Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Desire for and Qualifications of an Overseer – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on June 28, 2016

Originally published on October 2, 2014

andy-profile-1As I began to put my thoughts down on “paper” (I don’t actually use paper, I jot everything down in a Word document and then fill in the blanks) it soon became apparent that the nature of this topic would be too unwieldy to limit to a single article. Therefore I have decided to address this topic in two parts.

I was inspired to write this article after viewing Paul and Susan’s latest edition of Gnostic Watch Weekly (9/26/2014). At the end of the video, Susan made reference to the qualification of an elder found in 1 Timothy 3, and used that in contrast to the alleged qualifications that reformed bloggers feel one should have in order to be qualified to post a comment on their blogs. I wanted to expand on each one of those qualifications of an elder in detail. But before I do that, I think it is necessary to first make sure we have an understanding of what an elder is. And before we do that, we first need to discuss the definition of an “overseer”.

What is an “Overseer”?

The word translated as “bishop” in the King James comes from the Greek verb επισκεπτομαι (ep-ee-skep-toh-my). It is made up of the words “epi”, meaning “over”, and “skopos”, meaning to peer about or referring to a watch or sentry or lookout. Taken together, we get the idea of “over-seer”. The word “supervisor” has the same meaning: “super”, meaning over, and “visor”, having to do with vision, seeing, or watching. So an overseer is basically a supervisor. Interestingly enough, a supervisor is a secular role and not specifically a religious one. So Paul is referring to a role that is not inherently a religious one but has a counterpart in the secular world.

How is this different from an “elder”?

While “overseer” has more to do with the role itself, the term “elder” refers more to the individual filling the role. The word “elder” is the Greek word πρεσβυτερος (pres-byoo-ter-os). It comes from the word “presbus” meaning “elderly”. In the Jewish religious/political system, the Sanhedrin was made up of elected representatives of the people called “elders” or πρεσβυτερος. Typically, these representatives were elderly men who were well respected and honored by the people.

The Jewish “synagogue” teaching model was also usually supervised by an “elder”. So with the advent of the New Testament assemblies, followers of Christ (who at the beginning were all converted Jews) simply continued to follow the synagogue model. And each fellowship selected an elder (πρεσβυτερος) to supervise/oversee (επισκεπτομαι) them.

When we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul is addressing the qualification for the role of overseer, thus the use of the word επισκεπτομαι rather than the πρεσβυτερος. Although, granted, the significance is minor, and in general the words could be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

However, there is a significant difference between the forms of the word “overseer”. Please notice the difference between the words in verse 1 and verse 2:

Verse 1   επισκοπη (ep-ee-skope-ay) – noun: oversight; supervision

Verse 2   επισκοπος (ep-ee-skope-os) – noun: overseer; supervisor

Notice, that the words come from the same root, but the words are different! Even though they are both nouns, the first refers to the function, the second refers to the role. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Disclaimer: I am about to say something extremely controversial. Now consider yourself warned.

I believe that Paul is NOT addressing the issue of someone who desires TO BE an overseer.  GASP!  “How can you say that?” you might ask.  Because of the way this reads in the Greek.  While the King James renders this verse this way:

“If a man desire the office of a bishop”

This is how it appears in the Greek:

ει             τις           επισκοπης             οργεται

if             any         (of) oversight        is craving

This is where the difference in the words used is important. It does not say, “if anyone desires to be an overseer.” Literally it reads, “if any is desiring of oversight”. The question we must ask then is to whom or what does the indefinite pronoun “any” refer? Remember the context of 1 Timothy. Paul has gone ahead to Macedonia and has left Timothy behind in Ephesus to act as his proxy. The purpose of the letter to Timothy is to advise him on how to handle certain issues within the various assemblies there. So the “any” in verse 1 of chapter 3 must be referring to the assemblies. Paul is saying, if any of the assemblies desire oversight, they desire a good thing.

Two things should become immediately apparent here. First, that there were some assemblies that did not have an overseer. And second, the implication here would be that an overseer is optional. That’s huge! And that flies in the face of 500 years of orthodoxy. But when you consider the context and the grammatical structure of the text, it fits together perfectly. Paul is telling Timothy, if there are any assemblies that want oversight, that’s a good thing. He then proceeds to instruct Timothy on what the job requirements are for an overseer.

This is very similar to what happened in Acts chapter 6 when the Hellenistic Jews were being left out of the daily distribution to the needy, and the ethnic Jews were getting preferential treatment. The assemblies came to the apostles to solve this problem. But instead, the apostles instructed them to look to themselves for the solution. They gave them a set of criteria for deacons and told them to find men who meet these criteria and have them manage it. The apostles could have very easily said, “Ok, we appoint so and so, and such and such, and they have the authority.” But instead, they believed that those in the assemblies had the ability to select their own deacons. Likewise in this instance, Paul did not instruct Timothy to appoint specific men to the positions of overseer. He left it up to the assemblies to select their own if they so desired.

So, having then examined the relationship of elders and overseers, in part two we will study in detail each of the qualifications of an overseer. You can think of this as a job description. If you were seeking a candidate to fill a role, think about what kind of attributes you would want. What are the attributes that make for a good overseer for a home fellowship?

Andy

Why Are You “Dissing” the Church?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 24, 2016

Originally published April 16, 2015

andy-profile-1Leaving the institutional church has been one of the best decisions our family has made. Granted, there are the social aspects that we miss (my wife especially, she’s a people person), but it doesn’t take much searching to admit that real friendships have to be based on more than just a weekly formal gathering. Want to know who your real friends are? Just try leaving your church for whatever reason. See how many of them still keep in contact with you. In fact, it was a comment very similar to that which I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, which prompted quite a debate.

There is a young man with whom I am friends, let’s call him “Trevor”. I have personally known Trevor for many years. Trevor has come to me with many questions about some of the things I post on Facebook, and we have had some very edifying discussions. We’ve talked at length about the differences between Justification and Sanctification. He is genuinely seeking answers, and I am grateful for the opportunities to help disciple him.

But a few weeks ago, Trevor sent me the following private message on Facebook:

 “Hey Andy I keep seeing you dissing on churches and even though you are probably right why not use your intelligence and abilities on helping teach people about God. There are a lot of people who need God that I’m sure are reading that and when people see hostility amongst Christians towards other Christians it turns them off to it completely and isn’t that contradictory to what we want for people”

I understand the motivation behind his response, and I don’t hold it against him. It is typical from anyone who sits under the orthodoxy of the institutional church. Trevor has probably even spoken with his pastor about some of these issues I’ve brought up, and maybe this response comes after the result of one of those conversations. Either way, his tone of concern is well noted and appreciated. So below you will find my response to Trevor. I apologize that it is rather lengthy, but I hope that it will be edifying.

 Dear Trevor,

 I’m sure you will agree that it is hard to give a full-orbed treatise within the confines of a simple Facebook status message. It doesn’t lend itself well for going into details. So the goal is to try and make your point in the most direct and concise manner possible. For that reason, a simple matter-of-fact statement may come across as curt and abrasive. That is unavoidable. Nevertheless, statements such as these should prompt people to think. But often times, rather than think, people respond defensively because they automatically assume I am attacking them. I am not attacking people, I am challenging ideas. But most people are too lazy to differentiate the two because they have too much ego invested in their ideas, and therefore take any attack on an idea as a personal attack. This is true of both Christians and non-Christians alike. And actually I have found that those who call themselves “Christian” have an even greater tendency toward ego investment, and there is a very good explanation for that, which leads me to the next point.

 When you challenge what a “Christian” has traditionally been taught, you are indeed challenging their very salvation. And this is a frightening prospect for them. But it is for this very reason that these notions need to be challenged, because what it boils down to is that their faith is in a “belief system” rather than belief in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That which passes for “the church” is the very embodiment of this belief system. Is it any wonder then that people have such a knee jerk reaction? For someone to even raise the question that what they have been taught might be wrong scares the crap out of them!

 This is why I criticize the institutional church, because it embodies this system that has kept people in the spiritual dark ages for centuries! The institutional church is based on “authority”, and the system is needed to maintain the authority. But this is so contrary to scripture. There is to be no authority among the brethren of Christ. Christ is the authority! And he is the only mediator between God and man. Now that is not to say that there is not leadership, but leadership is not the same as authority. Authority implies “power”, while leadership implies “example”. But the emphasis within the traditional “church” model is predicated on power and authority, and everything that happens within the confines of these institutions is designed to maintain that power structure. It has been that way since the very early beginnings of the Roman Catholic church in the 4th century. And Protestantism is no different.

 I see many good genuine Christian people languishing away within the walls of the institutional church, and it grieves me deeply, for there are eternal consequences at stake. Not as far as salvation goes, but with regard to eternal rewards. You have spiritually illiterate Christians looking to some authority to tell them what to believe, who have never been equipped to carry out the task that was given to them from the first day they were born again- to go out and make disciples. They are not exercising their gifts. Instead they hide their talent in the ground, waiting for the Master to return and say, “here Lord, here’s what you gave me.” And there will be no eternal reward for them. And the church is purposefully keeping them in this state of immaturity. How I long for believers to realize their full potential as Children of God! But that will never happen in the “church”. The church serves itself.

 So, even having said all of that, I still haven’t fully been able to explain the depth of this all. But your concern is how this arguing among believers will turn off others. I contend that what turns of the unsaved is not the fact that they see Christians argue, but rather that Christians don’t even know what they believe.   Furthermore, what they do claim to believe is not even rational. Christianity for the past 1500 years has simply failed to produce a fully rational explanation for why someone should believe in Jesus. There must be more to it that just, “well you just have to have faith.” Faith must be grounded in reality. So we don’t simply lay aside arguments regarding contending for truth just for the sake of presenting the illusion of a unified front to the world.

 In addition, the traditional excuse for evangelism is simply nothing more than who has the better sales pitch for getting someone to attend their church versus another. This ties in directly with the notion of salvation being in the church. Christians are more interested in getting people into their church than they are with teaching people about the gospel of the Kingdom. By definition, the church cannot be comprised of unbelievers. The body of Christ, the “assembly”, is only made up of believers. The purpose of believers assembling is for edification, and that happens by four functions: instruction in the word, fellowship, sharing meals (including the Lord’s table), and praying together. (Acts 2:42). How can an unbeliever possibly be any part of that? He shares nothing in common. He is not a part of the Body. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Unbelievers have no part in the fellowship of God’s people.

 Now the excuse has been that we need to bring unsaved to church so that they can get saved. But that is simply a lazy excuse for evangelism. It is not what Christ’s instructions were. Believers gather in fellowship to be edified. Having then been properly equipped, WE can go OUT into the world to take the gospel TO the lost so that they can HEAR it from US. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. How then shall they believe in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be SENT? (Romans 10:14-15, 17) Every believer is a preacher- and ambassador from God’s heavenly Kingdom – sent forth with the message of reconciliation to the world. It is our mandate as individuals, NOT the function of an institution!

 And so seeing how the “church” has utterly failed in every way in all of these areas, I hope you can better understand now why I have such disdain for it and am so critical of it. But the answer is not reform. It doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be defeated because it is not what God intended for His people. The answer is, to come out from among them and be separate. And that is what I have done, and that is what I want to encourage all believers to do. Come out from this institution and join in genuine fellowship with other like-minded believers and start exercising your gifts. There is no horizontal authority between men among believers. All authority is in Christ.

 Andy

 

 

 

The Unauthorized Patience of the Elect: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 19, 2016

ppt-jpeg4One of the many callings of believers is to fully embrace and love difficult people who profess to be believers. I believe home fellowships are better equipped to do this than the institutional church by far. This culture is awash with people, many of whom are professing believers, who have personality disorders. These are people who have developed patterns and habits of thinking that cause them to be completely off the tracks socially. Since the government ran out of money and can no longer afford to institutionalize these people, they are among us. If they are older, some can be put in nursing homes where their social security will be confiscated in exchange for medicating them until they die.

Welcome to real believeism. We are not here for our best life now, we are here on assignment. We are ambassadors representing God’s kingdom. We are also literally God’s family. Thy brother may be bi-polar, ahhhmen. We are God’s elect. That doesn’t mean we were elected individually, it means God elected the means of salvation and the types of people he would primarily call. The sterilized institutional church and all of its aristocracy is an usurper—that is not what God elected. Certainly they are welcome if they want to come, but they were never the primary target in regard to what God elected.

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. 27But God chose [elected] what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose [elected] what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose [elected] what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,31so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Look, I have been around church long enough to know that churchians don’t want to deal with the socially awkward, but I think the focus of Christ’s ministry is fairly obvious; He sought out the misfits of the world and all but completely ignored the religious academics of that time. The New Testament documents the indignation of the elitists accordingly. Come now, let’s think about this: Christianity is about conferences in Palm Springs hosted by celebrity pastors and $350.00 entry fees? And Caribbean Cruises hosted by celebrity pastors? Really? Have we lost our minds?

Church is where you get your ongoing salvation, and Christian living that glorifies God is barely on the radar screen. While the church mocks self-sufficiency, its worldly natural selection produces such. What better describes the present-day megachurch culture than, “We are rich and have need of nothing.” And don’t give me a load of crap regarding the institutional church’s token ministries for purposes of window dressing; we all know what its core constituency is. Those prone to lesser death are left to feed the ego of praise bands while those less disciplined are dumped out on the streets via ostracization for the world to deal with…while professing Christ.

So, we have a good reminder in 1Thessolonians 5:12-28 that believeism embraces the elect. That’s our calling. Like Christ, we are not looking to add Jeeesuuuus to mundane suburbia, we embrace difficult people with patience and wisdom. And it will take patience, active love, and good verbal judo. Let’s first take note of who this letter is written to; it is written to all Christians at large, as with all of God’s revelation. God writes letters addressed to mankind, and then religious academics claim that only they can properly interpret the letters. We need to stop buying into this silliness yesterday. Look at the obviousness of this:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…See that no one repays anyone evil for evil…I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

First of all, obviously, this letter, like most from the apostles (note “we” throughout) is not written particularly to the leadership gifted to warn and protect God’s people from the gangrene of doctrinal error. It is written to the saints at large. Christ’s body is a unified body of gifts working together for a common cause with Him being the ONLY authority…period. That’s why God speaks to the whole family. The leaders and doctrinal discerners are merely gifted body parts, not authoritarians. In fact, note the tendency that Paul often addressed among believers at that time to not respect the ministers of the word. Also note that the word translated “over you” is the word “hymōn” which is usually translated “of you,” not “over you.” The word is simply the personal pronoun, “you.” The liberties taken by English translations that mostly come from the Reformers would be hilarious if not so scandalous in making this a case for elder authority. It’s just not there by any stretch of grammatical imagination. The Complete Jewish Bible probably captures a good sense of this verse:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the Lord and confronting you in order to help you change.

Also note who has been charged with making sure things are executed correctly: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,” viz, EVERYONE is to “see” to it. This same pattern saturates the New Testament. EVERYONE is responsible to see that things are done correctly before Christ—this is not the particular role of elders. I could go on and on here, but I would add counseling to that list as well (Romans 15:14).

And who is charged with making sure this letter is read to all of the brothers? Answer: all of the brothers. Any questions?

The first type of believer Paul notes is the ataktos. They are generally disorganized and unproductive. They are unmotivated in general. Paul, in representing the apostles in this letter, says to noutheteó them. In other words, counsel them. We are to stir their gift up within them. Susan and I are presently working with a precious believer that is presently unmotivated due to some significant trials in her life. One particular trial is defining her whole life. Come to find out yesterday that she is an accomplished piano player. Guess who will soon be receiving a piano? This is how it works. This is our charge.

The second type (for lack of a better term) of believer that Paul addresses is the oligopsuchos—they are faint-hearted, and given to fear. We are to paramutheomai them. That is, we are to encourage them, and make them feel protected, because we do protect them. Home fellowships are ideal environments for these tendencies and needs to be revealed.

Thirdly, Paul says to antechó the asthenés. We are to “hold fast” and “cling to” those who are weak and sickly. But guess what? These will also be prone to lack of motivation and fear. We are to “hold fast” to them. We are to “cling to them.” These characteristics often abide together through cause and effect.

And it will take patience. These are difficult people to deal with as they lash out at the world in fear and confusion. If we are not careful, we will even find ourselves, repaying evil for evil instead of holding fast to them. This is where the rubber of believeism meets the road. This is where we walk in the footsteps of Christ.

This is our calling. This is what makes us the elect. This is family. This is the kingdom. This is our apostolic charge. Aristocracy is most welcome, but check your authority at the door. We have no Lord but Christ, and our only law is love.

paul

Escaping Church and its Culture of Death

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 18, 2015

HF Potters House (2)Originally published August 19, 2015

“This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. ‘Under grace’ merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!”

Week in, and week out, and days in-between, professing Christians meet at a local institutional church to further indoctrinate their families in the Protestant culture of death. It doesn’t seem like death as families cheerfully socialize together and lift up their hands as the hipster praise bands make a joyful noise to the Lord. In addition, charismatic orators speak of things that are clearly in the Bible.

But let’s talk about good old fashioned theological math found in the Bible. The Bible addresses the only two people groups that exist in the world: the lost and the saved. As professing Christians, we want to be biblically defined as saved people, no? Can a case be made in this post that present-day evangelicals define themselves according to what the Bible defines as “lost”? Yes. All in all I am sure you will agree; any religion that defines itself as unregenerate is a really bad idea.

Here is how the Bible defines the two people groups:

Romans 6:14 – For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Every person living in the world is under law or under grace, lost or saved. Protestants define themselves as under law with under grace as a covering. Romans 6:14 is defined this way:

We are under grace because the righteousness of Christ continually saves us from being under law.

So, with Protestantism, it’s both. Under grace means we are still under law but progressively saved by grace. Under law is who we are, while we “experience” grace. Under law is what we do, under grace is what we experience. Supposedly, when Paul stated that we are “not” under law, what he really meant to say is under law is the absence of grace. The lost are only under law, but the saved are under both.

Hence, we are still under the “righteous demands of the law,” but if we are under grace, Jesus keeps the law for us. This is achieved by focusing on our sinfulness against the law, and returning to the same gospel that originally saved us out of gratitude. Objections to this idea are met with accusations of indifference to Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the “Christian” must live a “lifestyle of repentance” and constantly seek a “greater revelation of self” which is inherently sinful. The goal is to plunge the depths of our supposed total depravity. And if you are paying attention, our sin and the original gospel that saved us are the constant drumbeats we hear in the institutional church week in and week out.

Consequently, our goal is to see more and more of our reality of being under law resulting in an increased joy regarding our original salvation. Mainline evangelical Paul Washer states it this way:

At conversion, a person begins to see God and himself as never before. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness leads to a greater revelation of self, which, in return, results in a repentance or brokenness over sin. Nevertheless, the believer is not left in despair, for he is also afforded a greater revelation of the grace of God in the face of Christ, which leads to joy unspeakable. This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ. Not only this, but a greater interchange occurs in that the Christian learns to rest less and less in his own performance and more and more in the perfect work of Christ. Thus, his joy is not only increased, but it also becomes more consistent and stable. He has left off putting confidence in the flesh, which is idolatry, and is resting in the virtue and merits of Christ, which is true Christian piety (Paul Washer: The Gospel Call and True Conversion; Part 1, Chapter 1, heading – The Essential Characteristics Of Genuine Repentance, subheading – Continuing and Deepening Work of Repentance).

This not only turns the Bible completely upside down, but leaves the Christian in a lifestyle of death while rejoicing in it. This is a true celebration of death, and church is the culture thereof. Romans 6 is clear about what it means to remain under law:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Obviously, if we believe our formal sinful self has been “brought to nothing,” Paul Washer’s sanctification construct is impossible, and his statement speaks to the authentic soteriology of the Protestant Reformation. How do you achieve a greater revelation of your sinful self when your former sinful self has been “brought to nothing”?

You don’t, which leaves the “believer” yet under law and in need of salvation. The “believer” needs to continually return to the same gospel that saved him/her in order to remain saved. Instead of the new birth being a onetime event that brings the former sinner to “nothing,” the new birth is defined as a joy experience resulting from revisiting the gospel afresh for forgiveness of sin that still condemns us.

This cycle simply repeats itself throughout the Christian life. As the years pass, the Christian sees more of God and more of self, resulting in a greater and deeper brokenness. Yet, all the while, the Christian’s joy grows in equal measure because he is privy to greater and greater revelations of the love, grace, and mercy of God in the person and work of Christ (Ibid).

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not, How does the gospel get people to be believers?… Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (John Piper: Part 2 of a series titled, “How Does the Gospel Save Believers”).

Progressive sanctification has two parts: mortification and vivification, ‘both of which happen to us by participation in Christ,’ as Calvin notes….Subjectively experiencing this definitive reality signified and sealed to us in our baptism requires a daily dying and rising. That is what the Reformers meant by sanctification as a living out of our baptism….and this conversion yields lifelong mortification and vivification ‘again and again.’ Yet it is critical to remind ourselves that in this daily human act of turning, we are always turning not only from sin but toward Christ rather than toward our own experience or piety (Michael Horton: The Christian Faith; mortification and vivification, pp. 661-663 [Calvin Inst. 3.3.2-9]).

…by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God… Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (John Calvin: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; The Calvin Translation Society 1855. Editor: John Owen, p. 165 ¶4).

Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death—viz. ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered (The Calvin Institutes: 3.14.11).

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both (Michael Horton: Christless Christianity; p. 62).

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.21).

Therefore, “under grace” is defined as a mere qualification to return to the same gospel that saved us; in other words, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day” in order to keep ourselves saved. How prevalent is this idea in the contemporary church? Consider this laundry list from Peter Lumpkins .com:

“As Pastors we must first preach the gospel to ourselves before we proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior” (Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29 Network).

“Yet even when we understand that our acceptance with God is based on Christ’s work, we still naturally tend to drift back into a performance mindset. Consequently, we must continually return to the gospel. To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must ‘preach the gospel to ourselves every day’ (Jerry Bridges, Reformed author).

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves and one another every day” (Ashland Avenue Baptist Church Distinctives, Lexington, KY).

“The Gospel must be central to our lives and central to our message. Strive to keep the Gospel in the center of your worship ministry. Jerry Bridges tell us that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday. It has been said that we never move on from the Cross, only to a more profound understanding of the Cross” (Dr. Greg Brewton, Associate Dean for Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

“We must preach the Gospel to ourselves” (Francis Chan, Passion 2011).

“Yesterday was a powerful moment in the Word of God as we studied Romans 8:1-4. I challenged those present to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Why? If we do not preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will return to sin, bondage, guilt, the Law, and legalism…You see, this is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily” (Ronnie Floyd, former Chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force).

“I’ve been re-reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book The Discipline of Grace…Bridges reminded me of just how important it is to ‘preach the gospel to ourselves everyday’ if we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ” (Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church).

“…I once assumed…that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved… But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved… . This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea” (Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church).

“We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday… . As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we should be both encouraged and overwhelmed with gratitude, and both should give us a desire to deal with the sin in our lives” (Casey Lewis, student, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves… . …Most gracious Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today…” (Scotty Smith, Guest blogger at Justin Taylor’s The Gospel Coalition site and Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN).

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“We must constantly be preaching the gospel to ourselves, filling our hearts with your beauty and bounty, Lord Jesus… . Dear heavenly Father, it’s not about “mind over matter,” or the power of positive thinking, or the pragmatic good of cognitive therapy. It’s all about preaching the gospel to ourselves every opportunity we get…” Scotty Smith, Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN (here and here, respectively)

“How can we not shift from the hope of the Gospel? By preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily… . ‘Preaching the Gospel to yourself’ is a phrase I first ran across in ‘The Discipline of Grace’ by Jerry Bridges, and have observed for years in the life of my good friend, C.J. Mahaney. C.J. has written persuasively, biblically, and practically on this topic in his new book, ‘Living the Cross Centered Life’… . Don’t take a day off from preaching the Gospel to yourself” (Bob Kaulfin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and worship leader at Covenant Life Church led by Josh Harris).

“Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy…. What can I do? ‘Well, God does not mean for us to be passive. He means for us to fight the fight of faith the fight for joy. And the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself’…” (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, p.81, as quoted by Bob Kauflin).

“I am thoroughly engrossed with Joe Thorn’s personal mediations on preaching the gospel to oneself” (Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, promoting Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: the Discipline of Preaching to Oneself).

“In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I’ve been preaching the gospel to myself” (Steve McCoy, SBC Pastor).

“This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others” (Timmy Brister, SBC Associate Pastor).

“I chose not to include the response to the gospel…but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself” (Ed Stetzer, LifeWay).

This isn’t a technique for boosting our spiritual growth; this is a means of re-salvation because we are still technically lost and under law. “Under grace” merely qualifies us for perpetual re-salvation. That’s Protestantism…period!

And the culture that will result is defined in the Bible:

Romans 6:15 – What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christ said, “You must be born again.” This is clearly a doctrine that redefines the new birth by defining the “believer” as unchanged and yet under law. Along with that is an unavoidable conclusion that this also includes a fruits unto death existence that is part and parcel with being under law.

This will, and does make sin and condemnation the focus and theme of church while the Bible emphasizes ADDING virtue to our faith in contrast to a continual re-visitation of our supposed depravity.

1Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

2Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

In the past, Protestants were confused enough about their own soteriological traditions that the fruits unto death were minimal, but during this Neo-Reformed resurgence that we are witnessing presently, such is not the case; the institutional church is a blatant culture of death. And those who would expose their children to it are woefully undiscerning. Ask yourself this simple question: do I leave church better equipped to see something that the Bible states isn’t there or better equipped to love God and others? Am I better at seeing my own depravity, or have I learned new ways to love which covers a multitude of sins anyway?

The remedy for this malady is a return to where the gathering of believers belongs: in home fellowships where believers are equipped to love God and others as a lifestyle, NOT a “lifestyle of repentance.” The institutional church was first called “church” when it was founded in the 4th century, and it was founded on the same idea that believers remain under law. Therefore, an authoritative institution was created that supplied official re-salvation for those under law. The institutional church goes hand in glove with the idea that it supplies a place for re-salvation, i.e., those qualified to receive it by being “under grace.”

To impart this blessing to us, the keys have been given to the Church (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). For when Christ gave the command to the apostles, and conferred the power of forgiving sins, he not merely intended that they should loose the sins of those who should be converted from impiety to the faith of Christ; but, moreover, that they should perpetually perform this office among believers” (The Calvin Institutes: 4.1.22).

Secondly, This benefit is so peculiar to the Church, that we cannot enjoy it unless we continue in the communion of the Church. Thirdly, It is dispensed to us by the ministers and pastors of the Church, either in the preaching of the Gospel or the administration of the Sacraments, and herein is especially manifested the power of the keys, which the Lord has bestowed on the company of the faithful. Accordingly, let each of us consider it to be his duty to seek forgiveness of sins only where the Lord has placed it. Of the public reconciliation which relates to discipline, we shall speak at the proper place (Ibid).

Come out from among them and be separate.

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Gut Check for Evangelicalism: Control, Despair, and Fear IS the Specific Protestant Orthodoxy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 10, 2015

51nAtlMzT7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOne of the memories burned into my psyche is the big picture narrative book that my dad bought me when I was a young boy about the NFL titled, “The First 50 Years.” One of the subtitles in the book is, “Pain and Injuries are in the Contract.” Of course, those who love the game know that’s one of the downsides of the game, but hardly the focal point. In boxing, pain and injury is obviously the focal point; the objective is to knock the opponent unconscious.

Here is what “Christians” need to start considering: Protestantism is boxing, not football, and that’s in the contract.

There is a book recently written by Dr. Marlene Winell titled, “Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion” wherein she coins the term “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS). In the book, she writes, “I think we can acknowledge we have a subculture now – a group of people who were once religious but have left and are reclaiming their lives. This group is special and identifiable. It’s not just exChristian; it’s exMormon, exMuslim, ex-Jehovah-Witness, ex-cult, and ex-authoritarian.” And, “Religious indoctrination can be hugely damaging, and making the break from an authoritarian kind of religion can definitely be traumatic. It involves a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, the future, everything. People unfamiliar with it, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create and the recovery needed.”

There is perhaps something that Dr. Winell herself does not understand: these very symptoms (at least in regard to Protestantism) qualify these people to be religionists par excellence. Fear, pain, and misery are in the contract. And here is something else many understand not: cultism is defined by authority and subsequent control. Ironically, most people think of cults as loosey-goosey splinter groups lacking authority structure when the opposite is true; cultism and authority ALWAYS walk together. At any rate, a pity so many leave the institutional church when they have finally come to where the church wants them: on the verge of a nervous breakdown or in the spectrum of personality disorders born of orthodoxy. Obviously, they misunderstood orthodoxy from the very beginning.

Protestant orthodoxy states in no uncertain terms that RTS is a description of the perfect Christian. This religion is one of the largest in the world, and fundamentally representative of most, especially regarding the authority issue. The founding doctrinal statement of the Protestant Reformation, the Heidelberg Disputation, insists that all life meaning must be found in suffering and death. I would cite specific theses among the forty, but every thesis in the document states such. As with most of us, it might escape Dr. Winell that the paramount icon of the Christian faith is an instrument of death and torture, the cross. The Heidelberg Disputation’s major theme gave birth to this icon for the ages as Christianity’s foremost representation. But somehow, we find the results profound in some way and in need of much research.

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion articulated the Heidelberg Disputation. In that work, Calvin stated that constant fear of condemnation was efficacious to remaining saved and growing in one’s salvation (3.3.3-7). Furthermore, according to Calvin, if one has assurance of salvation, such fear is of no necessity and puts one’s soul in peril (3.24.6). For both Martin Luther (the author of the Heidelberg Disputation) and Calvin, the redeeming trump card is periodic experiences of joy gifted to us by God for recognizing our depravity, but both warned that these joyful experiences should not give one affirmation of future glory. This is the official Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification. You do the math.

Yes, there is a mass exodus taking place from the institutional church because many misunderstand the premise of their faith…

…fear and pain are in the contract. And it is not just a downside, it is the name of the game.

paul

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