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Marks of Abusive Religious Groups
By Rev. Keith Gibson

Often in cult ministry we focus on groups that deny central aspects of the Christian faith such as the Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace etc. Many Christians believe that if they simply look at a doctrinal statement, they will be able to spot potentially harmful organizations. Such may not be the case. There are many groups, such as University Bible Fellowship and International Church of Christ which look very good on paper but are involved in practices that can prove spiritually damaging. Our Kansas City office has recently become involved with one such group. It is important that believers are able to move beyond the doctrinal statements to recognize other telltale signs of danger.

Elitism. Abusive religious groups see themselves as a cut above all others. Whether this manifests in a belief that they are the only true church or merely that they are the most dynamic and committed, other churches are viewed with suspicion and disdain.

Manipulation. Following closely on the heels of the elitism are subtle practices of manipulation. Most of the time, this is accomplished by limiting options. An easy way to understand this concept is to picture a rat in a maze. Though no one physically touches the rat to move it in a particular direction, the choices the rat is given are so limited that its course is essentially predetermined. Similarly, alternatives are presented to the member in such a way that only one choice is really possible. For instance, “Do you want to be wholehearted for Jesus or continue to love the world and run track?”. Obviously no one wants to be thought of as loving the world. But the thought is never allowed that the member might be able to glorify God by using God-given athletic abilities. By presenting the alternatives in this way, the leader of the group is able to conform the behavior of the members into his/her ideal. At the same time, the member feels like he/she is the one who made the decision. Thus it is not uncommon for members to protest that they are not being coerced. “I chose to quit track. No one made me do it.” Technically, they are right. However, the pressure applied made conformity inevitable, especially if one has already bought the message that this is the only true church.

Commitment to God = Commitment to Group. In abusive groups a subtle switch is made that causes commitment to the activities and beliefs of the group to equal commitment to God. This may be extremely difficult to spot at first because most of us express our commitment to God through faithfulness and ministry in our local church. The difference is one of degree. Imagine a student in college. Abusive groups may ask the student to lead small-group studies on multiple nights of the week. Other nights may be consumed with gatherings of the entire group and leadership training. On weekends the group has evangelistic outreach activities and of course there are regular special emphasis weeks. The student may find that their class work or family life is suffering under the burden. However, if he questions the amount the group is requiring he will be told he needs to stop loving the world and go wholeheartedly after God. Never is the thought allowed that God may actually want him to study or spend time with his family.

Rigidity. In abusive groups everything is black and white. There are few areas of conscience in which Christians can legitimately disagree. Related to this is a heavy emphasis on works. These groups rob members of intimacy with God for one can never do enough, sacrifice enough, follow the rules close enough to be sure that God has been satisfied. Many of the members of these groups live in a morbid self-reflection, consumed with worry over whether or not God can accept them today. Some members of the group, especially those who are new or close to the leadership, may actually feel that they ARE keeping all the rules. These members tend to become very judgmental of others in the group they perceive to be weaker. One young man, when I questioned why he had pressured another member to cut his hair a particular way, responded coldly, “Well I was worried about _____ because it didn’t look like he had left enough behind to me.”

Much more could be said including the use of guilt, milieu control and a host of other characteristics but the sample above should give the discerning Christian a foundation for recognizing the practices of spiritually abusive groups. Paul Martin has called these signs, “the footprints of the wolf”. In order for us to protect ourselves and our families one thing is certain, we must look deeper than the doctrinal statement.

Rev. Keith Gibson

http://www.arcapologetics.org/articles/article12.htm

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Understanding Spiritual Abuse
By M. E. Hagemann

Prologue
Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.

What is Spiritual Abuse?
For our purposes, it is enough to state that spiritual abuse is “the misuse of power, position and influence for the personal gain or egotistical needs of the leader or leaders of an organization or a movement.” There are many excellent books that have been written on this subject. Spiritual abuse, rooted in hyper-authoritarianism, is not a new phenomenon, it has been a part of religious life for centuries and elements of spiritual abuse can be found across the entire spectrum of Christian and quasi-Christian faith groups. Lately, it seems that spiritual abuse is becoming more common in Charismatic churches.

Spiritual abuse is always about the misuse of power and authority. We need to make it emphatically clear, from the beginning, that God is a God of order and that within the church there has to be a healthy (mutual) submission between church members and the authority that God rises up. Having said that, it is a disturbing fact that authoritarianism and power posturing is evident in many churches. There are two reasons why it is so disturbingly common in charismatic groups.

The first is that flimsily constructed and often unbiblical teachings on authority are popular and circulate within the charismatic movement where they are seized upon by “leaders” who would seek to establish themselves as “legitimate” spiritual authorities. We must not underestimate the power of these teachings; most originate out of America and range from the views of Dr. Mark T. Barclay who would label familiarity between a pastor and his congregation as “sin” to the doctrine of “fathering” that holds sway in many charismatic churches. The fathering doctrine is based on a misunderstanding of I Corinthians 4: 15 “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Upon this simple description of the founding relationship Paul had with the Corinthian church, some dare build a teetering edifice of complicated, hierarchical relationships in the church.

Secondly, it must be noted that amongst the Charismatics, Bible scholarship is poorly established as a personal or group discipline. This is as true of charismatic church leaders as it is of individual believers in charismatic groups. Unlike the Bereans who queried and tested every word that Paul brought to them, many modern Charismatic Christians accept anything and everything that flows to them out of their Perspex pulpits. Most modern Charismatics have not read the Bible through, and too many rely upon Bible paraphrases such as The Message in their moments of Biblical reflection. Serious study and intellectual application is commonly sneered upon in charismatic circles, further complicating the situation.

Recognizing Spiritual Abuse
Spiritually abusive situations can be recognized quite readily. People involved in an abusive situation begin by feeling that generally things just don’t seem right. As they focus attention on their growing dis-ease; a typical pattern of abuse might manifest itself with one or more
symptoms much like these:

• The leader(s) will always need to have absolute control and the final authority over a ministry. If there is an eldership, it will be composed of only a few men (and women) who are chosen not according to the “leadership qualifications” (as listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13) but because they can be controlled by the “set man” and relied upon to defend all things he says and does. It is unlikely the leader will be in any meaningful relationship with people or churches outside of his group. He will avoid being held accountable by a denomination or his peers in the so called “professional ministry”. It is quite likely that the set man will justify his lack of interaction with other churches via a disapproval of their doctrines or even spiritual smugness.

• The leader or “set man” will be insecure in his calling and will likely interpret any questioning as a direct challenge to his authority. An insecure leader will need to bolster his position by “teaching” on authority in the church.

• The abusive church will exhibit a clear hierarchical structure. Despite the fact that scripture (in 1Corinthians 12:12-24) uses the analogy of the body, where all parts are knitted together, none more special than the other, and where each has a unique place, the abusive church will have a clear rank oriented hierarchy. At the top of the pyramid will be the “set man” or founding pastor the man with “the vision”. Underneath him will come another, usually a senior elder or assistant pastor, whose job it is to act as the set man’s bodyguard and “hit man”. A little lower will come the rest of the elders, and even here might be another rank split, with some within eldership being more “trusted” than others, and so permitted into the inner circle of the set man and his 2 i/c.

Underneath the elders will come the home group leaders-the last of the “ranked” members. Underneath these will come the “dumb sheep”. The 98% of any church.

• The abusive leader is deceptive. The abusive leader cannot afford to be transparent and is likely to be a master at slick speech and manipulative words. The abusive leader is not above lying or deliberately engineering circumstances to get his own way. When the abusive leader chooses to confront or discipline members, the atmosphere is typically that of a kangaroo court. Judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner are roles filled by the “set man” and maybe one of his trusted henchmen The accused will be “tried” in secret, and no reliable records kept. As the abuser lays waste to his victim, he will cover his tracks the best he can.

• The abusive leader and his cohorts will have a list of unwritten, unspoken rules. Whilst “freedom” might be preached, in reality a complex series of unwritten laws apply to “the sheep”. The sheep, of course, never know what these rules are until they have unwittingly broken one of them. Many of these unwritten rules are attempts to govern the way that sheep relate to their leaders. Thus one can be found guilty very quickly of having a “bad attitude”…

• There is little or no financial accountability in an abusive ministry. Tithing will be required of ordinary members, but despite the enormous revenues that tithing can generate in a church the church books and accounts will not be freely available for inspection. It is unlikely that annual congregational meetings will take place at which balance sheets and accounting of expenditure will be made available. The salary and benefits of the set man will be a closely guarded secret and the congregation is likely to be unaware of debt incurred on their behalf. Neither will their permission or advice be sought for placing the congregation in debt (i.e. to finance a mortgage bond on a church building).

• Abusive leaders tend to have dominating “in your face” attitudes when they choose to confront apparently errant sheep. Haughtiness and anger, instead of gentleness and a loving spirit are too often experienced by those unfortunate Christians who do not meet the tyrant’s demands or conform, as quickly as might be required. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:2-3 that “the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” [emphasis added]. Persons on the receiving of tongue lashings from abusive leaders are demeaned, humiliated and systemically broken down by leaders with haughty attitudes who rail, uncontrolled and unchecked, against a fellow brother in Christ.

• The abusive leader is somewhat paranoid. He will compound this paranoia by a reluctance to keep written records or minutes of meetings etc., This further fuels communication problems as he will get vital information mixed up and confused as the net closes in.

• The abusive leader loves things and uses people. One of the hallmarks of an abusive church is how many people have left the group because they could no longer stand being used and manipulated.

• The abusive leader or religious system works very hard at creating and maintaining a superlative image-spectacular programs, public ministrie s etc,. There will likely be church schools, feeding programs, youth groups, bands and outreach ministries that are spectacular in nature. Look carefully at them; do they reflect back on the glory of Jesus Christ or are these monuments to the group leader.

• There is likely to be a noticeable discrepancy between the “vision statement” and the actual state of the ministry’s various programs. Thus churches with a declared aim of moving into a certain region or area, are unlikely to have done so in any meaningful way.

• Performance based approval is heavily promoted. Apart from the fact that performance is the opposite of God’s grace, many charismatic groups are quite open about their requirement for members to “perform” or demonstrate their commitment. A South African independent charismatic fellowship published a positional paper that included this statement “to function in the gifts and calling of God (true riches) we must prove ourselves faithful in that which belongs to another (whether God or man)”. Quite often this performance is linked to indeterminate time spent in menial “service” (cleaning toilets) for example. Quite often, too, abusive leaders will have the uncanny knack of honing in on a member’s God-given gifts and talents and specifically excluding them from service that utilizes those gifts. An example would be a talented musician who may not play on the music team until he has shuffled a few thousand seats around a hall for a year or two.

Abusive ministries are notorious wasters of talent.
• An over-reliance on untested prophecy and “words of knowledge” in deciding the direction of a ministry or program within the church.

• Any occurrence of teaching or practice that has the effect of watering down or nullifying an individual’s ability to hear God for himself. Specifically ordinary church members might be required to “submit” for approval any ideas, even decisions of a personal nature, that they might have or believe that God is guiding them into. Scripture warns us that is safety in the counsel of numbers, but it is a fine line between getting a second opinion and being told what one may or may not do.

• People who choose to leave the group will do so under a cloud. They will not be released with love or any kind of public farewell usually. There will likely be shame or slander directed at them as they leave. Over time, an abusive group will have quite a collection of alumni with similar horror stories of abuse to talk about. A grossly abusive group will, of course, not be experiencing increase in membership.

• Victims of abusive churches very often manifest broken lives and crushed spiritual faith after departing a dangerous religious group. Divorce, depression, drug and alcohol addictions, family and work problems are the price of their religious addiction. This further fuels the abusive church leaders who thrive on scary stories about what happened to ‘so and so’ after he/she left the group…

The twisting of Scripture
One of the most common “tricks” employed by abusive religious groups is the out –of-context use of scripture or blatant “cut and past” of pieces of scripture to support an idea or pet doctrine that they seek to impose upon their followers. This is probably the direct result of the overall appalling standard of Biblical exegesis and theological training in charismatic circles. The normal rules of Biblical interpretation (an academic science called hermeneutics) are thrown overboard precisely because so many charismatic leaders have no theological training even worth mentioning. Whilst there are some scriptures that stand as Christian truth on their own (Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection for example) there is an exceptionally large proportion within the body of Holy Scripture that cannot be lifted out and applied willy nilly to an aspect of life. The established principals of scriptural interpretation are roughly as follows:

• What does the verse appear to say?
• What does it say in the context of surrounding verses/chapters/books of the Bible?
• What is the historical and social context of this set of Scriptures?
• How does the interpretation of this scripture change as one reads it in the original languages?

These are important issues and it is because of the sheer lack of scholarship and the smug attitudes many charismatic leaders have towards theological training, that so much hurtful rubbish is preached out of charismatic pulpits around the world. Some classical examples of scripture twisting are reviewed below. Most commonly, authoritarian leaders will use 1 Chronicles 16:22 (or its parallel Psalm 105:12-15 to justify stifling any criticism directed at leaders. This scripture says quite clearly (or so it seems):

“Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm” (NIV)

Thus any number of authoritarians will claim the divine right to do as they please. The problem is that the verse is taken completely out of context and applied to a contemporary situation that was the furthest thing from the mind of Ezra, the author. The original intention of the scripture was to record the historical fathers of the historical facts of God’s ongoing provision and guidance of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the historical fathers of the Hebrews/Israelites). Thus when we read the verse in Biblical context it becomes very different in character and meaning to that which modern authoritarians would have it be applied:

When they [meaning the patriarchs] were but few in number, few indeed and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed non man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings; ‘Do no touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm’ 1 Chronicles 16:19-22 NIV)

Interestingly, all Christians are “God’s anointed”. A quick look at 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 describes this amazing fact:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Thus the twisted logic employed by the authoritarian wielders of 1 Chronicles 16:22,  lounders entirely on the simple fact that as Christians we are all God’s anointed…. Leadership have the God-given duty to lovingly correct; rebuke and even excommunicate brothers caught in obvious sin (e.g. fornication, drunkenness etc.,). Church discipline always has its goal the repentance and restoration of the sinner caught in scripturally defined sin, but the leader’s right of correction never, under any circumstances whatsoever, extends to the hateful scorning, slandering , humiliating, breaking down, abusing, shunning, attacking or in any way tearing down a fellow Christian.

A similarly twisted piece of Scripture is that in Hebrews 13:17
“17 Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”

This Scripture is often cited by certain political groups as Scripture justification for not resisting even the foulest and most corrupt of civilian governments. The key to understanding this scripture is that we are only required to obey authority that is legitimate and to the point that our obedience does not clash with Scripture or our consciences. When the church authorities make requirements of you that you know are not Biblically justifiable; or when church authorities stop being servants and become, instead, tyrants (thus becoming illegitimate authorities) then we are not required to obey them. David “disobeyed” Saul by fleeing from him. Jesus regularly floutedthe laws and traditions of the Jewish religious leaders. Peter and Paul bluntly told Jewish religious leaders that they would obey God before man. The principle of Hebrews 13:17 is to obey legitimate authority; but we are certainly not required to obey madmen or people who would lead us astray with their teachings.

Often people in abusive situations find themselves in situations where they need the protection of civil authority. This is when the hoary favorite of the Scripture twisters, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is flashed around with impunity.

1 When you have something against another Christian, why do you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter, instead of taking it to other Christians to decide who is right? 2 Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide these little things among yourselves? 3 Don’t you realize that we Christians will judge angels?

So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disagreements here on earth. 4 If you have legal disputes about such matters, why do you go to outside judges who are not respected by the church? 5 I am saying this to shame you. Isn’t there anyone in all the church who is wise enough to decide these arguments? 6 But instead, one Christian sues another—right in front of unbelievers! 7 to have such lawsuits at all is a real defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? 8 But instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your own Christian brothers and sisters.

This scripture illustrates a very important Biblical principle – that it is infinitely preferable for petty matters to be sorted out within the church. The problem here is that the sort of disputes that can arise in abusive situations are no longer petty matters of offence taken and so on.

Very often, civil or common laws have been breached and there is absolutely nothing wrong with approaching the police or the courts to prosecute and resolve such issues. A clear instance of this is seen in Acts 22:23-29 where Paul, accused by Jewish leaders of various “religious” crimes makes full use of the extraordinary benefits of being a born Roman citizen, to prevent himself from suffering an illegal beating. Further into the Book of Acts, Paul uses his legal right of appeal to Caesar in order to defend himself against the false charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders:

7 On Paul’s arrival in court, the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem gathered around and made many serious accusations they couldn’t prove. 8 Paul denied the charges. “I am not guilty” he said. “I have committed no crime against the Jewish laws or the Temple or the Roman government.” 9 Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial right before be there?” 10 But Paul replied “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty. 11 If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, neither you nor anyone else has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 Festus conferred with his advisors and then replied, “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you shall go!” (Acts 25:7-12 New Living Translation)

Another Favorite of scripture twisters is 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are (NIV) This verse has been offered up countless times as justification for some of the silliest things ever done in the church – the appointment of incompetents to positions of leadership for example. Whilst this Scripture seems like a license to do weird things and get away with it, the actual intent of the Scripture is less liberal. In these words Paul is showing us that the way of the cross is so simple that anyone can understand it; that salvation is totally from God and not dependent on works that we might do.

There are other examples of Scripture twisting that we can quote, but most often the best preparation against scripture twisting is to know what the Bible has to say about leadership and how leadership should conduct itself. J. Lee Grady, in his book: What Happened to the Fire:

Rekindling the Blaze of Charismatic Renewal, writes these inspired words on the subject of leadership and authoritarianism:

The Apostle Peter laid down a set of guidelines for church eldership where he wrote his first Epistle to the early church:

To the elders amongst you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1Peter 5:1-3)

We lord over others naturally. That is the way of the way of the world. But Peter reminded the believers in Asia minor that Christ had introduced a revolutionary new approach – leadership though humility, servant hood and example. Jesus demonstrated that radical approach to leadership when He dressed like a slave and washed His disciples’ feet. When two of his closest followers entertained a lust for power, Jesus told them:

You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. No so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)

This godly method of governing, however, has not been the rule in most charismatic churches, particularly independent ones. Since the renewal blossomed in the late 1960’s, many groups that began with vibrant faith degenerated quickly into legalism and authoritarianism. Some ministry leaders have exalted themselves as kings over their own kingdoms, giving their churches or ministries the characteristics of cults [emphasis added].

When and how to escape an abusive church Many people will agonize over leaving a group they have begun to see as manipulative and abusive. No matter how bad the situation might be, the wrench of leaving threaten an impact similar to the traumas of death and divorce in the family. Some, clearly desperate to do the will of God to the end, will stick it out and justify their staying with genuine cries of: “God hasn’t told me to leave.” The only kind of logical response to this, is the single question: “Has God told you to stay”

One of the reasons why people are reluctant to leave is a misunderstanding of who owns the sheep in God’s flock. The pastor most certainly does not own the flock; they belong to God.

The passive acceptance of staying in the church where one appears to have been placed by God needs serious debunking. The Bible warns us most severely against being led astray by false teachers and false prophets. We, as Christians, have a duty to know our doctrines well and to test everything that is taught to us. We have no business sitting in churches where false teaching is tolerated.

Another aspect to consider is this: One of the major purposes behind belonging to a church group is that one can be encouraged and grow in faith and Christian maturity. If one is not being encouraged, if people are experiencing harshness instead of love; the people are marking time or regressing in their spiritual walks, then clearly something is seriously amiss with that particular group and it would be wise to consider moving “home”.

Leaving an abusive church is, however, something that only people involved can decide upon. Concerned friends and family cannot make that decision for them. The decision of whether to stay or leave must be made with the full knowledge of the consequences involved.

If you stay If you choose to stay in an abusive church, you have two options: fight for the truth or submit entirely. An abusive leadership will not allow you to pick your fights selectively, so it’s a commitment to fight for the truth (note: not fight against people) or resolution to surrender to the ways of the leaders. The option to fight is not one that is open to people who lack the stamina for a protracted battle or for people with thin skins and thinner theology. It is for the determined and mature believer only. Someone who knows how to fight error with scripture and who will not be intimidated by the posturing of leadership.

If you leave Those who choose to leave an abusive church will not find immediate relief. When David fled from Saul, he did so alone. It will be the same way if you choose to leave. No one will go with you and it is likely that friends and family still in the group will shut you out. This isolation is sometimes enough to cause people to stay in an abusive group. Furthermore, if you leave, then it is almost certain that gossip about you will circulate, at the highest levels even, gossip that is malicious and about which you can do nothing.

Is there any hope?
Recovery from spiritual abuse is a lengthy process. I am not a psychologist, but my own experience and research will lead me to believe that recovery is a sometimes lengthy process that will go through the following cycles or stages:

• Disbelief (in the initial stages one numbs out the awful reality of what is happening)
• Anger (deep and bitter anger directed at he abusers)
• Despair (a feeling of utter despair and hopelessness; people feel that recovery from the abuses they
have suffered will never occur)
• Acceptance of what has happened (an acceptance of the reality of the events, not an approval of what happened)
• Reexamination of core doctrines and beliefs (a healing process)
• Forgiveness and moving on (a decision one has to take, eventually)

My own experience was that the advice of friends etc., “put it behind you”, “don’t dwell on it” was sincere, but misguided. The person who experiences spiritual abuse has been grossly violated by people he trusted implicitly. That this has happened in the church, the one place supposed to be safe and secure, compounds the problem. The wounds inflicted reach so deep into one’s psyche that no band aid, no little prayer, no little sermon or comforting word is sufficient to undo the damage. Recover from this abuse is a process that depends on:

• A determination to recover, knowing that one has to forgive for recovery to happen
• A retelling of the story to someone who can listen empathetically. (This was absolutely vital in my case as I had to go through a process where the experience was validated, i.e. that I came to know that I did not make it up or imagine it (as my abusers told me I did!).

I am exceptionally reluctant to make the claim of PTSD for myself, but in my research, I came across the American Medical Association’s criteria for the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition is most commonly diagnosed in people who have suffered the effects of many other kinds of traumas. Listed below is an extract from a university sychology department’s web site on PTSD. I can however, identify with some of the intrusive and  voidant symptoms described in the web site article below:

While PTSD usually appears within three months of the trauma, sometimes it can surface months or even years later (APA, 1997). Psychiatrists categorize PTSD symptoms in four categories:

• Intrusive symptoms
• Avoidant symptoms
• Symptoms of hyperarousal
• Associated features

Intrusive Symptoms
The symptoms in this category are perhaps the most distinctive and readily identifiable. Here the traumatic event remains a dominating psychological experience that evokes panic, terror, grief, or despair as manifested in daytime fantasies, traumatic nightmares, and psychotic reenactments known as PTSD flashbacks (Friedman, 1996). These flashbacks are so strong that the individual thinks that he or she is actually experiencing the trauma again.

When a person has a severe flashback, he or she is in a dissociative state (APA, 1997). When this occurs, the individual may actually start to act out the incident as if he or she was experiencing the traumatic event again.

Avoidant Symptoms
Avoidance symptoms are characterized by emotional constriction or numbing—a need to void feelings, thoughts, and situation reminiscent of the trauma, a loss of normal emotional responses, or both (Long, 1997). These symptoms reflect the behavioral, cognitive, and emotional strategies used by PTSD patients to attempt to reduce their psychological response to the traumatic stimuli (Friedman, 1996).

Patients try to avoid all situations that might serve as stimuli for the traumatic event. When taken to the extreme, this may superficially resemble agoraphobia because the PTSD patient is afraid to leave the house for fear of confronting reminders of the traumatic event (Friedman. 1996).

Dissociation and psychogenic amnesia are included among avoidant/numbing symptoms by which individuals cut off conscious experience of trauma based on memories and feelings.

Because PTSD patients cannot tolerate string emotions of any kind, they perceive only the cognitive aspects of psychological experience and not the emotional aspects. This “psychic numbing” acts as an emotional anesthesia and makes meaningful interpersonal relationships extremely difficult (Friedman, 1996; Long, 1997)

Symptoms of Hyperarousal
Individuals with PTSD often act as though they were constantly threatened by the trauma that caused their illness (Long, 1997). These symptoms most closely resemble those seen in panic and generalized anxiety disorder (Friedman, 1996). Although some symptoms such as somnia and irritability are generic anxiety symptoms, hypervigilence and startle are more unique. The hypervigilence in PTSD may sometimes become so intense that it appears to be  simply paranoia. The startle reaction of PTSD patients also has neurobiological implications (see “Etiology” for more on the neurobiological causation of PTSD).

Associated Features
The person with PTSD may attempt to rid themselves of painful flashbacks, loneliness, and panic attacks by abusing alcohol and other drugs. These serve the purpose of blunting the patient’s emotions and helping them to forget their trauma. Related, a PTSD patient may also
show poor control over his impulses, increasing the risk of suicide (APA, 1997). (See  epidemiology” for statistics on drug abuse and suicide among individuals with PTSD).
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Now that you have read my article, take this self quiz below. Be honest. Where you are unsure of an answer, give your potential dangerous group the benefit of the doubt and record a “no” vote.

The “Am I A Member of A Dangerous Religious Group?” Self Quiz
A group starts with two people. And two individuals can find themselves embroiled in many of the same fundamental destructive group dynamics that large organizations fall prey to. Are you “UNDER THE INFLUENCE” of a destructive group or belief system? Find out with this:

SELF QUIZ
• Does your group discourage doubts, criticism or ideas that differ from their belief system?
Yes____No____
• Do you tend to rationalize whatever the group does even when it goes against your sense of right and wrong?
Yes___ No___
• Do you often feel exhausted from lengthy group activities, meetings and projects?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have its own unique words, cliches, slogans, chants, prayers and doctrinal
phrases that reinforce the group viewpoint?
Yes___ No___
• Are doubts viewed as a lack of faith, dedication, commitment or disloyalty?
Yes___ No___
• Have “your thoughts” become “the enemy?”
Yes___ No___
• Do you often find yourself doing more and more things in the group or because of group peer pressure that you would not have done on your own?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group publicly humiliate or criticize members?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have a system of punishments and rewards for behavior?
Yes___ No___
• Group paranoia: Does your group obsessively think other groups or people with different beliefs are out to get them?
Yes___ No___
• Does the prospect of leaving your group seem scary, difficult?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel the need to leave in secret?
Yes___ No___
• Have you been told something bad might happen if you leave?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group/belief system think they have/are the only or highest truth, or have the solution for the world’s problems?
Yes___ No___
• Are your leader’s ideas or belief system considered beyond reproach or sacred?
Yes___ No___
• Do you follow a particular individual or belief system that requires unquestioning obedience and loyalty?
Yes___ No___
• Do members of your group feel specially chosen, superior, exclusive, elite?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel the need to save or convert others to your belief system or ideology?
Yes___ No___
• Is your group secretive to outsiders about its inner workings, teachings, activities or beliefs?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group equate purity and goodness to being in your group, and impurity or evil to those outside your group?
Yes___ No___
• Do you place your group’s mission or agenda above your own goals and ideals? Do group
interests come before your own interest
Yes___ No___
• Do you find yourself thinking in a we-they, us-versus-them mind set?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group/system have a clear outside enemy?
Yes___ No___
• Do you see less and less of your family and friends who do not belong to your group or who do not subscribe to your group’s belief system?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group use frequent public testimonials, confessions, or sharings that reinforce the
group’s mission or agenda?
Yes___ No___
• Is communication within, into and out of your group controlled or censored in any manner?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group criticize, shun, abandon or demean individuals who leave the group?
Yes___ No___
• Do members seek approval or get permission from group leader(s) for personal life choices?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel pressured to attend meetings, events, lectures, seminars? And do you feel guilty if you don’t attend?
Yes___ No___
• Do you feel pressured to give a portion of your income to the group, or spend money on courses,
books or special projects?
Yes___ No___
• Are the group’s financial needs more important than your own economic well-being?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group discriminate against anyone regarding race, gender, belief, or sexual  orientation?
Yes___ No___
• Does your group have a totalitarian structure: a strict, top-down centralized control?
Yes___ No___
Do you wonder if you have been in a destructive group?
Yes___ No___
Do you…
…have difficulty forming new friendships and intimate relationships?
Yes___ No___
…have low self-esteem, poor self-image or loss of identity?
Yes___ No___
…have difficulty making simple decisions and choices?
Yes___ No___
…often feel depressed, anxious and nervous?
Yes___ No___
…feel isolated, lonely, guilty, cynical?
Yes___ No___
…feel like you are just now growing up, becoming a mature adult?
Yes___ No___
…have short-term memory difficulties?
Yes___ No___
…feel you have nothing to believe in?
Yes___ No___
…often feel anger and rage towards the group?
Yes___ No___
…have nightmares or unpleasant dreams?
Yes___ No___
…find it difficult or impossible to stop mental or other group ritualistic practices?
Yes___ No___

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This quiz has no scientifically predetermined number of “yes” answers to indicate a distructive group. However, answering “yes” to any of the above questions means you may need to examine your group and its influence in your life in those areas.

This quiz is copyright 1998 by John D. Goldhammer and Prometheus Books References:

This paper was written in an attempt to collate together material that I had noted or come across in a number of sources. For more information on this topic, I suggest one look at the following books:

Marc Du Pont – Walking out of Spiritual Abuse
David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen – The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse
J. Lee Grady – Where’s The Fire? Rekindling the Blaze of Charismatic Renewal
Ken Blue – Healing Spiritual Abuse
Stephen Aterburn & Jack Felton – Toxic Faith
Hank Hanegraaf – Christianity in Crisis
Gene Edwards – The Tale of Three Kings

Some good web sites to begin researching this topic are:
http://www.spiritualabuse.org
http://www.discernment.org
http://www.wellspringretreat.org
http://www.testingthespirits.com
http://www.watchman.org

http://2ndchancecc.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/understandingspiritualabuse.pdf

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more about “The Meaning of Baptism“, posted with vodpod

 

 

 

 

Debate Topic: Is water baptism necessary for salvation?

On Tuesday, May 13, 2008 I debated a Mr. Roger Perkins on “Is water baptism necessary for salvation?”. Mr. Perkins is a oneness believer and an ex-pastor in the oneness movement. Mr. Perkins holds the position that water baptism is necessary for salvation. I deny that assertion and maintain that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Mr. Perkins opened with a 15 minute speech. I followed with the text below, which I read word for word – except in a few places where I ventured away from the text for a brief moment.

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The topic tonight is “Is water baptism necessary for salvation?”. Notice that when we say “necessary” we mean that there is no exception to the requirement – otherwise the word “necessary” is inappropriate. So, if there is an exception, if someone can be saved without baptism, then water baptism is not necessary.

Has as Mr. Perkins that it water baptism is an absolute necessity? No. He can certainly cite examples of people being baptized after they believe, but citing examples does not prove that water baptism is necessary in order to be saved.

If we can find anyone who is saved without being baptized then we have proved that baptism is not necessary for salvation. This is very easy to do because we find the Old Testament saints who died in the faith and the expectation of the Messiah who were not baptized in water, yet they were saved. Paul brings the Old Testament context into the new. In Romans 4:3, he says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Paul refers to Abraham to say that his faith was reckoned as righteousness. Since only the saved are righteous in God’s site, Abraham’s salvation (though ultimately future as it waited for the sacrifice of Christ) was received by faith – before any rituals were instituted, including the ritual of circumcision.

Two verses later in Romans 4:5, Paul speaks to us today by saying, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Notice that the same phrases used: Faith is reckoned as righteousness. Again in Rom. 5:1, he says “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, faith is reckoned as righteousness back in Abraham’s time as well as ours today. Abraham was saved without a ritual and so are we. This is why we are justified by faith. It is not faith in the ritual of water baptism that results in righteousness nor is it faith and water baptism that brings us justification; otherwise, we are not justified by faith but by faith and water baptism, by faith and a ritual.

The ritual of circumcision is condemned by Paul in Galatians 5 as having no part of salvation. He condemns the Judaizers for their desire to participate in a ritual and add it to their faith in Christ.

A ritual is a ceremony that is done by one or more persons. Circumcision involves two parties: the one performing the action and the one receiving the action. Likewise, baptism involves two parties: the one performing the action and the one receiving the action. Both are rituals. Both are religious procedures. Both are religious ceremonies. My opponent is requiring a ritual, a ceremony in order to be saved.

I’ve proven that baptism is not necessary for salvation by citing Abraham. But Mr. Perkins might say that my approach is misguided and that the Old Testament saints were under a different “dispensation” or “requirement” than we are today and that we could not require that they be held to Christian baptism since Christian baptism had not yet been instituted. If that is so, then water baptism is not necessary for salvation. It is simple logic.

Nevertheless, for the sake of continuing our debate, let’s limit our discussion to whether or not water baptism is necessary for us now. Do we need to be baptized in water in order to be justified by faith?

The answer is no because if it were necessary then it would violate the Scriptures’ clear teaching that justification is by grace through faith. It is never said that we are justified by faith and something whether it be law, ceremony, or sincerity of heart.  

Now, my opponent has turned to Scripture and quoted various verses about water baptism and said the Scriptures teach it is necessary. But this has not been established. He has inferred that it is necessary by citing the pattern of baptism after belief. In fact, there is no scripture that says “baptism is necessary for salvation”. We see no verses that say we are condemned if we don’t get baptized, but we do see scripture that says we are condemned if we don’t believe. Mark 16:16 says “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already.” If baptism is necessary for salvation then we should find verses that say “and he who is not baptized will be condemned.” But no such verse exists.

Now Paul preached the gospel and he said in 1 Cor. 1:15-17, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel….” If baptism is necessary for salvation, why is Paul saying he came to preach the gospel and not to baptize? Why is Paul saying he’s glad he did not baptize except a very few people? Paul is too smart to make the mistake of not baptizing people if people are erringly claiming to be baptized into his name. It would be like me saying, “I’m not going to preach salvation in Christ by faith because someone might say they received it in the name of Matt Slick.” I am obligated to preach the gospel that saves regardless of whether or not someone mistakenly points to me or to God in the process. I’ll point to God. I’ll point to justification by faith alone in Christ alone… not to justification by faith and water baptism, not to justification by faith and circumcision, not to justification by faith and going to church, not to justification by faith and any other human ritual that would add to the finished work of Christ and, thereby, insult the cross.

Again, Paul said he came to preach the gospel not to baptize. In fact, Paul tells us that it is the gospel that saves, and baptism is excluded from what he says the gospel is. He says in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel … by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Baptism is not mentioned as part of that which saves us.

In Acts 16:27-34 when the jailer had been awakened by an earthquake and he saw that the prisoners under his charge did not escape he asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?” The answer was simple, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” He was then immediately baptized. Notice that Paul did not say that you must believe the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized in order to be saved. He left baptism out. He said believe. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then why did Paul exclude it?

In Acts 10:44-47 it says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”. These people were saved. The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles and they were speaking in tongues. Tongues is a gift given to the members of the Christian Church, as 1 Cor. 14:1-5 shows us. Also, unbelievers don’t praise God. They can’t because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved. 1 Cor. 2:14 says the unbeliever does not receive or understand spiritual things and Rom. 3:10-12 says the unbeliever does not seek for God and is a hater of God. Therefore, the ones in Acts 10:44-47 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved and they are saved before they are baptized. This simply isn’t an exception. It is a reality. 

Another way of dealing with the baptism issue is with a brief discussion about someone on her deathbed in a hospital. And let me tell you, I have spoken with at least two to hospital chaplains who told me that this happens.

Let’s say there is a person who is dying and the Chaplain comes in and gives him the gospel. Then under the conviction of the Holy Spirit which is in accordance with John 16:8, the person believes that Jesus died for his sins, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. This person confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10), prays to Christ (1 Cor. 1:2; John 14:14), and receives Christ (John 1:12), by faith but dies before water baptism is administered, is that person saved or damned?

If water baptism is necessary, then that person is damned to hell even though he trusted in Christ, even though he trusted in the sacrifice of Christ, even though he by faith receive Christ. He would be damned to hell because he did not participate in the human ritual. He would be damned to hell because, he would not be justified by faith, but by faith and the ritual of water baptism.

If Mr. Perkins says he does not know if the person goes to heaven or hell, and water baptism is not necessary because if it were, he would be in hell.

Paul tells us in Romans 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,” and again in Romans 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are justified by faith, not by faith and baptism, not by faith and a ritual. Christ’s work is sufficient in itself for his complete and finished and there is nothing we could add to it. This is why we receive our salvation by faith. This is why we are justified by faith, this is why baptism is not necessary for salvation, because otherwise, it is not justification by faith.

http://www.carm.org/oneness/debate_baptism.htm

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Baptism Verses with responses

On May 13, 2008 I was in a formal debate with a oneness believer who said baptism was necessary for salvation. Following are my notes I prepared for that debate.  I put htem here as an additional help to readers.

If you would like to read the opening paper I read at the debate, please see Matt Slick’s Opening Statement on Baptism.

  1. Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    1. This verse does not to say that baptism is necessary for salvation. It says that baptism is part of making disciples.
    2. If baptism is necessary for salvation then it must also be true that teaching disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded is necessary as well. But this would be salvation by works. Instead, Jesus is explicitly declaring how to make disciples – by baptizing them and teaching them to observe what Christ and commanded.
  2. Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
    1. I could easily say that he who believes and goes to church will be saved. That is true.  But it is belief that saves, not belief and going to church.  Likewise, if you believe and read your Bible, you’ll be saved.  But it isn’t reading your Bible that saves you.
    2. Likewise, those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But the emphasis is on faith not on baptism. Notice that Mark 16:16 says that he does not believe will be condemned. It does not say that he who is not baptized will not be condemned. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then we should find somewhere in Scripture where it says something to the effect of if you’re not baptized, you’re not saved. But we find no such statement.
  3. Luke 7:30, “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.”
    1. This is not a Christian baptism that is referenced here. It is the baptism of John so this cannot be used to demonstrate baptism is necessary for salvation.
  4. John 3:1-5, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
    1. Christian baptism had not yet been instituted when Jesus spoke these words. So how could it be Christian baptism that was being referred to? Nicodemus most probably would have been thinking of John’s baptism of repentance, and certainly not Christian baptism since it had not yet been instituted by Christ.
           I would like to point out that when Jesus says we must be born again, what it actually says in the Greek is we must be born from above. The words “born again” are not there. The words are “born from above.”
    2. There are five different Interpretations to these verses.
      1. The water refers to the natural birth.
        1. The first option looks to the context of Jesus’ words dealing with being born “again” (3:3). Nicodemus responds by mentioning the experience of being born from the womb (v. 4). Jesus then speaks of water and the Spirit and then says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6).  The implication is that the first birth is the natural birth and the second birth is the spiritual birth.  In other words, the water refers to the water of the womb — the first birth.  This seems to have support in the understanding of Nicodemus about entering into the womb to be born a second time.  However, this view is not the most commonly held view.
      2. The water refers to the Word of God.
        1. The verses that seem to suggest this are Eph. 5:26 says, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Some believe that the washing of water is done by means of the Word of God.
        2. John 7:37-38, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”
      3. The water refers to the Holy Spirit.
        1. The third view says that the water refers to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Nicodemus was reminded of Ezek. 36:25-27, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26″Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27″And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Certainly, Jesus’ own words are applicable here when He says in John 7:37-39, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38″He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
      4. The water refers to the ministry of John the Baptist.
        1. This view says the water is in reference to the water baptism of repentance taught by John the Baptist. Matt. 3:1-6 describes John’s ministry in the desert, his teaching about repentance, and baptizing people into that repentance. Contextually, the first chapter of John mentions John the Baptist in verses 6-8 and 19-36. If John’s ministry is in view here, then Jesus would have been speaking of the “baptism” (the initiatory ordinance) of repentance preached by John the Baptist.
        2. The water refers to the water of baptism as a requirement for salvation.
          1. But this would mean we were not justified by faith.
          2. It would be adding a ritualistic requirement to salvation.
  5. John 19:34, “but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.”
    1. This has nothing to do with water baptism. When someone dies from crucifixion, the heart ruptures, the elements of the blood separate, and water seeps into the chest cavity. This is why the soldier pierced his side because when one looks like water comes out, it means death has occurred.  
  6. Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    1. What is going on here is that repentance and forgiveness of sins are connected. In the Greek, “repent” is in the plural and so is “your” of “your sins.” They are meant to be understood as being related to each other. It is like saying, “All of you repent, each of you get baptized, and all of you will receive forgiveness.” It isn’t baptism that gets forgiveness of sins, but repentance. You see, repentance is a mark of salvation because it is granted by God (2 Tim. 2:25) and is given to believers only. In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized. Baptism is the manifestation of the repentance, that gift from God that is the sign of the circumcised heart. That is why it says, repent and get baptized.
    2. The Oneness argument says that the word “for” means that you are getting baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Again, if this is what is meant, then we are not receiving the forgiveness of sins when we believe, but after we have performed a ritual. There’s no way around this. Is a ritual also required for our salvation? Is there a work we must perform in order to be saved?
    3. Biblically, a work is a ritual, a law that must be followed. Circumcision was just such a ritual, a ceremony. Paul condemns the Judaizers for adding that ritual, that ceremony to the grace of God. He condemns them because they added a ceremonial requirement to salvation. This is heresy and Paul rightly condemned it.
    4. Baptism is a ritual. It is a ceremony. If it is necessary for salvation, then a ritual must be observed in order to obtain Christ’s forgiveness. This is salvation by grace and ritual, not salvation by grace through faith.
    5. Faith occurs when you believe. You are justified by faith when you believe, otherwise you’re not justified by faith. So, this verse cannot mean that we have to be baptized in water in order to have our sins forgiven.
    6. It means that we are baptized to indentify with the forgiveness of sins.
    7. Mark 1:4, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
    8. Also, if we are to understand this verse to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation, then we must also understand that repentance is necessary. But this is a problem because it would require that we be good in order to be saved – but this amounts to justification by works. Of course, we are supposed to repent of our sins, but it is not the repentance of sins that brings us salvation; rather, it is salvation that brings us repentance because unbelievers don’t turn from their sins, only believers do only the saved seek to honor God.
  7. Acts 8:35-38, “And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
    1. There’s nothing in these verses to show that baptism is necessary for salvation. It only says that the Eunuch was baptized after he believed. It shows that a person should be baptized right away after receiving believing in Christ.  
  8. Acts 22:16, ‘And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
    1. What washes away their sins not water, but calling on the name of Jesus.
    2. The verse does not say be baptized washing away your sins. It says be baptized and wash away your sins calling on his name. What washes away our sins is calling on his name — which would mean we are saved by grace through faith, not grace through faith in water.
  9. Rom. 6:3-5, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”
    1.  The phrase “baptized into” means here “to identify with.” It cannot mean that baptism is the means by which we enter into union with Christ. This would be ritualistic communion and Paul in no way ever talked in you ritual was necessary in order to be saved.
    2. Instead, Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
  10. 1 Cor. 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
    1. Which baptism is this speaking of, the baptism of water or the baptism of the Spirit.
    2. Eph. 4:5 tells us that there is “one faith, one Lord, one baptism.”
    3. If this means that we get into the church by being baptized in water, and no one is in the Christian church unless he or she has gone through the ritual. This would mean that salvation is not by grace through faith, but by faith and ritual.
    4. The very verse here tells us about being made to drink of the one Spirit. This is an obvious figurative usage but it tells us two things. First, it alludes to the baptism of the spirit, not of water. Second, if we must require that the baptism spoken of here means water, but why not require the literalness also of drinking the Spirit? It it makes no sense composes upon the text. Therefore, this verse is not dealing with water baptism but Spirit baptism.
    5. Acts 11:16, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
    6. John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  
  11. Gal. 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
    1. A. Water baptism is not mentioned here. This is probably a reference to baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
    2.  Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
    3. This might be a reference to the Roman garment of the full-grown man, assumed when ceasing to be a child.
    4.  Baptism is the identification with Christ, signifying having come to the faith, having died to sin, and risen with the Lord Jesus Christ.
  12. Eph. 5:25-26, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”
    1. There is no mention and baptism at all. Paul associates the washing of water with the word.
    2. If this is referring to water baptism, then it must mean that Christ is the one actually performing the act of baptism on the entire church because it says “just as Christ also loved the church and gave him self up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water…” which would mean baptism.
    3. The reality is that when I lead my wife in devotions with the word, I’m washing her in the word of God. That is how I love her and wash her.
  13. Col. 2:12, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
    1. This verse does not show the necessity of being baptized in order to be saved. It simply speaks about our identification with Christ and are baptism. And nowhere here says baptism is necessary for salvation.
    2. If anything, this verse in its context equates baptism and circumcision: Col. 2:11-12, “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Paul is relating the ritual of circumcision with the ritual of baptism, both are covenant signs.
      1. Still, this verse in no way says that water baptism is necessary for salvation. But it does equate circumcision and baptism together. We must be reminded of how Paul condemned the Judaizers for requiring the ritual of circumcision to be saved. We can make a strong case here at requiring the ritual of baptism would likewise be condemned.
  14. Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
    1. This verse is telling us that regeneration is the washing, not the regeneration of baptism. There is no mention of water baptism here and there certainly is no mention of water baptism being necessary for salvation.  
  15. Heb. 10:22, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
    1. Heb. 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
    2. 1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…” This is all reference to the Old Testament ceremonies of sprinkling blood in order to cleanse the temple (Heb. 9). This is what the high priest did and Jesus, who is our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, likewise cleanses us with his blood. This is how our hearts are cleaned, but the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, not by our bodies getting dunked in water.
  16. 1 Pet. 3:21, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
    1. This verse negates water baptism by saying the baptism that saves is not the kind that deals with the removal of dirt in the flesh. That is, it is not the issue of water which washes the body, but that baptism of the heart which is an appeal for a good conscience to God.
    2. Some think that the baptism corresponds to the Ark because it was the Ark that saved them, not the floodwaters. this is a possibility but one of the problems with it is that this interpretation does not seem to stand grammatically since the antecedent of Baptism is most probably in reference to the water, not the Ark.      But, water did not save Noah.  This is why Peter excludes the issue of water baptism being the thing that saves us because he says, “not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God”.  Peter says that is not the application of water that saves us but a pledge of the good conscience. Therefore, baptism here most probably represents the breaking away of the old sinful life and entrance into the new life the same way that the flood waters in Noah’s time was the destruction of the sinful way and once through it known entered into his new life.
    3. Peter’s explanatory comment shows us that the act of physical baptism is not what saves, but the “baptism of appeal to God.”  This appeal to God is by faith the same as Noah’s faith in God led him to build the Ark, enter it, and remain in it.

 

http://www.carm.org/baptism/baptism_verses.htm

Vodpod videos no longer available. Semon #233
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 9th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. SPURGEON
At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

 

 

 

Free Grace

 

 

Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.” – Ezekiel 36:32.

There are two sins of man that are bred in the bone, and that continually come out in the flesh. One is self-dependence and the other is self-exaltation. It is very hard, even for the best of men, to keep themselves from the first error. The holiest of Christians, and those who understand best the gospel of Christ, find in themselves a constant inclination to look to the power of the creature, instead of looking to the power of God and the power of God alone. Over and over again, Holy Scripture has to remind us of that which we never ought to forget, that salvation is God’s work from first to last, and is not of man, neither by man. But so it is, this old error – that we are to save ourselves, or that we are to do something in the matter of salvation – always rises up, and we find ourselves continually tempted by it to step aside from the simplicity of our faith in the power of the Lord our God. Why, even Abraham himself was not free from the great error of relying upon his own strength. God had promised to him that He would give him a son – Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham believed it, but at last, weary with waiting, he adopted the carnal expedient of taking to himself Hagar, to wife, and he fancied that Ishmael would most certainly be the fulfillment of God’s promise; but instead of Ishmael’s helping to fulfill the promise, he brought sorrow unto Abraham’s heart, for God would not have it that Ishmael should dwell with Isaac. “Cast out,” said the Scripture, “the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” Now we, in the matter of salvation, are apt to think that God is tarrying long in the fulfillment of His promise, and we set to work ourselves to do something, and what do we do?sink ourselves deeper in the mire and pile up for ourselves a store of future troubles and trials. Do we not read that it grieved Abraham’s heart to send Ishmael away? Ah! and many a Christian has been grieved by those works of nature which he accomplished with the design of helping the God of grace. Oh, beloved, we shall find ourselves very frequently attempting the foolish task of assisting Omnipotence and teaching the Omniscient One.

Instead of looking to grace alone to sanctify us, we find ourselves adopting Philosophic rules and principles which we think will effect the Divine work. We shall but mar it; we shall bring grief into our own spirits. But if, instead thereof, we in every work look up to the God of our salvation for help, and strength, and grace, and succor, then our work will proceed to our own joy and comfort, and to God’s glory. That error, then, I say is in our bone, and will always dwell with us, and hence it is that the words of the text are put as an antidote against that error. It is distinctly stated in our text that salvation is of God. “Not for your sakes do I this.” He says nothing about what we have done or can do. All the preceding and all the succeeding verses speak of what God does. “I will take you from among the heathen.” “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.” “I will give you a new heart.” “I will put my Spirit within you.” It is all of God: therefore, again recall to our recollection this doctrine, and give up all dependence upon our own strength and power.

The other error to which man is very prone, is that of relying upon his own merit. Though there is no righteousness in any man, yet in every man there is a proneness to truth in some fancied merit. Strange that it should be so, but the most reprobate characters have yet some virtue as they imagine, upon which they rely. You will find the most abandoned drunkard pride himself that he is not a swearer. You will find the blaspheming drunkard pride himself that at least he is honest. You will find men with no other virtue in the world, exalt what they imagine to be a virtue – the fact that they do not profess to have any; and they think themselves to be extremely excellent, because they have honesty or rather impudence enough to confess that they are utterly vile. Somehow the human mind clings to human merit; it always will hold to it, and when you take away everything upon which you think it could rely, in less than a moment it fashions some other ground for confidence out of itself. Human nature with regard to its own merit, is like the spider, it bears its support in its own bowels, and it seems as if it would keep spinning on to all eternity. You may brush down one web, but it soon forms another, you may take the thread from one place, and you will find it clinging to your finger, and when you seek to brush it down with one hand you find it clinging to the other. It is hard to get rid of; it is ever ready to spin its web and bind itself to some false ground of trust. It is against all human merit that I am this morning going to speak, and I feel that I shall offend a great many people here. I am about to preach a doctrine that is gall and vinegar to flesh and blood, one that will make righteous moralists gnash their teeth, and make others go away and declare that I am an Antinomian, and perhaps scarcely fit to live. However, that consequence is one which I shall not greatly deplore, if connected with it there should be in other hearts a yielding to this glorious truth, and a giving up to the power and grace of God, who will never save us, unless we are prepared to let Him have all the glory.

First, I shall endeavor to expound at large the doctrine contained in this text; in the next place I shall endeavour to show its force and truthfulness; and then in the third place I shall seek God’s Holy Spirit to apply the useful, practical lessons which are to be drawn from it.

I. I shall endeavour to EXPOUND THIS TEXT. “Not for your sakes do I this saith the Lord God.” The motive for the salvation of the human race is to be found in the breast of God, and not in the character or condition of man. Two races have revolted against God – the one angelic, the other human. When a part of this angelic race revolted against the Most High, justice speedily overtook them; they were swept from their starry seats in Heaven, and henceforth they have been reserved in darkness unto the great day of the wrath of God. No mercy was ever presented to them, no sacrifice ever offered for them; but they were without hope and mercy, forever consigned to the pit of eternal torment. The human race, far inferior in order of intelligence, sinned as atrociously; at any rate, if the sins of manhood that we have heard of be put together and rightly weighed, I can scarcely understand how even the sins of devils could be much blacker than the sin of mankind. However, the God who in His infinite justice passed over angels, and suffered them forever to expiate their offences in the fires of hell, was pleased to look down on man. Here was election on a grand scale; the election of manhood, and the reprobation of fallen angelhood. What was the reason for it? The reason was in God’s mind, an inscrutable reason which we do not know, and which if we knew probably we could not understand. Had you and I been put upon the choice of which should have been spared, I do think it probable we should have chosen that fallen angels should have been saved. Are they not the brightest? Have they not the greatest mental strength? If they had been redeemed, would it not have glorified God more, as we judge, than the salvation of worms like ourselves? Those bright beings – Lucifer, son of the morning, and those stars that walked in his train – if they had been washed in His redeeming blood, if they had been saved by sovereign mercy, what a song would they have lifted up to the Most High and everlasting God! But God, who doeth as He wills with His own, and giveth no account of His matters, but who deals with His creatures as the potter deals with his clay, took not upon Him the nature of angels, but took upon Him the seed of Abraham, and chose men to be the vessels of His mercy. This fact we know, but where is its reason? certainly not in man. “Not for your sakes do I this. O house of Israel, be ashamed and be confounded for your own ways.”

Here, very few men object. We notice that if we talk about the election of men and the non-election of fallen angels, there is not a cavil for a moment. Every man approves of Calvinism till he feels that he is the loser by it; but when it begins to touch his own bone and his own flesh then he kicks against it. Come, then, we must go further. The only reason why one man is saved, and not another, lies not, in any sense, in the man saved, but in God’s bosom. The reason why this day the gospel is preached to you and not the heathen far away, is not because, as a race, we are superior to the heathen; it is not because we deserve more at God’s hands; His choice of Britain, in the election of outward privilege, is not caused by the excellency of the British nation, but entirely because of His own mercy and His own love. There is not reason in us why we should have the gospel preached to us more than any other nation. Today, some of us have received the gospel, and have been changed by it, and have become the heirs of light and immorality, whereas others are left still to be the heirs of wrath. But there is no reason in us why we should have been taken and others left.

“There was nothing in us to merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight.
‘Twas ‘Even so, Father!’ we ever must sing,
Because it seem’d good in thy sight.”

And now, let us review this doctrine at length. We are taught in Holy Scripture that, long before this world was made, God foreknew and foresaw all the creatures He intended to fashion; and there and then foreseeing that the human race would fall into sin, and deserve His anger, determined, in His own sovereign mind, that an immense portion of the human race should be His children, and should be brought to Heaven. As to the rest, He left them to their own deserts. to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, to scatter crime and inherit punishment. Now, in the great decree of election, the only reason why God selected the vessels of mercy must have been because He would do it. There was nothing in any one of them which caused God to choose them. We all were alike, all lost, all ruined by the fall; all without the slightest claim upon His mercy; all, in fact, deserving His utmost vengeance. His choice of any one, and His choice of all His people, are causeless, so far as anything in them was concerned. It was the effect of His sovereign will, and of nothing which they did, could do, or even would do; for thus saith the text: “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel!”

As for the fruit of our election, in due time Christ came into this world, and purchased with His blood all those whom the Father hath chosen. Now come ye to the cross of Christ; bring this doctrine with you, and remember that the only reason why Christ gave up His life to be a ransom for His sheep was because He loved His people, but there was nothing in His people that made Him die for them. I was thinking as I came here this morning, if any man should imagine that the love of God to us was caused by anything in us, it would be as if a man should look into a well to find the springs of the ocean, or dig into an anthill to find an Alp. The love of God is so immense, so boundless and so infinite, that you cannot conceive for a moment that it could have been caused by anything in us. The little good that is in us – the no good that is in us – for there is none, could not have caused the boundless, bottomless, shoreless, summitless love which God manifests to His people. Stand at the foot of the cross, ye merit-mongers, ye that delight in your own works; and answer this question: Do you think that the Lord of life and glory could have been brought down from Heaven, could have been fashioned like a man, and have been led to die through any merit of yours? Shall these sacred veins be opened with any lancet less sharp than His own infinite love? Do you conceive that your poor merits, such as they are, could be so efficacious as to nail the Redeemer to the tree, and make Him bend His shoulders beneath the enormous load of the world’s guilt? You cannot imagine it. The consequence is so great, compared with what you suppose to be the case, that your logic fails in a moment. You may conceive that a coral insect rears a rock by its multitude, and by its many years of working; but you cannot conceive that all the accumulated merits of manhood, if there were such things, could have brought the Eternal from the throne of His majesty, and bowed Him to the death of the cross: that is a thing as clearly impossible to any thoughtful mind, as impossibility can be. No; from the cross comes the cry – “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel.”

After Christ’s death, there comes, in the next place, the work of the Holy Spirit. Those whom the Father hath chosen, and whom the Son has redeemed, in due time the Holy Spirit calls “out of darkness into marvelous light.” Now, the calling of the Holy Spirit is without any regard to any, merit in us. If this day the Holy Spirit shall call out of this congregation a hundred men, and bring them out of their estate of sin into a state of righteousness, you shall bring these hundred men, and let them march in review, and if you could read their hearts, you would be compelled to say, “I see no reason why the Spirit of God should have operated upon these. I see nothing whatever that could have merited such grace as this – nothing that could have caused the operations and motions of the Spirit to work in these men.” For, look ye here. By nature, men are said to be dead in sin. If the Holy Spirit quickens, it cannot be because of any power in the dead men, or any merit in them, for they are dead, corrupt and rotten in the grave of their sin. If then, the Holy Spirit says, “Come forth and live,” it is not because of anything in the dry bones, it must be for some reason in His own mind, but not in us. Therefore, know ye this, men and brethren, that we all stand upon a level. We have none of us anything that can recommend us to God; and if the Spirit shall choose to operate in our hearts unto salvation, He must be moved to do it by His own supreme love, for He cannot be moved to do it by any good will, good desire, or good deed, that dwells in us by nature.

To go a little further: this truth, which holds good so far, holds good all the way. God’s people, after they are called by grace, are preserved in Christ Jesus; they are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;” they are not suffered to sin away their eternal inheritance, but as temptations arise they have strength given with which to encounter them, and as sin blackens them they are washed afresh, and again cleansed. But mark, the reason why God keeps His people is the same as that which made them His people – His own free sovereign grace. If, my brother, you have been delivered in the hour of temptation, pause and remember that you were not delivered for your own sake. There was nothing in you that deserved the deliverance. If you have been fed and supplied in your hour of need, it is not because you have been a faithful servant of God, nor because you have been a prayerful Christian; it is simply and only because of God’s mercy. He is not moved to anything He does for you by anything .that you do for Him; His motive for blessing you lies wholly and entirely in the depths of His own bosom. Blessed be God, His people shall be kept.

“Nor death, nor Hell shall e’er remove
His favourites from His breast;
In the dear bosom of His love
They must forever rest.”

But why? Because they are holy? Because they are sanctified? Because they serve God with good works? No, but because he in his sovereign grace has loved them, does love them, and will love them, even to the end.

And to conclude my exposition of this text. This shall hold good in Heaven itself. The day is coming when every blood-bought, blood-washed child of God shall walk the golden streets arrayed in white. Our hands shall soon bear the palm; our ears shall be delighted with celestial melodies, and our eyes filled with the transporting visions of God’s glory. But mark, the only reason why God shall bring us to Heaven shall be His own love, and not because we deserved it. We must fight the fight, but we do not win the victory because we fight it; we must labour, but the wage at the days’ end shall be a wage of grace, and not a debt. We must honour God here, looking for the recompense of the reward; but that recompense will not be given on a legal ground, because we merited it, but given to us entirely because God had loved us, for no reason that was in us. When you and I and each of us shall enter Heaven, our song shall be, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory;” and that shall be true, it shall not be a mere exaggeration of gratitude. It shall be true; we shall be compelled to sing it, because we could not sing anything else. We shall feel that we did nothing, and that we were nothing, but that God did it all – that we had nothing in us to be the motive of his doing it, but that His motive lay in Himself; therefore unto Him shall be every particle of the honour forever and ever.

Now, this, I take it, is the meaning of the text; distasteful it is to the great majority, even of professing Christians in this age. It is a doctrine that requires a great deal of salt, or else few people will receive it. It is very unsavory to them. However, there It stands. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” His truth we must preach, and this we must proclaim. Salvation is “not of men, neither by man; not of the will of the flesh, nor of blood,” nor of birth, but of the sovereign will of God, and God alone.

II. And now, in the second place, I have to ILLUSTRATE AND ENFORCE THIS TEXT.

Consider a moment man’s character. It will humble us, and it will tend to confirm this truth in our minds. Let me take an illustration. I will consider man as a criminal. He certainly is such in the sight of God, and I shall not slander him. Suppose now that some great criminal is at last overtaken in his sin, and shut up in Newgate. He has committed high treason, murder, rebellion, and every possible iniquity. He has broken all the laws of the realm – every one of them. The public cry is everywhere – “This man must die; the laws cannot be maintained unless he shall be made an example of their rigour. He who beareth not the sword in vain must this time let the sword taste blood. The man must die; he richly deserves it.” You look through his character: you cannot see one solitary redeeming trait. He is an old offender; he has so long persevered in his iniquity that you are compelled to say, “The case is hopeless with this man; his crimes have such aggravation we cannot make an apology for him, even should we try. Not jesuitical cunning itself could devise any pretence of excuse, or any hope of a plea for this abandoned wretch; let him die!” Now, if her Majesty the Queen, having in her hands the sovereign power of life and death, chooses that this man shall not die, but that he shall be spared, do you not see as plain as daylight, that the only reason that can move her to spare that man, must be her own love, her own compassion? For, as I have supposed already that there is nothing in that man’s character that can be a plea for mercy, but that, contrariwise, his whole character cries aloud for vengeance against his sin. Whether we like it or not, this is just the truth concerning ourselves. This is just our character and position before God. Ah! my hearer, you may turn upon your heel, disgusted and offended; but there are some here who feel it to be solemnly true in their own experience, and they will therefore drink in the doctrine, for it is the only way whereby they can be saved. My hearer, your conscience perhaps is telling you this morning that you have sinned so heinously that there is not an inlet for a solitary ray of hope in your character. You have added to your sins this great one, that you have rebelled against the Most High wantonly and wickedly. If you have not committed all the sins in the calendar of crime, It has been because providence has stayed your hand, Your heart has been black enough for it all. You feel that the vileness of your imagination and desires has achieved the consummation of human guilt, and further you could not go. Your sins have prevailed against you, and have gone over your head. Now, man, the only ground upon which God can save you is His own love. He cannot save you because you deserve it, for you do not deserve it, because there is no excuse that might be made for your sin. No, you are without any excuse, and you feel it. Oh! bless His dear name, that He has devised this way, whereby He can save you upon the basis of His own sovereign love and unbounded grace, without anything in you. I want you to go back to Newgate again to this criminal. We suppose now that this criminal is visited by her Majesty in person. She goes to him, and she says to him, “Rebel, traitor, murderer, I have in my heart compassion for you; you deserve it not; but I am come this day to you, to tell you that if you repent you shall have mercy at my hands.” Suppose this man, springing up, should curse her – curse this angel of mercy to her face, spit upon her, and utter blasphemies, and imprecate curses upon her head. She retires; she is gone; but so great is her compassion, that the next day she sends a messenger, and days, and weeks, and months, and years, she continually sends messengers, and these go to him, and they say, “If you will repent of your transgressions you shall have mercy; not because you deserve it, but because her Majesty is compassionate, and out of her gracious soul she desires your salvation. Will you repent?” Suppose this man should curse at the messenger, stop his ears against the message, spit upon him, tell him he does not care for him at all. Or to suppose a better case – suppose he turns upon his seat and says, “I don’t care whether I am hanged or not; I’ll take my chance along with other people; I shall take no notice of you.” And suppose more than that, rising from his seat, he indulges again in all the crimes for which he has already been condemned, and plunges headlong afresh into the very sins which have brought his neck under the rope of the gallows. Now, if her Majesty would spare such a man as that, on what terms can she do it? You say, “Why, she cannot, unless she does it out of love; she cannot because of any merit in him, because such a beast as that ought to die.” And now what are you and I by nature but like this? And my unconverted hearer, what is this but a picture of you? Has not God Himself visited your conscience? and has He not said to you, “Sinner! come now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool.” And what have you done? Stopped your ear against the voice of conscience – cursed and swore at God, blasphemed His holy name, despised His Word, and railed against His ministers. And this day, again, with tears in his eyes, a servant of God is come to you, and his message is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved; as I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live.” And what will you do. Why, if left to yourselves you will laugh at the message – despise it. It will glance off from you like an arrow from a man that is girt about with mail, and you will go away to despise God again, as you have done before. Do you not see, then, that if God ever shall save you, it cannot be for your sakes; but must be from His own infinite love; it cannot be from any other reason, since you have rejected Christ, despised His gospel, trodden under foot the blood of Jesus, and have refused to be saved. If He saves you, it must be free grace, and free grace alone.

But now picture a little more about this criminal at Newgate. Not content with having added sin to sin, and having rejected mercy for himself, this wretch industriously employs himself in going round to all the cells where others are confined, and hardening their hearts also against the mercy of the Queen. He can scarce see a person but he begins to taint him with the blasphemy of his own heart; he utters injurious things against the majesty that spares him, and endeavours to make others as vile as himself. Now, what does justice say? If this man ought not to die on his own account, yet he ought to die for the sake of others; and if he be spared, is it not as plain as a pike – staff that he cannot be spared because of any reason in him? It must be because of the unconquerable compassion of the Sovereign. And now look you here: is not this the case of some here present? Not only do you sin yourselves, but lead others into sin? I know this was one of my plagues and torments, when first God brought me to Himself, that I have led others into temptation. Are there not men here that have taught others to swear? Are there not fathers here that have helped to destroy their own children’s souls? Are there not some of you that are like the deadly Upas tree? You stretch out your branches, and from every leaf there drops poison upon those who come beneath its deadly range. Are there not some here who have seduced the virtuous, that have misled those who were seemingly pious, and that are perhaps so hardened that they even glory in it? Not content with being damned yourselves, you are seeking to lead others to the pit also. Thinking it not enough yourselves to be at enmity with God, you want to imitate Satan by dragging others with you. O my hearer, is not this thy case? Does not thy heart confess it? And does not the tear flow down thy cheek? Remember, then, this must be true: if God shall save thee, it must be because He will do it. It cannot be because there is anything good in thee, for thou deservedst now to die, and if He spare thee it must be sovereign love and sovereign grace.

I will just use one other illustration, and then, I think I shall have made the text clear enough. There is not so much difference between black and a darker shade of black as there is between pure white and black. Every one can see that. Then there is not so much difference between man and the devil as there is between God and man. God is perfection; we are black with sin. The devil is only a darker shade of black; and great as may be the difference between our sin and the sin of Satan, yet it is not so great as the difference between the perfection of God and the imperfection of man. Now, imagine for a minute that somewhere in Africa there should be a tribe of devils living, that you and I had it in our power to save these devils from some threatened wrath which must overtake them. If you or I should go there and die to save those devils, what could be our motive? From what we know of the character of a devil, the only motive that could make us do that must be love. There could not be any other. It must be simply because we had such big hearts that we could even embrace fiends within them. Well, now, there is not so much difference between man and the devil as between God and man. If, then, the only motive that could make men save a devil must be man’s love, does it not follow with irresistible force, that the only motive that could lead God to save men must be God’s own love. At any rate, if that reason be not cogent the fact is indisputable – “Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel.” God sees us, abandoned, evil, wicked, and deserving His wrath; if He saves us, it is His boundless, fathomless love that leads Him to do it – nothing whatever in us.

III. And now, having thus preached this doctrine, and enforced it, I come to a very solemn PRACTICAL APPLICATION. And here may God the Holy Spirit help me labour with your hearts!

First, since this doctrine is true, how humble a Christian man ought to be. If thou be saved, thou hast had nought to do with it; God has done it. If thou be saved, thou hast not deserved it. It is mercy undeserved which thou hast received. I have sometimes been delighted when I have seen the gratitude of abandoned characters to any who have assisted them. I remember visiting a house of refuge. There was a poor girl there who had fallen into sin long, and when she found herself kindly addressed and recognized by society, and saw a Christian minister longing after her soul’s good, it broke her heart. What should a man of God care about her? she was so vile. How could it be that a Christian should speak to her? Ah! but how much more should that feeling rise in our hearts? My God! I have rebelled against thee, and yet thou hast loved me, unworthy me! How can it be? I cannot lift myself up with pride, I must bow down before Thee in speechless gratitude. Remember, my dear brethren, that not only is the mercy which you and I have received undeserved, but it was unasked. It is true you prayed, but not till free grace made you pray. You would have been, to this day, hardened in heart, without God, and without Christ, had not free grace saved you. Can you be proud then? – proud of mercy which, if I may use the term, has been forced upon you? – proud of grace which has been given you against your will, until your will was changed by sovereign grace? And think again. All the mercy you have you once refused, Christ sups with you; be not proud of His company. Remember, there was a day when He knocked, and you refused – when He came to the door and said, “My head is wet with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night; open to me, my beloved;” and you barred it in His face and would not let Him enter. Be not proud, then, of what thou hast, when thou rememberest that thou didst once reject Him. Does God embrace Thee in His arms of love? Remember, once thou liftedst up thine hand of rebellion against Him. Is thy name written in His book? Ah! there was a time when, if it had been in thy power, thou wouldst have erased the sacred lines that contained thine own salvation. Can we, dare we, lift up our wicked head with pride, when all these things should make us hang our heads down in the deepest humility? That is one lesson: let us learn another.

This doctrine is true, and therefore it should be a subject of the greatest gratitude. When meditating upon this text yesterday, the effect it had upon me was one of transport and joy. Oh! I thought, upon what other condition could I have been saved? And I looked back upon my past estate; I saw myself piously trained and educated, but revolting against all that. I saw a mother’s tears shed over me in vain, and a father’s admonition lost upon me, and yet I found myself saved by grace, and I could only say, “Lord, I bless Thee that it is by grace, for if it had been by merit I had never been saved. If thou hadst waited till there was something good in me, thou wouldst have waited till I sank into the hopeless perdition of hell, for good in man there never would have been, unless thou hadst first put it there.” And then I thought immediately, “Oh! how I could go and preach that to the poor sinner!” Ah! let me try if I cannot. O sinner! you say you dare not come to Christ because you have nothing to recommend you. He does not want anything to recommend you; He will not save you, if you have anything to recommend you, for His says, “Not for you sake do I this.” Go to Christ with earrings in your ears, and jewels upon you; wash your face, and array yourself with gold and silver, and go before Him and say, “Lord, save me; I have washed myself and clothed myself; save me!” “Get you gone! Not for your sakes will I do this.” Go to Him again, and say, “Lord, I have put a rope about my neck, and sackcloth about my loins; see how repentant I am, see how I feel my need; now save me!” “No,” saith He, “I would not save you on account of your flaunting robes, and now I will not save you because of your rags; I will save you for nothing about you; if I do save you, it will be from something in my heart, not from anything you feel. Get ye gone!” But if today you go to Christ and say, “Lord Jesus, there is no reason in the world why I should be saved – there is one in Heaven; Lord, I cannot urge any plea, I deserve to be lost, I have no excuse to make for all my sins, no apology to offer; Lord, I deserve it, and there is nothing in me why I should be saved, for if thou wouldst save me I should make but a poor Christian, after all; I fear that my future works will be no honour to Thee – I wish they could be, but thy grace must make them good, else they will still be bad. But, Lord, thou I have nothing to bring, and nothing to say for myself, I do say this: I have heard that thou hast come into the world to save sinners – O Lord, save me!

‘I the chief of sinners am.’

I confess I do not feel this as I ought, I do not mourn it as I ought; I have no repentance to recommend me; nay, Lord, I have no faith to recommend me either, for I do not believe thy promise as I ought; but oh! I cling to this text. Lord, thou hast said thou wilt not do it for my sake. I thank Thee thou hast said that. Thou couldst not do it for my sake, for I have no reason why thou shouldst. Lord, I claim thy gracious promise. ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner.”‘ Ah! you good people, this doctrine does not suit some of you; it is too humbling, is it not? You that have kept your churches regularly, and been to meetings so piously, you that never broke the Sabbath, or never swore an oath, or did anything wrong, this does not suit you. You say it will do very well to preach to harlots, and drunkards, and swearers, but it will not suit such good people as we are. Ah! well, this is your text – “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” You are “whole” – you are; you “need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Go your way. Christ came to save such as you are. You think you can save yourselves. Do it, and perish in the doing of it. But I feel that the same gospel that suits a harlot suits me, and that that free grace which saved Saul of Tarsus must save me, else I am never saved. Come, let us all go together. We are all guilty – some more, some less, but all hopelessly guilty. Let us go together to the footstool of His mercy, and though we dare not look up, let us lie there in the dust, and sigh out again, “Lord have mercy upon us for whom Jesus died.”

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Sinner, come now; come now, I beseech thee; I entreat thee, come now. O Spirit of the living God, draw them now! Let these feeble weak words be the means of drawing souls to Christ. Will you reject my Master again? Will you go out of this house hardened once more? You may never again have such feelings as those which are aroused in your soul. Come, now, receive His mercy; now bend your willing necks to His yoke; and then I know you shall go away to taste His faithful love, and at last to sing in Heaven the song of the redeemed – “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, unto him be glory forever. Amen.”

“O thou great eternal Jesus,
High and mighty Prince of Peace,
How Thy wonders shine resplendent,
In the wonders of Thy grace:
Thy rich gospel scorns conditions,
Breathes salvation free as air;
Only breathes triumphant mercy,
Baffling guilt, and all despair.
“O the grandeur of the gospel,
How it sounds the cleansing blood;
Shows the bowels of a Saviour,
Shows the tender heart of God.
Only treats of love eternal,
Swells the all-abounding grace,
Nothing knows but life and pardon,
Full redemption, endless peace.”

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Sermons from the New Park Street Pulpit (1855-1860) by Charles Spurgeon.

http://www.mindofchrist.net/0008/0233.htm

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The Counterfeit Christianity 2 Timothy 4:1-8

By P. G. Mathew, M.A., M. Div., Th.M.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Timothy 4:1-8

We have been speaking about counterfeit religion. This counterfeit religion appears on television and in churches all over the world today. It is a false religion that preaches a gospel that is different than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In our previous study we spoke about the false church and the false ministers of this counterfeit Christianity. In this study we want to consider the Satanic doctrines of the counterfeit religion, which are described in 1 Timothy 4:1 as “doctrines of demons.”

What Are Doctrines of Demons?


The Bible speaks about sound doctrines, healthy doctrines. They are summarized in the term “apostolic doctrines.” Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples to teach these doctrines, saying, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Acts 2:42 we read that the first believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to these doctrines of the apostles.

But there are also doctrines of demons, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times, some will abandon the faith,” meaning the apostolic doctrines, “and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” The apostle Paul speaks about such doctrines in Galatians 1:8-9, saying, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Of course, demons are not corporeal beings, but spirit-beings; therefore, demons come on human beings. When pastors and teachers are directed by demons, they will begin to teach these lies, or what we call the doctrines of demons.

So in the church today we find doctrines that give life and cause spiritual growth as well as doctrines that destroy. The latter are described as having a form of godliness but denying the very heart of it. That is why we should consider carefully which church we want to join. The idea that one church is as good as another church, that one preacher is as good as another preacher, and that one teaching is as good as another, is false.

When we read Genesis 3, we encounter Satan and his doctrines. Satan, according to Jesus Christ, is the father of all lies. He always contradicts God’s word. Thus, he told Eve, “You will not surely die.” Any teaching that contradicts God’s word is a doctrine of demons, and any preacher who contradicts God’s word is a false minister.

Satan denies that there will be a judgment. By the words, “You will not surely die,” he meant that Adam and Eve could live any way they wanted; there is no judgment or punishment. But this is not true. Additionally, rather than encouraging people to believe in the word of God, Satan encourages people to sit in judgment of it. We see that illustrated in the history of higher criticism, which began in the seventeenth century and whose influence continues today. Higher critics like Rudolf Bultmann have sat in judgment on the word of God, rather than trusting in it.

Satan encourages man to defy God and give in to his own evil desires. Satan says, “Don’t worry about what the Bible says. Do what you want to do. Give full expression to your lusts.” Satan inspires man to become proud, autonomous, and unsubmissive to God. He tempts man with the idea of absolute freedom and tells him not to tolerate any limitation. God told Adam that he could eat of all the trees of the garden but one. But Satan said, “No, don’t tolerate that prohibition of even one tree. It is a serious limitation upon your freedom. You must always look for absolute freedom.”

What Satan loves to do is to dangle before man the intoxicating possibility of becoming God; in other words, he tempts us with self-deification. But Jesus said the devil can only steal, kill, and destroy. When we read Genesis 3, we see that Adam and Eve, having eaten of the forbidden tree, naked, afraid, and hiding from God. Eventually, they were judged by God and died.

Doctrines of demons are inspired by lying, evil spirits, as we read in 1 Kings 22:22-23. When such spirits come upon false prophets, they are inspired to lie. This is in direct contrast to what we find in Acts 2. When the Holy Spirit came upon one hundred and twenty disciples, they spoke about the deeds of God as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. So there are two kinds of speech: evil-spirit inspired and Holy-Spirit inspired.

Doctrines of demons always promote sinful human lusts and contradict God’s moral law. Doctrines of demons promise man total freedom but deliver absolute slavery. Doctrines of demons promise eternal life but deliver eternal damnation. Thus, we want to look at some of these doctrines of demons as we discover them in the Holy Scriptures.

Doctrines of Demons

1. The Standard of Subjectivism

The first doctrine of demons is subjectivism. Both unbelievers and believers have standards by which they live and make judgments. For believers, the standard is the Holy Scriptures. It is an objective standard. But the doctrines of demons teach we should never submit to that standard. Instead, the standard for our lives should be our subjectivity, lusts, and desires. According to the doctrines of demons, subjectivity is truth, and whatever lust we have, we must fulfill.

So in 2 Timothy 4:3 we read, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who will teach what their itching ears want to hear.” Doctrines of demons teach that the standard by which people should live is not the standard of God, but the standard of their own lusts.

In Philippians 3:19 Paul spoke about so-called Christians who came under doctrines of demons during his time: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Their god is their belly! These people do not worship the Creator of the ends of the earth; they worship their lusts and appetites. Such people are led around by their belly.

In 2 Peter 2:18 we read, “For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” These teachers know what people like. They appeal to that lust to entice them and turn them away from God’s objective truth.

In Jude 16 we read, “These men are grumblers and faultfinders.” They are grumbling against God, his teachings, and his ministers.

In 1 John 2:15 we read, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Just listen to some of these preachers on television. All they preach about is, “This world. . . this world. . . this world.” They seem to have forgotten about the world to come. They have fallen in love with this world. For them life consists of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of things.

So the first doctrine of demons is that the standard for life is our own lusts. Those who live by this standard negate any influence God and his word might have in their lives. They would say, “We have nothing to do with the things of God. I am interested in my own lusts, and I want to seek and fulfill them. Whenever I lust, I will do what my lust tells me. I live by my lust.”

2. Rejection of God’s Authority

The second doctrine of demons is rejection of God’s authority. Because the standard of these people is their lust, they also reject God’s authority. In Jude 8 we read, “In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.” The Greek word for “reject” is atheteô, which means to veto or nullify. The Pharisees also nullified the word of God by their own traditions.

Such people reject the lordship of Jesus Christ. They will confess “Jesus is Savior” but they will never say “Jesus is Lord.” They set aside any objective authority, accepting only the authority of their own subjectivity.

Not only do these people reject Christ’s authority, but they also reject Christ’s delegated authorities. The Bible says, “Children, obey your parents.” But these people say, “No, I am not going to obey my parents. I want to follow my own desires.” They also reject the authority of pastors and elders. The Bible says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” But they would say, “I refuse to come under the spiritual authority of another person. I submit only to the authority of my lusts.”

In Luke 10:16 Jesus Christ said, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The word atheteô, “reject,” is used here also. So the second doctrine of demons is rejection of the objective authority of God and his delegated authorities.

3. Rejection of Truth and the Acceptance of Myths

The third doctrine of demons is a rejection of truth and an acceptance of myths. In 2 Timothy 4:4 we read, “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” These people cannot stomach hearing the word of God. They will deliberately turn away from it and turn to fiction, speculation, and falsehood. Such people accumulate teachers around them who will tell lies, as we read in Jeremiah 5:31, where God says, “[M]y people love it so.” They will tell the minister, “Preacher, don’t preach truth to me; entertain me with uplifting stories.”

In Isaiah 30:9 we read, “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.” Unwilling! These people are allergic to truth. In verse 10 we read, “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right!’”

Suppose a person is fornicating, but the pastor preaches that fornication is wrong. Do you think that person will like the minister? Oh, not at all. Instead, he will find a preacher who says, “Fornication is all right. Aren’t we all sexual beings? In fact, fornication is a sign of health. Dogs do it, bees do it, birds do it, and man does it. So fornication shows that you are a normal, healthy human being! Who is that preacher who told you that is not the right way to go?” Notice, Isaiah said, “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right!’” They turn away from the truth and turn aside to lies, speculation, philosophy, and psychology.

What else do the people say to their false ministers? “Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” They say, “We love lies. We love pleasant things. Don’t preach the word of God to us!” They will tell the minister, “Pastor, I want to give you some counsel. You should take a poll, find out what people want to hear, and preach that. It should be need-based, in other words, something that makes people happy. You should only tell them pleasant things. Don’t ever speak about sin, repentance, and holiness.”

For such people truth is myth and myth is truth. Rudolf Bultmann said, “The central message. . . of [the Bible] is incredible to modern man” because it speaks about miracles. Though he was a great student of the Bible, Bultmann rejected the truth of God’s word and believed in his own hollow philosophy instead. He looked at the Bible and “accordingly [found] it necessary to discard such obviously mythical elements as Christ’s preexistence and virgin birth, his deity and sinlessness, the substitutionary nature of his death as meeting the demands of a righteous God, his resurrection and ascension, and his future return in glory, also the final judgment of the world, the existence of spirit-beings, the personality and power of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of the Trinity, of original sin, and of death as a consequence of sin, and every explanation of events as miraculous.” According to Bultmann, the wonder is not that God became man, but that God chose “an ordinary, mortal individual, no different from every other man.” (Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe, “Myth,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Carl F. H. Henry, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960] 368-369).

4. Hollow and Deceptive Philosophies

The fourth doctrine of demons is the turning away from the truth and turning to hollow and deceptive philosophies. Paul dealt with this tendency in his letter to the church of Colossae. In Colossians 2:8 he wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

In 2 Peter 2:18 the apostle Peter writes, “they mouth empty, boastful words.” If you are students, I urge you to be careful when you go to the university. Many professors will try to turn you away from the truth and turn you to the falsehood of the phony philosophy, phony psychology, and scientism.

The problem with hollow human philosophies is that they refuse to acknowledge the true God. In a recent booklet by John Blanchard this view is expressed by George Wald, a biochemist and professor of biology at Harvard who received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1967. Although Wald was a top scientist, he chose to believe scientific impossibilities rather than admit there could be a Creator God:

When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities, creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago. But that leads us to only one other conclusion of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible, that life arose spontaneously by chance. (John Blanchard, Evolution—Fact or Fiction? [Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2002], 29).

5. Private Revelation

The fifth doctrine of demons is the idea of private revelation. If you turn on “Christian” television programs, most of what you see will be based on this doctrine of the devil called private revelation.

In Colossians 2:18 we read, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.” This subjectivism was as prevalent among false prophets in the Old Testament as it is among false prophets today. How many of these people will claim, “I had a dream,” or “I had a vision,” or “The Lord told me. . . .” This is private revelation. Jude calls those who say such things “dreamers.” They are inspired by demons.

Private revelation was found also in New Testament times. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Paul wrote, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us.” These false prophecies did not come from the apostle Paul. They were not true prophecy; they were private revelations, designed to unsettle God’s people.

What is the inspiration of such private revelation? Evil, lying spirits, such as the one we read about in 1 Kings 22. When a lying spirit came upon all four hundred prophets of Ahab, they all spoke lies in unison. So when someone tells you, “I had a dream,” or “I had a vision,” or “The Lord told me. . . ,” please run, because that person just wants to put his hand into your pocket. Oh, he may prophesy a few things to you, but if you want to have a good mind, keep away from such people. Their prophecies are prompted by demons who only want to unsettle you, manipulate you, and make you captive to them. It is all demon activity. You must be careful.

6. Denial of Jesus Christ

The sixth doctrine of demons is the denial of the person of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 2:1 we read, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be a false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” In Jude 4, the brother of Jesus Christ wrote, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign and Lord.”

Denial of Christ’s person and work is denial of the very heart of the biblical revelation. It is a denial that Jesus Christ is eternal God. It is denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In 1 John 4:2-3 we read, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

Denial of the incarnation is to say that Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God who took upon himself a human body. It implies that he did not die for our sins as God/man and that he is not God/man forever. Thus, denial of incarnation means denial of atonement and therefore denial of our salvation.

It is also denial of the cross of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 3:18 we read, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Those who deny the cross are enemies of the cross. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 the apostle Paul said he resolved to know nothing while he was with the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Crucifixion demonstrates that God takes sin very seriously. He sent his own Son to die in our place for our sins. But the doctrine of demons denies the cross; therefore, it denies the atonement and the reality of sin. It tells us, “Live as you please; there is no judgment.” No wonder Paul said their god is their appetite! A person must deny the cross in order to sin. But we know that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. We are justified only through the cross of Christ.

7. Denial of the Second Coming

The seventh doctrine of demons is denial of the second coming of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 3:3 we read, “First of all, you must understand in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” They scoff at the apostolic doctrine. They are characterized by a mocking spirit that manifests itself especially when the word of God is preached. That is demon activity.

In verse 4 we read, “They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?’” Not only did Jesus Christ speak about his second coming, but the apostles also did. The Bible says Jesus Christ is going to come personally, physically, visibly, powerfully, and gloriously. But here the mockers come, questioning the authority of Scripture and say, “No, Jesus Christ is not going to come again. Where is this coming he promised?”

The doctrine of the second coming is biblical doctrine. Jesus told his disciples they are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper until he comes again. In 1 John 3:3 we read, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” This is the blessed hope of the church which causes us to want to prepare ourselves to meet the Lord. Because of this hope we repent, confess, and forsake our sins.

But false teachers are not preaching that Jesus Christ is coming again. Look at television preachers. Are they saying Jesus Christ is coming? Not at all. They have fallen in love with this world. They have big rings on their fingers and wear designer clothes. They want a good life and they have it. Their only desire is this world, not the world to come.

8. Denial of the Final Judgment

The eighth doctrine of demons is denial of the final judgment. When people deny the reality of the second coming, they also are denying a final judgment.

In John 5:28-29 Jesus declared, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” So when the reality of the second coming is negated, the final judgment is also denied. If Jesus Christ is not coming again, there is no eternal judgment, no heaven, hell, no new earth.

9. Denial of the Resurrection of the Body

The ninth doctrine of demons is a denial of bodily resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:12 we read, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

“There is no bodily resurrection.” By this the false teachers were saying that Jesus did not rise from the dead bodily. As we already said, Bultmann completely denied that Jesus ever rose from the dead, calling such an idea myth.

When people say there is no resurrection from the dead, they are saying that Jesus did not rise from the dead bodily, and therefore we also will not rise from the dead bodily. Perhaps people said this because of the Greek idea that matter is evil: if there is no resurrection of the material body, that is a good thing. In other words, why should matter be resurrected if it is evil to begin with?

But notice the subtlety of this doctrine of demons: If there is no resurrection and final judgment, then what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter. Thus, this doctrine of demons is really declaring, “Go ahead, sin all you want. There is no final moral accountability.”

10. Antinomianism

The tenth doctrine of demons we want to examine is antinomianism. Remember, these are doctrines that are taught in the church by those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. This demonic doctrine of antinomianism is a serious problem in the church today.

Antinomianism goes against God’s moral law. In Jude 4 we read, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” You see, these people believe in grace. Oh, they glory in it! They will say they are saved by grace, but then they add that this grace is what gives them license to sin. This is the essence of antinomianism.

There are people today in the church of Jesus Christ who believe that Christians do not have to follow God’s moral law. They say, “We are not under law; we are under grace.” They say, “Jesus is our Savior but he needs not be our Lord.” They say, “What we do with our body does not have any eternal consequence.” They use grace as a license for immorality.

Paul spoke about this issue of antinomianism in the book of Galatians. In Galatians 5:13 we read, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

In Romans 5:20 Paul makes this profound statement: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. . . .” This is the glorious truth of the gospel. But in Romans 6:1 Paul asks, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” What is the resounding answer? “By no means!”

In 1 John 1:6 the apostle writes, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” In verse 8 he adds, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In verse 10 he says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” All these scriptures point to the demonic doctrine of antinomianism. In other words, antinomianism says, “Ethics do not matter; do whatever you want. Aren’t you already saved?”

11. Legalism

The eleventh doctrine of demons is legalism, which says that salvation is not by grace alone by faith alone, but by grace plus the human keeping of God’s law. Legalists say that we cannot be saved by believing in Jesus Christ alone; we must also keep the law.

Does this mean saved people should not be guided in their conduct by God’s moral law? No. But legalism says to be saved, a person must keep the law. PGM That is the doctrine of demons.

Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the Galatian Christians. In those days there was a teaching that one could not be saved simply by believing in Jesus Christ; he had to be circumcised also. So in Galatians 5:2-4 Paul wrote, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

Legalism denies the full and perfect efficacy of Christ’s atonement and says that we have to add something to what Christ has already done. The Roman Catholic church teaches that people have to take care of the temporal punishment of their post-baptismal sins. That means that if you are baptized as an infant, you somehow have to deal with all your subsequent sin. That is a denial of the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are saved by grace alone.

12. Asceticism

The twelfth and final doctrine of demons we want to speak about is asceticism. In 1 Timothy 4:3 we read that these hypocritical liars, these false teachers, also forbade people to marry. That prohibition is against God’s order. God himself ordained marriage, so this doctrine of demons denies the very appointment and ordaining of God.

In the Roman Catholic church, celibate priests are seen as living higher, holier lives than married people. That is absolute falsehood according to the Scriptures. That does not mean that marriage will solve all problems, but to say that the celibate state is a holier state than the married state is false.

Not only did these false teachers forbid people to marry, but they also ordered them “to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” “You should only eat vegetables,” these people said.

In Colossians 2:20-23 we read, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belong to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

The Great Apostasy


How many in the visible church will abandon the true gospel and follow after the doctrines of demons? The Bible says many will fall away. In other words, a true church, true believers, true ministers, and true teachings are few. As Americans we have a tendency to say that if vast numbers of people are believing in something, it must be right. That is because in America we like everything big. We glory in numbers. But what is popular in the world is an abomination to the Lord. When large numbers of people are flocking after something, we must begin to wonder what it is they are going after.

The Bible speaks about a time of falling away. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we read in reference to the day of the coming of the Lord, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs. . . .” meaning until apostasy takes place. Where does apostasy take place? In the church. In other words, many people will abandon the faith before Christ returns. In fact, we are living at a time when we see vast numbers of people abandoning the true gospel in favor of a lust-promoting autonomous form of Christianity.

In Luke 18:8 Jesus Christ said, “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Then he added, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What is the expected answer? No. No matter how many people are in the church, only few will be true.

In Matthew 24:4-8 Jesus warned against demonized teachers and pastors, saying, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” Where will the many be deceived? In the church! The people in the world are already deceived and under the power of Satan. This is speaking about people in the church. Then Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All of these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Then in verses 9-13 we read something interesting. First Jesus says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time, many will turn away from the faith . . .’” Jesus Christ himself, the head of the church, is saying that many will turn away from the faith, which is the gospel, “and will betray and hate each other.” In other words, false professors will betray and hate the true people of God. Then, in verse 11 Jesus says, “[A]nd many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Notice, not a few, but many false prophets will deceive many people. Then Jesus concludes, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Those who are God’s elect, who are effectually called and justified, will persevere to the very end because God will help them.

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Notice, only a few find the road to life.

In Matthew 7:22 Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them very plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” These are people who are demonized and follow the teachings of false preachers.

The Doctrine of God


In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We are not here to judge, critique, or demythologize the word. We are here to believe and preach the word.

Why do we preach God’s word? Because the word alone points to Jesus Christ. Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification, and salvation is found in no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved. He alone is the Savior of the world. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. We find him in the Holy Scriptures, and that is why we must declare the word of God. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in the Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Why do we preach the gospel? Because the whole Scripture reveals to us Jesus Christ. Therefore we say that all religions and philosophies, except that which preaches Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen, are of human origin and impotent to save sinners. This is why we preach the gospel, because it alone is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greeks.

True churches and ministers are few. Thus, whenever you find a church that preaches the gospel, pray for it and its ministers and pay close attention to its teaching. To see if a church is true or not, you should examine what it believes. See whether it fundamentally agrees with the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Baptist Confession of 1689, and so on. Many people say, “We believe in the Bible,” so you must make sure they do not reinterpret it to suit their own ideas. Ask questions such as, “Do you believe in the miracles of the Scripture? Do you believe that God out of nothing created the whole universe? Do you believe in the virgin birth?” and so on.

Above all, I urge you to think and commit yourself to the word of God. If you don’t, you will be unstable and soon duped by itinerant phonies whose only interest is to serve their own appetites.

May God help us to not only endure sound doctrine, but to delight in it. God’s word is life and spirit. May we study the objective word of God so that we know clearly who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to God through the mediatorship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. May the Spirit of the living God fall afresh upon us and draw us to himself. May we know that true happiness is found, not in indulging our lusts, but in doing the will of God. May we therefore resist the devil and the doctrines of demons, and may we love God and his word. Amen.

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

“NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark office by International Bible Society.

 

http://www.gracevalley.org/sermon_trans/2003/Counterfeit_Christianity.html

 

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As this blog reaches 100 post, I decided to repost the TOP 3 post.

DANGER: The Church of Christ By David J. 218

DNA proves the Book of Mormon to be fals 142

So Joel Osteen says Mormons are Christia 127

The Church of Christ is a false church. They require good works for salvation. The Church of Christ is just as dangerous as Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witness, or the Mormons, because they claim to be “Christian”; BUT they are not! Whereas religions like Islam and Black Muslim openly deny the Christian faith; the Church of Christ claims to be Christian, and so Satan uses them to seduce people into Hellfire.

The following doctrinal statement is taken directly from the Church of Christ website:

How does one become a member of the church of Christ?

In the salvation of man’s soul there are 2 necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.

Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can clearly set forth in the following steps:

Hear the Gospel. “How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Believe. “And without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Repent of past sins. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30).

Confess Jesus as Lord. “Behold here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).

Be baptized for the remission of sins. “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Live a Christian life. “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

SOURCE: Who are the churches of Christ?

There is much heresy in the preceding statement.

First, salvation is of God alone, and not men. This is plainly stated in John1:12-13, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Man has no part in God’s salvation.

In Philippians 2:12 the Apostle Paul states, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Carefully notice that the Bible says “work out YOUR OWN salvation”; it does not say anything about God’s salvation. When God saves a man, it is then up to that man whether or not he is going to obey God or not. God saves us by faith, but then it is up to us to allow the Lord to live the Christian life through us. This has nothing to do with salvation. So many heretics today are trying to add holy living to faith for salvation. No sir! As we see in 1st Corinthians 5:5, some believers live in unrepentant sin; yet, they are still saved. How can this be? It’s because eternal life is a “free gift” (Romans 5:15) not conditioned upon our lifestyle. I don’t know why so many people can’t seem to grasp the concept of a GIFT.

The only part that man has in God’s salvation is to BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). In Psalm 51:12, after David had sinned horribly, we find David asking God for forgiveness… “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” David knew that salvation was of God alone… THY SALVATION!

Second, there is NOT one Scripture in the entire Bible that tells us to “repent FROM sin” to be saved. You can’t find it. The word repent in the Greek simply means “to change one’s mind.” So a person need only repent OF their sins to be sins; and NOT FROM their sins. A lost sinner only needs to realize their GUILT of sin, and condemnation under the Law of God, and their justly deserved penalty of Hellfire to be saved. The change should come LATER, after a person is saved and the Holy Spirit convicts them (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

Repentance in the Bible is always towards God… “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” According to Granville Sharp’s Rule of Greek Exegesis these events are one and the same, i.e., repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. To place your faith in the Lord to forgive your sins is repentance. You have realized your guilt of sin, and have TURNED to the Lord for salvation. This is the simplicity of God’s salvation (2nd Corinthians 11:3).

Third, confessing Jesus as Lord is very different than confessing that He is the Son of God. Yes, we must recognize Jesus as the Son of God to be saved; BUT, we certainly do not need to make Him the Lord (Master) of our life to be saved. This truth is evidenced by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul calls them “brethren,” and yet they haven’t presented their bodies as a living sacrifice for the Lord yet. That is to say, they haven’t surrender their lives to God yet in Christian living. The Bible is filled with examples of Christian who ran from God, such as Jonah, Samson, Lot, and many others. Making Jesus the Lord of one’s life has nothing to do with being saved. Again, God’s salvation is a free gift, paid for by Jesus’ precious literal blood.

Fourth, Baptismal Regeneration is a lie of the Devil. The very notion that a person is required to be water baptized to go to Heaven is absurd. The Apostle John tells us in 1st John 5:13 that he wrote his Epistle “so that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life”; YET, he never mentions baptism even once in the Epistles of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd John. The Apostle Paul plainly stated that Christ did NOT send him to baptize; but rather, to preach the Gospel (1st Corinthians 1:17). No one in the Old Testament was water baptized; yet we read in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham believed God and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness. You see friend, you need HIS Righteousness to go to Heaven.

Fifth, living a Christian life is not a prerequisite for being saved. If it were, then God would be a liar and eternal life certainly not a “free gift” as Romans 5:15 calls it. To say that a lost sinner must persevere in holy living to be saved is to spit upon the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to insult God, and to negate Christ’s work of redemption. Let me quote to you Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Salvation is so simple. God simply asks us to believe on Jesus, i.e., He that justifieth the ungodly. Our faith by itself is counted for (or is equivalent to) a life of righteousness. This is because Jesus imputes (or places) HIS righteousness upon our eternal record the very moment that we place our sole faith in Him. The Word of God is clear… TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT.

Conclusion

Where does the Church of Christ come up with all their heresies? They surely didn’t find them in the Bible. God said what He meant, and meant what He said. Jesus said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” There is NO controversy if you believe the Bible. The Church of Christ is straight from the pits of Hell. I plead with you not to become a victim of their damnable religion.

The Word of God teaches that eternal life is a FREE GIFT (Romans 5:15; 6:23). If you keep that in mind at all times, then you’ll see right through the lying words of such false prophets as Church of Christ ministers. Eternal life is a “gift” that cannot be earned, merited, or deserved. We all deserve to burn in Hellfire for our sins; but God in His wondrous love sent Jesus Christ into the world, to pay for our sins with His own literal precious blood (1st Peter 1:18,19).

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” —2nd Thessalonians 1:8

Ye Must Be Born Again!

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Once again, there are various positions on this issue within the CHOCD, but this is probably their most grievous error. Because it goes way beyond just rejecting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in I Corinthians chapters 12-14. It also includes the rejection of His “enduement of power.” Jesus said in Acts 1:4-8 that He would “baptize them in the Holy Spirit” and they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” And we see the fulfillment of this promise on the day of Pentecost. Peter said in Acts 2:39, that the promise of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for every believer, for “as many as the Lord our God shall call!” In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus had also promised that the miraculous would follow those that believed, in Chapter 16, verse 17. Jesus promised in John 14:16, that the Holy Spirit “would be with us FOREVER!” Paul said in Romans 11:29 that, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”

The only verse that they can even attempt to take out of context to uphold their dispensational outlook is I Corinthians 13:10, that states at some point in time (“when that which is perfect comes”) the miraculous will be done away with. They believe “that which is perfect” was the canonization of the Scriptures. But when you read this statement in context, you see that it couldn’t be what or when they say it is. First of all, the Apostle Paul virtually tells us when it would happen, in verse 12, by telling us what would transpire at the arrival of “that which is perfect.” He says, “For NOW we see in a mirror dimly, but THEN we will see face to face; NOW I know in part, but THEN I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known”.

To prove that the miraculous didn’t cease at the canonization of the Scriptures, all you have to do is plug their theory into verse 12, every time Paul says the word THEN. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but THEN, at the canonization of scripture (300 AD), we will see face to face; now I know in part, but THEN, at the canonization of scripture, I shall know fully as I also have been fully known.” The term “face to face” was used in Paul’s day (as it is in our day) as a very literal term. At the canonization of scripture, who or what did Paul see “face to face?” At the canonization of scripture, how did the Apostle Paul grow in knowledge? He had been in Heaven for over 200 years! The fact of the matter is that when Paul referred to “that which is perfect” he was simply referring to the second coming of Christ, or when we would go home to glory, whichever came first. Will you gain knowledge when you get to heaven? Absolutely! Will you see anyone (Jesus, for example) “face to face?” Undoubtedly! So this verse is obviously a very precarious place to hang one’s hat in an attempt to prove that the miraculous workings of God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, have ceased!

But some (not all) of the members of the CHOCD go even further in their defiance of the Holy Spirit, and say that he is not even a person of the Trinity. The Bible is very clear in attributing personhood to the Holy Spirit by stating that the Holy Spirit has a will (I Corinthians 12:11); that He can be grieved (Eph 4:30); that He would be our Teacher (John 14:26) and more. Many of the CHOCDs even come dangerously close to committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31) by saying that any manifestation of the miraculous in this day and age are all 100% demonic! Take it from me, I am living proof that God still performs miracles today. Because in 1979, while a member of the CHOCD… I committed suicide. My family was falling apart, and thanks to the erroneous teachings of the CHOCD, all I had to fall back on was a “religion,” not a living, personal relationship with the living Lord of the Universe. So faced with a future of hopelessness and despair, I took an overdose (130+) of sleeping pills, and laid down to die. But because of the mercy and grace of our loving Creator, a minister friend of mine from the Christian Church came by (after the pills had been in my system for nearly six hours!) As he struggled to help me get dressed to go to the hospital (with the rescue squad on its way), I lapsed into a coma. I went stiff as a board and my eyes rolled back in my head and I keeled over. But on the way to the hospital, as my friend prayed for me, I came to! I had no adverse side effects, other than being thirsty and feeling like I hadn’t slept in days. The doctors didn’t have a clue. My minister friend didn’t even know what to think either. My own earthly Father went to the grave suspecting that the whole thing was an effort to get attention. Hey, you don’t take over 100 sleeping pills to get anyone’s attention but a mortician!

So now maybe you can see why I feel so strongly about reaching the poor souls that have fallen prey to the dead theology of the CHOCD. Legalism robs a believer of their Joy! And since the Joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), then legalism is a parasite that will sap you of your ability to stand when the storms of life come your way. If the CHOCD wants to be a TRUE representation of the New Testament Church, then they must embrace that which the original church embraced. I am grateful for the basic biblical foundation that I received while in the CHOCD, but even more grateful that Jesus has shown me a “more excellent way!”

http://www.chocd.org/holyspirit.html

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Some in the “Church of Christ” believe they are the only Christians. As one who was previously trained to preach for the Church of Christ, I think that this teaching is harmful. My aim in this video and in my paper is to help members of the Church of Christ and others understand better how we can deal with differences and cultivate a more genuine walk with God. Please visit my website at http://www.geocities.com/thesufficiencyoffaith to download my paper in which I thoroughly discuss these issues. My paper attempts to examine the root of the issue, and in doing so it also addresses many other questions, such as how God deals with people who we might think have not been able to hear the gospel and the relationship between faith and works. Although it was written primarily with the Church of Christ doctrines in mind, the principles God showed me involve questions that have been asked by people all over the world for ages.

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The Church of Christ is a false church. They require good works for salvation. The Church of Christ is just as dangerous as Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witness, or the Mormons, because they claim to be “Christian”; BUT they are not! Whereas religions like Islam and Black Muslim openly deny the Christian faith; the Church of Christ claims to be Christian, and so Satan uses them to seduce people into Hellfire.

The following doctrinal statement is taken directly from the Church of Christ website:

How does one become a member of the church of Christ?

In the salvation of man’s soul there are 2 necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.

Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can clearly set forth in the following steps:

Hear the Gospel. “How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Believe. “And without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Repent of past sins. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30).

Confess Jesus as Lord. “Behold here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, if thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37).

Be baptized for the remission of sins. “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Live a Christian life. “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

SOURCE: Who are the churches of Christ?

There is much heresy in the preceding statement.

First, salvation is of God alone, and not men. This is plainly stated in John1:12-13, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Man has no part in God’s salvation.

In Philippians 2:12 the Apostle Paul states, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Carefully notice that the Bible says “work out YOUR OWN salvation”; it does not say anything about God’s salvation. When God saves a man, it is then up to that man whether or not he is going to obey God or not. God saves us by faith, but then it is up to us to allow the Lord to live the Christian life through us. This has nothing to do with salvation. So many heretics today are trying to add holy living to faith for salvation. No sir! As we see in 1st Corinthians 5:5, some believers live in unrepentant sin; yet, they are still saved. How can this be? It’s because eternal life is a “free gift” (Romans 5:15) not conditioned upon our lifestyle. I don’t know why so many people can’t seem to grasp the concept of a GIFT.

The only part that man has in God’s salvation is to BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). In Psalm 51:12, after David had sinned horribly, we find David asking God for forgiveness… “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” David knew that salvation was of God alone… THY SALVATION!

Second, there is NOT one Scripture in the entire Bible that tells us to “repent FROM sin” to be saved. You can’t find it. The word repent in the Greek simply means “to change one’s mind.” So a person need only repent OF their sins to be sins; and NOT FROM their sins. A lost sinner only needs to realize their GUILT of sin, and condemnation under the Law of God, and their justly deserved penalty of Hellfire to be saved. The change should come LATER, after a person is saved and the Holy Spirit convicts them (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

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Repentance in the Bible is always towards God… “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” According to Granville Sharp’s Rule of Greek Exegesis these events are one and the same, i.e., repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. To place your faith in the Lord to forgive your sins is repentance. You have realized your guilt of sin, and have TURNED to the Lord for salvation. This is the simplicity of God’s salvation (2nd Corinthians 11:3).

Third, confessing Jesus as Lord is very different than confessing that He is the Son of God. Yes, we must recognize Jesus as the Son of God to be saved; BUT, we certainly do not need to make Him the Lord (Master) of our life to be saved. This truth is evidenced by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul calls them “brethren,” and yet they haven’t presented their bodies as a living sacrifice for the Lord yet. That is to say, they haven’t surrender their lives to God yet in Christian living. The Bible is filled with examples of Christian who ran from God, such as Jonah, Samson, Lot, and many others. Making Jesus the Lord of one’s life has nothing to do with being saved. Again, God’s salvation is a free gift, paid for by Jesus’ precious literal blood.

Fourth, Baptismal Regeneration is a lie of the Devil. The very notion that a person is required to be water baptized to go to Heaven is absurd. The Apostle John tells us in 1st John 5:13 that he wrote his Epistle “so that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life”; YET, he never mentions baptism even once in the Epistles of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd John. The Apostle Paul plainly stated that Christ did NOT send him to baptize; but rather, to preach the Gospel (1st Corinthians 1:17). No one in the Old Testament was water baptized; yet we read in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham believed God and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness. You see friend, you need HIS Righteousness to go to Heaven.

Fifth, living a Christian life is not a prerequisite for being saved. If it were, then God would be a liar and eternal life certainly not a “free gift” as Romans 5:15 calls it. To say that a lost sinner must persevere in holy living to be saved is to spit upon the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, to insult God, and to negate Christ’s work of redemption. Let me quote to you Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Salvation is so simple. God simply asks us to believe on Jesus, i.e., He that justifieth the ungodly. Our faith by itself is counted for (or is equivalent to) a life of righteousness. This is because Jesus imputes (or places) HIS righteousness upon our eternal record the very moment that we place our sole faith in Him. The Word of God is clear… TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT.

Conclusion

Where does the Church of Christ come up with all their heresies? They surely didn’t find them in the Bible. God said what He meant, and meant what He said. Jesus said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” There is NO controversy if you believe the Bible. The Church of Christ is straight from the pits of Hell. I plead with you not to become a victim of their damnable religion.

The Word of God teaches that eternal life is a FREE GIFT (Romans 5:15; 6:23). If you keep that in mind at all times, then you’ll see right through the lying words of such false prophets as Church of Christ ministers. Eternal life is a “gift” that cannot be earned, merited, or deserved. We all deserve to burn in Hellfire for our sins; but God in His wondrous love sent Jesus Christ into the world, to pay for our sins with His own literal precious blood (1st Peter 1:18,19).

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” —2nd Thessalonians 1:8

Ye Must Be Born Again!

http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Church%20of%

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You WILL need to visit the site to make the answers pop up. But all CoC members should take this test.

Legalism Questionnaire http://ex-churchofchrist.com/legalismCoC.htm

LEE-gull-izm: noun, 1) something pertaining to obeying law, 2) becoming overly concerned with legal details and losing the intent of the law, 3) straining gnats out of one’s coffee and swallowing huge hump-backed animals.

Hold your cursor over the answer you choose:

1. The “new covenant” is a phrase in the New Testament that is used to refer to
a. the new regulations in the New Testament about the work, worship and organization of the local congregation.
b. baptism and the plan of salvation
c. a new relationship with God based on forgiveness

2. The “gospel of Christ” is a phrase in the New Testament that is used to refer to
a. the new regulations in the New Testament about the work, worship and organization of the local congregation.
b. baptism and the plan of salvation
c. a new relationship with God based on forgiveness

3. The “law of liberty” and the “law of Christ” are phrases in the New Testament that are used to refer to
a. the new regulations in the New Testament about the work, worship and organization of the local congregation.
b. baptism and the plan of salvation
c. a new relationship with God based on forgiveness

4. James (in chapter 2) teaches that faith without works is dead. What kind of works is James talking about?
a. The work, worship and organization of the local congregation
b. All works commanded by God
c. mercy towards poor people

5. The story of Uzzah being struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant teaches
a. unauthorized worship is displeasing to God
b. God keeps his promises
c. God appreciates spontaneous worship

6. The story of Nadab and Abihu being struck dead for bringing strange fire before the Lord teaches
a. unauthorized worship is displeasing to God
b. God proved His acceptance of the sacrifice (Nadab and Abihu did not wait for God’s acceptance)
c. God is displeased by substituting one’s own works for God’s works.

7. Concerning going to church
a. There are many scriptures that teach attending church is one of the most important acts of worship and obedience in a Christian’s life.
b. There are many scriptures that teach one must attend church every Sunday.
c. There are two scriptures that tell us to assemble with other Christians with the purpose of encouraging one another.

8. Jesus viewed God the Father as
a. Someone who threw a big party with music and dancing
b. Someone who was bad-tempered and hard to get to know
c. Someone who only talked to church hierarchy

9. Peter viewed baptism as
a. for the remission of sins
b. to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
c. Both “a” and “b”

10. Concerning instrumental music
a. God accepted instrumental music in the Old Testament
b. David encouraged instrumental music in some of the same Psalms that are referred to in the New Testament
c. There is instrumental music in heaven
d. Jesus compared the church to a banquet with music and dancing
e. there is no condemnation of instrumental music in the New Testament
f. There is no condemnation of spontaneous unauthorized worship anywhere in the Bible
g. The apostle Paul unreservedly encouraged Christians to sing the Psalms
h. all of the above
i. There is no approval of instrumental music by God in the Bible
j. There is no approval of instrumental music in worship in the New Testament

Your Score:
9 to 10 incorrect answers: you probably found this questionnaire irritating.

9 to10 correct answers: you feel (would have felt) very uncomfortable in the strict Churches of Christ, and you got a big kick out of this questionnaire. If you attended hardline Churches of Christ in the past, you may have needed quite a bit of alka-seltzer to digest those mandatory camels.

Any scores in between and you may not feel comfortable anywhere.

Please visit our main site, and our forums @
http://how2becomeachristian.proboards83.com/

FOR ALL articles created and copyrighted by
Damon Whitsell 2008. Free duplicating is allowed
provided the Commons copyright licensing requirments
is kept intact and attached.

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CLICK THE LOGOS ABOVE TO GO TO THE HOME PAGE AND LISTEN TO THE RADIO SHOW

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Do you believe that sanctification brought on through your efforts (repentance) is a requirement for salvation?