Sunday, March 25, 2018

Guard Yourself Against Identity Theft

In this article, Dr. Gary Hedrick, the president of Christian Jew Founda- tion Ministries (CJFM)
and editor- in-chief of Messianic Perspectives, takes a closer look at spiritual identity theft. His article was first published in January of 2016 and is republished here with minor edits.

By Dr. Gary Hedrick
Who Is the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16?
   We’ve all heard about identity theft, and some of us have experienced it firsthand. It’s a crime where a thief pretends to be you. He hacks into your credit card accounts and wreaks havoc, often stealing money right out from under your nose, making your credit score tank. It’s a serious problem, especially in our digital economy. During the most recent year for which figures are available, roughly 16.6 million Americans experienced at least one incident of identity theft. Financial losses for that year totaled a staggering $24.7 billion.
However, there’s another form of identity theft that many people are unaware of—spiritual identity theft. Another name for it is supersession- ism, or replacement theology. 1 It’s a deception where professing Christians hijack Israel’s identity and take exclusive ownership of the promises God made to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Range of Options in Defining “The Israel of God:”
1. “The Israel of God” is the NT church, the spiritual seed of Abraham who have displaced the physical seed of Abraham. This is the majority view in Christendom today.
2. It’s an eschatological reference to the “all Israel” that Paul says will be saved at the end of the age (Rom. 11:26).
3. It’s a self-designation used by Paul’s Judaizing oppo- nents in Galatia and elsewhere. NOTE: The judaizers were observant Jewish individuals who had professed faith in
Yeshua but insisted that non-Jews should undergo a de facto conversion to Judaism (via circumcision) in order to gain full recognition as Yeshua followers.
4. It was a localized phenomenon in Paul’s day—i.e., a “non-judaizing” group of Jewish Christians in Galatia.
5. It’s a reference to Jewish people anywhere who are believers in Yeshua—so they represent the overlap between Israel and the church.

Bruce Waltke, a Harvard-trained Anglican scholar and prolific writer, defines super- sessionism in blunt yet honest terms. He says it means that “national Israel and its law have been permanently replaced by the church and the New Covenant.” 2. Replacement theologians build their case largely by redefining the term “Israel” in the New Testament — Galatians 6:16 in par- ticular — and making it apply to the church. However, the word “Israel” appears 75 times in the New Testament, and in every instance but one, the terms “Israel” and “the church” cannot be interchanged without
reducing the passage to absurdity. 3. When the New Testament says “church,” that’s what it means: the corporate body of New Testament believers. 4. And when it says “Israel,” it means ethnic Israel: the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The consistent testimony of God’s Word is that “Israel” refers to Am Yisrael, the “people of Israel.”
The one exception is Galatians 6:16 where Paul refers to “the Israel of God.” Al- most universally, Christian commentators through the ages have said it refers to the church, the New Israel. W. A. Criswell, the much-revered pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for more than half a centu- ry, was a respected scholar (PhD from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) with a deep and abiding love for Israel and the Jewish people. He never believed that the church had replaced Israel, but he admitted for years that he nonetheless struggled with Galatians 6:16. It seemed to leave the door open for replacement theolo- gy, and he wanted to know why. Every- thing else in the Bible was cogent and consistent, as far as he could tell, except that one verse. At the end of this article, I’ll show you how he finally and conclusively resolved his problem with this enigmatic verse.
First, though, let’s go to the verse itself and talk about it. Why do so many people take the term “Israel,” which uniformly means ethnic Israel throughout the New Testa- ment, and then abruptly plug in a different definition (i.e., the New Testament church) in Galatians 6:16?
Here’s what the Apostle Paul says in this much-debated verse: And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. It’s only 17 words in the original Greek text, but it has occupied the attention of theologians since earliest times.
To supersessionists, the church is the New Israel or the new people of God—“the Israel of God.” Old (ethnic) Israel has faded permanently into oblivion, they say, because she (through her national repre- sentatives, the Sanhedrin) rejected the Messiah in the first century (Matt. 26:65-66). But is this really what Paul had in mind when he used this term “the Israel of God” (Gk., τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ)? I am an advocate of comparing Scripture with Scripture; however, it doesn’t help us here because there are no other passages to compare. “The Israel of God” is a unique expression. Galatians 6:16 is the only place in the Bible where it appears.

So, who, exactly, is this “Israel of God”? Well, let’s see if we can do some sanctified detective work and uncover the answer to that question.

Paul’s Rule
Since we are doing detective work, let’s begin by taking a look at the scene of the crime. What does the verse itself tell us about “the Israel of God”? It says they (who- ever “they” are) enjoy shalom (Heb., “peace”) and rachamim (“mercy” or “compassion”) because they walk according to a certain “rule” with the believers in Galatia.5
Next, what was “this rule” (or “canon”; Gk., κανών) that they observed so scrupulously? Whenever we run across a perplexing word or phrase in Scripture and we can’t figure out what it means, the solution is usually nestled somewhere nearby, in the passage itself. In fact, the demonstrative pronoun “this” (as in “this rule”) in verse 16 makes it sound as though it’s something Paul has just mentioned. So, what rule did the apostle lay down just prior to verse 16? Here it is:
For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Adoneinu Yeshua haMashiach [our Lord Jesus Christ], by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Gal. 6:13-15)
The rule, then, is that we don’t boast or trust in anything other than the finished work of the Messiah on Calvary. There’s nothing we can do to supplement what He
did there. Through the merits of His sacrifice, imputed to us when we placed our faith in Him, each Christian has been made a “new creation.” In Him, we have new life, new priorities, new purpose, a new nature, and a vital, new relationship with our Creator—and it’s all His doing! Writing to another church, Paul said, Therefore, if anyone is in [Messiah], he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

Messianic Pharisees
In Galatia, there were evidently Jewish people from the Pharisaic party who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah, but didn’t consider faith in Him to be sufficient by itself. Their legal background in Judaism, steeped in layers of traditional and cultural Torah observance, may have made it more difficult for them to accept the validity of salvation by grace and through faith alone. But for whatever reason, they wanted circumcision to be a requirement. So, if a Gentile in Galatia wanted to become a believer in Yeshua, these Messianic Pharisees wanted him to undergo a de facto conversion to Judaism and be circumcised.6
Even today, some two thousand years later, this problem of additionalism (my term for piling more

 requirements on top of simple faith) persists! Many professing believers want to supplement Messiah’s work of redemption with things like church membership, confirmation, baptism, emo- tionalism, living a good and ethical life, or whatever it might be.

When we say salvation is by grace and through faith alone, maybe the additional- ists think our approach (i.e., no other conditions for salvation) is too minimalis- tic—or just too easy. Surely there’s some- thing we can do to curry God’s favor, even if it’s just a tiny, little bit! Perhaps that’s their thinking. But alas, as humbling as it is, there’s nothing we can do. Like the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” When Yeshua died on that old, rugged, Roman execution stake two thousand years ago, the work of redemption was finished forever (Jn. 19:30). He did it all; there is nothing we can contribute other than simply accepting it by faith.

The Power of a Three-Letter Word
Every word of the Bible is important. That’s why we believe in the “verbal” (word-for-word) inspiration of the Bible rather than in watered-down “thought inspiration.”8 Galatians 6:16 is a good exam- ple of a verse where the correct interpreta- tion can hang on just one word—in this instance, the little conjunction kai (“and”)
Again, here’s what the verse says: And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and
mercy be upon them, AND (kai) upon the Israel of God. That final kai determines the relation- ship between “the Israel of God” and “as many as walk according to this rule.” Are the two entities one and the same? Or are they distinct? That’s the issue here.

There are two ways to interpret the controversial kai in Galatians 6:16:
1. The first possibility is that the second kai should be translated “even,” indicating that both phrases (“the Israel of God” and “as many as walk according to this rule”) refer to the same entity.10 The result looks like this: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, EVEN (kai) upon the Israel of God.” (And yes, “even” falls within the range of mean- ing for the Greek word kai.) If this is the correct translation, the church is most likely “the Israel of God.” Early replacement theologians like Justin Martyr and John Chrysostom treated it like an equation—i.e., “as
many as walk according to this rule” = “the Israel of God”—because their assumption was that “the Christian church is ‘the true, spiritual Israel’” (Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho 11.5).
2.The other possibility is that this critical kai should be translated “and” because it introduces anoth- er category of believers: namely, Jewish believers in Yeshua the Messiah. The term “Israel” denotes the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—with “the Israel of God” (Jewish follow- ers of Yeshua) being a subset of greater “Israel.” This category would encompass Jewish people who are Yeshua followers. The translation looks like this: “And as many as walk according to th

is rule [i.e., the Gentile believers in Galatia], peace and mercy be upon them AND (kai) upon the Israel of God [the Jewish believers among them].”
Note that Paul blesses “the Israel of God” with “peace” and “mercy.” The apostle would have been well acquainted with the appended portion of the ancient Eighteen Benedictions, known collectively as “the Amidah” (from Tefilat HaAmidah, “the Standing Prayer”). It concludes with: “Blessed are You, O LORD, Who blesses Your people Israel with peace.” (...)

There has always been a believing remnant—an “Israel of God,” if you will—within the ranks of God’s earthly people Israel (e.g., I Kgs. 19:18). Paul may well have been taking this opportunity to point out that Jewish believers—by virtue of their personal relationship with Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace—foreshadowed the yet- future fulfillment of th
at ancient prayer for peace on the People of Israel.
Commentators who object to this second view (i.e., that Jewish believers constitute “the Israel of God”) claim that it’s inconsis- tent with Paul’s statement in Galatians that
 under the terms of the New Covenant, there is no more distinction between Jew and Gentile: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua (Gal. 3:28). But is that really what the verse is saying? After all, during the course of his missionary journeys, Paul often mentioned his own Jewish heritage and ethnicity, and was readily recognized by others as Jewish (Acts 19:34; 21:39; 22:3; 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5). His statement in Galatians 3:28 about the unity of believers, then, was surely not
intended to suggest that a Jewish believer is no longer recognizable as Jewish once he’s in the Body of Messiah, just as it wasn’t meant to suggest that men and women are no longer distinguishable from one another in the family of God. The fact is that Paul continued to embrace his Jewish identity even long after he became a believer in Yeshua.11
F. F. Bruce has a variation on this second view. Leaning on the work of a German commentator, Franz Mussner, Dr. Bruce takes an eschatological approach, suggest- ing that “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16 is the same entity as the end-time “all Israel” in Romans 11:26.12 He includes this note from church history: “So Marius Victorinus, the earliest Latin commentator on Paul [in the fourth century AD], comments on the phrase: ‘not “[peace] on Israel” in the sense of any and every Jew, but “[peace] on the Lord’s Israel”; for Israel is truly the Lord’s if it follows the Lord, not expecting its salvation from any other source.’ ”13
So, then, what sector of Israel would this be? Who among the Jewish people would not be expecting salvation from any other source than the Lord himself? It could only be Jewish believers in Yeshua the Messiah. They represented the overlap between the church and Israel.

Circumcision: Back-Door Entree for Legalism
If we’re right about “the Israel of God” being a reference to Jewish believers, the phrase itself may have been meant as a slap in the face for Paul’s Pharisaic opponents in Galatia (but I doubt that they responded with, “Thanks, I needed that!”). As we have already seen, they were insisting that Gentiles who came to faith in Yeshua should be circumcised according to the Law of Moses: But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5).
So when Paul says “the Israel of God” walks according to this rule—boasting in nothing other than the death of Messiah Yeshua—these Messianic Pharisees would have readily recognized the stark contrast between Paul’s grace- based paradigm and their own works-based approach.
Is it okay for a believer to be circumcised? Yes, of course—as long as there’s an under- standing that the physical procedure does nothing to enhance one’s spiritual standing before God. Most Jewish believers want to identify culturally with their Jewish community, and that includes circumcision for males. But at the same time, they under- stand that it doesn’t score any brownie points with God. It’s simply a way for them to identify with their Jewish heritage.
Paul himself said that in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation (Gal. 6:15). So if you’re circumcised, that’s fine. And if you’re not, that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you’ve become a new creation by placing your faith in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
The problem arises when someone starts thinking that circumcision is more import- ant than it really is.14 It can become an access point for legalism to make inroads into the life of a believer.15 It’s a concern because performance- based religion can be a source of great frustration, uncertainty, and anxiety for young or inexperienced believers.16 It can also contaminate the true message of salvation by grace, sometimes even to the point of morphing it into “anoth- er gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

Proof-texting Replacement Theology
Galatians 6:16 isn’t the only text superses- sionists rely on for Scriptural support.17
Another key passage for them is I Peter 2:9-10:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Even though the term “Israel” doesn’t appear here, replacement theologians find particular significance in Peter’s applica- tion of Jewish terminology to the church. To them, it confirms that the church has taken Israel’s place in God’s program. Why else would Peter apply “Israel” language (i.e., “chosen generation [or race],” “royal priesthood,” “holy nation,” and God’s “own special people,” all drawn from Isaiah 43:20 and Exodus 19:5-6) to the church?
This is the majority view in Christendom today, especially among those in the Reformed camp. They say Peter uses this Messianic, royal language (drawn from the Hebrew Bible) because the church has inherited Israel’s status as the people of God.
So how do we explain this? Very simply, there’s another, markedly different reason for Peter’s application of this Messianic
terminology to the church. Peter was writing his letter primarily to Jewish believers in Yeshua (i.e., Jewish Chris- tians). He was using this language to remind them that they have a rich heritage as the believing remnant of Israel (referred to by Paul as “the Israel of God” in Galatians) and that they are the vital link between Israel and the church.
This, in fact, is the most reasonable, logical, and biblical way to reconcile both passages (Gal. 6:16 and I Pet. 2:9-10) from a non-su- persessionist perspective.
While it’s true that most commentators today don’t take this view (i.e., that
 Peter was addressing his fellow Jew- ish believ- ers in his epistle), it turns out that it is well attested all the way back to the earliest days of church history. A substantial number of ancient writers concluded that I Peter was addressed to Jewish believers. Here’s what Michael Vlach says:
Hiebert points out that “Origen and many others, saw them [Peter’s audience] as Jewish Chris- tians.” These “others” include Calvin, Bengel, Weiss, Alford, English, and Wuest. In its introductory comments on 1 Peter, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture states, “With few excep- tions, the Fathers believed that this letter was written by the apostle Peter and sent to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora.” It then lists Eusebius of Caesarea, Didymus, Andreas, and Occume- nius as those who held this view of the Jewish audience of 1 Peter.
Peter’s letter was written to “sojourners of dispersion” (1:1), which, as Hiebert points out, “has a strong Jewish coloring.” Some have argued that the use of the Septua- gint in the OT quotations and the thrust of Peter’s argument would make Peter’s letter largely unintelli- gible to Peter’s readers if they included Gentiles. Plus, Paul points out that Peter was specifically the apostle to the circumcision (see Galatians 2:7-8).18
So, if our argument hinges on identifying Peter’s audience as Jewish (and it does, to a great extent), it would appear that we are on solid ground!
Writing in The Moody Bible Commentary, Professor Louis Barbieri provides this helpful summary:
Unlike those who are rejected by God (see [1 Peter] 2:8), Peter’s readers are A CHOSEN RACE (v. 9), probably referring to Jewish believers; a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a function no longer related to one tribe. They are a HOLY NATION, a set apart group, a PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION. Many
scholars claim that this verse indicates that the Church replaces Israel in God’s program, that the Church is the “New Israel,” and that ethnic Israel has significance in God’s plans only as it is incorporat- ed into the Church that replaces Israel. But Peter is writing primarily to Jewish believers, and these terms are perfectly suitable for the present remnant of Israel, for Jewish believers during the current Church Age.19
“The Israel of God”— Why It Matters
Why should we care about the identity of “the Israel of God”? Why is it still import- ant today, some two thousand years after Paul coined the term?
It’s important for several reasons:
1. It’s important because it assures us that God
always keeps His promises.
God made promises in the Old Testament by making covenants with certain people. We know (from archaeological discoveries) that some covenants were condi- tional (bilateral) while others were unconditional (unilateral). The Abrahamic Covenant was primarily unconditional, but did have some conditional provisions. The unconditional provisions had to do with Abraham’s relationship to God, his posterity, and his
ownership of the land of Israel. The conditional aspects had to do mainly with his possession of the land.20
The conditions for dwelling securely in the land are reflected, for example, in this warning from the Torah: “Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God. So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety” (Lev. 25:17-18). We know that Israel did not observe God’s statutes and judgments, and that they were expelled from the Prom- ised Land by the Romans in AD 70. Their possession of the land came to an end (temporarily). However, the fact that God has preserved His people Israel, even through the desolate centuries following their expulsion, is evidence of His promise-keeping power and faithfulness—and since 1948, they have been in the process of repossessing their land. The children of Israel are still His ancient people, and the relentless attempts of their enemies to destroy them have utterly failed. God is faithful even when we are not.
And since God is setting the stage even now for the final fulfillment of His promises to Israel, and their spiritual resurrection as a nation we too can take comfort in the assurance that He will likewise keep His promises to the church!
The covenant-keeping God who has not forgotten or forsaken the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God who will never forget or forsake us.
2. It’s important because it reminds us that there’s always a believing remnant.
Even during the darkest hours in her history, Israel has always had a faithful remnant of believers. When apostasy was rampant in the days of Elijah, for instance, and the feisty old prophet thought he was the only faithful one remaining (I Kgs. 19:10, 14), the Bible tells us that there were still seven thousand men left who hadn’t bowed down to Baal (v. 18).
Likewise, there is a growing remnant of Jewish believers today—both in Israel and around the world. The new generation of believers that’s rising up in Israel (consisting largely of young people who have grown up in believing homes) is deeply committed to their Jewish identity, and in many cases, they’re even more bold and outspoken about their faith than the older generation!21
This proves conclusively that God has not rejected Israel permanently. If He were to do so, He would also be rejecting the believing remnant among them—and that is impossi- ble. That is precisely Paul’s argument when he writes, I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1).
If God had cast away His people Israel, He would have been casting away Paul, too! And that would have been, very simply, an impossi- bility.
3. It’s important because it informs our reading of the entire Bible.
Some supersessionists concentrate on the New Testament and ignore most of the Old Testament. To them, the older revelation is passé and no longer applicable for believ- ers. However, the central message of God’s Word is redemption through the shed blood of the Messiah, and that unifying theme weaves its way from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is a unified revelation. It is not schizophrenic.
The Older Covenant (the Jewish Tanakh) is about anticipation; the New Covenant (Berit haChadashah) is about implementation. One builds on the other and both are equally God’s Word! In fact, Paul told Timothy that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profit- able for all things” (II Tim. 3:16). When Paul penned those words, the only Scripture they knew at the time was the Old Testament!
4. It’s important because it helps us understand future prophecy.
We meet numerous people who say they struggle to understand proph- ecy. In many cases, the problem is that they’re trying to unlock proph- ecy without the key—and that’s Israel! The nation Israel is the linchpin around which God’s end-time program revolves. If we lack a proper understanding of Israel’s ongoing role in what God is doing here on earth, we will never understand prophecy.
5. It’s important because if “the Israel of God” isn’t the church, the supersessionists are stealing someone else’s identity.
Are you concerned about the fact that ours is a minority view in Christendom today? Just think of the biblical characters who were outnumbered in their day—tower- ing luminaries like Moses, Joshua, the Prophet Elijah, King David of Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Yeshua Himself (with only twelve rather ordinary guys as His disciples), among others. They obeyed God, stood alone when necessary, and ended up changing the world.
It’s really not all that complicated. Paul said, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). You can remove, temporarily, Israel’s blessings, her land, her peace, her prominence, and you can even allow tyrants, tragically, to take the lives of her people (like the Nazis during the Holocaust); but you can never take away her gifts or her divine calling. Those things
flow from Israel’s identity as the sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and that will never change.
One Preacher’s Epiphany
I told you earlier that I would share how Dr.Criswell figured out what Galatians 6:16 means. After years of frustration, he finally realized that this puzzling verse must be understood against the backdrop of the rest of the Bible. And he knew that everywhere else in the Bible, the term “Israel” refers to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, whoever they were, these people who were called “the Israel of God” had to Jewish! On one Sunday morning in 1966, Pastor Criswell shared with his congregationin downtown Dallas how the Lord showed him, at long last, the identity of“the Israel of God”: [Paul] was talking about the Jewish people who had accepted the gospel of the grace of the Son of God without works. And in contradistinctionto the Judaizers, he called these who believed in Jesus “the Israel of God.” . . . [They were] the Israelites who had come to find in faith alone in Jesus the pardon of sin, [and] the fulfillment of all of the Messianic prophecies. “The Israel of God” [is] the Jewish people who[have] found in Jesus a Savior. So allof it came to me; all of it, all of it,without exception. There is no place in the Bible where the word “Israel”is used but that it refers to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And there is no place in the Bible wherethe word “church” is used but that it refers to the called out Ekklesia, the elect assembly of God in this day and in this age of grace. And isn’t that an astonishing thing?22
That’s how this godly pastor finally solved the mystery of “the Israel of God.” They were Jewish believers in Yeshua who trusted in Him and in nothing else! Along with Paul, who himself had been a Pharisee, this “Israel of God” stood firmly against the Messianic Pharisees who wanted to
add more stipulations for salvation.
Article here:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Choosing God's Will

Published by Dave Hunt 1991

During the temptation in the wilderness, Satan offered to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world...and the glory of them” (Lk 4:5-6). He wasn’t bluffing. This world really is Satan’s to give to whom he will. Jesus didn’t dispute Satan’s boast that this world had been “delivered unto me [by God]; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” The conditions upon which Satan offered this world to Christ were clear: “If you bow down and worship me”—which, of course, Jesus refused to do. Beware! For the kingdoms and glories of this world are still the favors Satan bestows in order to entice today’s recipients into worshiping him.
Like their Lord, Christ’s true followers refuse the kingdoms and glories of this world. This refusal includes the highly touted new world order, which will still be under Satan’s control. Christ has promised believers something far better—an eternal and heavenly kingdom procured through His defeat of Satan at the cross. As a result of that victory, “the kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev:11:15). Worldly kingdoms will soon pass away, and in their place the kingdom of God will come to earth. Then Christ, together with those who have shared in His rejection and suffering (Acts:14:22; Rom:8:17; 2 Tim:2:12), will reign in glory and ultimate joy forever.
It would be a denial of their Lord for Christians to bask in the popularity and honors that this present world may bestow upon them. That isn’t to say that a Christian should never be successful in business, science [5], the academic world, sports, etc. Indeed, Christians should be the very best they can possibly be at whatever they do. But their skill, talent, and diligent efforts are expended for God’s glory, not for their own. This world has no attraction for believers; they neither love it nor its plaudits. They are not swayed from the course they must run (1 Cor:9:24-27; 2 Tm 4:7-8) either by the world’s criticism or its compliments. They know that ultimately nothing matters except God’s opinion of them.
We are warned, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn:2:15). Satan is called “the god of this world” (2 Cor:4:4), and those who love this world are siding with and honoring Satan, whether they realize it or not. Indeed, they are on the road to Satan worship, which will be the worldwide religion during the Great Tribulation (Rev:13:4). One obvious evidence that Christianity has been seduced by Satan is the fact that those who are highly honored by the world are, on that basis alone, given instant and special honor in the church. The Christian media fawns over a sports hero, an attractive actress, a wealthy businessman, or a highly placed politician who has supposedly become a Christian. These too-often immature, worldly new believers are paraded and lauded on Christian TV and held up to the church as heroes of the faith and role models for youth—and Christians turn out by the thousands to “ooh” and “aah” at their testimonies. Yet the humble, godly missionary, mature in the faith, who has remained true to Christ through decades of privation, temptation, hardship and danger, and who has won souls in difficult fields of labor, can scarcely draw an audience. Obviously, the average Christian admires worldly success far more than godliness. Something is badly askew!
Jesus told His disciples, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn:15:19). Thus, to Pilate, Jesus declared, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn:18:36). He didn’t mean that His kingdom is totally detached from this earth but that it’s not of this world system. In fact, it stands in opposition thereto. This present world system (including the new world order), which belongs to Satan, must be destroyed for the kingdom of God to be established.
Christ came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn:3:8), which He accomplished upon the cross (Jn:12:31-33). Such is His purpose in all those who receive Him as Savior and Lord. The works of Satan in and through our lives, and any attachment to this world, must be destroyed if Christ is to reign within us. This goal can be effected only through the work of His cross applied to one’s daily life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then can God’s love and His will and Christlike character be manifested in one’s heart and life.
The unsaved love the world. In contrast, Christians do not love the world; they love the Father. We are citizens of heaven, “from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body...” (Phil:3:20-21). Instead of trying to make our mark in this world and enjoying its benefits and pleasures, we seek to please the Father because we desire a heavenly and eternal reward.
The choice we face isn’t, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. The choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven. You can’t have both. One can’t live both for God and for self. Many so-called Christians find it difficult to resist the temptations of this world and to live wholly for Christ.
Why should it be difficult to choose life instead of death, joy instead of sorrow, eternal fulfillment instead of remorse, God’s truth and love instead of Satan’s lies and destructive lusts? The choice is only difficult for those who are deceived by Satan, and who thus, in believing this liar, doubt and dishonor God. What an insult it is to their heavenly Father for Christians to act as though surrendering to God’s will were a great sacrifice—as though exchanging this world for heaven were a bad bargain!
Motivation is a key element. One powerful motivation comes by comparing the length of eternity with one’s brief life on this earth. Only a fool would trade the heavenly and eternal for that which is earthly and temporal—and, remember, we can’t have both. “Christians” who habitually live for what they can gain and enjoy in this world, instead of “lay[ing] up treasures in heaven,” (Mt 6:19-21) deny with their lives the faith they profess with their lips.
Those who in their daily lives opt for this world instead of for heaven shouldn’t be surprised when God gives them for eternity the choice they have made. How can one complain if he’s not taken in the next life to the heaven he consistently rejected in this one? Someone has said there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God, “Not my will, but Thine, be done,” and those to whom God says, “Not My will but thine be done.” What a tragedy to be chained for eternity to one’s own will instead of His—forever imprisoned with self and separated from God!
Christ’s declaration to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42) put Him on the cross. We, too, must deny self in submission to the cross (Mt 16:24). Doing so puts an end to self, and Christ becomes our very life—our all. This is the path of wisdom (Job 28). The wise will “ the stars for ever” (Dn 12:3) with His light in their hearts; pure vessels eternally radiating His glory. Fools will inherit the blackness of darkness forever because they insisted on doing their own thing and being their fallen selves. Man’s destiny is eternal joy in the presence of God and His angels and saints—or a lonely and eternal agony, shut up to self.
William Law expressed with unusual clarity the choice between heaven and this world. He pointed out that a man would be considered insane who spent his life planning the house, tennis court, swimming pool, retirement condominium, etc., that he expected to build on Mars—yet someone who spent his life equally absorbed in planning, achieving, and enjoying such things in this world would be respected as successful and prudent. In fact, said Law, both are fools! The first is obsessed with a world where he cannot live—while the other is attached to a world where he cannot stay. The degree of their folly differs only by a few short years.
Jim Elliot, a young missionary martyred in Ecuador in 1956, put it succinctly: “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.” What a tragedy to barter eternal life for the pleasures of this world. The Bible doesn’t say that sin has no pleasure; it says that the pleasures of sin can only be enjoyed “for a season” (Heb:11:25)—and a very short season it is, compared to the endless ages of eternity. A bad bargain indeed!
The phrase “eternal life” refers not only to the quantity of the life God offers but to its quality—a quality of life that God wants us to begin to experience here and now. Jesus said that eternal life was knowing (not knowing about) God and His Son (Jn:17:3). Paul warned that Christ would one day take vengeance upon those who “know not God” (2 Thes:1:8). In keeping with the truth of these and similar scriptures, evangelicals profess that they don’t practice a religion about God but that they have a personal relationship with God. Sadly, this boast has become almost a cliché—it sounds good in theory but there’s often little practical evidence seen in daily life.
Recognizing that eternity is infinitely longer than one’s most optimistic life expectancy provides a powerful motivation for living for Him (and thus choosing heaven instead of this world). But to truly know God provides an even more powerful motivation.
Knowing God leads to holiness. He alone becomes one’s consuming passion, displacing all other desires and overcoming the power of sin in our lives. His presence within is sufficient to satisfy every longing. For to know God is to love Him—and there is no higher motivation for obedience to His commands than love. In fact, no other motivation is accepted. It is no accident that the first commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut 6:5).
Obedience to God’s laws must spring from love for Him. Otherwise, obeying the letter of the law is nothing (1 Cor:13:1-3). We could give all our possessions to the poor and submit to martyrdom at the stake for Christ’s name, but if our motive is not love, it would all be in vain. Christ declared, “If a man love me he will keep my words...he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (Jn:14:23-24).
Loving God is the secret of the Christian life. If we truly love Him, then we want to serve and please and glorify Him. We wouldn’t want to do anything or even think a thought that would displease or dishonor Him. A genuine love for God—and only that love—produces consistent holiness and godliness in our daily lives. Love is also the great wellspring of joy and peace. It causes us to witness to the lost about us with passion and without shame. For who is ashamed of one’s lover? And who does not rather speak well, boldly and continually, of the one he loves!
Where shall we find this love that we must have for God, and without which we cannot please Him? It’s not hiding somewhere in our hearts waiting to be discovered. Nor is it a potential that we have that only needs to be developed. We can’t work it up. It can’t be produced by effort. This love is not in us at all. Though it involves our will and emotions, it comes from God alone.
How then is this love produced? Love is the fruit that the Spirit bears in our lives (Gal:5:22). It is miraculous, like the fruit on a tree—something that only God could produce. Yet we aren’t like a tree, which has no will or emotions. Obviously, much more is involved when the Spirit bears fruit in the believer’s life than is involved in fruit-bearing in nature. His love is the key.
“We love him because he first loved us” (1 Jn:4:19). This tells us that our love for God comes as a response to His love for us. We know of His love through His Word. Our hearts are stirred as we believe what the Bible tells us of His love in creating us, giving His Son to die for our sins, patiently bearing our rejection, pardoning and saving us from the penalty that His holy law demands for our sin, providing heaven at infinite cost. Surely to meditate upon God’s love for us must produce, by His Spirit, fervent love for Him.
Much more, however, is involved than reading and memorizing and believing what the Bible says about God and His love. Jesus reproved the Pharisees for searching the Scriptures and at the same time refusing to come to Him, the One of whom the Scriptures testified. What the Bible says about God is there in order to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. We must know not only His Word, but we must know Him personally. There is an intimacy with God that is promised to those who love and thus obey Him, an intimacy that is missing in the lives of many Christians.
To those who love and obey Him, Christ offers an incredibly wonderful promise: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (Jn:14:21). This promise to manifest Himself to those who love Him implies a real communication of His presence. This is more than a strong belief that He is with us. It is a spiritual manifestation of His presence.
This intimate fellowship begins at conversion with a real communication from God’s Spirit to the believer’s spirit. God’s Spirit “beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom:8:16). It is not simply inserting one’s name in John:3:16 and taking it “by faith.” There is a knowing God, a very real knowing that we are His, and an ongoing communion with Him in prayer. This doesn’t involve visualization, journaling, or any technique, but an intimacy that He initiates and promises to maintain with those who love and obey Him.
Most people, Christians included, would jump at the chance to become an intimate friend and confidant of some world leader, perhaps an astronaut, Olympic gold medalist, the head of a multinational corporation, or a famous heart surgeon. How many, however, neglect the infinitely more wonderful opportunity to know the God who created the universe, to have continual and intimate fellowship with the One who has all power, all wisdom, all knowledge, and Who loves us immeasurably! As with anyone else, God’s companionship must be cultivated. It takes time. And we will only devote the time if we really believe that we can know God and that it is worthwhile.
“He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek [not success, pleasure, health, or wealth but] him” (Heb:11:6). God said to Abram, “I [not land or cattle or other possessions that I will give to you, but I] am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward” (Gn 15:1). God wants to reward us with Himself. Let us not settle for any lesser rewards—for mere gifts instead of the Giver. Let us diligently pursue this intimate fellowship with God that He desires for each of us. Let us say with David, “O God...early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee” (Ps:63:1); and with Paul, “That I may know him,...the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil:3:10). May knowing and loving God be our passion, as it was theirs.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Is there a difference between the lake of fire and hell?

Question 31: Is there a difference between the lake of fire and hell?

Answer:  The term “lake of fire” is found in four passages of Scripture, all of which are in Revelation: The beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20); Satan is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10); death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14); and the lake of fire is called “the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
From these four references, one can make four deductions:
  1. The lake of fire is the eternal abode of all those who are lost, both angels and men.
  2. The punishment includes both the soul and the body. Both death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. Death refers to the material part of man, the body; Hades refers to the immaterial part of man, the soul and spirit. The lake of fire is a punishment for both of these.
  3. The lake of fire is associated with fire and brimstone and is the source of torment.
  4. The lake of fire is the same as Gehenna: Gehenna is the proper name, and the lake of fire is a descriptive name.
Although the term “Gehenna” is Greek, the concept originates from two Hebrew words. The first word is Gei, and the second word is HinnomGei Hinnom means “the Valley of Hinnom.” This valley surrounds Jerusalem’s Old City, including Mount Zion, from the west and south, where it meets and merges with the Kidron Valley, the other principal valley at the southeastern corner of the city.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Valley of Hinnom was a place where some of the wicked kings of Israel practiced human sacrifice, specifically sacrificing their children by burning them alive. This physical burning of humans is the basis for the New Testament concept of Gehenna. The term describes a part of the unseen world where the bodies and souls of lost humans will experience eternal torment from fire.
Unfortunately, in some of our English Bibles, the word “Gehenna” is translated as “hell,” but Gehenna and hell are not the same place. The root word for “hell” comes from the Proto-Germanic word haljo, which has the connotation of “hiding” or “covering.” Therefore, “hell” literally means “concealed place.” In the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures, there is no one word for the concept of hell. Nevertheless, it is a biblical concept referring to what the Old Testament calls “the unrighteous side of Sheol,” a temporary place of confinement for lost souls. Gehenna is the eternal abode of the lost, both angels and humans. The punishment in Gehenna includes both soul and body. That is why Gehenna must neither be translated as “hell,” nor should it be equated with hell. Hell is a temporary place, and it is for the soul only; but Gehenna is an eternal place, and it includes both the soul and the body. Furthermore, Gehenna is the place of eternal torment and is associated with fire, which is the source of torment.
Summary: Hell is the temporary abode of dead unbelievers where their soul is tormented. After the messianic kingdom, all unbelievers will be resurrected and the soul and body will be reunited. They will then stand in judgment before the great white throne and be cast alive, both soul and body, into the lake of fire, the eternal abode of unsaved humans. The eternal abode will be worse because hell is torment for the soul only, while the lake of fire is torment for both soul and body forever.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Purposes of the Millennial Sacrifices

By Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr. Randall Price, and Others
Excerpt from article:
"Several passages in the Hebrew Scriptures indicate that animal sacrifices will be re-instituted during the millennial kingdom, the most important one being Ezekiel 44:1-46:24. Many evangelical and Protestant believers struggle with the return of animal sacrifices in a future temple as they assume that this would “be equivalent to a denial of the finality and sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.” 
Dispensationalists have therefore felt compelled to answer the question of the purpose of a millennial sacrificial system, and the various options will be summarized here. Before digging into the study, it should be pointed out that just because we may not know the reason for something in the Scriptures, it does not mean we should not take the passage literally." 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Scriptural Evidence for the Pretribulational Rapture

The Unknown Hour
When we search the Scriptures and read the passages describing the Lord Jesus' return, we find verses that tell us we won't know the day and hour of that event. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 indicates that the Jews will have to wait on the Lord 1,260 days, starting when the Antichrist stands in the Temple of God and declares himself to be God (2 Thes 2:4). This event will take place at the mid-point of the seven-year tribulation (Dan 9:27). Note that some people only see a three-and-a-half-year tribulation. In a way, they are correct because the first half of the tribulation will be relatively peaceful compared to the second half. Nonetheless, peaceful or not, there still remains a seven-year period called the tribulation. When the Jews flee into the wilderness, they know that all they have to do is wait out those 1,260 days (Mat 24:16). There is no way to apply the phrase "neither the day nor the hour" to this situation. The only way for these two viewpoints to be true is to separate the two distinct events transpiring here: 1) the rapture of the Church, which comes before the tribulation; and 2) the return of Jesus to the earth, which takes place roughly seven years later.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
In Luke 12:36, the Word states that when Christ returns, He will be returning from a wedding. In Revelation 19:7-8, we read about the marriage itself. The marriage supper takes place before the marriage. According to Jewish custom, the marriage contract, which often includes a dowry, is drawn up first. The contract parallels the act of faith we use when we trust Jesus to be our Savior. The dowry is His life, which was used to purchase us. When it’s time for the wedding, the groom goes to the bride's house unannounced. She comes out to meet him, and then he takes her to his father's house. This precisely correlates with the events according to the pre-trib scenario. Jesus, the Groom, comes down from heaven and calls up the Church, His Bride. After meeting in the air, He and His Bride return to His Father's house, heaven. The marriage supper itself will take place there, while down here on earth the final events of the tribulation will be playing out. After the marriage supper of Jewish tradition, the bride and groom are presented to the world as man and wife. This corresponds to the time when Jesus returns to earth accompanied by an army "clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev 19:14).
What They Didn't Teach You in History Class (It didn't happen in 70 A. D.)
Many groups try to discredit the pre-trib rapture by saying most of the end-time events in the Bible have already taken place. A group of people called Preterists claims that the Book of Revelation was mostly fulfilled by 70 AD. If the events described in the Book of Revelation took place in the past, I’m at a loss to explain some of the current situations I see around us: the rebirth of Israel, the reunification of Europe, the number of global wars that have occurred, and the development of nuclear weapons. During history class, I must have slept through the part where the teacher talked about the time when a third of the trees were burned up, 100-pound hailstones fell from the sky, and the sea turned into blood (Rev 8:7-8, 16:21). I think several people would have to question their opposition to the pre-trib rapture doctrine if they knew that the evidence provided to them was based on the understanding that most tribulation prophecies have already occurred.
The People of the Millennium (Who goes in to the Millennium?)
If Christ were to come back after the tribulation, rapture all the saints, and slay all the ungodly, who would be left to populate the earth during the millennium? Only the pre-trib viewpoint can account for this post-trib problem. The Church is raptured before the tribulation, a vast number of souls are saved during this seven-year time frame, and those who make it through the tribulation go into the millennium while the unsaved are cast into hell.
The Saints U-turn (Can't be Post-trib)
In the pre-trib scenario, after we rise to meet the Lord in the air, we will go to heaven and abide there seven years. At the end of that period, Christ will come down to earth, defeat the Antichrist, and cleanse the temple. In a post-trib rapture, we would rise in the air to meet the Lord, then do a 180- degree U-turn and come back down to earth. Revelation 1:7 states that Christ will appear out of the clouds and come down to earth. Zechariah 14:4 says that His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. If He's already headed our way, why would we need to be caught up to meet Him?
"Come Up Hither"
Many pre-trib writers cite Revelation 4:1, which says, "come up hither," as a prophetic reference to the rapture of the Church, leaving Revelation chapters 1 through 3 as a description of the Church Age. After the shout to "come up hither," the Church is not mentioned in Scripture at all. The attention of Scripture switches from the Church to the Jews living in Israel.
Armies in Fine Linen
When Jesus returns (Rev. 19:18), an army follows Him. The army’s members are riding on white horses, and they are clothed in fine linen that is white and clean. In Revelation 19:8, we are told that the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. If the saints of God are returning with Christ to wage war on the Antichrist, then it is not possible to have a post-trib rapture without us running into ourselves as we are coming and going.
The Time of Jacob's Trouble
In several passages, the Bible refers to the tribulation as a time of trouble for the Jews. The phrase "Jacob's trouble" pertains to the descendants of Jacob. Jeremiah 30:7 says that this time of trouble will come just before the Lord returns to save His people. The final week of Daniel's 70th week is yet to take place. An angel told Daniel that, "70 weeks are determined unto thy people" (Dan 9:24). Scripture never mentions that the tribulation is meant to be a time of testing for Christians. However, some post-tribbers try to claim that they are the ones being tested during the tribulation. To make this so, they need to spiritualize the 144,000 Jewish believers in Revelation 7:2-8 who receive God's protective seal. Placing the Church dispensation into the same time frame as the seven-year Jewish dispensation, as the post-tribbers do, raises one good question: Can two dispensations transpire at the same time? In the past, God has only dealt with one at a time. Having both present during the tribulation would have to be an exception.
”He” That is Taken Out of the Way
Before the Antichrist can be revealed, Paul said a certain "He" must be taken out of the way. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the "He" that must be removed is widely thought to be the Holy Spirit. It has been promised that the Holy Spirit would never leave the Church, and without the working of the Holy Spirit remaining on earth, no one could be saved during the tribulation. The removal of the Church, which is indwelt by the Holy Ghost, would seem the best explanation for this dilemma. The working of the Holy Spirit could go on during the tribulation, but His influence would be diminished because of the missing Church.
War or Rapture?
(Rev 19:19-21) When Jesus returns at the end of the tribulation, He will be coming for battle. For those who believe in a post-trib rapture, it would be strange to meet your Lord and Savior just as He's rushing into battle. The idea that war and rapture could occur together is difficult to imagine, especially since they transpire at the same moment.
God Hath Not Appointed Us to Wrath
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul assures us that God has not appointed His people to wrath. This wrath is plainly God's anger that will be poured out during the tribulation. Pre-trib believers interpret this as meaning that Christians will be removed from the earth. Post-trib believers tell a different story. They describe this as meaning that God will protect Christians during the tribulation and pour this wrath out on the unbelievers only. This idea runs against the statement made in Revelation 13:7, in which the Antichrist is given power to make war with the saints and to overcome them. A post-trib view would make God's promise of protection from wrath into a lie. In years past, it was possible to think of being protected from the guns and swords of that day. Today, when any major war would involve nuclear and chemical weapons, it's impossible to expect that same kind of protection. When Nagasaki, Japan was bombed during World War II, the bomb exploded over a Catholic church. Everyone who was in  from this world.
The Salt of the Earth
Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). When the believers are removed, the earth will be plunged into spiritual darkness. When this happens, the Antichrist will then be free to control the world.
God Takes an Inventory
In Revelation 7:3, an angel descends to earth and seals the servants of God. Two bits of information about this sealing highly disclaim a post-trib viewpoint. The first item is the number of people sealed: 144,000. The second one is that all those who are sealed are from the 12 tribes of Israel. For the events in Revelation 7:3-8 to be true in a post-trib interpretation, either the Church has turned against God or God has turned against the Church. A post-tribber could write a thousand-word commentary about why the Church doesn't need to be sealed. Instead of trying to argue about why the Church is not mentioned or sealed, a pre-trib proponent could just say, "We're already in heaven."
Noah and Lot as Examples
The tribulation period is compared to the times of Noah and Lot by Jesus in Luke 17:28. Most people argue over whether the time frame Jesus was talking about in that passage was pre-trib or post-trib. In doing so, they miss an important point. The two circumstances that the Noah and Lot situations have in common are the removal of the righteous and the judgment of the unbelievers. From these two accounts, we see that God prefers to remove His own when danger is involved.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Guarding the gospel with the discernment

By Mike Gendron

What is the greatest attack on the church today? That was the weighty question asked of the speakers at a recent conference. I promptly responded, "The greatest attack we are seeing today is on the exclusivity and purity of the Gospel." The exclusivity of the Gospel declares all other faiths are false because no one can come to God except through the atoning death of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The exclusivity of the Gospel also humbles the pride of self-righteous people and calls them to repentance. 

This is why many pastors are compromising the Gospel. They want to make it more inclusive in order to draw a larger following, gain more influence and be loved by more people. This man-pleasing gospel makes people comfortable in their sin but it has no power to save them. It has become popular because it exalts man and his importance and diminishes God and His significance. It also emphasizes God's love while ignoring His holiness, justice and hatred of sin. 

Tragically those who embrace this diluted gospel are woefully deceived and remain dead in their sins. Equally tragic is the willingness of born-again Christians to put up with another gospel. Paul exhorts them to repent of such apathy with a sharp rebuke: "If someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough" (2 Cor. 11:4). The only thing worse than a Christian without discernment is one who has discernment but refuses to use it to challenge professing Christians in their unfruitful lives. Those who have been deceived will not know it unless they are lovingly confronted with the truth. They must be reproved in order to become sound in the faith (Titus 1:13).

Many Christians are unaware of their responsibility to judge and test all things. Paul commended the Bereans for rightfully judging his teaching. "They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:10-11). The apostle John exhorted Christians to make judgments concerning doctrinal and spiritual issues: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Clearly, all Christians are called to judge righteously by using the Word of God as the plumb line for discerning truth from error. And judge we must because the Father of Lies deals in half-truths, and his fatal lies are often coated with a thin veneer of truth to deceive the unsuspecting.

Spiritual discernment is a discipline and a privilege that only born-again Christians can exercise. Paul wrote: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things." (1 Cor. 2:14-16). The ability to make judgments is a mark of Christian maturity. "Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews. 5:14). By practicing discernment we are able to guard and protect the Gospel for the next generation.
As we practice discernment we must make sure our motives are Christ-honoring. Our objective must be to obey God's word for the purpose of helping, healing, correcting, warning and sharing in the spirit of love. When our motives are pure, people will be encouraged to love the truth and hate what is false (Psalm 119:104). Pure motives will result in contending for the purity of the Gospel and the sanctity of our Lord's Church!

There is no more critical issue in the Church today than guarding the purity of the Gospel. It is the rudder that must guide the Church through stormy waters that have been stirred up by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). Churches that do not provide a steady diet of God's Word, will become entertainment centers for goats instead of sanctuaries for the Shepherd's sheep (Mat. 25:32). When 

doctrinal truth is being withheld, ignored, denied, or rejected, it will produce fertile ground for deception. The only way people will know if they have true faith or a false hope is to discern the true Gospel from a false gospel. It is the responsibility of every born again Christian to make disciples and challenge false converts to examine their faith. If anyone would like to know more about practicing discernment we have a message on DVD that will encourage you

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Celebrating the 500 anniversary of the Reformation

The Reformation Recovered The Doctrine of Justification By Faith                       by Mike Gendron

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg 500 years ago this month, he ignited a theological firestorm that would burn throughout Europe. As a Roman Catholic monk, Luther's greatest desire was to become right with God, yet his religion offered no peace or assurance. This led him to begin a diligent study of God's Word and it was there that he discovered the only way a condemned sinner could be justified by a holy and righteous God. Luther's study of Scripture revealed the glorious doctrine of justification that had been concealed and corrupted by religious traditions for over 1000 years. The Bible declares the justification of sinners can only be accomplished by a divine exchange - the imputing of man's sins to Christ, and the imputing of Christ's righteousness to sinners (2 Cor. 5:21). The only way condemned sinners can be justified is through the sin-bearing, substitutionary death of Christ who satisfied divine justice.
The doctrine of Justification is said to be the hinge upon which the gates of heaven open and close. Those who get justification wrong also get the Gospel wrong, and those who die embracing a false gospel will pay for that mistake forever. The doctrine of Justification declares the inflexible righteousness of God as a Judge who must punish every sin, that has ever been committed, by everyone who has ever lived. It also declares His love, mercy, and grace in providing His only Son to be crucified as a substitute for sinners.
Many Christians are unaware of how the Catholic Church has twisted and distorted the biblical doctrine of Justification and condemned those who believe it. Yes, they have pronounced 33 anathemas from the Council of Trent on anyone who believes that they are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Since this has eternal consequences, we have provided 10 contrasts between the biblical Doctrine of Justification and the corrupted doctrine that continues to be taught by Rome. To print a copy of these 10 contrasts click here. The numbers in parenthesis are paragraph numbers from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
1) Justification is by faith in what God accomplished in Christ (Rom. 5:1). Rome says initial justification is by water baptism (1992).
2) Justification changes one's legal status before God whereby a condemned sinner has been acquitted and declared righteous (Rom. 5:12-21). Rome says justification changes the inner man, not his legal status (2019).
3) Justification is an instantaneous act of God which immediately declares a sinner righteous (Rom. 4:3). Rome says justification is an ongoing process, the ongoing renewal of interior man (2019).
4) Justification is permanent and is never lost by sin. The legal status of a justified man is as unchangeable as the righteousness of Christ (Heb. 10:14). Rome says justification is temporal. It is lost by sin and regained through the sacrament of penance and good works (1446, 1861).
5) Justification is by grace apart from works (Titus 3:7; Rom. 11:6). God justifies those who do not work (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16). Those justified receive the gracious gift of Christ's righteousness (Rom. 5:17). Rome says justification must include good works (2010). "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, let him be anathema" (Trent, Canon 9). Rome says re-justification must be merited by making satisfaction for sins through works of mercy, prayer, service to neighbors, etc. (1459, 1460, 2027).

6) Justification is by imputation or crediting of Christ's completed righteousness to the one justified (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:5). Rome says justification is by infusion of God's righteousness which renews the interior man (1989).
7) God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Rome teaches final justification is only for those who have become righteousness(2016, 2020).
8) After justification all sins are no longer taken into account or punished (Rom. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:19-21). Rome says that sins committed after justification will be punished either in purgatory or in hell (1030, 1861).
9) God promises to glorify everyone He justifies because those justified can never be condemned (Rom. 8:1, 8:30). Rome says that God will condemn to hell anyone who was justified (by water baptism) but who dies in mortal sin (1861).

10) Justification precedes sanctification (Rom. 6-8). Rome says justification is an integral part of sanctification (1995).
The righteousness that justifies the ungodly sinner is an alien righteousness that was accomplished outside of and apart from man. It is the completed righteousness of Jesus Christ and is given as a gift from God apart from any merit or work of man. His perfect righteousness is imputed at the moment the redeemed is united with Christ by faith. The righteousness of Christ is our passport into heaven! No one will enter into glory without it (2 Peter 3:13).

Letters from Around the World

Mike, I was so glad to see that you took a stand about Johnnie Moore's pandering to Pope Francis, and his complete ignorance of Catholic doctrine. What a sad commentary about those who are in leadership within the so-called 'Christian' church of today. As a writer for, I get quite a few questions about Catholicism, and like you, I try to explain the sheer apostasy of that massive religious system, with the hope of shining the light of truth into people's hearts. It's sad that more believers won't take a public stand against sin and apostasy. I believe that God says we are to 'expose' those who are spewing falsehood, or apostate teaching, charged in Ephesians 5:11-13. I've dealt with Dr. Russell Moore and the leaders of the SBC due to their support of a lawsuit to help Muslims build a mosque in New Jersey. Even though it's a sign of the times in which we live, we have to keep fighting the good fight until He comes. Keep speaking out, and keep doing what you're doing. Come Lord Jesus, S. P., Mt Juliet, TN

Hello Mike, I need some advice. I was called out of the Catholic Church back in 2002. Now I am an Elder at a reformed church that unashamedly defends God's word. However, much to my surprise, I found out that my church is amillennial. This greatly troubles me. I do not understand how they can take such a strong stance on God's word but totally spiritualize and allegorize the second coming of Christ. My church is part of the I'll Be Honest group of churches. When you spiritualize so much of the Bible it is a serious issue. God's plan to redeem His creation through Jesus Christ and how he is going to fulfill all of His covenants, including His covenants with Israel, is playing out before our very eyes. I feel sure I need to step down as an Elder and find another church. J. K., Hastings, MN

Hi J.K., Unfortunately, there are many in reformed churches who embrace the amillennial position of the Reformers. As you may know, the Reformers never developed a biblical view of eschatology. Instead, they held the same amillennial position of the Roman Catholic Church. Today, there are many Reformed leaders who choose to follow the Reformers instead of the Apostles. They allegorize literal prophecies concerning the 2nd Coming of Christ. Such a position leaves all prophetic Scriptures open to misinterpretation. Also, an inconsistent hermeneutic will lead to faulty interpretations in other areas of theology. We need to encourage everyone to build their eschatology on Christ and the apostles rather than the Reformers. It would be my privilege to counsel with you on the phone and offer biblical advice for you to consider. 

By Mike Gendron