Saturday, January 5, 2008
Jer 5:22 (NIV) "Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?"
In Hebrew, yirah (Jon 1:16, Ps 90:11), yare (above, Mal 3:16) and pachad (Job 3:25a, Ps 119:120) mean reverent fear, terror, or dread, normally translated simply fear. There are other words in Hebrew for mere respect, reverence, or honor, such as kabad (Ex 20:12). In Greek fear/terror is phobo (Mat 28:4,1 Pet 2:17c), where reverence or honor is timao (1 Pet 2:17a/d).
With this distinction in both Hebrew and Greek, some still assert that "fear merely means reverence." As if God through His Spirit could not select the right word hundreds of times! Some would prefer to believe this than to understand that God really ought to be feared.
Why is it we will not accept the fear of God? Why do we try to "explain away" the fear of God in Scripture? What is it in our unconscious minds that creeps up when the Spirit leads us into the revelation of the fear of God?
Consider The Wizard Of Oz
The needy pilgrims are encouraged to follow a "yellow brick road", or is it a gold street (Rev 21:21)? In any case, it is a narrow path (Mt 7:14) with distractions aplenty, which finally leads to an Emerald City on a hill, complete with a gate keeper (popular Christian myth). All this to see the great and fearful Oz. Oz, of course, turns out to be a fake. The only real power is wielded by the witches, and once the endearing old Oz is dispatched in a balloon, the real battle begins between the good witches and bad witches. Hmmm...
Is The Wizard of Oz a harmless children's story, or a satire of Christianity? (Job 1:1) Consider the mockery of the praise songs, even the "needs" of the pilgrims (Mr 12:30). Even if Christians have lacked discernment, the world hasn't: Elton John sings, "Good-bye yellow brick road, where the dogs of society howl."; America sings, "Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin-man; that he didn't, didn't already have."
Small wonder we try to "explain away" the fear of God when we have such lies rattling around in our heads! Something deep within us says, "It's all an illusion." "Surely, behind the curtain over there, there must be a cute little man pulling levers to make all the smoke and flames." "If we really knew, we'd see that God is just a gentle con-man, who means well, but is really harmless."
Do we know the revealed God of Scripture, or do we believe in a God who is kind of like Oz? We must realize how effective Satan is at lying, and repent, or our knowledge of God will remain flawed. Will we fear God? We must take these thoughts captive with the weapons given us.
Destroying False Notions & Encountering God... Really
2 Cor 10:4-5 (TEB) The weapons we use in our fight... destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. [Isa 11:2-3]
2 Tim 3:16-17 (TEB) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instructions for right living, so that the man who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good work.
2 Cor 5:11 (NIV) Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men...
Ps 34:11 (NEB) Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Ps 89:7 (NIV) In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared.
Satan, The Bogey Man
Ps 76:4,7 (NIV) You [O God] are resplendent with light... You alone are to be feared.
If we fear anything other than God, we are deceived. God is the only thing in the universe worthy of fear. Satan, of course, would disagree and has made an industry out generating bogus fear. His weapons are horror movies, anxieties, worries, nightmares, phobias, panic attacks, demons, etc. Satan wants the fear due God. To be sure, Satan is truly a terrifying master to those under his care, but those "in Christ" have been purchased from his mastery and need not fear him any longer. Whenever it is in our power, we should cut off any access Satan has to our minds or hearts to plant bogus fear.
Isa 8:12-13 (NIV) ...Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
Mat 10:28 (NIV) [Jesus] "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Luke 12:4-5 (Jer) "To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear; fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."
Fear And Sovereignty
In Scripture and experience, the fear of God is closely linked to the revelation of His sovereignty.
Job 23:13-16 (NIV) "But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me."
Fear And Wisdom
Ps 111:10 (NEB) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and they who live by it grow in understanding...
Prov 9:10 (NEB) The first step to wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Fear And Sin
John 15:2 (TEB) "He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit."
2 Cor 7:1 (Jer) With promises like these made to us, dear brothers, let us wash off all that can soil either body or spirit, to reach perfection of holiness in the fear of God.
Prov 8:13 (NIV) To fear the Lord is to hate evil.
Fear And Repentance
Prov 16:6 (NEB) ...the fear of the Lord makes men turn from evil.
Job 28:28 (NEB) ..."The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to turn from evil is understanding."
Fear And Blessings
Ps 25:12-14 (NEB) If there is any man who fears the Lord, he shall be shown the path that he should choose; he shall enjoy lasting prosperity, and his children after him shall inherit the land. The Lord confides his purposes to those who fear him, and his covenant is theirs to know.
Prov 14:26-27 (NIV) He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
Ps 34:9 (NEB) Fear the Lord, all you his holy people; for those who fear him lack nothing.
Prov 19:23 (NEB) The fear of the Lord is life; he who is full of it will rest untouched by evil.
Fear And Punishment
Rom 11:22 (Phi) You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God.
One of the ways we fear God is to fear punishment. This kind of godly fear will taper off as we are perfected in love. But for now, the fear of God will keep us from evil.
1 Jn 3:2 (NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God...
Prov 22:15 (NIV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Prov 3:11-12 (NEB) My son, do not spurn the Lord's correction, or take offense at his reproof; for those who he loves the Lord reproves, and he punishes a favorite son.
Ps 23:4 (NIV) ...your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Fear And Love
The fear of the Lord may be the beginning of wisdom, but the end is love. Love is our hope, our goal, our sure destiny as believers. If we are obedient, we will get close to it while still in this world. In the meantime, we fear now, because none of us is yet without sin or perfect in love.
1 Jn 4:17-18 (Jer) Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgment without fear; because even in this world we become as he is. In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.
1 Pet 1:17 (RSV) And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
Ps 118:4 (NIV) Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever."
The Wrong Kind Of Fear: Shrinking Back
"Too good to be true," we say. This saying illuminates a deep human wound, for we have been burned by every one of our false gods and false loves and false hopes, or soon will be. Since everything else but God really is a sham, our instincts have been trained into suspicion. We hold back, we hedge, we plot our retreat, we lower our expectations. So when we encounter God--who alone is worthy of our trust--we shrink back in the one moment, with the one person, in the one hope that we should abandon ourselves to. Indeed, our wound is serious. Who will heal us?
The Terrifying Love Of God
Phil 2:12-13 (NIV) ...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
We should not fear that God will let us down, or that He is not faithful, or just, or forgiving. In fact, His intense determination to make us holy (so that we can be with Him forever) is cause for the right kind of godly fear: that He will NOT quit sanctifying us when, in our opinion, we are good enough. God is the ultimate perfectionist, and He will get what He wants. And if that is us, it is fearful to realize just how far He will go. He is the potter, and He intends vessels of holiness. No, we need not fear that God will fail us or give up on us, but rather that He is indeed faithful to finish what He has started.
Heb 10:31 (KJV) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
To Encounter The Living God, Then And Now
Heb 12:18-24 (Phi) You have not had to approach things which your senses could experience as they did in the old days--flaming fire, black darkness, rushing wind and out of it a trumpet-blast, a voice speaking human words. So terrible was that voice that those who heard it begged and prayed that it might say no more. For what it had already commanded was more than they could bear... So fearful was the spectacle that Moses cried out, "I am terrified and tremble!" No... You have drawn near to God, the judge of all, to the souls of good men made perfect, and to Jesus, mediator of a new agreement, to that cleansing blood which tells a better story than the blood of Abel.
Heb 12:25-29 (Phi) So be sure you do not refuse to hear the voice that speaks. For if they who refused to hear those who spoke to them on earth did not escape, how little chance of escape is there for us if we refuse to hear the One who speaks from Heaven. Then his voice shook the earth, but now he promises: "Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven." This means that in this final "shaking" all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely "made", and only the unshakable things will remain. Since then, we have been given a kingdom that is "unshakable", let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our God is a burning fire.
Ps 19:9 (NIV) The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
Mike Yaconelli: "We have defanged the tiger of truth. We have tamed the lion... The tragedy of modern faith is that we no longer are capable of being terrified."
Acts 5:13 (NIV) No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Mike Yaconelli: "I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, "Fear not"; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or a doctrine or theology, it is God's burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God's presence except us. Nothing--including our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs.
"Our world is... longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender... and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, 'I love you.'"
Friday, January 4, 2008
New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies
P.O. BOX 342, Camden, NJ 08101
CORRESPONDENCE SCHOOL OF BIBLICAL STUDIES
ACCELERATED BIBLICAL TRAINING SERIES
The Correspondence School of Ministry is a new spiritual, educational training track of the New Jersey Institute of Theological Studies. This condensed, correspondence format will allow many of the basic courses of NJITS to be offered in a time frame better suited to the demands and time constraints of busy adults; particularly many of whom are already actively involved in ministry.
The Correspondence Manual is to be read and the test at the end of the lesson book is to be taken and mailed back to the School for grading. The test can be taken with an open Bible. Some answers to the questions are NOT found in the manual but require the taker to study the scriptures for the answer.
The goal of this course is to challenge the student to study the Word with intensity and diligence. There will be other study books coming out in the near future.
Affordable and bible based
Practical, anointed, and insightful spiritual training at an extremely reasonable amount.
• The total cost for the manual and the certificate after completion is only $50.00
The Necessity of Doctrine
The words "doctrine" and "doctrinal" have become pejorative terms for many — like indoctrinate or dogma. Even many evangelical Christians, who do affirm certain doctrines, pay little attention to doctrine beyond a certain minimum.
Of the many objections to Christian doctrine, five may be singled out as especially influential. Doctrine is often said to be
The importance of doctrine can best be shown by presenting positive answers to these charges.
The Relevance of Doctrine
In popular thought doctrine has to do with insignificant matters that are irrelevant to most people. Although doctrine can be trivialized, Christian doctrine is extremely relevant to all people. Christian doctrine (i.e., the teachings of Scripture) answers the fundamental questions of life -- questions such as who God is, who we are, and why we are here (Ps. 8:3-8; Heb. 11:6). How we answer these questions decisively shapes the way we live. To ignore them is to go through life blithely unaware of what is really important.
Doctrine is particularly important because a sound proclamation of the gospel of salvation depends on an accurate understanding of what that gospel is, what salvation is, and how salvation is received (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:16). Nothing less than our eternal future depends on it. I do not mean to imply that we must all become theologians and experts on every fine point of doctrine to be saved. But the church as a whole must take great care that it faithfully proclaims the true gospel, and every Christian has a stake in the matter. I will have more to say on this point a little later.
It is true that some doctrinal issues are less important than others. One of the most crucial functions of Christian theology, and one of the most neglected, is to sort out the really important — the essential — from the less important and even the irrelevant (cf. Rom. 14).
Thus, handled properly, doctrine is very relevant to human life, and pursuit of sound doctrine should therefore be the concern of every person at least to some extent.
The Practicality of Doctrine
It is common in our day to assert that practice is more important than theory — that orthopraxis (doing right) is more important than orthodoxy (believing right). But this assertion is itself a theory — something people think and then say, and then try to put into practice. The fact is that what we think determines what we do. Thus, doctrine — as something we think — affects what we do, and so has practical significance.
It should be recognized, of course, that the practical effects of doctrine have limits. Doctrine does not always or solely determine our actions, since people often act on desires or concerns contrary to the doctrines they hold. For example, someone may believe as doctrine that lying is wrong, but selfish or prideful thoughts may take precedence over doctrinal convictions and lead the person to lie. The practicality of doctrine is found not in determining our practice, but in informing it — in giving us the knowledge with which, by God's grace, we can do the right thing.
The point is that we should regard both knowledge and practice as important. Ultimately, what is important is that a person truly live in obedient fellowship with God and experience His love; in that sense, of course practice is more important than doctrine. But God Himself has made it clear that He uses doctrine to further that practical goal in our lives (1 Tim. 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).
The practical importance of Christian doctrine, then, is great indeed. Doctrine enables us to develop a realistic view of the world and of ourselves, without which we are doomed to ineffectual living (Matt. 22:23-33; Rom. 12:3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Doctrine can protect us from believing falsehoods which upset people's faith or lead to destructive behavior (1 Tim. 4:1-6; 2 Tim. 2:18; Tit. 1:11). Doctrine also prepares us to minister to others (Eph. 4:11-12).
The Unity of Doctrine
Perhaps the most common criticism people voice about doctrine is that it divides people. And indeed, doctrine — in the history of Christianity as in other religions — has often been allowed to divide people in reprehensible ways. But in a crucial sense doctrine is intended to unite people.
While it is true that doctrine inevitably divides people, this is not something that can be avoided. People think different things, and they do different things on the basis of their differing beliefs. What is undesirable, however, is that doctrine should divide people who ought to be together, or that divisions should be expressed in wrong ways. That is, doctrine should not divide faithful Christians from one another, preventing them from having fellowship together. Nor should doctrine lead people to hate or mistreat people who hold different doctrines than they do.
The Bible commands Christians to divide themselves from false teachers or heretics on the basis of doctrinal factors (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9-11). In doing so, they are to stand together in unity against heresy (Eph. 4:12-13). Thus, taking a stand against heresy can promote genuine Christian unity.
As Christians mature together in their understanding of biblical doctrine, they become more united as their thinking becomes shaped more and more along the same lines (1 Cor. 1:10). Moreover, a balanced understanding of doctrine can help Christians divided by doctrinal differences to be reconciled as they learn which points are minor or unsound and which are not (1 Tim. 6:3-5;Tit. 1:9-14). It turns out that shallow understanding of doctrine easily promotes disunity among Christians, while deepening understanding of doctrine tends to foster greater Christian unity.
The Spirituality of Doctrine
Although some people regard the pursuit of doctrinal accuracy as an unspiritual intellectualism, sound doctrine is actually very important to sound spirituality. Christian doctrine teaches us about God, His purposes and will for our lives, what we are like spiritually apart from God's grace, how God's grace changes us — in short, everything we need to know in order to pursue true spirituality (Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:5, 10; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Doctrine provides external, objective controls for our inward, subjective experiences so that we may discern genuine spirituality from fraudulent, artificial, or even demonic spirituality (Col. 2:22-23; 1 John 4:1-3).
In pursuing an accurate understanding of Christian doctrine, we are fulfilling one aspect of God's greatest commandment — that we love God with all our _minds_ (Matt. 22:37). This commandment surely implies that we should take great care and make every effort to conform our beliefs and convictions to the truth (cf. Rom. 12:2) — and this means doctrine.
Something should also be said here about the relationship between doctrinal discernment and spiritual discernment. In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks more than once about spiritual discernment. The spiritual person discerns all things, including the things of the Spirit of God, which can only be discerned spiritually (1 Cor. 2:14-15). The members of the congregation were to exercise discernment concerning the prophecies that were delivered in the church (1 Cor. 14:29). And some Christians are specially gifted to discern evil spirits from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10). On the basis of these and other passages, some Christians have thought that discernment never has anything to do with the exercise of the intellect. In their view, one discerns between good and evil in doctrinal as well as practical matters simply by listening to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.
By no means do I wish to disparage the work of the Holy Spirit in giving Christians discernment. Certainly all Christians must depend on the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds that they may clearly see the difference between good and evil, truth and error. And many Christians who are ill-equipped to study doctrine in depth are remarkably discerning.
It would be a mistake, however, to pit spiritual discernment against doctrinal discernment. For one thing, the view that discernment is purely spiritual is itself a doctrine. Moreover, such a sharp separation of doctrine and spirituality assumes a dichotomy between the mind and the human spirit. Since this assumption is also a doctrine, the whole argument is self-defeating. There are also biblical reasons to reject a dichotomy of mind and spirit (which I will not elaborate here).
For another thing, the Bible also encourages Christians to use their knowledge of Christian doctrine in discerning truth from error and good from evil. The classic example of this is 1 John 4:1-3, where John commands us not to believe everyone claiming to be speaking by God's Spirit, but instead to apply a doctrinal test (belief in the full humanity of Jesus Christ) to those making such claims. Similarly, in 2 John 9 we are told to watch ourselves and not be deceived by anyone who "does not remain in the doctrine of Christ." In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only speaks of spiritual discernment but also presents doctrinal arguments in answer to the heretical belief that "there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
Rather than pitting spiritual and doctrinal discernment against one another, we should see them as two sides or aspects of the same activity. True spirituality includes a submission of the mind to the teachings of the Bible, and sound doctrine includes the belief that our knowledge of the truth is dependent on the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Thus in true discernment at its best, the whole Christian draws upon his God-given knowledge of biblical doctrine in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
The Knowability of Doctrine
Some people avoid studying Christian doctrine because they are convinced it is too difficult or complex to grasp. While small children, the mentally retarded, and certain others may be admitted to be incapable of understanding doctrinal matters, the vast majority of adults — young and old — are able to understand much more than they have bothered to learn. Every individual is responsible to acquire doctrinal knowledge as their mental faculties, educational level, and opportunities allow.
Scripture commands all Christians to learn doctrine. Generally, removable spiritual impediments — not irremovable intellectual ones — prevent Christians from advancing in doctrinal understanding (Heb. 5:11-14). Christ has given teachers to the church to assist believers in learning doctrine (Eph. 4:11). Obviously such teachers must master doctrine on a level beyond most other Christians, but they do so for the purpose of imparting as much truth as possible to the rest of the members of the body of Christ.
Sound doctrine is difficult enough to require honesty and discipline, yet easy enough that — with the exceptions mentioned previously — all who seek God's grace and commit themselves to the task can learn it (2 Pet. 3:16-18).
Doctrine and Salvation
In discussing the relevance of doctrine, I mentioned that a person's salvation can depend to some extent on doctrinal understanding. Since this point is so often contested in our day, it deserves closer attention.
Almost everybody who acknowledges Jesus Christ in some way will agree that those who completely and explicitly reject Jesus Christ are lost. Many people find it difficult, however, to believe that some might sincerely think themselves to be following Jesus Christ and yet, due to heretical belief, be lost. Jesus Himself promised, "Seek, and you shall find" (Matt. 7:7); should not those who seek for Christ find Him? And do not many sincere members of groups which evangelicals label heretical truly want to find Christ? They may read the Bible more studiously than many an evangelical church member; they may express an ardent desire to know God and obey Him; they may zealously proclaim the message of Christ as they have been taught it. Are they not, therefore, seeking Christ, and will they not, then, in accordance with His promise, find Christ? And if so, how can salvation depend on doctrinal beliefs?
These questions may be answered by keeping the following biblical principles in mind.
Not everyone who acknowledges Jesus as Lord will be saved. This follows directly from Jesus' own words in Matthew 7:21: Simply acknowledging that Jesus is Lord does not guarantee a person's salvation. The acknowledgment might be mere lip service, as demonstrated by refusal to obey Him as Lord (Luke 6:46). Or someone might call Jesus "Lord" and not mean the same thing as what the Bible means by it. This leads me to a second principle.
Many who claim to acknowledge Jesus actually believe in "another Jesus," and are either deceived or deceiving. This follows directly from 2 Corinthians 11:4. Many who speak of faith in "Jesus" have an understanding of who and what Jesus is that differs so much from reality that in truth they do not have faith in the real Jesus at all. If a person thought Buddha was another name for Moses, we would not normally consider him a Buddhist, no matter how piously and moralistically he lived out his belief in "Buddha. " Similarly, someone who denies the biblical view of Christ should not be identified as a Christian, no matter how religiously he follows his belief.
Some people who believe in "another Jesus" are no doubt insincere, and Paul warns of "deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13). I like to think the best of people, even people with whom I have serious disagreements. But I have become acquainted with a few persons about whom I have had to conclude, reluctantly, that they are simply liars. These people know on a conscious level that the message they proclaim is false.
On the other hand, some people, even members of Christian churches, can be "led astray" (2 Cor. 11:3b) by such deceivers. Thus, it is possible for sincere people, even people who were part of the fellowship of true Christians, to be deceived into following "another Jesus." Not that such people are perfectly innocent — rather, they are like Eve who, though deceived by the serpent (2 Cor. 11:3a), was guilty of sin and held accountable by God (Gen. 3:1-6, 13-16).
Those who are zealous in religious matters are not necessarily saved. In Romans 10:2 Paul says of his Jewish brethren who rejected Jesus, "They have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge." Zeal, of course, implies sincerity — that is, the mental state of believing that what one is promoting is based on truth. The Jews who rejected Jesus were for the most part zealous, and therefore sincere in this sense — but they were still lost (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1). Their zeal was, in particular, for a right standing with God — but they sought it on the basis of their own works, as if salvation was by works, rather than receiving the righteousness which was available in Christ through faith (Rom. 9:30-10:4).
Matthew 23:15 addresses zeal of another kind — zeal in seeking converts. The Pharisees were extremely zealous in missionary work, but all they succeeded in doing was leading more people into their error. Zeal in witnessing or evangelizing does not indicate that a religious group is God's people.
No human being truly seeks for God unless God's Spirit draws that person; therefore, those that appear to seek for God but do not come in God's way are not seeking for God at all. In Romans 3:11 Paul quotes Psalm 14:2 to the effect that "there is none who seeks for God." Sin has so perverted the desires of all human beings that none of us, by our own natural wishes, is looking for God. This is because "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Rom. 8:7). Of course, some people do seek for God, otherwise God would not call upon us to seek Him (Isa. 55:6, etc.). But when people seek God, it is only because God has first "sought" them and drawn them toward Him by His grace (Luke 19:10; John 6:44; 15:16).
When people therefore appear to be "seeking God" — when they study the Bible (2 Pet. 3:16), attend meetings, pray, change their lifestyles, attempt to obey the commandments, even speak of their love for God and Christ — yet persist in worshipping a false God, or honoring a false Christ, or following a false gospel (Gal. 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 11:4), we must conclude that they were not really seeking God. Rather, they may have been seeking spiritual power, or security, or peace of mind, or warm relationships, or knowledge, or excitement, or anything other than simply God. And in saying this, I am not claiming that all genuine Christians on the other hand have sought purely and simply after God. No, our testimony as Christians must be that we were also following our own divergent path when God sought us, stopped us in our way, and led us up a new and narrow path leading to salvation in Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:13).
Anyone who truly desires to know the truth about God and His way of salvation above all else can and will be saved. This is the other side of the coin from the previous point. Jesus promised that "the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37). However, we must come to the true Jesus on His terms. Judas came to the true Jesus, at least outwardly (actually, Judas did not know who Jesus really was), but he did not come on Jesus' terms and was consequently lost (John 17:12). The cost of abandoning heresy is usually great — the loss of friends, the embarrassment of admitting error, the threat of the heretical teachers that all who leave their teaching will be lost. But salvation is available for anyone who by God's grace puts truth (and the One who is truth) above these things.
Just what is a "church?" Strong’s Greek Dictionary, #1570. ekklesia, a calling out. (1b) Ekklesia, from ek, "out of," and klesis, "a calling…" So the church is those whom God has CALLED OUT to be His "called out ones," hence, Jesus said, "So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last [sorry, don’t have time to explain this unique statement of our Lord]: for many be called, but few chosen." I will take the time to explain this second statement, however.
Notice that the "called" and the "chosen" cannot be the same group, as one is "many" and the other is "few." God has given us a general statement as to whom He has called and whom He has not called. We already know the number of those called is "many." Now we will see the two general classifications of those called:
THE "CALLED" AND THE "NOT CALLED"
"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many [some, but not many] wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things [many translations do not insert the word "things" in these verses] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Cor. 1:26-29).
So we see that God calls MOSTLY those who are: weak, base, despised, nothings! Are we to believe that God is going to build a SPIRITUAL ARMY of Sons and Daughters by which He will conquer and SAVE THE WORLD?
Hard to believe, isn’t it? I think we can all agree that there is a great deal of work to be done with and to these "nothings of the world" whom God is calling to such a formidable, once-in-an-eternity task!
But of the "many called," we are told, "few are chosen" (Matt. 20:16). Why is that? God has intended it to be such. We are given the parable of the "sower of seed" where much of the seed fell by the side of the tilled soil, and the birds ate it; some had no depth and withered in the sun; still more fell among thorns and were chocked, but some fell upon good soil and produced much fruit. Many seed are sown, but few seed produce good fruit. "Seed" we see everywhere in the Church; "fruit" of God’s spirit is more rare. These few have the added designation of:
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14).
These are the "very elect" who cannot be deceived any longer by the Great Whore, "Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, and the Abominations of the earth."
One more important verse regarding our calling, that I will cite out of the Concordant Literal New Testament because I believe they translate the Greek aorist tense properly, whereas the King James uses the past tense:
"Now we are aware that GOD [it is unfortunate that the King James leaves out "God" even though it is in the manuscripts. Most translations do put "God" in this opening phrase. Things don’t just ‘work’ together without GOD doing the ‘working’] is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are [being] called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls [not ‘called’ as all are NOT YET called, it is the aorist tense] also, and whom He calls, these He justifies, also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also" (Rom. 8:28:30).
Now, pay attention: All which God foreknew, He then designates beforehand (He hand-picks them, if you will). And therefore, since He has already designated them beforehand, when they are born in whatever generation God designates; He then calls them. Now it is true that God calls MANY OTHERS whom He has NOT designated to be "conformed to the image of His Son" AT THE TIME that each generation appears in history.
There are many more "called" in each generation than are actually, "chosen" to be conformed to the image of His Son at that time.
All that are not chosen will be in the second resurrection/white throne judgment/lake of fire. These will go the "broad way into destruction" from which they will await judgment at the great white throne. But, those which God foreknows and designates beforehand, He definitely does call, but these designated ones GO ON to be JUSTIFIED AND GLORIFIED. They are not just the "called," but the "called AND CHOSEN" which will go on to glorification in service with Christ, as the manifested Sons and Daughters of God, in the Kingdom of God, to bring the rest of heaven and earth to SALVATION!
When Jesus says that,
"Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord… Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity" (Matt. 722-23),
He is not speaking of a minority but a majority. The "many" NEVER means the minority!
We will see it conclusively proved from God’s Word that the majority in the Church today are going the "broad way," and not the "straight and narrow way." And I am not just preaching to the choir when I say that only a "FEW" will be in the first resurrection and rule and reign with Christ, I am speaking to all the church and to myself as well. I know these aren’t the "soft" words that tickle people’s ears, but what I am telling you is a "hard saying" of the Scripture that is absolutely true. Jesus Christ Himself said that "THE MANY" must "DEPART from Me." Jesus doesn’t "know" the many, in a spiritual relationship, because they are too carnal to be spiritual.
ARE YOU "CALLED AND CHOSEN" OR JUST "CALLED?"
Let me first state that there is an order in the process of being called to Sonship. First you are called, and then you are chosen from among the called. And we have already learned that the "chosen" are also the "few." Quite frankly, not unlike a casting call. Many are called to come to the casting rehearsal, but only a relative few will be chosen for the actual performance. Which are you? I will not be your personal judge, however, as we progress in this series, you will be confronted with dozens of Scriptures by which you can JUDGE YOURSELF by the aid of God’s Spirit.
THE CHURCH OF GOD FROM OUR COMMON ERA—YEAR "0" A.D.
Actually there never was a year "0"—there was "1" B.C. and "1" A.D., but no one apparently ever thought of a year "0" for the starting point of our Common Era (anno Domini, The Year of Our Lord). But then again, Jesus was not born on what would have been year zero anyway, do to the fact that Jesus was born a few years BEFORE our A.D. or Common Era which means Christ was born B.C. or (BEFORE Christ). (My friend, the late Dr. Ernest Martin, wrote a book entitled The Birth of Christ Recalculated, which will straighten this all out for your). But, anyway, as our Lord was growing up in His father’s carpentry shop, there already existed a Church of God in Judea, headquartered at the temple in Jerusalem.
The church headquarters in the wilderness was a portable Tabernacle. When they settled the promised land, it was given to Solomon to build a fabulous permanent temple in Jerusalem. It went through various reconstructions, one of which was by king Herod. It was Herod’s temple that existed at the time of Jesus’ ministry. And as we have already clearly seen, Jesus Christ did not speak many kind words toward the leaders of the church of God headquartered in Herod’s temple, in Jerusalem, in the first century AD.
JESUS GOES TO CHURCH
Perhaps you never thought of Jesus going to Church, but He did. The first time that something is mentioned in Scripture, it is often very instructive. Although it was the habit of Jesus to attend local synagogues during His life, the first time the Scriptures mention Jesus going to the temple as a adult is in Matt. 21:12:
"And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the House of Prayer? But ye have made it a DEN OF THIEVES [Gk: ‘burglars’ cave’].’ And the SCRIBES and CHIEF PRIESTS heard it, and sought how they might DESTROY HIM: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mark 11:15-18).
What a revelation of the church of God we have in these three verses!
Jesus was so angry with the leaders at the temple for turning it into a money-making flea market, that he:
"cast out them that sold and bought in the temple"
"overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and seats of them that sold doves"
"suffered no one to carry vessels [of merchandise] through the temple"
Jesus said that they "made the House of Prayer a DEN OF THIEVES"!
Say, did you notice that they were buying and selling "…in the Temple?" Do you think that just maybe this has anything to do with the fact that,
"…NO MAN might BUY OR SELL, save he that had the MARK OR THE NAME OF THE BEAST, or the NUMBER OF HIS NAME" (Rev. 13:17)?
We will cover the Mark of the Beast in a later installment.
But this is all ancient history, isn’t it? The modern Church of God has not been turned into a "den of thieves" has it? Were the High priests and Scribes, going against the law of either their own religious beliefs or of Rome? No. No, they weren’t. So they were not "thieves" according to the Church or the Roman government. But were they thieves, nonetheless? Yes, they were, Jesus Christ SAID THEY WERE THIEVES, a whole "DEN OF THIEVES"!
At least the modern Church of God is not a "den of thieves," is it? I’m sure not all; you can be the judge:
One of the major factors in the Reformation was the disdain over the practice of the Church selling INDULGENCES. The American Heritage College Dictionary, "indulgence n. 6. Roman Catholic Church The remission of temporal punishment still due for a sin that has been sacramentally absolved."
Make no mistake about it:
"For the love of money is the [Gk. ‘a’] root of all evil" (I Tim. 6:10).
Before the Reformation, it was thought by some that one could practically "buy" one’s salvation.
Jesus "CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple." Is there, "buying and selling" going on in the Church today? Excuse me…does a cat have a tail?
Now don’t think that I am against money. Jesus Himself used money in his ministry (but he never sold in the temple, neither did He ever collect a penny in tithe money).
I couldn’t count the number of e-mails I have received in response to my article on tithing being unscriptural under the new covenant, in which they ask how they should pay their church utility bill if the people don’t tithe? I tell them to pay it with a check backed by money in the bank. All those interested in paying the utility bill should contribute voluntary offerings of money for that expense. This is not difficult. But no one under the New Covenant is obligated by law or conscience to pay ten percent of their salaries to a church! People under the Old Covenant, likewise, were not under law to pay ten percent of their salaries to the Levites. And, Yes, they did have money back then.
UNSCRUPULOUS PEDDLERS OF GOD’S WORD
After Jesus THREW OUT those who "bought and sold" in the temple, did they ever return? Not only did they return to the temple after Christ’s resurrection, but they also came into the very Church, which Jesus said HE WOULD BUILD. The whole temple system in Jerusalem was so utterly corrupt that they corrupted the people of Jerusalem and Judea as well.
In and around 70 AD the armies of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and there was an awful slaughter. You can read of these horrible events in the writings of Josephus. But even before the temple with its corrupt religious system was demolished, it had already spread its ugly tentacles into the Church which Jesus built.
A QUICK HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BEFORE REVELATION
Jesus Christ said,
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a movable stone], and upon this rock [Christ, the immovable boulder] I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell [Greek: hades, the unseen realm of the dead] shall NOT prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
What did Jesus mean that the "gates of hades would not prevail against it?" This word "prevail" was translated from the Greek word katischuo and it means, "to overpower." It is used but one other time in Scripture and here we shall see exactly what this word means:
"And they [the chief priests] were instant with loud voices, requiring that He [Jesus] might be crucified. And the voices of them of the chief priests prevailed… And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they CRUCIFIED Him…" (Luke 23:23 & 33).
The chief priests "prevailed" [katischuo] by putting Jesus Christ TO DEATH. But Jesus said that the "gates of hades [realm of the DEAD] will not prevail [katischuo] against it." In other words, His Church would NEVER be overpowered to death.
And so, the Church that Jesus Christ built is still around today.
On Pentecost, Jesus Christ came back to His disciples just as He said He would. He came back as the Comforter. Jesus said that they absolutely could NOT receive the Comforter until He went away. Why? Because Jesus Christ IS THE COMFORTER, but not in the flesh, but in THE SPIRIT!
It was on Pentecost that the first members of the Church of Christ received the Holy Spirit Comforter, just as He symbolized to them when He blew on them, showing that He Himself would come to them in spirit by the will of God. Now for the first time, His disciples were truly converted, baptized in Holy Spirit, possessing the mind of Christ, lead into all Truth (Jesus) by the Comforter—Jesus was NOW BUILDING HIS CHURCH!
"But the Comforter [Greek, parakletos, also called the Consoler, and in I John 2:1, Advocate in KJV, and Entreater in the CLNT] which IS the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
The Advocate or Entreater in I John 2:1 IS the parakletos, The Comforter or Consoler of John 14:26 IS the parakletos,. and we are told that it is Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, the "Holy Spirit" that is said to come AS the Comforter is also Jesus Christ,
"Now the Lord IS that Spirit: and where the Spirit OF THE Lord [Jesus Christ] is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17
THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST GROWS
The next mention of the Church that Christ said He would build is found in Acts 2:46-47:
"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord ADDED to the church DAILY [3000 in one day, Ver. 41] such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-47).
PERSECUTION COMES QUICKLY
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:11).
Those are the words of Paul, and he should know, HE WAS THE CHURCH’S BIGGEST PERSECUTOR!
"And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was A GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem, and they were ALL scattered abroad through the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).
And just who was behind this persecuting of the Church of God? Answer: The other Church of God that was also headquartered in Jerusalem!!!
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord [that would be Christ’s Church], went unto the HIGH PRIEST [of the OTHER Church of God, in the TEMPLE—remember back in Acts 2:46 where the Church of Christ was ‘continuing daily with one accord?’ Yes, that temple!]
And [Saul] desired of him LETTERS [letters of authorization from the highest level of God’s Church—the HIGH PRIEST] to Damascus…"
Letters for the purpose of continuing his persecution and slaughter of Christ’s New Church. I told you it is not pretty picture.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his OWN HOUSEHOLD" (Matt. 10:34-36).
Do you think that maybe a man’s foes could even be of his OWN CHURCH?
But Jesus Christ, being the Masterful Genius of EVERYTHING THAT HE DOES, chose His GREATEST ENEMY (Saul), to become His GREATEST APOSTLE (Paul), and to save time, He converted Paul in about two-and-a-half seconds. ONE FLASH OF BLINDING LIGHT! And today’s Church doesn’t think that Jesus can convert such mediocre persecutors such as Hitler in a trillion centuries. Just wait until Jesus puts him UNDER THE LIGHT! I don’t think he will last two-and-a-half seconds.
How then, after getting rid of the greatest sinner and persecutor and turning him into a great apostle, does the church fare?
THE APOSTLE TO ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS
"But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE" (Acts 9:15-16).
"Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that HE IS THE SON OF GOD. But they were all AMAZED… But Saul increased the more in strength and CONFOUNDED the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, PROVING THAT THIS IS THE VERY CHRIST" (Acts 9:19-22).
PAUL’S TWENTY-FIVE YEAR GOSPEL TOUR
Paul taught BOLDLY in the synagogues of the Jews:
From Damascus, going in and coming out of Jerusalem, down to Caesarea, to Tarsus, throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, to Antioch, unto Seleucia, to Cyprus, at Salamis, the isle, unto Paphos, to Perga in Pamphylia, to Antioch in Pisidia, unto Iconium, unto Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about, Pisidia, to Pamphylia, Perga, into Attalia, and back to Antioch, and up to Jerusalem again, then back to Antioch, through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra, Iconium, throughout Phyrgia, the region of Galatia, to Mysia, into Macedonia, from Troas, to Samothracia, to Neapolis, to Philippi, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica, at Berea, unto Athens, to Corinth.
"Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I WILL GO UNTO THE GENTILES" (Acts 18:6).
"And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and MANY of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have MUCH PEOPLE in this city. And he continued there a year and six months…" (Acts 18:8-10).
Paul continues teaching among the Gentiles, Sailing into Syria, to Ephesus, at Caesarea, down to Antioch, over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, to Achaia, back to Ephesus, and all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought SPECIAL MIRALCES BY THE HANDS OF PAUL. Paul called unto him the disciples [in Ephesus], and departed for to go into Macedonia, and when he had gone over those parts, he came into Greece, into Asia, Troas, from Philippi, to Troas, unto Assos, to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, Miletus, unto Coos, unto Rhodes, unto Patara, Phenicia, Cyprus, into Syria,Tyre, to Ptolemais, unto Caesarea where Paul said, ‘for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus, and after those days he went up to Jerusalem, for the last time.
It is not my purpose to freighten anyone or to discourage anyone. Neither do I wish to white-wash the difficulties in walking the walk of faith with our Lord. Hopefully we will not all have to endure everything that the Apostle Paul endured, but rest assured, that if you begin your walk with Christ in earnest, you will have to endure considerable hardships and persecutions.
"Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).
But always remember that there is a promise attached to this suffering:
"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also REIGN WITH HIM…" (II Tim. 2:11-12).
"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
And this tribulation comes with a promise also:
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord DELIVERS HIM OUT OF THEM ALL" (Psalm 34:19).
Twenty-five years Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well did Paul say,
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal. 6:17).
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches" (II Cor. 11:23-28).
Remember that Paul was "chief [preeminent] of sinners." God predetermined that Paul was to suffer much, and many things for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul never complained. He rejoiced in his weakness because that is when God used him mightily.
Paul knew that much of his labor in the gospel would fail to bring most of the saints to spiritual maturity. Paul came out of the Great Whore Church, the Mother Church of Judaism. Paul knew that the Church of Jesus Christ would likewise become corrupted and commit spiritual fornication with the world. And so, just as Paul came out of religious Babylon, everyone reared in the daughter harlot churches, must likewise, "Come out of her My people."
The New Testament and Healing
The Bible makes it clear that God has the power to heal any affliction. He sometimes exercises that prerogative in answer to prayer. But are the “healing services” so common today the proper method to obtain cures from God? Must one go to a “healer” in order for Christ to perform His power? Is healing found in the Atonement that Christ secured for the world? These are important questions this article attempts to answer.
All of us have experienced some form of sickness in our lives and many of us are presently in some kind of affliction. Illness is something that we see all around us, it seems to be universal, and it is responsible for a great deal of suffering and misery. None of us wants to experience sickness. We avoid it when possible, and when we become ill we often try to eliminate it at all costs. Vast sums of money are spent to maintain or to regain health.
Good health is one of the most precious assets any person or family can have. Christ said He came to give us life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). A major factor in having that abundant life is good health. The apostle John told his friend Gaius: “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health” (3 John 2). Most of us wish the same thing for ourselves, our families, our friends, and indeed, even for the whole world!
Right now sickness seems rampant! Medical science and good health practices are able to control it to a certain extent, but in the long run illness wins out because all of us eventually die (Hebrews 9:27), and this is a result of affliction. Some preachers, however, say that sickness and death are the result of people sinning. This may be true in some cases, but animals also get sick and die, and none of them “sin.”
Even Christians who have had all their sins forgiven (according to plain teaching of the New Testament) are often no better off health-wise, or sometimes are worse, than those who give no heed to God. This may be difficult for Christians to accept, but wise king Solomon noted this anomaly back in his time.
“There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: I said that this is vanity.”
• Ecclesiastes 8:14
Solomon found it difficult to understand why sometimes the wicked prospered and were in health while the righteous were often poor and afflicted. Solomon’s appraisal was not only for the Old Testament period. Christ Himself, who informed His apostles that they could petition Him for whatever they wished and it would be bestowed — John 16:23–24, also said: “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).
There was no ordinary human more righteous from God’s point of view than the apostle Paul, but even he suffered from “a thorn in the flesh” which caused him infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). There was one particular “infirmity of the flesh” which afflicted Paul and gave him a great deal of pain and embarrassment (Galatians 4:13–15). Not only that, Paul left one of his dearest friends and colleagues sick in the region of Miletum (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul was unable to see him healed and carry on with him to Rome.
More important to the issue than anything else, Christ Jesus Himself was “a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” in body composition. In no way does the Bible show Christ as strong and robust in a physical way while on earth. He was “acquainted with grief [sickness]” and “we did esteem him stricken [plagued], smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3–4). Christ appeared sickly as Isaiah 53 plainly teaches.
Should anyone mistakenly think those sicknesses and afflictions of Isaiah 53 were experienced by Christ only while He was on the tree dying for our sins, remember that the New Testament said those illnesses were being borne by Christ throughout His ministry (Matthew 8:16–17). The fact is, when Christ appeared on earth He seemed to be in need of a physician Himself. He was one struggling to maintain health — “a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” No wonder that many of His critics cried out to Him, even though He was able to heal many people Himself: “Physician, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23).
Yes, Christ appeared sickly, yet He never sinned once in His life according to New Testament teaching (1 Peter 2:22). The sicknesses He carried in His body were on behalf of mankind (John 1:29). “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of [for] our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5). 1
Does God Have the Power to Heal?
It is self evident that God can accomplish anything He sets out to do (1 Samuel 2:6–8). This, however, is not the point. What people need to know is the will of God in any matter. “Wherefore be you not unwise, but [be you] understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Sometimes He has willed not to heal people (2 Corinthians 12:7–9; 2 Samuel 12:15–23).
On the other hand, there are some all encompassing scriptures which seem to suggest that God heals all afflictions “[God] who forgives all your iniquities; and heals all your diseases” (Psalms 103:3). It is often said that if God forgives all of one’s sins in this life (which the Bible says is true), then it follows that He would have to heal all one’s diseases too! That is how Psalm 103 is sometimes interpreted.
Coupled with Psalm 103 is the commission given by Christ to His original apostles that those apostles (not later people) would have power to heal all afflictions (Mark 16:14–18). But even here it is recognized, even by those who proclaim a healing ministry that this apostolic commission does not give a carte blanche promise for healing of all Christians today. 2 Many people do not obtain healing by prayer or the “laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2). This is a simple truth that must be recognized.
This shows that physical healing for all Christians while in the flesh is not guaranteed by the Atonement of Christ. Though all sins that separate man from God can, and are, presently forgiven — and a perfect spiritual relationship with God can be a living reality through the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion, the result of sin often finds an expression in sickness, which is not a part of that Atonement redemption (at least, for this present life). If it were, then all would presently be healed — completely. But it is evident that even the most dedicated Christian is not exempt from sicknesses, be they major or minor. Recall that Paul said: “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick” (2 Timothy 4:20). 3
Most preachers today who have a healing ministry as a mainstay of their activities are not insisting that every person who asks for anointing or the “laying on of hands” will be healed. They deny the “Atonement connection” when they do this, and properly! They often say healing depends on the faith of the individual. 4
God’s Choice in Healing
The truth is, sometimes it is God’s will to heal people, and sometimes it is not. At certain times in the past Christ told people that they would be healed “according to your faith” (Matthew 9:29); and when He told them that He certainly meant it! Though the application was by their own faith, it was Christ’s will that they were healed. Yet Christ healed many others without any faith on their part.
When Peter cut off the ear of one coming to arrest Him, Christ touched the man’s ear and healed him. This man was not converted. He expressed no faith in Christ to heal him, but he was nevertheless healed (Luke 22:51).
• A leper was healed without an acclamation of faith (Matthew 8:2–4).
• Peter’s mother-in-law was made well without any mention of faith (Matthew 8:14–15).
• The man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5) was healed without any mention of faith.
• The man with the dropsy (Luke 14:3–4) was healed without any mention of faith.
• The impotent man (John 5:13) was healed without any mention of faith.
• The lame man who sat at the Gate Beautiful (Acts 3:1–8) was healed without a mention of faith.
All these people were healed by miraculous acts of Christ without faith being acknowledged, nor was faith even implied as being necessary. The fact is, at times Christ told people that faith was required for their particular healing, but with others it was not at all necessary. 5
Not all Scriptures apply to all people at all times. A good example for applying this principle is found in Exodus 15:26; 23:25. In these verses God promised the children of Israel — those coming out of Egypt — that He would not afflict them with the diseases of Egypt if they would keep His commandments. Note that the promises covered them, but not everyone at all times. It was they who were to be healed, and God kept His promise to them.
Paul did say that what happened to ancient Israel were examples of warning to us (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11), but there are no factors embodied within Exodus 15:26 and 23:25 to suggest that these Scriptures were for universal application. Such a specific application for everyone is impossible because God later afflicted some of the greatest of His saints and did not heal them of their sicknesses.
“And not only they [those in the world], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
• Romans 8:23
We need to know what the will of God is in any specific case and whether His promises apply directly to us. We must constantly “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). God always means what He says, but we need to know what His will is for us at all times.
James said “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15). But the faith that one must have is the faith to believe that God is a merciful God, who can and often will respond to the pleas of His people. One must put the matter into God’s hands for Him to do as He pleases. No matter what happens, we can constantly glorify Him. If He does not heal us, no one should think Christ’s sacrifice is not efficacious.
Your Own Faith
Those who wish to heed the biblical revelation need to comprehend what the teaching of faith in healing really is. Faith is a powerful weapon to combat sicknesses that occur in all humans on earth today. If faith is exercised, some wonderful healings could result — even instantaneous ones! Unfortunately, many ministers today who tell people to put faith into action for their healing are not aware of the reasons why some people are healed. They simply put it down to a miracle directly from God without studying the matter carefully.
They often tell people that healing is in the Atonement of Christ and that each healing that occurs must be a direct supernatural wonder coming from God Himself! Individuals are being told their cures are miracles caused by the personal hand of God in the same way that the Red Sea opened up when Israel came out of Egypt. But in most cases, this is not the manner in which modern healings are being accomplished — even when the name of our Lord is being used in the anointing or the “laying on of hands.”
The only faith that can save any human to spiritual salvation is Christ’s faith — not ours (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8). All the attributes of salvation which mankind must have for spiritual redemption are gifts associated with Him. They emanate from God Himself. 6 But, every person on earth today has some measure of faith resident within Himself that Christ called one’s own faith. This faith, though similar, is quite distinct from the kind of supernatural faith that only God can bestow for salvation.
That human faith can produce wondrous benefits for humans in the world if it is exercised. It can actually aid in the healing of the body in many instances — often instantaneously. Interestingly, this type of human faith has nothing to do with the Atonement of Christ. It is a natural power that God graciously gives to each human in the world. All that is needed is some kind of spark in the mind to bring that faith into operation.
Often it can be another person that engenders it. Faith can be stirred up by being in a particular inspiring area such as a mountain, a cave, a river, even an architectural masterpiece, or a million other areas. These “places” are catalysts that inspire and provoke personal faith in some people. At other times it can be a verse of scripture, the Bible itself, or an encouraging note or visit from someone “special” — someone that is trusted and believed in. In other cases faith can be energized by a “special” object, or confidence that a mixture of certain substances will have an effect on the body. 7
The point is, whatever could inspire human faith to be put into action can be beneficial to individuals. There are many people who go to well-known healers (be they Christian oriented or not) and if confidence is placed in the man or woman’s power to heal, it is often amazing what results can be obtained. 8
Even when a sick person sees a doctor (especially if the doctor is respected for his professionalism and concern), and the doctor says “You will pull through just fine” the faith and confidence that one places in that doctor and his positive opinion can have marvelous effects on the healing processes naturally found within the body. On the other hand, if the doctor says “You have little chance of survival,” such an appraisal can have devastating effects to one’s faith and very negative results can be the consequence.
The Benefits of Personal Faith
There are many healings taking place daily by the use of one’s own faith that God has allowed all humans on earth to have. This was occurring in the time of Christ. When a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years touched the hem of Christ’s garment, she was made whole immediately. Jesus told her: “Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:22). Note that in this particular instance it was not the faith of Christ that caused this woman to be healed. It was her own faith! “She said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:21). It was her utter determination and confidence within her mind that she would be made well that caused her to be healed, as Christ said.
When two blind men wanted healing, they believed that Jesus was a special person who came from God. So convinced were they of His powers (and so strong was their faith) that it resulted in both men receiving their sight. But note again, Christ appraised their healings as stemming from their own faiths — not from the supernatural faith that He Himself had. Christ said to them: “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). The miracle was in the use of their own faiths, which Christ honored with healing.
Christ could, and often did, cure people through the supernatural exercise of His faith, and these healings were outright miracles directly from the hand of God and His power. Two examples of such healings are the daughter of the centurion who was healed even at a distance by Christ (Matthew 8:5–13) and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John chapter 11). Such occurrences must be reckoned as divine healings or restorations without the faith of the recipients being evoked at all. God shows mercy at His own discretion.
But the Bible reveals that Christ acknowledged the power of human faith, of personal faith, as well. Certainly, in the New Testament, the healings from individual faith were accomplished because the people recognized Christ as a mighty representative from God. This belief is what sparked their own faiths for healing (and this is still being done today), but Christ was quick to point out that in many cases it was their faiths that gave them their healings, not His divine faith.
Modern Scientific Research Is Proving It
It is now being recognized by medical scientists that faith for healing — any kind of fervent belief that one will get well — is capable of securing marvelous results in many people. The potential of the mind is incredible. In some cases healings are almost instantaneous. One of the finest books ever produced on the subject is called Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins (New York: W.W. Norton). This book gives an abundance of evidence that people possessing a positive mental attitude towards an illness (that is, a strong and robust belief that one can and will be healed of the malady) has resulted in some spectacular healings.
Once such faith is put into action, it is often observed that the patient begins to improve, and in some situations the healings come at once! Amazingly, the exercise of such personal faith makes no difference if the person is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, or expresses no religious convictions at all. The power of natural faith seems to be a phenomenon that God, in the abundant mercy of His love for all His creation, has given to each person on earth. “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Physicians are coming to realize that the brain has great capability of adjusting and correcting malfunctions that occur in the body if people will but place it into action. What needs to be triggered is the will of the person to put into gear the powers that God has bestowed within the mind of each human. If this can be accomplished, the brain seems able to “scan” the complete body system, record the problems affecting it, and then begin to adjust the body mechanism to battle and conquer the difficulties.
It seems that the agent placing the brain into such an action is faith! If a person actively expresses a positive attitude (a complete faith) that the body can and will be healed, there seems to be amazing defenses put into play by the brain that often cause the body almost immediately to respond into a healing cycle. The book by Cousins shows that the results are often impressive and powerful. Something is needed to cause the person to begin to express faith. It appears that the outer consciousness of a person can get the brain to start the healing process.
The Knowledge of God
2 Pet 1:2-3 (Jer) May you have more and more grace and peace as you come to know our Lord more and more. By divine power, he has given us all the things that we need for life and true devotion, bringing us to know God himself, who has called us by his own glory and goodness.
C.S. Lewis On Theology
"In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk... an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, 'I've no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I'm a religious man too, I know there's a God, I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!'
"Now in a sense I quite agree with that man. I think he probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will also be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper.
"But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would only be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
"Now, Theology is like that map. Merely learning and thinking about Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused.
"And secondly, if you want to get any further, you have to use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion--all about feeling God in nature, and so on--is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map."
Jer 4:22 (NIV) My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled at doing evil; they know not how to do good.
C.S. Lewis: "Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones--bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England [or America] is retrogression--like believing that the earth is flat."
1 Tim 6:20-21 (NIV) Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Eph 3:17b-19 (Phi) And I pray that you, rooted and founded in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ--and to know for yourselves that love so far above our understanding. So will you be filled through all your being with God himself!
C.S. Lewis: "The only really adequate instrument for learning about God, is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science, the laboratory outfit. That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old pair of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may be a clever chap, he may be cleverer than some of the real astronomers, but he is not giving himself a chance. And two years later everyone has forgotten all about him, but the real science is still going on."
2 Cor 10:3-5a (Phi) The truth is that, although we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not human but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God.
Holding The Knowledge Of God In Contempt
Christians believe in revelation theology: We know God because he has revealed himself to us. The knowledge of God is a great gift. Were it not for this, it would be impossible for us to "figure him out". But the revelation God has given may not fit our notions of how we think he ought to be. So many have rejected the knowledge of God and follow their own ideas, detached from the Scriptures and the Body of Christ. For these sects, "Theology Bashing" has become popular.
Rom 1:22,25a,28 (NIV) Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.... They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done.
A.W. Tozer: "We can hold a correct view of the truth only by daring to believe everything that God has said about Himself... Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist on trying to modify Him and to bring him nearer to our own image."
Ignorant Of God?
1 Sam 2:12 (NAS) Now the son's of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord.
1 Cor 15:34b (NIV) For there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.
1 Cor 15:34 (TEB) Come back to your senses and stop your sinful ways. I say this to your shame, some of you do not know God.
Titus 1:16a (NIV) They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.
Rom 10:2 (TEB) I can be a witness for them that they are deeply devoted to God. But their devotion is not based on true knowledge.
Mat 22:29 (NIV) Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God."
2 Thes 1:8 (NIV) He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Gal 4:8-9 (Jer) Once you were ignorant of God, and enslaved to "gods" who are not really gods at all; but now that you have come to a knowledge of God--or rather, now that God has acknowledged you--how can you go back to elemental things like these, that can do nothing and give you nothing, and be their slaves?
Advice To Those Who Lack The Knowledge Of God
John 8:31-32 (NEB) Jesus said, "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Prov 2:1-5 (NIV) My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Col 2:8 (NIV) See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Prov 1:7 (NIV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know
Jer 9:23-24 (NIV) This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, or the strong man boast in his strength, or the rich man boast in his riches; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.
Eph 1:17 (NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
1 Jn 5:20 (NIV) We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.
John 17:3 (NIV) "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
A Love Letter From God
John 8:31 (Jer) "If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
1 Tim 4:13,15-16 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to teaching.... Be diligent in these matters; give yourselves wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Scent Of True Theology
Col 1:9,10 (Jer) ... What we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of his will. So you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all the good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God.
Eph 4:13 (NIV) Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
2 Cor 2:14-16 (Phi) Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on Christ's triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume! We Christians have the unmistakable 'scent' of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading to death. To the latter it seems like the deathly smell of doom, to the former it has the refreshing fragrance of life itself.
1 Jn 2:3-4 (Jer) We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, "I know him" and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.
Bogus Theology: Skit 1 - Love Without Knowledge
(The interviewer's voice is indented like this.)
Let me tell you about this wonderful man that I know and love.
What is his name?
His name is like the flutter of birds wings beating in the twilight. He thrills my soul!
Interesting.... Well then, what is he like?
He is like the lovely smell of jasmine in the cool evening breeze. He enraptures my spirit!
Hmmm... Where does he live?
He lives in the glow of the evening sunset. My senses reel!
Right.... What is important to him?
(This effusiveness and evasion continue to a point of frustration, ad-lib. You get the idea.)
Can you tell me anything about him besides your "reactions"?
I don't want to "put him in a box"! He is much too vast, much too vague, to be captured with the crudity of mere words!
That is all fine, but can you tell me anything definite about him?
Well, I wouldn't want to reduce him to a mere description.
How can you say that you love this man, when you don't know the first thing about him? What does he say about himself?
Well I'm not sure, but I know that he is everywhere, and he is everything I desire. I know him with my heart!
Look, if you don't know his name, what he looks like, what is important to him, how do you know it is "him"?
Hmmm... I see where you are headed with these questions, and I want to say that I would never try to pigeonhole him with mere "head-knowledge". You see, it is all in my heart. He is wherever, whomever, whenever I need him. Sometimes he is blond, sometimes brunette. Sometimes tall, sometimes short. In fact, I'm beginning to think that you may be him! (The Interviewer is a woman!)
You don't seem very careful in making sure your not with the wrong "him"! If he was a real man, I suspect this would make him rather angry. Is this a fantasy man of your own making, or is he real?
How could that matter, when I know him and love him so!
Bogus Theology: Skit 2 - Knowledge Without Love
Let me tell you about this wonderful man that I know and love.
How do you know that you love him?
I know his telephone number!
That's fine, but how do you feel!
I know his address.
So you're in love with this man, for real?
Hey, I know his social security number!
Tell me how your emotions respond to him.
(This fun-fact routine of evasion continues to the point of humor, ad-lib. Again, you get the idea.)
Now wait a minute! Don't you think it odd that you "know" this man so well, but don't feel anything?
I know his license plate number.
What kind of love is it that never feels?
Well, in ancient Greek, love meant to "collect like sea shells", or something like that. So I "love" by collecting trivia about him.
I have heard that he has said that more than anything he desires to be loved from the heart. did you not "know" this?
The best experts have lately pointed out that he said that a long time ago, when he was much younger and less sophisticated. I have a book, in fact, on just this debate...
You seem to know a lot of facts about him, but do you really know him?
Sure I do. It's all in my head. I can correctly answer any question! Try me!
Does he know you?
Well... I'm not sure... But I know a lot about him, doesn't that count for something?
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
"Is Positive Confession...Biblically Sound Teaching?"
The Believer and Positive Confession
Occasionally throughout church history people have taken extreme positions concerning great Biblical truths. Sometimes teachers have advocated these extremes. On other occasions followers have gone beyond the teachings and reflected adversely on the cause of Christ.
Positive and negative confession are expressions which in recent years have received acceptance in an extreme form in some circles. Both the definition in writing and the pattern of usage give some insight into the implications of these terms.
The fact that extremes are brought into focus does not imply rejection of the doctrine of confession. It is an important truth. The Bible teaches people are to confess their sin (1 John 1:9). They are to confess Christ (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9, 10). They are to maintain a good confession (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23, ASV).
But when people, in emphasizing a doctrine, go beyond or contrary to the teaching of Scripture, they do not honor that doctrine. Conversely, they bring reproach upon it and the work of the Lord. For this reason it is important to call attention to these excesses and show how they are in conflict with the Word of God.
Some Positions of the Positive Confession Teaching
The positive confession teaching relies on an English dictionary definition of the word confess: "to acknowledge, or to own; to acknowledge faith in." Confession is also described as affirming something which is believed, testifying to something known, and witnessing for a truth which has been embraced.
This view goes a step further and divides confession into negative and positive aspects. The negative is acknowledging sin, sickness, poverty, or other undesirable situations. Positive confession is acknowledging or owning desirable situations.
While there are variations of interpretation and emphasis concerning this teaching, a conclusion seems to be that the unpleasant can be avoided by refraining from negative confessions. The pleasant can be enjoyed by making positive confessions.
According to this view, as expressed in various publications, the believer who refrains from acknowledging the negative and continues to affirm the positive will assure for himself pleasant circumstances. He will be able to rule over poverty, disease, and sickness. He will be sick only if he confesses he is sick. Some make a distinction between acknowledging the symptoms of an illness and the illness itself.
This view advocates that God wants believers to wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, and have the best of everything. Believers need not suffer financial setbacks. All they need to do is to tell Satan to take his hands off their money. The believer can have whatever he says whether the need is spiritual, physical, or financial. It is taught that faith compels God's action.
According to this position, what a person says determines what he will receive and what he will become. Thus people are instructed to start confessing even though what they want may not have been realized. If a person wants money, he is to confess he has it even if it is not true. If a person wants healing, he is to confess it even though it is obviously not the case. People are told they can have whatever they say, and for this reason great significance is attached to the spoken word. It is claimed the spoken word, if repeated often enough, will eventually result in faith which procures the desired blessing.
It is understandable that some people would like to accept the positive confession teaching. It promises a life free from problems, and its advocates seem to support it with passages of Scripture. Problems develop, however, when Bible statements are isolated from their context and from what the rest of Scripture has to say concerning the subject. Extremes result which distort truth and eventually hurt believers as individuals and the cause of Christ in general.
When believers study the life of faith and victory God has for His people, it is important, as in all doctrine, to seek for the balanced emphasis of Scripture. This will help to avoid the extremes which eventually frustrate rather than help believers in their walk with God.
Believers Should Consider the Total Teaching of Scripture.
The apostle Paul gave an important principle of interpreting Scripture which calls for "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13). The basic thrust of this principle is to consider everything God's Word has to say on a given subject in establishing doctrine. Only doctrine based on a holistic view of Scripture conforms to this Biblical rule of interpretation.
When the positive confession teaching indicates that to admit weakness is to accept defeat, to admit financial need is to accept poverty, and to admit sickness is to preclude healing, it is going beyond and is contrary to the harmony of Scripture.
For instance, King Jehoshaphat admitted he had no might against an enemy alliance, but God gave him a marvelous victory (2 Chronicles 20). Paul admitted weakness and then stated that when he was weak, he was strong because God's strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
It was after the disciples recognized they did not have enough to feed the multitudes and admitted it that Christ marvelously provided a more than adequate supply (Luke 9:12, 13). It was after the disciples admitted they had caught no fish that Jesus directed them to a most successful endeavor (John 21:3-6).
These people were not told to replace negative confessions with positive confessions which were contrary to fact. They stated conditions exactly as they were rather than pretending they were something else. Yet God marvelously intervened even though they made what some would call negative confessions.
Comparing Scripture with Scripture makes it clear that positive verbal expressions do not always produce happy effects nor do negative statements always result in unhappy effects. To teach that leaders in the early days of the Church such as Paul, Stephen, and Trophimus did not live in a constant state of affluence and health because they did not have the light on this teaching is going beyond and contrary to the Word of God. Doctrine will be sound only as it is developed within the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.
The Greek word translated "confess" means "to speak the same thing." When people confess Christ, it is to say the same thing as Scripture does concerning Christ. When people confess sin, it is to say the same as Scripture does concerning sin. And when people confess some promise of Scripture, they must be sure they are saying the same thing about that promise as the total teaching of Scripture on that subject.
The words of Augustine are appropriate in this regard: "If you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."
Believers Should Consider Adequately the Will of God.
When the positive confession doctrine indicates a person can have whatever he says, it fails to emphasize adequately that God's will must be considered. David had the best intentions when he indicated his desire to build a temple for the Lord, but it was not God's will (1 Chronicles 17:4). David was permitted to gather materials, but Solomon was to build the temple.
Paul prayed that the thorn in his flesh might be removed, but it was not God's will. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God's will can be known and claimed by faith, but the desire of the heart is not always the criterion by which the will of God is determined. There are times when the enjoyable or pleasurable may not be the will of God. James alluded to this when he wrote, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). The word translated "lusts" does not refer to perverted desire but to pleasure or enjoyment; that which the heart desires. Several translations use the word "pleasure" rather than "lust."
In Gethsemane Jesus asked that if it were possible the cup might be removed. That was His desire, but in His prayer He recognized the will of God. He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).
The Bible recognizes there will be times when a believer will not know what to pray for. He will not know what the will of God is. He may even be perplexed as Paul sometimes was (2 Corinthians 4:8). Then, rather than simply making a positive confession based on the desires of the heart, the believer needs to recognize the Holy Spirit makes intercession for him according to the will of God (Romans 8:26, 27).
God's will always must have priority over the believer's plans or desires. The words of James should be kept constantly in view: "Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:15).
Getting what the believer wants is not as simple as repeating a positive confession. Pleasant things might be out of the will of God; and, conversely, unpleasant things might be in the will of God. It is important for the believer to say as Paul's friends did, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14)--more important than to demand a life free from suffering.
Believers Should Recognize the Importance of Importunate Prayer.
When the positive confession view teaches that believers are to confess rather than to pray for things which God has promised, it overlooks the teaching of God's Word concerning importunate prayer. According to some who hold this view of positive confession, God's promises are in the area of material, physical, and spiritual blessings; believers are to claim or confess these blessings and not to pray for them.
The instruction not to pray for promised blessings is contrary to the teaching of God's Word. Food is one of God's promised blessings, yet Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Wisdom is a promised blessing of God, yet Scripture states, if any man "lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), and yet He also taught that God would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask (Luke 11:13).
While there were times God told people not to pray, as in the case of Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15), there are many Scriptures reminding believers to pray, and that, without ceasing (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Jesus emphasized the importance of importunity in prayer. The illustration of the persistent friend who came at midnight asking for bread to set before his guests became the basis for Christ's statement, "Ask, and it shall be given you" (Luke 11:5-10). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge became the occasion for our Lord to emphasize importunity in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). These people were commended for importunity and not for prayerless positive confession.
While God's ways are above man's ways, and we cannot understand the reason for every command in Scripture, we do know that in His wisdom God has ordained prayer as part of the process included in meeting a need. Rather than an indication of doubt, importunate prayer can be an indication of obedience and faith.
Believers Should Recognize They Can Expect Suffering in This Life.
The positive confession teaching advocates reigning as kings in this life. It teaches that believers are to dominate and not be dominated by circumstances. Poverty and sickness are usually mentioned among the circumstances over which believers are to have dominion.
If believers choose the kings of this world as models, it is true they will seek the trouble-free life (although even kings of this world are not free from problems). They will be more concerned with physical and material prosperity than with spiritual growth.
When believers choose the King of kings as their model, however, their desires will be completely different. They will be transformed by His teaching and example. They will recognize the truth of Romans 8:17 which is written concerning joint-heirs with Christ: "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Paul even went so far as to glory in his infirmities instead of denying them (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).
Though Christ was rich, for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He could say, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).
While God in His providence has endowed some with the ability to accumulate greater wealth than others, something is tragically lacking if there is not a willingness to do the will of God and surrender all, if need be, including creature comforts.
Jesus never ceased to be God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit performed many miracles; yet He was not free from suffering. He knew He must suffer many things of the elders (Matthew 16:21; 17:12). He desired to eat the Passover with the disciples before He suffered (Luke 22:15). After His death, the disciples recognized that Christ's suffering was a fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 24:25, 26, 32).
When believers realize that reigning as kings in this life is to take Christ as the model of a king, they will recognize suffering can be involved; that sometimes it is more kingly to stay with unpleasant circumstances than to try to make all circumstances pleasant.
Paul had been shown he would suffer (Acts 9:16). Later he rejoiced in his sufferings for the Colossians. He saw his suffering as filling up "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24).
God promises to supply the needs of believers, and He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation; but reigning in life as Christ did may also include suffering. The committed believer will accept this. He will not be disillusioned if life is not a continual series of pleasant experiences. He will not become cynical if he does not have all the desires of his heart.
He will recognize the servant is not greater than his Master. To follow Christ requires denying ourselves (Luke 9:23). This includes denying our selfish desires and may include admitting our problems.
Problems are not always an indication of lack of faith. To the contrary, they can be a tribute to faith. This is the great emphasis of Hebrews 11:32-40:
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
To hold that all suffering results from negative confessions and indicates a lack of faith contradicts the Scripture. Some heroes of faith suffered greatly, some even died through faith, and they were commended for it.
Believers Should Recognize the Sovereignty of God.
The positive confession emphasis has a tendency to include statements which make it appear that man is sovereign and God is the servant. Statements are made about compelling God to act, implying He has surrendered His sovereignty; that He is no longer in a position to act according to His wisdom and purpose. Reference is made to true prosperity being the ability to use God's ability and power to meet needs regardless of what the needs are. This puts man in the position of using God rather than man surrendering himself to be used of God.
In this view there is very little consideration given to communion with God in order to discover His will. There is very little appeal to search the Scriptures for the framework of the will of God. There is little emphasis on the kind of discussion with fellow believers which results in two or three agreeing what the will of God might be. Instead, the desire of the heart is viewed as a binding mandate on God. It is seen as constituting the authority of the believer.
It is true that Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). But Scripture also teaches that the asking must be in harmony with the will of God. "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14, 15).
"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) is still an important injunction today. God is God. He will not surrender His glory or sovereignty to anyone. No one will compel God to action.
The authority of the believer exists only in the will of God, and it is the believer's responsibility to discover and conform to the will of the sovereign God even in the things he desires. Paul's words are still applicable: "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17).
When believers recognize the sovereignty of God and properly become concerned with the will of God, they will not talk in terms of compelling God or using God's power. They will speak of becoming obedient servants. They will desire to become yielded instruments in the hands of God.
Believers Should Apply the Practical Test.
In reviewing the efforts of those who advocate this positive confession teaching it is evident that the basic appeal is to those who are already Christians living in an affluent society. They encourage a spiritual elitism in which adherents say, "We believe the same things you do. The difference is that we practice what we believe."
A practical test of a belief is whether it has a universal application. Does the teaching have meaning only for those living in an affluent society? Or does it also work among the refugees of the world? What application does the teaching have for believers imprisoned for their faith by atheistic governments? Are those believers substandard who suffer martyrdom or grave physical injury at the hands of cruel, ruthless dictators?
The truth of God's Word has a universal application. It is as effective in the slums as in suburbia. It is as effective in the jungle as in the city. It is as effective in foreign countries as in our own nation. It is as effective among deprived nations as among the affluent. The test of fruit is still one way of determining whether a teacher or teaching is of God or of man. "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).
Believers Should Accurately Deal With the Word Rhema.
Because there is very little literature among those who espouse the positive confession teaching concerning the Greek word rhema, it is necessary to consider it as used primarily in oral communication.
A distinction is generally made by proponents of this view between the words logos and rhema. The first, it is claimed, refers to the written word. The second, to that which is presently spoken by faith. According to this view whatever is spoken by faith becomes inspired and takes on the creative power of God.
There are two major problems with this distinction. First, the distinction is not justified by usage either in the Greek New Testament or in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament). The words are used synonymously in both.
In the case of the Septuagint both rhema and logos are used to translate the one Hebrew word dabar which is used in various ways relative to communication. For instance, the word dabar (translated, word of God) is used in both Jeremiah 1:1 and 2. Yet in the Septuagint it is translated rhema in verse 1 and logos in verse 2.
In the New Testament the words rhema and logos are also used interchangeably. This can be seen in passages such as 1 Peter 1:23 and 25. In verse 23, it is "the logos of God which . . . abideth for ever." In verse 25, "the rhema of the Lord endureth for ever." Again in Ephesians 5:26 believers are cleansed "with the washing of water by the rhema." In John 15:3 believers are "clean through the logos."
The distinctions between logos and rhema cannot be sustained by Biblical evidence. The Word of God, whether referred to as logos or rhema, is inspired, eternal, dynamic, and miraculous. Whether the Word is written or spoken does not alter its essential character. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
A second problem also exists among those who make a distinction between the words logos and rhema. Passages of Scripture are sometimes selected without regard to context or analogy of faith which they claim to speak by faith. In this kind of application of the so-called rhema principle, adherents are more concerned with making the Word mean what they want it to mean than in becoming what the Word wants them to become. In some instances it becomes obvious they love God more for what He does than for who He is.
It is important for believers to avoid any form of Christian existentialism which isolates passages of Scripture from the context or makes some passages eternal and others contemporary.
In considering any doctrine it is always necessary to ask whether it is in harmony with the total teaching of Scripture. Doctrine based on less than a holistic view of Biblical truth can only do harm to the cause of Christ. It can often be more detrimental than views which reject Scripture altogether. Some people will more likely accept something as truth if it is referred to in the Word of God, even if the teaching is an extreme emphasis or contradicts other principles of Scripture.
God's Word does teach great truths such as healing, provision for need, faith, and the authority of believers. The Bible does teach that a disciplined mind is an important factor in victorious living. But these truths must always be considered in the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.
When abuses occur, there is sometimes a temptation to draw back from these great truths of God's Word. In some cases people even lose out with God altogether when they discover that exaggerated emphases do not always meet their expectations or result in freedom from problems.
The fact that doctrinal aberrations develop, however, is not a reason for rejecting or remaining silent concerning them. The existence of differences of opinion is all the more reason why believers should continue diligently to search the Scriptures. It is why servants of God must faithfully declare the whole counsel of God.