“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy spirit, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to … Continue reading
By Paul Proctor
March 23, 2011
The Emerging Church controversy has caught the attention of the mainstream media again and in a big way with the latest book from Rob Bell, entitled, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” – a “universalist” view from a popular “Christian” author and pastor that has already drawn numerous objections from many evangelical leaders including several sharp commentaries from the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. – the latest of which appeared in the Baptist Press, titled, “Rob Bell and the (re)emergence of liberal theology.”
As one of many who have spoken out against the Emerging Church’s errant teachings and practices, I find it encouraging to finally hear a chorus of open rebukes coming from a growing number of well known Christian leaders who aren’t afraid to name the names of heretics and false teachers at work among believers – at least a few of them – something that is quite common throughout the New Testament, but, up until recently, has been all but absent from the 21st century Church as if they were either nonexistent or unworthy of mention.
Frankly, false teachers have had a heyday over the last generation or so amassing huge numbers of unregenerate, unrepentant, biblically ignorant and morally apathetic followers that were persuaded through pleasurable feelings, emotions, experiences and appetites that few, if any, are actually going to Hell. Dr. Mohler accurately summed up the Emerging Church movement in his column as being “a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism.” I would only add that the eastern styled mysticism taught and practiced by many Emergents carries the movement well beyond mere liberal Christianity and into the occult.
Much of these and other false teachings and practices have been aided and advanced by the widely-held assumption that public rebukes among Christians are to be a last resort only, citing Matthew 18:15 as the scriptural source, which, in the King James version, reads: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Underscore added for emphasis)
Thanks to a very small number of inconsistent Bible translations, which now incidentally includes the newest New International Version 2011, a directive intended to restrain and contain church-unity-disrupting personal offenses between two individuals was edited in such a way as to suggest that all initial chastisement and challenges between believers should be kept private, which is not at all what the Bible teaches.
Is there a better way to advance evil, error and confusion in the Church than to shame and silence the discerners of heresy, blasphemy and scriptural confusion? Not only does this undermine the proclamation and proliferation of God’s Word, it is also a great way to unequally yoke believers to unbelievers and steer them all astray with the insinuation that feelings are more important than truth.
You see, Matthew 18:15 in the New American Standard Bible reads: “(M)If your brother sins[b], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Omitting the words “against you,” or “against thee,” which appears in the vast majority of popular Bible versions including the 1984 NIV, gives heretics a handy hideout to not only do their dirty work but have their inaccuracies, inconsistencies and indiscretions arbitrarily dismissed through obfuscation, negotiation and consensus.
False teaching needs to be addressed as it happens, in front of those who hear it, that the error and confusion not be left to spread unchallenged. Nor should it be left up to some pastor’s public relations team or a bureaucratic boardroom of good old boys to decide if an open confession and correction would be good for the numbers.
Not only did Jesus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees publicly for their self-serving words and deeds, He gave Peter the harshest rebuke of all in front of the other disciples in Mark 8:33, telling him: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”
The Apostle Paul also took Peter to task in front of everyone later in Galatians 2:11,14 for separating himself from those who weren’t circumcised. If anything needed to be dealt with in private, wouldn’t it be this? Paul goes on to tell Timothy: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” – 1st Timothy 5:20
In fact, the entire chapter of Matthew 18 is largely about personal offences between individuals beginning with verse six where Jesus says: “…whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” and continues on with Peter asking Jesus; “…how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”
Jesus goes on to answer Peter with the story of an unpaid debt between a king and one of his servants and another unresolved debt between that same servant and a fellow servant. And right in the middle of the chapter, between Jesus’ warning against offending a child and Peter’s question about forgiving a brother and the story of personal indebtedness, is verse 15, where Jesus says: “…if thy brother shall trespass against thee…” not, “If your brother sins…” as the NAS claims. In other words, “against thee” is consistent with the ongoing conversation between Jesus and His disciples and context of the chapter.
So, when an errant pastor, preacher, teacher, author or Emerging Church leader publicly distorts, disputes, dismisses or disavows core doctrines of the Bible, he ought to be rebuked and corrected in the same manner he presented them… publicly, because those he mislead and confused with his flawed theology are watching, learning and passing along to others what they’ve been taught. And, if they’ve been taught lies, and the backroom boys and PR team never get around to correcting them for the edification and benefit of all, then those lies live on, the truth remains hidden and repentance never comes.
“Open rebuke is better than secret love.” – Proverbs 27:5
The concept of an unpardonable sin has been a source of difficulty for many because it seems to go against the Bible’s teaching concerning grace. It also seems to be contrary to the purpose of why Christ came, to save sinners. Yet in Matthew 12 Jesus speaks of a sin that is unpardonable. Through the years I have heard many assert a great many things surrounding this passage which has left me often times frustrated, discouraged and even doubting salvation.
For instance, I have heard many charismatic’s sight this verse when people challenge their practice of Spiritual Gifts, saying they are in danger of the unpardonable sin. I’ve heard many non-charismatic’s sight this verse at the charismatic’s claiming their practice of Spiritual Gifts (tongues in particular) are of the devil. The argument seems to go both ways depending on which side your standing on. On the other side of the coin I have heard many preachers claim that the unpardonable sin is dying in your sin having never excepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Others have said that once you reject Jesus, the one source of forgiveness, there is now no forgiveness. Both of these latter points are strong and compelling arguments however is this what Jesus meant when he sighted it.
Dr. Alan Cairns, Professor of Systematic Theology at Whitefield College of the Bible has in my opinion delivered the clearest exegesis on the subject I have ever heard. I will quote the context below and then follow with his explanation.
“Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatter abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” – Matt. 12:22-32
“The Lord Jesus in Matthew 12 speaks of a sin that is unpardonable. It’s amazing to me that when people read that passage they always focus on that one little thing, the one sin that is unpardonable. I have very rarely ever seen people emphasis the context and yet the context is glorious. Why do we not emphasis the magnificence of God’s mercy and just focus on this one thing? It’s because I suppose of so many false theories that people, especially preachers tell others it looks like they have committed the unpardonable sin. Actually the Lord Jesus was very careful in defining this. In the context he was referring it to the Pharisees and the sin that they had committed. These particular Pharisees. They knew according to Nicodemus, they knew that God was with Christ. Nicodemus said, “We know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” John 3:2. And yet the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 12 deliberately attributed what they knew to be the work of the Holy Spirit, they attributed it to the Devil. And they did it for their own rotten prodigious and their own particular political or sectarian advantage. Now that’s a terrible thing, they knew this to be the work of the Holy Spirit and they attributed it to the Devil. And Jesus said, you do that, that’s blasphemy that will never be forgiven in this life or the next. Now when you stop to think of it, if what the Holy Ghost does is relegated to be a work of the Devil, what is there for you? The only word that can bring light to you is the word of the of Holy Ghost. The only work that can benefit you is the work of the Holy Ghost. If you have already handed it all over to the devil, there is nothing left. Jesus said, that’s the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Some people have gone so far as to say and they may well be right in this, that that was a sin which could be committed only with regard to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ because these men had seen the Son of God through whom the Spirit of God had moved with such power. They had seen that, nobody else now a days can see that, so some people will limit that blasphemy, that particular sin to the days of Christ on earth. Be they right or wrong on that, certainly it is defined as a deliberate attribution to the devil of what they knew to be the work of the Holy Spirit, that is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.” See Video here
I concur with the observation of Dr. Alan Cairns. Clearly, the Pharisees slandered the Holy Spirit by knowledgeably attributing His work to the Devil, and by doing so, committed the unpardonable sin. To attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to the power of Satan in the face of undenialable evidence is unpardonable. Scripture teaches that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established (Matt. 18:16). Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:17-18 “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” How did the Father bear witness of Him? By the Holy Spirit! Now here in Matthew 12 you have the two persons of the Godhead healing one who was demon possessed, blind and mute and the Pharisees attributed it to the work of the Devil. Their sin was not an act of impulse or ignorance, but the willful, continued rejection of the truth concerning Jesus. They had ample evidence of the truth from both the works and words of Jesus Christ, which left them without excuse and they deliberately insulted the Holy Spirit and by doing so they forfeited the Holy Spirit’s ministry in their lives and could not be forgiven.
Now here is a fundamental problem, Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:22-24 concerning the world that if he had not spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. If he had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin, but now they have seen and also hated both Jesus and His Father. It is clear, the works Jesus did, no one in history has or can duplicate. Yet today, many have stepped forward claiming the same anointing, authority, and ability as that of Jesus Christ. So here is the question, if a person attributes their works, or what they claim to be the works of God to the devil, does that place them at risk of committing the unpardonable sin? My answer would be no, for Jesus Himself was the spotless, sinless Son of God who could in no way do anything outside the Will of the Holy Spirit, man (flesh) on the other hand is not sinless. That does not mean that God cannot accomplish the miraculous through human means, undoubtedly he has and does, however, the miracles Jesus did validated Him as the Son of God while any miracle done through and by men validates the message of the Gospel. Any miracle done today, if it does not testify to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, is not a work of God. In Matthew 12: 22 the miracle was performed by the Spirit of God as an indication of the presence of the kingdom of God. This is what caused the multitudes in verse 23 to be amazed and look to Jesus as the Son of David, the title “Son of David” was a popular messianic term. The term itself is a public acknowledgment that Jesus is the Messiah. This is seen in Matthew 21:9 where the multitudes cried out “Hosanna (Save Now) to the Son of David! It was a plea from an oppressed people to their Savior for deliverance. In our context, the Pharisees rejected both Jesus as Messiah and the Work of the Holy Spirit through Him because of their prodigious and their own particular political or sectarian advantage. And today, most of what we are witnessing in the Charismatic church is an abuse of Spiritual Gifts which gives them their political and sectarian advantage. I have never seen one operate in the Gifts with the sole purpose to glorify Christ and present the oppressed with the salvation message. They are always used to build a ministry around a man. So I can say with all certainty, it is not the work of the Holy Spirit, it is the workings of the devil.
Being a child of God and a follower of Christ for 30 years now, I have learned that more often than not our faith is misplaced. Since my conversion I have always been one who followed closely to pastors, giving my loyalty to them and adhering to their teachings. I had always thought of myself as a sort of Joshua who stood at the foot of the mountain while Moses was receiving the commandments of God. I was driven to trust them believing they would never do harm to the people and in doing so I lacked a dependence upon God. I had discernment, but ignoring the warnings God’s Spirit spoke within me so many times has cost me pain and suffering on more occasions that I want to count. It has been a long journey.
This is a politically correct time in America. We don’t want to offend someone whose beliefs may differ from ours. The mindset of our society is tolerance, excepting anyone or anything contrary to one’s belief or practice. This concept has been adopted by the modern church as the Church has fallen prey to the modernistic, non-judgmental mindset of our present age. If you are not tolerant of immoral behavior, of false doctrine, and because of Biblical conviction you speak out, your labeled with all sorts of criticism.
One such criticism thrown at you is “Judge not (Matthew 7:1). This is one of the most often and miss quoted verses in the bible. Those who love to hurl this verse at you are themselves guilty of the very verse the invoke. Jesus does say “Judge not lest you be judged,” but the type of judgment He is referring to is hypocritical judgment. Christians are not to judge each other with reference to the practice of morally neutral issues (Romans 14:3-4), for each individual believer is responsible to God (Romans 14:12). We are to judge, so long as it is within the safety of Biblical parameters (Matt. 7:6, 15-16; Matthew 18:15-18; John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 5; 2). When it comes to matters of morality, theology and doctrine we are given absolute liberty and authority in the Word of God to judge!
Another criticism you are labeled with is “you’re causing division.” Fact is, it is false doctrine which causes division in the church. Paul states in Romans 16:17; “Now I urge you brethren, mark those who cause divisions and hindrances contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” It’s not those who preach truth that cause division but those who teach heresy that is the basis of division. Ministers of the Gospel were put in place in the church “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). The purpose is “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; THAT we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:`3-14). Good healthy doctrine promotes unity and maturity while those who trick you with their deceitful plotting will “blow” and “reel” you with all manner of ungodly doctrine, stunting your growth and hindering your relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. Justin Peters states that “there is no such thing as true unity at all cost, any perceived sense of unity that a church may have, if that unity comes at the expense of the truth of the gospel then it’s an illusion, it’s a facade and a false sense of unity.” (Justin Peters Ministries “A Call For Discernment)
Still another classic criticism is “your an accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Now I hate to burst their bubble but…Satan is the only one equated as the accuser of the brethren in Scripture. His very name means “to be an opponent,” the accuser, adversary, the one who resists, obstructs, and hinders whatever is good. To point out error is a far cry from obstructing and hindering the work of God. The very reason one points out error is because he or she loves the church and wants to spare God’s people the oppression that comes from error. And again, those who cite Revelation 12:10 are themselves guilty of the verse they invoke on you. Are they not accusing you? Now there are many more criticisms people will throw at you like, “cast the first stone,” “first take the beam out of your own eye,” “touch not the lords anointed,” and on and on it goes. To discern is to have conflict, it’s unavoidable, but most today have been programmed buy the church to just be tolerant. It becomes a knee jerk reaction, that most will respond with when their belief system is threatened or challenged. And that my friend is misplaced faith.
The biggest reason there are Benny Hinn’s, Bill Johnson’s, Randy Clarks and the like, is because of misplaced faith. We put too much emphasis on ministers and their ministries today. More often than not, people in the church live up to the expectations and standards of the Pastor rather than God’s. And as for me, I will no long follow blindly, nor will in invest inerrant faith upon men and women of God. Many misunderstand me when I make a commit like this and always respond with, “Well, Paul said be followers of me as I am of Christ.” Ok, let’s look at it! “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” 1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV. It should be understood that Paul placed a condition on himself as a prerequisite for others to follow or “imitate” him. The clause “as I also imitate Christ” is restrictive and conditional. Secondly, no verse stands alone, it must be understood in light of its context. When we look at the verses which precede and follow this verse we see where Paul tells the Corinthians “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God vs. 31,” Give no offence, either to the Jews, or to the Greeks or to the Church of God vs. 32,” and in verse 33 Paul made it clear that he did not “seek his own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Anything that is not of Christ should not be followed. However, Paul was displaying the same spirit in his ministry as Christ who was the only one who perfectly exemplified love for God and others. He was careful to do all to the Glory of God and he sought the profit of salvation for others. This then shows his character, and every minister should be judged by his or her character. A careful examination of their character should be compared with the Word of God, Christ himself said “you will know them by their fruit.” Paul does serve as an example to be followed, and if your under such a man then God bless you. The two characteristics which should be found in every church leader is, do they glorify God in everything they do, and by that I mean, are they submitted to Jesus Christ and His Word? The second is, do they seek salvation for others, do they have a passion to present the Gospel to people that they will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Or, are they seeking their own profit as we see today with TV evangelist and those in the Word of Faith movement? Let me finish with this, as far as offence is concerned, I have discovered that those you find who are always offended with one thing or another, it’s usually because of Spiritual immaturity. I have learned that when you raise your level confidence in Christ, when you look to him as your sufficiency, it no longer matters what people do or say, offence falls by the wayside. I learned this from a preacher who once said, “Don’t let sin against you produce sin in you.” If you do, it is misplaced faith. Our faith is to be in Jesus Christ and him alone, men will fail us as we will fail them.