Paul's Passing Thoughts

Smoking Gun: ACBC is a Nationwide Divorce Mill

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 13, 2017

OrigEDMinally published July 13, 2015

For a more detailed discussion on this book, check out Susan Dohse’s book review and commentary here

Christ made it clear that what God has brought together NO man is to separate. Does this mean God predetermines every marriage in regard to particular spouses? I doubt it. This probably refers to God’s covenant of marriage and the theology of vows. At any rate, death, unrepentant adultery, and an unbeliever who abandons their believing spouse are the only exceptions.

How does one live happily with a spouse who has become difficult? For Protestants, that is a hard question because the focus has been on justification for 500 years with little emphasis on the biblical art of godly living (sanctification). When you are supposedly sanctified by a perpetual “return to the gospel afresh”… knowledge on how to repair a marriage is going to be what it is today, practically nonexistent. And of course, living by the same gospel that saves us (not saved us) is a very complex matter needing the ongoing “research and development” of gospel-centered experts.

Add to that: Protestants don’t even have justification right. Little wonder then that the institutional church is a train wreck after 500 years of scholarship and trillions of hard-earned laity dollars. What is the answer? The answer is a laity movement that will reclaim the priesthood of believers seized by Gnostic hacks dressed in biblical garb.

The answers will come through one Lord, and one word interpreted by individuals indwelt by the Spirit who gives all knowledge needed for life and godliness liberally. In case we forget the obvious, “I was only obeying the elders” will not cut it when you stand before Christ and His blazing eyes of fire. The Nazis were very good at being “subordinate,” and many were hanged accordingly. I realize Reformed elders claim God gave them His authority to rule on earth, but you may want to rethink that claim.

As predicted, the biblical counseling movement overseen primarily by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has become a divorce mill via its efforts to build marriages that “look like the gospel.” And the smoking gun is a book written by Leslie Vernick titled The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope that is widely used among ACBC counselors.

The obvious problems here are first seen in the title of the book. As Christians, is it really our goal to, “find our voice”? I thought it was our goal to please God in every circumstance. Secondly, the idea of emotional destruction is subjective at best and a ticket to do anything you want at worst. To make the point here, Google “American Civil Law.” In a culture judging anything that causes bad feelings to be abuse, such an approach to “biblical counseling” should give one pause.

Thirdly, why do Christians need a 240 page book written by a serial regurgitator of other people’s thoughts to FIND hope? You would think that by now Christians would be fairly certain about where hope is found.

Chilling is the examination of the 61-question survey found in the book that supposedly determines if one is in an abusive relationship or not. In the hands of a person that is unhappy in their marriage, the outcome will be a foregone conclusion. It’s like asking a chicken if Colonel Sanders is an emotional abuser.

The lynchpin becomes the ACBC’s loose interpretation of 1Corinthians 7:12-16. If the spouse is already an unbeliever, emotional abuse is tantamount to departing from the marriage even if they have not left physically or filed for divorce. Church discipline takes care of the pesky obstacle of the “abusive” spouse being a believer—they can be declared an unbeliever…actually MADE an unbeliever by elder authority supposedly vested to them by God. This paves the way for sanctified divorce.

It boils down to this: whoever is handed the book by the counselor is coronated as the abused spouse. Be sure of this: if both counselees in a bad marriage were handed the book, both would be guilty of the same thing. This is the smoking gun: it depends on who the ACBC “biblical counselor” wants to label abusive for whatever the motives might be.

I think a present situation that I am involved in says it all. I know enough about the situation to know that if the person I am talking with took the book’s survey, the other spouse would be judged as emotionally abusive hands down. The other spouse was handed the book because of who the ACBC counselor wanted to label “abusive.”

This is the niche service that Leslie Vernick now supplies to ACBC counselors.

paul

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Josh Duggar: The Protestant Gospel Strikes Again

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 22, 2017

19-kids-counting

Originally published May 22, 2015

Yawn. Here we go again. The Catholics no longer have the market on sexual child abuse cornered…for some time now. Pray tell, how much longer are all of the clichés going to cover for this stuff until people finally realize that there is a serious fundamental problem underneath the hood of the Protestant magical yellow bus supposedly going to heaven.

May I suggest a false gospel?

How many children will be sacrificed for the sake of evangelicals saving face? I understand that Westerners don’t want to admit that we fell prey to the same en masse religious deceptions found in the East, but the price of children is way too high for the redemption of Western pride. Besides, Germany trashed the notion during the 40s anyway.

Dear discernment bloggers: in case you haven’t noticed, you cannot save the Protestant church. You are now merely gossip peddlers; nothing more or less. And enough with your whiney open forums: truth is found as promised by Christ in His word, not your pooling of ignorant uninformed opinions leading to more and more confusion.

It’s time to stop and question everything, and the answers are egregiously simplistic. It’s time for the solution.

The first century Christians met in homes for mutual edification because that is the intended model; always was, always will be. The “church” was NEVER meant to be any kind of institution. The Protestant gospel was designed for institutional purposes. The five word gospel, “Christ died for our sins,” was derived from spiritual caste presuppositions and an institutional mindset.

Catholics like Protestants because they both share the same metaphysical presuppositions concerning mankind and a call for oligarchy. Hence, the few will always be sacrificed for the collective good. Name one victim who has found justice in the church. Where is this victim? Where is Christ’s one in ninety-nine? You search in vain. That’s because in the Protestant five word gospel, “victim” is a misnomer.

What’s your first clue? Regardless of the fact that Josh Duggar confessed to child molestation in 2006, he was appointed as executive director of the Family Research Council. They knew. Everyone knew. James Dobson probably knew. Sigh. You really think it’s about families? Really? Are you that naive?

Again, the fundamental problem is egregiously simple: the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than five words. Christ died so the old us could also die. The old us should be dead. But it isn’t, so we continually return to the death of Christ to seek forgiveness for our total depravity. By focusing on our total depravity, grace abounds, and those who know how sinful they are—are actually more qualified to be Christian leaders. And because of that, the Duggars are among the Grace Philosopher Kings, and the American Christian peasantry still doesn’t understand these things.  Well, Josh must resign and once again Christianity has lost a great leader because of the Pharisees. In essence, this is the same worn-out Protestant response being proffered in the press by the Duggers.

Also missing from the Protestant five word gospel is our resurrection with Christ. Instead of emphasizing the holiness of new creaturehood, we rejoice in the evil that supposedly manifests Christ’s living, not a “righteous living of our own.” We have not died with Christ, nor have we been resurrected with Him. This is a gospel that is totally off the biblical reservation.

Gee whiz, it’s testimony to the fact that there is a lot more grace work to be done in the church—boy howdy—God’s people still do not understand grace. Poor Josh must resign because there are still way too many Pharisees in the church.

When are God’s people going to stop falling for all of this? When are the discernment bloggers going to beat their keyboards into tools for solutions instead of brushes for whitewashing the tombs of dead people? It’s not a few bad apples, it’s the whole Protestant basket.

And when are Christians going to see the five word gospel for what it is? When is the investment made in error going to look like dung in comparison to the children who have been made to stumble?

paul

The New Man is Possible Because the Law Was Ended

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 25, 2017

Originally published April 25, 2016

The list of Biblical terms that Protestantism has hijacked is lengthy. I am not talking about made-up words that don’t even appear in scripture (and that list itself is lengthy). I mean words that actually appear in scripture, the definitions of which have been twisted to fit the orthodoxy. As we like to say here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, words do mean things.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Protestantism acknowledges this “new creature”, calling it the “new man”, while at the same time professing that the “old man” never really dies but is still present within man. This is the result of a faulty premise of total depravity (including total depravity of the believer) which in turn results in an incorrect interpretation of the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Romans 7:15-24

Protestantism claims that flesh is “evil”. But the Bible teaches instead that flesh is weak. It describes sin as an entity who seeks to control and master others. It tries to accomplish this by using the law to provoke the flesh to transgress.

Much as Protestantism has unwittingly altered the meaning of the New Birth, it has done the same with the idea of the “new man”. In classic dualistic philosophical fashion, Protestant Gnostic orthodoxy claims that the born again believer actually has “two natures”, the old man and the new man who constantly battle each other for control over the believer. In Protestant orthodoxy, man is nothing more than a spiritual schizophrenic. However, the new birth is a literal death and rebirth. The old man dies (“old things are passed away”, literally, “the old has come and gone”). He is crucified with Christ. This is why the law can no longer condemn him- the law cannot condemn a dead man. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of God!

This same teaching is made clear in Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-22

I want to point out once again how Paul makes reference to the law being ended.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances…so making peace; … having slain the enmity thereby”

The word translated “enmity” is a word that has to do with hostility. What was the cause of hostility between God and man? Verse 15 tells us plainly; the law! Man was condemned by the law which was ended when Christ was crucified and raised again. The new birth reconciles God and man, putting an end to the hostility.

Not only is the hostility between God and man ended, but Paul makes mention of hostility between two other groups- the hostility between Jews (the “Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (the “Uncircumcision”). Paul also uses two other expressions to describe these two groups- those who were “far off” (Gentiles) and those who were “nigh” or “near” (the Jews).   This hostility existed again primarily because of the law and the relationship to the law. For the nation of Israel, the law was a guardian, imprisoning sin until the Promise came which would end the law. (Galatians 3:21-29)

But a wonderful thing is revealed in this Ephesians passage. When Christ died, He ended the law, He ended the hostility between God and man, and He ended the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Why? Because the New Birth brings about the death of the old man, and in his place is a new creature that is NEITHER Jew NOR Gentile. Furthermore, each born again believer is made a part of one spiritual body.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man… that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Notice that Paul refers to this one spiritual body as the “New Man”! According to the Bible, the New Man is not the individual believer, but it is the one spiritual body made up of both Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ is the Head, and of which all believers are members together. To further emphasize this idea of “oneness”, Paul uses a metaphor of a building. Christ is the cornerstone, the very first stone set by which all other stones of the building are laid. The teachings of the apostles are the foundation, and each believer is a lively stone set in this building as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:5). This one New Man is a holy temple wherein God’s Spirit now dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

This teaching of the New Man being the Body of Christ is consistent throughout the New Testament. It is the reason believers are given spiritual gifts, for the purpose of maturing the saints to do the work of the ministry, to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is the reason why believers are to assemble together for fellowship, for the purpose of mutual edification so that we can perform works pleasing to God and show love to others (Hebrews 10:24). All of this is possible because Christ ended the law on the cross.

Andy

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

My Reply to Linda: Yes, I Am a Christian, But Not Sure You Are

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 19, 2017

ppt-jpeg4Originally published December 15, 2015

I no longer have patience for the evangelical regurgitation of orthodox talking points. Protestants don’t own their own faith that they have seen in the Bible with their own study.  What they think they see and understand is what Protestant academics have told them, including the idea that only they have authority to tell them what to believe. So, what is wrong with church? Church is wrong with church because it is predicated on a false gospel. That’s right, the Protestant Reformation was a false reformation founded on a false gospel. And this is why Dr. James White and others have refused to debate me publicly; the Protestant gospel as stated in its orthodoxy is the biblical definition of a lost person…under law as opposed to under grace.

Martin Luther and John Calvin et al proffered a gospel that is under law, but that is supposedly OK because Jesus keeps/kept the law for us, and that obedience is imputed to our Christian status. This is a perpetual covering of sin, or sometimes referred to as “atonement,” but not an ENDING of sin that requires no further justification. Hence, we must “preach the gospel to ourselves every day” to “keep ourselves in the love of God” (CJ Mahaney) etc.  White and others know that this is a simple matter of theological math, and do not intend to address it until enough people catch on. The only case they can make presently is for a historical-redemptive interpretation of Scripture that interprets every verse as a justification verse. Sanctification is defined as progressive justification via Protestant talking points.

One day in my personal Facebook account I noticed the following comment to me by a “Linda”:

“Are you a Christian Paul? And secondly do you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? That would be my two questions for you. Romans says, ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’ That includes you and me. This doesn’t mean that we never do a kind act or good deed. It means that we don’t and can’t do enough of them to be declared ‘RIGHTEOUS’ by God. We could never do enough good deeds and kind acts to get us into heaven. Therefore we need the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us in order to go to heaven. God imputes this kind of righteousness to those who believe and accept HIS son Jesus and his shed blood as atonement for their sins and their UNrighteousness. We are part of God’s family by adoption. Nothing can make us righteous enough to go to heaven. The righteousness that is applied to our never dying soul can only come from Christ. The ‘part and parcel’ of our own being is puny compared with what God demands. In one place in scripture our puny ‘part and parcel’ is described as ‘filthy rags.’ So our own human effort at righteousness is from our flesh. Our flesh is not saved from sin and unrighteousness. Only our soul is. We are not capable of learning and loving enough to be declared righteous enough for heaven. We could learn and love enough to help another person with a kind act or good deed. But that does not fit our soul for heaven. I don’t understand your third question……’Christ imputing sin’ ????”

Her comment was in reply to previous comments I had made in regard to a post. She was replying to a comment I made regarding her initial comment.

“I am a never dying soul whom Christ died and rose for, approved of by God because I have HIS righteousness. Just by learning and loving we are different. Better means ‘improved in some way.’ Not hard questions for me.”

Here is my reply.

“Linda, where does the Bible say you have the righteousness of Christ? That’s the first question. The second: Are we only approved of God because we ONLY have the righteousness of Christ and none of our own? What about the new birth? If we are literally born of God and now part of His lineage, would that not make us righteous? Do you mean to say that we have a righteousness LIKE Christ’s because we are a member of the same family, or ONLY His righteousness and none that is part and parcel with our own being? Are we truly righteous, or only declared righteous? Third question: was Christ’s role in salvation an imputation of sin AND righteousness, or just sin? On the one hand, you seem to state that we only have the righteousness of Christ, but on the other, you say we learn and love. How exactly do we learn and love if we ourselves are not righteous people? So, I am not trying to be a jerk here, I am simply resolute that Christians should have a clear definition of who they are. Yes, I know exactly what the Reformers believed about our identity, but I would like to see your clarification.”

This is the extreme Protestant cognitive dissonance resulting in the train wreck we call “church” that I no longer have patience for. People who are serious about following Christ need to take their true gospel and leave the institutional church for home fellowship networks. The institutional church is part and parcel with the authority that demands a denial of the obvious. Authority has replaced truth. Nevertheless, I do believe evangelicals will have to eventually address their under law gospel.

I will make this as simple as possible as I am weary of addressing it. Much, much, thanks to Andy Young who is helping to carry the water on this as well. Linda’s response is pretty much the Protestant gospel talking points that we hear often, and pregnant with cognitive dissonance. All in all, her answers to my questions are, “NO.” Please start by noting that. This is where we discuss another disservice the Reformers performed: adding chapters and verses to the Bible. This circumvents the need to read all of Scripture in context. You can form a theological argument by using John Immel’s pet peeve: Scripture stacking. Basically, Linda is using the same verses to argue for the same Protestant talking points that she has received from Protestant academics. As a result, if one examines her statements, the blatant contradictions are stunning.

Where to start? ALL of our works are filthy rags (Isiah 64:6), yet, we can do some stuff that is good? So, “all” doesn’t really mean “all”? Per the usual, Protestants profess a double false gospel because they don’t rightly understand the gospel taught by the father of the Reformation, Martin Luther. In fact, Luther taught that EVERY deed of man is evil, even those that appear good because man’s “good” deeds always have a flawed motive. Calvin taught the same. Hence, if one believes that we can do a good deed, that is “mortal sin” and cannot be forgiven by the church. But, if one believes that every work we do, even works that appear good, are actually evil, all of our sin can be forgiven by revisiting the same gospel that saved us, and that revisitation is only valid under the auspices and oversight of the clergy. This is Luther, this is Calvin, this is the Protestant gospel. I have documented this backwards and forwards as those who follow TANC Ministries know.

Now, for the Protestant part of this that Linda got right, and in fact a mainstay of Protestantism, but still a false gospel. Luther and Calvin orthodoxy already condemns her to hell, but they would agree with her making the law the standard for justification. Biblically, there is NO law in justification. The Bible testifies about justification, but law and justification are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter who keeps the law, there is no law in justification. What determines justification is the new birth. The law is strictly for love in the Christian life. Again, the law informs us about justification, and here is the information: law is not the standard for justification, the new birth is. The apostle Paul wrote the epistle of Galatians to make this very point. Again, I predict that folks are going to start catching on to this in the future and the who’s who of evangelicalism are going to have to make a defense; good luck to them as that attempt will be interesting. The Protestant under-law-gospel, also stated by Linda, has Christ fulfilling God’s “demands” in our stead when God’s only demand regarding justification is that we be born again.

In order to make the law the standard for justification, the Reformers resorted to Saint Augustine’s Neo-Platonism, which later became Gnosticism and wreaked havoc on the first century church. We see this in Linda’s talking points about “the flesh.” ALL of our works come from where? Right, the flesh which, like the Reformers, she deems as inherently evil. That’s Gnosticism. The Bible teaches that our bodies, or members, are “weak” not inherently evil. When the Bible speaks of the “desires of the flesh” and the “deeds of the flesh,” that speaks of when our members are used for sinful purposes. Obviously, if Linda would stop long enough to read her own Bible with her own understanding given to her by God, she would see that our body, or “flesh,” can also be used for holy purposes (Romans 12:1 among many other passages). And, what is more obvious than the fact that our bodies are declared to be the temple of God? Actually, a word study reveals that the Holy of Holies is being referred to.

This brings us to Linda’s Protestant confusion in regard to the difference between salvation and redemption. The former is the saving of the soul, the latter is the saving of the mortal body which can be used for evil or good depending on which desires we are obeying. Christians, through the new birth, have the ability to obey the desires of the Spirit stated in the Bible and the ability to say “no” to evil desires that remain part of the body’s weakness and mortality. Because Christ ended the law through the new birth, sin has been stripped of its ability to enslave and condemn. If Christ obeys the law for us, we are still under it and enslaved to sin. The old us that died with Christ violated the whole law with every sin; the new us that was raised with Christ fulfills the whole law with one act of love. Christ didn’t come to obey the law for us—He came to END the law. Christ didn’t come to cover our sin—He came to END our sin.

A book could be written here, but time won’t allow it; nevertheless, let’s address Linda’s confusion, typical among Protestants, in regard to gift and reward. We cannot birth ourselves, but we can obtain the baptism of the Spirit by faith alone in “the promise” (see Galatians chapter 3). Once the gift is received, it is ours to utilize by loving God and others. Exercising the gift is not taking credit for the gift. The Bible states that God would be unjust to forget our good works and service to the saints (Hebrews 6:10). “Unjust”? Yes, because as those literally born of Him (1 John chapter 3), and literally a part of His literal family, our reward is due us as siblings working for the Father. As a slave to the former master, we could only earn death wages—now we can earn true reward. Read the Parable of the Talents and see what the outcome is for those who fear and want to give God back only what was given and nothing more. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the new birth.

As a policy, I don’t judge the salvation of others. I believe that there are Protestants who are confused enough about Protestantism to be saved. So, yes Linda, I am saved, but I find your assurance that you are saved indicative of your confusion. Protestant orthodoxy CLEARLY states that the motor of sanctification moving justification forward is doubt of salvation because being under condemnation is part and parcel with being under law…the standard for justification according to Protestantism. In Calvin’s words, if “Christians” are not still under condemnation, what further need is there for Christ and His righteousness?

So Linda, I am saved, but I recommend that you start thinking for yourself. All of the Protestant academics you trust will not stand in your stead at the judgment. You will be standing there alone.

And you better have more than a covering with sin underneath it, you better be a literal child of God before Him.

paul

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 21, 2017

Originally published April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you read the transcripts from John Immel’s 2013 TANC Conference sessions if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

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