Friday, December 16, 2016

The Homosexual Battle for the Church

The news of the latest attack by homosexuals on Christian beliefs occurred with HGTV’s popular home show “Fixer Upper” hosted by the Gaines family. This is yet another example of the slide of moral values in America. The attack came on Nov. 30, 2016, which came out of nowhere. The Gains never said anything on the show concerning homosexuals, yet the attack came because they profess to be Christians and “they go to a church that thinks homosexuality is a sin.”  In the end, the television network and the public overwhelmingly defended the Gaines.
     However, the attack on the Church that holds to a biblical view of marriage and the sin of homosexuality and transgenderism (now simply labeled, LGBT) is moving to another stage of battle.  In November Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas announced they would openly accept LGBT as members in their congregation.   The result was the removal of the church from the Baptist General Convention (BGC). As usual, the press quickly praised the church for its “inclusiveness” and condemned the BGC for its LGBT bigotry.
    Again, in North Texas, one-month later, Lake Shore Baptist Church, voted to accept full membership of any LGBT person. Lake Shore’s governing body is the Baptist General Convention that has pledged to uphold traditional marriage values and remove any member church that believes otherwise. As could be predicted the press praised Lake Shore for their inclusiveness and condemned any church that does not accept the LGBT lifestyle. In fact, the Waco newspaper had a big front page (Opinion page) article by the pastor of Lake Shore Baptist church where she defended her church’s stance on the matter and exhorted a non-judgmental, “love” approach to Christianity.
    What is going on in our local churches is indicative of what is being taught in the seminaries. The clear black and white truth that flows from the pages of the Bible are questioned, the authority and sufficiency of the Word is minimized and a perverted Christian “love” message overwrites any discernment necessary for a life set apart by God for service.  The Gospel message - the death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the individual that believes, burial and resurrection is minimized to simply: God loves you and wants a better life for you.
     The death on the cross that judged sin and was a satisfaction for the righteous demands of a holy God is not taught from the pulpit. Instead, a feel good, physiological “needs based” message serves to comfort the individual in their sin. The strong exhortation found on almost every page of the New Testament to crucify your flesh with its passions and desires is almost nowhere heard in today’s modern church service. The Christian is to be holy because God is holy! He or she is to repent from sin (and LGBT is sin) and conform our minds to the mind of Christ. We are to forgive and accept the sinner provided they repent of their sin.
    By simply accepting the LGBT into the church with full membership is equivalent to saying, we do not care about the holiness of the Christ’s church. It says, the world can mingle with the church and the Christian and the world are one. The concept today in these worldly churches is that love and righteousness are independent, when in fact, love cannot exist apart from righteousness. The ultimate expression of love was Christ dying on the cross and that act was viewed as a righteous act. Love apart from righteousness brings no cleanness of sin to the individual, no convection of sin, no forgiveness of sin, and no reconciliation with God.
    While it is true that Christ paid the price for all sin once on the cross, the responsibility of the Church as the body of Christ is to bring the purity of the Word of God to the congregation and getting out the unperverted word is central in that mission.
     The message of love without righteousness only brings pain and suffering, it brings no peace or self-control in life. It is of utmost importance that the Church as the bride of Christ keep herself pure and separate from the world, the things of the world, and the desires of it. The Scriptures are not silent concerning this type of church: “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,`These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:  19 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.  20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.  22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. “ (Rev 2:18-22)
      The battle will only get worse as more “news” outlets attack Christian values, picketers with “equal rights” slogans picket outside your local church and weak pastors seeking the approval of man instead of God open up their doors to the LGBT community with a no guilt message. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints -  19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,  20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.(Eph. 6:10-20) 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Is the New Testament Prophet different from the Old Testament Prophet Part III?

The Old Testament prophet’s message was to be examined by the people to determine the truthfulness of the message, stone the false prophet and heed the true prophet. One difference between the OT prophet and the NT prophet is the result of identifying the false prophet. The people under the law were to stone the false prophet, while the people under the dispensation of grace are to expose the false prophet as blaspheming God!  In this article, we will examine another aspect of the prophet – the official office of prophet. Does the NT prophet appointed by church leadership have an official office?  And if the NT prophet appointed by the church lies can he or she be considered a true prophet of God?      

Selection of the Prophet in the Old Testament
The prophet of the OT was chosen by God but there was also an “order” or “office” of prophet that was selected by the people and were trained in the school of prophecy. Therefore, we find in the OT two types of prophets. Those called out by God Himself, sent to a specific people to declare God’s message of repentance, judgment and promise. This type of prophet was to reveal the sins of the people, new truth, and future events. A second type of prophet that was simply to speak already established Law to God’s people. The main function of this prophet of God was to reveal already revealed law in connection with Israel’s sins. They served as preachers of the truth warning Israel of judgment.  

In the first class of prophet, those selected by God, the individual selected by God was from different groups of people from all walks of life and included all age groups from the young to the old. They were selected form the babe in the womb to the elderly on their deathbed. Within this group of prophet are included the writing prophets and even included some who did not write.

Samuel is the first of a new order of prophet chosen by God (1 Sam. 3:1-20). A new order was needed because from Joshua to Eli the failure of the priesthood grew to apostasy. The priesthood that governed spiritual things failed to point out Israel’s sins. It is during the priestly reign of Eli that Samuel comes on the scene. Notice what First Samuel says about the lack of new revelation from God during this period:

Then the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. (1 Sam. 3:1)

When Samuel was old enough he became a prophet, God called him to service:

19 So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD. (1Sam. 3:19-20)

Samuel was then the first of a new class of prophet as Scripture says,

9 Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: "Come, let us go to the seer"; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer. (1Sam. 9:9)


17 And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him, "There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people."  18 Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, "Please tell me, where is the seer's house?"  19 And Samuel answered Saul and said, "I am the seer. Go up before me to the high place, for you shall eat with me today; and tomorrow I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. (1Sam 9:17-19)

The great OT scholar, Dr. Unger, writes, “Samuel took measures to make his work of restoration permanent as well as effective for the moment. For this purpose he instituted companies, or colleges, of prophets. One we find in his lifetime at Ramah (1 Sam. 19:19-20); others afterward at Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), Jericho (2:5), Gilgal (4:38), and elsewhere (6:1). Into them were gathered promising students, and there they were destined to fulfill. So successful were these institutions that from the time the Samuel to the closing of the canon of the OT there seems never to have been wanting of official prophets.” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary)

Prophets chosen by God ranged from kings and priests to women. The duration of their prophecy varied but with the exception of Moses, they did not remain a prophet of God all their lives. This group of prophets were all those that were chosen by God from Samuel to Malachi. The period of silence from Malachi to Jesus was notable and moved the people to look for the Messiah to break the 400 years of silence.

The 400 years of silence is notable as God moved in Israel to prepare for the greatest event in history, Christ’s incarnation, presentation, prophecy, death, burial, resurrection, and  ascension to heaven. The last of the OT class of prophet was John the Baptist whose message was that of all the prophets: repent, get right with God, for judgment is at hand.  

One the other hand, the official OT prophet that was selected by man was selected, sent to school to learn the law, and functioned as watchmen and preachers of the law  (cf. 1 Sam. 19:19-20; 2 Kings 2:3, 2:5, 4:38, 6:1). They functioned like pastors and shepherds monitoring the people of God. Their function was to declare, discern and apply God’s moral will. This group of prophet spent years in school training up for the office. This class of prophet is thought to be what was called a Scribe by the time of Jesus. He was the expert in the law who served in the Sanhedrin alone side the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The official office of prophet that Samuel created all those years ago had turned into legal experts held by a mix of God’s word and tradition. I find it sad that this group was not even identified by the people as prophets of God by the time of Christ. The prophet of God had ceased to speak for 400 years prior to John the Baptist. John prepared the way of the Lord.      

The False Prophet
a.    Warnings in the Old Testament

When speaking about a prophet, God always includes a warning about those that claim to speak for Him but do not. He requires a test of what the prophet says. A test whether what the prophet says lines up with established Scripture. The Lord warns us of a prophetic deception because this is a fallen world whose ruler, Satan is the father of lies and deception. The Lord warns us in Deut. 18:20 that there will be false prophets. Notice the warnings concerning false prophets throughout Scripture, in the OT:
"For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness," says the LORD.  12 "Therefore their way shall be to them Like slippery ways; In the darkness they shall be driven on And fall in them; For I will bring disaster on them, The year of their punishment," says the LORD.  13 "And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal And caused My people Israel to err.  14 Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.  15 "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:`Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem Profaneness has gone out into all the land.'  16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.  17 They continually say to those who despise Me,`The LORD has said, "You shall have peace "'; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say,`No evil shall come upon you.'"  18 For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it?  19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury - A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.  20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.  21 "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.  22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. (Jer.  23:11-22)

The prophets of Israel are distinguished from the pagan prophets in that they received their message from God. The pagan prophets used divination, they cut open and examined the entrails of animals to prophesy. They used all manner of the occult to talk to the dead. They used drugs to put themselves in a “prophetic” state and prophesied blessings and curses for money. This culture had moved into Israel and God was mad. Israel was to be set apart from the world, yet they set their minds after the things of the world and prophesied lies. Listen to the prophet Jeremiah: 

 25 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying,`I have dreamed, I have dreamed!'  26 "How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,  (Jer. 23:25-26)

And again,

14 And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. 15 "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say,`Sword and famine shall not be in this land'--`By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed! (Jer. 14:14-15)

Notice that there were also women prophetesses,

17 "Likewise, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own heart; prophesy against them, 18 "and say,`Thus says the Lord GOD: "Woe to the women who sew magic charms on their sleeves and make veils for the heads of people of every height to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of My people, and keep yourselves alive? 19 "And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?" 20 `Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. 21 "I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezek. 13:17-21)

"Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying,`Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD had not spoken. (Ezek. 22:28)

11 If a man should walk in a false spirit And speak a lie, saying,`I will prophesy to you of wine and drink,' Even he would be the prattler of this people. (Mic. 2:11)

God put an end to the prophets of old. There were NO prophets for 400 years before Christ came in the flesh! Can you imagine, Israel with no active prophets? How can that be? The chosen people of God find themselves in silence for 400 years?

b.    False prophets in the New Testament
In the NT one finds the Church is also infiltrated by the world. Both Paul and John address the Greek Gnostic culture has moved into the church. Like the OT false prophet that receives a “secret” message from God, the NT false prophet likewise claims secret revelation from God. The heart of the Greek religion was the prophet who was a special person who achieved such a high state of spiritual maturity that they would receive a special message from God – a gnostic “Gr. gnosis, knowledge.” Dr. Wolf writes in The Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, “they all offer knowledge – and in a form or degree not to be found outside their own teaching. This concern for knowledge links the higher and the lower forms of Gnosticism. At its lowest, the knowledge offered related simply to power and secrets of the future – the same sort of things as those for which people consulted astrologers and fortune tells, but put into a religious setting. In its higher forms, it is related to abstracted speculation, grappling with problems which had long been obstacles for educated pagans….Sometimes, too, it is special knowledge about Jesus which is proffered, on the basis of secret, closely guarded sources.”  There is a strong pull in the church to hear secret knowledge – a special message from God, and some seek out a special word about them personally. God has spoken His Word and the prophets have written by the power of the Spirit. Is this not enough? Has God spoken today? Yes, by His Word! Yet some in the Church desire more and the false prophet is more than willing to give them a special message claimed to be from God.

 Notice Jesus’ warning:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (Matt. 7:15)

The Prophet and the Church
Is the prophet found as an official of the Church? The church is made up of the following officials:  (1) elders – teachers; (2) elders – overseers; and (3) deacons. The office of Pastor-Teacher- Elder is given specific qualifications (Tim. 3:1-7), likewise, the office of Overseer- Elder is given equivalent qualification (Titus 1:5-9). Likewise, the office of deacon is given specific qualification (1 Tim. 3:8-13).   These two offices, elder and deacon, are the only two official offices found in Scripture. Where does the prophet fit in this organization? The office of prophet, like the office of apostle, has past, as the founding period of the church is complete. The apostle was one sent by Christ with a special commission. The apostle Paul was the last apostle chosen by Christ and sent with a message (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 15:8-9). Both the apostles and prophets served to found (past tense) the church which continues to be the thing that is the foundation of the church today (Eph. 2:20).

Where then does the prophet fit into the church? The prophet and the apostle are not official offices of the church but rather used as temporary gifted instruments used by God for the purpose of building the church.     

The Gift of Prophecy
The prophet of old like the prophet of the NT was gifted by the Spirit of God to carry out the task of new revelation and often times that involved predicting a near event that came true in order to validate the person is a prophet from God.

The apostles are considered prophets and both are considered gifts of the church (Eph. 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12; Paul 1 Cor. 13:2; Peter 2 Pet. 3:10-13; John Rev. 1:1). The gifts to the Church are said to be manifestations of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:7). The Acts of the Apostles reveals the following prophets: Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), Twelve men in Ephesus (Acts 19:6), daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9).     

Yet outside the book of Acts, a prophetic act by anyone outside the apostles is not found. Paul speaks of the gift in his instructions to the church at Corinth. It is here that one finds that the signs gifts will end.

Paul writes,

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,  9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,  10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.  (1Cor. 12:7-11)

Moreover, Paul exhorts them to seek something beyond there gnostic inspired thinking: 

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.  28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.  29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?  30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?  31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.  (1Cor. 12:27-31)

Paul exhorts them to live a life of love (Gr. agape, “giving love, that asks nothing in return”) filled faith:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail (Gr. katargeo, Fut. Pas. Ind.,“render idle, cause to cease:” “they will be idled”); whether there are tongues, they will cease (Gr. pauo, Fut. Mid. Dep. Ind.,“to cease:” “they will [themselves] cease”); whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away(Gr. katargeo, Fut. Pas. Ind.,“render idle, cause to cease:” “They will be idled”).  9 For we know in part (neuter noun) and we prophesy in part (neuter noun).  10 But when that which is perfect (neuter adj.)  has come, then that which is in part (neuter noun) will be done away Gr. katargeo, Fut. Pas. Ind.,“render idle, cause to cease:” “They will be idled”).  (1 Cor. 13:4-10) 

As you can see by the Greek, the neuter nouns refer to knowledge and prophecy that “we prophesy” that is, Paul and those that truly have the gift of prophecy. In the future the knowledge gifts will cease – they will be idled. The neuter adjective of verse 10, “that which is perfect,” points back to the neuter nouns of the “part,” namely, knowledge and prophecy. Prophecy will cease! The neuter cannot mean when Christ returns for it would be a masculine, nor does it mean the kingdom for it would be a feminine. Prophecy and knowledge point to God’s instruments who are used to write down His word in what we call the Word of God and what the Word calls the Scriptures – the whole of the Old and New Testaments. 

The question is when will the prophecy and knowledge end? Prophecy ended when the Scriptures were completed. When the last Prophet (Christ) speaks through the Holy Spirit to the last apostle/prophet John. The book of Revelation is the last great book of the Bible and John was the last prophet to speak new revelation! The gift of apostleship and prophecy ended sometime in mid to late A.D 90’s.

Notice the apostle Peter equated the prophets with Scripture when he wrote,

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;  20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,  21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 1:19-2:1)

The NT prophet is no different from the OT prophet. Both receive direct revelation from God to be spokesmen for Him, reproving, correcting, and encouraging the people of God concerning sin and the promises of God. The OT and NT prophet spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and thus cannot lie. The prophet of God in the OT was empowered by the Spirit for a temporary period to serve a specific purpose during a specific period. The NT prophet also served to speak for God for a specific period of time for a specific purpose, though, the NT spokesmen for God cannot lie during this service, for God does not lie. Finally, the NT prophet was not an official office but was temporarily sent for the purpose of fulfilling progressive revelation to build and establish the Church. After the church was formed and the apostles died, the prophet ceased. The book was sealed and the Spirit of God speaks through the Word of God to convict the world of sin, teach the body of Christ, and guide her until the bride is taken to heaven.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Is the New Testament Prophet different from the Old Testament Prophet- Part II?

The previous article defined the basic concept of the function of a prophet, namely, to act as a mediator between God and man. Moreover, the prophet specifically pointed out the people’s transgressions, the sins of the house of Jacob, and did so under the power of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 58:1; Ezek. 22:2; 43:10; Mic. 3:8).

There are some, however, within the modern prophecy movement that claim that the requirements of the OT prophet do not apply to them since those rules were part of the law code and not for today’s age of grace.  By claiming this, they seek to claim that they can receive a prophecy that does not come to pass and still claim be a true prophet. Can the NT prophet really proclaim a word from God that does not come to pass or does not line up with Scripture? Can the modern prophet, gifted by the Spirit of God, make a mistake? 

Last time we saw that Jesus Christ came in the flesh to be the last mediator between God and man. Indeed, as Paul wrote to the Romans,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (Rom 5:1-2)


19 For it pleased the Father that  in Him all the fullness should dwell,  20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled  22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.  (Col 1:19-22)

Scripture clearly says that in the Church age, Christ is the only mediator and it is on the bases of His death:

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,  6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,  7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle - I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying - a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Timothy 2:5-7)

 The book of Hebrews describes Christ as mediator in the context of blood sacrifices:

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)


12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh,  14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.  (Heb. 9:12-15)

Therefore, it is clear, from the context of Hebrews, that it was the priestly mediatorial role that Christ fulfilled as He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us and thus intercedes for us today. The office of priest is fulfilled in Him as all who are called by His name today are priests with Christ as the High Priest:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Therefore, it is the office of priest that has been fulfilled in Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven that satisfies the mediatorial requirement. What is left to be completed of the mediatorial function is the office of prophet, so we not turn to the office of prophet. 

Details of the Prophetic Office
The prophetic office has the following requirements:

a.    To Speak God’s words – Thus says the Lord…
The main function of the prophet of the OT was to speak God’s word to the people, to warn, reprove, encourage, exhort, to pronounce divine judgment on the people and call them to repentance. The OT prophet acted as a spokesman for God, receiving a message from Him and in turn proclaiming it in accordance with His commands. That was the main function of a prophet of God – to proclaim God’s word faithfully, accurately, and truthfully. 

Since this is a fallen world, there appeared many false prophets who claimed to speak a word from God but were not. The true prophet of God exhibited some form of proof that they spoke from the true God. Often times this proof was in the form of a miracle, whether the miracle was in the form of a physical supernatural sign or a prophecy that was fulfilled in the near future. However, not all prophecy was future telling; many times a prophet would simply speak the word of God from the established Scriptures. This brings us to the main point. Prophecy has two aspects: future telling and simply Scripture retelling.   

What developed in time was the “office” of prophet found in the OT under the Law code. Deuteronomy 18 describes the basic function of the prophet (though Christ is in view, the larger view of prophets in general is also present):

I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.  19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.  20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.  21 And if you say in your heart, how shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?   22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.  (Deut. 18:18-22)  

Notice in Deuteronomy 18:20 the function of the prophet is to “speak a word in My name,” indeed, the Hebrew might better read “surely, the prophet that causes to speak presumptuously a word in My name, that which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”

The prophet is to repeat accurately the word received from God and not add words that move the message of God to say something God did not say nor misrepresent Him. The true prophet of God spoke under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

There are some in the modern prophecy movement today that claim this does not apply to them since this is law, which is no longer applicable. This then gives them license to speak presumptuously or to speak a prophecy that does not come true yet they can still claim to be a true prophet of God. As with all dispensations, there are elements that are no longer in effect, but others that remain. Those elements that remain are universals, a prophet of God who has been chosen by God will never speak a prophecy that is not true, and to claim otherwise is to claim the Spirit of God is not able to control the mouth of His servant. How can we trust the Word of God was inspired by God, is trustworthy, reliable and infallible, if a different standard is used for the modern prophet? To prophesy is to speak for God and to claim to speak for God when one is not directly commanded to do so is to blaspheme God! “They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jer. 23:16) 

The prophet of old was told:  “And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jer. 14:14)     

The prophet of today is told: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.  4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”  (2 Peter 2:1-4)

How then are we to understand the New Testament prophet? Is he indeed different with respect to speaking truthfully about God’s word? No! According to 2 Peter, a false prophet of old is equated with the false teacher of today and is not of the truth. False prophets and false teachers are reserved for the day of destruction and are described as blaspheming against God and truth. The true teacher (modern prophet) of God’s word is held to a high standard of speaking truth. A prophet of God, a teacher from God, and a man or woman of God will all speak truth because God is truth. God cannot lie. This is a universal truth of God. Likewise, the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of Truth. How then can a prophet of God ever speak under the guidance of the Spirit, speaking in the name of God, lie? Such a thing cannot be!  

The New Testament prophet’s message is to be tested. That is the message of the apostle John as he addressed the Gnostic who believed that they could receive secret knowledge, a secret message from God when in fact they did not. Notice the apostle John’s strong exhortation to the church in his day:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

John was addressing the Gnostic teaching that the spiritual was good and the physical was evil so Jesus could not have been in the flesh. John exhorted them to test the prophet’s claim measures up to the truth of God’s word. With respect to the prophet speaking the truth of God’s word indeed the measure of the Old Testament and the New Testament prophet is the same. What is different is the result or judgment that comes upon the false prophet. In the OT law, the false prophet is to be killed, the NT prophet is to be exposed for being a liar – a false prophet who blasphemes the Spirit of God, for he is not speaking for God but for self.  

In the next article we will examine the office of the Old Testament prophet and contrast him with the New Testament prophet.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Is the New Testament Prophet different from the Old Testament Prophet?

It is claimed by some that the New Testament prophet is different from the Old Testament Prophet. Is this true? Was there a change in the office of prophet?  Is this 'different kind of prophet' someone who is able to practice prophecy today in the Church?

Maybe you have heard the claim, “the Lord has told me …,“ “the Lord has given me a word…,” or, “the Lord has told me to tell you....” Maybe you have heard that someone in your church has a “prophetic or apostolic anointing.” 

Are there some in your church that prophesy over other members?  Maybe you have heard the claim that the OT prophet dealt with correction, warning and judgments, while the NT prophet deals with strengthening, encouragement, and comfort, but not correction.

Have you heard the teaching that the NT prophet does not correct?   They claim there is no need for correction since that is the Holy Spirit’s work that indwells us.  Maybe you have even heard the claim that the NT prophet can produce a false prophecy but still be a valid prophet! Maybe you have heard the claim that only the leadership of the local church has the authority to judge whether a prophet’s message is valid or not.         

This new concept of the Church prophet is said to have come about in the last century due to the work of God within His Church. This change in work of the prophet was found in the ancient church but died out and renewed with the Reformation and is present in its growing fullness in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches today.  This view of modern prophecy and the prophet are given as evident truth by its growth outside the Pentecostal Church is it moves into mainline Churches through the charismatic movement. Indeed, so pervasive is the prophecy movement today within Christendom that one could say it is now a mainline doctrine and can be found within every mainline denomination.     

What specifically does this movement teach?  This article will not discuss every aspect of the movement and its consequences for there are too many. Instead, this article will narrowly focus upon the basic questions: is the New Testament prophet present in the Church today and how does Scripture describe the office and function of the prophet in the dispensation of the Church.   

The Prophet of the OT
1.    Definition
The prophet in the Old Testament was a spokesman for God. The great OT scholar, Dr. Unger, defines a prophet as, “One who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to His people and to disclose the future to them” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). 

2.    Origin of the Prophetic Office
According to Dr. Paul Benware, “The divine origin of the prophetic office is affirmed by Jeremiah, who also reveals that it began with Moses (Jer. 7:25).  (Note that God spoke directly to men like Abraham, before Moses, but the prophetic office with its various functions began with Moses.) A primary passage in understanding the prophetic office is Deuteronomy 18:19-22. In this passage, Moses declared that God would raise up the prophetic institution and that someday a great Prophet would arise. This message was given as Israel prepared to enter the land of Canaan. The first thing Moses told the Israelites was that when they entered the land they were not to involve themselves in the Canaanite practices of witchcraft, spells, omens, spiritism, or similar observances. These wicked, superstitious rituals were not to be used to obtain direction or information. Instead, God would raise up a prophet (Deut. 18:18). ” (Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament, p. 188).

The prophet grew out of the mediatorial office – the go-between-man between God and man. Moses was the first official mediator between God and man. God spoke to Moses who in turn was to say to Israel: “Thus says the Lord God …”  This reflected a new relationship between God and Israel which was a result of their sin in the wilderness. Along with Moses’  mediatorial role, one finds the priesthood acting as mediator between God and man with regard to the nation’s worship and sacrifice.  Thus two official mediatorial offices were born: the prophet and the priest.

Before Moses and the book of Exodus, one finds individuals approached God as they built alters, sacrificed an animal, and talked to God directly. Yet it is the result of sin that separated man from a holy and just God. Fellowship was broken and a mediator was required between man and God. Moses, Aaron and Miriam become the sole mediators between God and man; Moses and Miriam the prophets, and Aaron the priest. After their death, the priesthood was established to function as mediators between God and man. With the corruption of the priesthood, God brought forth the prophet to act as a spokesman, that is, a mediator between God and man to bring Israel correction, direction, encouragement, future judgments, and blessings as He moved in history to accomplish His will and bring forth the true Shepard of Israel.        

3.    Fulfillment of the Prophetic Office
Naturally, this mediatorial office of prophet and priest has its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ for He is said to be the last mediator between God and man. Scripture says,

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,  6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,  7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle - I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying - a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1Timothy 2:5-7)    


But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

Indeed, this mediatorial role was born out of the need to cover one’s sin in approaching a holy and just God. Scripture identifies the blood sacrifice as the mediatorial mechanism by which one approaches God after the fall of Genesis three. One approaches God after the fall with a blood sacrifice. This requirement changed with Moses during the exodus, as Moses became the spokesman for God and the office of prophet and priest was formally established. One cannot approach God alone with a sacrifice, instead, must bring the priest a sacrifice who in turn will offer it up - one more step removed from God. Since Jesus died as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, one approaches God today based on the blood of Christ, for He is the last mediator between God and man!

The office of prophet, like the office of priest has passed as with the Law. Jesus came to complete the Law and fulfill the legal requirements of the Law and to bring in a new covenant based upon His blood whereby all within His Church are priests and all within His Church are  prophets (a separate type of prophet who simply proclaims the Scriptures, not those identified as possessing the gift of prophecy). However, as of the completion of the Bible, the NT prophet does not receive direct communication from God, but through His written Word. As A. MacRae well observes,” In the NT, as in the OT, a prophet was one who received his message directly from God. As the Bible neared completion and the existence of God’s written Word in its entirety made direct communication no longer necessary, it became possible to use the term in the extended sense of one who receives his message from God through the written Word and then passes it on to God’s people for ‘up-building and encouragement and consolation’ (1 Cor. 14:3).” (The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible)

What about the NT prophet that is described as a major function in building the Church? How are we to understand Ephesians 2:20?

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Eph. 2:19-22)


27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.  28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.  (1 Cor. 12:27-28 NKJ)

Is this a contradiction? How is it that Jesus is the last mediator yet Scripture says the church is built upon prophets and apostles and they are even appointed by God in the body of Christ?  In the next article, this question will be examined in detail. What is the work of a NT prophet? Are there some in your church who claim they are a prophet receiving messages directly from God?

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Apostasy IV – The Present Day

The last day’s apostate church is characterized by calling what God calls good 'evil', and calling what God calls evil 'good'. As with every dispensation, man fails.  The end time's apostasy of the church considers the Word of God of little value.  Because it is not viewed as sufficient, it is suppressed, replaced with man’s philosophical ideals, boastful words, and a 'need based' physiological approach to teaching/preaching. 

The Apostle Paul exhorted pastor Timothy to teach the Word and be a watchman, because the latter days apostasy was certain to happen.  Some, “will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-11).  Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,  speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,  forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1Tim 4:1-3).  So awful and universal would the church be saturated in apostasy that it would serve as a sign for the rapture - taking the true Church out before the judgment of the Tribulation.

The apostle Peter and Jude also speak of the end time’s apostasy. In second Peter chapter 2, Peter provides a detailed description of these doctrines of demons that come directly from church leadership - Peter relates the teachers in the church to the “false prophets” of old. The major theological heresy they teach involves, “denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). That is to say, they deny salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and hence, the sufficiency of our Lord and His Word. They deny the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross that paid the full price for their justification, they, in some way, deny Jesus was the Christ and in so doing they deny His gift of salvation – Christ is not enough, His Word is not enough! The character of the apostate and his church is self-glory, who “secretly [Gr. Future tense of pareisago, “will bring in craftily, will bring in alongside”] bring in destructive heresies [Gr. hairesis, “a sect, a body of men who follow their own tenets”].”

Jude describes them this way: “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our Lord God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). 

Jude identifies their method of apostasy by providing three examples: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11).  

The first example is, “gone in the way of Cain.” What did Cain do? Cain’s great sin was to bring the Lord the wrong offering – a bloodless offering! Since the fall, man is required to approach God with a proper covering, a proper blood sacrifice. Cain did not bring an animal sacrifice, rather he brought “of the fruit of the ground.” 

Cain approached God on his own terms not God’s. Cain went his own way not God’s way. The proper way to approach a holy God after the fall was to bring a blood sacrifice to remind one of one’s own sin problem. That protocol changed with the Mosaic law, in that one approached God through a mediator, the priest, whom approached God for you, however, the priest approached God with a blood sacrifice. That protocol changed again when Christ came and died on the cross.

One approaches God today based on the blood of Christ - our last mediator and great high priest. We no longer bring the blood of bulls as we approach a holy and just God; we approach God on the bases of the shed blood of Christ. The apostate seeks to approach God on his own merit, in his own way, which seems right in his own eyes! Christ’s death on the cross and His cleansing blood, which brings redemption and reconciliation, is minimized and one’s own personal struggle in life and good works is amplified. The result of going the way of Cain, is a fallen countenance, a life that is self-seeking, self-reliant, self-righteous and full of envy and strife (Gen. 4:6; Heb. 11:4; 1 John 3:12).  

The error of Balaam is Jude’s next example. Balaam was a pagan prophet for hire. He could be hired to curse or bless. When asked to curse Israel, Balaam heard the voice of God tell him not to curse Israel because they are blessed of God (Num. 22:12).  Yet, Balaam went back three more times at the command of Balak king of Moab, to curse Israel. Though he did not curse Israel, he is declared guilty of seducing the Israelites to commit fornication (Num. 31:16). Jude identifies his error and motivation as being performed for personal gain (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15). Indeed, the book of Revelation reveals that churches can teach the doctrine of Balaam - prophets for hire; false prophets claiming to speak for God yet teach worldly pagan things - intermarrying with the adulterous world (Rev. 2:14). The Church is in the world yet separate from the world. Israel was separate from the world yet they intermarried with Moabite women (most likely temple prostitutes) which served to destroy their separation from the world and participation in pagan worship.

The end time’s apostate church is characterized by those who claim to speak the words of God, but their words are their own. This church teaches more of man’s words and less of God’s words. The message serves to tickle the ears.  The high point of Israel’s apostasy was elevation of the false prophet and the removal of the true prophet. The apostate prophet is found today in the gross abuses of the charismatic church who profess to receive a word from God, and God says, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:21-22; cf. Ezek. 13; 22:28).          

Jude includes “the rebellion of Korah” in his description of the apostate. What is the rebellion of Korah? Korah, a Levite, along with 250 top leaders challenged Moses and Aaron’s authority as the only mediators and spokesmen for God. The Levites had a preferred place in God’s tabernacle service, Korah was not satisfied with that preferred position and wanting more led this group of leaders to question why it was that only Moses and Aaron could speak with God and serve as mediators between men and God. As a result, Moses told Korah and his company that in the morning the Lord himself will show who is able to approach Him. In the morning, God split apart the ground under them swallowing them alive into the pit of the earth.

Apostates that possess the character of Korah are characterized by those who desire to be first in rank. These are self-seeking, self-promoters that cause division and self-exaltation by claiming God speaks to them and they have some special knowledge that no one else has. They challenge the word of God, the authority of God, and those that truly speak for God. They split churches, seek power, serving only themselves (Jude 12). They are “clouds without water,” appearing as genuine but they are not. 

Jude describes the apostate as, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves” (Jude 12). The apostate looks and seems to participate in the inner working of the church, but only outwardly as they are spots (Gr. spilas, “of men who by their conduct damage others morally”) in the “love feast,” denying the Lord (v. 4).

Apostates are grumblers (Gr. goggustes, “one who discontentedly complains against God and God’s own” ), complainers (Gr. mempsimoiros, “complaining of one’s lot, querulous, discontented”), walking after their own lusts (Gr. epithumia, “desire for what is forbidden”), their mouth speaks great swelling [words] (Gr. huperogkos, “overswollen, extravagant”), flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 16). 

Jude recalls the warning given them by the apostles, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:  how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:17-21).

Apostates are mockers (Gr. empaizo,”jokingly deceive”) as they follow after their own ungodly desires (Gr. epithumia, “desire for the forbidden”). Apostates, since they are not indwelt with the Holy Spirit are described as sensual, or as the Greek renders, “natural,” as opposed to spiritually minded.  These are those that Paul describes as a natural man in Romans chapter 1 and 2, except the apostate moves the world into the church as they are actors, not genuine. The proverb applies here: “A dog returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in mire” (2 Peter 2:22b).  This person is a natural man playing the part in the church causing spiritual destruction as a wolf prays upon the flock.

One cannot reflect upon the modern church and see just how far the apostasy has moved in our churches. The major church movements today are mostly destructive in the sense of apostasy away from the Word of God, away from the cross of Christ, away from identification of sin and calling sin - sin! Though some movements seek to turn the church back (e.g. church music from mindless praise to theologically sound hymns), most modern movements are destructive, like leaven, they receive far more traction, get promoted by Christendom, and like every wind of heretical doctrine, these movements move into our churches causing confusion.

The emergent church says don’t be offensive, don’t concentrate on personal sin and a personal Savior. Instead, the emergent mindset promotes modern inclusiveness and diversity. They promote encouragement at the expense of truth and what is right. They seek to be positive, and experience God on one’s own level without being offensive. The gospel of Christ is offensive - it is foolishness to the lost! The church is to proclaim the truth of man’s sin problem and the good news that those that believe Jesus Christ paid the price for their sin on the cross will not perish but have everlasting life.   

The growth of the mystical church, like the Gnostic of the early church, is growing today in the voice of the charismatic churches. Where a word from God is receive at man’s will, and the Word of God is preached, but only, as it applies to satisfy the self-seeking desire of the speaker. Expository teaching is looked down upon as it is described as “unspiritual.” Instead, what is taught today from pulpits and seminaries is to take one verse, maybe even a part of a verse then “build on that.”

Is that what goes forth from your churches’ pulpit? Does your church turn the gospel of Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection, into a prosperity message where God wants you to be rich and healthy?

The apostate church, like a trip to the candy store, comes in many flavors today. Old main line denominations have long since gone liberal, no longer appropriating God’s Word and power, in favor of a feel good, self-sufficient life, characterized by denying the word, looking religious outwardly, but internally they are dead.  These old line liberal churches are dying and will themselves self-destruct, but what of the growing modern new church? The buildings are large, their members flock to them every Sunday.

Some of these mega churches are orthodox in their teaching, as they attempt to “meet the needs” of their flock. Instead of Sunday school, they have small groups that come together according to some demographic division in order to communicate and engage everyone. What is the problem with this modern model? The small group leader is often not theologically trained, and heresy moves through these groups like a storm. What is promoted and studied is the latest physiological book by “experts” in Christian living. While many in this category of churches are not apostate many are and many more are moving toward apostasy. Whenever the Word of God is moved to a secondary position, error is soon to follow. That was the story of Israel and continues to be the pattern.

If one can walk into a church and hear no exhortation to remove oneself from the desires of the world and its hatred of the things of God, then that church is in apostasy.  Does you church teach Jesus was not virgin born? Does your church teach evolution like the atheist? Does your church teach hell is not eternal punishment, but annihilation like the pagan? Does your church have a yoga class and justifies its value by saying the pagan religious elements are not practiced? These things in and of themselves do not mean your church is apostate. However, these things are a sign of the times, they represent a movement away from God-centered worship to Man-centered worship. They represent an integration of the world with the church. The very thing Israel of Old did as they defiled the Temple of the Lord with Baal worship. The very thing God calls apostasy - a falling away from God to the culture! 

While these things may not mean your church is in apostasy there are many churches that have clearly moved away from the truth to apostasy. If your church has a female pastor, like Korah, it is in apostasy. If your church has a homosexual pastor or accepts the homosexual lifestyle as just another acceptable lifestyle, your church, like Sodom and Gomorrah has turning away from God to follow their own lustful natures and in apostasy. If you never hear the word “sin” in your church, your church is in apostasy. Finally, if your church teaches the Scriptures are not the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Word of God, your church is in apostasy. To the apostate dead church, God says,”I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev 3:1). 

The good news for the apostate church is that it can turn from its own way. God exhorts, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say,`I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 3:15-22)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Apostasy III : History of the Apostasy of the Church

In the previous article a brief summary of the apostasy of the ancient and early church revealed three main characteristics of error within the Church.  Early church heresies centered around these three: (1) denying some aspect of who Jesus Christ was, whether denying His deity, or denying His humanity – He is the Son of God – the unique one-of-a-kind God-Man; (2) denying some aspect of the grace of God’s salvation; and (3) denying some aspect of the character of the word of God, whether its inerrancy, its content, or how to read holy Scripture. 

It is the supernatural preservation of the Word of God that saw the ancient church through extreme heresies and persecutions. From the first church council in 50 AD to the start of the great councils starting in 325 AD the source of truth was the Bible and literal interpretation ruled the day. However,  with the seducing words of the Greek allegorical technique introduced by Origen (c. 250), by the time of Augustine (c. 400) the church moved away from the plain literal interpretation of the Bible, away from the sufficiency of the Word to more of man’s words and less of God’s words. They even redefined the way one is to read – the laws of reading were changed to include seeking “the deeper more spiritual meaning.” Thus, the foundation of the Church moved from the Bible to mysticism; from statement of fact to tradition.   

The great persecutions of the early church saw so many martyrs dying simply for being Christian and not denying their Savior, impacted the establish Church as it moved from sect to the official state religion under Constantine in the latter half of the 4th century.  The martyrs served to encourage and strengthen those defenders of the faith who sought to keep the church pure. The fathers of the Church were not all orthodox in their theology (they had a lot of crazy doctrine), however, when they came together to decide the controversy of the day, the orthodoxy position mostly sided with the Bible. Notice the list of heresies addressed in the early church:

1. Council of Nicaea (325).  Convened to address the Arius heresy (called the Trinitarian Controversy). It established the orthodox view of Christ as the 2nd person of the Trinity. However, they ruled against the traditional day of celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection on the Jewish Passover.

2. Council of Constantinople (381). Convened to address the Apollinarius heresy (called the Christological Controversy) which taught that Christ had no human mind or soul. The council established the orthodox view of the nature of Christ as the God-Man to be defined as: “Christ is one person in two natures, unmixed, unchanged, undivided, inseparable.” However, Constantinople was granted honorary precedence over all churches save Rome.

3. First Council of Ephesus (431). Convened to address Nestorian controversy and condemned Pelagian. Nestorius supported Pelagian exiles, used the term “theotokos” meaning “God-Bearer,” and believed in two natures of Christ.

4. Council of Chalcedon (451). Convened to  address the Eutychian heresy of monophysitism (one nature) that taught that Christ had one nature. The council reaffirmed the Council of Constantinople’s statement “Christ is one person in two natures, unmixed, unchanged, undivided, inseparable.”

5. Second Council of Constantinople (553). Convened to condemn the “Three Chapters,” Nestrorian writings on the two natures of Christ. Pope Vigilius declared submission to the council.

6. Third council of Constantinople (680-681). Convened to address the heresy of Pope Honorius and monothelitism (one will) that taught that Christ had two natures but only one will (the human will merged with the divine). The council defined two wills, the human will by its union with the divine did not become less human, but was heightened and perfected by the union. The human will must always be conceived as subordinate to the divine, and the two wills always acting in perfect harmony (Louis Berkhof).  

As can be seen by this list, the major doctrinal subject is, “who is Jesus Christ?” By the time of the middle ages (c. 500), the councils were for the most part political, called ecumenical, and even condemned a Pope (what does that say about Papal infallibility?). 

The middle ages saw a rise in the power of the Church of Rome, the Bishop of Rome develops into the Pope, and he evolves into the infallible extension of apostolic succession. The church in the East splits with the West. The Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian Churches were all very strong, but loss of territories of the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem to Islamic invaders and the Roman Church’s global expansion into Europe with its organizational change resulted in Rome’s dominance. Notice how the Medieval Ecumenical Councils change the power and influence of the organized church,and doctrine takes a backseat.

1. Lateran I (1123).  Convened to confirm concordat of Worms whereupon agreement was made between king Henry V and Pope Calixtus concerning the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors. The council forbade marriage of priests, and granted indulgences and forgiveness of sins for crusaders. Anathema was pronounced to any military person who invades Benevento (the Italian capital of the Roman Catholic archbishop).

2. Lateran II (1139). Convened to anathematize followers of antipope Anacletus II, condemned schismatic groups.

3. Lateran III (1179). Convened to condemn Cathari. Required two-thirds vote of cardinals for papal elections.

4. Lateran IV (1215). Established the inquisition. Confirmed the election of Emperor Frederick II. Denounced Magna Carta. Defined the doctrine of transubstantiation. Confirmed the Franciscans. Condemned Cathari and Weldensians, and prepared for the fifth crusade.

5. Lyons I (1245). Deposed Emperor Frederick II. Mourned loss of Jerusalem.

6. Lyons II (1274). Reaffirmed the “filioque” clause.  Prohibited new monastic orders. Attempted to reunite the Eastern and Western churches.

7. Vienne (1311-1312). Suppressed the Knights Templar. Condemned Beguines and Beghards.

8. Pisa (1409). Asserted conciliar authority over papacy. Deposed Gregory XII (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon) and elected Alexander V. Lacked power to enforce its decisions, left church with three rival popes.

9. Constance (1414-1418). Ended the papal schism by deposing all three popes and appointing Martin V. Tried and executed John Huss. Affirmed the authority of councils over the church.

10. Basel (1431-1449). Affirmed authority of council after Pope tried to disband it. Pope used disunity of council to reassert his authority. Reached compromise settlement with Hussites.      

The Church had gone from an independent local elder lead body to an organization lead by a group of bishops where the bishop was over the elders. This change occurred quickly, by the late second century one finds Irenaeus and Tertullian writing about “diocesan” bishops – a bishop overseeing a group of congregations in a geographical area. By the middle of the third century as the allegorical method takes prominence, the terms “priest” and “sacrificing priests” come into the church vocabulary and Cyprian asserts the bishop of Rome as primacy.

The abuses of the Roman Catholic church as it ruled with a heavy hand throughout Europe in the middle ages moved more and more both within and outside the church in protest. The word “catholic,” simply means “universal,” but the Roman Catholics did not speak for the Eastern Church nor do they speak for the true universal Church – all believers whose head is Christ.

The protestant movement and the reformers  within the Roman Catholic church moved to translate the Word of God into the language of the people. The Church is worldwide and God’s word is be in the language of the hearer! Their slogan came to be:  sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), sola fide (by faith alone), sola gratia (by grace alone). Their desire was to return to the plain sense of the Bible without the doctrine of the Pope and the council, return Christ as the head of the Church, and stop the corruption within it.    

But the question might be asked: in the height of Roman Catholic unity and power was not a universal apostasy of the Church present? The universal apostasy of the church is spiritual in nature. It is a rebellion or defection against the Word and things of God, that is, it is a religious apostasy.

The end time’s apostasy will exhibit a universal heretical nature. First Timothy says, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon [Gr. aphistemi, “to depart, stand away,”] the faith and follow [Gr. prosecho, “bring near, turn attention to”] deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  2 Such teachings come through hypocritical [Gr. hupokrisis, “the acting of a stage player”] liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.  3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.  4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed (1 Tim. 4:1-6).   

Paul is instructing the pastor to warn the people of doctrinal error and uses a local problem as an example, namely, forbidding people to marry and abstaining from certain meats. He says such teaching is contrary to God-ordained good. Marriage and eating of all things are both commanded by God and a denial of such is calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20). Though it is true that the Roman Catholic church has done this, they are but just one example.

Paul experienced and warned about this in his day at the local church level. Rome is just another (though large), church in apostasy. The main point to take away from this warning by Paul is that the last day’s apostate church is characterized by calling what God calls good, evil, and calling what God calls evil, good.

Does this bring new light into the church and homosexual marriage? What does your church say about homosexually? Does the leadership speak out against it or are they silent? Does your church speak out against anything worldly? Paul tells the church to speak out against such things.

To see the full extent of apostate teaching and the church’s responsibility, Paul exhorts pastor Timothy to teach the Word of God, teach doctrine, and specifically teach what God has sanctified (Gr. hagiazo,”to make holy, set apart, purify”) by His word.

The natural man is self-absorbed, but Scripture says the last day’s man will be so self-deceived that the times will be perilous (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The church moves with the culture except in times of persecution and revival. Movements come and go, revival ebbs and flows, but time is linear not cyclical and as the end comes so will extreme self-love and love of the world. The extent will be global in scope, the picture is similar to that of the days of unity against God as man built a tower “whose top is in the heavens” in Babel and they had “one voice” (Genesis 11). The end-time’s church will follow the world vision of utopia on earth, a kind of humanity millennial kingdom. In so doing the church will look like the world, not in the world and separate, but in the world, one with the world. Notice what Paul tells Timothy:

But know this, that in the last days perilous [Gr. chalepos, “fierce, hard to bear”] times will come:  2 For men will be lovers of themselves [Gr. philautos, “loving one’s self”], lovers of money [Gr. philarguros, “loving money, covetous”], boasters [Gr. alazon, “empty pretender, boaster”], proud [Gr. huperephanos, “showing one’s self above others”], blasphemers [Gr. blasphemos, “speaking evil, slanderous”], disobedient [Gr. apeithes, “not compliant, contumacious”] to parents, unthankful [Gr. acharistos, “ungracious”], unholy [Gr. anosios, “wicked, impious”],  3 unloving [Gr. astorgos, “without natural affection, unsociable, inhuman, unloving”], unforgiving [Gr. aspondos, “without a treaty or covenant”], slanderers [Gr. diabolos, “prone to slander, accusing falsely, devil”] without self-control [Gr. akrates, “without self-control, intemperate”], brutal [Gr. anemeros, “not tame, savage, fierce”], despisers of good [Gr. aphilagathos, “opposed to goodness and good men”],  4 traitors [Gr. prodotes, “a betrayer, traitor”], headstrong [Gr. propetes, “to fall forwards, rash, reckless”], haughty [Gr. tuphoo, “to rise a smoke, to wrap in a mist, to blind with pride or conceit”], lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5)          

 There are 19 adjectives or expressions describing the character of the end-time. The time as Dr. Wiersbe says, “It appears that evil is deeper and of greater intensity, and that it is being accepted and promoted by society in a bolder way. It is not that we have small pockets of rebellion here and there. All society seems to be in ferment and rebellion.”     

The next article will focus in on our times and how the modern church has moved to acceptance of unheard of sins, denying the power of Christ in individual lives, and outright rejection of the Word of God.