fiery glory is in you right now. That’s right! The same glory that lit up Adam and Eve, the same glory that made Moses’ face to shine, the same glory that transfigured Jesus’ flesh-and-blood body on the Mount of transfiguration, the same fire that filled the upper room and launched the first disciples into a ministry of power, signs and wonders the likes of which the world had never seen…the same glory now resides in the spirit of every born-again, Holy Ghost-baptized believer. (17)

Pay close attention to whom it is that has this power, it is not every Christian. Charismatic believers have a two-tiered level of Christians. First, there are those who have received a second experience called being baptized in or filled with the Holy Spirit which is evidenced by them speaking in ecstatic speech (what they call other tongues). Then you have the less blessed, lower wattage Christians who have not received this second work. Copeland is referring specifically to “Spirit-filled” people not the Church universal. The charismatic Christian according to Copeland’s glory doctrine have within them the exact same glory that “lit up” Adam and Eve (I wonder what version of the Bible he uses to find these hitherto unknown facts, it must be the notes in the Finis Dake paraphrase), that was seen on Moses’ face and was unveiled in Christ before Peter, John and James.

What is appalling, beyond the fact that Copeland is deluding people on several levels simultaneously is that he has not got one shred of proof to back up his claims. I cannot find any examples in the N.T. or even in the writings of the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene fathers of where believers went around exuding effulgent glory as id Moses’ face for a period of time. Nor can I find any examples of disciples looking like our transfigured Lord. One would have to imagine that if what Mr. Copeland is teaching is true then it would be plainly set forth in the New Testament and probably alluded to by the Old Testament Prophets. Yet none of the sixty-six books of the Bible give such glory to believers.

The next glaring error in his comment is regarding the first “disciples” being launched into a ministry of power and signs and wonders. The common misconception of most charismatic people is that virtually all Christians were running around working miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. That simply is not the testimony of the Book of Acts. The Apostles did work genuine signs, wonders and miracles. Paul stated to those who were being misled regarding his status as an Apostle wrote “The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles–were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Cor. 12:11). There are only a very few examples of non-Apostolic disciples being used to work any signs or wonders and those few who were used had been sent out specifically by the Apostles. According to Copeland that same glory resides within each Spirit-filled believer today, implying we ought to be doing these powerful signs and wonders too. Ok Mr. Copeland , “Where’s the Glory?”

Naturally he has an answer for this obvious power failure in the lives of the highly charged charismatic. The answer is that they have to learn how to operate in that kind of glory. He’ll give us the wisdom we need to do what Proverbs 4 says and guard our spirit above all so that nothing hinders the release of the glory that resides there. We’ll rid ourselves of devilish stuff like strife, envy and hatred because we know that trash will cause us to walk in darkness. It will keep the glory from shining through We’ll resist and rid ourselves of every trace of fear because that fear will pollute our spirits…We’ll walk in love–love for God and love for each other—not because we want to be religiously right but because we want to be gloriously bright. (18)

All the highly empowered ones need to do is open their hearts by faith (how does one do that?) and God will give them Gnostic insight that will cause them to learn how to release this inner glory and “shine” with His power. Again, I ask, if the Apostles and disciples of the early Church walked around like glowing lights why isn’t it recorded anywhere biblically or even by secular historians of the day who did write about the church? Peter, Paul, John James and all the Apostles at least should have walked in so much power visibly emanating from their spirits through their sanctified bodies that it boggles the mind as to how they could die as martyrs. After all, if just the glance Moses got of God’s back could have “killed” the Israelites, how much more so the FULLNESS of God’s glory and power that Copeland says flooded into them on Pentecost? How could any mere sinner get close enough to these walking powerhouses in order ot capture them, let alone kill them? Obviously, these initial Apostles and disciple failed. They must have gotten “religious” and turned out their glory lights. Thank goodness that God has once again restored prophets (profits?) and apostles (opossums?) back to the Church in these last days {I am joking here folks, ok?}.

Note the stress placed upon us in the former quote. Copeland is preaching sinless perfectionism through self-effort. We are the ones who will rid ourselves of various sins. We are the ones who will resist and rid ourselves of every trace of fear. We’ll be the ones to walk in love and not because it is the religiously correct thing to do, no, we’ll walk in love because we want to be gloriously “bright.” Jesus is never mentioned at all. There is no need to cry out to Him as the Savior from the weights and sins which so easily beset all of us. No, the super-saint can rid themselves of all these pesky devilish problems.

Even though the Church has failed and failed miserably to walk in this realm of supernatural glory and power for almost two thousand years, don’t despair my brothers and sisters. Copeland closes out with a great note of hope & victory:

That’s what true prosperity is all about! And we’re right in the middle of it now. We are grasping the revelation of this and becoming beacons of light— all of us shining together with the glory of Jesus Christ in the darkest times this earth has ever known. We are reaching out to others with hands filled with the lightning-like splendor of God’s power and finishing the job Jesus left us here to do. (19)

See my friends we are right in the middle of this new revealing of God’s glory and power. I’ve seen Mr. Copeland’s hands on television along with Benny Hinn’s, Joyce Meyer, Marilyn Hickey, Jesse Duplantis and others and I have yet to detect lightning-like splendor emanating from them.

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Maybe this is the charismatic extremist version of what others call the “emerging church.” Maybe like God, we are in process of becoming what we truly are meant to be, little gods and as such finish the “unfinished” work Jesus has left us to do. All I can say to this utter nonsense is that it is far more akin to Luke Skywalker fighting the evil Emperor who has bolts of lightning-like splendor coming out of his hands than anything ever remotely resembling biblical Christianity.

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DMI is very concerned about what is being taught by Copeland and others. We know that literally hundreds of thousands of people look to Mr. Copeland as a genuine prophet of God which means untold numbers of his followers are working hard (and failing) trying to reach this exalted level he declares is theirs for the taking, if they follow his directions exactly. There is no room for any margin of error within charismatic extremism. Any and all failure rests solely on the sagging shoulders of the one trying to grow closer to Jesus and be a vessel of honor for Him. Unless you’ve been on that pseudo-spiritual treadmill as I have you have no idea of the damage it does to people who try their hardest to work all the principles, to follow all the steps, to learn every formerly hidden key to Present Day Truth (2 Pet. 1:12) and to watch their every word so they can receive what has been promised to them by their blind guides. When people fail, and they always do fail at some point because their initial goal was not from God to begin with and no system of works righteousness has ever “worked.” They will not receive any compassion from their fellow drones, you see failure is simply not tolerated. When a leader fails there are multitudes of explanations and systems for restoration. Yet when a mere sheep fails, they get mercilessly kicked to the curbOur hearts grieve for our brothers and sisters on the treadmill today trying to become these glorious Christians Copeland has promised is just within their grasp.

It is because of what we have seen, taught and experienced that DMI keeps forging ahead. As I write this I am suddenly reminded of the words and image of Marlon Brando in the movie Apocalypse Now at the end when he says “the horror, the horror.” If by God’s grace I can spare one person the horror my wife and I experienced, then it is well worth all the sacrifice, pain, heartache and loss we’ve undergone in this small portion of His ministry.

I realize that possibly some of you reading this article may think that DMI is making a mountain out of a molehill regarding what Copeland has written. If he were the only squirrel in the pecan tree I might agree with you, but he is not.

Let me cite just ten of the newer books in print now and available in most Christian bookstores. All of these titles deal with the subject of tapping into God’s glory.

The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind 40-Day Devotional and Personal Journal by Bill Johnson “healing, deliverance, signs and wonders are the inheritance for all the followers of Jesus Christ…of a Transformed Mind teaches you how to remove the hinders of religious limitation to redeem the lost and transform communities.”

Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics by John Crowder.

Secrets of the Ascended Life by Kelly Varner: “You are about to be infused with a fresh dose of resurrection life—His life—you are about to learn The Secrets of the Ascended Life.

Secrets of the Prophetic by Kim Clement.

The Fire of God by Joy Dawson: “The Fire of God unlocks the mysteries that surround the Fire of God, unveiling its significance in the life of the believer.”

Show Me the Glory by Bill Hart: …explores the current experiences associated with the presence of God.”

Dancing Into the Anointing by Aimee Kovacs: Miracles are happening as the Bride of Christ worships God in the dance.”

The Costly Anointing by Lori Wilke:“….boldly reveals God’s requirements for being entrusted with an awesome power and authority.”

How to Live the Supernatural Life in the Here and Now by Joe Ibojie

Return to Glory by Joel A. Freeman.

All of these books are published by Destiny Image which is located in Shippenburg, PA. The more bizarre the alleged revelation is or profound the mystical experience the more likely they are to publish them. It is important that you understand that Destiny Image does not just publish “flakes” per se, they also publish internationally know and respected (in their ever growing community) charismatic leaders such as T.D. Jakes, Myles Monroe, Tommy “God-Chaser” Tenney among a host of other heretics you can see on a regular basis on your local cable stations.

Every one of these books provide often conflicting keys, steps and principles that are supposed to enable the believer to enter into the promised land of the ascended Christian life. The poor charismatic runs from movement to movement seeking to put into action these keys to “open their hearts up to God.” Make no mistake about it these are dangerous, damaging and deceptive books that will only lead the readers further from Christ Jesus and not closer to Him. The “horror” is that the presence they may haveopened their hearts to” and coming to embrace will be that of a demonic entity masquerading as Jesus. Why do you think the Apostle John commands us to “test the spirits?”  (1 John 4:1)?   Is it really any wonder why all those smiling, seemingly healthy and very wealthy televangelists prove themselves by their very doctrines to be ministers of Satan (2 Cor. 11:14) disguising themselves as servants of righteousness? There are some of the people Paul warned the Ephesian elders against in Acts 20:29-31 when he said:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you not sparing the flock. Also from your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Brothers and sisters if that text does not fit us today than which one does? I see Paul, like a Jeremiah warning these pastors about the danger to the Church from without and within for three years day and night and doing so weeping!

I cannot tell you how many pastors I and others, have warned about the dangers many of these men and woman present to the Church globally and their own congregations locally. Frankly, the usual response is rather blasé or one of  “well the Church has had these problems from the beginning.”   Yes, that is true but does that make the spiritual damage and shipwreck any less a disaster in the lives of their parishioners today? No ! Paul warned the elders so that they would in turn go back to their congregations and warn and educate their people concerning the false teachers, false prophets, false apostles, fake healers, liars and genuine pastors to recognize the dangers facing their people and boldly address it biblically in love but unapologetically too.  ♦

Copyright © 2006 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes:

1. I never cease to be amazed by pastors and other church leaders who simply “lump” all tongue-talking people as either Pentecostal believers or charismatic Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are there massive doctrinal distinctions between classic Pentecostal denominations and the charismatic renewal movement (CRM) but there are great distinctions within the CRM itself. My wife and I were part of no less then five clearly defined aspects within the CRM. These five included: (1) The Word of Faith movement, aka “name it and claim,” fake it till you make it, or the health and wealth movement.” (2) The Discipleship movement aka the Shepherding Movement more or less started and run by the Florida Five [Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, and Ern Baxter]. My exposure here was through the Word of God Community in Ann Arbor, and later a nationwide campus group know as “Maranatha” stated Bob and Rose Weiner (3) The Prophetic movement then the (4) the Apostolic movement and lastly (5) the Signs and Wonders movement aka The Toronto Blessing/Holy Laughter, etc. There is some overlapping in belief and practice within these five I’ve mentioned (there are a few others, but my wife and I had no personal intimate experience with them, I guess you could cal them, “classic charismatic” congregations) but there are also major distinctions especially concerning the end times, the exact role of the restored prophet/apostle, global quasi-Calvinistic theocracy (Dominionism/ Kingdom Now) concepts among other issues. Few if any seminaries I am aware of teach their forthcoming pastors about not only the distinctions within the sign-gift community but the danger that these groups, especially the so-called Prophetic & Apostolic moves, pose to not only their local congregation but their denomination (s) as well.

2. I say untimely because the Word of Faith (WOF) movement Hagin helped propel to global status teaches that we are to live to be at least 120 years old, and then possibly longer. Hagin missed that mark by a good thirty years having passed away (due to illness of all things!) on September 23,2003.

3. Copeland, Kenneth Following the Faith of Abraham I, Side A, Fort Worth, Texas, K. Copeland Ministries, 1989, audiotape #01-3001. Underlining added for emphasis

4. Copeland Kenneth The Force of Righteousness, Fort Worth, Texas, K. Copeland Ministries, 1984, p. 12. Underlining added.

5. http://kem.org/usstore/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=cross+to+the+throne.

6. All WOF teachers make a false dichotomy between the physical body, the soul, and spirit of man. They teach man as a tripartite being yet they do not view man as a complete unit, in fact, the spirit of man is often referred to as the “real” person and the human body is merely our earth-suit which gives us authority on this planet (which is why God has to become a man in order to gain back our lost authority).

7. Copeland, Kenneth. The Believer’s Voice of Victory, Ready to Receive the Glory. Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, TX, 76192-0001, October 2006m p, 14

8. ibid. p. 14

9. The Manifest Sons of God were an extreme offshoot of a very extreme brand of the CRM known as “The New Order of the Latter Rain.” The Manifest Sons of God, which find their expression today in much of the teachings of the restored prophets and apostles teach that Christians can achieve sinless perfection but because of his or her sinless perfection they will even overcome physical death itself which is the last great enemy (1 Cor 15:26). Christianize the world and hand a perfected world back to the returning Lord Jesus Christ. These concepts are found throughout the writings of Franklin Hall (many of his books are out-of-print, but DMI has reproduced his major works in PDF format on CD), Earl Paulk, Rick Joyner, Mahesh Chavda and other authors can be purchased at your local Kristian bookstore.

10. BVOV, Oct 2006, p. 4

11. ibid p. 4 Underlining added.

12. Please understand that this man is no “lightweight” when it comes to proclaiming his heretical doctrines and blasphemous thoughts. His ministry is so vast that someone can hear Mr. Copeland anywhere in the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is a huge broadcasting footprint. He is a force to be reckoned with openly rebuked and God’s people warned about this tare sown among the pure wheat of God.

13. BVOV , October 2006, p. 4

14. Ibid p. 5 Underlining added

15. Lest you think I am making this up, simply buy a used copy of Heaven, Close Encounters of the God Kind written by Jesse Duplantis. While in the throne room, he sees Jesus, whom Jesse tells us is a great preacher he sees the feet of got the Father but does not see the Holy Spirit and asks the angel who has escorted him into the throne room “where is the Holy Spirit?” The angel tells Jesse that He is on earth and then Jesse says he felt so “stupid” for asking such an obvious question. Obviously, such a concept of the Godhead is heretical and sadly demonstrates the overall biblical ignorance of multitudes of charismatic believers who not only purchased Duplantis’ book, but actually ALL the tall tales, lies, heresy and even blasphemy contained in it. I highly suggest any budding apologist to buy the book and have a field day tearing it apart doctrinally.

16. BVOV, October, 2006, p5

17. Ibid p. 5 Bold type added for emphasis.

18. Ibid p. 5 Bold type and underlining added for emphasis.

19. Ibid p. 5 Underlining added.

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Doctrine; How Important Is It Really?

30 06 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – April 2005 Vol. 10 Issue 4 – Doctrine: How Important Is It Really? – by Robert J. Shipe

Doctrine;  How Important Is It Really?

 When the Holy catholic Church confesses the second article of the Apostles Creed it states:

“I believe in Jesus Christ His only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”

These historic and profound words which have been said throughout the ages of Christianity, and which are taken from the Holy Word of God tell us about the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, the Holy One from God. Our faith in Him, whom God sent to “take away the sins of the world,” is our only way to eternal salvation and heavenly home “whose kingdom has no end.”

The second article of the creed properly and truthfully describes Jesus, and we Christians adhere to and have total faith in these words when we confess this important teaching or doctrine of the universal church. Doctrine? Is this statement of faith that we confess in the Divine Service doctrine? Or is the idea of the creed being a doctrine of the church just a quirk, something that just happens to be true but really is not indicative of the God-Man Jesus Christ? Can we go even further? Can we rightfully state and prove that Jesus’ very essence, His entire being including His ministry, was firmly grounded in doctrine? If the answer to this question is “yes” then we must ask ourselves; do we need to adhere to ALL doctrine of the church laid out in the confession of the Lutheran church, or only to really important doctrines such as justification and the Trinity? Does all doctrine point directly to Christ, and is all doctrine really important? Or, as many in the Lutheran church today believe; is doctrine talked about too much, causing a stifling of growth. What follows is a brief look at some of these questions.

Let’s look at the very first question from above: Is the Apostles Creed doctrine? If such things as creation, the Trinity, virgin birth, the resurrection, the work of the Holy Spirit, the church and eschatology are considered teachings, then we would have to say that the creed is full of doctrine. There probably would not be too much debate on this, even from those who may disagree on the other aspects of doctrine stated in the previous paragraph.

The disagreement comes with the next question: Is the creed being a doctrinal statement just something that happens to be true but is not consistent with the ministry and very essence of Jesus? In the very first book of the Bible God reveals to us that because of man’s fall He will send a Savior into the world to cleanse man from his sin (Genesis 3). In this very first book, God has already revealed to us the doctrine of original sin and justification in direct connection to the Christ. This doctrine of justification (both objective and subjective) is consistent throughout the Old Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is also consistently revealed to us when the Old Testament talks about the “Spirit of God” and with the prophecy of the coming of the Christ through the written word of the prophets.

The New Testament is filled with doctrine pointing directly to Christ. The ministry and life of Jesus can be directly traced to every teaching of the church catholic as it is laid out in the confessions of the Lutheran church, The Book of Concord. From Article I, the doctrine of God, to Article XXVIII, The Power of Bishops, each and every doctrine of the church is related to Christ. Any doctrine not relating to Christ, is no doctrine at all but adiaphorous, meaning that a teaching is neither commanded nor forbidden scripturally.

When the church errs on one doctrine, it becomes a snowball effect with other doctrines becoming weak. For instance; if the virgin birth is rejected then the deity of Christ will be questioned, which in turn will effect the doctrine of the Trinity, the atonement of Christ, the justification of the sinner, eschatology and finally our very salvation itself. Even if we take a certain doctrine and err on only one part we are in danger of the same results. When the doctrine of objective justification is rejected, that is, when it is stated that Jesus came into the world not for all of mankind but only for believers, we have also erred on the doctrine of election and predestination, which only God knows. The sacraments themselves become a questionable focus point on this issue of denying objective justification. In the Epitome of the Book of Concord we read;

“God assures us of this gracious election not only in mere words, but also with His oath, and has sealed it with His holy sacraments, of which we can remind ourselves and with which we can comfort ourselves in our greatest temptations and thus extinguish the flaming darts of the devil.” (Formula of Concord Art. XI paragraph 13).

Of course the Bible is full of objective justification doctrine. John 3:16 is one example among many. Listen to what Paul tells Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). So it is not only important to adhere to a doctrine, but to adhere to it completely and unequivocally. It is also important that if “basic Christian doctrine” such as The Trinity and justification by faith alone are adhered to then all other doctrine also needs to be adhered to because all doctrine is tied together.

In many Lutheran churches today while the creed may be confessed every Sunday (though here in Michigan there are many Pastors who do not think the creed is even necessary) it is not thought upon as an important doctrine of Christianity. While this may not be openly taught, it is clearly perceived with the absence of such teaching and preaching.

In fact it can be safely said that very little doctrine (which can be argued is almost always Gospel) is taught at all. Why? Why would doctrine of the Church catholic which has already been shown to be so crucial to and inclusive of the very work and person of Jesus be suppressed and even despised by many churches today? The answers are as varied as the number of missing doctrines themselves.

Many in the Lutheran church believe teaching doctrine and adhering to it takes away from the ministry of Christ. They believe that the Christian’s focus should be on Christ and the way He lived His life. This type of thinking has spawned the ever-popular W.W.J.D. bracelets, “What would Jesus do? Of course our focus needs to be on Christ, but instead of focusing on what He WOULD do, we need to focus on what He did and continues to do for us.

By focusing on what He did for us (justification) and what He continues to do for us (the preaching of His word and the administration of His sacraments) the faith built by His gifts will produce in us good works (sanctification). Justification, the sacraments, sanctification are all-important doctrines that are directly tied together with the ministry of Christ. By teaching and adhering to the doctrines of Jesus the ministry of Christ does not suffer because, as has already been shown with confessing the creed, the ministry of Christ IS doctrine.

In the Great Commission Jesus tells His disciples to teach and Baptize all nations, or all people. He tells them to teach the nations “everything I have commanded you.” If we focus on only the law (what would Jesus do), we are only focusing on those things which cannot save us because the law always condemns us and shows us where we have failed (the second use of the law, mirror). The gifts God gives to us produces faith, which can and do save us. So the ministry of Christ does not suffer but comes alive and comforts the sinner since he knows and understands the doctrines Jesus teaches AND lives.

Let us not forget that Jesus had some very strong things to say about His coming atoning sacrifice in John Chapter 6. If ever there was an opportunity for “church growth” it was when Jesus was feeding the 5000. When Jesus had said this “hard” teaching many of His followers turned and left Him. Did Jesus run after them shouting “Wait, let me meet your needs. I didn’t really mean what I said?” No. Instead He turned to Peter and wanted to know if he too wanted to leave with the rest. Peter answered for all the ages by saying; “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus’ words are His teachings, His doctrine for the believer to learn, adhere to and follow. Because we fail so miserably in following and living Jesus’ teachings make it even more important to know, understand and confess those teachings.

Another reason why doctrine is not taught and is even despised in many of today’s Lutheran churches is because many believe that doctrine is too hard to teach, especially to children. Words such as “original sin,” “justification,” “sanctification,” “sacraments,” “Trinity,” “absolution,” and “eschatology” are too “theological” and obsolete they argue. While some of these words are not found in the Bible, their concepts are. Jesus taught all of these doctrines, not to the scholars of the day, but to fisherman, tax collectors and the like. Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan woman were hardly brilliant women, but Jesus didn’t shy away from teaching any of them important doctrines of His ministry. It could arguably be said that the smartest person Jesus taught certainly was not the easiest, at least by theological and cultural standards; Paul of Tarsus.

Now it may be argued that it was the Christ who was doing the teaching, God Himself explaining His doctrines to all these poor miserable sinners and certainly we cannot compare our wisdom with His. This is no doubt very true, but how about the people who were taught by the disciples? These were mere men teaching people who never hear the Gospel. Romans, Hebrews, Corinthians, Ephesians, and the like, even if they were intelligent, had no idea what these teachings meant, but they were still taught all these doctrines. In fact, how could Christianity have grown if they weren’t taught? Of course, Christianity grows solely by the Holy Spirit and that too is a doctrine, an important doctrine, of the church.

Children too need to be taught the doctrines of Jesus. Of course it wouldn’t be practical to use phases like “justification” with a 4 year old (though with the Holy Spirit anything is possible), but the teaching itself can and must be taught. Let’s look once again to the Great Commission Jesus tells His disciples to Baptize and teach “all nations.” This includes children as well as adults. It is interesting that while the Lutheran church Baptizes babies, many Lutheran Pastors really believe children cannot learn important doctrines of the church. It seems as though they are adhering to only half of the Great Commission. Many studies have been done to suggest that children, even at an early age, can understand teachings precisely because of their uncomplicated state. Jesus Himself gives children a lot of credit when He rebukes His disciples about their attitude toward little ones. Experts agree that a child learns a sport much easier than an adult. The same is true about playing a musical instrument. Cannot the same be said about the teaching of Christian doctrine? “Watered down” and “dummied down” theology is not only an insult to the believer, but it is lazy catechesis and many times “bad” theology as well.

A third and even more cynical argument against the teaching of doctrine is that it is not even needed at all. In fact these people claim that creeds and dogmas interfere with the church and its development and activity. It is interesting to note that the two main groups who hold this position are the very liberal (Modern theologians, who look to reason and science), and the very conservative (fundamentalists including many Baptists and those who belong to non-denominational churches).   While the former are just plain doctrinal or do not teach any doctrine because it does not exist, or fit their reason; the latter claim that creeds, doctrinal statements or confessional writings are merely “doctrines of men.” Those who hold to the liberal view (including many in the Lutheran church, the E.L.C.A. synod in particular) do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture. This essay assumes that the Bible is truly the word of God and is inerrant. If the Bible is not Divinely instituted, if it is not actually the word of God, if it does contain errors, then the source of all Christian doctrine is flawed, and it can be argued that all doctrine IS the doctrine of men. This is not the case however. In his translation of Francis Pieper’s book “Christliche Dogmatik” John Theodore Mueller states:

“Our divine Savior accepted no other norm than Holy Scripture, and He invariably rejected the traditions of the Pharisees and the ‘reasoning’s’ of the Sadducees. When He declared His divine doctrines and refuted errors, He constantly based His teachings on the immovable foundations of the written Word of God. Thus at the beginning of His minister He met the temptations of Satan with the emphatic assertion ‘It is written’ Matt 4,4 and He adhered to this principle throughout His ministry. Cp. John 5,39; Matt5, 17-19; John 8,31; etc.”

Against the view that creeds and confessional writings are just the doctrines or traditions of men, not only can we use the above quote, but Mueller further states:

The Christian Church, which has for its source of faith only the infallible Word of God (Eph. 2,20), must under no conditions acknowledge as right and legitimate any dogma, or doctrine, which is not a clear teaching of Holy Scripture. Or we may say; The dogma of the Christian Church is the doctrine of the Holy Bible.”

This is not to say that only what is found in creeds and confessional writings are to be thought of as the only doctrine of the church, as some who call themselves “confessional Lutherans” believe. We must not be confused about which book (The Bible or creeds and confessional writings) interprets which, Mueller again:

“The question is not: Is this or that doctrine clearly stated in the Confessions? But: Is this or that doctrine set forth in God’s dogma, even through not a word is said about it in the Confessions of the Church Dogmas (Creeds and confessions) have a rightful place in the Christian Church provided they teach the doctrines of God and not the doctrines of means. In its creeds the Christian Church has never developed the Christian doctrine, but only declared the express doctrine of Holy Scripture in its full truth and purity against the errors of heretics and schismatics. Thus, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the like, are not declarations of new, man-made teachings, but the very doctrines of Christ, and His apostles set forth in Holy Scripture.”

We must remember that creeds, doctrines and confessional writings are to accurately reflect the teachings of Scripture. Any doctrine not taken from Scripture is either adiaphorous (not commanded in Scripture) or it is not truly the doctrine of Christ’s teaching (heresy).  So the question remains; Do the confessional writings of the Lutheran church set forth by Melanchton, Luther, Chemnitz and others clearly proclaim the doctrine of Holy Scripture? Or are these writings, along with the creeds of the Church just opinions of legalists who wanted to push their “opinions” on the church at the expense of Christ’s ministry, therefore impeding the work of Christ and stifling the growth of Christianity? We need look no further than the confessions themselves when they say:

“We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged and evaluated. Since in ancient times the true Christian doctrine as it was correctly and soundly understood was drawn together out of God’s Word in brief articles or chapters against the aberrations of heretics, we further pledge allegiance to the three general creeds; the Apostles, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, as the glorious confessions of the faith-succinct, Christian, and based upon the Word of God-in which all those heresies which at that time had arisen within the Christian church are clearly and solidly refuted.” (Formula of Concord Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm paragraphs 3&4).

In his book, “A Summary Of Christian Doctrine”, Dr. Edward W.A. Koehler is quite candid, but correct with these excellent observations concerning true and false doctrine as it relates to the Church in general, and the Lutheran Church in particular: “When we say that the Lutheran Church is the true, or Orthodox Church, we do not mean to say that it is the only saving church, or that all its members are true Christians and will unfailingly be saved. Membership in the Lutheran Church is not identical with membership in the invisible Church. But we do mean to say that all its official teachings agree with the Word of God and are, therefore, positively true, and that all doctrines differing from them are heterodox and false Insistence on purity of doctrine is by no means narrow-minded bigotry on the part of the Church. A false doctrine can never produce a right faith, nor can false teaching direct us in the right way (Matt. 15:9).  Beside “trembling” at God’s Word (Is. 66:2), and not daring to depart from its teachings, we know that we can accomplish the purpose of this Word only if we most conscientiously continue in its teachings; for the effect our teaching has on the hearts and the lives of men is determined by the content of what we teach. False doctrines create a false faith in those who accept them, and only the right doctrine can create the right concept in the mind and the right faith in the heart. To make men disciples of Christ the Church must teach ALL that Christ has commanded, and nothing but what He has commanded.” (Matt. 28:20).  As heresies and heterodox teachings are still being spoken within the church today, it would do us well to listen to these words. If these words are taken seriously, if Scriptural doctrine is continuously taught, believed, and confessed, then the Church, as it was set forth in Scripture, and taught by Christ, will remain the truly Christian and catholic Church. ♦

 

About the Author His name is  Robert J. Shipe.  He is 44 years old and lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He attends St. Marks Lutheran Church in West Bloomfield, Michigan, where he serves as an elder, lector and usher at St. Marks. His web site address is: http://www.concordtx.org/cpapers/shipe.htm

Bolding and color added for emphasis.




Sola Fide

12 06 2009

Truth Matters – Oct 2004 – Vol. 8 Issue 10 – Sola Fide – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Romans 5:1-2

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

It is fitting that this article appear in the October issue of Truth Matters, because October 31st is celebrated as “Reformation Sunday” by Lutheran bodies and other Reformed congregations. Luther’s message is as startling today as it was when he first taught it around 1515. I was surprised when I taught this message at my own church that one of the oldest members came up to me afterwards and after giving me a hearty handshake told me he had never heard such a message before! I was shocked because I assumed that the Presbyterian Church was still proclaiming the great “Solas” of the Reformation, apparently this is not the case. Then I looked back over my own somewhat checkered spiritual journey I have to admit I too had never heard any such messages within the charismatic movement or amongst the seeker-sensitive crowd.

Let us consider some of the historical background before we examine what the Bible has to teach regarding being justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

The Church of Rome taught, and teaches to this day that we can and must do something to merit favor in the eyes of God and moreover do certain works to remove the guilt and future punishment of our sins. How so? One can remove the guilt of their sin and escape the just punishment of them through the use of indulgences given by the Church of Rome to the sinner. Let me quote an Irish Reformed Presbyterian Pastor, Ian Paisley:

Indulgences were originally introduced in the eleventh century and arose in connection with the so-called sacrament of penance, which was claimed to asure the penitent sinner of the forgiveness of sins while making a distinction between (1)  the guilt  and  (2the punishment of the sin. According to the church of Rome, the former (the guilt of sin), was forgiven by God through the priest. The latter (the punishment of sin) however, had to be met through the performance of certain good works such as fasting, the recitation of certain prayers, pilgrimages, or alms. In the fourteenth century we find the partial substitution of money gifts for the Reformation. The practice of selling indulgences, with its falsification of Biblical truth as well as scandalous financial exploitation of the populace, thereafter increased significantly until in Luther’s time it led Europe to the brink of revolution and caused the mighty revolt against Rome in the form of the glorious protestant ReformationThe event that brought the latent crisis into the open was the public sale of indulgences by a notorious Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, in 1517. He was the Vatican’s “Apostolic Commissary for all Germany and Inquisitor of Heretical Pravity” during the popedom of Leo X (1513 -1521). His indulgence-brokering activities which soon aroused Luther’s righteous indignation, were part of a corrupt and ambitious ecclesiastical scheme by Leo to provide funds for the reconstruction of St. Peter’s in Rome, the most lavishly expensive mass house of Romanism. Some people may try to argue that indulgences were a thing of the past and that today’s modern Roman Catholic Church surely does not still offer indulgences. Nothing could be further from the truth. The following quote is referring to a dogmatic proclamation from the current pope starting with the year 2000:

The pope’s recent encyclical is not the only current document that proves the Roman Catholic Church still embraces and propagates doctrine that is incompatible with the Word of God. To mention the fact that Pope John Paul II is allowing Roman Catholics to obtain indulgences during the year 2000 often invokes a response characterized by astonishment – “I didn’t even know the church issued indulgences anymore!” Yet those who think indulgences bestowed by the Roman Catholic Church are only to be found in the annals of church history are sadly mistaken. Pope John Paul II’s latest papal bull highlights the Catholic Church’s plans for the celebration of the third millennium to begin in the year 2000, or the “Year of jubilee” as it has been called. According to the pope’s decree, the turn of the millennium not only promises unprecedented ecumenical activity on the part of all major world religions, but it also allows faithful Catholics the opportunity to gain indulgences either for themselves or for their deceased loved ones… Pope John Paul II’s papal bull expressly defines the history and doctrinal significance of the indulgence. In summary, the indulgence gives the repentant, forgiven sinner a remission of temporal punishment due for his sins. It is dispensed by the Church since the Church has “received from Christ the power to forgive in his name” and since the church “diffuses his mercy in the world, by means of that precious gift which from very ancient times has been called “indulgence.” The pope states in no uncertain terms that “no one can be separated from the love of God (cf. Romans 8:21-39) except through their own fault” and that since one can lose his salvation, the “Sacrament of Penance offers the sinner ‘a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification’ won by the sacrifice of Christ.” However, even though one can gain his salvation again, “every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.” So, while the Church can dispense the mercy and forgiveness on behalf of Christ, the one who sinned must still suffer punishment in Purgatory or on earth in order to be able to enter the presence of God in heaven. The indulgence is intended to shorten the individual’s time in Purgatory.  Today there are multitudes within the Roman Catholic Church doing certain works prescribed by the pope to somehow make themselves more acceptable to God and to shave some time off their pending sentence in purgatory. It appears that through the working of indulgences one can even decrease the time in purgatory for their departed loved ones.   (1)

Most of you know Martin Luther was originally a Roman Catholic monk and he labored mightily following the dogma’s Rome to the utmost. He did this in an attempt to make himself acceptable before a Holy God. After all, this is what the Church taught. If an individual did the works of penance prescribed then they would be absolved of the guilt and punishment of their sins. How did the person know of a certainty that they were forgiven? They could look to their works and place their trust in them!

Luther fasted and prayed; he carried out the various forms of penance given to him by his confessor only to realize that afterwards he still fell into some form of sin. You see Luther was originally trained as a lawyer and his mind was very sharp and it appears that his conscience was equally aware of the slightest sin in word, thought or deed which drove him back to the confessional on a daily basis. Luther’s mind was alive with the reality of the holiness of God and the utter sinfulness within himself. He was smart enough to know after arduously working the system that Rome presented that he still fell short of God’s law, which demanded (and still does demand) utter and complete perfection.

Galatians 3:10

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (KJV).

While Luther was a professor of theology at Wittenberg in 1515 he gave a series of lectures on the book of Romans. This time is characterized by Luther’s grappling with religious understanding. His decisive religious enlightenment is said to have come during his intensive study of the Letter to the Romans during which time he realized that people receive justice through the grace of God, not through good works:  “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)  { obtained from http://www.luther.de/en/moench.html } (2)

As Luther worked through what it meant to be declared righteous in God’s eyes by faith and not works. He began to criticize the theology of indulgences in some of his sermons. His displeasure increased noticeably during 1517, when the Dominican John Tetzel was preaching throughout much of Germany on behalf of a papal fund-raising campaign to complete the construction of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. In exchange for a contribution, Tetzel boasted, he would provide donors with an indulgence that would even apply beyond the grave and free souls from purgatory. Tetzel is said to have had a little “jingle” to go along with his fundraising: “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” That sounds fairly innocuous, but Tetzel also preached a message aimed at tugging at the heartstrings of his hearers:

Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying, “Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us fro a pittance.” Do you not wish to? Open your ears. Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, “We bore you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. Will you let us lie here in flames? Will you delay our promised glory?” Remember that you are able to release them, for as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs. Will you not for a quarter of a florin receive these letters of indulgences though which you are able to lead a divine and immortal soul into the fatherland of paradise? (3)

Upon hearing such blasphemy and the diminution of the work of Christ on the cross Luther promptly drew up 95 propositions for theological debate and on 31 October 1517, following university custom; he posted them on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg.

October 31st has become know as “Reformation Day” on that day our Lord Jesus began a process of a genuine restoration to the Church. What Luther and the other Reformers taught was not some “new” doctrine, but simply a re-affirming of what the Bible actually taught. With Luther, the Reformers saw ALL Scripture as being, in the last analysis, either LAW or GOSPEL—meaning by “law” all that exposes our ruin through sin and by “gospel” everything that displays our restoration by grace through faith—and the heart of the biblical gospel was to them (and to us) is God’s FREE GIFT of righteousness and justification. These 5 “SOLAS” which true evangelicals proclaim are not anything new. They are the Gospel itself. The battle has raged over them since the time of Paul when he dealt with the Judaizers. The battle continued on with Augustine’s dealings with the Pelagians, not to mention the Church of Rome both before and after the Reformation. Even within the Reformed camp the Reformers had to battle the Arminians. It seems that the eternal question of humanity regarding redemption can be crystallized in the question posed to Jesus by the Rich Young Ruler in:

Matthew 19: 16,17

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

This man wanted to know what he can do, what works he can perform to merit eternal life. Jesus simply points him to the law and says: keep the commandments.” The disciples are amazed at Jesus comments and respond with great concern:

Matthew 19:25,26

When his disciples heard [it] they were exceedingly amazed, saying Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

What is impossible with man is possible with God. Mankind cannot save itself, only God can save.

Since the fall of Adam humanity has sought ways to justify themselves before a holy God (just like the Rich Young Ruler). Every religion in the world apart from Orthodox Biblical Christianity is based on some form of works to merit salvation or favor with God. Yet the Bible is very clear on the value of even our best efforts to meet the demands of God’s law

Isaiah 64:6,7

But we are all as an unclean [thing] and all our righteousness [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And [there is ] none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

In the light of the perfection of God Isaiah rightly noted that our best works are as filthy rags and they have no merit before God regarding salvation. Religious man always points to his “good works” and boastfully declares before God and man “what a good boy am I.”

Romans 3:19-26

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, who God put forward as an expiration by his blood, to be received by faith.

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. Notice a few key points in this text:

1. No human being will be justified in the sight of God by doing the works of the law. In chapters 1 and 2 of Romans Paul shows the total depravity of man and the wrath of God towards those who have suppressed the knowledge of God.  So we are left with the eternal question: how are we to become acceptable in the eyes of a holy God?

2. God’s righteousness is available to all who believe through faith in Jesus Christ.

3. We are made just by His grace which the Father gives freely because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Paul goes on in his letter in the next chapter to say in

Romans 4:1-5

What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

The Scripture teaches justification by Faith Alone, Sola Fide in at least 6 ways in the passage:

1. The justified one does “not work.”

2. The justified one “trusts” not in the merit of his works, but in God.

3. The justified one confesses himself to be “wicked.”

4. The justified one does not have faith in his faith.

5. The justified one see his faith only as “credited” to him.

6. The justified one sees his faith credited as “righteousness” to his account.

Some may ask, and it is a legitimate question: “where do our works come into the picture?” The Roman Catholic’s and many Arminians charge that the Evangelical and Reformed Churches are teaching lawlessness. They wrongly declare that we teach that works do not matter at all in the life of a professing believer.   (some people even try to make a dichotomy between what Paul taught and what James taught when there is actually no difference between their comments, since both were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and God is NOT confused).

Luther and the Reformers agree that faith is not a work in and of itself, but the faith is never without work.   As we saw in last month’s issue on Sola Gratia,  that even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is given to us as a gift and not of works lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9).

Justification  is by faith alone; make no mistake about this, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is by a working faith.  People who get confused about this do not seem to understand us when we say that : we are justified apart from the presence of works. Paul and James agree that faith without the presence of works is dead.  Saving faith is a productive working faith in the life of a Christian.

The works in a Christian’s life are necessary to  prove  the genuineness of their professed faith but they are not necessary for “earning” heaven. Anyone who goes to heaven does so by the merit of Christ’s work alone, apart from any merit in any and all of his own works of obedience.

However, EVERY  post-justification good work we do will merit, deserve, and receive its reward in heaven.

Let me close this section with another inspired comment by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:15,16

We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Works will never save us. Only faith in the work of Jesus Christ, who perfectly kept the law, can save. Pease understand that it is not “faith” itself that saves us —The saving power of faith resides not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.

So what is the answer to the eternal quest of lost humanity? It is not found in their works. To receive forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God what must we do?

Jesus was asked this question in John 6:28 “what must we do to do the works of God?” Our Master replied “this is the work of God that you believe (have faith) in the One He has sent.”

It really is quite simple. To do what God requires we must believe in His Son and as we have seen the Father is so gracious He even grants to us the ability to believe to have faith in Christ and in His works alone!! The Westminister Confession of Faith (1646) sums the doctrine of Justification by faith alone very nicely:

XI of Justification

I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith insself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (4)

(Scriptural texts: # I Rom, viii. 30; Rom iii, 24; Rom, iv. 5,6,7,8; 2 Cor. V.19, 21; Rom. Iii. 22,24,25,27,28; Tit. Iii 5,7; Eph. I. 7; Jer. Xxiii 6; 1 Cor. I. 30,

Rom v. 17,18,19; Acts x. 43; Gal. ii 16; Phil iii 9; Acts xiii 38, 39; Eph. Ii 7,

8. #II John I. 12 Rom iii. 28; Rom. V.1; James ii. 17,22,26; Gal. v.6.)  ♦

copyright 2004  Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Foot Notes

1. Obtained from http://www.ianpaisley.org/article.asp?Artkey=indulgences.

2. www.fundamentalbiblechurch.org/Tracks/fbchsro2.htm  (bold type added for emphasis)

3. Roland H. Bainton,  Here I stand, Nashville;  Abingdon Press.  1950 pp. – 59-60. )

4. obtained from http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html.





Sola Gratia – Part One of Five

3 06 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – Sept. 2004 – Vol. 8 No. 9 -Sola Gratia—Part One of Five

I had recently received a counseling phone call from a sister who had come out of an abusive charismatic congregation and was now ensconced in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Her issues concerned spiritual stability and in talking with her it occurred to me that if she was established doctrinally in five simple “Reformed” truths then most of her questions and issues would be solved (if she remains in her MSLC hopefully her pastor will instill these same truths into her life).

The bedrock of any spiritual life that is truly built on Jesus Christ can be summed up in these profoundly simple doctrines. In fact, I am so convinced that unless one has the truths we shall be considering in the next several issues, imbedded in their hearts they will be ineffective and unfruitful in God’s Kingdom. People who lack these essential truths will be stunted spiritually and remain infants who are prone to be tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of false doctrine that cunning and crafty men (and women) promote. The Apostle Paul warns of this danger in  Ephesians 4:14.

That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

It is my prayer that we will be no more children, but will grow up and achieve the full stature of Christ. Yet for us to do so we MUST make sure our house is built on the rock of the following five truths:

Sola Gratia,   Sola Fide,   Solo Christo,   Solo ScripturaSoli Deo Gloria

These 5 Evangelical truths  heralded after years of spiritual darkness in the Church initially by Martin Luther simply, yet profoundly mean that the Christian is SAVED by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE, by CHRIST ALONE, according to the SCRIPTURES ALONE, and to GOD ALONE be ALL the GLORY.

Prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church emphasized grace, but not grace alone. Roman Catholicism and other religious sects teach that grace requires human cooperation and effort if one is to be saved.

Luther, Melancthon and later Calvin, Knox and other reformers taught and rightly so that biblically, salvation is modernistic, which simply means that a thing has only one cause. In this case Jesus Christ alone is both the Author and Finisher of our Faith as Hebrews 12:2 teaches us.

We’ve already covered the reality of total depravity in a prior issue, so I will not deal with it now. As a reminder let me state that this does not mean that mankind is as bad as he can be, but it does mean that humanity is as bad off as it can be.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one; There is none that understand, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Romans 3:10-12   (KJV)

The Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves. Not only are we unable but we are unwilling to come to the light— as our Master says in John 3:19; “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 (KJV)

The Word of God is equally clear that it is God who saves us by grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) on account of the atoning death of Christ alone (Soli Christi).  Let’s consider 2 clear examples of Sola Gratia. Turn and read in your Bibles beginning at John 11

“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15) And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? … 41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42) And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. John 11:14 (KJV)

The example of Lazarus clearly demonstrates the doctrine of sola gratia. There are a great many lessons in this miracle. What I want us to focus on is this simple fact: Lazarus was dead. He could do NOTHING to help in his resurrection—that was the work of God the Son, the Living Word—Spoke to the dead man and He commanded Lazarus to come forth and he who was dead became alive.

This is exactly what occurs in the life of an individual when the Gospel is proclaimed. Like Lazarus we too must be called to life by God through the GOSPEL. This is what is meant by being saved by grace alone. Turn in your Bible to the next example in Ephesians Chapter 2:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (just like Jesus did with Lazarus); Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them   Eph. 2:4-11 Note carefully Paul’s assessment:

1. We were dead, not wounded, not sick, dead (nekro,j, necros)

2. We willingly walked according to this fallen world’s dictates and it’s Dictator the devil.

3. We were all by nature children of wrath and thus rightfully subject to the judgment of a Holy and Righteous God.

If left to ourselves we were all headed for eternal damnation, and deservedly so.

Yet after painting so plainly a picture of depraved humanity when left to its own devices, Paul switches gears and by the INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit pens 2 of the most BEAUTIFUL WORDS in the entire Bible — “But God”. Paul goes on to give the clearest picture of sola gratia in the New Testament.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by GRACE you have been saved. It is vitally important for you to note that it is when we are dead in sins and transgressions that God made us alive with Christ. (1)

Paul’s explanation of sola gratia— “it is by grace you have been saved.”

Those 8 words should bring every Christian to their knees in thankful humility to God because of His undeserved mercy towards us in Christ.

These 8 words should forever slay any remaining vestiges of human pride because Paul makes it repeat himself more emphatically in verses 8 and 9 when he says again “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Salvation is the work of God from start to finish. If you are saved at all it is because God saved you through faith in the work of His Son — even the faith to believe the Gospel does not come from yourselves—it is the gift of God.

Salvation is not of works, lest ANY man should boast. It cannot be made any clearer, yet multitudes of professing Christians wrongly believe that they made “a decision for Christ.”  Many Protestant’s teach that unless we “decide,” or unless we “choose,” or unless we “accept Jesus as our Personal Savior” then God’s grace is useless.

To teach such a thing is a damnable lie. To argue that grace is of no avail to us unless “we do” something first, is to deny SOLA GRATIA ALTOGETHER. To believe in such a manner is to rob God of His Glory.

In closing Paul had to rebuke Peter publicly when Peter played the hypocrite when some Jews came in and Peter separated himself from his gentile brothers—Paul reminded Peter and us all that WORKS have no place in God’s plan of salvation in Gal. 2:16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified  Gal 2:16 (KJV)

2004 © Rev. Robert Liichow

Next Month Sola Fide