THE APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC MOVEMENT

31 01 2012
Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2012 – Vol. 17 Issue 1 – THE APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC MOVEMENT – Keith Gibson

 Discernment Ministries International

 THE APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC MOVEMENT

By Keith Gibson

 “I heard what I call the internal audible voice of the Lord…It was as clear as crystal. I heard the actual words. There was no guess-work. It was not impressions. It was the word of the Lord came to me. And the Lord said this, ‘I am going to change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the whole world in one generation.” (1)

 I was first drawn to begin looking into the new apostles and prophets by a question from some of the youth in our church back in 2003. I have been a pastor in the Kansas City area for the last 21 years. Additionally, since 2004, I have been the Director for the Kansas City office of the Apologetics Resource Center. Several of the young men in our church had friends who were becoming involved with a new ministry in town called, The International House of Prayer (IHOP). When I told them I would look into it, I expected to find nothing more than a typical Charismatic ministry. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

 My foray into the doctrines and practices of IHOP introduced me to some of the key leaders within the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement with which I had been completely unfamiliar. To say it was eye-opening would be a gross understatement. What I found was a movement literally intent on redefining the Christian faith.

 The majority of the Church has not taken seriously the claims of the modern apostles and prophets to be introducing a new paradigm into the Body of Christ. These claims are far more than idle boasts. Indeed the paradigm shifts have already begun in many segments of Christianity. To say that the movement has grown rapidly would be a gross understatement. The Identity Network an email list promoting the teachings of the new apostles and prophets boasts a daily readership of over 150,000 people. The Elijah List, a similar network, is read by over 130,000 individuals daily. The issues raised by the new prophets and apostles go far deeper than a mere debate over the cessation or continuation of spiritual gifts. Without intending to be alarmist, it is the contention of this article that many of the statements and teachings of leaders within this movement strike at the very heart of essential Christian doctrine and the nature of Christianity. This is no longer a Charismatic vs. Non-Charismatic issue.

 This article will attempt to evaluate the new apostles and prophets. It is not the intention of this article to insinuate that these teachers are not believers in Christ, but only to bring a corrective to much of their doctrine and a warning to the church at large. It must be noted that space constraints will require the evaluation to be overly general in nature. The movement itself is loosely affiliated and contains great diversity. However there are some common themes that may be noted.

 It is important to understand that the leaders of this movement consider themselves to be absolutely essential in the preparation of thee church for the coming of Jesus Christ. Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries arrogantly declares, “No ministry which rejects or avoids what is now happening in the restoration of the prophetic ministry will be able to truly fulfill its own calling and purpose in this hour.” (2) Notice the role that these modern apostles are to play according to the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), “An apostle is a Christian leader gifted, taught, commissioned, and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church.” (3) Notice that these leaders are to “establish foundational government within the church”. In other words, the rest of the Body should be submitting to them and indeed will submit to their leadership as the church matures.

 Apostle Bill Hamon is even more direct when he writes, “…apostles and prophets must be restored before the Church can fulfill its predestinated end-time purpose on earth.” (4) He continues later in the same work, “The full restoration of apostles and prophets back into the Church will then bring divine order, unity, purity, and maturity to the corporate Body of Christ…..That will in turn bring about the end of this world system of humanity and Satan’s rule. The fulfillment of all these things will release Christ, who has been seated at the right hand of the thing will release Christ, who has been seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, to return literally and set up His everlasting kingdom over all the earth.” (5)

 With the roots of the current movement planted firmly in the Manifest Sons of God teaching of the Latter Rain Movement, many of these teachers boldly proclaim that the church will conquer the world for Jesus Christ and establish His government by subduing the nations. A few, like Hamon, still teach that the church reaches glorification and immortalization (victory over death) before Jesus returns.

 Issues and Concern

Though many red flags should have already been raised, the remainder of this article will examine the teachings of the new apostles and prophets and the impact of these teachings upon several key doctrinal areas.

 The Scriptures

 Without a doubt the most pervasive assaults by the modern apostles and prophets occur with regard to the inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency and perspicuity of the Word of God. In order to be fair, it must be noted that the vast majority of these teachers are completely orthodox concerning the Scriptures if one only reads their doctrinal statements. When one examines their actual teachings however, a completely different picture results.

 Inspiration and Inerrancy

 In his extremely popular book, The Final Quest, Rick Joyner postulates four different levels of inspiration ranging from impressions (lowest), to open visions and trance states (highest). In this discussion, Joyner places the epistles of the New Testament at only the second level of inspiration. Concerning this level Joyner writes, “The next level of inspiration is a conscious sense of the presence of the Lord, or the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which gives special illumination to our minds. This often comes when I am writing, or speaking, and it gives much greater confidence in the importance or accuracy of what I am saying. I believe that this was probably experienced by the apostles as they wrote the New Testament epistles. This will give us great confidence, but it is still a level where we can still be influenced by our prejudices, doctrines, etc.” (6) (emphasis added)

 Notice that Joyner, in this alarming statement, has completely undermined the absolute authority of the epistles. While, according to Joyner, we can have greater confidence in them than if they were given by mere impressions, these epistles may still contain information that comes from the apostle’s own prejudices and personal doctrines. This would mean, at least theoretically, that we as believers now have the task of discerning which parts of the apostolic message are actually inspired by God and which are the result of the apostle’s flesh. Technically then, a believer would have the responsibility to set aside those parts of the New Testament that he determines to be from the apostle’s prejudice as opposed to the Word of God. Not only this, but Joyner claims that this level of inspiration frequently occurs for him when he writes and speaks. This would mean that many of Joyner’s words are on parallel with the New Testament itself. But it gets worse, for Joyner will also claim that he receives much of his information including that which is to be found in “The Final Quest, from the two levels of inspiration that are higher than that which the apostles received when penning the epistles. Though Joyner doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion, this would mean that the words of Joyner in works like “The Final Quest” actually possess greater authority than parts of the Bible itself. The result is shocking for if Joyner is correct, we can no longer evaluate his teachings based on the words of scripture but should actually evaluate some of the writings of scripture according to the standard of Joyner’s visions and trances.

 How far are Joyner’s comments from the writings of the true apostles, “Knowing this, that no prophecy is of any private interpretation. For prophecy did not originate with man but holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:20)

 Joyner is not alone in placing his words alongside scripture in authority. In her book, Heaven is So Real supposedly based on actual visits to heaven, Choo Thomas claims the following, “Like John, I had been called to write, and my mission was the same as his—to let people know that the marriage supper of the Lamb has already been prepared and blessed are those who are invited to be there on the last day.” (7) Elsewhere in the same book she writes, “Every word in this book is true. The words of Jesus have been transcribed exactly as He said them to me.” (8)

 Sufficiency

In a variety of ways, the modern apostles and prophets attack the sufficiency of scripture. Obviously, if the quotes already given by Joyner and Thomas are ture, then the scriptures are not teachers, doctrines are being invented on an almost weekly basis that have little or no foundation in the Word such as spiritual mapping, heavenly portals, spirit-ties, spiritual inheritances, judicial intercession, soaking and the list goes on and on. Studying the teachings of the new prophets one finds so many doctrines based on personal revelation that one wonders why we even need Bibles anymore.

 In some cases, the attacks are even more direct. For instance, Choo Thomas claims the following, “He wants me to serve as living proof of the Bible and His prophecies, because many people do not believe what they read in the Bible, nor do they believe that He is coming soon for His people.” (9) Elsewhere she writes “He had shown me how desperate many people are to know the truth about heaven, and I realized emphatically that my book would be the means whereby they could really know.” (10) Examine the words of Thomas closely. Her words will do what the Bible is unable to do. Those unconvinced of the truth by the gospel will be convinced by Thomas’s testimony. Those desperate pages of Holy Scripture but in the writings of Thomas.

 In her extremely popular book, “Journal of the Unknown Prophet”, Wendy Alec relates a word supposedly spoken by Jesus Himself concerning the teachers He is raising up in this generation. Jesus allegedly states, “For the Word alone is yesterday’s manna and even they [the prophetic teachers] have seen deep in their hearts that it is no longer enough to feed my people.” (11) Whether intentionally or not, Alec’s word compares the Scriptures to the worm-infested manna that the children of Israel experienced when they gathered more than they needed during the Exodus. Whether Alec’s vision is the result of an over-active imagination or an encounter with a seducing spirit one thing is certain, the Son of God would never speak of the Scriptures in such a manner.

 Perspicuity

The teachings of the modern apostles and prophets are destroying the church’s traditional understanding of the Bible. They have, in large part, rejected the historical-grammatical form of interpretation and have substituted a prophetic hermeneutic which allows the Bible to be manipulated to mean whatever the prophet says it means today. In this way, the Bible is no longer able to fulfill its function as the basis for truth and corrective against error but rather becomes merely the puppet of the apostle/prophet to advance his agenda. Therefore Mike Bickle can find in Micah 2:12,13 justification for the “breaker anointing.” (12) a doctrine completely unknown for the 2,000 year history of the church. Shawn Bolz can read Proverbs 6:31 and find authority to break off a “poverty spirit.” (13) Key doctrines of the new movement such as the restoration of the tabernacle of David, enthroning God through worship, spiritual mapping and countless other examples are all based on a poor approach to interpretation.

 The Decline of Doctrine

 In addition to the undermining of core doctrines, within the apostolic/prophetic movement there is an overall disdain for doctrine in general. Doctrine is unimportant. Doctrine is minimized. Doctrine is seen as that which divides. We simply need to follow Christ. For instance Francis Frangipane writes, “We have instructed the church in nearly everything but becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. We have filled the people with doctrines instead of Deity; we have given them manuals instead of Emmanuel.” (14)

 What the new apostles and prophets fail to appreciate is that doctrine is that which is believed to be true. To say that doctrine is unimportant is tantamount to claiming that truth is unimportant. While it is certain that some doctrines are more central than others and while we should acknowledge that the church has been too quick to divide over non-essentials, the answer cannot be found in minimizing doctrine altogether. Surely this is a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

 Additionally, the Christian faith has content. That is to say that when we affirm, for instance, that believing in Jesus saves, we are also understanding that there is a certain amount of content contained within such a profession. It is the Jesus of the Bible, the virgin-born sinless, Son of God, who died and rose again, who saves as opposed to the Jesus of the cults. Cults and even other world religions may speak of Jesus but the content they attach to the name is different. The minute one begins to answer the question, “Which Jesus?” one is dealing in doctrine. Furthermore, how is the church to be faithful to the command of Christ to teach converts to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20) without engaging in doctrinal instruction?

 Sound doctrine is vital to the health of the individual and the church. Our relationship with God must be founded upon truth. It is for this reason that the scriptures place a premium upon doctrine. Paul writes “Take heed to yourselves and to the doctrine for in so doing you will save both yourself and them that hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16)

 Yet today’s teachers consistently downplay the importance of sound doctrine. Consider a couple of examples from Mike Bickle in discussing prophets in general and William Branham in particular. First, Bickle writes, “Yes, prophetic people must be clear about major doctrines like the person and work of Christ and the place of the Scriptures. But on lesser points of doctrine, they might be misinformed.” (15) This statement doesn’t sound too bad, although it should be pointed out that if one were to consistently apply the standard of proper understanding of the place of scriptures to the modern prophets most of them would be rejected out of hand. But notice how Bickle equivocates as he discusses William Branham, “Branham ended up in some doctrinal heresy, although never to the extent of denying Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or doubting the authority of the Scriptures. While affirming the deity of Christ, he denied the Trinity.” (16)

 So apparently to Bickle, the Trinity is one of those lesser doctrines around which a true prophet may be misinformed. Further study of Branham reveals that Branham taught that God gave His Word in three forms, the bible, the zodiac and the pyramids. He taught the serpent-seed doctrine and a host of other heresies. But none of these issues disqualify him as a true prophet in the eyes of Mike Bickle or other prophetic personalities.

 Another example of Bickle’s lack of appreciation for sound doctrine can be seen when he writes, “True Christianity is a dynamic relationship with a living God and it cannot be reduced to formulas and dry orthodoxy. We are called to embrace the mystery of God and not to lust after neatly tying up every doctrinal or philosophical loose end that we encounter.” (17)

 Here Bickle sets up a false dichotomy. It is trure that we do not want a dry orthodoxy but we should still desire orthodoxy. A passionate heresy is not more desirable. It is true that we cannot tie up every loose end but we can know some things for certain because God has clearly revealed them. We are called to a dynamic relationship but this relationship must be based on the truth that God has revealed lest we find ourselves worshipping a God of our own creation. And given the number of strange practices that Bickle has endorsed in the past such as the Toronto Blessing, one can only wonder how many aberrant things may be covered under the “mystery of God”.

 The Nature of God and the Person of Christ

There can be no more fundamental area of doctrine than that of the nature of God in general and the Person of Christ in particular. Even here one finds problems in the teachings of the modern apostles and prophets. We have already examined the willingness of those in this movement to endorse those who deny the Trinity. But sadly this is not all.

 The Weak God

Consistently, the picture of God painted by these new leaders is less than the majestic, sovereign God of the bible. Shawn Bolz for instance, tells of a God who has had some of the inventions He intended for His children stolen out of heaven by those practicing witchcraft. (18) Spiritual mapping advocates imply that God alone is not mighty to save unless the church first clears the spiritual atmosphere. Numerous members of this movement subscribe to the faulty views of E.W. Kenyon that God somehow lost dominion over the earth in the fall.

 A classic example of this weak God can be found in the writings of ICA member Dutch Sheets. Sheets writes, “Recently, I believe the Lord showed me what sometimes happens when we come to Him with a need, asking Him to accomplish what He says in His Word. In answer to our requests, He sends His angels to get our bowls of prayers to mix with the fire of the altar. But there isn’t enough in our bowls to meet the need! We might blame God or think it’s not His will or that His Word must not really mean what it says. The reality of it is that sometimes He cannot do what we’ve asked because we have not given Him enough power in our prayer times to get it done. He has poured our all there was to pour out and it wasn’t enough! it’s not just a faith issue, but also a power issue.” (19)

 Pay close attention. Notice that Sheets indicates that our prayers can line up with what God has already promised in His Word, may be according to His will, and that God may actually attempt to answer our prayer but be unable to do so because we have not given Him enough power through our prayers in order for Him to accomplish His will. So apparently God is not able to keep His own promises without our help. We have to give God the power to act.

 The Nature of Christ

 Modern apostles and prophets show a consistent confusion with regard to the person and work of Christ. For instance Rick Joyner states, “There is a tendency to continue relating ot Him as ‘the Man from Galilee.’ Jesus is not a man. He was and is Spirit. He took the form of a servant and became a man for a brief time.” (20)

 Whether intentional or not, Joyner’s statement is a complete rejection of the hypostatic union. Orthodox Christianity has understood for centuries that when the Second Person of the Trinity took to Himself a human nature, this was permanent union. Jesus is forever the God-man, fully God and fully man. Jesus did not come in some sort of rent-a-body that He discarded after the crucifixion. Either Joyner does not understand this or he is denying it. Further, Joyner’s statements have serious implications for the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Jesus for if Jesus is no longer man then in what way did He resurrect? Additionally, the scriptures link the ongoing work of Christ as intercessor to his humanity. (see 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:23-24 among others)

 Conclusion

In our brief discussion we have seen that current trends within the Apostolic and Prophetic Movement are undermining the historic Christian faith in regard to the place of Scriptures, the importance of doctrine and the nature of God and Person of Christ. If space permitted we could document similar issues with regard to the Person of the Holy Spirit, the atonement and the nature of the church. And we haven’t even mentioned the myriad of false prophecies made in the Name of our Lord.

 These are not incidental issues. The church can no longer be silent. The new Apostles and Prophets were not speaking in hyperbole when they promised to bring a new understanding of the Christian faith. If the Church does not begin to respond, the Christianity that is passed on to our children will bear little resemblance to the faith of our fathers. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him. We do the greatest service to the next generation passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian Fathers of generations past.” God enable us to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. “

 

Copyright © 2012 Keith Gibson

 

End Notes

1. “Our Prophetic History” CD series, CD #1. Mike Bickle, 2002 Friends of the Bridegroom.

2. Joyner, Rick “The Prophetic Ministry”, 1997 Morningstar Publications (Charlotte, NC) page 53

3. Ibid, “FAQ” What is an Apostle? http://www.apostlenet.net/index.asp?action+faq

4. Op. Cit. Hamon page 57

5. Ibid page 59

6. Joyner Rick “The Final Quest” 1996 Whitaker House (New Kensington, PA) page 10 on page 133 of this same book, Joyner relates an encounter that he had with the apostle Paul that supposedly took place in heaven where Paul tells Joyner that the words in his epistles do not carry truths as powerful as the words of Jesus in the gospels. Essentially Paul says that his letters are not an inspired as the Gospel.

8. Thomas, Choo, “Heaven is so Real” 2003 Charisma House (Lake Mary, FL) page 129

9. Ibid page 153

10. Ibid page 177

11. Ibid page 124

12. Alec, Wendy “Journal of the Unknown Prophet”, 2002 Warboys Media page 84 Bickle, Mike “Contending for the Power of God” CD #42003 Friends of the Bridegroom

13. Bolz, Shawn “The Keys to Heaven’s Economy” 2005 Streams Publishing House (North Sutton, NH) page 88

14. Frangipane, Francis, “The House of the Lord” 1991 Creation House (Lake Mary, FL) page 36

15. Bickle, Mike “Growing in the Prophetic” 1996 Charisma House (Lake Mary, Fla) page 51

16. Ibid page 63

17. Ibid page 77

18. Op. Cit Bolz page 73

19 Sheets, Dutch “Intercessory Prayer” as quoted in “The Worship Warrior” by Chuck D. Pierce and John Dickson 2002 Regal Books (Ventura, CA) page 211 Joyner, Rick, “There Were Two Trees in the Garden” 1992 Whitaker House,

20. (New Kensington, Pa) page 59 emphasis in the original. It should be noted that Rick Joyner says that many people still consider this to be the best book he has ever written.

__________________________________________________

About the Author

 Keith Gibson is a fellow truth-teller, pastor and heresy-hunter. He is recently published a new book titled “Wandering Stars Contending for the Faith with the New apostles and Prophets.” It is published by Solid Ground Christian Books and you can order a copy by visiting their website located at http://www.solid-ground-books.com Their mailing address is

 Solid Ground Christian Books 6749 Remington Circle Pelham, Alabama 35124

DMI is thankful to brother Gibson for his willingness to submit an article for this issue and we pray that his book is well received and mightily used by God to open the eyes of His people.

 

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The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four)

2 03 2011
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 2 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Four)

Rev. Bob Liichow

Jesus taught us that the true God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) and as we have been studying over the last several months He has always revealed to His people the manner in which He is to be properly addressed. The purpose behind these articles is to explore the historic orthodox Christian liturgical format of worship and thus enable each of us to determine whether or not our own congregations are truly worshipping God in a manner that is acceptable to Him.

As we have already seen that it is quite possible to worship God and our worship be rejected by Him, regardless of how good our intentions were. Consider the following sad case: two men came to worship God, one brought the best of his garden, faultless produce. The other brother brought the firstling of his flock. God rejected the first act of worship and accepted the other (Genesis 4). No doubt Cain meant well, but when it comes to serving God good intentions are not enough. If good intentions and desire were enough to qualify one to approach God then why the following command from God?

And Aaron and his sons shalt thou appoint that they may attend to their priest’s office; and the stranger that cometh near shall be put to death. (Numbers 3:10) (1)

The “stranger” was anyone whom God had not ordained to serve in His temple. What about those whom He did call but failed to serve “according to the pattern” revealed by God?

And the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, took each of them his cener, and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and presented strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there went out fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah (Leviticus 10:1-2) (2)

In this case two “non-strangers” offered strange fire, i.e. a sacrifice not required by God nor desired by Him. The end result? Instant death. These were Aaron’s sons, Moses brother, his second in command! Seems pretty harsh to some, yet it says to me that our God is holy and He will have a people to worship Him aright. I could wag long about Samson who went to sleep, woke up shorn and did not know that God had left him (Judges 16:20). It is evident from the whole of scripture that God takes worship very seriously.

Most certainly we live under a better covenant which is based upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6) and we are free in Christ by the Spirit from bondage of the law (Romans 8:2). Yet being “free” from the Law does not make us a lawless people. Being in Christ does not mean that we now can approach The Ancient of Days in any form or fashion. This is especially true fro when we gather together to worship our Lord.

The early church understood the seriousness of approaching God properly, they were mostly Jews by natural birth and thus were raised within the worship structures of both the synagogue and temple.

The historic liturgy of the Church is a combination of both Judaic and Hellenistic influences. Obviously, the Jewish influences are the earliest and comprise much of the “heart” of our services today. From the Jews we obtained.

The Eucharist the Sacraments

Prayer in Common The Liturgical sermon

Most of the service of the Word — that two lectionary readings and the Psalmody between them concluding with the sermon comes to us from Jewish practice. The structure of the ancient Eucharistic prayer come from Israel and is preserved today (albeit fragmented) in the Preface and the canon. Also from Israel comes the great intercessory prayer which was once common in liturgical services and it was modeled on the 18 Intercessions recited at the beginning of synagogue services. The seven day week comes to us via Israel, as do the major Feasts of the Church such as Pentecost and Easter. Even the concept of our “Church” year comes to us via the Jews.

The times of liturgical prayer stem from the root of Abraham’s seed also. Not only was the secular year divided by major Feast Days commemorating the salvicfic acts of our God, but the day was divided into prayer offices. [It is funny to me when I dialog with Muslims how they always bring up their 5 times of prayer a day…little do they realize that Mohammed took the idea from the Church first!]. The following is how the day was historically divided by seasons of prayer (these may differ slightly depending upon whom is cited):

Vespers (at the end of the day)

Compline (upon retiring)

Vigils (sometimes during the night)

Matins (Lauds) (at sunrise)

Prime (during the first hour of daylight)

Terce (at the third hour)

Sext (at the sixth hour)

None (at the ninth hour)

Vespers (at the end of the day)

Benedict of Nursia laid out in his Rule these hours for prayer. (3) This system of prayer was followed by the Church for hundreds of years, some religious orders still keep these hours daily. It is obviously not practical for everyone to attempt to put into play these prayer hours, but all of us could embrace Matins (Lauds) when we rise and Vespers or Compline at the end of our day. From Judaism came the use of the Laudate psalms, invitatory formula such as sursum corda {life up your hears}, oremus {let us pray}, gratias agamus {let us give thanks} is also of Jewish origin. This much is certain we all are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It should be evident that worship was never a spontaneous “event” or necessarily even an emotional experience (I however personally find worship highly emotional). The year, the months (seasons), the weeks and even daily life was all geared towards the worship of God. I cannot stress this fact strongly enough. We live in a have–it-your-own-way culture, especially when it comes to spirituality. Many congregations across denominational lines have removed the cross from their walls (never mind crucifixes), taken Bibles out of the pews, ministers that no longer wear any type of vestments (a Ralph Loren© Polo Shirt does not count either). Their services are specifically crafted to meet the needs of the seeker. (4) What is the goal of these worship services? Having sat in meetings dedicated to church growth, I can answer on their behalf “what is our goal? To be sure that everyone has an enjoyable worship experience.” In order to achieve this goal then one has to dumb down the Gospel message and be very selective in what is proclaimed from the moveable lectern (altars are passé as well). Our charismatic brethren are even looser in their worship format — they pride themselves on not having one! In fact, I’ve been in many meetings where the ‘Spirit’ moved and no Bible was preached — and these were deemed GREAT services by all (except Jesus, who was no doubt weeping in intercession for us)! Charismatic believers seem to think that “change” equals growth and development. (5) Change is proof that God is indeed moving among His people. Since the time of Zwingli then the Wesley’s (John and Charles) and later that arch-heretic Charles Fox (“fox” how apt) Finney; it seems like the cry has been and still is “out with the old” and “in with the new innovations.” Did not Jesus Himself say that old wineskins (whatever people before you came to Christ) could not hold this new wine of today’s revelation? (see Mark 2:22)…Please re-read the passage and then tell me if that is what Jesus was saying.

Historically, Martin Luther cried out against the destruction of crucifixes, religious artwork, vestments, statuary and icons. (6) The more radical reformers sought to destroy everything that was attached to Roman Catholicism. They not only destroyed the physical reminders of Rome, but also did away with the liturgy as well! In their ignorance they failed to realize that the liturgical practices preceded the formation of the Roman Catholic Church by hundreds of years. Style of worship has a direct correlation to doctrinal belief. Change for the sake of change or to attempt to entice the lost or worse yet, steal sheep from another flock is the work of sinful people who have strayed from God’s revealed will for proper worship.

Brothers and sisters, humanistic innovation is not God’s way of worship. It never has been and regardless of whatever is popular now I can assure you that anything that deviates from His pattern will never be accepted by Him. Nuf said about that!

Perhaps one of the most striking and unique things about liturgical Christianity, and especially in this age of rapid change and even change for its own sake, is its permanence and changelessness. This is especially true for the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day. This was also true of the Western Roman Church until the past century when the reforms of Vatican II significantly altered the liturgical form of the Roman mass. It has been said that one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Orthodox Church is “its determination to remain loyal to the past its sense of living continuity with the church of ancient times.” (7)

What Was Early Christian Worship Like?

Depends on what one defines as early. We have little written evidence regarding the manner in which the Apostles led their actual worship services, apart from the information found in the Book of Acts and some of the Epistles. We’ve already covered in the previous articles how the first believers continued in the Temple until the dispersion around 70 A.D. We know that the initial roots of the Church were Jewish in all their flavor because that is all the Apostles had experienced at the time. It was really not until the apostle Paul began to purposefully reach out to the Gentiles and churches were established in the major Gentile cities that a new Hellenistic flavor was added to the Hebraic worship format. We know that initially the people gathered in homes to worship and for a short while did not experience much persecution. That changed as the church began to grow and converts began to multiply. Persecution arose frist from within Judaism (as the Stephen or later on the Apostle Paul when you see them in heaven) and then later on from pagans (see Acts 19:23-41) appealing to secular authorities and then fairly quickly this turns to persecution from Rome.

It was at this point, due to the intense public persecution of the Church by Roman authorities that the believers went under ground. By 70 A.D. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews and many Christians scattered, so there was no more temple worship and furthermore, Christians were no longer welcome in the synagogues being seen now as a separate religion distinct from the Jews (at least in the eyes of the Roman government). The dispersion of believers into the Roman Empire led to the bulk of conversions occurring within the ranks of non-Jewish people giving the “face” of the Church a distinct Greco-Roman profile.

The earliest non-canonical writings we have give us some insight into the worship practices. One of the earliest accepted documents is called “The Didache, The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.” (8) Many scholars’ date this short document to being written sometime early in the first century. “Didache” comes from the Greek word for doctrine or didactic and it is a sort of manual on general Christian life. Many sign-gift seekers like to cite the Didache because it deals with prophets. What they fail to realize is how damning the documents teachings are relating to today’s so-called restored prophets. Regarding prophets it says:

But not everyone who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him. (9)

It is important to keep in mind that at the time of this writing, approximately ten years after the death of the Apostle John (give or take a year or so), there still was no formalized canon of Scripture codified as we now possess. There still were a few men who filled the roles of prophets or apostles (i.e. men sent possibly via the Apostle John himself, or someone sent by a recognized Bishop). What I find interesting to read is how, apart from our Scriptures, the Church is warned in one of its earliest remaining documents about the danger of false teachers, false propjets and false apostles!

Those who came to the Church in the name of a prophet or apostle were to remain no more than three days and ask for no money! If they stayed longer or asked for money it was proof they were false SINisters. Due to the fact of a smattering of genuine charismatic gifts still in operation, the early church was cautious not to totally dismiss the possibility that God had indeed sent the individual to them —but they surely were fruit inspectors (Matt. 7:16).

Liturgically speaking what we glean from the Didache primarily concerns the Eucharistic meal. First, only those rightly baptized, i.e. according to the standard Trinitarian formula were to be allowed to receive communion. The agape meal was held each Lord’s day — every Sunday was a “communion Sunday” not every fourth Sunday, not once a month or annually but every time they gathered. Frankly, I know of no other congregations apart from liturgical ones that still practice regular weekly communion.

But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let on one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.” (10)

So without laboring the point it seems that this nascent Christian church began with a confession of sin, offering up of thanksgiving, celebration of the Eucharist along with teaching. (11) Few evangelical congregations today have any confession of sin in their services. People gather, the band starts to play and the people immediately begin singing! This speaks volumes of the leadership/.congregation’s attitude towards the reality of sin, the absolute inviolate holy nature of the One they have come to praise. All orthodox liturgical services begin generally with people on their knees with voices united in a corporate confession of sin and then we hear the welcome words of absolution declaring our sins forgiven by Christ and His work alone. For me and my family this is absolutely fabulous and sets the tone for the rest of the service. Once we as a people have confessed our sins, received our pardon (acknowledgment of grace) then and only then are we as a congregation able fully to enter into the presence of God corporately. There is true spiritual unity when you worship amidst a people who kneel before God fresh as new borne babes.

Next time we will continue our consideration of worship and look at Hippolytus and the Apostolic Constitutions. Stay tuned! ¨

Copyright © Rev. Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Darby, J.N. (1996). The Holy Scriptures: A new translation from the original languages (Nu 3:10). Oak Harbor, Logos Research Systems.

2. Darby, J.N. (1996) The Holy Scriptures: A new translation from the original languages (Le 10:1-2). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

3. The following is a good web site to get a glimpse into the prayer hours http://www.yale.edu/adhoc/research_resources/liturgy/hours.html

4. I have always struggled with the concept of seekers. The Bible plainly teaches in both Testaments that there is NONE that seeks after God–no not one (see Romans 3:11). People are searching but not for the God of the Bible, He is the One who does the seeking and He always finds the ones He seeks!

5. All our former charismatic readers will relate to the FACT that almost every charismatic congregation attempts to achieve their understanding of “early church” structure — you know “we are a Book of Acts church!” declaration. Yet none of these fellowships are liturgical at all in any historical/orthodox sense!  What the claim to be (early church) they are not —in fact, early Christians would not recognize most of what happens in 90% of churches today.

6. Luther believed these things were made by the hands of pious men for holy reasons. Historic Lutheran churches are filled with inspirational artwork, but we do not pray to them!

7. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litChLit.jsp.

8. Obtained from http://ministries.tliquest.net/theology/apocryphas/nt/didache.htm. At this web site you can read the entire document, which is only a couple of pages in length.

9. Obtained from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html. Underlining added for emphasis.

10 ibid. Underlining and italics added for emphasis.

11. The teaching aspect is easily seen in the other portions of the Didache.





Christological Confusions

21 01 2011

Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2011 – Vol. 16 Issue 1 – Christological Confusions – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Christological Confusions

Rev. Bob Liichow

 In the last few weeks Discernment Ministries International has received emails expressing concern over our belief in the Trinity of God. One would think that after two thousand years of biblical study and scholarly debate questions about the nature of the godhead would have been satisfactorily answered. The truth is they have been. The Church Catholic (universal) has been united in the following belief:

Whoever wills to be in a state of salvation, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, which except everyone shall have kept whole and undefiled without doubt he will perish eternally. Now the Catholic Faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. (1)

The orthodox Christian Church worships one God in Three Persons. I italicized the word person because our finite human language breaks down in many of our attempts to express eternal and timeless truth. Nonetheless, “person” is an adequate term to use because the word “person” is used to describe the three members of the Godhead because the word “person” is appropriate. A person is self-aware, can speak, love, hate, say “you,” yours,” “me,” “mine,” etc.

Each of the three persons in the Trinity demonstrate these qualities throughout the scriptures. The Bible is very clear concerning the fact that there is but One God yet is seen operating as Three within the One. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as the Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are the one God.

One of the recent emails excoriating DMI was regarding our declaring Mr. William M. Branham a heretic and telling people that he was a “Oneness” believer. The person writing us was partially correct in their diatribe by stating that Branham was not a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the WORLD (PAW) or the Apostolic Pentecostal Church; both Oneness denominations. They were correct in that Mr. Branham denounced all denominations as being of the great whore Babylon and was a member of none. However, Mr. Branham and all his followers deny the reality of the Trinity. A fellow truth-teller and Apologist Eric Pement wrote the following concerning Branham’s view on the godhead:

From his earliest days, Branham rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. He thundered, “Trinitarianism is of the Devil! I say that THUS SAITH THE LORD.” Branham insisted that the Trinity doctrine originated with Satan, and that it taught there were “three gods.” Therefore he directed that any believer who was baptized according to the triune formula given in Matthew 28:19 should be rebaptized “in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Branham generally described the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as being three “titles,” offices,” attributes,” or “merits” of God. The problem with this explanation is that titles, offices, attributes, or merits cannot relate to one another on a personal level. (2)

I have written many articles about Mr. Branham and they can be read on our website or by visiting our BLOG which has all of the extant Truth Matters for your viewing pleasure. This being the case let me just mention Branham again briefly for those who are newer readers and may be unfamiliar with some of the background of this Arch-heretic.

Branham is probably one of the most widely followed revivalists of our era. He was killed by a drunk driver in the mid 1960’s. At the time of his death Branham’s popularity had taken a huge downward spiral. He had taught too many bizarre teachings and uttered various strange prophetic words that were simply too much for the mainstream Pentecostals to swallow. So at the end of his life, his revival meetings dwindled in size. Sadly, Branham was one of the first men to really utilize technology in his meetings. The result was that we have virtually all of his revival sermons on audio and many hours on 16mm tape. Branham is almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of the ten thousand plus independent charismatic congregations.

Branham’s warning to leave denominationalism almost destroyed the Assemblies of God (AOG) denomination due to the fact they lost of many of their pastors! After his death he became mythic in stature largely in part due to the other revivalists who tried to raise him from the dead for several days after his car accident! Men like Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, A.A Allen, Gordon Lindsey lauded and praised this man at his funeral as the greatest prophet of their generation. The end result? Today there are over 20,000 web sites dealing with this heretic. Hundreds of Branhamite congregations (aka groups) which do nothing but listen to his past sermons, watch him on video and read about him and spread his message!

Naturally, this Bran Amite (3) felt led to correct my views both on Mr. Branham and the Trinity of God. He failed in both arenas because there was nothing to correct regarding my understanding of both topics.

What Did Branham Believe About the godhead?

In a nutshell Branham believed nothing unique or new about God, in fact, he bought in an ancient heresy (unbeknown to him, Branham had less than an eighth grad education). Branham and the Oneness Pentecostals believe in “Jesus only.” Their churches are known among other Trinitarian Pentecostals as Jesus Only churches. Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Spirit, there is no God but Jesus Christ, He is the One God.

Even though this ancient heresy was soundly rebuked, defeated and anathematized (declared a soul damning heresy) time and time again by The Church it still has persisted. Without going over eras of church history suffice it to say this heresy was virtually dead until 1913.

The Azusa revival of 1906 was already slowing down by 1913 and it was during a revival meeting in Los Angeles in 1913 that whipped things up again. This time a Canadian man named R.E. McAlister began to re-baptize converts in Jesus name only. This initially brought some confusion and debate. McAlister and his followers broke off from their fledgling Pentecostal brethren and took steps to formalize their doctrinal stance. The result was that today the fastest growing Pentecostal denominations are the Oneness Pentecostals which include the following organized groups: United Pentecostal Church International (UPC), Apostolic World Christian Federation, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW). (4)

Within two years this reincarnation of ancient heresy was solidified into specific beliefs. Some of these beliefs included the need to be baptized by immersion in Jesus name only. This is a prerequisite to salvation, you must be baptized in Jesus name. What is more you must speak in other tongues as proof of having obtained full salvation. Thrown into the mix is a mishmash of Wesleyan holiness (works) and a firm belief that they are the only true Church.

Their Ancient Error

Several heretics arose in the early Church (there really are no “new” heresies per se). The “Jesus only” heresy is attributed to Sabellius, who taught a form of this doctrine in Rome in the third century. The Lord raised up as the chief opponent of Sabellianism a man named Tertullian, who labeled the movement “Patripassianism,” from the Latin words patris for “father”, and passus for “to suffer” because it implied that the Father suffered on the Cross. Sabellius, Praxeas, Noetus all fell into the error of “modalism” which simply means God takes upon Himself “modes” or simply appears in different forms but is the same and One God.

The Monarchians properly so-called (Modalists) exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son so as to make them but one Person; thus the distinctions in the Holy Trinity are energies or modes, not Persons; God the Father appears on earth as Son; hence it seemed to their opponents that Monarchians made the Father suffer and die. In the West they were called Patripassians, whereas in the East they are usually called Sabellians. The first to visit Rome was probably Praxeas, who went on to Carthage some time before 206-208; but he was apparently not in reality a heresiarch, and the arguments refuted by Tertullian somewhat later in his book “Adversus Praxean” are doubtless those of the Roman Monarchians. (5)

This error denies the individuality within the godhead and no doubt came about in an attempt to secure the place of deity for Jesus Christ. However in their attempt “making” Jesus to be God they veered off into error.

I asked the writer several simple valid questions which he refused to answer. In fact, when you encounter a Oneness dupe I would urge you to consider asking some of these same questions found on the following page.

 

Some challenging Questions To Ask The Arians at Your Doorstep and other Places

1. Is Jesus His own Father?

2. If Jesus’ will and the Father’s will were identical, then why did Jesus express the desire to escape the cup but resigns Himself not to His own will, but the will of the Father? See my article on this.

3. Was Jesus praying to Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane? If so, why?

4. If Jesus was praying to the divine side of Himself, then isn’t He still praying to Himself?

5. Why was Jesus not saying, “Not My will, but MY will be done?” if there is only one person and one will involved when He was praying in Luke 22:42 & Matt. 26:39 ?

6. If baptism is essential for salvation, then what happens to someone who repents of sin, accepts Jesus as Savior, walks across the street to get baptized but is killed by a car. Does he go to heaven or hell?

A. If he goes to heaven, then baptism isn’t a requirement is it?

B. If he goes to hell, then faith in Christ isn’t sufficient to save him is it?

7. If God is only one person, why did Jesus say in John 14:23, “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” If God is only one person, why does Jesus say, “we”?

They have no adequate biblical response in attempting to answer these questions. Within Pentecostalism there has been a debate as to whether or not their Oneness compatriots are in fact Christians. I can answer that question very easily no debate necessary.  NO!   These people are guilty of preaching another Gospel [see 2 Cor. 11:4]. They present a system of works righteousness from the beginning to the end. Obviously they proclaim another Christ [see 2 Cor. 11:4] and if you are wrong regarding the Person and work of Jesus, then frankly, it matters not what one is right about. Lastly, they advance another spirit [see 2 Cor. 11:4] who is not the Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture. How sad to go to church and worship someone you really do not know, and more importantly does not know you!

The second type of email to challenge DMI’s Trinitarian stance came from the other side of the heretical Christological morass of delusion, i.e. that Jesus is not God at all.

There were several heretics involved in attempting to mislead the church, time and space permit only touching on a few of the “bigs.” The following people taught more or less the same error with some subtle nuances that are unimportant to this discussion. These deceived deceivers taught that Jesus was the first created being by the Father. Thus in their system the godhead consists of God the Father period. Jesus is His first and greatest creation and the Holy Spirit is simply the spirit of the Father God. To them Jesus is not God, nor is the Holy Spirit.

Arius is probably one of the best documented of the heretics of this stripe. His beliefs can be boiled down to the following statement:

Using Greek terms, it denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God; He is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity. (6)

The views of Arius were sounded defeated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Almost 1,200 years later another somewhat similar error erupted in the 1500’s called “Socinianism” so named after the two brothers whom espoused this aberrant doctrine. They taught the following:

Socinianism denies the doctrine of the Trinity claiming it denies the simplicity of God’s unity. Instead, God is a single person with the Holy Spirit as the power of God. Since it emphasizes the unity of God, there could be no divine and human union in a single person as Christ. Therefore, Socinianism denies the incarnation and deity of Christ as well as Christ’s pre-existence…Since Jesus is not divine by nature, His sacrifice was not efficacious; that is, it did not result in the redemption of people who would trust in it, it teaches that Jesus was only a man.   (7)

Socinianism furthermore denies the efficacy of infant baptism, the reality of eternal damnation in hell, opting for annihilation of the wicked. To these people the Bible is only authoritative as properly understood [rationalism] by themselves.

Monophysitism was another heretical attempt to wrest Christ from the godhead. Monophysitism is heretical because of its erroneous assertions that the nature of Christ had only one nature, not two as is taught in the correct doctrine of the hypostatic union (Jesus is both fully God and fully man). The problem here is the same as concerning the above views:

The denial of the human nature of Christ is a denial of the true incarnation of the Word as a man. Without a true incarnation there can be no atonement of sin for mankind since it was not then a true man who died for our sins. (8)

Fortunately, this view was defeated at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681 A.D. Even though it was defeated by the Church and shown to be a heretical view it still exists today. What is more is that you have probably encountered the descendants of Arius and the Socinian brothers!

Today the most vocal voice spewing Arian heresy is the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Within the first few minutes of conversation they will deny that the Trinity exists, they will deny that Jesus is God the Son from all eternity. They will tell you that Jesus is the first and highest creation of Jehovah, as such He is referred to as a “son” but He is a created being. There is a vast amount of research material available free of charge on our website and the internet on how to answer the J.W.’s when they come knocking on your door.

Another popular group in America which holds forth Arianism along with other cultic beliefs is the Unitarian Universalist Church. Sadly, a purely American invention. Fortunately one that does not have a tremendous impact, unlike the J.W.’s who are very busy (after all their salvation depends on it).

Within the same week DMI received emails espousing these two heretical views of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is apparent that people outside the major cult groups (J.W.’s etc.) are beset with damnable ignorance about the biblical Jesus. This is ignorance the Church banished hundreds of years ago!

People historically have erred concerning whether Jesus was divine or not. Some exalt Him to being the only True God, others say He is n o God at all. If this was not confusing enough there is another category of error DMI has yet to be asked about, that being, the heresy regarding the two natures of Christ.

Monothelitism attempted to avoid the apparently unsolvable question of whether Christ had two natures, one human and one divine, or only one nature. Rather it placed the focus on stating that the nature(s) had only one will and one operation, although, still Christ was defined to have two natures. Nestorius, a priest is often sited as an originator of this error. By the Third Council of Constantinople, where the idea of Monothelitism was debated ended with declaring Christ with two wills and two operations, both together in the body of Christ.

Eutychianism is similar to Monophycitism. It states that Christ’s natures were so thoroughly combined — in a sense scrambled together — that the result was that Christ was not really truly able to relate to us as humans. The problem is this implies that Jesus was not truly God nor man. Therefore, He would be unable to act as mediator and unable to truly atone for our sins. (9) We don’t encounter many folks like this proclaiming to be Christians today. This mis-belief is an ancient one that the Apostles encountered taught by the Docetists. They taught that Jesus only “appeared” to be a man, that He was really God and thus His sufferings were just an illusion, etc…

Tritheism is what the Orthodox Church is accused of by the ignorant and unlearned. This is the concept of three gods, distinct, yet in union. All the cults and Islam in particular declare we worship a three-headed god or worse yet, three distinct gods.

Jesse Duplantis in his book Heaven, Close Encounters of the God Kind, which book DMI has thoroughly debunked and proven this work to be both plagiarized and a blasphemous document [AGAIN CHECK OUR BLOG FOR THESE ARTICLES ON DUPLANTIS & HIS LIES].

While allegedly in the throne room of heaven, Jesse on his face just takes a quick peek into the events before his eyes! He declares to his angel guide that He saw the father’s feet (no man can see God and live, right?), he saw Jesus preaching in the throne room (hmmm isn’t Jesus “God” saw him and lived). Then Jesse says to his angel guide “I see the Father, I see Jesus, but where is the Holy Spirit?” His angelic guide “oh Jesse, He is on earth!” Immediately Jesse said he felt so stupid for even asking the question!!! This man is followed by millions! His book is in many languages and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies! Yet he is a liar, false teacher, thief, and a deceiver who does not know the God of the Bible.

It is easy to see how the unregenerate can fall into accusing us of worshipping three gods especially when we tell them that the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God, these three are the One God — their minds go TILT. Three persons, each “God” how can that not be three gods? The answer is simple — because God has given us His Word and in it we clearly see three divine persons and yet a uniform testimony of the fact that here is but One God.

Can we fully understand the nature of the godhead? No, and honestly, I doubt we ever will fully understand everything about God a billion years from now. What I do have is God’s Word and my role as a disciple is to bow my pride and hugely vast intellect [lol] to the authority of His Word and renew my mind to its sublime truths and to teach others the truths contained therein by example and rhetoric.

In closing I would urge our readers to consider beginning the new year off by boning up on some of the foundational doctrines of our faith because it is here, at the foundation, that the cultists attack. Here are a few good books to consider for your library. As always, I advise anyone to go to www.abebooks.com and try to buy these tomes used.

Copyright © 2011 Robert S. Liichow

Some Titles to Consider

1. A Summary of Christian Doctrine Edward W.A. Koehler

2. Know What You Believe, Paul E. Little

3. How to read the Bible For All It is Worth Dr. Gordon Fee

4. Systematic Theology, Millard Ericson

End Notes

1. The Athanasian Creed, underlining and bold type added for emphasis.

 2. Obtained from http://www.midwestoutreach.org/journals/branham_tree.html on 01-06-11

3. DMI over the years have received several emails regarding Mr. Branham. It seems part of his followers ministry is to scour the internet and challenge all who dare doubt “prophet” Branham.

4. What is amazing and telling about the history of American Pentecostalism is that after the Azusa revival 4 main divisions fissured almost immediately. The AOG & COGIC (Church of God in Christ) are Trinitarian in doctrine, but split over racism. The AOG being virtually all white and COGIC being all black. Then within the heretic modalist group also split into 2 branches, again based on race and not doctrine. So much for “Holy Ghost love” and “union.”

5. Obtained from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10448a.htm on 01-06-2011

6. Obtained from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01707c.htm.

7. Obtained from http://carm.org/socinianism on 01-07-2011

8. Ibid

9. Obtained from http://www.experiencefestival.com/





Reformation Sunday Sermon

29 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – Reformation Sunday Sermon – Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Discernment Ministries International

Reformation Sunday Sermon

By Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence. The violent take it by force. So speaks the Lord of the Church, the Lord of the Kingdom. It is not the Kingdom of Glory of which He speaks. No, thanks be to God, the saints are safe, at rest, in bliss and felicity, their souls in the very presence of God. No one takes them. They are eternally secure. It is not the Kingdom of Glory that suffers violence.

Nor is it the Kingdom of Power, that Kingdom by which God creates and sustains all things. Indeed, there is violence amidst that Kingdom, for God causes His rain to fall upon both the just and the evil. Like an ant taking throwing a punch at the sun, God’s good provision and prvidence are in no danger of man’s puny violence. It is not the Kingdom of Power that suffers violence.

But the Church, oh, the Holy Church on earth! She is the Church Militant, the Church at war, the Church beset by struggles, the Church that tastes of the sufferings of Her Lord, the Church that is the Kingdom of God on earth, for this Kingdom comes when God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Of this Abel’s blood testifies. So too does the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, murdered between the temple and the altar. And which true Prophet did not endure the darts of violent tongues, the stones of angry hands, the sword or lance of proud and violent men. But sword and lance pierce them no more. They are the Church Triumphant. They dwell in the Kingdom of Glory.

Physical violence can only harm the body. But there is a violence that can harm the soul, a violence that opens the dark trap door to imprison men’s spirits, a snare to capture the wayward, a siren’s cry to beckon the ship too close to crushing rocks, a strange voice to lure the sheep away from safe pasture. That violence is false doctrine—wrong teaching about God and so wrong teaching about salvation. False doctrine is violence perpetrated against the Kingdom of heaven.

Among the chief lies of the devil is that doctrine doesn’t matter. He would have you think that what one believes about God is a personal thing, not subject to review by anyone. The devil teaches that anyone that would insist that there is a right belief and a wrong belief about God is simply not nice, uncompromising, inflexible, unloving, just plain mean.

But God’s Word teaches something very different. God’s Word teaches that there is a right and a wrong, there is Truth and there are lies. You see, teaching that fallen men can earn God’s favor by their works is a lie. It is a violence. It is contrary to the clear Word of God. And yet, by such false teaching, sinners would take the kingdom by force. They desire to wrest forgiveness and salvation away from God by the puny strength of their own works. So too the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, monasticism, multiplying the Sacraments, Mariolatry, and prayer to saints. Matthew 11:12-15 The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

So too the teaching that “real” Christians don’t suffer, but rather are rich and happy in the world inasmuch as they rightly believe. That’s where Robert Schuler meets the Pope. So too the teaching that a man born of human father can rule Christ’s Church on earth by Divine right. These false teachings, these sins, do violence to the Word of god. They lead men to seek salvation where it has not been promised. They are but lies born of the father of lies, and the harvest of their deceitful violence is fodder for hell.

Bad doctrine is always popular among sinners, however, for there is a little pope in each of us. Our old man is proud to don the triple tiara, to take rulership of the Kingdom by force. For each of us has been bold to invent our own justification for our false beliefs, to craft our own plan of salvation, in which we work together with God as equal partners. We have unseated, if it were possible, God from His heavenly throne, and sinfully appointed Him to be our “co-pilot”. We have granted ourselves indulgences by minimizing our sins, and have assigned ourselves penance to “work off” our sins and earn God’s favor. To the fallen flesh, it all makes sense. Each of us has desired to take the Kingdom of heaven by force.

The irony is, of course, that what men desire to take by force God freely gives–but never to men who believe they can take it by force. God freely gave His Son over to violent men. The King of Heaven suffered violence. They desired to make Him King. When He would not be an earthly king, a king of their own design beckoning to their whim and call, they took Him by force. For when the Son came, the vinedressers said “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him and the inheritance will be ours…” And the Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence as the King willingly allowed Himself to be put to death.

But what men could not take, God freely gives. It is in Christ’s death that sins are forgiven, and by which God, by grace alone gives the Kingdom of Heaven to men. For Christ indeed from death has risen, our new life obtaining, that men be justified, declared righteous in His sight because of Christ. And this God works by faith alone, in Christ alone. What men could never take God freely gives you — as the faith He works in you trusts in Christ.

By that faith you know that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. By this faith, Baptismal faith, God declares you forgiven, holy and blameless in His sight, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He freely gives you the Kingdom.

This faith, this living, life-giving faith, is born of the Word of God by His Spirit. This faith seeks Truth in Scripture alone, for there God reveals His love for all men in Christ Jesus. This faith is fed and nurtured by God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, not by what is earned or sold, but by what is freely given: His Body given for you, His Blood shed for the remission of your sins. This faith is fed and nurtured by right teaching about Matthew 11:12-15   The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.

Christ and salvation, by the Word preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly administered, for true faith hungers to hear only what it already knows best — that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Amen.

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