It is crucial to have a full view of God’s supreme authority and power, to have the faith to move a mountain.
Belief in ultimate human sovereignty will cause feelings of hopelessness and result in failed prayers. The Bible tells us that...
I have read several statements by various people recently claiming to "lose" their Christian faith. They say things like, "no one has been asking the hard questions for 2,000 years", or that science has refuted Christianity. Or that the problem of suffering, or the existence of Hell, are unsolvable issues that Christian leaders have avoided addressing.
I ask myself, what is going on here?
Did anyone in 25 years disciple them, at any point, ever, about the reasons why we believe in Christ? It sounds like no one did.
Could these apostasies and semi-apostasies be the fruit of mental laziness? In other words, they never exerted effort to seek out and find writers and thinkers like:
Corrie ten Boom,
J. Gresham Machen,
or Francis Schaeffer?
There is apologetics all over the Internet. If you Googler "Christian evidences", the selections spill all over you.
Do the apostates sincerely believe, in 2,000 years of Christianity, that literally no one has wrestled with, and answered, hard questions? It sounds insincere when they say this, considering how obviously untrue it is. It's a little like saying no one has ever seriously wrestled with the meaning of life.
In a few cases I have read, it seemed like someone was choosing a friend over Scripture. Like, they had a homosexual friend, so they decided the Bible doesn't say that homosexuality is sinful, or that it *does* say that and therefore isn't true. But that isn't valid thinking. The question of, "Is Christianity true?" isn't answered by whether my friend likes it.
My gut instinct is to think that
(a) there are some big ministries who do little or nothing to teach the fundamentals of the faith.
(b) Morality + music with a little Jesus thrown in isn't the Gospel, but there are churches where that's what's happening.
(c) We've been letting baby Christians, or false converts, get into positions of public worship & preaching.
People are fascinated by the phenomenon of tongues-speaking. It is important to consult the New Testament, in order to understand what tongues was, and what the miracles meant. Begin first in the book of Acts. Tongues-speaking is described happening three times, over approximately thirty years.
We learn that this miracle of tongues-speaking was predicted by the prophet Joel, in the second chapter of his book. Joel used the word "prophesy", but Peter applies it to the tongues miracle (Acts 2:14-17). This lets us know that these tongues were a direct product of God's prophetic power. These tongues did not originate from inside the speakers, just as the Old Testament prophets' predictions of the future did not originate from them. The Spirit was speaking through them.
We also learn that tongues-speaking was the miraculous, Spirit-inspired ability to pray or sing in a real language foreign to the speaker. Luke says that the 120 prayed and spoke in "languages" (Acts 2:4), which is the meaning of the Greek word glossa. The 120 spoke actual languages, which the crowd understood (Acts 2:7-11). In this instance, no spiritual gift of interpretation was needed. The various members of the crowd simply understood whatever language or dialect was being uttered.
Peter said this miracle was a sign of Christ's ascension (Acts 2:33). Christ on His throne intended to reach out to all language-groups of the world, using all their languages. There is no one language by which every Bible must be translated, or in which the Gospel must be preached. So, Peter tied the miracle as a sign one part of Christ's redeeming work.
It is important to notice that Peter does not promise the crowd the ability to pray in tongues. If they receive Jesus as Savior, God will give them all the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). But the Giver isn't the same thing as His gifts. If any in that crowd of 3,000 who believed ever did pray in tongues, we have no record of it. (In the same way, there is no record of the Samaritan Christians from Acts 8 praying in tongues). Maybe they did, but we don't know because Luke is silent about it.
God gives tongues as a sign a second time, to show the apostles that God accepted Gentiles through Christ. This was how Peter interpreted the miracle God gave Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:44-46, 11:15-18). This was an important sign, to break down the hesitancy Jewish believers in Jesus felt toward Gentile converts.
The third and last case of tongues as a sign happens in Acts 19. Paul meets twelve former followers of John the Baptist. We don't know where they had been all those years, but they were uninformed about Christ. Paul brought them up to date on the person and work of Christ Jesus. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, but they were unfamiliar with this idea. After baptizing them in Christ's name, Paul laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues (19:5-6).
This was a sign of Paul's true apostleship. Years before, a Samaritan named Simon noticed that apostles had the authority to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), and tried to buy it. Peter rebuked him sharply. This was not something that just anyone could do, let alone buy! Paul's ability to do this was another proof that he was a true apostle of Christ. Paul's apostleship was often attacked, but this incident supported his God-given authority.
So: the three recorded instances of tongues-speaking in Acts were three signs. The first, a sign of Christ's ascension. The second, a sign of Gentile acceptability to God. The third, a sign of special apostolic authority.
Each of these signs were tied to three specific, unchanging historical facts in God's plan of redemption. For this reason, we should not teach these Acts incidents as timeless, universal examples. These are not examples of what all Christians everywhere should experience. That would be a misunderstanding of the miracles' purposes.
These were the signs of tongues. There is more to be learned about the spiritual gift of tongues (which, based on details of the chapter, might be a different phenomenon) from 1st Corinthians 14. Those principles would be more directly applicable to all Christians.
In Acts 22, the apostle Paul recounted the story of his Christian conversion. He told how the risen Christ sent a devout Jewish believer, Ananaias, who laid hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, Get up and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (v. 16).
What did Ananias mean?
Baptism symbolizes God in His mercy washing away our sins, based on Christ's redeeming death. The key to unlock Ananias' words is in the four word phrase, "Calling on His name." That phrase explains the preceding phrase, "washing away your sins."
According to Romans chapter 10, we call on Christ's name by putting our trust in Him. Romans 10:11-13 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”"
Paul says in this same paragraph that faith alone is sufficient for justification -- "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified" (v.10). Justification is when God not only forgives us of our sins, but credits us with Christ's perfect righteousness in place of our sin-spotted, totally-inadequate righteousness.
Christ, in Matthew 10, said that any who confess Him before others, He will confess that person before the Father (Matthew 10:32). Paul in Romans 10 is repeating Christ's confession promise.
Confession of Christ with the mouth is the result of justifying faith in the heart, because "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:44-45).
Justifying faith in the heart and saving confession of Christ with the mouth are two sides of one coin. The first (sincere heart-faith in Christ) always causes the second (verbal confession of Christ). Their relationship is that of cause and effect. We should be careful not to sever the connection between these two things. Also, confession is not the same thing as prayer.
Baptism is the Christian ceremony of verbal faith confession, and it was the ancient church's custom (unlike today) to baptize immediately, so that a person's baptism happened as near in time to their faith as possible. So, we can understand why the Bible associates baptism with salvation.
However, we must also take into account the total testimony of Scripture about salvation, to understand that baptism doesn't cause salvation, and is not its own separate condition of salvation.
The Bible gives testimony of thousands of years of sinners saved by grace, either without baptism or prior to it. People during the Old Testament times were saved the same way people today are -- as a free gift of God, received simply by trusting in the Lord's Gospel promise, apart from the sacraments. The standard of this was Abraham, in Genesis 15. Paul, in the first few verses of Romans 4, said that Abraham's salvation is our timeless example of how anyone is saved.
The thief on the cross, who confessed Christ to Christ, was saved without being baptized (Luke 23:42-43). God gave Cornelius the centurion the blessed Holy Spirit before Cornelius was baptized (Acts 10). Examples like these show God saving people without or before baptism.
The Bible closely links baptism with salvation, but not in a cause-and-effect sense. True faith comes out in the form of confession, and baptism is the ordained ordinance of confession. But verbal confessions can be false. We assume Judas Iscariot made a verbal confession of faith in Christ at some point in his life. But we know he was a child of the devil. A baptism can present a false picture. We know people who were baptized, sometimes when they were children, but then they truly came to Christ later in life.
Faith in Christ alone is sufficient to save. The Bible links baptism to salvation because baptism is the ceremony of confession. But baptism only saves, not from water coming on the body, but in the sense of it being a method of confession by which a believing person responds back to God, springing out of their grace-cleansed conscience, through Christ's resurrection (1 Peter 3:21).
Ultra-dispensationalism is a heretical teaching among dispensational circles. Although out-of-date, it still pops up. It teaches that the Christian Church only began through the work of the Apostle Paul. As a result of this idea, it says that the believers who lived and ministered during Acts 1-8, or a later time, were not part of the Christian Church, but they were part of some Jewish entity.
Ultra-dispensationalists reject the four Gospels as irrelevant for Christians, since they're about the time before Paul. Hyper-dispensationalism usually rejects Christian baptism, calling it a "Jewish" ordinance not fit for the Gentile church.
Here are some simple reasons why this chopping-up of the Church and the Gospel into severed parts (pre-Paul, post-Paul), and this idolatrous exaltation of Paul above all others, is seriously wrong.
Christ prayed that all His people would be one in Him (John 17). He would be in them, and they would be in Him, as they received the promised Holy Spirit. This was not the experience of OT believers, but it is of the Christian Church.
Jesus Christ is the person in whom the entire Church comes together and is what she is. Hyper-dispensationalism demeans Jesus Christ, and attacks Christian unity, by denying that the Church is what she is in Christ.
Christ instituted Christian baptism before Paul was converted. Baptism is the visible ceremony of entrance into the Christian church, which is comprised of disciples of Christ. Matthew 28:18-20. Paul in his ministry administered the very same baptism to new converts that Jesus Christ instituted. There are not two different baptisms in the Church age (one for Jews and one for Gentiles). Paul's baptisms were the same as the baptisms applied in Acts 1-8.
The apostles were the foundation of the Church, according to Ephesians 2:20. They were already re-authorized by Christ after His resurrection, and fully constituted in Acts 1. Those twelve apostles' names will appear on the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).
There wasn't a Jewish church founded on the twelve apostles in Acts 1-9, and then a new, Gentile "mystery" church founded on Paul's teachings from Acts 9 on. The twelve apostles were the foundation of the Church in its entirety throughout time., with just one cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit integrates people into the Church, which is the same thing as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The first baptism of the Spirit happened in Acts 2, not through Paul. The Spirit-baptism that fell upon the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 was the same as that which fell upon the Jewish disciples in Acts 2.
Christ's death, not Paul's ministry, is when God eliminated all Jew/Gentile distinctions, and created the "new man" which is the Church, according to Ephesians 2:14-16. God assigned Paul a special ministry of learning and teaching about this new Jew-Gentile reality, but the reality itself began at the cross, not in Paul's ministry. God had eliminated the OT Jew-Gentile distinction all through Acts 1-8, but the apostles and disciples needed to learn about it.
Christ instituted the Lord's Table as a perpetual ordinance, for everyone whose sins are remitted through His blood, not just for Jewish disciples. That means the Lord's Table ceremony was for the same universal category of person (everyone whose sins had been remitted through faith in Christ's blood), and it carried the same spiritual meaning pre-Paul and post-Paul.
The ceremony and meaning of the Lord's Table was identical in Acts 1-8 as in Acts 9 and forward. The ordinance symbolically binds the entirety of the Church Age together into one.
Paul said the gospel God had entrusted to him for the Gentiles was the same gospel God had entrusted to Peter, James, and John for the Jews. Galatians 2:7-9. There were not two different gospels, one for the Jews in Acts 1-8 and then a different one through Paul after Acts 9.
God gave us the entire Bible for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and the entire Bible is necessary to be spiritually complete and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So this bizarre teaching that says the four Gospels or the book of Revelation are exclusively for the Jews and not for us, comes from Satan, and is designed by Satan to make us spiritually sick.
A Christian belongs in the camp of liberalism like Lot belonged in Sodom -- that is, not at all. However, because we're reactionary beings, we can react against liberalism and fall backward into the errors of secular, worldly conservatism. Also, because Christians often find common-ground with secular conservatives on social issues, we can be dull to the ethical and attitudinal dangers in secular conservatism.
1. Experience, natural human reasoning, and tradition should never override the Scripture.
The Scriptures are God's authority on everything they say, including politics, economics, and the military. Secular conservatism builds its cases on traditions or practical experience, or both. There's nothing wrong with learning from tradition. Sometimes the people of the past had very good reasons for doing what they did. It's arrogant to think we have nothing to learn from the past. The same goes for practicality. Science is better than magical thinking. In many situations we should do what works.
However, these are not the Christian's highest authority for faith and action. God's Word, the Bible, overrules experience and tradition, at all points. What's "practical" might not be moral. What's traditional could be evil, or just plain foolish in the light of Scripture. Man-stealing and human trafficking was the American tradition for centuries, and it was both evil and foolish. We should take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), including our political and economic thoughts. Secular conservatism does not respect the Bible.
2. Money and Military are not more important than Faith and Morality.
Isaiah wrote," Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!" Isaiah 31:1.
Secular conservatives don't have their priorities in the right order. A nation's greatness lies in its faith in the true God, not in its treasury or its armed forces. Wise economic and military policies are needed, but wisdom comes to those who fear the Lord. Proverbs 9:10. Secular conservatism is preoccupied with worldly concerns. It's proper to pay attention to the condition of your herds and flocks (Proverbs 27:23-24), but blessing comes from the Lord to those who fear Him. Many is the rich nation that has gone down in flames because God unleashed His wrath against it.
3. Christian patriotism is good but secular nationalism is not.
Christians should thank God for every good gift, including the gifts He gives them through their nation. Every Christian from every nation can do this. The old patriotic song, "America! America!" credits God for our amber waves of grain and purple mountains' majesty, and it's right that we do so. This is a positive and healthy patriotism.
Extreme liberalism sees the United States as the focus and origin of evil in the world, and this reflects a warped, one-sided mentality. But the U.S. is also a fallen and sinful nation, laden down with sin. We are by no means a Christian nation (the Christian Church around the world is God's nation, 1 Peter 2:9). When Christ said, "Do not have any god before the Lord", that means we don't worship our nation.
To paraphrase the old Gospel song, "This country's not my home, I'm just a 'passin' through." God put us Christians here to bless and salt the U.S., just as He told the Jews to bless Babylon while they lived there. But worldly national pride is just as bad as worldly globalism.
I was listening to Charles Stanley this morning preaching about the spiritual; gift of organization, and want to give a shout-out to Christian ministry administrators. Preachers and teachers get all the attention, but our work would collapse without organizers. I have a theory that churches (and other Christian organizations) rise or fall to their internal level of organizational ability. There are some ministries who couldn't organize a three-car parade, and they suffer for it. Other ministries do a good job up to a point, but if they grow they need to upgrade to a higher skill-level of administrator, or they slip backward. I'm aware of Christian organizations that have talented, good-hearted workers, but they are dragged down by bungling boards. I'm thankful for the hard work that our many deacons and organizing women have done over the years. The gift of administration is the unsung hero of the Great Commission.
Our church does not teach that women should wear head-coverings. On the other hand, we teach that women should not teach the Scripture or exercise ministerial authority over men. The two passages where these teachings come from both mention Adam and Eve. So why we do teach the one and not the other? The answer lies in what one of the passages includes.
1st Timothy 2:12-14 says that women should not teach the Bible to men, or wield authority over them. This is because God created Adam first, and Eve sinned first. Of course, these reasons mean little-to-nothing to a liberal, since they don't believe in a special creation of the human race. But Christ was the Son of God, therefore His opinions about creation and the fall of humanity into sin were true.
The apostle Paul didn't teach these things because he was a misogynist; that's progressive slander. Paul was Christ's apostle, so what he wrote was divinely inspired, and as a result without error. Paul also didn't write it because there were some sort of unspoken cultural problems going on in the church at Ephesus (the city in which Timothy, the recipient of this letter, lived and worked). There is no evidence that Christian women in Ephesus were being especially outspoken, or pushy, or rude. There is no evidence that Paul was thinking about local problems at all. That idea is a fiction, invented by those whose goal is to justify women's ordination.
Paul doesn't forbid women from preaching, just from preaching to men. Gifted Christian women can preach, just not to men. He doesn't say they can't share the word of God anywhere. Priscilla, alongside her husband Aquila, shared about God's word to Apollos. Paul doesn't forbid women from having authority,. They can be elected mayor of the town, or own a business. But they cannot have final authority over the men of the local church. That burden is reserved to qualified men, as we read in 1st Timothy 3. Paul's definition of church authority at the end of chapter 2 runs right into his teaching about elders in chapter 3.
But then turn over to 1st Corinthians 11. Paul combines spiritual truths with cultural principles, and it is this which differs the two passages. Paul says that Christ is the head of every man, meaning every Christian man, and specifically Christian husbands over their Christian wives. (Christian men everywhere are not the heads of my wife). Paul did not mean that men were the source of women (taking the Greek word kephale as "source" rather than "overseer"), since God is not the source of Christ (11:3b) -- and anyone who says God is the source of Christ is a heretic.
First, we remember that there is no teaching of head-covering anywhere prior in Scripture. The Old Testament never teaches this, nor does Christ. Second, the only time the Christian woman needed to cover her head was if she was praying or prophesying in the worship meeting (11:5). If she was not praying or prophesying in the worship meeting, it's implied she didn't need to cover her head. So the application is situational.
Third, Paul says it's disgraceful for women to have short hair. But this idea is also not found anywhere else in Scripture, unless, perhaps, it connects generally to the Old Testament's reinforcing of God-ordained gender distinctives. There is no Biblical evidence that short hair on women was or is absolutely disgraceful to God. Historical evidence suggests that it said certain things to the Roman society of the time, that the woman was morally loose. No Christian woman should ever want to be thought of as morally loose; that would indeed be a disgrace to her.
Paul says angels are watching our conduct (11:10). But angels are timeless beings, and they always watch our conduct. The fact that they watch us doesn't reveal what is right, it means they are watching to see if apply God's Word to our lives no matter what century we live in.
But head-covering cannot be a timeless rule just because it was based on the order of creation, because Paul cites a second theological absolute -- that Christian men and women are inter-dependent in the Lord (11:11-12). This truth has just as much authority as the first truth. If citing a theological truth supposedly demands head-coverings forever, then Christian inter-dependency in the Lord would inversely require no head-coverings forever.
Fourth, Paul cites natural consensus, which is a real thing but not a spiritual authority (11:14-15). It's in the nature of things for people to (usually) admire a woman's long hair. But that is what is customary among human beings. It says nothing about God's will or a rule's timelessness.
I hope you can see how different is 1st Corinthians 11:2-16 from 1st Timothy 2:12-14. The addition of other reasons -- a cultural view of short haircuts among women, the principle of respectability, and natural consensus about female beauty -- defined how a Christian woman applied the timeless truth of Adam and Eve's creation at that time, especially in worship-service behavior. Hopefully you also see that Paul never taught that Christian women needed to wear a head-covering all the time, or even throughout the entire meeting. They only had to wear one if or when they audibly prayed or prophesied.
1st Timothy 2 only states the order of creation and fall, and references nothing about public opinion, standard customs, or conduct symbolized by apparel.
Whether a real Christian can fall away from the Lord is a very hot subject among Christians. One passage that we discuss is Hebrews 6. I can't speak to the whole question in just one short post, but I would like to comment on this passage, which I will break up into quotes below.
"Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to [c]maturity,"
This introduces the writer's goal -- he wants his readers to press on to full spiritual maturity. This shows the writer's shepherd heart. A true shepherd wants Christians to grow and become mature in their faith. In chapter 5, he had criticized the readers for lagging behind in maturity. Their immaturity was shown in their desire for simplistic, basic Bible teaching, plus a lack of discernment about good and evil (see 5:11-14).
"not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment."
The writer (probably Paul and Barnabas, in my opinion) had already thoroughly taught the readers very basic Christian teachings. Like a seventh-grade teacher who doesn't want to go back over the ABCs again, the writer didn't want to lay those basic foundations of faith with this congregation all over again. He wants them to move forward in knowledge and insight.
3 "And this we will do, if God permits."
We who are pastors should never forget that all of our successes in serving other people come with God's help. As the apostle Paul says elsewhere, "Who is adequate for such a thing?" 2 Corinthians 3:5.
4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
Now, the writer speaks of a a special category of person. This is a person who has been once-for-all enlightened regarding the Gospel. This person has experienced the Holy Spirit. "Taste" means to experience; for example, Christ tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). They have experienced blessings from God's good word (see Psalm 119:103), and the powers of the age to come This latter fact could refer to the ministry of the twelve apostles, who had ministered to the people of this congregation according to 2:3-4.
The writer is describing a non-believer who has experienced the gracious blessings of God and His word, and has fully, clearly understood the Gospel.
6 and then have fallen away,
To "fall away" is used of different types of people. Jesus said that a false convert will always fall away when persecution comes (Matt. 13:20-21). Jesus' disciples also fell away from Him on the night of His betrayal (Matt. 26:31), but, unlike the stony-ground hearer, they all immediately repented and came back.
it is impossible to renew them again to repentance,
Everything the writer describes embodies the renewing , prevenient influence of the Spirit of God on an unbeliever. Where once he was blind, the Spirit made him see that Jesus is the Christ. He experienced the blessed power of the Spirit, drawing him to repentance. It is impossible for him to be renewed by God again to repentance. Saving repentance was the goal, but a goal he never reached. Why is it impossible?
[d]since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
Because of the enormity of his sin against Jesus Christ. God shows abundant mercy to the spiritually ignorant, like Paul (1 Timothy 1:13). But when the spiritually-enlightened person still rejects Christ, it is as if they are siding with those who wickedly crucified Christ, which was the greatest sin of all history. It is as if they are driving the nails into His hands and feet all over again.
7 For ground that drinks the rain which often [e]falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close [f]to being cursed, and [g]it ends up being burned.
If an unbeliever responds back to the prevenient mercies of God with faith, which then by its very nature grows the good fruit of godliness, God blesses him or her. But if an unbeliever responds back to the prevenient mercies of God with full, conscious, willful unbelief and sin, he shows himself to be a worthless person (Matthew 25:30). God could curse that person on the spot, and in the end God will cast him into the lake off fire.
The Hebrews 6:4-6 person is a non-Christian who receives many renewing graces from God and then, fully enlightened, spits in Christ's face. This interpretation is further strengthened by the writer's following words, where he says he is convinced of better things of his readers, things that accompany being a saved person (6:9).
Verse 9 shows the group from verses 4-6 is a group different from the readers; and the reason the readers will not act that way is because they were saved people.
Antinomianism is a deadly spiritual disease.