Paul's Passing Thoughts

Making Your Choice From The Authority Smorgasbord

Posted in Authority by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 15, 2018

“Eventually, one central issue brought him to the doorstep of the Eastern Orthodox church. ‘The issue of authority,’ he explains. ‘I felt I was flying by the seat of my pants as a Christian. I would read Scripture and come to conclusions myself. At some point, I felt I had to submit myself to some authority outside of myself.'”

How does one decide what “religion” is the correct one?  How does one find objective truth amid the whirling maelstrom of subjectivism?  Whether it is Baptist or Catholic or Islam or in this case Eastern Orthodox, the progression of thought always begins with the assumption of mass incompetence – man’s “depravity.” If one begins with the premise that man is metaphysically unable to know truth, the conclusion is that he is therefore epistemologically disqualified from being able to make a correct ascertaining of truth.

Once you have bought into the assumption that man is not qualified to make a reasoned decision regarding truth, he MUST then relegate this decision to some authority. The irony then is that whatever “authority” is chosen is STILL a completely subjective decision. Man is still the one choosing which “authority” rules his life.

So who is ultimately to decide which “authority” is the correct one? It comes down to whichever one has the biggest stick, or which one is the most effective in its ability to use force to compel others into compliance. This is always the end result of this progression of thought: a force that must compel dictated good in the name of “God” or “allah” or “buddha” or whoever.

The thought process of the individual in the article linked below is a perfect example.

~ Andy

Theron’s Story: Why I Left Evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodoxy

Let’s be Honest: Does God Really Want Christians to “Live by the Gospel” Every Day?

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 20, 2014

PPT Handle

Originally published December 21, 2011

“The application of the gospel in regard to the saints is clearly stated here. It is a ministry of reconciliation that we preach to the world, not to ourselves. We are already reconciled. This would seem evident.”

 It was maybe a year ago in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I showed up for morning service to find a huge cross assembled at the altar with a couple of hundred white ribbons draped across the horizontals. At the beginning of the service, red ribbons were passed out to all those in attendance. The message was on Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

As the pastor preached a gospel-centered message on “Though Your Sins are as Scarlet,” everyone  was holding those red ribbons, a great reflective tool while listening to the message. At the end of the message, everyone went up front and exchanged their red ribbon for a white ribbon, laying their red ribbon on the cross  and taking a white ribbon. The sight of hundreds of people doing that was very moving. As we then held our white ribbons, he closed.

Till this day, I still have that white ribbon in my Bible. Though I had already decided I was going to start visiting other churches, and I knew where the message was coming from in the whole scheme of that particular church’s doctrine (gospel sanctification), I was extremely glad for the message. Why? Because I love the gospel and grieve the fact that the mantle of its splendor often fades as I wade through the milieu of life.

How could I not be continually exhilarated by this unfathomable sacrifice? The message left me with an awesome feeling. I felt very close to the Lord and was full of joy. When I stopped for gas on the way home, did the clerk not see the very joy of the gospel on my face? In such a state is one not ready and willing to serve the Lord with joy and without a moment of hesitation? Who then would dare say that we should not continually dwell on the message of the gospel?!

Well, among many: Christ, the apostle Paul, the apostle Peter, and the Hebrew writer. I’m right there with you, having that experience makes you feel pretty darn spiritual. Who wouldn’t want that every day? That day I was glad for the reminder of what Christ had done for me, but the apostle’s question should always be before us: “What does the Scripture say?”

Hang on as you read the following run-on sentence, it’s a long one:

Of course to some the following argument is dead on arrival because every verse in the Bible is about the gospel and you have to see all Scripture through that prism and therefore everything must come out gospel and by the way that should be great news for me because if I find the gospel in every verse I can have the same experience I had that day in Fort Wayne and obey the Lord without effort and with joy so what’s my stinking problem and why am I writing this essay?

Does the “Gospel” Need the Truth?

…….because I love something more than my own experience; even the one of that day in regard to the gospel, the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

One day Peter experienced the glory of God through Christ and went on to say that we have a “more sure” testimony. Namely, the word of God (2 Peter 1:16-21). I must pause here to make a point before I move on to answer the primary question of the title and some closing comments about the gospel. All of the contemporary mantras speaking of worshiping Christ as a person with the gospel being synonymous with his personhood, rather than through objective truth, is an affront to our Holy God. Why? Because all knowledge of Him goes through what He says, period! To bypass what He says specifically and objectively for a subjective worship of his “personhood” via an eisegetical interpretation of the Scriptures, is grave error. Christ had a run-in with a person who should be the poster child for subjective worship. He threw a bucket of cold water on her worship of Him, right there in front of everybody:

“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’” (Luke 11:27,28).

When it came to the worship of Christ as a person, He pointed the woman right back to what He says, and insisted that it be obeyed. That’s where the blessings are (“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it”). All roads go through what God says about Himself, and many in our day should take caution as to whether presuppositions of any sort have usurped that process. Besides, in obedience to His word is where blessings reside (James 1:25 also).

Does True Worship Need Instruction?

In Psalm 138:2, King David says the following:

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word” (emphasis mine).

God is well aware of how majestic He is and doesn’t need us to remind Him of it. Our worship of Him is in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23). All of the talk about “gazing” on His glory “through the gospel” is all well and good, but it had better be an objective gazing and studious thinking on His truth with application accordingly. So says God Himself. King David received good life lessons in regard to this as recorded in chapters 7-12 of 2 Samuel. David’s propensity for subjective worship caused him trouble more than once. As a matter of fact, many today would say that his desires were “properly oriented.” Nobody possessed a stronger desire to worship God than King David and this was often expressed through singing, dancing and exalted praise. But in chapter seven, David went to Nathan and complained that God lived in a tent while he lived in a cedar house. Basically, he was looking for Nathan’s approval and got it. Later in the same day, God came to Nathan and said the following:

“Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’”

There is only one way God could ask such a rhetorical question of David using the history of Israel; He was referring to the written revelation available at that time. In essence, He was saying this: “David, where do you find it in Scripture that I want a house built for myself?”

In the following verses, we have God reminding David of where He brought him from and where he is going to take his descendants (also known as the Davidic Covenant), all without David’s help. David’s subjective love for God was steeped in arrogance. When it’s not based on truth, our own flesh will most certainly fill the void.

David gets the message and begins his responsive prayer with the following in 2 Samuel 7:18:

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

Subjective love usually leads to arrogance and sometimes worse. Let me share what God said was at the heart of David’s murderous adultery with Bathsheba:

“Why did you despise the word [emphasis mine] of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:9).

God knew David did not despise Him personally, but a lack of attention to the word (what God says) led to sin against God Himself. The constant mantra we hear today, “Christ is a person and not a precept” (or the negative synonyms they choose to make a point: “rules, do’s and dont’s,” etc. etc.), is a subjective mentality that will lead to arrogance or worse.

Where would one even stop to comprehensively compile all there is in Scripture to further this point? In 1 Samuel, chapter 15, every indication points to the fact that King Saul’s attempt to worship God had good intentions except for one thing:

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice [emphasis mine] of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’”

Of course the Lord delights in our worship. But what did Samuel say God delights in more? It’s not His personhood, It’s the following of His voice: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

What is the Gospel, and Do We really live By It Every Day?

The word means “good news.” There is much talk concerning a definition of the gospel. Every time I turn around in Reformed circles you read or hear that question. My missionary son-in-law says it’s because Reformed theologians spend all their time torturing simplicity instead of sharing the gospel they are always researching and debating. He may have a point. However, the question itself has always confounded me because the good news seems to be expressed in a many faceted way (in the Bible) while being one central truth. Basically, my answer is the following: “The gospel is the good news concerning how God reconciled man to Himself.” How God did that and why He decided to is kind of a long story. Study all the various presentations of the gospel in the Bible; they are far from cookie cutter. I am going to use one biblical definition by the apostle Paul in regard to the gospel being called “reconciliation.” It is from 2 Corinthians 5:18-21;

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

The gospel’s relationship to the saints is clearly stated here. It is a ministry of reconciliation that we preach to the world, not to ourselves. Obviously, we are already reconciled. We are not ambassadors to our own country, but rather ambassadors to the world. This would seem evident. Also, “good news” implies something not heard before. You know, the “news” part. It seems somewhat oxymoronic for daily use in regard to Christians.

Was Christ and the Apostles Poor Communicators?

“Then Jesus came to them and said,  ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:19,20).

This is our Lord’s mandate to the church. Making disciples and baptizing them is the ministry of reconciliation. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” is obviously our role in the sanctification process. If living by the gospel every day is our paramount role in the sanctification process, how could this passage be constructed or worded in this way? Certainly, for Christ to instruct obedience to all that He commanded, implies a variety of information as opposed to the single good news of the gospel. Why would Christ not rather say, “Teaching them to observe the gospel”? If Christ wanted the gospel observed every day, why would He not simply state that accordingly? Also, if Christ “is the gospel” and the gospel is He, why did He command baptism in the name of all three? If all of Scripture is about Christ and His gospel, here is a grand opportunity to drive that point home. Furthermore, if we are to live by the gospel every day, why not baptize everyday as well? Why not? It’s a New Testament picture of the gospel. If all of Scripture is about the gospel, what verse would exclude this notion? (Mark my words, this will soon be coming to a church near you).

Furthermore, John chapter 13 (note verses 9 and 10 specifically) contains the account of Christ washing Peter’s feet. Peter at first declines until Jesus tells him to agree in order to have a relationship with Him. Peter then tells Christ to wash his whole body. In return, Christ tells Peter that he who has bathed, only needs to have his feet washed. All the major Bible commentators agree that this refers to the salvation / sanctification relationship in regard to forgiveness of sins. Why would Christ use that example if we need the full effect of the gospel every day?

Was Peter a Poor Communicator?

If we are to live by the gospel every day, Peter did not get the memo in the worst way. 2Peter 1: 3-17 encompasses a teaching Peter thought was most important before his departure from this world (see verses 14 and 15) and it wasn’t the gospel. What was that message? The message was a call to diligently add eight practices to the foundation of our faith (see verses 5-8). Peter then says adding these virtues to our  faith results in assurance of salvation:

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” (verse 10).

To the contrary, proponents of living by the gospel everyday teach that assurance comes from “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.” That is clearly contrary to what Peter said.

In verse 3, Peter says that God’s power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Why wouldn’t he rather say that God’s power has given us all things that pertain to the gospel? Or better yet, why would he not say that we have all things that we need for life and godliness through the gospel? In verses 12-15, Peter expresses his concern that they may forget to diligently add these qualities after he was gone. This is an unreasonable disconnect if in fact the paramount role of the believer is to live by the gospel every day. It just doesn’t make sense!

Was Paul a Poor Communicator?

In 1Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul says that we build upon the foundation of Christ. He even says that we will be judged by Christ according to how we build. Therefore, living by the gospel (and Christ being the gospel according to advocates of GS) daily would then be a rebuilding of the foundation every day. It turns Paul’s metaphor completely upside down.

Furthermore, in Romans 15:20, Paul makes it clear that the gospel is a “foundation,” and said he would not go where Christ had already been named because that would be building on the foundation of others.

Was the Hebrew Writer a Poor Communicator?

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 5:11- 6:3).

The Hebrew writer says that spiritual immaturity is the result of not putting God’s word into practice, not a failure to live by the gospel every day. Again, somebody didn’t get the memo. Also, even though 6:2 most certainly refers to Old Testament practices, a reference to doctrines of Christ in 6:1 is irrefutable. Therefore, it seems to be in direct contradiction to a living daily by the gospel approach. An exclusive, daily focus on the glorious, but foundational gospel, is antithetical to what the Hebrew writer is prescribing.

I contend that I am in good company here. Jay Adams uses this same argument from  Hebrews 5:11-6:2 (as I do) to refute Biblical Sonship (pages 38-41 “Biblical Sonship,” Timeless Texts 1999). Biblical Sonship, like gospel sanctification, advocates an everyday living by the gospel:

“Certainly all of us may frequently look back to the time when we became sons and rejoice in the fact, but there is no directive to do so for growth, or even of an example of this practice, in the New Testament. And surely there is nothing to support the ritual act of repeatedly doing so as a technique of growth! Something so prominent as the prime practice in the Sonship movement ought to have a corresponding prominent place in the Bible. The true reminder of the good news about Jesus’ death for our sins is the one that He left for us to observe,   the Lord’s supper (‘Do this in remembrance of Me’).” ( Jay Adams, page 41, “Biblical Sonship,” Timeless Texts 1999).

Living By the Gospel.

We should most certainly live out the gospel each day by being faithful to our call as ministers to the “ministry of reconciliation.” However, we are ambassadors to the world, not ourselves. Sure, in some respects, we mirror the gospel with our lives every day. We should forgive like Christ forgave us. We should sacrifice self as Christ did, and daily. We also still repent and do so daily. But it is clear that we are to continue to build on our faith from the word of God. Gospel Sanctification is a nebulous concept that focuses on subjective worship and disregards the plain sense of biblical mandates.

At the beginning of this essay, I supplied a good look into the mentality of Gospel Sanctification; every sermon, every Bible lesson, and every daily reading of the Bible should focus on the gospel. In doing so, we are changed from glory to glory, supposedly. Experiential sermons like the one I attended in Fort Wayne sells the theory well, as does John Piper’s emphasis on “exultation” during his sermons. Basically, it makes everything about what God did, instead of what God says. Buyer beware, God has not only exalted His name above all, but His word as well (again, Psalms 138:2).