The teaching of Paul is constantly that the Lord’s servant must be humble, quiet, not given to argument, debate, aggressiveness, etc. The acting on either side of the fence is deplorable to me: those who feel they must “look the part” and “say the part” of either the soft or hard versions of a pastoral culture. Scripture shows what a man is and a man is one who is able to gently and humbly speak the truth so that God is glorified in the message and the power behind the message, not us.
Success can be confusing. No matter the field or context of life, measuring success is a dominant desire. This measuring becomes problematic when the matrix is misunderstood. Ignorance of what constitutes success can bring a plethora of issues both externally and internally in the life of an individual or organization. Considering successful ministry can be daunting and I know in my tenure as a pastor I’ve been taught conflicting thoughts on how to know if I am successful. For over 20 years the idea of ‘counting’ heads and money has been the measure of success but if we peer into the pages of scripture, there would be no example of a successful church, pastor, apostle or Savior if that were the case. Others have concluded that success should be based on the experience of the individual or the congregation. They would posit that true success isn’t how many, but rather, how powerful the experience. Again, if this is measured in comparison to the New Testament, there would be no historic picture of success found in these measurements.
There is the room of course, for many conversations of practical wisdom as it relates to dealing with people, communicating, caring and doing life together, but any human being can pull off successful ventures of gathering up people with a common goal or vision. It only takes a brain and a voice. The problem comes when all this discombobulated instruction on success invades the mind of a pastor or congregation and they begin to make strides to ‘measure up’ according to man’s wisdom. While I’ve spoken to these things before, I want to know just put the authority where it should be; the Word of God.
When we want to see an amazing feat we can go to either a magic show, and be deceived and enjoy it, or we can go to a sporting event or daredevil exhibition. Either way, there are many amazing things to behold in the world of daring humanity. If we want our breath to be taken we can listen to a chorale of voices singing the classics of old, a symphony bringing the trills and tonal harmonies to life in our ears, or we can view the grandeur of the sea, the mountains or the beyond! Sadly, all of these things, while awe-inspiring, are not majestic or awesome in comparison to the glory of God. So, in man’s feeble mind, he has tried to find other ways to behold the power of God and then painted the canvas of “worship” and “church” with these silly and boring tactics.
How amazing would it be if I were preaching this Sunday and out of the blue I began to float in the air and fire came from my hands as I read the words of Jesus? People would think they had witnessed a miracle and their hearts and minds would be overpowered by that experience. Likewise, if I walked out into the congregation and touched the ailing and their bodies were actually healed, legs grew back, eyesight restored; people would lose their mind in amazement. What if I were able to know things that were not mine to know or had the ability to provide music that would shudder the soul and cause others to feel, what they thought, the very presence of God? I would submit that all of this, even if it happened in greater detail, would be boring and nothing in comparison to seeing the glory of God face-to-face!
So, if we want to SEE a miracle, it is better to stop looking for the next great “work” of God and realize that there is already a perfect miracle for us to behold every moment of our lives! Jesus in John 6 says, “This is the work of God that you believe in the Son that He has sent.” See, the people of John 6 wanted more miracle food. When Jesus refused to feed them in their hunger and commanded them to be satisfied in Him, they wanted a sign for Jesus to prove Himself as worthy. In the same manner, many professing believers seem to believe in anything they can feel, create, and experience that satisfies their flesh instead of actually believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption. The point is that success in ministry is not measured by the number of people in the pews, money in the bank, missionaries in the field, miracles on the stage, healings in the clinics, or tongues in the air like cymbals. It is measured by the majesty and glory of God in the face of the people of God, who believe, worship and love each other with all authority. So how then are we to measure this? How is this experienced and evident in the life of the church? Through the Word of God Alone!
God’s word faithfully proclaimed is the only measure of successful ministry.
2 Timothy 3: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
ὠφέλιμος – means valuable, profitable, having worth and bringing a yield. So, the word of God, which is God speaking, is profitable for all things that the church needs. It teaches (doctrine), reproofs (disapproves), corrects (sets right), and trains in righteousness (teaches Christ). The successful pastor is equipped for every good work through the Scripture. That is the miracle of God and a display of His creative power at work. His word being taught, His sheep hearing and heeding, and His people being governed by the Miracle of New Life by His everlasting Grace. Anything else is just boring and of lesser awe than this! Stop seeking out the devil’s measure of majesty and rest in the revelation of God to you.
Rest in Christ!
While there are many who claim to understand this phrase, it only applies to the efforts of many evangelistic appeals that accompany a large majority of “evangelical” ministry. Easy believism as a term has been captured by some to mean simply believing the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture. For our conversation here, that is not what is meant. Easy believism is the realm of ‘quick’ and ‘fashioned’ methods or responses that supposedly secure faith. These methods are seen in the practices of the ‘altar call’, ‘sinner’s prayer’, ‘Jesus in the heart’, ‘making a decision for Jesus’, ‘checking the box’, ‘raising the hand’, ‘repeat after me’, and more other aspects of sealing the response to the Gospel command.
Without going into a 250-page history lesson on the Evangelical Church, I’ll just place a few highlights on the history of such practices:
- In the 19th century, Charles Finney had a very heretical view of man’s condition after the fall of Adam and Eve and supposed that preachers could overcome obstacles to faith in Christ. Finney is in gross error because scripture teaches that man is inherently depraved and sins because of his nature, sinner.
- He produced a series of revival tactics that included having people come forward to receive Christ while also employing multiple tactics like coercion through fear, sadness, music, stories, and mourners who would come forward with others to encourage them to “do something” in response to belief.
- Others copied and began to expand the practices of Finney which eventually changed the mission and message of preaching through manipulation and response, instead of the biblical teaching of “bold statement of the truth” and trusting in the Spirit to bring salvation.
- DL Moody was a successor of Finney who engaged in an ecumenical effort developing campaigns of ‘mulit-faith’ groups who would utilize music and celebrity appearance to bring hearers to the Finney style responses to a call, not to a clear Gospel message.
- The most prominent proponents of ‘decisionism’ is Billy Graham who started his ministry in 1950 and in the same year began a national radio show, “Hour of Decision.” This launched his revivalist efforts and Graham’s tactics and techniques have been normative for the majority of professions of faith for much of the 20th century.
- Evangelical churches continue to invest a great deal of time and energy in ‘decisions’ for Jesus while the church of America continually gets weaker and weaker in truth, commitment, sound doctrine, and power. The church answered this over the last 40 years by engaging more and more programs, training and assimilation strategies that further divide the simple and plain teaching of Scripture from the lives of people.
In brief, this type of belief is found in no place in scripture. Some may try to employ the Romans 10:9 card, but by doing so, they twist scripture for their own practices. Ultimately, the continued use of such things is a blatant disregard for the Lord and His word. It’s a refusal to listen to sound teaching and engage in useful and profitable dialog concerning the souls of men. Sadly, it appears that people really do love the glory that comes from men rather than God’s ultimate glory that is revealed in the ‘foolish’ gospel message of Scripture.
If you find yourself trusting in any of the aforementioned methods, I would encourage you to consider your hope and whether or not you really do have security in your eternal life. Maybe your hope really is in Christ Alone, and God pushed through the methods with the message of the cross to your ears. If not, then take a moment and write out your testimony. Describe your salvation, your hope, your security and your exultation in Christ. I will gladly and privately respond to walk you through the gospel of Christ and its absolute power over sin and death!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation first to the Jew then the Gentile. Romans 1:16. Are you ashamed? Let’s pray not.
In closing, belief in Christ is easy. It is seeing and being persuaded of what God has said about His Son. What Jesus has accomplished in His life, death and resurrection constitute the good news, because, without it, every human being is justly condemned in his sins. Believe ‘simply’ on Christ Alone, if you really think about it, all this other stuff isn’t easy at all, but more and more works that condemn and have no object of hope.
For His Glory,
People are always in need of help. It’s a fact of life. Finding the right type of help can be difficult for most. It’s difficult to choose from all the noise offering to change lives for the better. What form of ‘help’ is the right form? Should one seek some counseling? If so, then what type? Even counseling is vast in its practice. There is biblical counseling, therapeutic, psychological, psychiatric, self-motivating and there are a million divisions of these types of help. For many Christians, they look to the church hoping to find help through their pastor or a small group or even a friend. The trend in preaching has taken this approach as well and is viewed by many as just another arm of help in a time of need. If people in large number are seeking to be helped by preaching, then what constitutes a sermon that helps? How should pastors focus their teaching for the sake of their congregation?
A Helpful Sermon Carries Great Assumptions
Visions of grandeur often accompany many well-meaning pastors. They think that if they don’t say the right thing or if they are not creative enough, then church members are going to be lacking. It should be understood that God is supreme over all circumstances and when it comes to His own, He uses all things, good and bad, for their good. So, there is nothing that takes place in this life that is outside the eternal decrees of God. Preaching then must assume this reality, speak from this authority and provide exactly what God has chosen as an answer. Preaching that changes in content depending on the seasons or culture is not preaching. The preacher has become the pundit and no longer has any power to offer help. God alone helps. His word alone is all counsel for good and profit. (2 Timothy 3:16) Another assumption that the scripture offers is its audience. Not one point of the Holy Writ was composed or sent to unbelieving people. The Scripture is for the church and it only useful for the people of God, those who are in Jesus Christ.
A Helpful Sermon is Contextual
If the above assumptions are cemented helpful preaching should flow naturally from the text of Scripture. Often pastors feel the need to ‘invent’ something that is not seen in the text or even ‘expound’ philosophically on items related to the text. While this is good practice as needed (if the text speaks to the matter), it should be very minimal. What God’s word says has the power to change, not what we are thinking about what God’s word says. Contextual preaching then is the means through which the pastor will most benefit the church. A helpful sermon is one that stands within the text of Scripture and never pulls away from the original meaning. God alone shows what He is saying, He doesn’t need us to break into His mind and offer assistance to Him. Using a sentence out of context is not only ‘unhelpful’ but it is a very prideful engagement. It often shows either a lack of maturity on the part of a pastor, a lack of esteem for the Word of God, or a lack of discernment. Either way, it should be corrected and God’s word should be allowed to do what it was sent to do. (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12)
A Helpful Sermon Brings Maturity
Most circumstances in life are out of the control of the ones experiencing them. So, to teach people to do something that is out of their control is a waste of time. It also brings the hearer to a place of despair or worse, a place of false hope. Paul teaches the Ephesian church to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and the church will mature. What is the truth? The truth is spoken when each believer teaches the word of God to each other. It is spoken when it is ‘out of season’ and not received very well for the benefit and joy of another. It is spoken when preaching centers on the purpose of growing the church, which is inclusive of being able to ‘endure’ problems and ‘overcome’ circumstances that are out of their control. It often appears that pastors want to change people’s lives by changing the way they act or think. Scripture changes people’s lives, actions, and thoughts by showing them the power of God and His purposes in all things, even bad ones. True help is growth in grace, growth in Christ, growth in joy and all of these come through God’s word being taught as it is written. A helpful sermon can never point to what man can do or change in order to create the environment or circumstances for help. It must always point to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His power, purpose, and provision in all things.
A Helpful sermon continually focuses on the person of Christ and His work of atonement. God alone purposes the assembly and preaching for one reason, that He is glorified in His people. While the Scripture is used to preach Christ unto Salvation, that is done through right teaching of Christ, not through placating to felt-needs and ‘helps’ that have no eternal interests or glory in them. God’s word is the ONLY authority on all matters related to the church. God can do more in one second than all the helpful quippy and creative pep-talks combined in the world over a million years. Teaching God’s word not only helps, it teaches the church to hear the Lord, eat on their own, and to also help others with Scripture. Preaching out of context robs the body of Christ of all the blessings that Scripture brings.
 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)
God alone speaks with authority. He is the Helper. He uses finite men to open their mouths and proclaim His word through which He brings the message of hope and life!
Preach hard, pray with peace, and exalt the Christ brethren.
Those for whom Christ died are precious to Him. He has offered His own life for their redemption and has given them the promise of sharing in His glorious resurrection on the Day of His coming. So when division and strife are found unchecked in the local church, it not just a sad day in the life of a people, it is an occasion that Christ hates. Thankfully, He has given His people all they need to be free of divided hearts and the grace to be reconciled if they ever find themselves in such a place.
Of all the sins that could plague the local assembly, none are more heinous than gossip. Gossip means ‘whisper’, in the Greek the word ψιθυρισμός, [Gal 2:20] even sounds sinister. Pronounced “psithurismos”, it is also used to describe the subtle murmuring and chants of a snake charmer. It denotes silent slander or private accusation toward someone and it is found in scripture to be listed among some of the vilest sins, even to the point that those who practice such have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. While lying is certainly a form of gossip, what about speaking what is true? What happens if we “think” something is going on with someone else, is it gossip when we get counsel? What other instances are considered gossip in the church? Let’s consider a few of them.
These are the small and subtle thoughts that plague the mind and end up on the tongue, text, private meeting, phone call etc. Even when prayer is the central motivation, the details and names of people are off the table. Yes, prayer meetings are often the largest gossip sessions in the church. There are the discussions about someone else without them being present. When the subject of any sin, rebuke or testimony is not the first to be informed, the one speaking on the matter is doing the work of Satan. Talking ‘around’ the subject of a conversation, concern or critique is one of the largest attacks that the enemy uses to destroy the intimacy of the church. If the local body would adhere to the word of God, they would find that anyone who participates in such practices in either the capacity of the voice or the ear, should be brought publicly to the church immediately. Public warning of division, which includes quiet murmurs, is found in many New Testament epistles. The general prescription is that if they do it after the second warning, they should be excommunicated from the church. Bear in mind that often times, this type of gossip is first done in ignorance with good intentions, but it needs to be corrected so that the church is protected from the deceit of the enemy.
These could look much like the above practices but with the intention of making problems or sin known to others. Secret attacks against another sibling in Christ is actually an attack on Jesus directly. It is birthed from a desire to make sure everyone “knows” about the sinner among us, or worse, that there is someone that is not living as they “say” they are living. It only takes a few days for this type of thing to get out of control and cause serious damage to the unity of the church. Not only is it demonic, it is intended to do damage. This is often seen in the local church when someone doesn’t feel right about something and begins to keep tabs, make judgments, and then spread such things. For example, they see a sister always coming in late to service, leaving quickly afterward and not engaging. They will begin to watch this person intently, each week, and make notes of her actions. Then they will assume that the sister is in sin because she is not setting the example of timeliness and in their judgment have decided that such should be dealt with, after all, this person teaches a bible study on Thursdays. So they begin to call, talk, pray for and make it known that this teacher should be called out for her lack of holiness. What the person doesn’t know, is that the devil has snared them. How? First, the devil has made them notice this, not God the Spirit. Second, their judgment is evidence of their heart: they have a problem, not a solution. Third, they intention is not even for the joy of their sister, but for her pain and correction. Fourth, they fail to know that their judgment is bearing false witness because they don’t even know the truth of this person’s medical condition, schedule, or the fact that she prays with the leaders before and after church. And quite frankly, it is none of their business. Busybodies are also murderers in the church. That’s another post.
The causes of these offenses in the heart of a believer are difficult to discern but there are some things that actually are the seed of the sin of gossip. An immature believer who isn’t living in subjection to the word of God is typically very conflicted and often times tossed around like a leaf in the wind, not knowing what to do or how to do it. They usually pray for God to give them hope and guidance, but they rarely obey the basics of the new life: such as being committed to the body in gathering, prayer and the learning of the Word. This type of Christian easily finds fault with others. They misunderstand that love covers a multitude of sin and they feel slighted if they find sin in the lives of others. By harping on such things, they become snared as stated above, and it becomes one of their greatest hangups. In reality, they forget the forest of logs in their own eyes and succumb to being spiritual police rather that spiritual siblings in need of Grace. This type of person doesn’t always gossip, but if they are left in this state, they will tell someone why they feel burdened: this is gossip. They forget that they don’t have the role or authority to deal with the sin in other’s lives because they have plenty of their own. This is the prescription, sin must be dealt in one’s own life before he or she can move on to someone else. Even then, there is a clear prescription to only deal with sin that is directed toward them. Jesus says, “When someone sins AGAINST YOU.” Observing failings and sins that do not lead to death are to be prayed about, quietly and with all fear lest the temptation grab the observer. (1 John 5) The full reality of such things is a self-righteous heart. Let’s be reminded of the fact that this is a sign of spiritual ignorance. But it cannot remain.
Generally, these types of matters go unnoticed among the congregants of the church for decades. And while it causes division in small pockets and between families, an unbiblical church doesn’t deal with it and in a matter of time, the subject of such evil will be the pastors of the church. Satan has a wide chest of tools. Some of the most deadly are those who discuss the pastor in secret. 1 Timothy 5:19 says that accusations against a pastor should be done only with two or three witnesses. It may also be wise to yield to the structure of the letter in that it was written to an elder, thus any accusations brought public for an elder should really be through the plurality of elders. This is to guard the church against continued attempts of the devil to destroy the life and ministry of the pastor. It is good to remember also that general life matters and personal offenses fall under the mandate of Matthew 18:15-20, and a pastor is treated as a brother. Anyone who speaks of a problem with the pastor and anyone who receives a complaint before the pastor is aware of it has fallen into the sin of gossip and should be brought under correction. When a pastor is confronted and does not repent, the church should be told and just like any other member, if he repents, everyone rejoices, if he doesn’t, then he is removed from the church through excommunication. A pastor should not be confronted about every little thing unless it is absolutely obvious that he is living in continued, unrepentant sin.
Log Blocked Pet Peeves
In life, there are many things that bother us. There is certainly a list of things that cause grief, anger, frustration etc. but these things are not necessarily sinful. For instance, we can get annoyed at the someone’s personality, but it doesn’t make that person guilty of sin. When gossip is dissected, often it can be found to be over a pet peeve, not a sin. That makes it all the more egregious, that one would spread whispers and discord on something that is not even worth discussing. We have to take a very close look at what we see (and remember that we are not to peer into each other’s lives to find problems) and discern if that person is committing sin generally or sinning against us. If others are sinning generally, it is a wise and loving thing to inquire and be an encourager with hopes to bring joy into their lives, not hurt them and make them act the way we feel they should. What would it feel like if every time we missed church we were called and rebuke because it is a sin? What if every time we asked for prayer because we were fearful, those around us rebuked us and called out our unbelief? What if every time our children didn’t pay attention in church the elders brought us in to discuss our failed parenting? What about being asked daily if we prayed? What about service to others? What about submission to our husbands, loving our wives, laboring for our neighbors, keeping our minds and lives pure? What would happen if with every soda we drank someone reminded us of the body being the temple? What about our love for pagan holidays, or nice clothes, etc. that continually brought spiritual FBI enforcement to our door? Who is the measure of modesty? After all, the word means to draw attention. Sometimes the greatest of jewelry is immodest. Get the point? One’s own view of holiness that is not prescribed in scripture is never to be pushed on someone else. And the failure of others to live the way we feel we should in our convictions is not sinful before the Lord. These are personal preferences and pet peeves that have no place in the gracious economy of the church. Love does not keep a record of wrong, it forgives and when it sees the same thing a little later, it calls it the first offense. There are many people looking for a body that looks just like they do, and in the end, they are miserable because, in their attempt to make everyone righteous in their own eyes, they have become alone and isolated. So when small annoyances are there, even small failings and sins, we are to leave them be, not always be on the prowl to make sure everyone gets the specks from their eyes. It should also be said that someone “stumbling” has nothing to do with their views on things, but rather the fact that it causes sinful lusts or desires against a conviction. We give up liberties for the sake of our weaker siblings, but at the same time, we teach them to grow up and mature in Christ, because there is always a long line of devilish carrots hanging before the lives of men.
Gossips breed the fruit of all things unholy and suffers the church greatly. Here are just a few things that gossip causes.
When the church hears what they’ve never heard relating to someone else, the devil uses this information to cause distress and suspicion against people. It causes fear that something must be done and causes animosity with those who don’t see things in the same light. Suspicion multiplies like cancer among the whole of the church and then people are pitted against each other and families against themselves. Truth should be open, kind, humble and often. Not hidden behind assumptions and whispers until the “time is right.”
Proverbs 6:9 reveals that a false witness is one who lies and also one who sows discord. The spirit of even calling out true sin as found in Matthew 18, is never to do harm or to expel one’s self from the ‘wickedness’ but to bring encouragement, lif,e and liberty from the offense. The motives are usually fleshly when things do not go as prescribed in scripture.
Hebrews 13:17 says, Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (ESV) A pastor that is continually trying to live up to a life that even the greatest of Christians cannot obtain is a pastor that is dead in his spirit and grieved, unable to have joy. It is also not profitable for a church member who gossips or receives gossip because they heart is bent against obeying what is taught, thus they live in dishonorable rebellion against God because they feel they cannot sit under a man’s teaching who isn’t perfect.
Long after the gossips have gone and resolved their problems, they leave a scarred remnant who has never gotten through it. They leave the dried seeds of Satan to be watered down the line to give birth to more dissension, bitterness, suspicion and harm. This church is all but dead and nothing will revive it again except discipline through the word of God. Often times a congregation has to just flush all members and start the process over so that only those willing to yield to Christ with evidence of humility and submission are allowed to stay. Let’s leave gossip at home, let’s not be spiritual police and let’s realize what is a sin and what is a life of sin.
Rest well beloved,
I remember the early days of ministry in 1996 when great men of God were surrounding me and advising me on matters of church life, scripture, and ministry. At the time, those days seemed long and tedious, they were exciting yet unable to produce a quick enough reward. Out of most that I have been taught in the years following, one of the most misguided and erroneous teachings is that of assimilation as a ministry plan or effort. For those who don’t know, assimilation is the process whereby one is plugged into and take ownership of something, or some plan of the local church. It’s the word used to fully integrate the ‘observer’ or ‘attender’ into a committed position or role among the local body. For nearly a decade I developed most everyone around me with this end in mind and after 2005 I came to see that not only it as a waste of time, but it is a grand demonic scheme much like the garden temptation through which the gospel of Jesus Christ is shelved in all areas of church life to the point where there eventually is no church.
PHILOSOPHY AND CORPORATISM
From the onset, without giving a treatise on what scripture teaches about the assembled and called ones, let’s just state that these practices are nowhere to be found in history except in recent years. After the general bloom of corporate expansion in the 1950’s, congregations begin to adopt corporate policies and procedures and appoint leaders based on business acuity instead of biblical qualifications. This led to boards, trustees, programs, and all sorts of things being birthed. Now, while there can be some good to gathering people in a plan and process, doing so is a man-centered desire that is based on a neo-ministerial ecclesiology. It eventually trickled down, and as a company would vet in their employees and fill voids within a company, the church began to do the same.
NO BIBLICAL PRESCRIPTION
What’s wrong with that? Well, there is no Biblical prescription for such actions. Church offices, leadership roles, teams etc. have taken over the Christ declared (decreed) offices of the church and the church now in America cares more about what they can provide for the community instead of how they will grow and glorify God in living together as a people. Paul says that anything not done from faith is sin, so as the church has gone these ways, assimilating people into the church through worldly means and secular example is certainly not a matter of faith. Sin is too strong of a word for most professing Christians these days, and sadly many church growth lovers will defend their methods to the death and divorce of their fellow siblings, thus proving their continued wickedness. Bottom line, people are the church, and the prescription for what she is to be is found clearly in the words of Christ who is her head.
PROGRAMS OVER PEOPLE
I remember several times in my life when the practices and programs of so-called ministry had taken precedence over people’s lives. When disaster struck, there was no occasion to meet needs and preach the gospel, because the work had to go on; as a matter of stewardship, the conference had to continue. I find it very interesting that so often congregations build everything but people. They amass grand schemes, answer great needs, provide superb answers, but fail to see the simplistic power of Christ and the Spirit of God through the bible. Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians that the building of “the church” with anything but the foundation material is wasted and that which is not eternal will fail and be burned. Sadly, the church has forgotten that ALL MINISTRY is to, and for the sake of people. Each individual life is vital to the whole and none is more important than the other. So, to spread wide the means through which people may feel at home in the church while ignoring the ONE who said He would grow His church is mere stupidity. We are not to build people by plugging them into anything but our LIVES with the WORD at heart and in hand. Organizing these opportunities is a must, but in reality, each believer should be investing in the lives of others, not working to assimilate his or her neighbor into a ministry program. After all, anyone who is built apart from Christ is burned up and dies.
PLACATING TO THE MASSES
There will come a time — a scary reality of the future that has surely been apparent in my entire lifetime. A time when people will NOT ENDURE (that means they will not stand for it) sound doctrine (teaching). There has never been such a time in history where people hate sound teaching so passionately. The idols of men have no boundaries and now ministry is more popular than worldliness. Sadly, there is little distinction. I remember a dear friend and fellow pastor saying to me once, “You seem like you would be more at home in a smaller church.” At the time I resented that statement, now I wholeheartedly agree. But it wasn’t the size of the congregation that bothered me, it was the fact that the bigger we became, the less holy we were. Fewer and fewer did we see gospel-powered lovers of the word. It was more that people loved the ‘idea’ of the fellowship than actually loving each other. Bible study was less and less influential, and more and more people began to feel burdened to leave just to find rest in their consciences. It was a troubling but sanctifying time and I am blessed to have been through it. When the body of Christ begins to feed the masses, the masses will constitute its DNA. This means that the more of the world that comes to enjoy the products of the body of Christ, the less of the body of Christ is there. In short time, the church is now no longer the church of Christ, but a gathered club with bible trivia instead of a bridge game.
FEEDING THE FELT NEED
The more the world that is in the church the more it needs to feed. When someone can come into a fellowship of Christ followers and find solace in anything but Christ, they have missed the point of the gospel. The joy and affection of Jesus Christ is indeed one outcome of true rebirth. When we consider what the culture needs instead of what Christ says they need, then we have fed them to their flesh. The assimilation into programs and opportunities that take them away from prayer, fellowship, and scripture, feeds the sinful lusts of the mind and body. Some say that is harsh, but beloved, when the church gives a feast that is not the Bread of Life, it feeds death into the lives of those who partake.
SECURING THE UNREGENERATE
When someone fills up on things that are not Christ, they seem to be full. They plug in and play away at the game of ministry to the point that they feel secure. After all, are they not serving the Lord? Well, the Pharisees served the Lord with gladness and holiness but Jesus told them they would never see the Kingdom of God if they were not born again. When people are OK with just being a part of some activity, but not part of each other’s lives, something is gravely wrong. Many unregenerate people can live good and moral lives while serving the ministries of others just like them. They can even teach some life’s lessons and call it scripture and have prayer meetings, that are nothing more than gossip sessions. If one isn’t careful, the entire church, including the pastor, could be completely unregenerate. Where is the power of God? Where is the awe in view of His ineffable glory? Where is the dynamic and glorious miracle of the new birth? Where are lives being transformed in broken sorrow over sin and at the same time worshipping the Lord Jesus for His glorious grace? When people can so easily be put to the “lord’s” (ahem) work without being confronted with the gravity of His righteousness, something is dead. And in horror, it may stay dead.
STARVING THE SHEEP
All congregations do not start out this way. Let’s face it, monkey see, monkey do- this works for the church as well as for our toddlers. When the ‘church’ down the street is growing in numbers and money and activities, it’s natural to figure out a way to compete or at least have a Jesus that is just as cool as the rest. In this battle to find the answer to why the narrow way is so less crowded the sheep of Christ are starved. And you might know what happens then: They either leave to find the pastures of their Shepherd or they get sucked into the assimilation game. (Sounds like a horrible movie). When Pastor’s do what they should be doing, the sheep are protected. To starve them brings some very harsh consequences according to James 3 and other places in scripture.
MOCKING THE POWER OF GOD
The most egregious matter is that God is mocked by man’s attempt to supposedly draw and keep people in a manner that scripture directly forbids. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul teaches that there is no tampering with God’s word or using cunning to reach the lost. The bold statement of the word of God is all that is needed to secure the people of God in salvation, unity, faith and life. God is not mocked and His wrath is not cooled by such things. What would God say about those who argue that it is better to have people ‘at church’ through any means, rather than teach the truth? I know what Jesus will say to those who are not His, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” May the Lord grant us all the grace to see when we approach such vain ideas. There is nothing wrong with having a plan or hosting an event, but make no mistake, these are not the prescribed actions of the church, and they should not be the mainstay. They surely should not comprise the ministry of the body. When assimilation is the means through which people are secure in the church, know that the word of God has been relegated to the status of a tool, not the Word of Christ. It has lost its power and such is the cross of Christ; powerless.
The purpose of this rant is in some way to remind me of what I left behind. I did so because God’s word opened my eyes to a busy and hurting people who would never have the fullness of joy because the rest of their body was too busy for them. It doesn’t take steps of commitment and investment for a believer to be united with a people, it just takes God bringing a dead man to life. He will then love his brothers and sisters as they live life together for the glory of God.
Desperately seeking to rid my life of idols,
Worship by definition is to acclaim and make much of one or thing that is worthy of praise, honor, glory, attention or focus. Worship sits deep within the heart and when given opportunity, explodes with expression, not just about that which is worthy, but in honor of and toward such worth. Think about this, do you worship Christ or something/someone else? Are you invested with every fiber of your being in the glory of Jesus Christ? When you gather with the Saints of Christ each week, do you come to make much of and hear Christ?
Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart that one speaks from the mouth. So, when preachers preach, that which come from their mouths is what they worship. It is becoming more difficult to hear Christ and His truth and see His face in preaching. When Christ is absent from the text which reveals Him, the one proclaiming such fails to herald the One of true worth and instead places his own treasure at the heart of all things. Paul says in Romans 1 that people suppress the truth by unrighteousness and worship created things. I believe that many Christians love themselves and “church work” over Christ, thus, they keep sitting and maintaining worldliness as religion instead of true worship. So often one can hear sermons centered on man’s work, man’s worth and man’s well-being which are guilty of promoting idolatry. Beloved, learn to hear truth and lies and know the difference. Sinner, come to the One who alone is worthy of all praise.
An old hymn rings true to my ears each day I ponder the glory of Jesus Christ… “And the things of Earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and and grace.” So how do you know? Well, when you stand in awe of God, nothing else is in focus. Not even you! Praise not the content, pastor, service, music, feeling, friends, or anything else. Praise the ONE who is HOLY and who is Worthy of Praise. Run from anything else, it is a terrible thing to worship idols.
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV)
For His Glory by His Grace,
AW Pink reflects on this reality in a portion of his writing entitled “The Devil’s Delusion”. Here is an excerpt called “Another Gospel”.
SATAN IS NOT AN INITIATOR but an imitator. God has an only begotten Son – the Lord Jesus, and so has Satan – “the son of Perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3). There is a Holy Trinity, and there is likewise a Trinity of Evil (Rev. 20: 10). Do we read of the “children of God,” so also we read of “the children of the wicked one” (Matt. 13:38). Does Godwork in the former both to will and to do of His good pleasure, then we are told that Satan is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). Is there a“mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16), so also is there a “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7). Are we told that God by His angels “seals” His servants in their foreheads (Rev. 7:3), so also, we learn that Satan by his agents sets a mark in the foreheads of his devotees (Rev. 13:16). Are we told that “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God”(1 Cor. 2:10), then Satan also provides his “deep things.” (See Greek of Rev. 2:24.) Did Christ perform miracles, so also can Satan (2 Thess. 2:9). Is Christ seated upon a throne, so is Satan (Rev. 2:13 – Gr.). Has Christ a Church, then Satan has his “synagogue”(Rev. 2:9). Is Christ the Light of the world, then so is Satan himself “transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Did Christ appoint “apostles,” then Satan has his apostles, too (2 Cor. 11:13). And this leads us to consider “The Gospel of Satan.”
Satan is the arch-counterfeiter. The Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Work of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parodies. multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.
It is to this gospel of Satan the apostle refers when he says to the Galatians, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ:” (1:6, 7). This false gospel was being heralded even in the days of the apostle, and a most awful curse was called down upon those who preached it. The apostle continues, “But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”By the help of God we shall now endeavor to expound, or rather, expose, this false gospel.
The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity. It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood.” It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him. It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within us.” It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed. It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come. It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all. It appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.
In contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is “Be good and do good”; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word – character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform Movements, “Christian Socialist Leagues.” Ethical Culture Societies, “Peace Congresses” are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan – salvation by works. The pledge-card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy, for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more “practical” than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus: whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.
The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white-slave traffickers, but are for the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment. Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” they merely hold up Christ as the great Exemplar and exhort their hearers to “follow in His steps.” Of them it must be said, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10.3). Their message may sound very plausible and their aim appear very praiseworthy, yet we read of them–“for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (imitating) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing (not to be wondered at) if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
In addition to the fact that today hundreds of churches are without a leader who faithfully declares the whole counsel of God and presents His way of salvation, we also have to face the additional fact that the majority of people in these churches are very unlikely to learn the Truth for themselves. The family altar, where a portion of God’s Word was wont to be read daily is now, even in the homes of nominal Christians, largely a thing of the past. The Bible is not expounded in the pulpit and it is not read in the pew. The demands of this rushing age are so numerous, that the multitudes have little time and still less inclination to make preparation for the meeting with God. Hence the majority who are too indolent to search for themselves, are left at the mercy of those whom they pay to search for them; many of whom betray their trust by studying and expounding economic and social problems rather than the Oracles of God.
In Prov. 14:12 we read. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.” This “way” which ends in “death” is the Devil’s Delusion – the gospel of Satan – a way of salvation by human attainment. It is a way which “seemeth right,” that is to say, it is presented in such plausible language that it appeals to the natural man: it is set forth in such a subtile and attractive manner, that it commends itself to the intelligence of its hearers. By virtue of the fact that it appropriates to itself religious terminology, sometimes appeals to the Bible for its support (whenever this suits its purpose), holds up before men lofty ideals, and is proclaimed by those who have graduated from our theological institutions, countless multitudes are decoyed and deceived by it.
The success of an illegitimate coiner depends largely upon how closely the counterfeit resembles the genuine article. Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it. That is why half a lie is always more dangerous than a complete repudiation. Hence, when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit it is not his custom to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, rather does he tacitly acknowledge them, and then proceed to give an erroneous interpretation and a false application. For example: he would not be so foolish as to boldly announce his disbelief in a personal God; he takes His existence for granted and then gives a false description of His character. He announces that God is the spiritual Father of all men, when the Scriptures plainly tell us that we are “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26), and that “as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). Further, he declares that God is far too merciful to ever send any member of the human race to Hell, when God Himself has said, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire” (Rev. 20:15). Again; Satan would not be so foolish as to ignore the central figure of human history – the Lord Jesus Christ; on the contrary, his gospel acknowledges Him to be the best man that ever lived. Attention is drawn to His deeds of compassion and works of mercy, the beauty of His character and the sublimity of His teaching. His life is eulogized, but His vicarious Death is ignored; the all-important atoningwork of the cross is never mentioned, whilst His triumphant and bodily resurrection from the grave is regarded as one of the credulities of a superstitious age. It is a bloodless gospel, and presents a crossless Christ. who is received not as God manifest in the flesh, but merely as the Ideal Man.
In 2 Cor. 4:3,4 we have a scripture which sheds much light upon our present theme. There we are told, “if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them.” He blinds the minds of unbelievers through hiding the light of the Gospel of Christ, and he does this by substituting his own gospel. Appropriately is he designated “The Devil and Satan which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). In merely appealing to “the best that is within man,” and in simply exhorting him to “lead a nobler life” there is afforded a general platform upon which those of every shade of opinion can unite and proclaim this common message.
Again we quote Prov. 14: 12 – “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” It has been said with considerable truth that the way to Hell is paved with good intentions. There will be many in the Lake of Fire who commenced life with good intentions, honest resolutions and exalted ideals – those who were just in their dealings, fair in their transactions and charitable in all their ways; men who prided themselves in their integrity, but who sought to justify themselves before God by their own righteousness; men who were moral, merciful and magnanimous, but who never saw themselves as guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinners needing a Saviour. Such is the way which “seemeth right.” Such is the way that commends itself to the carnal mind and recommends itself to multitudes of deluded ones today. The Devil’s Delusion is that we can be saved by our own works, and justified before God by our own deeds; whereas, God tells us in His Word – “By grace are ye saved through faith . . . , not of works lest any man should boast.” And again. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
A few years ago the writer became acquainted with one who was a lay preacher and an enthusiastic “Christian worker.” For over seven years this friend had been engaged in public preaching and religious activities, but from certain expressions and phrases he used, the writer doubted whether his friend was a “born again” man. When we began to question him, it was found that he was very imperfectly acquainted with the Scriptures and had only the vaguest conception of Christ’s Work for sinners. For a time we sought to present the way of salvation in a simple and impersonal manner and to encourage our friend to study the Word for himself, in the hope that if he were still unsaved God would be pleased to reveal the Saviour he needed. One night to our joy, the one who had been preaching the Gospel(?) for seven years, confessed that he had found Christ only the previous night. He acknowledged (to use his own words) that he had been presenting “the Christ ideal” but not the Christ of the Cross. The writer believes there are thousands like this preacher who, perhaps, have been brought up in Sunday School, taught about the birth, life, and teachings of Jesus Christ, who believe in the historicity of His person, who spasmodically endeavor to practice His precepts, and who think that that is all that is necessary for their salvation. Frequently, this class when they reach manhood go out into the world. encounter the attacks of atheists and infidels and are told that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth never lived. But the impressions of early days cannot be easily erased, and they remain steadfast in their declaration that they “believe in Jesus Christ.” Yet, when their faith is examined, only too often it is found that though they believe many things about Jesus Christ they do not really believe in Him. They believe with the head that such a person lived (and, because they believe this imagine that therefore they are saved), but they have never thrown down the weapons of their warfare against Him, yielded themselves to Him, nor truly believed with their heart in Him. The bare acceptance of an orthodox doctrine about the person of Christ without the heart being won by Him and the life devoted to Him, is another phase of that way “which seemeth right unto a man” but the end thereof are “the ways of death.” A mere intellectual assent to the reality of Christ’s person, and which goes no further, is another phase of the way which“seemeth right unto a man” but of which the end thereof “are the ways of death,” or, in other words, is another aspect of the gospel of Satan.
And now, where do you stand? Are you in the way which “seemeth right,” but which ends in death; or, are you in the Narrow Way which leadeth unto life? Have you trulyforsaken the Broad Road which leadeth to death? Has the love of Christ created in your heart a hatred and horror of all that is displeasing to Him? Are you desirous that He“reign over” you? (Luke 19:14). Are you relying wholly on Hisrighteousness and blood for your acceptance with God?
Those who are trusting to an outward form of godliness, such as baptism or “confirmation”; those who are religious because it is considered a mark of respectability; those who attend some Church or Chapel because it is the fashion to do so; and, those who unite with some Denomination because they suppose that such a step will enable them to becomeChristians, are in the way which “ends in death” – death spiritual and eternal. However pure our motives, however noble our intentions, however well-meaning our purposes, however sincere our endeavours, God will not accept us as His sons, until we accept His Son.
A yet more specious form of Satan’s gospel is to move preachers to present the atoning sacrifice of Christ and then tell their hearers that all God requires from them is to “believe” in His Son. Thereby thousands of impenitent souls are deluded into thinking they have been saved. But Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”(Luke 13:3). To “repent” is to hate sin, to sorrow over, to turn from it. It is the result of the Spirit’s making the heart contrite before God. None except a brokenheart can savingly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again; thousands are deceived into supposing that they have “accepted Christ” as their “personal Saviour,” who have not first received Him as their LORD. The Son of God did not come here to save His people in their sin, but “from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). To be saved from sins, is to be saved from ignoring and despising the authority of God, it is to abandon the course of self-will and self-pleasing, it is to “forsake our way” (Isa. 55:7). It is to surrender to God’s authority, to yield to His dominion, to give ourselves over to be ruled by Him. The one who has never taken Christ’s “yoke” upon him, who is not truly and diligently seeking to please Him in all the details of his life, and yet supposes that he is “resting on the Finished Work of Christ’ is deluded by the Devil.
In the seventh chapter of Matthew there are two scriptures which give us approximate results of Christ’s Gospel and Satan’s counterfeit. First. in verses 13 and 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Second; in verses 22 and 23, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied (preached) in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out demons, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Yes, my reader, it is possible to work in the name of Christ, and even to preach in His name, and though the world knows us, and the Church knows us, yet to beunknown to the Lord! How necessary it is then to find out where we really are; to examine ourselves and see whether we be in the faith; to measure ourselves by the Word of God and see if we are being deceived by our subtle Enemy; to find out whether we are building our house upon the sand, or whether it is erected on the Rock which is Christ Jesus. May the Holy Spirit search our hearts, break our wills, slay our enmity against God; work in us a deep and true repentance, and direct our gaze to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
Pastors, never forget the fragile state in which we live and serve. We are flesh, all of us, and must depend upon the mighty hand of God in all things. It is God who keeps us and holds us from the schemes of the enemy, the attacks of the world and the lust of the flesh. God in Christ Jesus seals us in holiness and steadfastness, gives us a heart to love the church of Christ with all the affection of Christ and allows us to find the greatest satisfaction amongst the deepest of suffering. We must never move our eyes from the glory of the one who can sit us upon the rock of righteousness and who has snatched us out of death, out of darkness and transferred us to the light of the Son and to the Kingdom therein. When this life is “able” we fail. When we look to our own holiness, we fail. When we feel content in our walk with Christ, we fail. When we subject our calling to the ways and ideals of this world, we fail. But even then oh brothers, Christ cannot fail and He will rescue us from the mundane, the philosophy of our minds, the brokenness of our discipline and the lacking of our zeal. Then our broken shards will cut through the dead flesh of men by the proclamation of Christ who sets the prisoners free by the blood poured from His own broken body. Remember that it is a gift of the miraculous grace of God when we suffer, when we mourn, when we are lowly so that our pride is put behind us and our very souls are endeavored to rest in His supreme hand.
May our boasting be in Christ and may our lives be a sacrifice to the praise of HIS glorious grace; not our own lest we labor for nothing. It is far better to be no one in any historical sense and to have the mount of calvary as our epitaph in an unmarked grave than to be honored by men and praised through generations only to realize we left trash to be burned at the coming of the Lord.
Rise up pastor, bow down pastor… the Lord is true.
As I finalize the final pages of my recent publication, I have decided to make an addendum inclusive of three final chapters. These will refer to recent (3 years) ongoings and attacks against me and others related to our congregation and teaching ministry for no real reason at all. The matter, while the theology is vital, really hurts me because the manner in which so many respond, attack or accuse their “brothers in Christ” is unbiblical and downright wicked. I forwarded a recent article to several brothers this week and below I have pasted a very good response to the matter . More will follow.
A Response to Dr. Michael A Cox’s Article: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism? by Dr. Edward Dalcour, Ph.D.
I just read an article on the SBC Today site entitled: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism?—by Dr. Michael A Cox—Pastor, FBC Pryor, OK (http://sbctoday.com/is-calvinism-spiritual-racism). Dr. Cox, as with others in the SBC, is now participating in the newest wrinkle of the SBC against Calvinism. Like the many others who have attempted to promote a patently synergistic soteriology, Cox takes it to an unusual level of mischaracterization and irresponsible scholarship.
First, it is not my intention here to provide a point by point exegetically refutation the passages that Dr. Cox misapplies (esp. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9). This has been countless times by myself and by many others. My intention is to provide some clarity and accuracy pertaining to Calvinism in light of Dr. Cox’s inaccurate depiction and maltreatment of it. And hopefully cause folks that read his article to invest in a more scholarly examination of it from qualified sources.
In the beginning of his article, Dr. Cox’s likens Calvinism with Hinduism when he states at the outset: “I will contend that Hinduism, Racism, and Calvinism have many things in common.” This kind of argument is, of course, logically invalid, as is the argument “all Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Arminianism has many things in common such as conditional election; salvation being left in the hands of the unregenerate; faith and some kind of work(s) being required for salvation (regeneration); God cannot overpower man’s untouchable ‘free-will’ in salvation; etc.”
However, there is a rudimentary defect that is quite apparent throughout the content of his article. Dr. Cox’s assertions are grounded on mistaken views of what Calvinism (that is, the “doctrines of grace”) actually teaches. For example, Dr. Cox uses terms such as “spiritual determinism,” “spiritual caste,” “spiritual bigotry,” “spiritual prejudice,” etc. in his portrayal of Calvinism demonstrating his vast misunderstanding of it. This causes me to wonder if Dr. Cox has read even the most basic works on Calvinism and/or read any of standard Calvinistic/Reformed confessions.
Next Dr. Cox asserts: “It would be interesting to know how many non-Caucasians actually embrace five-point Calvinism as a genuine Bible doctrine.” Really? So here Dr. Cox uses an ad populum argument (fallacy) to validate biblical truth. Did Cox do any research at all on this? Is he aware of the Dutch Reformed movement in Africa, which is one of the largest movements in Africa? The Dutch Reform are a part of the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches—, which is one of the largest “Christian” international communions in the world. Embarrassingly, Dr. Cox is not well educated on religious demography—thus, he should not make these obtuse implications about how many non-Caucasians embrace Calvinism.
Further, in his effort to show that Calvinism is spiritually racist, Dr. Cox asserts: “Calvinism is nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God to spiritual inferiority and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority.” Again, statements such as these only show his lack of knowledge on Calvinism. I wonder if Dr. Cox would see Paul’s statement in Rom. 9:21 regarding the Potter (God) having the right (exousian) to make (poiew) from the same lump(all men) one person/vessel for honor (timēn) and another for no honor (atimian), “nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God . . . and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority”?
Apparently, Dr. Cox just cannot accept a God that would do this. Nor can Dr. Cox accept Paul’s presentation of vessels/men of wrath that God prepared (note the perfect passive form of katartizw) for destruction. To be sure, the God that Paul speaks of is not the God that Dr. Cox imagines.
Dr. Cox represents Calvinism as “nothing short of promoting a prideful theology of supposed spiritual superiority, due to election.” However, in Acts 16:6ff., we read that the Holy Spirit stopped Paul and Timothy from preaching the gospel in Asia in which many people died without ever hearing the gospel. So would Dr. Cox also charge the Holy Spirit with having a “prideful theology” of election and “baptized racism” since it was the Holy Spirit who chose to prevent some from hearing the gospel? (as the Father does, cf. Luke 10:20-22).
But what I find most befuddling is that Dr. Cox holds a DMin. with (as his bio states) an emphasis on biblical hermeneutics. However, Dr. Cox fast-ball pitches the big three Arminian passages (viz., John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9) into his article presupposing they support his views (with no hint of exegetical verification). It is evident to me that Dr. Cox does not apply the same hermeneutical (and exegetical) emphasis to these three passages that he does to passages he would use to affirm, say, justification by faith alone or the deity of Christ. For Dr. Cox, it seems that “tradition” and his devotion to synergism dictates his so-called hermeneutical method.
Does Dr. Cox suppose that no one who reads his article, which is circulated outside the safety of his church bulletin, has (or will) meaningfully interacted with these three (and other) passages on a basic exegetical level arriving at an interpretation in opposition to his view? The fact that Dr. Cox casually tosses them into the mix in an attempt to prove his position shows that his interpretation of these three passages are really established by the removal of single passages out of its entire context and pre-assigning a universal meaning to pas (“all”) and kosmos (“world”). This, to be sure, is in no way an “emphasis on biblical hermeneutics.” Rather, it is an emphasis on tradition and high emotion—thus, not on the actual exegesis of the passages.
Next Dr. Cox says, “God has demonstrated his love for all people many times over. He did so by promising to make Abraham, a.k.a. Abram, from Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:31), a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). It is amazing to me that Dr. Cox would make this kind of hermeneutic mistake—applying a universal meaning to the phrase in Gen. 12:3, “all the families of the earth,” when the Apostle Paul tells us what is meant here: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’” (Gal. 3:8). Hence according to Paul, “all the nations” (note Paul usage of ethnē, “nations/Gentiles” and not phulai [LXX] to explicate his point) refers to God’s eternal purpose in justifying (note the present indic. dikaioi, “justifies”) the Gentiles by faith (that which was foreseen in Gen. 12). In Acts 13:48, the Gentiles rejoiced at the fact that salvation was brought also to them: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed [note the plu-perf. part, tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed.”
Virtually every time ethnē/ethnos is used in the NT, it referred to unbelieving Gentiles/heathens, and at times, believing Gentles, and only rarely was it used to denote “people” in a general sense. Dr. Cox seems oblivious to the apostle’s own interpretation of Gen. 12:3 overlooking the exegetical points and Paul’s defining context of the entire chapter of Gal. 3. Even more, in Gal. 3:29, Paul defines as to what nations are blessed (and thus, the promise of Gen 12): “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Thus, the ones who “belong to Christ” are the heirs according to the promise or blessing of Abraham. In the same sense, Rev. 5:9 states of the Son: “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation [ethnos].” Does Dr. Cox realize that God loving all of His people/family and sending His Son to die for them is consistent with Calvinism?
As seen, Dr. Cox’s conclusions of Calvinism (as “spiritual racism,” etc.) are built on faulty presuppositions. I do not think Dr. Cox would charge Calvinism with “spiritual racism” likening it to Hinduism and assert many other mischaracterizations if Dr. Cox reached at least an elementary level of understanding as to what Calvinism actually affirms.
Lastly, as with so many Christians who are so antagonistic to Calvinism, Dr. Cox 1) holds to a crass and mistaken understanding of Calvinism, 2) does not engage in proper exegesis on the passages he uses to endorse conditional election and universal atonement,which is especially seen when he applies a universal meaning to various OT passages and Greek terms such as pas and kosmos when they are contextually unwarranted, and 3) seems to have a disjointed view of the love of God limiting it to a universal redemptive love for every single person, which results in a view where God keeps waiting for and wanting all men to respond to His “great” plan of redemption, but He keeps failing in His effort to save all men every time someone dies in unbelief.
As a Christian apologist (and esp. for pastors), truth and providing an accurate representation of both biblical doctrine and other religious systems (Christian or non-Christian) is first and foremost. Dr. Cox presents in his article his “personal” views of Calvinism in which, in my assessment, are very misleading and inaccurate showing his lack of scholarship and basic understanding of Calvinism. As seen, he has fallen prey to the traditional ruse and pride of the autosoteric (self-salvation) system of Arminianism in which prompted him to launch an unreasonable and very haphazard attack on Calvinism.
Because Dr. Cox’s knowledge of Calvinism is apparently vacuous, he sees it as, among other things, a “prideful theology.” However, if he would ever take the time to do a scholarly study and educate himself on what it actually teaches he would understand that Calvinism, that is, the doctrines of grace exalts and recognizes God as the sovereign God in and of all things (cf. Eph. 1:1) including the eternal destiny of all men—hence, salvation is of God alone! In contrast, Arminian soteriology sees man as sovereign over his own eternal destiny—thus, it is man’s so-called righteous “ability” cooperating with God’s plan (just as Rome teaches), not God’s grace alone. Hence, the Arminian system is a man-centered system (which we call pride), it is a “I did it” scheme in which the ultimate decision of choosing Christ is essentially placed in the hands of the unregenerate sinner (in the face of opposing biblical passages, such as John 6:44; 63; 8:43-44, 47; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; etc.)
Calvinism is called the “doctrines of grace” for the simple reason that Scripture presents that by God’s grace alone, He gave to Christ those whom He chose for Himself to deliver and set them free from the bondage of sin. He chose these in love, before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of a foreknowledge response to their works, but according to the kind intention of His will. These He made alive granting them faith justifying them in which He adopted them as sons when He was not obligated to do so—but by His grace alone: “So then, He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” And, “By His doing,” not our doing, we “are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:3-31; cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 9:16, 21-23; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; etc.).
– Dr. Edward Dalcour