Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Does the Apostle refer to baptism in water or baptism in the Spirit here?

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Eph. 4:5 (NKJV)

Many credible scholars claim that "baptism" in the Eph. 4:5 text is referring to water baptism. Though most of their arguments are sound, I want to take the opposite view in which "baptism" in this specific text is not referring to water but to the Spirit baptism. If Paul meant "water baptism," one of the church sacraments, why did he not also mention the other sacrament, "The Lord's Table?" Why didn't he say, "One baptism, one cup, one bread?"

This text of scripture occurs in the context of supernatural "unities." The context speaks to unity in the Body of Christ. He is talking in the context of supernatural or immaterial things. Water baptism is not supernatural, but material. It is done by one man to another.

Water baptism does not unify but has historically divided many Christians as to mode and meaning. Paul addressed the disunity concerning baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:13. Ephesians was written after First Corinthians. This would not be contextually consistent with the "unities" theme of the Eph. 4:1-6 text.

If the sacrament of water baptism were the point in this text, why exactly would Paul have ignored the other sacrament? I suggest it is that the sacraments, both baptism and the Lord's Table, do not fall within the "unities" emphasis of the passage.

There is the absence in this text of any baptismal prescription. Water baptism in the Gospel of Matthew 28:19 clearly prescribes that we are to be water baptized in the "name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This is obviously missing from the Eph. 4:5 text in its immediate and remote context.

Lastly, the one ministry of the Holy Spirit that brings us into an organic unity with Christ and His body is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This would be consistent with the theme of the Eph. 4 text referring to the unity in Christ's body. It is also consistent with 1 Corinthians 12: 1-13 in which Paul wrote, "we are all baptized into one body by one Spirit." Here, Paul uses the same language as in Eph. 4:1-6: the word "one" signifying unity.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Does the Apostle mean salvation or faith is the gift?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Eph. 2:8 (NKJV).

Much has been said about this verse regarding the words "that" and "it" in this text and to what exactly do these words refer. The reason for trying to discern the meaning of these words is to find an exact meaning to the issue of salvation in Christ Jesus being all of God and not of us. For if it is as some say, "Grace is God's part, faith ours," then salvation is partially of works and thus man can boast.

"That" which appears in the Eph. 2:8-9 text is a neuter pronoun. In Greek, as in most languages, to discover to what this word refers, it has to have "gender agreement." Since it is neuter, it would have to refer to another neuter word. Some think "that" has to be referring to the word "grace" or "faith" in the text. But, "grace" and "faith" are both feminine nouns and therefore there can be no gender agreement between "that," "faith," and "grace."

The neuter 'that," therefore, has to be referring to the clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith…"

The next phrase, "it is the gift of God," also finds itself looking back to the clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith." The word "it" is also neuter. Therefore, it cannot be referring to "grace" or "faith," but rather to the entire clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith…"

So, the Apostle is referring to both salvation and to the instrument through which we receive saving grace, faith, as the gift.

Many have problems with this. But to say that "Grace is God's part and faith is ours" can lead to errors such as "Semipelagianism" in which God is seen to "cooperate" with man in the salvation process.

Scripture teaches it is those who have been "appointed" unto eternal life who believe (Acts 13:48). If anyone comes to believing faith in Christ, it is because it has been "granted" to him or her on behalf of Christ to believe (Phil. 1:29). It would not be possible to respond in faith and repentance without God granting "repentance to life" (Acts 11:18). Faith comes through Christ (Acts 3:16).

Friday, September 24, 2010

The old and hated doctrine of sin

One of the really surprising things about the
present bewilderment of humanity is that the
Christian Church now finds herself called
upon to proclaim the old and hated doctrine of
sin as a gospel of cheer and encouragement.

The final tendency of the modern philosophies,
hailed in their day as a release from the
burden of sinfulness, has been to bind man
hard and fast in the chains of an iron determinism.

The influence of heredity and environment,
of glandular makeup and the control
exercised by the unconscious, of economic necessity
and the mechanics of biological development,
 have all been invoked to assure man
that he is not responsible for his misfortune
and therefore not to be held guilty.

 Evil has been represented as something imposed on us
from without, not made by us from within.
The dreadful conclusion follows inevitably
that as he is not responsible for evil; he cannot
alter it. Even though evolution and progress
may offer some alleviation in the future there
is no hope for you and me now.

 I well remember how an aunt of mine, brought up in
an old-fashioned liberalism, protested angrily
against having continuously to call herself a
miserable sinner when reciting the Litany.

Today, if we could really be persuaded that we
are miserable sinners, that the trouble is not
outside us but inside us, and that therefore, by
the grace of God, we can do something to put
it right, we should receive that message as the
most helpful and heartening thing that can be
imagined. -- Dorthy Sayers



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baptismal Regeneration

The first century Jewish historian, Josephus (37 – c. 100 AD), a law-observing Jew, said of John the Baptist,

"John, that was called the Baptist…who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness." -Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.2

John’s water baptism was, according to this first-century historian, not for the forgiveness of sin. Baptism did not purify the soul but was an outward sign for those whose souls were already purified. Baptism was a sign or symbol of a work already done in the soul of the recipient of John’s baptism.

Many Protestant church historians believe that the doctrine of Baptism was one of the first to drift from that of Historical Orthodoxy. This was probably due to the fact that attention was directed toward other doctrinal issues and, through neglect, the doctrine of baptism fell into error. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, ch.7, part 92, notes that the early church fathers did not have a refined understanding of original sin. This led church fathers to say such things as:

“According to the Pelagian Julian of Eclanum, Chrysostom taught: We baptize children, though they are not stained with sin, in order that holiness, righteousness, sonship, inheritance, and brotherhood may be imparted to them through Christ.”[1]

The lack of controversy in the early church over the issue of baptism (controversy often led to a clearer understanding through examination and debate of a doctrine and the reasons for it) allowed a mishmash of beliefs and teachings about the purpose and work of baptism to develop.

Tertullian, in On Baptism 13, comes close to contradicting his fellows and agreeing with the Orthodox view. He said that Abraham was saved, apart from any baptismal waters, by faith alone. This would certainly be the nail in the coffin of those holding to baptismal regeneration because the very author of Galatians, Paul, says the example of our “faith alone” Christianity is Abraham. If it is true, as Tertullian wrote and as Paul teaches in Romans and Galatians, that we are justified in Christ apart from works, this would logically include the work of baptism. After all, baptism is not a “non-work” but a work, is it not?

Baptismal regeneration belief ran strongly into the Middle Ages. Christian missionaries traveled extensively throughout Europe baptizing hordes in mass baptism ceremonies. But, as was frequently the sad story, these so-called converts would revert rather quickly to their pagan ways as the missionaries were “walking out the back door.”

In the year 597, Augustine of Canterbury, along with 41 fellow missionaries, landed on the island of Thanet, where the king received them. Baptisms to the tune of 10,000 converts in one day were reported. Vast numbers of these alleged converts were said to quickly revert to worshipping their pagan gods. The Kent king himself, Eadbald, was said to have been one of those who quickly apostatized.[2] Water baptism seemed to have availed a whole lot of nothing.

Water baptism offered the barbaric Anglo-Saxons a chance at a bath but nothing much more than that. They were baptized as pagans and came up out of the waters as pagans. A spiritual rebirth, a regeneration, did not occur as spelled out in Ezekiel 36:25-27:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.”

And, though this experiential evidence shows a lack of changed lives that the waters of baptism could not impart, the ultimate test is to what do the pages of Scripture attest?

Signs of the covenants with God never bring anyone into the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, the sign of an individual’s covenantal relationship with God, circumcision, could not save any one. Jeremiah 4:4 and 9:25-26 are two texts of Scripture in which the author makes distinctions and comparisons between physical circumcision of the flesh and “foreskins of your heart.”[3] The author uses language like “circumcised and yet uncircumcised”[4] and “uncircumcised of heart[5] to show that the sign of the covenant, circumcision, did not mean that all who had received the sign were truly of the circumcision. In other words, you could not enter the Kingdom of God because you had the sign of the covenant. You had to be “circumcised of the heart.”

In the New Testament, Paul uses this same reasoning and language:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”[6] (Emphasis mine)

In fact, the Apostle Paul makes the argument from Romans 2 – 8 that no man can be saved by the works of the law (any law) but only by faith. By faith, righteousness is credited to man’s account with God and not by any work. If receiving the sign of the Old Covenant, circumcision, cannot save, why do some within the New Covenant think that the sign of one’s membership in this covenant, baptism, can save?

Perhaps in the “baptismal regeneration” camp there have been those who did not understand that no matter how badly they want to see water when they see the word “baptism,” it isn’t always so. The word baptism can mean different things depending on the immediate and remote context in which the word appears.

If I were to tell you, “After kicking the red ball in the yard, I went into my house and told my wife that we had to go to a ball at eight o’clock. On the way home from that ball, I told my wife I had a ball at this ball with all the exciting music we danced to.”

The word “ball” in the above example would not mean the same thing in each instance. The context is what defines the word “ball” and how it is used. In the first instance, it means a round-shaped toy that can be kicked or thrown about; in the second and third usages, it mean a “dancing event;” in the fourth instance, it means, “I had a good time;” the fifth usage was, again, “the dancing event.”

The Scripture examples abound where baptism can mean something other than something involving water. John the Baptist himself used baptism in two different senses in the same paragraph:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fir to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”[7] (Emphasis mine)

Many within the groups who advocate the Baptismal Regeneration doctrine point to Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:27) as a proof text for salvation by the work of water baptism. (The inherent problem with offering “a verse” of Scripture as a proof of an entire doctrinal system is that it rarely works. No one gets it right, as is seen in this case). The immediate and remote context of Scripture is radically ignored, and preconceived ideas end up being forced upon the texts of Scripture.

"...for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."[8]

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was one correcting a grave problem. The immediate context (the entire letter.) was one in which Paul was reproving the Galatians for abandoning the one and only Gospel (the Truth) and turning to a fraudulent one that mixed Grace with works and thus could not justify them before God. The content of this fraudulent gospel was one in which circumcision was required to enter into a relationship with God through the Messiah. This was false; it wrought not righteousness, without which no man shall see God, but only death. The overall point of the letter in which Galatians 3:27 appears is that Grace plus works equals death. From justification to sanctification, beginning in the faith and being completed in the faith, always has been and will forever be by faith in Christ alone. Why, then, would the great Apostle reverse his reasoning and add baptism as a requirement for eternal life? He wouldn’t.

Paul used “baptism” in a “non-water” sense in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, referring to being baptized “into Moses.”

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…"

In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul again uses “baptism” in a “non-water” sense:

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

No water is in view in these texts in their immediate and remote contexts. So, what do these verses mean, including Galatians 3:27, if they do not refer to being immersed in water?

The word “baptize” in the Greek text comes from the “dyer’s trade.” When someone wanted to change the color of a piece of white cloth, he or she would go to the man or woman in the village who had vats of colored dyes. The customer would request a specific color and the dyer would then dip, submerge, immerse, or baptize the cloth into the desired color. When the cloth was removed and dried, the cloth would have changed. The color of the cloth would now be identified or be in union with the color into which it was baptized.

“Union with” is what is in view in Paul’s use of the word in I Corinthians 10: 1-2. Paul uses comparative language to show the similarity and the same sense of the word “identification.” The Jews went through the redemption of the Exodus by their “union” with Moses. They were “identified” with him in the deliverance. In the same sense, all Christians are baptized into Christ in union or identification with His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (See Romans 6 and Colossians 3).

In the 1 Corinthians 12:13 text, Paul is referring to yet another use of the word baptism. This usage refers to the agency of the Holy Spirit whereby all believers are placed (incorporated) into the Body of Christ. The act of water baptism is a great symbolic sign that teaches the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that act of placing into the Body of Christ or New Covenant the believer.

In Galatians 3:27, as I wrote previously, there is no mention of water. This text does not teach a baptismal regeneration in the waters of baptism. What this text does teach is that through the God-given gift of faith, we are justified apart from the works of the law or from works, period! The word “baptism” here means we are united in the likeness of the Person and Work of Christ. We are not miniature Christs. We are identified as having been placed in Him and having put Him on. We’ve been placed into the dyer’s vat and have come out changed and clothed with His righteousness. A careful reading of Romans 6, written by the same Apostle Paul, in my view, defines the Galatians 2:27 text.

A very interesting point is that if this is teaching the possibility of salvation through the waters of baptism, if through the baptismal waters one could be regenerated, born again, then why did John the Baptist refuse to baptize the Pharisees? If baptism could save one soul from hell-fire damnation, then why didn’t John line up the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to where he was baptizing and push them into the water?

Instead, John said to them:

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance…”[9]

The conclusion is that water baptism does not regenerate anyone. Regeneration and repentance precedes water baptism.

[1] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, ch.7, part 92

[2] SOURCE: J.H. Merle d'Aubigne, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, trans. Dr. H. White, Vol. V (Rapidan, VA: Harland Publications, reprinted 1846 London edition), pp. 683, 685.

[3] Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Romans 2:28-29

[7] Matthew 3:1-11; See also Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:33

[8] Galatians 3:27 (NIV)

[9] Matthew 3:7-8

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Deliver Me From Tribulations

Have you ever noticed that during prayer meetings, small groups, or mainline church services, the majority of prayer requests and subsequently offered prayers are those to be delivered from the trial and tribulations of illness, failures in business, martial relationships, kids rebelling, or any other thing which seems to be plaguing the believer and his or her family? Why is that?

What I mean is why do we as Christians, children of God, want the "bad thing" to go away? And just why do we perceive the trial or tribulation brought by the hand of God to be a "bad thing?" But, most importantly, why do we want it to "go away" and for it go away as fast as possible? If the number of prayer requests made at gatherings of God's people for "deliverance" is any indication of how the trials and tribulations in our lives are regarded, then this is a subject worth a moment of consideration.

In November 2009, in our adopted country of Mexico, we began attending a new church. In this assembly of God's people, I was sharing in an informal conversation with a few of the men the issue of my chronic and incurable illness with which I have been afflicted for more than 20 years. I have a disease called Fibromyalgia Syndrome. This is a pain, fatigue, and sleep disorder that more or less tortures me with unrelenting pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances night and day. The symptoms never go away. The meds I take sometimes control the symptoms, but mostly they work very minimally.

As I explained to this small group of men, the illness with which I must contend, God's thorn in the flesh for me (2 Corinthians 12), I could tell that they were entering into a state of horror from the looks on their faces. Then after I finished with the explanation, one of them said something to the effect, "The church will be in prayer for your healing." To which I responded, "This illness teaches me humility and dependence upon God, why should I want to be healed from that?"

Their collective looks of horror that I had been suffering with this illness for more than 20 years turned into looks of abject disbelief. You would have thought that I had just uttered a denial of Christian Historical Orthodoxy itself and uttered heresy. That was my perception of the situation at the time.

In the following weeks and months as I listened carefully to the prayer requests offered by this congregation during the prayer part of the service, almost all the prayer requests, with very few exceptions, were to be healed of an illness for themselves or a loved one. Not once did I hear (nor have ever heard) anyone ask God to use the illness to develop godly character in his or her life. Never once did I hear (or have ever heard) any of the congregation "thank God" (1 Thess 5:18) for bringing the illness into their lives. Not once.

This most certainly makes one ask the question, "Why not?"

In all fairness to this church, I must mention that I have seen this throughout all the churches I have belonged to over the past 40 years. People in general, even professing believers, want quick deliverance from the pain and agony of trials and tribulations. Now, I get this, I really do. If my wife became ill, seriously ill with a life-threatening disease, I would want God to heal her. I could not bear even the thought of losing her to an illness. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and heartache of someone whose child was afflicted.

But, even in something as dire as a life-threatening illness, what should be our attitude? What should the Christian do?

One more point is that during church prayer meetings, how many times have you heard someone get up and ask prayer for a habitual sin in their lives and to ask for prayer to "put to death that deed of the flesh" (Colossians 3:5-10)? How many times? We want instant relief from illness but we don't even mention our struggle with habitual sin as a thing worth requesting prayer.

The Apostle Paul was sick or had an incapacitating injury. We are not told exactly what was wrong. When you read Paul's account of this illness in 2 Corinthians 12: 5-10, you read:

"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure." - verse 7

Paul honestly makes the proclamation that to prevent him from boasting in pride of the richness of revelation God had been giving him through Divine inspiration, God afflicted Paul with a "thorn in the flesh" to prevent any self-aggrandizing or self-exaltation. Paul calls it a messenger of Satan.

"Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." - verse 8

Now we see that Paul did pray for healing or deliverance of this thorn in the flesh or messenger of Satan. Paul wanted this illness or injury to "depart from me."

"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - verse 9

Do not miss the two parts of this verse: Rather than healing Paul, the great Apostle to the gentiles, God said to Paul that "My grace is sufficient for you," and that "My strength is made perfect in weakness." Then Paul says, "I would rather boast in my weakness so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

You simply do not hear this in church prayer services! You do not hear anyone get up and thank God that they are sick, proclaim God's grace is sufficient for them in this illness given to humble them, and a boasting in their infirmities so that the power of Christ may rest upon them. You just don't hear this.

Then, in verse 10, you hear Paul's conclusion. It is something that makes me wonder if an entire congregation could be made to swoon hearing it uttered in modern day churches:

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - verse 10

Paul's conclusion, his "therefore" signaling to the reader that this is how he sums it up, was that he takes pleasure in infirmities. But he doesn't stop there. He mentions his pleasure in reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses for Christ's sake. And his reason is, "For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Tell me when the last time you heard someone get up in a prayer meeting and say all that?

Paul did pray for healing or deliverance, but when God said "no," Paul settled down into a thankfulness of heart that enabled him to see why God was not, anytime soon, going to relieve him of his infirmities, whatever those were. He came to the Biblical conclusion that "power" is made perfect in weakness. If he needed the power and the strength, to endure the infirmities, then he would take pleasure in the weakness of the illness so that the power of God may be manifest in his weakness.

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I wonder why professing believers do not understand that if they claim to be justified by faith in Christ why they do not glory in their tribulation?

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5: 1-5)

Because of our justification by faith alone in Christ alone, we have peace with God. No matter the circumstance, no matter the trial or tribulation, we have peace with God. Our justification by faith in Christ and the resultant peace with God is bigger than anything life can throw at us.

"Not only that," says Paul, "but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Again I ask, when was the last time you heard someone stand up during a church prayer meeting and glory in his or her tribulation?"

Tribulation, whether a life-threatening illness, losing your job, or whatever, produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope.

And yet, we get up in a prayer meeting and ask God's people to take the tribulation from us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Song of Solomon

My best friend, Mark, and I came to faith in Christ about a month apart during our first year of high school. We would often read the Bible together and ponder the great things found within with the desire to know deeply this God Who had saved us from our sin and delivered us from its power. We were doing quite well, actually, until we came to The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. We slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt when reading that book of the Bible. We did not understand at all why it was found in the pages of Holy Scripture and were, frankly, a little embarrassed to read it. We finally decided to wait until we were about to be married to our future wives before rereading it again.

Though an understandable conclusion from two adolescent boys, we were not too far from the truth about The Song of Solomon. A "lyric" poem written by Solomon around 965 B.C., this is considered by some to be the "best" of the some 1,005 poems or songs that Solomon, son of David, wrote. It is indeed meant to be a poem, perhaps even an exposition, of the healthy relationship between a husband and wife, attesting loudly and clearly that men and women are meant to live with each other within the contract of marriage. One might even say The Song of Solomon is included in the Canon of Holy Scripture as a representation of God's plan for a godly marriage spanning the realms of spiritual, emotional, and physical love.

The literal, intended meaning of the poem or song should be understood as a representation of God's plan for a godly marriage. However, there are some "allegorical" or foreshadowing components within the song that speak to God's relationship to Israel (a Rabbinical view) and to Christ and His church. An example of this foreshadowing can be seen in Song of Solomon 2:4:

"He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love." (NIV)

This verse could be seen as a representation of the intimacy of the believer pursued and purchased by Christ, thrusting us into a position of magnificent spiritual intimacy by His redemptive Grace.

A representation of how God preserves us (His sheep) in Christ (security) and feeds us spiritually and provides for us physically could be seen in Song of Solomon 2:16:

"My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies." (NASB)

Though there are those who would dogmatically insist that the poem should only be considered in its literal and intended meaning, I would suggest there are many lessons in the book that could govern our relationship with God and how to grow that intimacy.

One: Just as we are to take all the time to get to know who our spouse is and give all the attention needed that we might grow in intimacy together, we should take all the time, constantly and thoroughly, to know God through His Word and prayer. This, too, like in a marriage, will result in a deeper and more intimate understanding of our Lord, Savior, and King.

Two: Just as in a marriage where spending uninterrupted time with one another in encouragement and praise results in a more intimate and mature relationship, spending uninterrupted time in God's Word praising Him will encourage us in our relationship to the Divine.

Three: Just as God's plan for us is to enjoy our marriage relationship in a profound and joyful sense, we, too, can enjoy our relationship with God by entering into a "child" to Father sense, i.e. Abba Father and the intimate closeness implied by that term.

Four: Just as a married couple should do "what it takes" to reaffirm their mutual devotion, so should the believer with his Lord: Through immediate confession of sin, through the immediate putting to death the deeds of the flesh regarding besetting sins, through daily uninterrupted prayer.

Five: Just as infidelity will ruin fellowship within a marriage, if not outright destroy it, so can infidelity with God wreck the believer-God relationship. This can take form in allowing things such as devotion to sports usurp the believer's devotion to God. The believer can end up trying to serve two masters in getting caught up in unbiblical and unscriptural practices such as with the New Age heresy. The Word of God teaches us we cannot serve two masters. We will love the one and hate the other.

The curious thing about this poem being included in the Canon of scripture is that after more than twenty centuries, there is not agreement as to what it means. Old Testament scholar Edward Young offers eight different interpretations for the book. The main ideas offered by scholars and preachers are that the book is primarily a manual of sorts for godly marital love, and secondly, an allegory of Christ and His bride, the church. Some take it as a typological combination of the two. An Australian Free Church minister believes that a literal interpretation makes it a "display of immoral affection."

I think the lack of consensus on the book's meaning and reason for inclusion in the Canon might last until the second coming.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What To Do With The Deeds of The Flesh?

We are, as believers, mandated in Holy Writ to "put to death" the deeds of the flesh. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is basic or foundational to the Christian's life. This is because when we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we are not walking in them but in the Spirit. Paul writes that we are "to walk in a manner worthy of our calling with which we have been called." (Eph. 4:1) Paul expounds this further in Col. 1: 9-10, in which he says he prays constantly for the Colossians the following:

"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (NASB)

Note here what Paul says: walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every respect, bearing fruit unto every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God would be the direct consequences of Paul asking God in prayer for the Saints at Colosse to being filled (controlled/empowered) with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual understanding and wisdom. All of this is directly opposite to a life in the flesh.

To walk in the Spirit is to walk in a manner worthy of our calling or in a manner worthy of the Lord. This is what we are to do; this is what it is all about. And, what prevents us from doing what we ought is the ever-warring factions within us, the flesh and the Holy Spirit within us. All our failures in our Christian life are caused by the flesh. To learn just exactly how to put to death the deeds of the flesh and walk in the Spirit, the answer to everything, Paul also wrote,

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Gal. 5:16 NKJV)

Paul's teaching in Gal. 5 shows us that a life of walking in the Spirit is the very secret or key to the Christian life. God wants us, as His children, to live a life that is controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Every evil word, thought, and deed comes from our sinful flesh. In Romans 8:10, Paul tells us that we've been changed in our inner man in Christ and it is that against which our sinful flesh wars.

Sinful flesh wrecks our fellowship with God by exerting its powerful influence and causing us to fall. This influence feels insurmountable over our minds and will. It pushes, plods, yanks us senseless, and is relentless. Its strongest influence is perhaps on our emotions. The flesh sets its strongest opposition against the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 17). It is in this opposition where the "how to perform that which is good I find not because nothing good dwells in me that is my flesh" (Romans 7:18) is discovered. The control center that sin seeks to find within us is in our flesh. It is there it seeks to wreak its devastating power over us. To operate in the flesh, the Bible calls "quenching" the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) or "grieving" the Spirit (Eph. 4:30).

If putting to death the deeds of the flesh and walking in the Spirit is the answer to everything, then how is it done? What are the facts in Scripture?

Though the Bible does not teach that we become sinless when we believe in Christ for our salvation, it does teach that the moment we call upon Christ as Lord and Savior, we are born again unto a living hope. It means we are eternally kept from condemnation and guilt and freed from sin's dominion or rule. We are instantly put into a position before God (in Christ) where He does not hold to our account our sin and a position in which we are dead to sin and its dominion over us through our co-death, co-burial, co-resurrection, and co-ascension in Christ. It is from that position we are free from sin's control as a pattern of life (See Rom. 6:1-23; Col. 3:1-17).

From that position in Christ, we are to "count on" ourselves indeed dead unto sin's control and alive unto God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). We put to death-refuse to yield to-the deeds of the flesh based on who we are in Christ-that Romans 6:11 "reckoning". If the driving desire is not in a professing believer to do that, then this gives one pause regarding one's faith.

There was a time in my Christian life where I confessed sin after sin, only to have sin re-accumulate from one confession period to another. The same sin seemed to always rear its ugly habitual head. There were patterns of sin that I never addressed and, probably as a young man and believer in Christ, didn't know how or even that I should.

It was this concept of my "position in Christ" that was presented to me in high school that ended up transforming my walk with God. I began bringing (and still bring) areas of my life, habitual ones, to God in prayer, claiming the facts of His Word regarding sin that sought to rule my flesh. I asked the Holy Spirit to work in my mind the willingness and the doing of His good pleasure of not yielding to a specific sin (any and all sin) so that I might walk in a manner worthy of my calling in a consistent and habitual way. I would claim all this according to the promise of His word found in 1 John 5:14-15:

"Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

Was it His will that I no longer yield to sin in any sense and especially habitually? According to the verses cited in this paper, yes. Then I had the confidence that He not only heard me in my request but I also had the confidence I had that which I had asked of Him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Being The Friend of God

Jesus called his disciples in John 15:14-15, "my friends." He expounded what this meant in just a few short phrases: "You are my friends if you do what I command." "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14 NIV)

In the Gospel of John chapters 13-15, there can be seen a development of an intimate relationship between our Lord and His disciples. In John 13, Christ refers to the disciples as "servants" while in the John 15 text he calls them something closer, "friends." (The John 13 text does not use the word "servant" but shows a servant-master reference and relationship.) In John 15, the text clears up the point: "from now on," or "henceforth," Jesus says He no longer calls them servants but, instead, friends. And how has this qualitative difference in the Lord and servants, now friends, relationship occurred? "…if you do what I command you," says Jesus in 15:14.

Abraham is used as an example of this in the Old Testament. "My friend" is used as a descriptive of God's relationship with Abraham (Isaiah 41:8: 2 Chronicles. 20:7). The reason Abraham was called "the friend of God" was the same reason for which Jesus called His disciples His friends. The disciples and Abraham obeyed the Word of the Living God. Jesus told His disciples that they were His friends if they obeyed Him; Abraham was called God's friend because he acted on faith (Heb. 11:8; Romans 4:18-21; Heb. 11:17-19). God calls those friends who act in obedience without reservation. Related passages bearing on the same idea are: 1 John 2:1-6: 1 John 5:1-3.

A thought not to be missed in the John 15:14 text is what can be discerned from the Greek text: "You are my friends if you do what I command you." The phrase, if you do, in the present active subjunctive carries the idea of "if you keep at it," "if you keep on doing the action" and not just for a moment in time or as an impulsive action (Robinson). It is obedience and a constant obeying of God's commandments over and over again. Those are the friends of God.

Also note in verse 15 of John 15: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (ESV) The phrase, I have called you friends, is a perfect active indicative phrase indicating a "permanent state of new dignity." What an amazing life-changing idea!


I spend a great deal of time self-evaluating. This can be a good thing if done with the Bible open to the pages of Scripture and praying thoughtfully through them. It was in February 2010 that I began to sense a need in my life to begin a new re-acquaintance with God. I had fallen into a kind of habitual despairing of my physical illness-laden life. I suffer from a disease called Fibromyalgia Syndrome that afflicts me with unrelenting pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. I've had this illness for twenty years and had fallen into a defeatist attitude about it. The symptoms were ruling me and once I realized this had been going on for years, I sought God's wisdom and guidance.

The first thing I did was begin a new study program with a Bible Institute in Australia. It is a correspondence school, of sorts, via the Internet. As I cruised through the Certificate program in Biblical Studies, I was constantly reminded that my relationship with God was not meant to be one of despair. That even in the midst of valleys, and I was in some valleys, I could be on top emotionally. Where and how the devil would hit me, and hit me hard, was in my emotional reaction to severe pain from my illness. The more and more I dwelt on the things of God, the less and less, it seemed to me, I was wallowing in the despair over my disabilities.

I believe that each time I obey God's Word to rejoice in all things, to give thanks, to count it joy, to be anxious for nothing in the specific trials and tribulations in my life, I am counted more and more in a progressive sense a "friend of God." It begins, I believe, in never leaving the Word of God. This is the medium in which the Spirit bends your will to an inclination to obey Him. When you see that it is not only possible to "put the death" the deeds of the flesh, but also that the Word reveals that God works in us both the willing and doing of His good pleasure, then you are spurred on in a kind of Spirit excitement to do just that.

Addressing Obstacles

A pattern in my life has been that when I begin to become lazy about immersing myself in the Word of God, the habitual sin of despair seems to creep back into my life in an insidious intrusion. What keeps despair at bay is a constant, daily saturation in the Scripture and a prayerful mediation on specific Bible verses and passages.

What I am prayerfully considering is returning to school via the Internet in Biblical Studies. I would like to earn a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Languages. It is not that I think this is something everyone should do, but it is something I should do. It would keep me busy for a number of years, which would keep my mind off my illness. And, it would keep me in an environment devoted to eternal things rather than earthly things. And so, what happens when the degree is finished? Hopefully, I will have earned some more developed skills in Bible Study and teaching. I would teach through the medium of writing.

The point of being God's friend is obedience; doing what He says. This is a calling I wanted to answer a long time ago.

It is never too late.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


You are a member of a small group/fellowship. Jim, one of your fellow members was divorced by his wife who remarried, leaving Jim to raise the five children. Five years later, she was divorced by her second husband and now wants to return to her first husband - something that Jim has prayed for all along. Quoting Deuteronomy 24:1-4, the fellowship leader advised Jim that, according to Scripture, this was not possible - with the result that now Jim is beside himself with grief and is contemplating suicide. Was the leader right or wrong? Give reasons.

When I was a college student at College of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, I was hired as an Assistant Resident Director in the dormitory in which I lived. One of my responsibilities was to "enforce" something called "Quiet Hours." This was a rule, regulation, or law that provided a period of reasonable quiet time for study and sleep in the dorm, but was only applicable during "final's week." In American colleges, final's week was when the final exams were taken for the courses. This was a semester-by-semester deal. Therefore, the "Quiet Hours" period was a circumstantial, or situational, rule within the dorm.

During the Quiet Hours at the end of each semester, while each student labored with sweaty brows, moist palms, and dry lips over the final examinations, there could be no horsing around, rough housing, loud music, fighting, raucous card games, or anything else that would break one's concentration while trying to cram for the finals. Sleep was also to be respected. Every student was aware of the situational or circumstantial Quiet Hours and the resultant monetary fine for violating the dormitory's law.

The important thing that has to be considered as an Assistant Residential Director in enforcing this dorm law is that specific conditions had to be in place before I could enforce this dorm rule. First of all, it had to be final's week. If it was in the middle of the semester, a Friday night, the dorm was half-empty anyway, and a dorm student was having a little party with friends, then the Quiet Hours did not apply. The mid-semester dorm party could go all night, conceivably. If it was final's week, if it was past eleven in the evening and before seven in the morning (each school's dorms had different regulations), then the Quiet Hours rule or dorm law applied. The conditions had to be exact to apply the Quiet Hours' law. Mid-semester had different conditions than the end of semester.
The same is true concerning the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 text in the above-quoted scenario. Verses 1-3 give conditions for which divorce regulations apply. Verse 4 gives the law that applies in the condition of divorce. I believe the text can be understood in this way:

Divorce is not condemned. (I personally would use Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; I Corinthians 7:10-11 in conjunction with the Deuteronomy passage in a counseling situation. However, in this Old Testament text, the condition for a divorce was as simple as the husband finding no more favor in the wife.)

A condition for remarriage, however, is applied in the event of a divorce. If a man put away his wife and she remained unmarried and then reconciliation occurs, then the two could remarry. A condition forbidding the remarriage would be if the wife had married another person, the new husband put her away or he died, and she tried to remarry her first divorced partner; then there is a problem of defilement.

The Deuteronomy text's regulation or law governing divorce targets the partner who put away his or her partner, the one who was put away remarried and later divorced, or his/her new partner died, and then the one who put the partner away wanted to remarry the former partner. In other words, if two people divorced and later reconciled, remarriage would be ok. If two people divorced, and one partner remarried and lost that new partner through death or another divorce, that one partner could not be reconciled and remarried to his or her original partner. It would be an abomination. Under the New Covenant, the conditions are even more stringent. Exact conditions had to be met before the concession of divorce would apply (see my dorm analogy above).

In the Matthew and Mark texts, Jesus tells us that the only grounds for a biblical divorce is impenitent sexual immorality. If a partner puts away his or her spouse because of unrepentant sexual immorality, he or she is free to remarry another believer - just as those believers who are put away (forsaken) by an unbelieving spouse (See I Cor. 7).
"And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." (Matt. 19:9 ESV)

In the case in the scenario, presuming that Jim's wife put him away for something other than sexual immorality, and then married another, she committed adultery. She is an adulterer. She has, according to the Deuteronomy text, defiled herself in the second marriage, in addition to being an adulterer.

I believe Jim was told the correct advice about remarrying his original wife by the small group leader in the scenario. Though someone might argue that the Deuteronomy text might not apply since it was Jim's wife who put him away and then she remarried, while in the scenario Jim appeared not to remarry, I think in principle it does apply. She defiled herself in remarrying someone else, was divorced from the second husband, and is an adulteress.
I would advise Jim to seek help from the church elders regarding his emotional state and have someone with him at all times until he could get some control over his mental heaviness.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


People are drawn to the charismatic error because error is easier to believe than the truth.

I ended part one of this series with an explanation of the Biblical doctrine of holiness. The "holiness" which draws the charismatic initiate is not the holiness of the Bible. The so-called "holiness" to which the charismatic erroneously clings is an emotional high that is not Biblical and ends up being an up-and-down roller coaster, addictive emotional experience.

In the issue of sanctification that I covered at the end of part one, the error of the charismatic movement is that you need something more than just Christ's death on a Cross. You need the "power which is from on high." They call this "the baptism of the Holy Spirit." (This phrase and its accompanying idea are not found in the pages of Scripture.) And, this emotional experience comes to you over and over and over again. This is their doctrine of holiness. The draw is a hyped-up emotional experience.

The means to the Biblical doctrine is harder. It involves death on a cross.

As I said in part one, a true test of whether or not someone has sincerely come to faith and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior is whether or not he or she wants most earnestly to walk as Jesus walked. This desire to walk like Christ, in the Spirit, is not found in the seeking and eventual finding in a "second blessing" or "a second work of grace" or "in something more than Christ's death, burial, and resurrection on the cross." You want to follow Christ?

"When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it."" (Mark 8:34-35 NKJV)

The truth of what it means to walk in holiness in Christ is to take up your cross daily. It is to "put to death the deeds of the flesh." (Colossians 3: 1-11)

You "put to death the deeds of the flesh" by engaging in a vigorous "walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5: 16-18).

Walking in the Spirit is antithetical to walking in the flesh.

One walks in the Spirit by letting the Word of Christ dwell in you.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16 NKJV)

Notice in Ephesians 5:18-20, the command to be filled (controlled or empowered) with the Spirit results in the same thing as "letting the word of Christ dwell in you."

"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-20 NIV)

The reason for this is the Colossian text tells you exactly what it means to be filled with the Spirit (or to walk in the Spirit so you don't fulfill the desires of the flesh.) Those things, which equal the same things, equal each other. To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

To let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly is to obey what the Word tells you. For example, if the Word tells you to confess your sins (1 John 1:9), each time the Spirit convicts you of sinning and you consequently confess your sin, you have yielded to the Spirit of God using His Word to control and empower you.

To expound this further, when you feel the temptation to tell a lie, how do you know this is sin? Because the living Word, Christ, tells you so in the 9th commandment, among other verses, that to lie is sin. You cry out to God in your heart, "Establish my footsteps in thy Word and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me," (Psalms 119:133) and you yield in faith to what the Word tells you to do. Or, you cry out in desperation, "Have mercy upon me, Oh God, a sinner and take this temptation from me."

Many people are drawn to the charismatic error out of desperation.

There are those desperate for an emotional spiritual or religious experience.

There are those desperate from some sort of intense emotional problem or crisis and seek relief with a religious label on it that relief.

There are those desperate to find something "more" than what their traditional mainstream denomination has to offer.

There are those desperate to find something that meets their psychological need to walk by sight and not faith. They have to have something "concrete" in their lives.

Many people are drawn to the charismatic error out of a desire to put their personal experience above truth.

I can remember the endless talks, some lasting well into the next day, with charismatic roommates who could not get past, "But I had the experience of speaking in tongues and therefore it is true." If you try to reason with charismatics, they will insist that the basis upon which they know speaking in tongues is valid and true is because they experienced it.

They elevate human experience as on par with Biblical truth. Because they experienced it, therefore it is true and this lies at the heart of the charismatic heresy. But, the epistemology of the Bible goes from Truth to Experience. This is how God deals with us. It is Biblical Truth we believe and that results in an experience. God never moves in our life based on an experience. He does not deal with us from Experience to Truth but from Truth to Experience.

"It is not an experience, no matter how unusual or miraculous it appears, that determines whether or not a doctrine is true. There is only ONE thing which determines if something is true, and that is the Bible rightly divided!" -

Someone claims to have spoken in tongues as the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit - WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

Don't be deceived. Everything we need to live the Christian life is found in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What Christ bought for us on the Cross is complete, sufficient, and without anything lacking.

We are complete in Christ

"For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:9-10 NKJV)

We need nothing more.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I was brought to faith and trust in Christ as my Lord and Savior while in high school. Almost immediately, I was confronted with the charismatic errors when I tried getting involved in Bible Studies that I heard about from my high school peers. Curious but cautious, I asked my pastor about all this emotionally charged falderal. My inquiry to my pastor developed into a year and a half of his personally discipling me in the faith and teaching me biblical discernment or teaching me how to rightly divide the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).

Through the first ten years of my Christian life, I encountered over and over those who claimed to be Christians and yet they were involved in the Charismatic error. I soon developed, almost out of necessity, a system of apologetics and presentation to Charismatics. And, that is what I want to present to you, the reader, in this essay.

People get involved with the charismatic error due to zeal, not according to knowledge.

Almost universally, with only a very few exceptions, charismatic initiates are told erroneously that their salvation experience must be in "two-steps." There is a "praying to receive Christ" and then a subsequent experience to seek called "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" that will always be evidenced by speaking in tongues. The teaching is that there is a second blessing. Christ blessed you with salvation, "the fire insurance from hell," then there is the "second work of grace' in which you get the power to live the Christian life and you will know that you have this blessing when you speak in tongues.

I covered this error extensively in my three-part essay in my "God Blog." Open the archive drop-down menu in this blog and look for the July 2, 9, 11 entries for the three-part series entitled, "Two-Step Plan for Salvation."

Almost without exception, charismatic theology will have a mega-faulty Soteriology doctrine. Soteriology means salvation. They hold to a doctrine of salvation that is "semi-Pelagian," amounting to what was determined by the Western Church in the Second Council of Orange in 529 to be heretical.

"Semipelagianism is a Christian theological understanding about salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation (in which man is seen as effecting his own salvation), which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo, who taught that man cannot come to God without the grace of God. In Semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half - growing in faith - is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church in the Second Council of Orange in 529."

The reason why this is important is because it is an error that makes man responsible for his salvation. In other words, the charismatic teaches that they come to faith as so: "I made a decision based on an act of my free will." This thought throws Ephesians 2:1-10 out with the trash. Salvation becomes "of yourself and a result of works."

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV, italics mine)

So, the zeal to be saved from their sins in charismatic doctrine is not according the knowledge of Scriptures. It is not Biblical salvation. The charismatic appeal to be saved, redeemed, forgiven from sin is one based on human works: free will.

"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. ... And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. ... For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 24 KJV).

People are drawn to charismatic circles because they don't have to do the hard work of thinking straight about Holy Scripture.

Though I have not been in a charismatic Bible study in years (since I was a teenager), the typical approach to understanding the Word of God is a group sharing process. This is when a passage of scripture is thrown out into the group (sometimes the chosen text was suggested the week before for "study") and a kind of "round robin" occurs where everyone "shares what they feel the text is saying."

Sometimes there is a "Bible study leader" who is more a facilitator who ends up managing what some have called a "pooling of ignorance" within the group. These are not harsh words; this is an explanation of how it is. And this is an explanation of how it still is if what I read on the Internet is any indication of the truth.

Hermeneutics simply means:

"This particular form of theological hermeneutics, especially within the mainstream Protestant tradition, considers Christian Biblical hermeneutics in the tradition of explication of the text, or exegesis, to deal with various principles that can be applied to the study of Scripture. If it is axiomatic that the canon of Scripture must be an organic whole, rather than an accumulation of disparate individual texts written and edited in the course of history, then any interpretation that contradicts any other part of scripture is not considered to be sound." (

An example of how this applies in the case of the modern charismatic tongue speaking phenomenon is that the movement fails to understand I Corinthians chapters 12-14 in light of Isaiah 28:11. An elementary understanding and application of hermeneutics would show that the gift of tongues was a sign unto an unbelieving Jewish nation as a sign of judgment for their rejection of their Messiah. This would obliterate their "Two-Step Plan of Salvation" and "Baptism of the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues."

People are drawn to the charismatic error due a desire to be holy.

Let me make a clarification. People are drawn to the charismatic error due to a desire to be holy but not a holiness that is in accordance with knowledge, Bible Knowledge!

The state of holiness the charismatic doctrine promises is not the holiness of the Bible. The "true child of God" desires to be holy. He or she desires to live in a manner worthy of Christ, the Lord and Savior. This is, by the way, an indication of whether or not someone is truly born again. Does he or she desire to be like Christ?

The charismatic desire to be holy is almost always a desire for power. This is what the initiate is told. "Now that you are a Christian, you need power." And this "power" is to be sought and found in the "Second Work of Grace," the "baptism," evidenced by speaking in tongues.

The Biblical doctrine in holiness can be found in three tenses.

The idea behind the Biblical doctrine "to sanctify" means to be set apart unto holiness.

First Tense: For the true believer, when God brings you to faith and truth in Christ as Lord and Savior, you are positionally before God "set apart unto holiness" in and through Christ Jesus, forever (Hebrews 10:10). We are in Christ where He is, seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, and are "saints" and "holy" in our position in Christ from the very moment in time we first believed (Phil. 1:1 & Heb. 3:1).

Second Tense: For the true believer, when God brings you to faith and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, conditionally or experientially you are being "sanctified," or "being set apart unto holiness" by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life. This is done through the medium of the Holy Scriptures.

"Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth." (John 17:17 Amplified Bible)

Third Tense: Complete sanctification will occur when Christ comes in His glorious return (1 John 3:2).


Continued in Part Two

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two-Step Plan of Salvation Part III

In parts one and two of "Two-Step Plan of Salvation," I attempted to answer the question, "what's wrong with this picture," and that picture being the idea presented to my wife and I by a friend that she got saved by "making a decision based an act of my will."

I tried making the point that this theological error, decisionism salvation, amounts to another Gospel and therefore Paul's warning in Galatians 1:8-9 applies:

"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9 NKJV)

Salvation is not the result of an act of one's fallen will. Salvation is being regenerated, made alive, or quickened, so that, or in order, that you might "confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead." (Romans 10:9)

As I pointed out in the part one, my friend elucidated what she meant by the Gospel by adding that first she "made a decision based an act of her will," then she said that part and parcel to her salvation experience was years later being "baptized in the Spirit evidenced by praying in tongues."

First part of what's wrong with this picture is that our friend thinks she is saved on the basis on something "she has done," i.e. making a decision based on an act of her will. Second part of what's wrong with this picture is that she thinks there is a second part to salvation, a second work of grace, if you will, to be sought after her first "decision based on an act of her will." Salvation is a "Two-Step Plan" for her and for literally thousands of professing (false) believers all over the world. They are false because they teach, preach, and believe another Gospel. To correct this second part of the "Two-Step Plan of Salvation," we have to take a look at what the Bible says about the "Baptism of the Spirit."

"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into [a] one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NKJV)

So, we see the Bible does teach there is a baptism by (one) Spirit. But what does this mean?

"The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation." (

Another text with which to demonstrate this doctrine is seen in Romans 6:1-4:

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (NKJV)

The 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 text tells us that the Holy Spirit is the agent of baptism into one body (the body of Christ) and the Romans 6:1-4 text tells us what else is involved in this Spirit baptism.

1. We were baptized into Christ Jesus, which made us partakers of His death to sin.

2. Therefore, we are united in the likeness of his burial through this baptism into death.

3. And, in the likeness of Christ's resurrection, we are co-raised in Christ that we might walk in newness of life. (see Romans 6:5-12)

Both of these texts of Scripture show that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit accomplishes the following and no more or no less:

1. It puts us, or unites us, into the Body of Christ.

2. It unites us in the likeness of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection so that we can say:

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

If you want power to live the Spirit-filled life, look no further than your conversion experience and to your co-crucifixion, co-death, co-burial, and co-resurrection in Christ. Therein is the power of God unto salvation from the penalty and power of sin.

Two points obliterate this error that there is a second work of Grace one must seek after getting saved (if they are really saved at all).

1. The 1 Corinthians 12 text shows clearly that all Christians have been baptized by the Spirit into Christ. "We were all baptized," says Paul, "into Christ just as all have been given one Spirit to drink (the filling of the Spirit in Eph. 5:18)."

2. There is no text in Scripture where we are told to be baptized in, by, or with the Spirit.

"Experiencing the one Spirit baptism serves as the basis for keeping the unity of the church, as in the context of Ephesians 4:5. Being associated with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism establishes the basis for our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12)." (

This, too, the second part of the "Two-Step Plan of Salvation" our friend shared and I mentioned in part one of this series, is another gospel. It is not the Gospel of the Bible, it is not the Gospel of Jesus, and it is not the Gospel of God. It is heretical.

To say that something more is required to experience the power of God unto salvation is not only error, it is blasphemy. To say what Christ bought for us with his death, burial and resurrection was insufficient is to deny the Doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). The redemption from the penalty of sin and the deliverance from the power of sin that we might walk in the newness of life was purchased at the Cross. At Calvary you got the whole deal.

You want to live a life that shows that you are a Christian? You want to live life walking worthy of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? You want to walk in a manner worthy of the calling in which you have been called?

Then the Apostle Paul would tell you three things:

1. In light of your co-crucifixion, your co-burial, your co-resurrection, reckon yourselves indeed dead unto sin and alive unto God in Christ Jesus.

2. And, because of the truth of point #1, or therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.

3. You can do this because sin has no dominion over you because in Christ, you are not under law but under Grace. (Re-read Romans 6)

Beloved, don't trust anyone who presents you a decisionalism salvation. To do so would be to your peril. And, do not accept anyone who tells you what Christ purchased with his death on a Cross was not sufficient and that you need some "second blessing."

Believe the simple Gospel for redemption from the penalty of your sin and for freedom from sin's dominion and power in your life.

"And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."" (John 6:35-40 NJKV)


Friday, July 9, 2010

Two-Step Plan of Salvation Part II

Decisionism salvation can be summed up in the following description:

"I made a decision, as an act of my will, to believe in Christ."

To further expound the meaning, one could say that those who believe this idea about the power of God unto salvation, or the Gospel (Romans 1:16), hold to a doctrinal position that man is not totally depraved. Man's fallen nature does not extend to his will. The will was left untouched by the fall. When man hears the Gospel message, he can exercise himself Godward or salvifically and make a decision for or against Christ.

In part one of this paper, I showed that according to Scripture, man is so utterly fallen in his nature that there is none who can do the righteous thing of getting saved because there is none righteous; no, not one. Getting saved is indeed a righteous act and not an unrighteous one. Man is so depraved in his spirit that he cannot understand the Gospel much less seek it and exercise himself toward it to be saved. Man is so dead in his trespasses and sin that he cannot, apart from Divine quickening (being made alive), answer the call to come forth to Christ. I used the example of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John chapter eleven to illustrate this point.

I concluded part one with the idea that to advocate this decisionism salvation plan is "another Gospel" about which the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians:

"…so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)

If making a decision for Christ is not the Gospel of Salvation then what is? What is the Gospel and how does man get from being dead in his trespasses and sins to being saved?

Another man wanted to know the answer to this question. In fact, so scandalous was his interest in meeting Jesus and to discuss the things of God that it was under the cloak of darkness that he sought out Christ. This man was Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who, if this meeting with Jesus were found out, would have certainly brought him censure or worse.

Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he be born again he would never see the Kingdom of God. Confused by his spiritual blindness, Nicodemus asked the logical question coming from a spiritually dead man,

"How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4 NKJV)

Jesus responded,

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:6-8)

Being born again, says Jesus, is like the wind. The wind, though you can hear the sound of it, you cannot tell from where it originates or its destination. It blows wherever it wishes and so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Spiritual rebirth, or regeneration, is as the Apostle wrote in Roman 9:15-16:

"For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

I will have mercy and compassion on whom I will, writes Paul, or the Spirit, like the wind, blows on whoever it wishes, writes John.

And, it could not be any plainer: Romans 9:16 - "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

(See the Amplified Bible Romans 9:16: So then [God's gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God's mercy. [It depends not on one's own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God's having mercy on him.] )

In the beginning of John's Gospel, he gave the very definition of what it means to be born again:

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 NKJV)

Don't miss what it being said here: "…who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Those who are born again, saved in Christ, are born not because of their human will but of the Divine's.

The Gospel is simple. It is plain. It is saving Grace.

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." (John 6:44-47 NIV)

One cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws the sinner. This is a testimony to man's depravity, his inability, which prevents him from seeking Christ unto salvation. The Gospel call is, "…he who believes has everlasting life."

"And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."" (John 6:65 NKJV)

"All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]." (John 6:37 Amplified)

Those whom God gives to Christ "will come." In fact, I would venture to say they will never run the risk of anything other than coming to Christ in believing faith. Notice, "I will most certainly not cast out…" If God gives you to Christ in believing faith, you will be His and will never run the risk of being anything other than His!

"It is impossible for anyone to come to Christ without the enabling call of God. The sinner's moral inability to choose Christ must be overcome by the gracious and sovereign power of the Spirit (John 3: 5-21)." - New Geneva Study Bible; page 1674

I have wondered for years, no, decades, how a professing Christian could read or hear Ephesians 2:

"For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]" (Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible)

I quote the Amplified Version here because of how it renders correctly the text:

1. It is by free grace you are delivered from judgment made partakers of Christ's salvation.

2. This salvation is not of your doing; it came not through your own striving.

3. It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself.

And, this is exactly what our friend I quoted in Part One of this paper is saying when she said she got saved by making a decision as an act of her will.

I shudder at that.

Salvation is God making man, who is dead in his sins and unable to choose Christ, alive (quickens him) in order that man would be able to confess with his mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in his heart that God raised him from the dead that he might be saved.

"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9 NIV)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Two-Step Plan of Salvation Part I

My wife and I were sitting in the living room of an elderly couple we wished to influence for the Gospel. The man was admittedly a non-Christian. He was not hostile to the Gospel but from he understood from the Gospel explained to him by his wife, and the life she lived, was not a believer. The wife was a different story. In a completely self-aggrandizing manner would all but flush with excitement in telling us how she was saved when she was sixteen-years old.

When I asked her how she got saved her bubbly explanation was something very close to this:

"When I was sixteen-years old, I made a decision, as an act of my will, to believe in Christ. Years later, in my adult years, was taught about the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' and how to speak in tongues."

She confirmed, when we questioned her that, "that was it."

That was her salvation experience. A two-step process which began with "her decision" and culminated with her "baptism in the Spirit" some years later.

Any fruit of the Spirit, any manifestation of her regeneration, was limited to her own self-enhancing, self-exaggerating, self-power, and self- reputation protestations.

What is wrong with this picture?

Until the 1800's this idea of decisionism, or decisionalism salvation, not to mention the "baptism of the Holy Spirit", evidenced by speaking in tongues, was never a part of an explanation of the Gospel of Salvation. Through those centuries there were theological and doctrinal debates concerning various doctrinal position on different Biblical truths, however, there was no "decisionism" salvation. We can thank Charles Finney for introducing decisionism salvation to the church.

Finney, a theological Arminian, rejected the Biblical doctrine of total depravity. He held to the error that man could exercise himself Godward salvifically. Man could "decide" himself in and out of a state of salvation with God. So pervasive was his error that he taught that one could lose one's salvation while in heaven. Amazingly, Finney had huge followings.

Decisionism salvation has as its root, its very foundation, that man "can" exercise himself toward God in a salvation sense when confronted with the facts of the Gospel. It means that man is not hindered him from seeking God, and if man likes what he sees, can choose Godward.

Is this God's plan of salvation? Is this what the Bible teaches? Do the pages of Holy Scripture teach than man has some righteousness left in him, some light, that he, when hearing the Gospel, can "make a decision as an act of his will" to believe in Christ?

Let's look first at what the Bible teaches as to the exact state of man's nature or what the Bible calls mans "fallen nature." But before jumping in the Biblical texts let me ask a series of questions:

One: To decide to believe in Jesus would be a righteous decision, would it not?

Two: To decide to believe in Jesus, to be able to make a decision regarding the death on the Cross would mean one would have to understand the message, would it not?

Three: To decide to believe in Jesus would mean that one would have been seeking God, or the decision itself would or could mean one would mean the "lost" had been seeking Jesus, would it not?

Four: To decide to believe in Jesus would have to mean one did something "profitable" and "good", would it not?

Five: To decide to believe in Jesus would not mean a destructive and miserable thing was accomplished, would it not?

Six: To decide to believe in Jesus would be to choose a way of peace, would it not?

Seven: To decide to believe in Jesus would mean one would have to have decided to "fear" God (reverential trust and awe), would it not?

Now let's read what God says in His Word:

As it is written:

" There is none righteous, no, not one;

11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.

12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one."

13 " Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit";
" The poison of asps is under their lips";

14 " Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."

15 " Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17 And the way of peace they have not known."

18 " There is no fear of God before their eyes." - Romans 3:10-18 (NKJV)

How would any man or woman be able to make the righteous decision to exercise ones self towards God if there is none who righteous, no, not one? (vs. 10)

How can any man or woman make a decision to be saved if there is none who (the message). (vs. 11)

How can any man or woman decide to seek God unto salvation when there is none who seeks after God? (vs. 11)

How can any man or woman make the profitable decision to come to faith in Christ when all have become unprofitable? (vs.12)

How can any man or woman do the good thing of believing Christ unto salvation when there is none who do good, not one? (vs. 12)

How can any man or woman clear his or her path to Christ when destruction and misery are in their ways? (vs. 16)

How can any man or woman choose the peaceful way of salvation when "the way of peace they have not known?"

How can any man or woman "fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV)?

And, God has commanded us to be reconciled to God.

"Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20)

(The phrase "be reconciled to God" appears in the Greek text in the "second aorist imperative" and in the dative case. It carries the meaning of "Get reconciled to God and do it now.")

According to the Truth of Scripture, man is not capable of exercising himself Godward to believe on Christ unto salvation. Isn't that what the Bible is saying?

When someone asks me how I know I am saved I tell them:

"While I was yet dead in my trespasses and sins, a child of wrath, a son of disobedience, even as the rest, God made me alive in Christ Jesus saving me by His grace."

This is what it says in Ephesians 2: 1-10:

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

I love the way the King James Bible puts the first verse of this text:

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" (Eph 2:1)

That's it. That's what the Bible says is the Gospel message: "and you hath He quickened (made alive) who were dead."

Let me illustrate: Do you remember the story of Lazarus who died and Jesus raised him from the dead? He was the brother of Mary and Martha and not the Lazarus of Luke 16:20. Jesus' friend, Lazarus had died from an illness and though his sisters sent for Jesus to come that he might heal Jesus' friend and their brother, Lazarus died and had been interred by the time Jesus arrived.

So that His disciples might believe, the John 11 texts says, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He ordered the tomb stone to be removed to the objections to the sisters. Their brother had been dead for four days and there would have by this time developed a stench.

Once Jesus' orders were carried out, He cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." (John 11:43)

Just how could a dead man, one dead for four days, rise up and walk? For that matter, how could a dead man hear the command to rise up and walk? But, walk Lazarus did. He came forth from tomb alive.

Before Lazarus could hear the command to come out of the tomb and before he could rise and walk, he had to be made alive or quickened in order to obey Jesus' command to walk out of the tomb. Take note of the order: dead, made alive, obedience.

This illustrates what the Ephesians 2 text is saying. How can a man dead in his trespasses and sins obey the command to be reconciled to God? The spiritually dead man, in order to hear and obey the command of God to be reconciled to Christ, must be quickened or made alive first so that he can "come forth" and believe in Christ unto salvation.

This was the first error of our woman friend mentioned at the beginning of this essay. She was telling us in essence what Paul called, "another Gospel."

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)

Our friend's gospel, her testimony, if you will, is that "she chose" herself into heaven. She believes and advocates another Gospel.

If is "her deciding to receive Jesus" that she might be saved is the Gospel, then why should she, or anyone else, need Jesus? Why not use the force or power of your will to be good and sin no more? If our friend "made a decision, as an act of my will, to believe in Christ," then why not skip the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)" and just choose to be a good girl. From what do you need saving if your will, your decision making power, is untainted by the fall of man?