Paul's Passing Thoughts

What is Election According to the Bible?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 24, 2016

ppt-jpeg4If the laity want sound definitions of biblical words in order to obtain truth, they will have to study the Bible themselves in order to show themselves approved of God. For example, Protestant scholarship has always defined “election” as the pre-selection of individuals for salvation and damnation. This conclusion can only be drawn by foisting presuppositions on many passages. Election often refers to things and people having no need of salvation. For example, according to Nave’s Topical Bible: Christ; Isa 42:1, 1Pet 2:6, National Israel; Dt 7:6, Isa 45:4, and angels; 1Tim 5:21.

Election is God’s choosing of things and people for specific purposes. It is interesting to note that things and people contrary to God’s purposes are never referred to as some kind of other elect class. There is only one elect category.

In conjunction with election, there is the “called” who are in essence everyone defined by three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the “one new man” (Eph 2:15). The manifestation of the one new man is a word often translated, “church,” viz, “ekklesia” which means, “called out assembly.” This called out assembly is also elected (1Pet 5:13).

Election is the choosing of things, groups, and individuals that serve the purposes of God’s redemptive plan. Individuals are NOT chosen unto salvation or damnation, election pertains to God’s plan of salvation and what He chooses to serve that purpose. Election is about the means of salvation offered to all people as a gift. Man did not, or could not devise a plan of salvation, but he is able to participate in the plan of his own free will. The plan was not of man’s will, in fact, his tendency is to hide from God, but he does have the will to be persuaded to accept reconciliation on God’s terms. The plan of salvation and its terms are elected and offered to man as a “promise” contingent on faith alone.

Let’s begin to develop this with passages that speak of God’s election, or “purposes.”

Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

So, governments are elected (“Instituted” or “ordained”) by God for what purpose? “…for he is God’s servant for your good.” But, are all governments elected by God? No, only those who are performing the purpose of election. Election is defined and qualified by its intended purpose. Now, in many theologies and philosophies, the purpose of election is reduced to whatever supposedly glorifies God. This makes election a determinism issue. Hence, everything that happens is God’s will and for the purpose of His self-love and glory. By reducing election to this single purpose, it strictly defines election in terms of God’s sovereignty or the “gospel of sovereignty”—a term that appears nowhere in the Scriptures. What God elects is confirmed by the application of its purpose, or the practice of its purpose (2Pet 1:10 ff.). Hitler’s Nazi Germany was not elected by God; their practice did not coincide with God’s purposes. Governments are elected, but not all governments are of God’s elect.

Therefore, election also speaks to generalities as well. As far as Christ’s called out assembly, what group of people did He primarily focus on?

1Corintians 1:26 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As far as calling, which includes the three aforementioned groups, God focuses primarily on the lower-class among those groups. And what is the purpose? His glory, because the upper crust tend to get credit for what God does. Does this mean God only saves the poor? Of course not. But culturally, God has always fought against man’s tendency to worship aristocracy, nobility, and errant authority. When Christ told the apostles that it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle in comparison to the salvation of the rich, He was using an extreme example to smash a cultural paradigm. Have you ever noted the response He received from the disciples? Who then can be saved? Christ then cited the impossibility of men to come up with plans and means of salvation which is, for all practical purposes, often attributed to the noble. Listening to men rather than studying to show one’s self approved of God is the worship of man’s authority. James also addressed this same problem in his epistle.

God does elect individuals to serve in His purpose of salvation. This election of individuals for ministry in God’s salvific purposes is often attributed to individual predeterminism. In contrast, people groups are chosen for a purpose, not salvation for the sake of salvation, or damnation for the sake of damnation. With that said, God does single out individuals, or elects them for specific ministries and purposes. The following concerns the apostles:

John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Many are quick to jump on this passage as a proof text for individual pre-selection, but Christ is addressing disunity among the apostles and reminding them that it was Him who chose them for the task of apostleship which was being compromised by their selfish mentalities.

Also, as we shall see, those presently not fulfilling God’s purposes of election are not necessarily destined to continue in their rebellion, but before we move on, let’s pause to consider another point:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the “those,” and “many brothers”? We assume individuals, but could this not be referring to elected types or groups of people made up of individuals that accepted the free gift of God’s elected plan of salvation? Before you write this off as a stretch, consider the following:

Matthew 22:1 – And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Now, as in many of the English translations, “chosen” in verse 14 should really be “elect.” This conveys more of an idea of a group rather than those who were preselected. But one thing is clear: the “called” are both Jew and Gentile. Those who accept the invitation to the wedding feast become the elect. The real idea here is in essence, many Jews and Gentiles are called, but few are of the elect. Prevalent among the Jews of that day was the idea that being a Jew alone made you the elect. No, this parable refutes that idea and encompasses Paul’s purpose of calling Gentiles as well in order to make the Jews jealous (Rom ch., 11) and thereby save some of them. At any rate, the Jews and Gentiles both are called to Christ, and what is the PURPOSE of that calling?

Ephesians 2:15 – by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

The gospel is God’s elect plan to reconcile mankind to Himself, but also to reconcile and bring peace/unity between Jew and Gentile, in fact, this is the very “mystery of the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

1Corinthians 12:13 – For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Every diverse type and group of people imaginable are called to be baptized into this one new man of which Christ is the head. And what is the purpose of this calling?

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the predestined? Groups and types of people who are called: “And those whom he predestined he also called.” However, it is very clear from Matthew 22 that all of the called do not accept the invitation, but if they do, they are also, “justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” How can someone who is not yet redeemed be glorified? They aren’t; the glorification of the group or the elect is what is predetermined. The purpose of election is to justify and glorify the called, but all of those called to not conjoin themselves with God’s purposes.

John Calvin was not oblivious to the contradiction in regard to the called for those who want to buy into pre-determinism, and therefore sought to rectify the contradiction by created a class of elect that were temporarily elected. Hence, the called (Rom 8:30) who are justified are justified temporarily as opposed to the other classification of elect: those who persevere.

In Romans 8 those who are predestined are called, but in Matthew 22 not all who are called are of the elect. That’s a contradiction. Therefore, this is best understood through the purposes of election: it is God’s predetermined purpose to justify and glorify all who are called, and in fact, has already done so through Christ’s work on the cross. Nevertheless, those who do not accept the invitation of the call remain disinterested in God’s purposes.

We will conclude with a look at Romans chapter 9 because it seems to emphasize individual pre-selection. Again, we struggle to not see this as individual predestination because of how we have been conditioned. But the point of the passage is God’s purposes in election through miraculous rebirth according to “the promise.”

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

God elected governments, but not all governments are his elect according to his purposes. God elected Israel, but not all Israelites are of His promise because the promise is through new birth, not Jewish birthrights. Those who are Israelites according to the flesh (born into nationality) are not the elect group, but rather those born into promise by the new birth. The whole passage should be interpreted in regard to elect/non-elect  groups, not individuals. Let me drive this point home by citing what Paul says further along in the text:

Romans 9:23 – in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people, ’and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Romans 9:30 – What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.

Who is the “us” in Rom 9:24? It is the “one new man” called from among two other groups. Individuals are not in view here, elected groups are. And, not all of the called are part of that group; only those who respond to the invitation by faith alone. Remember, the backdrop of Romans 9 is Jew/Gentile. The purpose of election is to make Jew and Gentile one unified body—the goal is to reconcile the hostility between the two groups as a result of being reconciled with God.

In regard to the whole prepared vessels for wrath or glory in verses 19-23, Paul writes,

Romans 9:19 – You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

But again, Paul clarifies what this speaks to immediately following in verse 24, “US,” as in, the one new man, not individuals. I believe this is key; God calls groups for His purposes, but it is their choice to accept or reject the invitation. Once they do one or the other, they themselves choose to remain in group A, or join group B. I believe Matthew 22 is the interpretive key for this thesis.

The vessels are people called to God’s elect purposes; those who are called into purposes and works prepared beforehand by God—not the salvation of individuals:

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

God elects the work and defines what is honorable or dishonorable, but note our choice to cleanse ourselves. We put God’s purposes into practice because this is why we choose the gospel in the first place; a desire to align our individual purposes with God’s elective purposes. We can only affect this through the new birth which only God can bring about, but we can accept the invitation or reject it.

This is another consideration in this passage; the new birth.

Abraham is the father of national Israel and its descendants, but the gospel (the promise) only comes through miraculous new birth. With Abraham, it was the birth of Isaac when Sarah was well beyond childbearing age. God’s offspring are brought about by God’s life creating work, not men. In the case of Rebekah, it was God prophesying that Jewish tradition would be reversed and the older would serve the younger.

Romans 9:8 – This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Please note, that once again, election is hitched to a specific purpose: to eradicate all notion of works from justification. No one can birth themselves. However, they can accept the promise of new birth through faith alone. This whole discourse regards…”that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.”

Now, also note that many make, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” something that God did before the two were born. No, read the passage that Paul cites (Malachi 1:2-3). This is something that happened well after the fact. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that righteousness would come through the promise of miraculous birth, not works via Jewish tradition or default salvation by Jewish heritage/nationality. This why God elected the one seed, Christ, and Paul continues on in explaining two more groups: the children of Jewish flesh (nationality), and the “remnant” that are children of the promise.

And finally, even in all of this, consider those who are in a group that is not of promise: “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” (Rom 11:11 NIV).

Listen, proponents of the so-called “sovereign gospel” can’t have it both ways, and we also see yet another purpose of election; to make Israel jealous, which assumes cause and effect. Those in any given group can recover through the preaching of the word, or the casting of the life-giving-seed of God’s word which Paul also writes about in the same context.

Election is defined by God’s MANY purposes, not a reductionist “gospel of sovereignty.” God calls individuals to elect groups and purposes. His purposes are predetermined, not who will accept the free invitation which is to everyone because God “shows no partiality.”

Do you want to enhance your presentation of the gospel? Do a study and list all of the purposes of God’s election. Election is defined by God’s purposes. Give lost people a vison regarding what God is up to in his wonderful plan of salvation. This is a pretty deep topic, and per the usual, my goal and the goal of this ministry is to get the ball rolling in the right direction. However, it will take the collective efforts of God’s laity to unpack the wonderful doctrine of election.

paul

The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 14, 2015

Blog Radio LogoOriginally published April 5, 2015

Listen to full show audio here in separate window.

Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation.  This is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 3 of “The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification.” If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback. Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in.

We are going to back up a little bit to start tonight’s lesson in order to observe some very important addendums to our series. I am just going to simply state the first one that is something to keep in mind while you read the book of 1John. John states two primary purposes for writing the letter. First…

1John 1:4 – And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Tradition holds that the apostle John wrote this book, and obviously on behalf of the apostles. Note how the ESV translates “our joy.” Taking other translations into consideration, the “our” probably includes all those who have fellowship with the Father. Also…

1John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The achievable goal for every Christian is joy and assurance of salvation. Obviously, falling into the false teachings that John was contending against was going to steal that from them. More importantly, we must keep in mind that this letter claims to have the knowledge that leads to joy and full assurance of salvation.

But in addition, there is something else I want to take note of. It’s a third primary reason that John writes this epistle:

1John 1:3 – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

You might miss it because instead of referring to the writing of it, John wrote that “we proclaim also to you,” and the stated reason is mutual fellowship with the Father and the Son. These aren’t the only stated reasons for writing this epistle, but they are primary and let’s review them: joy, assurance, and fellowship.

Note that the apostles didn’t write this letter demanding that their authority be followed. The letter is written for the benefit of the readers and fellowship. Again, notice the fellowship is mutual fellowship with the Father and His Son. The goal is a mutual goal of fellowship, joy, and assurance. We find this elsewhere in Scripture.

2Corinthians 1:21 – And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

That’s it. Teachers don’t lord it over people’s faith, they co-labor for their joy. This pattern of co-laboring versus authority saturates the New Testament while elder authority is conspicuously missing. Do you know why proponents of elder authority always go to Hebrews 13:17? Because that’s the only verse they have, so let’s address it. This series is about why Protestants twist 1John and we have looked at a lot of things in the first two parts, but a distorted view of what Christian assembly really is also comes into focus in this discussion.

Are we merely part of a club that gets us into heaven in the end, or is salvation a settled issue leading to the gathering together for service and good works? Obviously, as with the Protestant case, if you need a continued forgiveness of “present sin,” and that forgiveness can only be found in allegiance to the institutional church, your whole interpretation of Scripture is going to be overshadowed by that.

The introduction to 1John emphasizes what gathering together as Christians is all about: fellowship, not authority. Home fellowships are an organized body of gifts under one head for the purpose of faith working through love. The church is a mediator of progressive salvation through authority structure and co-mediation with Christ. The goal of the institutional church is getting people from salvation point A to salvation point B and collecting a temple tax for that purpose. The goal of home fellowships is the full exploitation of the gifts granted to every believer. Leaders equip for that purpose and lead by example while the only authority is Christ. Throughout the New Testament assemblies are called on to strive for unity in the one mind of Christ.

That’s what we are going to focus on tonight. We are going to debunk the whole notion that there is horizontal authority in the body of Christ. All authority is vertical because Christ said ALL authority has been given to Him, and ALL means “all.” Let’s think about this: a horizontal authority also assumes the dictation of truth by those who have an elevated ability to understand truth. Folks, you cannot separate authority from a claim on truth. We hear this all of the time in the church, this idea that the elders need to be obeyed because they are preordained to understand things you cannot understand. We hear this all of the time. And does this impact the book of 1 John? Sure it does.

 1John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

Why do you think John wrote that? Those who were trying to deceive them were claiming a higher knowledge that the common believers were supposedly not privy to. And by the way, this is a hallmark of Gnosticism which was cut from the same block as Plato’s epistemological caste system. Anyway, let’s debunk this whole idea of horizontal authority among God’s people.

Before I do, I would like to add yet another thought. I have spent eight years researching the Protestant false gospel of progressive justification and refuting it, but I am beginning to think of it as just another mere symptom of the bigger problem: “the church,” the marriage of authority and Christianity.

The Bible states that there is one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ (1Timothy 2:5). I now realize the real significance of that after eight years of research. I see “one” really means “one.” Something has happened this week that this ministry is taking note of: HBO’s documentary “Going Clear” on Scientology premiered 3/29/2015. Megan Kelly of Fox News interviewed one of the key figures featured in the documentary who shared an astonishing bit of information: members who offend leadership are locked up in a literal prison until they repent of whatever the offense is; release is contingent on signing a written confession. Kelly was incredulous that any adult would agree to such a thing and asked the guest if he could explain it. I was surprised when the guest said he could not explain it.

Maybe the explanation is too simple, but here it is: every false gospel opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ is predicated on the idea of an additional mediator between God and man other than Christ. Even if one man or women is representative of the false doctrine, it will always be expressed in the form of an institution and its authority. Rather than all authority and mediation being in Christ, a subset of Christ’s mediation and authority is claimed; a claim that has no biblical merit whatsoever. These religious institutions always claim authority to grant salvation on behalf of God as co-mediators, but will also use the authority of government whenever they can get away with it.

So why do the institutional members of “the church” agree to every insane notion proffered by these institutions? It’s not complicated in the least: their salvation depends on it. The temptation is great; people relate truth with authority and want to be told how to get to heaven. Some sort of lofty authority gives the seekers confidence that God will accept their salvific pedigree. And Scientology has all of the elements common with these institutions, especially a strong emphasis on glorious infrastructure.

This documentary is important because Scientology is indicative of institutional religion in general. It claims authority and mediation it doesn’t have, quibbles over words, and entangles itself in the frivolous affairs of the world. And another important element–a major one should be noted as well: cults are spawned by authority. Hence, religious institutions often get a pass on being cultic because people don’t understand the catalyst of cultism: authority.

The alternative is a functioning body under one head. Gifts replace rank, and fellowship replaces authority. The goal is agreement on truth as defined by Christ and agreement according to conscience determines who fellowships together. Christ said, “All authority has been given to me.” ALL means “all.” If people get together for the purpose of following an authority anyway, why not Christ as opposed to some man or institution? If the divide in regard to what Christ is saying is too wide, go start your own group–Christ is the final judge anyway. A final point: institutions focus on getting people to heaven; fellowships focus on the unfinished work of service to God and others.

The following are relevant audio clips that make the point. First two are from Pastor John MacArthur Jr., and the third is from Pastor James MacDonald.

Audio links here. 

These clips are just too rich and could be the whole show. I mean surely, someone has some thoughts on theses clips. Where to start? When MacArthur talks about putting ourselves under the authority of godly men, what are the parameters of such authority? Historically in regard to the institutional church, this authority knows no bounds. And did you notice who decides what your gifts are? That’s right, not you, the leadership. Oh my, let’s just throw out one little example of this going completely wrong. If a guy gets saved but his wife doesn’t, she just may divorce him eventually. The Bible is very clear on this; the believing spouse is no longer obligated to that marriage. But if that young man comes to believe that he is called to be an elder—you can forget it. So, he will not fulfill his gift because of the traditions of men, and that’s a pity.

Many more examples could be given, but let’s get into our argument against authority among God’s people, or what I will call horizontal authority. The argument is that God’s people are a body of gifts cooperating together with one head. Horizontal co-laboring with vertical authority. I am going to be arguing this from a message I taught on Romans 14:2-12 titled, “Authority’s Assault on Unity.” So here we go, let’s see if we can learn anything.

The week before this lesson we talked about the mystery of the gospel. The mystery is God’s intention to bring Jew and Gentile into one body by the Spirit. Undoubtedly, this posed significant unity challenges because of the diverse cultures. When the Romans inquired of Paul as to whether or not they should bother associating with Jews due to these cultural differences, it sent Paul scrambling for his writing utensil because that issue is one of the core values of the gospel itself.

The bone of contention was dietary laws and the observance of days which would have been deeply entrenched traditions for the Jews. In addition, there were a plethora of issues among the Jews concerning the decadent culture of the Gentiles. Some of these issues included the eating of meat and its preparation according to Old Testament law. For sure, pork was out, but there were other issues, apparently, with meat sacrificed to idols and then sold on the open market at a reduced price. Hence, because what had been done with meat would have been ambiguous in many cases as far as its source and preparation, it’s possible that many Jews decided to play it safe and become vegetarians.

As far as convictions concerning the observance of days in this transition from the old covenant to the new, there would have been many days sacred to the Jews that would have had little significance among the Gentiles. So, what is Paul’s solution to these differences for purposes of fulfilling the mystery of the gospel?

In verse 2, Paul identifies the two parties: Gentiles who believe they can eat anything, and the weak Jew who understandably was not yet up to speed on the mystery of the gospel in regard to the law. Also consider, much like today, the Jews had been dumbed down in regard to Scriptural knowledge. The leadership of that day replaced Scriptural truth with the traditions of men. Specifically, like today, the integration of Gnosticism with Scripture saturated Jewish thought and religion.

In verse 3, Paul defines the attitudes that fueled the division between Jew and Gentile: the ones who eat should not “despise” the ones who don’t eat; i.e., the Jews, and the Jews should not “judge” the ones who eat according to what? Right, the law. And why? Because God had come to receive who? Right, the Gentile. Paul shifts his focus to the Jewish responsibility of accepting the ones God received into the one body regardless of the fact that they did not keep or regard much of the Old Testament law. This would have been a really challenging transition of thought for the Jew. But the main point here is that the Jew had a tendency to “judge” because they had the what? Right, the law.

The way Paul addresses this (v. 4) towards the Jew is very interesting. In that culture or the Jewish culture as well, it would have been very uncouth to tell another person’s slave what to do. It would have been absurd. In ancient times there were many types of slaves in regard to social strata, but let me use the types of slaves that were more like today’s employee as an example. It would be like a manager from Wendy’s walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and telling those employees what to do. Or, closer to the point Paul is making, openly criticizing them in some way. The absurdity demonstrated in this illustration falls a little short because the servants Paul is talking about only served their own masters whereas in my illustration you could argue that the Wendy’s manager was a customer at KFC and had a right to complain about something. But slaves of Paul’s day only served one master. Christ used the same kind of illustration Paul is using here when he said you cannot serve two masters.

So, what Paul is saying is that ALL Christians, Jew and Gentile, only have one master, Jesus Christ.

4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“It is before his own master that he stands or falls” is a reflection of the slave culture. Typically, slaves only answered to one master. This is interesting to think about in our day. First, like most of the New Testament writings, and for that matter the Old Testament writings as well, the letter is addressed to the whole group. It also regards the problem with arguing over what Paul called, “opinions.” In all of this, where is elder involvement discussed? Thirdly, Paul is about to teach us that no one has a right to judge you or others in the Christian realm because everyone answers to one master and one master only—Jesus Christ.

The more one studies the Scriptures independently, the more one notices that elders (or pastors) are conspicuously missing. The context of Romans 14 makes the absence of elders odd in our minds because of what we have been taught about “elder authority.” We see this elsewhere concerning conflict among God’s people. In Matthew 18:15-20, again, elders are conspicuously missing. Often we hear the call to be willing to “place ourselves under the authority of godly men.” What I understand here is that we only have one master. Salvation is not in view here, the authority to pass judgment on another is what is in view. What is in view is a judge who is able to make the Christian “stand or fall.”

What becomes more and more clear is the fact that “pastor” or “elder” is just another gift and has NO element of authority. It has even been suggested that elders are optional for home fellowships where Christians gather together for edification and fellowship. The suggestion is that 1Timothy 3:1 could refer to a fellowship’s desire to have an elder and not necessarily an individual’s desire to be an elder.  Practically, this makes sense because wherever God’s people meet there may not be any elders. What I am saying follows: in geographies where there is no sound gathering of professing Christians, saints are not forced to fellowship there because eldership validates an assembly. Clearly, it can be surmised that some 1st century Christian fellowships had elders and others didn’t.

But at any rate, elders are not lords (1Pet 5:3), they are leaders. Even the apostle Paul stated that he was to be followed only as long as he followed Christ (1Cor 11:1).

Putting all of these ideas together, I like the rendering of 1Timothy 3;1 by the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB):

Here is a statement you can trust: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work.

Elders lead by example. I believe their oversight is primarily a proper interpretation of the Bible. They are ministers of the word (Acts 6:4). We only have one Lord—Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continually pointed to the authority of God’s truth as the only authority:

Galatians 1:8 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

1Corinthians 3:21 – So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Paul sets forth another rule in verse 5: Each believer should be persuaded (KJV) in their OWN mind. There needs to be space given for everyone to grow in wisdom. See here that we don’t believe certain things just because certain people believe it. We are to be persuaded in our OWN minds through the continued study of God’s word. PERSUASION is a major theme in the New Testament. The idea of persuasion is often translated “obey” in English translations for some incredibly strange reason. Listen, “obedience” is not the heavy emphasis among believers, persuasion is the key. Here is the word for persuaded in verse 5:

g4135. πληροφορέω plērophoreō; from 4134 and 5409; to carry out fully (in evidence), i. e. completely assure (or convince), entirely accomplish:— most surely believe, fully know (persuade), make full proof of. AV (5)- be fully persuaded.

Listen, before I develop this important aspect of persuasion, I am going to jump ahead to Paul’s next principle of motive in verse 6:

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Giving room for motive is huge in our day because we are all so dumbed down theologically. Admittedly, these are difficult waters, but if the home fellowship movement is going to work, we need to chill out on the dogma thing and emphasize the fact that we all need room to grow in God’s word. What we are looking for is honest seekers of truth—people who are persuaded by truth and the one mind of Christ that brings unity. Basically, a genuine love for the truth. That’s THE truth not A truth.

Meanwhile, Paul is saying that the spiritually weak have the right motives and are thankful to God. Other than a love for the truth, even the spiritually weak will have a spirit of thankfulness.

Probably, the beginnings of fellowship should begin with a fundamental agreement on the gospel of first importance and the sufficiency of God’s word. From there, you study the Scriptures together and let all be fully persuaded in their own minds. It boils down to this…

Does the person love THE truth? (2Thess 2:10).

Now, back to developing verse 5. I am going to develop this point by looking at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As we can ascertain so far, no one among God’s people can demand that you believe anything—only Christ has the authority to demand that you believe something. Otherwise, it would have been like passing judgment on someone else’s slave which was an absurd notion in that culture. In contrast, what is in vogue in our day is this whole idea of “putting yourself under the authority of godly men” lest you be a spiritual sluggard. A verse often used is Hebrews 13:17.

The word for “obey” is the following word:

g3982. πείθω peithō; a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy, to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively, to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):— agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

The idea is to be persuaded, or following as a result of being persuaded or convinced. The same word is used about 50 times this way in the New Testament. Here is just one example:

Matthew 27:20 – Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded (peithō) the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

There is a Greek word for outright obedience, it is…

g5219. ὑπακούω hypakouō; from 5259 and 191; to hear under (as a subordinate), i. e. to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:— hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Here is one example of about 20 in regard to how the word is used in the New Testament:

Matthew 8:27 – And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey (hypakouō) him?”

Again, among fellow Christians, we don’t demand obedience, we persuade. Elders lead, but they do not have Christ’s authority. You obey Christ no matter what.  Such is not the case with elders or pastors. Notice in all of chapter 14, the key to unity is not the authority of leaders.

Continuing on…

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Honestly, I am not entirely sure of the point Paul is making in verses 7-9. There is even the transition “For” that links this idea to the previous thought in verse 6, but it’s like Paul just parachutes this idea in here out of nowhere. Each sentence in verses 7-9 link together with verse 6 by a conjunction, “For,” “So then.” Somehow, Christ being the Lord of those who have passed on figures into the equation, but I simply don’t know how.

At any rate, Paul is back to the main point with verses 10-12:

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is clear, we will all give an account for ourselves regarding what we have done as Christians in the body (1Cor 3:10-15, 2Cor 5:10). Therefore, do not judge a fellow believer who is doing his/her best to honor God with what knowledge they presently have.

Second, let them be convinced in their OWN minds.

Third, stay focused on glorifying God in regard to the purposes of the mystery of the gospel.

At this time, let’s go ahead and take calls.

The Potter’s House: Lesson 71 of Romans Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 25, 2015

HF Potters House (2)Series Archives

Romans 15:1-14 audio link. 

The Potter’s House: Romans 15:1-14; Points About Authority and the One Body of Jews and Gentiles

We are finally back to our study in the book of Romans. We have the last two chapters left, and this morning we resume at verse one in chapter 15. The first eleven chapters are a heavy dose of justification, and what we have learned from them has radically transformed our lives. A lot of Bible “learning” unfortunately comes from second hand knowledge rather than God speaking directly to us. After learning many things about justification in the first eleven chapters, we are now learning many things about the roles of Christians in kingdom living. One we should take note of is that there is NO horizontal authority among God’s people. Elders aid believers in exploiting the full potential of their hope—they have no authority.

God’s assembly is not an institution. Institutions are always defined by some kind of authority structure. Authority necessarily needs something to be in charge of, and at least within the walls of the institutional church, it is in charge of truth which leads to orthodoxy. An explanation of truth that is a commentary between God and everyday people is a troubling idea in and of itself. Once you concede that there is horizontal authority in the church, the logical questions that follow are not only troubling, but are answered by the slippery slope of Protestant tyranny. Authority is conceded, but the specific bounds are the elephant in the room because history shows that the church is utterly unable to restrain its own authority. As John Immel often notes, “polity,” or church polity is a soft term for church government. This all implies an authority over truth on behalf of God. There is no orthodoxy—only truth. There is no church government—only gifts, and there is no authority other than Christ.

And as we progress in Romans from chapter 12, we see this reality more and more, beginning with verse 1 here in chapter 15:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (NIV)

“Neighbors” is really a word that refers to someone close. It doesn’t exclude the literal neighbors of the hearers, but primarily refers to the fellow believers at Rome. Notice that this verse is an exhortation to the “strong,” and “each of us” in general should focus on building others up. This is a glaring pattern in the New Testament. The call to build up the body is to everyone and those we usually deem as God’s authoritarians are conspicuously missing throughout Scripture. In regard to the all-important elders and pastors, where are they? An inspection of Scripture in regard to this question reveals a stunning reality: elders and pastors have little significance in the New Testament. The emphasis is everyone working together for the building up of the body which as we will see includes a call to ministry usually ascribed to pastors and elders. Where are the elders? And who are all of these people who are supposed to be doing their jobs?

Let’s look at the word, “shepherd,” as in, you know, John MacArthur’s annual “Shepherd’s Conference.” The word (poimēn) appears 17 times in the New Testament and mostly refers to Christ or literal shepherds of herds. As far as I can tell, the word is only used once in regard to a pastor and that is in Ephesians 4:11. Think about that, reference to pastors as a shepherd appears ONCE in the New Testament.

Let’s look at “overseer.” The word (episkopos) appears five times in the New Testament. It refers to pastors once in Acts, once in 1Timothy, Once in Titus, Once in Philippians, and a reference in 1Peter about Christ.

Let’s look at the word “pastor.” It is the same word as “shepherd.” The two are used interchangeably in English translations. Both together represent the aforementioned 17 citations of which one speaks directly to the idea of “pastor.”

Let’s look at the word “bishop.” See, “overseer.” Again, these two words are used interchangeably for the same Greek word in the English translations.

But most telling is where these words are not used. In the magnum opus of justification, Romans, elders are not spoken of in any way, shape, or form. In the magnum opus of correction, the two letters to the Corinthians, again, there is no mention of pastors or their supposed roles even in Christianity gone wild. Of the 27 New Testament letters, at least 19 are corrective and address false doctrine, yet as mentioned before, a direct reference to pastors only occur in about five books. Only three books address leadership specifically with the remainder always addressing the congregation as a whole. Even in regard to the letters addressed to individuals, they were obviously intended to be made very public as well.

But most astounding is the fact that throughout the Scriptures those who are primarily addressed, the general congregation of God’s people, are called on to do ministries that we usually attribute to the “qualified pastorate.” And we will continue to see that throughout this study as well.

Romans 15:3 – For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:

“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9)

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (NIV)

The Scriptures were written to “teach us.” This is a direct line of sight from the Bible to believers in general. Nowhere in Scripture is there any merit for an orthodoxy overseen by elitist teachers or elders.

Romans 15:5 – May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Listen, this is it in a nutshell: the goal of one mind in Christ resulting in one voice. You decide from what we have learned in the past two lessons; does Paul say that is a result of blind obedience to authority, or is everyone to be convinced in their own mind? Granted, persuading those who are free to follow their own conscience is hard work. But that is the calling of a true elder. The New Testament does not endorse the dictation of truth in any way, shape, or form.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: (NIV)

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;

I will sing the praises of your name.” (2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49)

10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” (Deut. 32:43)

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles let all the peoples extol him.” (Psalm 117:1)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Isaiah 11:10)

When Paul writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” he is talking about Jew and Gentile, he is writing about the mystery of the gospel. Remember what that is? It is God’s promise that He would bring Jew and Gentile together into one body for His praise and glory. And I do not think that goal has ceased—this is still the mystery of the gospel. This is why anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable among confessing Christians. Listen, any separation gospel or supersessionism is a blatant denial of the gospel. And this is yet another lost aspect of Christianity that must be recultivated; that is, the mystery of the gospel. Jew and Gentile worshipping together in unity is a major source of glorification. This opportunity is probably lost to a great degree because of Jewish customs that are no longer recognized by Christians. We know that Christ’s assemblies recognized Passover for at least 200 years after Christ’s ascension.

As home fellowships learn and grow, I think we will see the power of God’s word come alive to His glory in many-faceted ways. Also, let’s note Paul’s use of the Scriptures to make his case in citing three Old Testament passages. This speaks to the continuity and truth that guides us.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Once again, on the one hand, we see a sparse emphasis on elders in the New Testament while God’s people in general are told to do the tasks and ministries that are usually attributed to the “expertise” of the elder.

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

The fact that the institutional church pays pastor’s CEO-like wages for something that God’s people are called on to do leaves one dumbfounded in the face of how powerful the traditions of men are. The Scriptures are clear as to what roles pastor’s play in Christ’s assembly.

Ephesians 4:11 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

First of all, some of these gifts are starter gifts. Prophets were a temporary gift to the church to get things started. But at any rate, these are “gifts” and not offices of authority. Pastors are not mediators or authoritarians. The office of mediator between man and God and the authority thereof is the exclusive office of Christ. Unity in regard to a single truth is not by authority, but as each Christian is “convinced in their own mind” (Rom 14:5). The apostles who were the forerunners of the elders (1Pet 5:1), and continually beseeched the saints to be “one mind in Christ” (Rom 15:6, Phil 2:2, 1Cor 1:10, 1Pet 3:8, 1Cor 2:16).

Key to this unity and cooperation is a proper biblical ministry model. Listen, if the mystery of the gospel is the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body, who’s in charge? That’s an interesting question, no? The answer is that no one in these two groups has authority—it’s a cooperation of gifts under one head which is Christ. What is the biblical ministry model?

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

When Christ arrived on the scene and began preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, it was in the midst of a Jewish religious community heavily predicated on hierarchy and authority. Judaism was an institutional monstrosity fraught with the traditions of the Jewish sages and ruling sects. The issue of Jesus’ lack of formal authority in institutional Judaism is a constant theme throughout the gospels. This is the reason Jesus came performing authenticating miracles—if you were not a recognized religious authority in that day, your ministry was going nowhere. Jesus broke the cycle and ushered in a new ministry model. Today, we don’t have authenticating miracles to validate our message, but we do have the testimony of the Scriptures.

Regardless of the massive religious system of that day, Christ made it clear that the people were “sheep without a shepherd.” They were not led. Jesus was not talking about a lack in the people being ruled over, there was plenty of that, He was talking about the people not being led in the truth.

The new way is a body of believers working together in mutual edification according to the gifts given them by God—a faith working through love. It is unity in one truth according to the way the one master thinks, and that one master is Christ. We are baptized once into one body with one head—one master—one Lord.

Our calling is unity in the one body and its maturity to God’s glory. Over and over and over again the apostles “appeal” to love and unity—NOT authority. It is a cooperation of gifts that are obedient to the one Master. In the rest of chapter 15 and also chapter 16, we see this in action bigtime.

The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification, Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 5, 2015

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Welcome to Blogtalk Radio False Reformation.  This is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 3 of “The Protestant Twisting of 1John: A Clarification.” If you would like to add to our lesson or ask a question, call (347) 855-8317. Remember to turn your PC volume down to prevent feedback. Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

If you would like to comment on our subject tonight, you can also email me at paul@ttanc.com. That’s Tom, Tony, Alice, Nancy, cat, paul@ttanc.com. I have my email monitor right here and can add your thoughts to the lesson without need for you to call in.

We are going to back up a little bit to start tonight’s lesson in order to observe some very important addendums to our series. I am just going to simply state the first one that is something to keep in mind while you read the book of 1John. John states two primary purposes for writing the letter. First…

1John 1:4 – And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Tradition holds that the apostle John wrote this book, and obviously on behalf of the apostles. Note how the ESV translates “our joy.” Taking other translations into consideration, the “our” probably includes all those who have fellowship with the Father. Also…

1John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

The achievable goal for every Christian is joy and assurance of salvation. Obviously, falling into the false teachings that John was contending against was going to steal that from them. More importantly, we must keep in mind that this letter claims to have the knowledge that leads to joy and full assurance of salvation.

But in addition, there is something else I want to take note of. It’s a third primary reason that John writes this epistle:

1John 1:3 – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

You might miss it because instead of referring to the writing of it, John wrote that “we proclaim also to you,” and the stated reason is mutual fellowship with the Father and the Son. These aren’t the only stated reasons for writing this epistle, but they are primary and let’s review them: joy, assurance, and fellowship.

Note that the apostles didn’t write this letter demanding that their authority be followed. The letter is written for the benefit of the readers and fellowship. Again, notice the fellowship is mutual fellowship with the Father and His Son. The goal is a mutual goal of fellowship, joy, and assurance. We find this elsewhere in Scripture.

2Corinthians 1:21 – And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

That’s it. Teachers don’t lord it over people’s faith, they co-labor for their joy. This pattern of co-laboring versus authority saturates the New Testament while elder authority is conspicuously missing. Do you know why proponents of elder authority always go to Hebrews 13:17? Because that’s the only verse they have, so let’s address it. This series is about why Protestants twist 1John and we have looked at a lot of things in the first two parts, but a distorted view of what Christian assembly really is also comes into focus in this discussion.

Are we merely part of a club that gets us into heaven in the end, or is salvation a settled issue leading to the gathering together for service and good works? Obviously, as with the Protestant case, if you need a continued forgiveness of “present sin,” and that forgiveness can only be found in allegiance to the institutional church, your whole interpretation of Scripture is going to be overshadowed by that.

The introduction to 1John emphasizes what gathering together as Christians is all about: fellowship, not authority. Home fellowships are an organized body of gifts under one head for the purpose of faith working through love. The church is a mediator of progressive salvation through authority structure and co-mediation with Christ. The goal of the institutional church is getting people from salvation point A to salvation point B and collecting a temple tax for that purpose. The goal of home fellowships is the full exploitation of the gifts granted to every believer. Leaders equip for that purpose and lead by example while the only authority is Christ. Throughout the New Testament assemblies are called on to strive for unity in the one mind of Christ.

That’s what we are going to focus on tonight. We are going to debunk the whole notion that there is horizontal authority in the body of Christ. All authority is vertical because Christ said ALL authority has been given to Him, and ALL means “all.” Let’s think about this: a horizontal authority also assumes the dictation of truth by those who have an elevated ability to understand truth. Folks, you cannot separate authority from a claim on truth. We hear this all of the time in the church, this idea that the elders need to be obeyed because they are preordained to understand things you cannot understand. We hear this all of the time. And does this impact the book of 1 John? Sure it does.

 1John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

Why do you think John wrote that? Those who were trying to deceive them were claiming a higher knowledge that the common believers were supposedly not privy to. And by the way, this is a hallmark of Gnosticism which was cut from the same block as Plato’s epistemological caste system. Anyway, let’s debunk this whole idea of horizontal authority among God’s people.

Before I do, I would like to add yet another thought. I have spent eight years researching the Protestant false gospel of progressive justification and refuting it, but I am beginning to think of it as just another mere symptom of the bigger problem: “the church,” the marriage of authority and Christianity.

The Bible states that there is one mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ (1Timothy 2:5). I now realize the real significance of that after eight years of research. I see “one” really means “one.” Something has happened this week that this ministry is taking note of: HBO’s documentary “Going Clear” on Scientology premiered 3/29/2015. Megan Kelly of Fox News interviewed one of the key figures featured in the documentary who shared an astonishing bit of information: members who offend leadership are locked up in a literal prison until they repent of whatever the offense is; release is contingent on signing a written confession. Kelly was incredulous that any adult would agree to such a thing and asked the guest if he could explain it. I was surprised when the guest said he could not explain it.

Maybe the explanation is too simple, but here it is: every false gospel opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ is predicated on the idea of an additional mediator between God and man other than Christ. Even if one man or women is representative of the false doctrine, it will always be expressed in the form of an institution and its authority. Rather than all authority and mediation being in Christ, a subset of Christ’s mediation and authority is claimed; a claim that has no biblical merit whatsoever. These religious institutions always claim authority to grant salvation on behalf of God as co-mediators, but will also use the authority of government whenever they can get away with it.

So why do the institutional members of “the church” agree to every insane notion proffered by these institutions? It’s not complicated in the least: their salvation depends on it. The temptation is great; people relate truth with authority and want to be told how to get to heaven. Some sort of lofty authority gives the seekers confidence that God will accept their salvific pedigree. And Scientology has all of the elements common with these institutions, especially a strong emphasis on glorious infrastructure.

This documentary is important because Scientology is indicative of institutional religion in general. It claims authority and mediation it doesn’t have, quibbles over words, and entangles itself in the frivolous affairs of the world. And another important element–a major one should be noted as well: cults are spawned by authority. Hence, religious institutions often get a pass on being cultic because people don’t understand the catalyst of cultism: authority.

The alternative is a functioning body under one head. Gifts replace rank, and fellowship replaces authority. The goal is agreement on truth as defined by Christ and agreement according to conscience determines who fellowships together. Christ said, “All authority has been given to me.” ALL means “all.” If people get together for the purpose of following an authority anyway, why not Christ as opposed to some man or institution? If the divide in regard to what Christ is saying is too wide, go start your own group–Christ is the final judge anyway. A final point: institutions focus on getting people to heaven; fellowships focus on the unfinished work of service to God and others.

The following are relevant audio clips that make the point. First two are from Pastor John MacArthur Jr., and the third is from Pastor James MacDonald.

Audio links here. 

These clips are just too rich and could be the whole show. I mean surely, someone has some thoughts on theses clips. Where to start? When MacArthur talks about putting ourselves under the authority of godly men, what are the parameters of such authority? Historically in regard to the institutional church, this authority knows no bounds. And did you notice who decides what your gifts are? That’s right, not you, the leadership. Oh my, let’s just throw out one little example of this going completely wrong. If a guy gets saved but his wife doesn’t, she just may divorce him eventually. The Bible is very clear on this; the believing spouse is no longer obligated to that marriage. But if that young man comes to believe that he is called to be an elder—you can forget it. So, he will not fulfill his gift because of the traditions of men, and that’s a pity.

Many more examples could be given, but let’s get into our argument against authority among God’s people, or what I will call horizontal authority. The argument is that God’s people are a body of gifts cooperating together with one head. Horizontal co-laboring with vertical authority. I am going to be arguing this from a message I taught on Romans 14:2-12 titled, “Authority’s Assault on Unity.” So here we go, let’s see if we can learn anything.

The week before this lesson we talked about the mystery of the gospel. The mystery is God’s intention to bring Jew and Gentile into one body by the Spirit. Undoubtedly, this posed significant unity challenges because of the diverse cultures. When the Romans inquired of Paul as to whether or not they should bother associating with Jews due to these cultural differences, it sent Paul scrambling for his writing utensil because that issue is one of the core values of the gospel itself.

The bone of contention was dietary laws and the observance of days which would have been deeply entrenched traditions for the Jews. In addition, there were a plethora of issues among the Jews concerning the decadent culture of the Gentiles. Some of these issues included the eating of meat and its preparation according to Old Testament law. For sure, pork was out, but there were other issues, apparently, with meat sacrificed to idols and then sold on the open market at a reduced price. Hence, because what had been done with meat would have been ambiguous in many cases as far as its source and preparation, it’s possible that many Jews decided to play it safe and become vegetarians.

As far as convictions concerning the observance of days in this transition from the old covenant to the new, there would have been many days sacred to the Jews that would have had little significance among the Gentiles. So, what is Paul’s solution to these differences for purposes of fulfilling the mystery of the gospel?

In verse 2, Paul identifies the two parties: Gentiles who believe they can eat anything, and the weak Jew who understandably was not yet up to speed on the mystery of the gospel in regard to the law. Also consider, much like today, the Jews had been dumbed down in regard to Scriptural knowledge. The leadership of that day replaced Scriptural truth with the traditions of men. Specifically, like today, the integration of Gnosticism with Scripture saturated Jewish thought and religion.

In verse 3, Paul defines the attitudes that fueled the division between Jew and Gentile: the ones who eat should not “despise” the ones who don’t eat; i.e., the Jews, and the Jews should not “judge” the ones who eat according to what? Right, the law. And why? Because God had come to receive who? Right, the Gentile. Paul shifts his focus to the Jewish responsibility of accepting the ones God received into the one body regardless of the fact that they did not keep or regard much of the Old Testament law. This would have been a really challenging transition of thought for the Jew. But the main point here is that the Jew had a tendency to “judge” because they had the what? Right, the law.

The way Paul addresses this (v. 4) towards the Jew is very interesting. In that culture or the Jewish culture as well, it would have been very uncouth to tell another person’s slave what to do. It would have been absurd. In ancient times there were many types of slaves in regard to social strata, but let me use the types of slaves that were more like today’s employee as an example. It would be like a manager from Wendy’s walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and telling those employees what to do. Or, closer to the point Paul is making, openly criticizing them in some way. The absurdity demonstrated in this illustration falls a little short because the servants Paul is talking about only served their own masters whereas in my illustration you could argue that the Wendy’s manager was a customer at KFC and had a right to complain about something. But slaves of Paul’s day only served one master. Christ used the same kind of illustration Paul is using here when he said you cannot serve two masters.

So, what Paul is saying is that ALL Christians, Jew and Gentile, only have one master, Jesus Christ.

4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“It is before his own master that he stands or falls” is a reflection of the slave culture. Typically, slaves only answered to one master. This is interesting to think about in our day. First, like most of the New Testament writings, and for that matter the Old Testament writings as well, the letter is addressed to the whole group. It also regards the problem with arguing over what Paul called, “opinions.” In all of this, where is elder involvement discussed? Thirdly, Paul is about to teach us that no one has a right to judge you or others in the Christian realm because everyone answers to one master and one master only—Jesus Christ.

The more one studies the Scriptures independently, the more one notices that elders (or pastors) are conspicuously missing. The context of Romans 14 makes the absence of elders odd in our minds because of what we have been taught about “elder authority.” We see this elsewhere concerning conflict among God’s people. In Matthew 18:15-20, again, elders are conspicuously missing. Often we hear the call to be willing to “place ourselves under the authority of godly men.” What I understand here is that we only have one master. Salvation is not in view here, the authority to pass judgment on another is what is in view. What is in view is a judge who is able to make the Christian “stand or fall.”

What becomes more and more clear is the fact that “pastor” or “elder” is just another gift and has NO element of authority. It has even been suggested that elders are optional for home fellowships where Christians gather together for edification and fellowship. The suggestion is that 1Timothy 3:1 could refer to a fellowship’s desire to have an elder and not necessarily an individual’s desire to be an elder.  Practically, this makes sense because wherever God’s people meet there may not be any elders. What I am saying follows: in geographies where there is no sound gathering of professing Christians, saints are not forced to fellowship there because eldership validates an assembly. Clearly, it can be surmised that some 1st century Christian fellowships had elders and others didn’t.

But at any rate, elders are not lords (1Pet 5:3), they are leaders. Even the apostle Paul stated that he was to be followed only as long as he followed Christ (1Cor 11:1).

Putting all of these ideas together, I like the rendering of 1Timothy 3;1 by the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB):

Here is a statement you can trust: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work.

Elders lead by example. I believe their oversight is primarily a proper interpretation of the Bible. They are ministers of the word (Acts 6:4). We only have one Lord—Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continually pointed to the authority of God’s truth as the only authority:

Galatians 1:8 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

1Corinthians 3:21 – So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Paul sets forth another rule in verse 5: Each believer should be persuaded (KJV) in their OWN mind. There needs to be space given for everyone to grow in wisdom. See here that we don’t believe certain things just because certain people believe it. We are to be persuaded in our OWN minds through the continued study of God’s word. PERSUASION is a major theme in the New Testament. The idea of persuasion is often translated “obey” in English translations for some incredibly strange reason. Listen, “obedience” is not the heavy emphasis among believers, persuasion is the key. Here is the word for persuaded in verse 5:

g4135. πληροφορέω plērophoreō; from 4134 and 5409; to carry out fully (in evidence), i. e. completely assure (or convince), entirely accomplish:— most surely believe, fully know (persuade), make full proof of. AV (5)- be fully persuaded.

Listen, before I develop this important aspect of persuasion, I am going to jump ahead to Paul’s next principle of motive in verse 6:

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Giving room for motive is huge in our day because we are all so dumbed down theologically. Admittedly, these are difficult waters, but if the home fellowship movement is going to work, we need to chill out on the dogma thing and emphasize the fact that we all need room to grow in God’s word. What we are looking for is honest seekers of truth—people who are persuaded by truth and the one mind of Christ that brings unity. Basically, a genuine love for the truth. That’s THE truth not A truth.

Meanwhile, Paul is saying that the spiritually weak have the right motives and are thankful to God. Other than a love for the truth, even the spiritually weak will have a spirit of thankfulness.

Probably, the beginnings of fellowship should begin with a fundamental agreement on the gospel of first importance and the sufficiency of God’s word. From there, you study the Scriptures together and let all be fully persuaded in their own minds. It boils down to this…

Does the person love THE truth? (2Thess 2:10).

Now, back to developing verse 5. I am going to develop this point by looking at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As we can ascertain so far, no one among God’s people can demand that you believe anything—only Christ has the authority to demand that you believe something. Otherwise, it would have been like passing judgment on someone else’s slave which was an absurd notion in that culture. In contrast, what is in vogue in our day is this whole idea of “putting yourself under the authority of godly men” lest you be a spiritual sluggard. A verse often used is Hebrews 13:17.

The word for “obey” is the following word:

g3982. πείθω peithō; a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy, to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively, to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):— agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

The idea is to be persuaded, or following as a result of being persuaded or convinced. The same word is used about 50 times this way in the New Testament. Here is just one example:

Matthew 27:20 – Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded (peithō) the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

There is a Greek word for outright obedience, it is…

g5219. ὑπακούω hypakouō; from 5259 and 191; to hear under (as a subordinate), i. e. to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:— hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Here is one example of about 20 in regard to how the word is used in the New Testament:

Matthew 8:27 – And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey (hypakouō) him?”

Again, among fellow Christians, we don’t demand obedience, we persuade. Elders lead, but they do not have Christ’s authority. You obey Christ no matter what.  Such is not the case with elders or pastors. Notice in all of chapter 14, the key to unity is not the authority of leaders.

Continuing on…

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Honestly, I am not entirely sure of the point Paul is making in verses 7-9. There is even the transition “For” that links this idea to the previous thought in verse 6, but it’s like Paul just parachutes this idea in here out of nowhere. Each sentence in verses 7-9 link together with verse 6 by a conjunction, “For,” “So then.” Somehow, Christ being the Lord of those who have passed on figures into the equation, but I simply don’t know how.

At any rate, Paul is back to the main point with verses 10-12:

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is clear, we will all give an account for ourselves regarding what we have done as Christians in the body (1Cor 3:10-15, 2Cor 5:10). Therefore, do not judge a fellow believer who is doing his/her best to honor God with what knowledge they presently have.

Second, let them be convinced in their OWN minds.

Third, stay focused on glorifying God in regard to the purposes of the mystery of the gospel.

At this time, let’s go ahead and take calls.

The Potter’s House: Romans 14:1; Should We Invite Unbelievers to Church?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 14, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

We come now to the first verse of chapter 14 in our Romans study. I want to begin by reminding us of a very important issue in regard to studying the Bible individually and understanding it. What I have found in the last few years is that most of what you need to understand the Bible is in the Bible itself. Yes, I am a big grammatical historical guy, and a study of history and culture is helpful in regard to Bible study, but the grammatical is most important. Just let the words say what they say. Take the words at face value.

Let me give you the prime example of that in my own life. I approached Romans with this principle: forget all of your presuppositions, and just let the words say what they say. I began to notice the use of the word “law” a lot in the book of Romans; the law of this, and the law of that, etc. What did Paul mean by the different references to law and was he speaking of the literal written law, or realms, or spiritual laws, or laws of nature?

Upon investigation, I discovered that the simple literal evaluation demanded these references to law to be a literal written law. In all cases, the word used was nomos while there are other Greek words for realm, a force of nature, etc. You don’t need to be a Greek scholar to determine that by any stretch of the imagination. This revelation has made the whole Bible fit together for me. Prior to that, presuppositions taught to me by others was an extreme hindrance to understanding the word of God.

Also, in our study of Romans, context is extremely important, so what is the context of Romans 14? Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles. His calling was the “mystery of the gospel.” What is that? Well, let’s see:

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The mystery of the gospel is God’s desire to bring Jew and Gentile together in one body to God’s glory. Think about what kind of power is displayed in a wisdom that brings two diverse cultures together in harmony? As we learned early on in our study, the Christians at Rome obviously understood the gospel of first order; i.e., the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Paul wanted to come to them and teach the full-orbed gospel or the full counsel of God to them face to face.

But, he was continually hindered in coming to them, so he decided to write them this treatise instead. Now, why did the Holy Spirit hinder him? It’s obvious; so that Christians in future generations would have this written treatise on the full orbed gospel. We also looked at Paul’s apology in the letter to the Christians at Rome for not being able to come. The Gentiles were deemed as second class citizens in the Judeo Assembly of Christ, and Paul feared that his tarrying in coming would feed this mentality. This is why the first chapters of Romans are a passionate body of doctrine that refutes it. However, by chapter 11, Paul senses that he has made his case very well, and warns the Gentiles against reverse discrimination.

Now listen, the verse we are addressing today may be what incited Paul to panic and the writing of this letter to the Romans. That’s right; we may find ourselves at the issue that sent him running for his quill. Apparently, the Romans had written Paul from time to time about certain issues, and the issue here is what to do about Jews coming into their fellowships. Because of their diversity in the recognition of dietary laws and laws concerning days, should they be allowed in their fellowships? This certainly panicked Paul because this is the crux of the what? Right, mystery of the gospel.

“But Paul, the verse says ‘weak in faith’ not ‘Jews.’” True, but Paul is referring to the Jews. Though the Jews have great advantage in being the overseers of God’s law and His chosen people, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New and its relationship to law has an inherent tendency towards weakness. Paul uses the nomenclature of “weak” in order to not label all Jews accordingly. Many Jews understood the proper relation of law to the New Covenant.

In fact, even though circumcision was no longer required under the New Covenant, Paul had Timothy circumcised in order to get an audience with Jews who still had the conviction that circumcision was required:

Acts 16:1 – Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

And what letter (“the decisions”) did they bring with them? The letter from the apostles in Jerusalem concerning the circumcision issue (Acts 15). I must say that Andy’s study in the book of Acts has helped me greatly in understanding what is going on in Romans 14 (see ttanc.com). The judgment of the Apostles was not to burden the Gentiles with being circumcised in order to get along with the weaker Jews, but did tell them to observe some Jewish dietary laws.

The weaker brother is to be “welcomed” and connects with Romans 15:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

Who are the “you” in this text? It is the Gentiles that Paul is writing to in the letter. Clearly, Paul addresses the wisdom needed for Gentiles to WELCOME the weaker Jewish brothers into the assemblies WITHOUT quarreling about issues of liberty in accordance to the law. At issue is the very mystery of the gospel. AND, without a doubt, the same principles apply to a myriad of other contrary convictions that can come between people.

Just this week I read an article about a church split over the recognition of Christmas. Yes, it’s true, Christmas was founded on a pagan holiday and we are never commanded in the Bible to recognize Christ’s birthday. But is this an issue of separation? Granted, Halloween is a pagan holiday. Granted, I am not sure that Christian children should dress up like the Devil and werewolves. Nevertheless, should that be an issue of separation resulting in Christians not being welcome?

This has major implications for the home fellowship movement. If we want to see God glorified in the mystery of the gospel, one of the things we can emphasize is unity. Wisdom will be key to seeing the results God wants. Let’s start with another basic principle that can be derived from this text. Those welcome should be believers. Home fellowships should indeed be for the express purpose of fellowship between saved people including those who have a weak view of law.

The assembly of believers is not a place for evangelism. All evangelism should take place outside of home fellowships. The gathering of believers for fellowship and edification is never advocated as a place for evangelism in the New Testament. Where did the idea of invite people to church to get them saved come from? Where did the idea of church “revivals” and alter calls come from? It all came from the advent of the 4th century institutional church and the idea that salvation comes through church membership.

This approach has brought many difficulties into the institutional church. Many church leaders bemoan the fact that unsaved people populate the church in large numbers, but what does one expect when inviting lost people to church has been one of its institutional mandates for more than 500 years? I think the mindset that the assembling of believers together for encouragement and edification is exclusive would make a huge difference in Christianity in and of itself. This approach also removes a lot of, “What if…?” scenarios. When you start trying to apply matters of liberty in a group setting where the born again and unregenerate are meeting together—what you have is a mess!

Look at verses 2 and 3:

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Stop right there. Have you ever thought of who God welcomes as a standard for fellowship? The context of what Paul is writing about is Christian fellowships. The question posed to Paul previously was who should be welcome or not welcome. The standard is whoever God welcomes. Do you know what this tells me? God sees Christian fellowship as sacred and very important, and anybody and everybody is not necessarily welcome. This answers a lot of “What if…?” situations, no?

This speaks to a public purpose building in which anything but the kitchen sink can come walking in. It would seem that one of the primary purposes of a Christian assembly is unity along with encouragement and edification. The purpose of unity is at a distinct disadvantage with unbelievers present and defies the primary purpose of Christian assemblies.

This puts the rightful burden of evangelism on the individual Christian. This also necessitates the equipping for evangelism in the assemblies. The focus becomes what individual Christians do outside of Christian fellowship, not bringing people to church to get them saved by an expert evangelist. The focus of assemblies is strengthening and equipping each other for the work of the ministry.

That’s verse 1, next week we will further develop Paul’s prescription for unity in the assemblies regardless of varying convictions.

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