June 5, 2017

A Pie in the Sky?

Socialists have long accused religion of offering “a pie in the sky by and by” as a way of distracting

Dr. Rick Flanders
and pacifying those who suffer under capitalism, thus keeping them from rising up in insurrection.  The phrase (which has moved into our general conversation in reference to things other than religion) comes from a folk song, titled “The Preacher and the Slave,” which was written by a radical revolutionary named Joe Hill a century ago.  He was echoing the charge of Karl Marx that “religion is the opium of the people.”  The far Left has long regarded religion in general, and the church in particular, as supporting the interests of the rich (who, they say, control religion) by mollifying the discontent of workers using vain promises of heavenly rewards for those who will not make trouble for capitalists.  The ironic fact, however, is that it is socialism, and not Christianity, that promises rewards it never delivers.
The different kinds of socialism that have appeared on the scene in the past 250 years have all promised utopia and yet they have all failed to deliver.  And it is strange that those who in our time are charmed by Leftist promises have not noticed this fact.  So-called “utopian” socialists in the 19th century set up a number of communal colonies, such as Robert Owen’s New Harmony, Indiana, and, and none of them succeeded.  One of the participants in the New Harmony experiment explained the reason for its failure in these terms:
“We [the members of the famous communal colony] had a world in miniature—we had enacted the French revolution over again with despairing hearts instead of corpses as a result…It appeared that it was nature’s own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us…our ‘united interests’ were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation…”
(Josiah Warren, 1856)
Every one of the other utopian colonies set up in America and abroad in those days (such as those in Nashoba, Tennessee; New Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fruitlands, Massachusetts; and the Oneida Community in New York) failed for the same reason.  Human nature makes successful communalism impossible.  And government-enforced collectivism must always become oppressive.
The communist revolutionaries who overthrew the monarchy in France gave the French the Reign of Terror and a corrupt dictatorship, instead of the liberty, equality, and fraternity it promised.  All of the revolutions inspired by Marx and Engels ended badly, and certainly not in the Workers’ Paradise they convinced people they were creating.  Look at the miserable histories of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Cambodia and East Germany.  See how socialism sucked the very soul out of these once-great nations, and put them under the rule of terrorists who murdered great numbers of innocent people.  The history of the past two centuries seems to prove that if politicians promise Heaven on earth, they will give us Hell on earth.
In Europe and America, socialism and communism arose in response and opposition to the gospel preached by evangelical preachers in the churches and revival meetings.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes to us as good news in contrast to the bad news that all men are sinners and justly condemned before God for our sins.  The good news is that God loves us and sent His Son on a mission to rescue us from the power and consequences of our sins.  Jesus died on the cross “for our sins, according to the scriptures” (First Corinthians 15:1-3-4), and God “raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).  Sinners who come to Jesus for their salvation and trust Him to bestow the grace of God upon them will receive eternal life, and a new life of peace and hope, and also the promise of Heaven.  They will not be condemned because Jesus paid for their sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1).  They can live triumphantly because He arose the Victor over sin and death.
Preachers of the socialist gospel say that the evil present in human society does not arise from the human heart or the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, but rather is generated by the way we operate the economy.  Capitalism, they proclaim, creates evil.  Suffering and injustice come, not from our innate sinfulness and our need of the Savior, but rather from the selfishness and oppression that is part and parcel of our economic system.  Our need is not for Jesus, but for a new economic system.  We need to devise and implement some system of collectivism and force it upon our society.  Private property and free enterprise are the enemies of the good, and must be crushed by a socialist revolution and communist-type government.  Things will be better for everybody, they say, soon after the socialist gospel is believed and accepted.  But all of the nations that have received and implemented socialism, expecting the pie that was promised, are still waiting for it to come out of the oven.
The Apostle Peter wrote by divine inspiration about the false prophets that will come to challenge the truth:
“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.”
(Second Peter 2:17-19)
Socialist rulers rise to power by offering empty promises that desperate people accept.  Whether it was Lenin or Stalin or Hitler (who called himself a “national” socialist) or Mao or Pol Pot, every socialist dictator gained absolute control over his people by promising them the pie in the sky, which he never produced.  This is true also of less vicious rulers who have gained power with the same vain socialist promises.  Socialism in any form has never worked.  It doesn’t share the wealth, but only the misery.  It is never a movement of love and compassion, but always a movement of hatred and envy.  It is a false gospel that has been proven a lie over and over again.  And the revolutionaries of our day in our country still sway people by promising the pie that never materializes.
On the other hand, the gospel of Jesus Christ comes through with all that it offers, and has never been a message offering only hope in the next life.  Those who receive Christ receive benefits of profound value right away.  Jesus told the sad and sinful woman He met at the well of Sychar,
“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:10 and 13-14)
The sinner who comes to Jesus for everlasting life receives immediately a new life that satisfies him forever.  Just ask a born-again Christian if all He got in Jesus was a promise of something after he dies.  He will tell you that the need of the thirsty soul is fully and forever satisfied the moment he turns to Christ for salvation.  It happens every time, in this present life, because Jesus came that men might “have life and, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

May 16, 2017

Vulgarity Celebrated

Under Old Testament law, vulgarity was forbidden and the penalty was serious.  “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”  (Exodus 20:7)
 
Under grace, the standard for such speech is even higher.  It extends to any words that have the slightest bent toward disrespect of God’s name, vulgarity, swearing, and even vain repetition.  In setting a higher standard, Jesus said that committing such an act in the heart is the same as actually doing it.  (Matthew 5:29)  The epistles overflow with commands saying that questionable speech and vulgarity do not belong in the mouths of the saints.  Paul tells us that if we rein in our thoughts, we can guard our words against those things that offend a holy God.
 
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5) 
 
With all this in mind, can you tell me why our present world is covered with a tidal wave of vulgarity?  The offense is multiplied when humans, made in the image of God, actually defend the right to be foul mouthed!  A celebration of vulgarity.
 
WHO SHOULD BE SURPRISED?
 
A foul mouth rises from a corrupt, putrid heart.  We are surprised when a wicked heart is polite, kind, reasonable, and gentle in speech.  It does happen.  The reader has learned by now that I leave the devotional ministry, in the main, to my other friends; and they do well with it.  My task, however, is to be a truth teller; and even believers are uncomfortable with truth in plain speech.  Let’s be clear about this.  Any heart that has rejected Christ as Savior is “wicked”.  It has committed the most heinous sin that can be committed.  The murder of the unborn and sodomy are wicked acts, but rejection of the Son of God, His deity, and His virgin birth are the height of wickedness.  That is why liberalism is a wicked movement.  It is why the majority of people you know are wicked.  That is why some politicians, judges, and business men and women are wicked.  So, when they vent their wickedness through their foul mouths, it is only a confession of just how evil they are.  We are obligated to remember that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.  We are commanded to remember that God hates all sin, both small and great.  While we are commanded to love all mankind, we must hate what God hates.
 
IMMERSED IN A WORLD OF VULGARITY
 
It is everywhere - news, radio, television, printed media, and our own communities.  Spirit-filled Christians are buried in verbal filth at work, school, and out in public.  No-one seems to care that God has forbidden such low-level conversation.  If we go out for a special dinner, the conversation at the next table often turns to garbage.  Try enjoying a night with the family at a special sports event -there is an onslaught of offensive language on all four sides.  How many times have you been driving somewhere and encountered vulgar warfare between drivers or pedestrians?  We live in a world where many people have the morals of a “junk-yard dog” with language to match.  If you want a real eyeful or earful, go to social media.  If you try to have a reasonable discussion, some liberal will bust in with a string of vulgarity that only demonstrates that he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what an answer should be… but he sure knows how to cuss!
 
You get the point: it’s a bad world out there.  Let me ask you a question: Is there anything God’s people can do when buried in such despicable situations?  There are times when it is best to be silent.  In the vulgar world, people have been known to become violent if they think you are “judging” them.  We know what Jesus did under such temptation; He quoted scripture.  Many of you do that on Facebook.  We can try a reasonable answer, but that usually doesn’t work with people who have rejected truth as a way of thinking.  We probably don’t think of praying for depraved people, but that might be the first thing that should come to our mind.  Of course, you could isolate yourself and pretend it is not really happening; but remember that “Silence isn’t always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow!”  Of course, you could side with the perpetrator and defend him/her by attacking the person who brought up the subject of holiness and truth.
 
THIS IS WHAT REALLY HURTS
 
It is so easy to pick on the children of the devil.  In case you have forgotten, anyone who is not a child of God through faith in Christ is a child of the devil.  That is the reason why they lie, cheat, steal, and communicate with vulgarity.
 
Would someone please explain why there is so much vulgarity flowing from the mouths, pens, and keyboards of those who call themselves Christians?  You can see it for yourself.  Go to Facebook right now, and see how many vulgar words are being used by those you think are believers.  Sure, they think hiding vulgarity in code (OMG, etc.) is not the same thing.  Shame on anyone who tries to defend “hidden swearing.”  If I were an unbeliever, I sure would not be impressed with the fact that your foul language is just like mine.
 
You sure wouldn’t expect to hear this kind of language at church, right?  Then you might want to listen a bit more carefully.  Have you listened carefully to the conversations of teens?  What boggles my mind is that several “evangelical gurus” have been championing vulgar language inside their messages and teaching.  It may get some laughs, but it is not funny.  Teaching others to sin does not set well with a holy God.  Those who feel free to abuse grace hate it when their feet are held to the fire.  When they are angry about the message, they attack the messenger.  That is an old liberal trick.
 
APPLICATION
 
This seems like an impossible task.  How do we get rid of this plague?  In our own lives, we follow the commandment “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”  
(1 Peter 1:15)  Since God lives within us, the answer is that His holiness makes it possible for us to live His holiness out in our living and speech.  That means we don’t defend vulgarity in our lives or in the lives of others.  Remember - silence is approval.
 
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
 
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or ShepherdStaff
 
For related reading see, The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness by Dr. Peter Masters.

April 25, 2017

Reformed Theology vs. Keswick Theology

The following Q&A recently appeared at Dr. John VanGelderen’s Revival Focus blog.

Dear John: Would you please explain the main difference between the Reformed theology sanctification model and the Keswick model?
Thank you for this relevant question! Much misinformation has been communicated on this subject,
Dr. John VanGelderen
so I’m glad to address it. Although pages could be written on the various differences, dealing with the main difference can be addressed briefly. For years I have maintained that the underlying issue between Reformed theology and Keswick theology (and for that matter Arminian theology) revolves around one’s view of faith.
 
Basically, there are three views of faith: unfettered choice, inevitable faith, and responsible faith.
  1. Arminian theology (at least with those of a thoroughgoing persuasion) views faith as unfettered choice. Man is responsible to believe and can believe when he wants to.
  2. Reformed theology (with those of a thoroughgoing persuasion) views faith as inevitable for “the elect.” Faith is viewed as a human work. So, to insure salvation by grace, and keep “works” out of salvation, those whom God elects are regenerated in order to believe. Regeneration precedes faith. If you are regenerated, it is inevitable that you will believe, and it is inevitable that you will persevere in progressive sanctification.
  3. Keswick theology views faith as responsible faith. Faith is not viewed as a work, but rather as dependence on the Worker—God. Faith is man’s response of God-dependence to God’s convicting work. But man can resist or respond to God’s conviction. It is not inevitable. This principle would apply to salvation and Christian growth. Faith is a responsibility that is not a human work. Faith is the cooperation of a relationship of trust in God, both His will and power. Keswick is often defined as “sanctification by faith.”
Personally, I believe God’s divine order is divine initiation, human responsibility (faith), and divine enablement. For example Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The phrase “it is God which worketh in you” reveals the need for divine initiation. Man does not choose right without God convicting him to do so. The phrase “to will” highlights man’s response of faith. The phrase “and to do of his good pleasure” expresses God’s divine enablement. This order holds true for salvation and for Christian growth. Arminian theology minimizes divine initiation. Reformed theology minimizes the responsibility of faith by making it inevitable. Keswick theology embraces divine initiation, the faith response, and then divine enablement.
 
The key here is discerning whether or not faith is a human work. Some Reformers thought of faith as a human work, and thus the system of inevitable faith. But faith is not a work. Romans 4:5 makes this abundantly clear by saying, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him.” Faith then is not a work, but dependence on the Worker. Faith says, “I can’t, but God can.” Faith is man’s responsibility, but it is not a work—the Bible says so. But because of misunderstanding regarding this truth, some Reformed theologians tend to accuse Keswick of being man-centered because Keswick emphasizes faith. But this reveals a misunderstanding of faith. For it is impossible for God-dependence to be man-centered!
 
 
John R. VanGelderen
 

Related Reading:
Keswick: A Good Word or a Bad One?

Keswick theology teaches that “progressive sanctification” does not mean an inevitable gradual sanctification, but rather that sanctification is accelerated by faith choices and is hindered by choices of unbelief. Obviously, the Holy Spirit keeps working, but believers are responsible to cooperate in faith for sanctification to progress according to God’s will. Keswick teaches that just as justification is by faith, so also sanctification is by faith.

April 17, 2017

Who Taught You to Think?

There are two basic premises in the process called thinking. Within each premise there are a variety of differences, but at the poles of each there is a difference as great as that between night and day. In philosophy, this idea is demonstrated in Raphael’s painting, The School of Athens. At the center of the painting, Plato is pointing upward and Aristotle holds his hand downward. Each of them is emphasizing his center of thought and authority - Plato the absolutes or ideals and Aristotle the particulars of earth.

The difference between these two foundational issues is critical to life and death. It is clearly demonstrated in the third chapter of Genesis. God is the authority, and everything He utters is true and flawless. Eve allows the devil to deny God’s Word and add his own ideas to God’s words. Then Eve follows that error and adds some words of her own. God’s Word is wholly without error; its statements are pure truth. Repeating what God has said is always trustworthy. This is the correct process of thinking with the words and mind of God. The majority of individuals in our world, however, have followed the thinking process that Satan invented. They deny truth or add error where they choose. Here you have the conflict between pure truth and truth that has been corrupted.
Some years ago, I started using a term to clarify this contrast. There are only two religions on earth. I know Christianity is not really a religion, but please bear with me. Christianity holds that the eternal, sovereign creator is God and that our authority is the pure Word of God. The other religion is “Humianity,” a play on words. All other religions are part of this. The god of Humianity is man, and his authority is human reason. Once again, you have the contrast of two authorities, two ways of thinking.
CLEARING THE AIR
The problem is that human authority often borrows true statements from God, but then adjusts them to fit flawed human reason. The sad commentary is that believers who should know better often take the clear statements of scripture and either add to them or do the unthinkable - they deny the plain statements of scripture. Believers who can’t find the answer they were looking for simply go ahead and invent one. Unfortunately, the discipline of Systematic Theology is full of these inventions. They call them “different points of view.”
Just a reminder, in case you may have forgotten: Shepherd’s Staff isn’t about forcing answers on the reader; it is about making people think. So, before you get all bent out of shape, do some thinking, and beware of borrowing from flawed human reason.
THE SAME QUESTION
We began this discussion by asking “Who taught you to think?” Thank God for churches, pastors, professors, parents, etc., who have reminded us that true thinking begins and ends with the Word of God. All other expressions are opinions. On the other hand, though, we also had teachers who ought to know better tell us that science, physical evidence, philosophers, and scholars are the true source of authority. As a result, we borrowed from human thought, experience, physical evidence, etc., and made them part of our authority. State education is particularly culpable in this shift of authority. In fact, almost everyone reading this - if not all of us - have been moved in our thinking and have adjusted the one trustworthy authority.
Science, as defined by man, has become an authority higher than God. Let me ask you this: has science ever been wrong? In the Old Testament, if a prophet gave one false prophecy, he was stoned. Why would believers ever doubt the clear statements of Scripture in order to please the false prophecies of science? Is God wrong - was there indeed a “big bang?” Read the plain statements in the book of Romans, and consider what God says about those who deny Him as creator.
This, however is the problem; the god of intellectualism permits men to deny the things that God has simply stated in His Word. Their argument is that it can’t really be that simple, so they borrow from another authority to get their way. That is why “intellectualism complicates to confuse” while the biblical thinker “simplifies to clarify.”
Science, falsely so-called, has information, but not truth. It is intellectual, but it does not have intelligence. Did you forget that those who deny the creator are absolutely sure that there was no “intelligent design” in what they call “nature”? It has knowledge, but it does not have wisdom; it has opinion, but not fact; it has belief, but no final authority.
BRING IT HOME
It is easy to pick on intellectual pagans; however, we shudder to consider how deeply the wrong kind of thinking and the final authority of flawed human reason have made their way into theology. Most of my day, at this point, is spent in study and research in the Word. How can it be that theologians in our camp can go to the same text and come away with a dozen different conclusions? If they go to the same statements, with the same authority, why do they disagree? The answer is simple; you cannot go to the same text, and use the same language system and universal rules, and get more than one answer. I know that scholars tend to hate simplicity. It robs them of human creativity and the power to have it their own way. Remember, though, that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the ordinary humble believer who finds peace in the fact that each text has only one interpretation. If the answer is illusive, there may not be an answer; but we certainly are not free to invent one. That is a major problem with historical theology - it certainly does have value, but it is not authoritative. An error long held is still an error. Any idea as to what you are thinking, or how you are thinking? Your next words will reveal that.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or Shepherdstaff

April 10, 2017

Archival Series: Lordship Salvation, A Misuse of Scripture



For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.


There is one passage of Scripture that virtually always comes up in the discussion of repentance with advocates of Lordship Salvation and needs to be carefully explained. How does John MacArthur, for the Lordship view of repentance, interpret the first verse of this passage?

As metanoia is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin. In the sense Jesus used it, repentance calls for a repudiation of the old life and a turning to God for salvation. Such a change of purpose is what Paul had in mind when he described the repentance of the Thessalonians: “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Note the three elements of repentance: turning to God, a turning from evil, and the intent to serve God. No change of mind can be called true repentance if it does not include all three elements. The simple but all too often overlooked fact is that a true change of mind will necessarily result in a change of behavior. Repentance is not merely shame or sorry over sin, although genuine repentance always involves an element of remorse. It is a redirection of the human will, a purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness and pursue righteousness instead. 9

What is the gospel, after all, but a call to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30)? In other words, it demands that sinners make a change—stop going one way and turn around to go the other (1 Thess. 1:9). 10

Those quotes represent Lordship’s classic misuse of 1 Thess. 1:9. MacArthur starts by addressing the Greek word metanoia as it is used in the New Testament, and then quotes a verse that does not even contain the word metanoia. The Greek word for “to turn” is completely different; it is epistrepho (epistrephō) and means simply “to turn, turn to or toward.” Epistrephō does not mean “to repent.”

Through the balance of this section I am going to draw from the Inspired Commentary, the Word of God, to bring out the meaning and context of 1 Thess. 1:9. Before we can draw a conclusion on 1 Thess. 1:9 we need to begin by reviewing Paul’s initial evangelistic ministry to the Thessalonicans. In Acts 17:1-4 we find Paul arriving at Thessalonica and, “as his manner was,” preaching the gospel. He was preaching Jesus who suffered and rose again. He said, “…Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” He is exhorting the Thessalonians, in their unsaved condition, to change their mind about Jesus. In verse four we see that some were persuaded, “some of them believed,” but some “believed not.” What was it in Paul’s preaching that some were persuaded of and believed? That Jesus, who suffered, died and rose again, was the Christ. In Paul’s evangelistic appeal to the Thessalonians is there any call or exhortation for “turning from evil” or the “intent to serve” for salvation? No, there is not! MacArthur is forcing “turning from evil (sin) and the intent to serve God…to forsake all unrighteousness” into the narrative of Paul’s sermon.

Those who “believed not” set in motion a wave of persecution against the new believers (Acts 17:5-9). The events at Thessalonica set a pattern for what we find in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonian believers.

In 1 Thessalonians 1 Paul acknowledges and praises them for their “work of faith” and “labor of love.” They set an example for others on what Bible Christianity should look like. Their fine example was being set with “patience” (v. 3) in the face of “much affliction” (v. 6; Acts 17:5-9). They were setting the right example for fellow believers (Macedonia and Achaia, vv. 7-8) to emulate how to go through persecution. The reputation of the Thessalonian church preceded Paul in his missionary travels; therefore he did not need to speak of it (v.8). Their testimony of faith and patience in the face of persecution was a living example and a sermon without words. With respect to Lordship Salvation, this raises a serious problem. If the example of the Thessalonians in their willingness to change their behavior after they believed is considered the necessary condition of true saving faith, then in what way were the Thessalonians “examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7)? How could they be the example to all other believers when all believers in Christ will necessarily live and behave just like the Thessalonians as Lordship advocates insist?

1 Thess. 1:9 opens with, “For they… .” The “they” is their “faith to God-ward,” which became known abroad. The Thessalonians “turned to God,” which put them in a position for the capacity to serve God. The example they became to other believers was the result of their believing the message Paul preached unto themthe One who suffered and rose again is the Christ. The “patience of hope” (v. 3) is defined in verse 10, “And to wait for his Son from heaven.” While they expected and patiently waited for Him to come they kept working out their faith and labored in love. Today when so many are occupied with His coming, we would do well to learn from the Thessalonians that we should keep occupied (doing something for Him) until He comes.

Lordship advocates who use this passage as an illustration of repentance only quote verse 9, “and how ye turned (epistrepho) to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Grammatically, however, there are two parallel infinitives of purpose, which are found in verses 9 and 10. The sentence structure, therefore, if breaking it down into main points and sub points, could be visualized this way:

v9, For
     they themselves shew of us
           - what manner of entering in we had unto you
             and
           - how ye turned to God from idols
                 - to serve (douleuein) the living and true God
v10,             and 
                 - to wait (anamenein) for His Son from heaven,
                              -whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus,
                              - which delivered us from the wrath to come.

There is a major problem for the Lordship position in claiming that 1 Thess. 1:9 is making the intent “to serve” a necessary description (thus condition) of genuine repentance/faith. If “to serve” is a condition/necessary description, then syntactically so must the phrase “to wait” be as well. Wait for what? “His Son from heaven,” i.e. the Second Coming of Christ. There is no other passage in Scripture that conditions the reception of eternal life on believing in Christ’s Second Coming or waiting for it!

There is simply no way the two infinitive clauses can be separated. They are both present tense, active voice, infinitives, and they are both subordinate, dependent clauses that are parallel to one another and dependent upon the main, independent clause of 1:9, “how ye turned to God from idols.”

To be born again do the lost need to believe in the Second Coming of Christ? If we accept MacArthur’s view that the Thessalonians were saved by “turning from evil and the intent to serve,” then the Scriptures also demand waiting for the second coming of Christ as a third condition for conversion.

There is, however, an even larger point with 1 Thess. 1:9-10. This passage is not even describing their initial, saving faith. The emphasis of the passage is clearly upon describing their faithful example in following the Lord subsequent to their initial, saving faith. In 1 Thess. 1:9 Paul is not speaking of how to become a believer; he wrote to them about their growth and testimony as believers.

This interpretation fits perfectly with Paul’s introductory description of these Thessalonians in 2 Thess. 1:3-4. Notice there too they are described not as to their initial, saving faith, as if Paul is saying to them there, “Your conversion was genuine.” No, he is pleased with the fact that their “faith groweth exceedingly” (1:3) and that they were exercising “patience and faith” amidst the trials they were enduring (1:4).

This interpretation, furthermore, fits perfectly with the Inspired Commentary on the Thessalonian Epistles that we have in Acts 17, where the Thessalonians’ initial, saving faith is described in 17:1-4, esp. v. 4 “persuaded” (peitho) or “believed” (KJV) and v. 5 “were not persuaded” (apeitho) or “believed not” (KJV). The content of their faith is described in v. 3, that is, they believed in Christ’s substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, which were according to the Scriptures (1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). There is no mention of turning from idols, serving the living God, waiting for the Second Coming, etc. Instead, what we see is that immediately upon believing, these baby Christians in Thessalonica were persecuted for their faith (Acts 17:5-9), particularly by Jewish unbelievers (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

From the Scriptures we can firmly conclude that 1 Thess. 1:9-10 is a post conversion passage. Paul is addressing the things that followed their conversion. He was teaching them post conversion truth. In verse ten he concerns himself with their growth in light of the Lord’s imminent return. At the time of their persecution Paul and Silas were ministering to them as new believers (1 Thess. 2:8). In both epistles to the Thessalonians Paul is ministering to them as new believers. Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with Paul referencing the Second Coming of Christ, which is a vital truth for believers. In 2 Thessalonians 1 we find Paul speaking of their growing faith, charity toward one another and patience in persecution. Paul is commending them for their faith that grew out of their believing the gospel.

Lordship’s repentance, as MacArthur defines it, is to “stop going one way,” i.e. stop sinning and replace sinning with the “intent to serve,” i.e. do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again believer. MacArthur changes the gospel from repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to a man-centered message that conditions the reception of eternal life on the lost man’s, “purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness,” which is an upfront commitment to certain expected levels of behavior. Believing the gospel should result in some form of a change in behavior as one grows in grace. However, nowhere in Scripture is the gospel for the reception of eternal life defined by a sinner’s intention, commitment or resolve to change his behavior.

In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, from the chapter, What is Biblical Repentance, pp. 133-138.

Footnotes:
9) John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith,
p. 178.

10) John MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, p. 33.

March 23, 2017

Think on This For a Moment

At some point in life when the future looks brief, it is a wise thing to take stock of one’s own life. With that in mind, it dawned on me that my life is really made up of the people I have known. Each of them has put something into my life. These days I am attempting to say thank-you to as many of them as I can. It has turned out to be a slow process, so let me turn to the Shepherd’s Staff to reach as many of you as I can. If you know me to any degree, you are one of those individuals. Our contact may have been brief, but you left something with me when our paths intersected.

Counting negatives is a waste of time, so let me major on the positives. I am thankful for a father, and also his father, who taught me how to work. Some of my employers added to that gift, and today I can say that I love to work. That is why at eighty-one years of age I am still working. This is the kind of gift we can pass on to our children, and our family of five have all exhibited a strong work ethic. My parents were products of the Depression. They had learned some hard lessons, and I inherited them. If we didn’t cut firewood, we would have frozen to death. If we hadn’t raised our own food, we would have starved to death. In my youth, I was angry about this, but now I thank God for those hard days.

My mother exhibited genuine Christianity. Instead of being bitter over the circumstances of life, she used them to minister to others. Even in her advanced age, she was ever the servant. It was her patience and love that drew me to her Savior. Many of her positive traits were a gift to me, and I am thankful for those qualities. They often say that it is the woman in a marriage who makes the man what he is. I confess that that is true in my life. Ruth’s remarkable patience has made all the difference. Mother-in-law jokes never worked for me. God gave me a great one, and I loved her dearly. There were many other family members who had a part in my growth, but these are just a few.

No one could have had a better pastor than I did. He loved his people and especially the teens. He was steady and firm. As a result, I came to Christ under his ministry, was baptized, licensed to preach, ordained, and married. (He threatened to do my funeral, too, but I conducted his instead!) I fondly remember a few adults in the church who set a high standard by the way they lived. It was in this same ministry that some of my fellow teens ministered to me, and some of those friendships are still alive today.

OTHERS WHO ADDED TO MY LIFE

There were also those who taught me in the classroom. Some whose names I remember from the early years have passed from this life, but their influence remains. The years in Bible college brought onto my path more people who marked my life. The same is true of graduate and post-graduate work - too many names to remember. Thirty-seven years in the pastorate added some unbelievable people who helped to turn my life in the right direction. Many of those friends are still in touch.

Then came the years of education and missionary ministry. You will note that I have not mentioned many names so far. Recently, however, a great friend and theologian, Dr. Hoyle Bowman, moved to his heavenly residence. His passing was what started my effort to make a record of those people who have impacted my life in a special way. It also sent me on a journey to thank those who are still living. In every area of my life there were special people, but those peers in academics and ministry are especially on my mind. Please forgive me if I have missed you with this summary. I am thankful for your investment in my life.

I have just returned from a journey to the Middle East, where I have been ministering off and on for seventeen years. Our youngest son, Kraig, and Pastor Frankie Matthews were along for the ride. It would have been good if we could have visited all the countries we worked in, but time did not allow. Some of you who read this have blessed my life, and I would have loved to see your face one more time. In Egypt, we did see many of you. This allowed me to embrace you and say thank-you for what you put into my life. Thirty years in the pastorate was the center of ministry for me, but the last seventeen years as a missionary and educator in the heart of the Middle East was the capstone. The students there, and our fellow servants, poured their lives into mine, and I send you a collective package of gratitude.

A NEW DAY

Now it is early morning, and I have another day to say thank-you; and I will continue to work on this project of thanks for as long as I can. Today I can say thanks for loving pastors who have been a great source of encouragement to me. My wife, five children, fifteen grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren have also enriched my life. The members of my Sunday School class make another long list. Add to this a few men who are helping me with research for writing projects. Then there is the lady who edits my diatribes before they go to print. To list friends would be impossible, but they all have made an impact on my life. That would include a good group of couples who reside at Maranatha Village. This may sound strange, but I am thankful for those folks who are willing to bring me up short when I am “off base” - you know who you are. Perhaps you are now able to see why I used the Shepherd’s Staff to say how thankful I am for the hundreds of people who added something to my life to help make it worthwhile.

A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE NIGHT FALLS

While I stop here and there to say a word of gratitude to many more folks, I still have some things to do. There are two books I have authored that have been in constant print for well over twenty years. Those are The Weeping Church: Observations on Church Polity and The Conflict: The Separation of Church and State. Both are available at FaithfullLifePublishers.com. There are three more in the works, but the most important one is The Normal Hermeneutic: The One Biblical Hermeneutic. This has become the centerpiece of our ministry. It has also been the core of the tremendously effective ministry in the Middle East. I can only ask that you pray that I will have the time and energy to finish it. Hani Hana, my spiritual son, is co-author; and the book will be published in both English and Arabic.

And so, to all of you I say thank-you for what you have put into my life that has helped to make it worthwhile.
 
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or ShepherdStaff

March 13, 2017

John MacArthur Requested to, and Resigns from the IFCA

February 23, 2017
Statement Re: John MacArthurs IFCA International Membership

In John MacArthur’s recently published book Biblical Doctrine, his position regarding the nature and extent of the Atonement is clearly presented in the section entitled “The Extent of the Atonement” (pages 543-565). This section confirms that he changed from the position he held at the time of his admission into IFCA membership in 1980.

Dr. Les Lofquist, Executive Director IFCA
The specific change is regarding how to understand the following language in the IFCA Doctrinal Statement: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for all mankind as a representative, vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice” (IFCA Constitution, Article IV, Section 1.3.b). During several previous meetings and correspondence over the last ten years, I clarified with Dr. MacArthur how the words “for all mankind have been historically understood within the Fellowship of IFCA International. The IFCA Board of Directors also provided clarification to Dr. MacArthur in 2009 by correspondence and in a subsequent meeting IFCA Board President Jerry Smith and I had with Dr. MacArthur in his office in California.

Understanding the historical context of the words in the IFCA International Doctrinal Statement, and in comparison to the book Biblical Doctrine, yesterday 
I respectfully requested that Dr. MacArthur withdraw as an individual member of IFCA International, which today he has done.
This action is necessary to comply with the IFCA International Constitution which reads: “Each and every person, church, or organization, in order to become or remain a member of IFCA International, shall be required to subscribe to the following articles of faith” (Article IV. Section 1. Articles of Biblical Faith); and “In subscribing to these articles of faith, we by no means set aside, or undervalue, any of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; but we deem the knowledge, belief and acceptance of the truth as set forth in our doctrinal statement, to be essential to sound faith and fruitful practice, and therefore requisite for Christian fellowship in IFCA International” (Article IV. Section 3. Covenant of Faith); and the IFCA International By-Laws: The following are specific causes for rejection of applicants for membership…doctrinal and constitutional disagreement.” (Article II. Section 6.b).

With mutual respect, we both simply acknowledge our doctrinal difference regarding the nature and extent of the Atonement and that this difference causes John MacArthur to be in doctrinal and constitutional disagreement with IFCA International in this matter. 

We want it to be known that this action is taken in a spirit of humility and with gratitude for Dr. MacArthur’s global ministry of expositional Bible teaching. While we graciously differ on this point of doctrine, we remain friends and rejoice in our common passion to serve God in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Les Lofquist                                                               
IFCA International Executive Director                                  
Grandville, Michigan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    
I’m happy to withdraw from the IFCA with nothing but gratitude for the fellowship I have enjoyed through the decades. I am grateful for the exemplary faithfulness of the men who stand for the truth without compromise and have been willing to include me.  My confidence in those strong men who love the truth, written and incarnate, will continue to make them my friends.”
Dr. John MacArthur 
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