Justification by Faith is Not Enough

The glorious truth of justification by faith is being rightly emphasized and popularized today by movements such as Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and in southern Africa, Sola 5, an association to which I am glad to belong. In Peter’s first epistle, you could find support for this kind of ministry several times.

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:18-21

 …and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
1 Peter 2:24

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18

When Peter writes again to this same group of believers just before his death, his greeting is baptized and drips with gospel glory.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Peter 1:1

Peter loves the gospel, but in his second epistle he surprises those of us who have sympathy for centering our lives on the gospel. The second epistle deals broadly with Christian growth—traveling on the road to Heaven more so than entering at the gate, fighting with sin more so than enlisting in Christ’s army, the process of a child’s growth more so than the moment of a baby’s birth, sanctification more than justification.

It is not hard to see Peter’s focus on Christian growth in the second letter:

2 Peter 1:2-4
• One long sentence.
• How may we find great spiritual blessings like Christian grace and peace?
• These come from theology—a knowledge of God (1:2, 3, 4).
• These promises help us to “escape the corruption that is in the world.”
• These words describe a process of growth and change.

2 Peter 1:5-11
• With all your strength add these 7 virtues on to your faith.
• Work, work, work—the language of synergism, we are cooperating with God.
• Work hard to make sure that you have been called and chosen (1:10).
• By hard work you can expect entrance into God’s kingdom.

At the end of the letter, the last verse he writes before his crucifixion proves what was on his mind.

…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18

What is most remarkable though is how strongly Peter feels about Christian growth or fighting with our sin in order to become like Christ.

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.
2 Peter 1:12

Peter always reminds them of the necessity and the means and the results of Christian growth. Even though they have already been taught, he is going to keep on pressing these same points to them.

I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.
2 Peter 1:13-14

Peter: “My brothers, this is what you will get whenever I have a platform.”
Christians: “Aren’t you always talking about this?”
Peter: “This will be my main theme until I die. Write it on my tombstone.”

He was willing to repeat this one section of God’s truth so often that after he was dead and gone, none of them would ever forget what he constantly talked about.

And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
2 Peter 1:15

The phrase “these things” is found 5 times in chapter one (1:8, 9, 10, 12, and 15) and it is implied in verse 11. It refers to working hard to add the virtues to your faith. What are these things? Christian growth or sanctification or holiness. Peter has a fixation that has become his own personal, doctrinal emphasis. He gives us an inspired example of a pastor who chooses a certain great theme to mark his life and ministry. Paul’s life was marked by justification by faith and missions. John’s life was marked by love. At least in the second epistle, Peter closes his life with an emphasis on true, Biblical holiness.

These verses make me think that Peter would not have joined a gospel-centered movement because he thought justification was necessary, but not sufficient. With power he preaches faith alone in Christ alone, but when he dies, he wants the people to remember to work with all their might for greater godliness.

If those verses were paraphrased and read in public in some modern settings, Christians hearing it might say, “That’s legalism!” Whatever the contemporary Christian would say, the ancient Christian said, “These things must never be forgotten.”

Related articles:
Putting Legalism to Good Use
Good Works Aren’t All Bad
The Temptation of Eve Is Really About Legalism?

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The Biblical Basis for the Three “Self’s”

New Testament churches should be autonomous. Autonomy comes from two Greek words: autos (self) + nomos (law) = Each group is ruled by itself. Church autonomy does not mean freedom from God, but from other churches. Autonomy does mean submission to God directly without control from any man outside the local church membership.

When Paul planted churches, each one was independent or autonomous. In Paul’s 12-15 years of missionary service, the book of Acts records 14 churches that were planted, but there were probably more.

  1. The first missionary journey, 7 churches: Salamis (13:5), Paphos (13:6-13), Perga (13:13; 14:25), Antioch of Pisidia (13:14-50), Iconium (13:51-14:5), Lystra (14:6-20), Derbe (14:20-23).
  2. The second missionary journey, 7 churches: Troas (16:8; 20:6-12), Philippi (16:12-40), Thessalonica (17:1-9), Berea (17:10-14), Athens (17:15-34), Corinth (18:1-18), Ephesus (18:19-21; 19:1-41).
  3. The third missionary journey: No new churches are recorded in this journey.

Each of these churches stood on its own without government, finances, or oversight from other places. This is implied throughout the record of the missionary journeys (Acts 13-21). In modern times, this independence is commonly divided into three categories called the “three self’s.”

Self-supporting
They met their own financial needs without depending on other groups for support.

  • The church at Ephesus learned from the beginning to take care of its own financial problems (Acts 20:35).
  • Paul told Timothy to train the church to support its pastors (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
  • Even though churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea were living with “deep poverty” they still took the initiative to support poor Christians (2 Cor. 8:1-4).

Self-governing
They made decisions in their own local church without taking directions from a structure of churches or offices above them.

  • The churches that Paul started on his first missionary journey, all had elders to lead them (Acts 14:23; 20:17).
  • Titus appointed elders to lead each church on the island of Crete (Tit. 1:5). These leaders were taken from the churches themselves.

Self-propagating
They evangelized their communities and even sent missionaries without expecting other Christians to do that work for them.

  • The church at Antioch was started in Acts 11:19-26. By Acts 13:1-3, they were sending missionaries from their own congregation.
  • The churches that Paul established on his first journey evangelized the lost around them so that “the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (Acts 16:5).
  • The church at Thessalonica was started in Acts 17:1-9. By 1 Thess 1:8, less than a year later, they too sent out evangelists to cities around them.
  • The church at Philippi was started in Acts 16:12-40. By Phil. 4:14-18, they took the initiative to support Paul and his team in order to plant more churches.

Each local church should take responsibility for itself just like each husband and wife must take responsibility for their own home.

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Should a New Believer Wait Before Being Baptized?

The Christian church marks its members by baptism. Luke records the historical accounts in Acts while the gospels contain commands to baptize. The epistles reference baptism occasionally—twice in Romans, 10 times in 1 Corinthians, and once in Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter. In the New Testament, baptism is referenced explicitly or implicitly nearly 100 times in Scripture. Yet two difficulties arise for today’s pastor. When should an adult be baptized? What requirements should be made to ascertain whether this person meets the Bible’s requirements? Then, for other reasons, children are difficult. In a society where many people are Christian, their children should be expected to anticipate baptism and full acceptance as fellow believers. Many young children ask for the privilege of Christian baptism.

  1. Should we baptize on the same day as they did in Acts?

In the book of Acts, new believers received Christian baptism even the very day that they were converted. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized immediately after they believed. Cornelius was baptized on his second birthday. Most remarkably, the Philippian jailer showed his faith through baptism in the middle of the night along with the members of his family. Because of this pattern, some pastors baptize as soon as they hear that a person has believed the gospel.

However, in the first century, conversion would have been strange and costly. Believers often suffered in their family as our Lord predicted (Matt. 10:34-36). They also saw from the very beginning that the best Christians were often incarcerated (Acts 4:3; 5:18), or stoned (7:58-60), or driven from their homes (8:1-4). Not only were they in danger physically, but also the first believers had to leave a system they were familiar with risking rejection, humiliation, and loss of friendships. These scenarios still exist in some places today such as Islamic nations, or certain elite social groups around the world that are dominated by unbelievers. In the cases of children of Christian parents or members of a society where Christianity is common and accepted, the setting of the book of Acts is foreign. The differences should restrain our urge to baptize the same day.

  1. Should pastors judge the faith of those who want to be baptized?

No pastor can stop himself from judging, nor should he. If he accepts all those who simply ask to be baptized, then he is excluding all those do not ask. His test simply requires that someone say, “May I be baptized?” Not all people can (babies) or will (atheists) ask this question, so he has made his judgment. If he accepts all those who profess to believe in Jesus, then that is his test. If he only accepts those who are “serious,” then his judgment is given to all those who can impress him in whatever way he may be inclined. If he requires believers to complete a new members’ class, memorize a catechism, accept the church statement of faith, or wait a prescribed period of time, then he makes his judgments on those bases. But no one who baptizes is free from judgment.

Nor should they strive to be free from discernment since this is a mark of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:14). Pastors must watch over the souls of their members (Heb. 13:17) which is yet another Biblical command to make righteous judgments. John the Baptist judged those who came to him for baptism.

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? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;” Matt. 3:7-8

They wanted to be baptized, and he said in effect, “You’re not ready yet.” Each believer should examine himself before joining in the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:27-28), and therefore, pastors should speak to Christians if they know of a sin that may bring God’s judgment on that church member.

  1. What harm will come from waiting before baptizing someone?

If baptism is valuable, then that value is withheld. If baptism is profitable, then that profit is temporarily denied. If baptism “appeals to God for a good conscience” then that conscience is put on hold. Baptism opens great benefits to the believer as well as the church.

  1. Baptism strengthens the faith of the one who is baptized. This symbol is commanded because it requires a public, bodily response to Christianity. A statement like that cannot easily be forgotten, but rather it will speak repeatedly to the soul, “You have given yourself to Christ.” If it is good to obey the Lord’s command, then blocking someone from obedience to that command is serious.
  2. Baptism encourages the believers who hear the testimony and watch the new convert. If there were no strength in solidarity, why are Christians commanded to gather together? Universal experience shows that we are pleased when others join in the cause to which we have devoted ourselves.
  3. Baptism allows the new convert to take part in the blessings of church life. If the Lord’s Table is not important, then why did He leave it for us until the end of the age? If it is important, then it is important for the new believer. A Christian who serves his church is more blessed than the one who does not, yet before baptism teaching, responsibility, authority, and public participation are forbidden since he is not yet united to Christ (that we know of).
  4. Baptism opens to the local church a new member who can help carry the weights of that assembly. For many smaller churches those weights press down on just a few people.

Requiring someone to wait before baptism places all these benefits out of reach for the present time. Perhaps the benefits need to be withheld because it is not yet clear if the faith is temporary or lasting, but there is a cost incurred when a pastor holds off for the present time. When a young man begins to invest for retirement, he must wait until he has found the right vehicle for those funds, yet at the same time in waiting he loses the benefit that accrues exponentially from investing early.

  1. What harm will come from baptizing them quickly?

At the church we planted in Elim, I just made a list of 16 people who were baptized, who later fell away. The church now has about 30 members, so that is a significant portion. What happens to the other Christians when they see people come into baptism lightly and leave the church laughing?

  1. A general attitude of irreverence may develop where holy things are taken by people with dirty hands and then cast away a short time later. We must not give dogs holy things, and what in the local church is more holy than baptism, the Lord’s Table, and the right hand of fellowship as a brother?
  2. Church members may learn to distrust the pastor’s discernment and his commitment to a pure church over a large church. Since a true pastor is not driven by numbers, what message does this send to the people? Is the culture known for speaking the truth regardless of the circumstances? If not, then the pastor is in danger of gullibility, a simple-minded approach which Paul and Solomon condemn (1 Cor. 14:20; Pro. 1:22-33).
  3. Hasty baptism may encourage the sinner to trust in works and ceremony. Every sinner is a natural born legalist who wants to find some physical act on which to place his trust. Without patience, Christian baptism may send people to Satan.
  4. Hasty baptism may decrease the zeal with which the sinner fights for the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 11:12). Why should he give diligence to make his calling and election sure if the pastor is already pretty sure? If he is baptized too quickly, the devotion to Scripture and memory and attendance, may decrease once he has confidence.

Waiting is a fruit of the Spirit of God who is never in a rush. Christianity wants deep roots, lasting foundations, and members who have counted the cost.

  1. What should a pastor look for?

Neither side is safe, but a pastor must at least be aware of both sides. Baptism is a sign of faith. Like a road sign it speaks to all who pass by that this person is a believer. So no one should be baptized who does not show signs of life. If the farmer cannot see a blade, he has no confidence that life is there.

Does the new convert understand the gospel? Can he answer the questions, “How did God save you? What does it mean to be a Christian? What verse from the Bible gives you hope that you are God’s child?” Does he speak well of the Cross? Does he speak in shame about his sin?

Working with his understanding, the New Testament offers several lists of virtues that will mark the lives of true Christians.

  • The Beatitudes in Matt. 5:3-12
  • The Fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:21-22
  • The List of Virtues in 2 Pet. 1:5-7

If I cannot see some evidence from these lists in the life of the person who wants to be baptized, then I should wait, and I should tell them explicitly to look for evidence that “the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” If a man is “in Christ” what might the fruit look like? Eagerness to hear preaching, memorize verses, read the Bible, attend prayer meetings, associate with strong Christians, leave sin, speak humbly about himself, share his faith, join a church, submit to baptism, follow the advice of those who are more mature, separate from false religions, see his own sin before it is brought to his attention, and show interest in the growth of others. Such marks of grace can often be seen most clearly by those nearest to him, so parents, spouse, and employer could be asked if they recognize any of these signs of grace. I have also asked people directly about themselves, “We do not want to discourage you, nor do we want to give you confidence prematurely. Do you see evidence in your own heart that a miracle has happened?”

This kind of judgment is subjective, yet the general principles are objective. They may change in specific applications since there is such a wide diversity among those whom God saves, but the major idea will not change. A person should not be baptized until we have reason to believe that he has obtained genuine saving faith. Though only God will know for sure, we are not absolved from responsibly affirming their testimony.

  1. May a child be baptized?

Since children are still maturing, they may more easily mistake desire to please their parents, or youthful interest for attention, or the early longing to be adults. Therefore, pastors should look for significant evidence that jejune motives are subservient to a real change of heart. I know a good number of pastors and their wives who gave testimonies and received baptism before 12 years of age and still have not wavered from that testimony decades later. While some churches may choose to safely avoid the dangers of baptizing a false convert by having a general policy of “Only Over 18,” in the case of these young Christians, they would have made them wait for 7-10 years before receiving the very real benefits that come with baptism. Is that really the wisest way to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?

Policies help administrators, but we are keeping a greenhouse, an arboretum. Trees differ in glory like stars. Local government is more helpful here than federal.

In general, children should not be baptized until the accumulated weight of parents’, pastors’, and teachers’ testimony combines with their own account of grace to give us hope that, though they are young, they have truly entered at the narrow gate. Judge righteous judgment is our Lord’s command, and an extra Biblical policy seems to be there to make it easier for the leadership, not necessarily more accurate in exercising discernment.

Conclusion

Pastors have a responsibility to baptize only those believers who have a credible profession of faith because they must watch for their souls and guard them from profaning the assembly of the Lord. If a creditor must be paid on the exact day (Pro. 3:27-28), then let us offer the means of grace to all who have the marks of grace without putting them in a holding pattern. Philip baptized many true believers, but one Simon. This principle is abused by too many churches who naively accept the simplest professions. Apparently, these pastors and Christians do not expect the grace of God to make noticeable differences, or else they are in a rush to report decisions. Because of these abuses, patience is the wisest course of action while the pastor watches for fruit that the person not only understands the doctrine, but has experienced real regenerating power. Since each individual is unique, a church policy should be general rather than specific.

Each new baptism is a judgment call gained by listening to their words and watching their lives. The more grace we see, the greater our confidence is in affirming their faith by immersing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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A “Christ-centred” Church

Tonight, I went to a miracle crusade at a church that advertises itself as “Christ-centred.” Alpheus, the pastor at Elim, as well as another member, Steven, came with me. There are a few short videos posted on Facebook. Here are a few quotes from the speaker:

“I just prepared my message while sitting there during the songs.”

“I like EFT machines (credit card machines) because Satan cannot tear them up like envelopes.” [The group had just purchased one of these machines for use during their offerings.]

“The demon in her said, ‘She will never give [money in the offering]!’
I said, ‘Satan, out!’ And then she gave!”

“Sometimes you need to tell your wife, ‘Shut up!'”

“AIDS is a spirit, a demon.”

“Your aids is not because you were loose.”

“I cast the spirit of stinginess out of that tither’s envelope.”

There was no mention of the cross or repentance or humility.

I went to this crusade because Steven’s mother has been going to this church and is unable to see the errors. Also, I had previously met one of the pastors who claims that he “hates” the prosperity gospel and only preaches repentance and Christ crucified. This pastor was sitting in the crowd when I arrived, and here is the letter that I sent to him tonight.

Dear Mr. ______,

Well, the way prosperity teachers always handle me is they don’t talk to me anymore once they realize that I know they really love prosperity and money more than Jesus Christ. So if you don’t want to contact me anymore then I know that you know that you are in that group as well.

But if you really do love the Lord Jesus and not the wicked, false, Satanic doctrines that were preached at that conference tonight, I will be glad to see you again in the future. Nothing would encourage me more than to talk to you if you were willing to make a break with such a terrible religion. My friend, I reach out to you in compassion and hope that you are not lost to Christ, but your soul is in great danger as long as you play around and hold hands with such terrible false teachers.

You said you love evangelism, but there was no evangelism tonight – no cross of Jesus! No command to repent! No warning of the fires of hell!

I should close with hope and prayer that we will talk again because you are not entirely controlled by the demons that control that wicked religion. I shall wait eagerly to hear from you.

Seth

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The 95 Theses Against the Prosperity Gospel

To be nailed to the doors of any church with a name like “Glory Barn” or “Fire Tabernacle” or “Holy Ghost International Centre.”

Prosperity Gospel

  1. The prosperity gospel urges men to love money, comfort, or things of this earth whereas Jesus Christ and the apostles command men to lay up treasures in Heaven (Matt. 6:19-21), set your affections on things above (Col. 3:2), and count the Son of God as your treasure (Matt. 13:44).
  2. Doctrines such as the wrath of God, repentance, and humility are practically unknown in most churches in Africa.
  3. Men are encouraged to wear armbands for protection as if the “pastor” has some radiating life force that will protect them.
  4. Selling holy water bottled as salvation is a form of witchcraft.
  5. Promoting the pastor as a mediator between God and men is a form of witchcraft.
  6. Manipulating every text of Scripture so that it bears on earthly comfort or success is a form of witchcraft.
  7. Advertising public religious meetings with promises to be delivered from poverty, lack, sickness, disease, and barrenness is a form of witchcraft.
  8. An insult is done to the Word of God when a great amount of time is taken on the offering so that the minds of the hearers are dull during the sermon. Or when the sermon consists so greatly of discussions of things of this life that it amounts to another attraction of men’s hearts to money.
  9. I have been in several public “Christian” meetings where the offerings occupied more than 45 minutes of the time. Other pastors have told me that this is common in their region as well.
  10. Signs that advertise voodoo and witchcraft are practically indistinguishable from signs that advertise “Christian” crusades.
  11. A pastor at a funeral for the chief of the village in which I lived preached before hundreds of people that God was going to bring them all “blessings.”
  12. A crusade I attended in the village featured a dozen or more pastors from our village sitting in the front row. The preacher had the audience stand and shout if they wanted a new Toyota.
  13. A popular preacher in Zimbabwe promised a large crowd that money would be deposited in their bank accounts and would show itself by text messages to their phones.
  14. A pastor at a large church in Waterval invited a guest speaker from Nigeria. Though the pastor told me privately that he only preached the gospel, that evening the visitor told us only about money and success. He paused in the middle of his sermon to declare that he was healing a person in the audience who had a pain in her side.
  15. A man with pictures of his pastor all through his house and four on his vehicle, answered me with only four words when I asked when he was born again: “I am rich now.”
  16. A pastor at a crusade told the audience, “It’s boring in Heaven.”
  17. A man who worships at a prosperity church told me that they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but when I went to one of their services, there was no mention of repentance, humility, or the cross of Christ.
  18. The prosperity gospel teaches men that they have power and authority to create their own realities. It feeds their natural pride and lust for authority and control.
  19. Pastors are either indifferent to false doctrine or positively opposed to learning doctrine. They desire certificates to show that they are learned, but they have no interest in the actual teaching itself.
  20. A popular church near our house has two, 2-meter-high pictures of the pastor on the door. Inside, there are 4 more very large pictures of the same man including one about 3 meters high behind the pulpit.
  21. Church leaders commonly do not know where books of the Bible are, have not read the whole New Testament, and read their Bibles randomly.
  22. Church leaders sometimes gather the church around money.
  23. Pastors seek the most bizarre teachings and stunts in order to gain attention.
  24. The words of our Lord, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) are usually taken to mean “We can all be rich and comfortable!” rather than, “God can save any sinner regardless of how hopeless it looks from man’s point of view.”
  25. Verses like “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deut. 28:6) are separated from their context where Moses warns the people for 54 verses about the dangers of God’s curses on the people of God if they disobey.
  26. The false teachers prey on women (2 Tim. 3:6) by appealing to their sinful fears.
  27. Instead of pulling the meaning out of the text and offering the plain sense of the Bible to the people, prosperity preachers bring their own meaning to the text and offer those contortions to the people.
  28. Prosperity churches are by far the most common in the rural areas. Over 20 pastors and missionaries spread out over southern Africa from Tanzania to Mozambique, to Zambia, to Zimbabwe have all told me that nearly every pastor believes in prosperity.
  29. Prosperity preachers are not interested in theology. Though many of them are poor, generally, they will not read good books even if they are given for free. They will agree on any number of superficial points, but they are not able to explain what they believe about nearly every major doctrinal term in Scripture. Nor do they care to learn.
  30. The theology of prosperity has no respected standing or acceptance in church history at all.

African Traditional Religion

  1. Traditional religion in Africa “is purely eudemonistic, the religious ceremonies having as their sole aim material benefits connected with the terrestrial life, e. g. abundance, health, peace, and good sleep!”[1]
  2. Since prosperity theology is concerned with material benefits, it has the same goal as ATR.
  3. In ATR, the gods have physical power, but they do not rule or govern the world by laws. By so teaching men, the demons of this religion have robbed men of the very categories needed to produce science, technology, and cultural progress.
  4. The gods, which are nothing more than the spirits of the ancestors, expect obedience to traditions which means the way things were done when they were alive. But since these ways are passed down orally and not literally, and since lifestyles can shift from one generation to the next, ATR thus imprisons the mind in a free-flowing bondage to the ancestors.
  5. Syncretism is the blending of pagan religious customs with Christianity. Often the religious customs are couched in terms of culture, so that to oppose the practice is to oppose the culture. Those who don’t really want to change, can hide themselves behind their culture as if it has not been influenced by the religion.
  6. Syncretism is very common in southern Africa. This is not surprising since many peoples around the world have responded to the Christian gospel with a blending of the new message with their old, useless way of life that they inherited from their ancestors. The OT Jews blended religions (2 Kings 17:32-33, 41). In northern Africa, Islam was blended with ATR.
  7. Like many false religions, ATR can absorb other religious ideas without changing much.
  8. Many men are pastors, but they still share a fear of spirits, and their ministries are often dominated by discussions of what the spirits have done, and how to get around the spirits.[2]
  9. Sermons and books from professing Christians that treat topics around spirits, generational curses, witchcraft, and traditional practices are not built on a Biblical theology.
  10. The goal of ATR is the same as the prosperity religion: health, wealth, and comfort.
  11. The authority of ATR is the same as the prosperity religion: traditions, visions, personal impressions.
  12. The means of ATR is the same as the prosperity religion: certain rituals and words.
  13. The mediator of ATR is the same as the prosperity religion: powerful men who have a special connection with the spirits.
  14. Famous pastors teach that men are little gods. In ATR the distinction between gods and men is very thin, so too in prosperity theology.
  15. A pastor near Harare told me that it is very common to see Baptists in Zimbabwe go to prophets in order to have a blessing placed on their job or car or family.
  16. Africa’s problems come from false religion. If every person were a true believer, the continent would have no serious problems.
  17. Even though all cultures and religions outside of Christianity are useless ways of life (1 Pet. 1:18), professing Christians will not accept this message happily even though it may allow many other people to remain trapped in a false religion.
  18. Though Scripture commands us to fear God alone (Pro. 1:7; Luke 12:5), a fear of witchcraft is very common among professing Christians.
  19. When problems come in life, the immediate response of many who attend church is to trace the cause to the work of evil spirits.
  20. ATR finds its greatest concern with poverty whereas Jesus warned that Satan’s great work was to steal the truth of the gospel from the hearts of those who hear it (Matt. 13:19).
  21. ATR has no category for an immutable, absolute, single Spirit who controls the entire world. Because of this demonically structured worldview, it is particularly difficult to receive the most basic teachings of Christianity even though the superficial aspects of Christianity can be added to the previous way of life without much chance.
  22. ATR destroys personal responsibility because the sinner is taught to blame the spirits for everything. In ATR, poverty doesn’t come from my own foolish choices, but from the capricious whim of dead people.
  23. ATR destroys knowledge and certainty because the world is not controlled by unchanging laws from the mind of an absolute Creator.
  24. ATR destroys the impulse to art because there are no transcendental glories in this religion.

Ecumenism

  1. The ecumenical attitude that allows men to be counted as Christians without a Biblical test of their faith accepts Christianity that is really nothing more than syncretism.
  2. Refusing to mark false teachers while claiming to preach the gospel yourself blurs the definition of the gospel.
  3. When ridiculous, unchristian things are said and done, the majority of pastors remain silent. They do not follow our Lord who rebuked the Pharisees publicly (Matt. 23) nor Paul the apostle who named false teachers (1 Tim. 1:20).
  4. During church services, crusades, and on television, the speakers will commonly refer to everyone present as a Christian or a believer or someone receiving God’s blessings.
  5. When a speaker gives false teaching from the pulpit, the church members are silent.
  6. New churches start simply because one man wants more power, not because he believes or practices anything different from another church.
  7. Most pastors are prepared to unite with anyone who can help them financially regardless of their beliefs.
  8. If a pastor does have a doctrinal statement, then usually it is broad enough to allow fellowship with any false pastor who merely calls himself a Christian.
  9. Though Paul tells us to mark and avoid false teachers (Rom. 16:17), most people ignore this teaching and condemn those whom they think are “judging.”
  10. When a pastor does speak boldly about false teachers and the purity of the gospel, nominal Christians will accuse him of sinfully judging.
  11. Many prosperity pastors will talk as agreeably as possible until you mention the names of prominent false teachers and denounce them as children of hell (Matt. 23:15), pigs (Matt. 7:6), and dogs (2 Pet. 2:22). They will try to be agreeable with everyone (Luke 6:26) including enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18).
  12. Even if one church or denomination does not openly practice the worst parts of prosperity theology, they quietly accept those who come from false churches as if they were true Christians.
  13. There seem to be three broad groups of churches in Africa: prosperity churches, churches that teach and love the 5 Solas of the Reformation, and churches that sometimes speak truthfully and sometimes speak about prosperity. The first group contains unbelievers, the second group—though very small—believers, and the third group is so close to the unbelievers that their conversion is doubtful.

Positive Confession

  1. The prosperity gospel encourages men to “speak faith,” to claim healing and deliverance, to shout the divine name in prayer, to repeat the divine name many times, and to talk much of such broad topics as blessings, success, power from God, and greater works.
  2. “God-talk” offends the one true God since it takes His name, words, and works in vain.
  3. All of these practices are condemned in the 3rd of the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount.
  4. Pastors intentionally use vague terms in order to sound “Christian” while still tickling people’s natural desires. “Power meets Power.” “The Year of Moving to Higher Levels of Maintaining Them.” “I have the grace, you can’t stop me!”
  5. Churches take vague extra-biblical themes like “The Year of Fulfillment” that are intentionally chosen to move the people to think about prosperity, but they do not choose obvious Scriptural themes such as “The Year of Repentance” or humility or exalting Christ or preaching the gospel.
  6. Biblical prophets denounce specific sins, but the average pastor talks generally about blessing and peace and comfort (Jer. 6:14).
  7. The false gospel is so prevalent through media and churches that many people are afraid of speaking realistically about sin, its consequences, or the actions of sinners.
  8. Their loyalty to positive confession permits them to overlook all the passages in Scripture that have to do with God’s judgment, retribution, and curses.
  9. In the average church today, the pastor repeats certain terms that indicate his theological location. Blessing, success, prosperity, the next level, and nearly any other word that sounds positive. Biblical expressions like “You will be the head and not the tail” (Deut. 28:13).

Miracles

  1. Pastors prepare their “miracles” as if they are entertaining people.
  2. Some pastors promise to perform grotesque and absurd “miracles” like causing people to vomit blood, to experience a full pregnancy in 3 days, or even to heal people with Doom bug spray.
  3. Pastors entertain people by “casting out demons” using the same hand motions and phrases that other pastors use. They manipulate the circumstances in order to look like a show.
  4. Some pastors are even visible on the internet “throwing the Holy Ghost.” I have also seen that in smaller crusades in the village.
  5. Many people involved in these miracles are merely acting.
  6. The miracles that many churches practice heal invisible problems rather than healing visible diseases like leprosy (Matt. 8:3), calming storms (Matt. 8:26), and raising the dead (Luke 7:14-15).
  7. The miracles come at the end of the services as a climax to an evening of entertainment rather than before the preaching as the apostles often did. In Scripture, miracles did not overshadow the preaching of the gospel (Acts 3:1-12; 8:6; 13:11-12).
  8. If they really have this miraculous power, then why do they not heal everyone at the hospital or clinic? If they say, those people cannot be healed because they have no faith, then does that mean that not one person in the hospital has faith? If so, then they are adding insult to those who are injured.
  9. The natural, God-given intelligence of men is insulted by the fanciful nonsense that is authoritatively offered as miracles and works of God.

The Fruit of the Spirit

  1. Pastors are commonly boastful and full of challenges and envy even though these are marks that someone is walking in the flesh (Gal. 5:26). Many small churches are started that have the same theology as every other church, but nevertheless they cannot unite because each “pastor” wants to have the eyes on him.
  2. The first word of the Sermon on the Mount calls for humility, but pastors would prefer to be seen in flashy suits, hold microphones rather than wear them, and print large pictures of themselves.
  3. Many pastors speak about themselves. When their people are asked about conversion, they commonly respond with some work that they have done, and very rarely mention anything about Jesus Christ.
  4. The pastors do not model humility because they are unconverted. Also, they realize that the people will not be attracted to humility because they themselves are proud.
  5. The pictures that are used to promote churches draw attention to the pastor’s power, authority, and ability.
  6. The pastor is always presented as the great visionary, the man who is greater than the church members, the one who can bring down power from God.
  7. Verses having to do with women pastors or the control that God established over tongues in the church are ignored and contradicted.
  8. Pastors threaten people who leave the church that they “are leaving the umbrella of protection” so they may lose a job, have a health disaster, or even die.
  9. Several of the richest pastors in South Africa—the richest country on the continent of Africa—come from the poorest countries like Malawi and Nigeria.

Conclusion

  1. When pastors should be known for preaching the gospel, hating sin, identifying false teachers, and supreme love for the Lord Jesus Christ, they are instead known for their clothes, lifestyle, money, swagger, influence, and uncanny ability to discover new ways to bind men’s hearts to this earth.

 

Notes

[1] Junod, vol. 2, 428.

[2] From the first sentence of the first page of Olukuya, D. K., Power Must Change Hands. 2010, page 1 and throughout the book. See also Maimele, from the title and throughout the book; Masuka, T. P. from the second sentence of the book and throughout. In fact, the majority of books that I have seen by African pastors all are dominated by discussions of spirits.

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Hidden in the Past, Yet Now Revealed

The mystery of Christ, …in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Ephesians 3:4-5

I [Jesus] will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35

The church is a new covenant body (Eph. 3:1-5). The glorious truths of Ephesians 2:11-22 were not known in the Old Testament. Specifically, universal access to God through Christ—the genius of the church—was at best a shadow in the OT. The purpose of this article is to list some of the similarities and differences between the two bodies along with some practical consequences and interpretive guidelines. Failing to think carefully about this, many preachers try a verse on their congregation simply because it has a positive ring to it.

Similarities between the church and the nation of Israel

  1. They both worshipped Jehovah.
  2. They both were saved by grace alone through faith alone.
  3. They both loved God’s Word.
  4. They both were saved from a state of total depravity.
  5. They both held to a Christian worldview which includes the philosophical basis for a Christian culture.

Between these groups are the vital similarities that will make analogy not only possible, but highly profitable.

Differences between the church and the nation of Israel

  1. Israel was not in Christ, but believers are united to Christ (Eph. 1:1, et. al. Around 30 times in Paul’s epistles).
  2. The church is part of a New Covenant of life that God made with man (2 Cor. 3:6); Israel was part of a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:7).
  3. The law and prophets administrated Israel’s relationship with God (2 Cor. 3:7); the Holy Spirit administrates the church’s relationship with God (2 Cor. 3:8).
  4. Israel only had a shadow of the heavenly things (Heb. 8:5); but the church has a “more excellent ministry” and a “better covenant which has been enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
  5. Israel’s covenant was temporary because it became obsolete and grew old and disappeared (Heb. 8:13); the church however has a new, better Covenant (Heb. 8:6, 7, 8, 13).
  6. Israel had Moses and Aaron who served as the prophet and priest (Heb. 3:1-5; 7:11); but the church has Jesus Christ who serves these roles infinitely better (Heb. 7:24-27; 8:1-2)
  7. Israel did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in each believer; but all true Christians have the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
  8. Israel had specific laws directing the society and government but very little emphasis on the thoughts of the individual; Christians have very little emphasis on the society and government but specific laws directing the thoughts of the individual.
  9. Israel was bound together by ethnicity including bloodlines, language, and culture (Ezra 9:1-5; 10:1-5); the church is bound together by faith in Christ (Gal. 3:28).
  10. Israel circumcised only male descendants whether they wanted it or not (Gen. 17:10); the church baptizes all true believers (Mark 16:16).
  11. Israel’s citizens were in the nation unless they did something to take them out; the church’s members are out of the family unless they do something to get in.
  12. Israel’s punishments were largely temporal and so were their blessings; the church’s punishments are largely spiritual and eternal and so are their blessings.

Dangers in emphasizing the similarities

  1. People will be accepted as Christians the same way a next-door neighbor is accepted.
  2. The temporal blessings will be emphasized at the cost of emphasizing the spiritual blessings (See Eph. 1:3-14).
  3. Churches will begin to focus on societal change according to the laws of the OT rather than preaching the gospel according to the NT (the social gospel).
  4. Pastors will search the OT for a verse that they can easily twist for their purposes (eisegesis). This error can happen either way, but it is especially dangerous if we emphasize the similarities.
    • Deut. 28:13 The Lord will make you the head and not the tail,
    • Isa. 54:17 No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
    • Gen. 12:2-3 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse.

Rules for interpreting the OT

  1. Always search for the author’s original intent.
    • Who wrote this?
    • To whom did he write?
    • What was the specific issue being addressed?
    • What did the original readers think when they read it?
  2. Master the new covenant. Study the NT so well that you can immediately smell the wrong interpretations.
  3. Examine the context before and after that specific verse. Often the verses used by false teachers are clearly explained if the context were read.
  4. Preach fairly from all of God’s revelation. For example, Deut. 28:1-14 are the blessings, but the next 54 verses are terrifying judgments!
  5. Look for cross references in the NT that explain this verse.
  6. Remember that Scripture generally talks more about the differences between Israel and the church than the similarities.
  7. Find the Biblical analogy from OT Israel to the NT church.
    • Read the OT passage carefully in its context.
    • Pull out the major principles from the passage.
    • Apply that passage to the church in light of the NT teaching on that principle.

Pastors in poorer areas often gravitate around OT passages like planets around the sun. They are bees looking intently for the nectar of some earthly promise in the law or the prophets. Imitating their elder brothers from TV ministries, the people hear “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.” That supposedly means, witchcraft, failure, joblessness, and barrenness are about to be banished. “You shall be the head and not the tail” means that positions of comfort, power, and authority are coming to me. False teachers have an uncanny skill for discovering earthly comfort where no apostle ever saw it.

While these seven principles are a simple sketch of a solution, if pastors followed even them, whole trailers of sermonic rubbish would be stored safely in theological landfills. The discussion itself serves as proof that preachers should be instructed before they herald. They should be disciplined before they run. They need guidance lest ever more the blind lead the blind.

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Habitual Sin, Discernment, and the Use of Scripture

Jehoshaphat, the godly king, united with Ahab, the vile king of Israel. That same good king united with the next king after Ahab (Ahaziah), and then the next king after him (Jehoram). Each of the three kings of Israel were wicked, and the author of 1 and 2 Kings does tell us that. We should know then, that a good man should not make common cause with them. Yet only the author of 2 Chronicles explicitly records that Jehoshaphat’s unity was “wicked” (20:35), earlier we were told that God was angry because of his unity (19:2).

  1. Making common cause with sinners may raise God’s anger because it is wicked.
  2. Personality tends to make us susceptible to certain sins and blinded to them at the same time.
  3. Believers should have known without the explicit statement of Scripture in 2 Chronicles that Jehoshaphat sinned terribly.

 

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Mentally Lazy: The Fruit of African Charismaticism

African Pentecostalism Has Given Birth To A New Breed Of Mentally Lazy Christians Who See God As A Rewarder Of Mediocrity

Kay Musonda
1 April 2017 |

https://www.modernghana.com/news/765993/african-pentecostalism-has-given-birth-to-a-new-breed-of-men.html

Interesting article if you are undecided about the bad fruits of charismaticism.

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35 Reasons Men Should Be Leaders

Male leadership in the Creation account

  1. Adam was formed first. 2:7
  2. Adam was employed by God, not Eve. 2:15
  3. Adam received God’s commandment. 2:17
  4. Adam received a helper; he was not the helper. 2:18
  5. Adam named Eve. 2:23
  6. Adam is mentioned as the active agent in the new home. 2:24
  7. Adam is always mentioned first or he alone is mentioned. 2:25; 3:8, 22, 24
  8. Adam receives a heavier punishment than Eve. 3:17-19
  9. Adam names his wife again. 3:20

Male leadership in the OT

  1. God speaks much more about men and to men than women. Fathers are referenced 517 times in Scripture; mothers 9 times; men 1,652; women 188 times. Son 4,863; daughter 567.
  2. Scripture calls Jehovah the God of the patriarchs 17 times, but never the God of the matriarchs.
  3. All the priests were men.
  4. All the judges except one were men.
  5. All the kings were men.
  6. All the writers of Scripture were men.

Male leadership in the NT

  1. God is the Father.
  2. Jesus is the Son.
  3. The Holy Spirit is masculine. John 16:13
  4. All the angels are referred to as men including Satan. Rev. 12:7
  5. All the apostles were men.
  6. All the deacons and evangelists in the church were men.
  7. God forbids women from being pastors. 1 Tim. 2:11-14; 3:2
  8. Women are forbidden from speaking in tongues in the church. 1 Cor. 14:34
  9. Men are expected to be able to teach their wives. 1 Cor. 14:35
  10. Men bear responsibility for raising their children. Eph. 6:4
  11. Sin is passed through men, not women. Rom. 5:12
  12. The leadership and submission within the Trinity illustrates the leadership and submission within society. 1 Cor. 11:3
  13. The man is specifically called the head. 1 Cor. 11:3
  14. The Holy Spirit instructs women repeatedly to submit which implies that men must lead. Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6
  15. As men relate to their wives, they picture Christ’s relationship to the church. Eph. 5:32

Male leadership in history, biology, and psychology

  1. Men have usually been the leaders of society throughout all cultures and all time periods.
  2. Men have usually been the leaders of the church throughout all cultures over 2,000 years.
  3. Men are generally stronger physically.
  4. Motherhood usually discourages women from being leaders outside the influence they have on their children.
  5. Men usually have more ambition and willingness to take risks.

Conclusion

  • Both Scripture and nature reveal God created men to be the leaders in home, church, and society.

 

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50 Questions to Ask the Text

  1. Who is speaking?
  2. To whom is this verse written? (e.g. believers, pastors, Jews, etc.)
  3. Is this verse a question, answer, argument, or proposition?
  4. Is this verse part of a narrative, a poem, an epistle, a parable, or a prophecy?
  5. What ideas are being discussed in the verses just before this verse?
  6. What ideas are being discussed in the verses just after this verse?
  7. Does this verse start with a conjunction? How is it linked to the previous verses?
  8. What is happening in this book when this verse was written?
  9. What was happening in the Bible when this verse was written?
  10. How does this verse point toward the cross of Christ?
  11. How many people are mentioned in the verse?
  12. What are they doing?
  13. How many clauses are there?
  14. What are the subject and verb of each clause?
  15. What is the tense of the verbs?
  16. Are the verbs active or passive?
  17. Are there other verses that use the same or a similar verb?
  18. Are there any negatives? Are they universal or particular negatives?
  19. Are there any commands?
  20. Are there any good examples or bad examples?
  21. Who is doing the action?
  22. What are the adjectives and adverbs? What is being modified and how?
  23. Are there any pronouns? What are the antecedents?
  24. Are there any prepositional phrases? (e.g. of the man; in Christ; by grace)
  25. Are there any pictures or metaphors in the verse?
  26. Is this a common verse? Why or why not?
  27. What doctrines does this verse teach?
  28. Does this verse have any repeated words?
  29. What are the main words? Why did the author choose them rather than other words?
  30. Are there any difficult or disputed theological terms or concepts?
  31. Does this verse list results, consequences, reasons, attributes, or activities?
  32. Are there any contrasts or comparisons?
  33. Is this verse used anywhere else in the Bible?
  34. Is this verse quoting any other part of the Bible?
  35. Are there other verses that talk about this same thing or similar ideas?
  36. What did the original audience think when they heard this verse?
  37. Why did God put this verse in the Bible?
  38. What does this verse teach about man?
  39. What does this verse teach about God?
  40. What does this verse teach about salvation?
  41. What does this verse say about Jesus Christ?
  42. Are there good or bad examples that should remind us of Christ’s life and work?
  43. How does this verse divide into natural parts?
  44. How can this verse be summarized in one sentence?
  45. How can I use this verse to help myself or other people spiritually?
  46. What does this verse say to unbelievers?
  47. What does this verse say to believers?
  48. What does God want me to believe when I read this verse?
  49. What does God want me to do when I read this verse?
  50. What does God want me to feel when I read this verse?

Having practiced with these questions for some time, they have proved to be a helpful guide especially for those who do not know the original languages, do not have large libraries, and find time for ministry only after hours.

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