Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sword of Denominationalism, Part 1 of 2

I have addressed this issue in my series of Posts entitled Simply Christian but I felt it worthy of further consideration. I felt it appropriate to examine the passage of Scripture below in light of denominational boundaries, since this was one of the very first examples of “denominational” differences between followers of Jesus Christ.

I want to take a moment to address the growing topic of heretical teachers like Rick Warren and Rob Bell, who is garnering such attention from places like Time Magazine of late. In his case certainly he may be a good and charismatic moral teacher; but he is also not a Christian as the Bible defines Christianity. If you are going to label him anything (and take care with labels) don’t call him a heretic. He would have to be a Christian before he can be a heretic. John wrote “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us,” 1st John 2:19. It is good to point out the errors of aberrant teachings, but railing on him from every direction is going to, in his eyes, validate the claims he is making. Are we insecure about our position as Bible-believing Christians? Then warn others of his false teaching and give no more thought to the man himself. “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…that you stand fast together in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God,” Philippians 1:27-28.

Mark 9:38-40 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.
The apostles apparently witnessed a man performing miracles in the name of Jesus Christ. John does not note whether these miracles were genuine or not; we have reason to believe they were, since John tells us that this man was casting out devils, not trying to cast them out. The apostles forbade him to do so, and on what grounds? The man followed them not. In modern lingo this might be an accusation dressed in such a manner: “You lay claim to Jesus Christ but differ from my sect; therefore we forbid you to furthermore lay claim on Christ’s name.” Now it was possible that this man was a heretic of some sort; but Jesus, who would know better than John, answered the apostle and said not to forbid the man. Jesus concluded His defense of this man’s conduct by saying “he who is not against us is on our side,” NKJV.

There are certain fundamentals Christians must agree on for there to be fellowship, and to accept one another as parts of the body of Christ.

#1: We must hear and believe the Biblical Gospel. I say the “Biblical Gospel” because there are many false gospels running rampant within the professing church, and many souls are perishing because of them. The Biblical gospel in essence presents Jesus Christ as God’s offering for sin, and that Christ’s payment on the cross made possible reconciliation between an offended God and sinful man. This payment for sin and eternal life in Christ’s name is available only through the medium of faith. We must hear and believe the gospel, and we receive as an immediate possession eternal life; see 1st Corinthians 15:1-5. The requirement of faith is one of condition, not of merit, Ephesians 2:8-9.

#2: The deity of Jesus Christ. Whoever confesses that Christ has come in the flesh is of God; whoever denies this is of the spirit of the Antichrist. God as Christ came in the flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died as a Man on the cross for our sins. As God, Jesus was capable of paying the debt of eternal separation from God that mankind could not. As Man, Jesus became a representative of our race, as Adam was when he led us into sin. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ our God and Savior have the imputed righteousness of Christ given to them. They are pardoned of their sin debt forever, and they receive eternal life. This work upon the cross was only possible because of Christ’s infinite value; a finite god translates into a finite sacrifice. If Christ failed to vouchsafe salvation for us, rest assured no work of ours will triumph where His failed.

#3: The Bible is the inerrant, inspired communication of God, given by His Holy Spirit through the mouths and pens of prophets and apostles. It (the Bible) is a progressive revelation 1600 years in the making, humanly written and divinely inspired and superintended. The Bible is the sole and perfect authority for faith and practice in every Christian’s life; if it is the word of God it deserves no less. Reason and tradition must be brought under the light of Scripture and conformed to God’s word; it is not the opposite. Finite human reason and man-made traditions do not buffer, compliment, replace or repair God’s perfect and ageless word to man. Either the Bible is sufficient or not; if it’s partly sufficient it is wholly defunct: mankind is left not knowing which portions are true, and human reason becomes the measure we use to determine what portion of God’s word is right or wrong. Jesus our Lord trusted in the authority of the Old Testament and lived by it.

#4: The Trinity as it is taught in Scripture cannot be refuted. To deny the deity of God the Holy Spirit (the Author of the Bible and the one who regenerates us when we believe) is to commit spiritual suicide. The teachings of Scripture are only spiritually discerned: if you deny the Holy Spirit’s very existence, you have also denied any hope of ever rightly understanding the Bible. To teach that God is one Person with three “offices” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), or that Jesus is actually all three Persons is to deny the truth of Scripture. God is three Persons sharing one essence or being. We are saved by God the Son, through God the Holy Spirit for God the Father. While the term “Trinity” does not appear in Scripture, neither do many other terms and names. Jehovah, or Yahweh, for instance, is not in the original manuscripts. Jehovah as a name for God did not arrive until about the 13th century; while the tetragrammaton (YHWH) of Jewish writing was considered too sacred to speak aloud and had no vowels incorporated.

#5: We are saved only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Works avail nothing; to understand the Christian message of Scripture, we must understand that Jesus did the work when He suffered and died on the cross. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, so that when Christ died as punishment for sin, sin died with Him. He rose again the third day as proof to His disciples that anyone who placed their faith in Him would likewise have everlasting life. The New Testament declares that when we believe in Jesus Christ we are justified, which is a Greek legal term that essentially states: “Not guilty.” We have passed from death into life; we are dead to the law and to sin, but alive to Christ and to God. All of this is accomplished solely through faith in Jesus Christ, and as the Father raised the Son to life, so too will He raise anyone whose faith is in our Lord; both His person and his work on Calvary. Faith is simply trust; we trust that what God promised regarding eternal life and our salvation is true, it is for us, it is received by faith: that is, the promise of life in Jesus Christ is given immediately when we trust God on His word like little children, and rely on our Lord completely. Such humble and single-minded reliance has no room for “good works” to help earn salvation; it is too preoccupied with the object of its faith and adoration.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Ian.

    To deliberately claim to support what one believes is a lie makes one a liar. to pretend to believe what Jesus said while denying it is fraudulent behavior. While there are areas open to question, these are not. God's statements are very clear.


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