Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation; Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 30, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk radio .com/False Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 1 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation.”

Greetings from the Potters House and TANC ministries where we are always eager to serve all of your heterodox needs. Our teaching catalogue can be found at tancpublishing.com

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Per the usual, we will check in with Susan towards the end of the show and listen to her perspective.

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In the introductory primer for this series on the link page, I stated the following:

About six months after Luther posted his 95 Theses on the front doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, he presented his doctrinal disputation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg, Germany. This is a timeless document that laid the foundation for Protestant doctrine and its primary principles have never been altered. This document is the very roots of the Protestant tree. The Reformed tradition has never strayed from its major tenets. To understand the Heidelberg Disputation is to understand all of Reformed tradition.

Absolutely. The Heidelberg Disputation laid the foundational worldview/philosophy/ideology of the Reformation and everything taught from a Reformed perspective flows from this document in one way or another. The introduction of this document reads as follows from the Book of Concord which are the confessions of the Lutheran Church:

Following Luther’s proposal for a disputation on the subject of indulgences, the Augustinian Order, to which Luther belonged, was generally supportive of his views. The head of the order in Germany, Johannes Staupitz, called for a formal disputation to be attended by the leadership of the order, in which Luther would be provided a chance to expand upon his concern. The disputation took place at the meeting of the Augustinian Order, in Heidelberg, in April 1518. Luther’s opponents had been hopeful that Luther would be silenced, but Staupitz wanted to give Luther a fair hearing, since he was generally sympathetic with Luther’s views. At the meeting, Luther put forward a “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of glory.” The disputation is, in many ways, more significant than the 95 theses, for they advanced Luther’s growing realization that the theology of late Medieval Roman Catholicism was fundamentally and essentially at odds with Biblical theology. As a result of the disputation, John Eck proposed a debate between himself and representatives of Luther’s views, which was held in Leipzig (lighp-sig) from June to July, 1519.

Ok, so let me tell you what I did in devoted service to the saints; I suffered through a lot of the Leipzig debate between Luther and Eck (as an aside: both were vehement anti-Semites). This is a huge consideration in all of this: what specifically where the divisive issues between Luther and the Catholic Church? Well, of course, initially, they were supposedly moral; i.e., the 95 Theses.

Now, Luther held a lot of people captive in the Catholic Church because there was agreement on the moral issues. I mean, what was going on with indulgences and so forth was pretty much in your face and totally ridiculous. But what were the actual doctrinal issues? So, once again, I sought to ascertain the answers to this question, and once again, I end up right back at what I wrote in the booklet, The Reformation Myth. It’s only about 30 pages, and nails down the doctrinal issues between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Let me give you the short version. In the aforementioned booklet, I focus heavily on the fact that both camps hold to a progressive justification gospel. Basically, salvation is a process that starts at point A, and progresses to point B, and the Mother Church oversees the progression via authority granted it by God. I cite a bunch of references in the booklet to make this point.

Take note: the Reformers were very strong advocates of the imputation of authority and apostolic succession. This is why they did not want to make a complete break with the Catholic Church. Luther and Calvin both were rabid followers of St. Augustine who is a Doctor of Grace in the Catholic Church. Till this day, Protestant Reformers proudly claim Augustine as the founding father of Reformation doctrine. The late David Hunt documents this fact thoroughly in his book, What Love is This? with much incredulation. And by the way, Johannes  (yoh-hah-nis) Staupitz whom I mentioned earlier is one of many, like Augustine, who are recognized/claimed by both camps, viz, Protestants and Catholics both.

Why is this? It’s the authority issue. This is why both camps claim Augustine; he is the authoritative tie that binds. In the TANC Theological Journal, volume 2015 issues 4 and 5, I document the transition between home fellowships and the institution church and the warfare between the two. The home fellowships led by elders resisted the takeover of Christianity by the Gnostic church fathers who set up an apostolic succession authority in Rome.

The home fellowships rejected church hierarchy, and insisted that apostolic authority rested in the Scriptures alone and not men. They insisted on a cooperative body under one head, Jesus Christ. They insisted on ONE mediator between God and men—Jesus the Christ. In both Catholicism and Protestantism, the proffering of popes, priests, and pastors as additional mediators is absolutely irrefutable. You can read both of those issues online for free: http://truthaboutnewcalvinism.weebly.com/

So, what are the specific doctrinal contentions? It’s the same reason there are many, many denominations which are mostly predicated on progressive justification. The argument is always, “What is the correct way for people to get from point A to point B in the salvation process?

Catholics believe man has freewill and is able to participate in the process. Protestants believe man has no role in the salvation process at all. This is why much of the Leipzig debate was about election and the freewill of man, and a lot of haggling over what Augustine taught.

Both agreed on church authority, church hierarchy as sub-mediators, and progressive justification while the contention regarded man’s role in the process.

Again pause for a moment to take note: the argument regarding man’s role was argued from the standpoint of philosophy…PERIOD! Let me boil it down to the most common denominator: Plato versus Aristotle. Note the title of Luther’s 29th thesis in the disputation:

He who wishes to philosophize by using Aristotle without danger to his soul must first become thoroughly foolish in Christ.

In her excellent series on Plato, Augustine, and Calvin during the TANC 2013 Conference, my wife Susan stated the following about Plato:

He became acquainted with Ambrose of Milan, a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who introduced him to the books of the Platonists. While in Milan, his encounter with Platonism provided the major turning point which reoriented his thought among the basic things that were consistent till his death. Augustine himself makes it clear that it was his encounter with the books of the Platonists that made it possible for him to view both the church and its scriptural tradition—the key word there is tradition—as having an intellectually satisfying and indeed resourceful content…

Augustine is referred to as one of the great Christian Platonists. And there’s that oxymoron again. In particular, Augustine’s interpretation of Plato dominated Christian thought for the next thousand years after his death in the 5th century. In his Confessions, Augustine openly describes the help he received from the Platonists. Platonism colored the whole future thought of Augustine, and thus this gift of Plato’s writing set a current in the thought of Western Christendom. Augustine believed that Plato lifted him to a true and almost worthy knowledge of God. And early in his Christian career he declared, “I am convinced that I shall discover among the Platonists nothing repugnant to our religion.” The Platonists are therefore the only serious antagonists just because they need so slight a change to make them Christians. Augustine’s physical, logical and moral philosophy, all this learned first and most thoroughly from Plato, and many a formula of Platonic ethics have been passed down through Augustine and Christian literature…

I’m going to quote Augustine from his writing on Christian doctrine. “If those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not to shrink from it. We are to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it.” Now I want you to know that looks good on the surface. You find something true, and you claim it. But I want you to note his phrase, “harmony with our faith,” the faith in the Roman Catholic Church, not in harmony with Scripture but harmony in the faith that he found in the Roman Catholic Church.

Getting back to Luther, notice that Luther equates philosophy with the condition of one’s soul in the cited 29th theses. And let me interpret this statement for you preemptively: Aristotle must be understood through Luther’s Platonist epistemology known as “the foolishness of the cross.” As we will see as we move along in the series, in medieval theology from which the Reformation gospel is grounded, the ancient sophists clearly were the authority. Clearly so. The theologians of this time who were little more than a brood of world philosophers, then went to the Bible to make their case; the Bible was clearly interpreted through ancient philosophy.

Apparently, Catholic theologians became “corrupted” with Thomism (the integration of theology with the philosophy of Aristotle by Saint Thomas Aquinas) after being primarily of Augustinian (Platonic) persuasion since the 5th century. Thomism made serious inroads into Catholicism. Consider what was said by Pope Pious X in the 20th century:

The capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church (Pope St. Pius X, Doctoris Angelici, 29 June 1914).

It would appear that the crux of the Reformation was an Augustinian/Platonist pushback against Thomism. Actually, a more obscure part of the Heidelberg Disputation confirms that. I have studied this document for months, and always assumed there were 28 theses. These are known as the theological theses. I assumed such because every resource or commentary I ever used in my research only spoke of the theological theses.

In preparation for this series, I find that there were actually a total of 40, and the last 12 are known as the philosophical theses. As we will see, these last 12 of the 40 primarily concern Aristotle and Plato.

This clears up a lot of whispering questions that used to float around in the back of my mind. Where is the emphasis on this document in Reformed circles? This is the doctrinal statement of the Reformation six months after the 95 Theses was nailed to the church doors in Wittenberg. It is the primary demarcation between Catholicism and Protestantism. It is the very essence of contemporary “gospel-driven” living. It also explains the life application of gospel-driven living and how it is experienced. Why then, is this document not a household name in Western culture?

Because the last 12 theses would expose the Reformation for what it really was: a philosophical debate, not a biblical one. Yes, the first 28 theses have a strong Platonist flavor if you are familiar with Platonism, but there is no direct reference to it. The last 12 leave no doubt as to what the real bone of contention was in the Reformation. In fact according to William Herman Theodore Dau in The Great Renunciation: Leaves from the Story of Luther’s Life, page 75, he states the following:

On the following day Luther declared outright to the Dominican Butzer that with these theses he had meant to strike at the entire theological activity of the Thomists and Scotists (Scotism).

This gives us a picture of the Protestant tree. The roots are Plato, the trunk is Augustine, the branches are Catholicism, and the fruit is Protestantism. This is why evangelical Baptists are really just functioning Platonists to one degree or another. Examining the fruit from the top of the tree, evangelicalism is fraught with dualist lingo that finds its roots in Platonism.

For instance: “I didn’t do it! Don’t give me the glory! It was the Holy Spirit!” So, something happened, and it appears that you did it, but you really didn’t do it, it was done by someone else from the invisible realm. Well, that’s just good old fashioned dualist realm manifestation, or realm birthing. Also, that particular example finds its bases in Luther’s venial sin versus mortal sin which will be explained in parts following.

Before we move on, from the editor’s introduction which we already read:

 At the meeting, Luther put forward a “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of glory.”

Luther’s theology of the cross is a Platonist worldview. It is the interpretation of all realty via redemption. All other knowledge/reality is categorized as the “theology of glory,” or worldly wisdom. This disputation explains how this works and its application to life experience. As we evaluate each thesis one by one, the full spectrum of Reformed tradition will be understood.

Before we begin with the first thesis, I have a few remarks regarding Luther’s introduction to the Augustinian order:

Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, »Do not rely on your own insight« (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

Leonard Beyer was a correspondent at the disputation and information about him will not be visited here. What I would like to focus on is the, “Distrusting completely our own wisdom” and the verse that is even used today to make a case for the worthlessness of worldly wisdom versus wisdom from above; that is Proverbs 3:5. Note also that St. Augustine is clearly put on the same par with the apostle Paul. And lastly, note that Luther states that this document is made up of “paradoxes.” Herein is the epitome of spiritual caste systems with Augustine as chief philosopher king dictating the paradoxes to the masses.

Thesis 1: The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.

This is made clear by the Apostle in his letter to the Romans (3:21): »But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.« St. Augustine interprets this in his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ (De Spiritu et Littera): »Without the law, that is, without its support.« In Rom. 5:20 the Apostle states, »Law intervened, to increase the trespass«, and in Rom. 7:9 he adds, »But when the commandment came, sin revived.« For this reason he calls the law »a law of death« and »a law of sin« in Rom. 8:2. Indeed, in 2 Cor. 3:6 he says, »the written code kills«, which St. Augustine throughout his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹ understands as applying to every law, even the holiest law of God.

The Achilles’ heel of Protestantism is the law. Here, Luther interprets Romans 3:21 as pertaining to any righteousness that might be practiced by a believer. Remember, Luther sees justification as progressive. A onetime imputation of righteousness through the new birth that makes a person righteous apart from the law is not in view here. In other words, Luther doesn’t see this as people being made righteous apart from the law, but rather makes law the standard for righteousness. In truth, the new birth is the standard for righteousness, not the law. By the way, it is tempting to cite the Calvin Institutes as a supplement here. The Calvin Institutes are an expansion of the Heidelberg Disputation. The first sentence of the Institutes is a statement that reflects the foundational premise of Luther’s Disputation.

Therefore, since the law is the standard for righteousness, it can only hinder someone trying to use it for righteous living. Luther then cites Romans 5:20 to make the case that the law only increases sin. Well, that’s true for those who are under it (see Romans 6:14). Luther makes under grace a covering for remaining under law instead of one ceasing and being replaced by the other one. Said another way, being under grace doesn’t replace being under law, under grace is only an ongoing cure for remaining under law.

But this is what Romans 3:21 is really talking about: we are made righteous apart from the law; righteousness and law are mutually exclusive in justification. As believers, we act righteously because of the new birth, not because we are law-keepers. The law doesn’t make us righteous—the new birth does.

Paul’s reference to the law increasing sin applies to those still under it. The same goes for Luther’s twisting of 2Corinthians 3:6. The law is a ministry of death for those who are still under law, but not for those under grace. The smoking gun on this is Luther’s handing of Romans 8:2 in that he only quotes half of the verse.

This is the crux of the error regarding the Reformed view of law and its single perspective. He only cites the one perspective on the law as a ministry of death only, and not the perspective where the Spirit of life uses the same law to sanctify us (John 17:17). Observe Romans 8:2 and you can see the two perspectives on the law in that verse.

Ironically, thesis 1 is all you need to totally debunk the Reformation—the theological math doesn’t add up. But, remember, all of this errant theology flows from the philosophical argument. This makes the Reformation’s sola scriptura (sol-us script-tora) a big fat lie. Clearly, Plato was the authority starting with Augustine moving forward.

Thesis 2: Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.

Since the law of God, which is holy and unstained, true, just, etc., is given man by God as an aid beyond his natural powers to enlighten him and move him to do the good, and nevertheless the opposite takes place, namely, that he becomes more wicked, how can he, left to his own power and without such aid, be induced to do good? If a person does not do good with help from without, he will do even less by his own strength. Therefore the Apostle, in Rom. 3:10-12, calls all persons corrupt and impotent who neither understand nor seek God, for all, he says, have gone astray.

Note that the real issue here is “natural precepts.” Because this is really a Platonist document, anything man does that can be perceived with the five senses, no matter what it is, must be evil because it can be perceived. Period.

So Reformed tradition concerning law/gospel starts right here folks. You’re looking at it right now. What did Luther do with the law and its commands to mankind in light of his Platonist philosophy? Here is what he did:

He actually made the law part of the Trinity. He actually made the law God. He made the law a co-life-giver with God. Eternal life is not granted through the new birth APART from the law; the law becomes the standard and expression of eternal life.

In Robert Brinsmead’s brilliant articulation of Luther’s soteriology in the theological journal, Present Truth, he explains it this way:

The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

And…

We say again, Only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

So basically, what you have is Jesus not only coming to die for our sins, but to fulfill the law so that his obedience can be imputed to us in order to satisfy the law because we can’t keep the law perfectly. But that’s not why we are righteous—we are righteous because our minds are renewed by the Spirit and we are born of God’s seed. This results in a different direction, not perfection. The dynamic is found in Romans 6:20: those under law are enslaved to sin, but free to do good. Those under grace are enslaved to righteousness, but unfortunately free to sin. It’s a reversal of enslavement and freedom resulting in a different direction. The will of man is both enslaved and free. Of course, Luther contended that man’s will is in total bondage to sin.

At any rate, what you have here is also the very cradle of what the Reformed call, “double imputation,” a doctrine lauded by the Reformed in this day. Again, let me remind you, this is the very first theological theses of the Protestant Reformation, and all of the major tenets lauded by the Reformed in our day find there beginnings in this document. Also remember, these tenets necessarily flow from Luther’s Platonist worldview.

And this is why in our day you hear conservative evangelical Baptists say things like, “We have the righteousness of Christ,” “The resurrection was proof that God was pleased with Christ’s obedience,” “When God looks at us He only sees Christ,” etc., etc., etc. This is why the Baptist stripe of Protestants, and for that matter all others as well, are little more than functioning Platonists.

The fulfilment of the law for the implementation of eternal life is just a steroidal antithesis to Pauline soteriology even though Luther claims in the introduction that this disputation is based on Pauline theology. This was Paul’s whole point in Galatians chapter 3, the law cannot give life for justification.

In this particular thesis, Luther states that man is given the word as an “aid” that does NOT enlighten him, or enable him to do good. So how does it aid him? That was covered in thesis 1; it is an aid to show man how wicked he is whether saved or unregenerate. Luther then twists Romans 3:10-12 to make the point.

But again, we have an example of something we will see throughout this disputation and often in our day: the citing of verses that pertain to presalvation/justification applied to post salvation existence, or if you will, sanctification. Paul is simply citing Psalms 13:1-3 to make the point that unregenerate Jews are no better off than unregenerate Gentiles and both need Christ just as much as one does or the other.

So, someone might say, “But Paul, doesn’t that passage say that no man seeks God?” Sure it does, so what? The nature of fallen man, as exhibited by Adam and Eve, is to do what? Hide. For certain, when Adam and Eve sinned, they didn’t immediately go looking for God and say, “We messed up, how can we fix this?” No, God had to seek them out, they didn’t seek God, but once God cornered them with the truth, did they or any person after them possess an inherent inability to respond in the positive? I doubt it. Again, we see God seeking out Cain in the same way after he slew Abel.

That’s what evangelism is all about even in our day. The Spirit and we seek men out on God’s behalf. The Spirit convicts men of sin and the judgement to come, and we do the same. We have our life testimony, the word of God, the conviction of conscience either excusing or accusing men according to the works of the law written on their hearts, and the work of the Holy Spirit. They already have the works of the law written on their hearts administered by the conscience; it is our job to set that on fire with more specific revelation.

What God did in the Garden in regard to seeking out Adam and Eve is our job, that’s our duty. That’s part of what makes us like our Father.

Well, we have done pretty well tonight. We have completed the introduction and evaluated the first two theses. Let’s go to the phones.

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.

Josh Duggar: The Protestant Gospel Strikes Again

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 22, 2015

19-kids-countingYawn. 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 Potter’s House: Romans 14:2-12; Authority’s Assault on Unity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on April 2, 2015

Originally published December 21, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

Last week 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) conflent, 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.

Next week, we will look at the consequences of not doing this: causing a fellow Christian to “stumble.” Also, how can an authoritative demand for obedience in contrast to persuasion contribute to this stumbling?

Next week: “Authority’s Stumbling Block.”

Potter H. 1Related:

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

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 22, 2015
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