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Church:  The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality II

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Question #1: 

Hi Dr.,

I was wondering if you had any knowledge of the book “Radical” or its author, ex mega-Church Pastor / S.B.C. Missionary head Dr. David Platt? I tried a google search for Ichthys but didn’t get any hits. Apparently this guy is a New York Times Best Selling author and this “Radical” thing is all the rage in many evangelical circles. One of my brothers has gotten into this and I can’t find very much in depth information about it. I thought maybe you’ve heard something more through your Ichthys readers. If not, no problem, I never heard of the book or the author until two days ago. I’m just concerned for my brother.

Hope you have good and productive weekend. Hope your hip is feeling better as well. Prayer's appreciated for my family's heath as well.

I’ve been listening to The Coming Tribulation again today. Great stuff!

All the best!

Rev22:20

Response #1:  

I haven't read the book all the way through – I don't think I could take that.

It seems to be a "discipleship" on steroids book, a "purpose driven life" repackaged.

From what I can tell, it is a typical Baptist sermon writ large. Every "good" Baptist sermons (note the quotation marks) always goes something like this:

1) Point out to the congregation things they have and are comfortable with.

2) Point out to them verses in the Bible they are naturally uncomfortable with (often through misunderstanding what they really mean); repeat until the guilt is obvious.

3) Misapply and misinterpret the verses in order to gin up zeal and emotion as the only antidote to the manufactured guilt.

4) Take pains to be VERY vague about what the "solution" to the gap between this new guilt and "God's will" might be until the hook is well set.

5) Then without ever giving any answers to the scriptures misapplied to generate the guilt, direct that false zeal and emotion for your own purposes as the only way to guilt relief: e.g., "join", "tithe", "divorce your loving spouse and try to go back to your old abusive spouse", "give up this, that or the other thing", "give even more money over and above (now that you're no longer spending on that thing you gave up)", "go on our mission trip (feel-good tourism that gives me the pastor a free trip)", "witness (by which is meant gratuitously forcing oneself on persons who have no interest in the gospel at present so as to ensure they never do in the future)", "spend any other free time you may have "working for God" (at/for our church to save money on janitorial services)", "give the pastor a raise (now that we've been able to fire the janitor)", "buy the pastor's book", "get others to buy the pastor's book", "engage in social and political crusading (using the pastor's book)".

6) By definition, the one thing books and sermons like this never ever promote is the hard but rewarding work of seeking out the actual truth of scripture so as to be able to grow spiritually in a genuine way, so as to develop the spiritual resiliency thereby to be able to walk with Christ through tough testing, and help others do likewise through personal ministry.

To be fair, I haven't read the whole book, as I say, and there are some things in it with which I would probably agree – since it is semi-iconoclastic in regard to some of the easy-listening Christianity that is all the rage these days. But as mentioned above, that is always part of "the pitch", and if the "answer" is taking the false doctrines of "accountability discipleship" and "forced witnessing" to a new level, then all we are doing is ending back in the same place in this nonsensical circle, the worse for wear spiritually for having done so. If giving up everything for Jesus is what Mr. P. has in mind, I wonder why this book isn't available for free – easy enough to PDF it and put it out on the internet somewhere. Also, I think we can tell the value of this approach from the people who embrace it: if folks who can't be bothered to actually learn the truth are "fired up" about this approach, it can only be because this approach does not require what it is that the Lord REALLY wants from those who claim to be His.

Thanks for your prayers and good wishes (as well as your actually-helpful work!). I'm feeling some better. I am able to walk so I'm "power-walking" now; hopeful that I can start jogging again once the warm weather arrives – but for now I have to let it go until it's completely healed (that sort of thing takes a bit longer at my youthful age).

Hope all goes well for you on the job, my friend. Keeping you and yours in my prayers daily.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the One we love with all our hearts and without gimmicks.

Bob L.

Question #2:  

If you were a chef I’d never leave your restaurant hungry! Excellent review!

It appears Dr. Platt is on the lordship heresy bandwagon as well, he teaches that repentance must precede salvation. I tried to encourage my brother to check this guy and his teaching out closely with scripture, even making the same comment as you about posting his book on line for free, but was met with accusations of being judgmental and self righteous. Sad thing is he is the one family member I thought was warming up to real truth. Nothing more I can do but pray for him. I may not hear from him for a while since he seems upset, but if or when I do would it be ok if showed him your email concerning the Radical book? I know I couldn’t even come close to saying any better myself.

Thanks for all you do, your teaching is worth more than a “precious pearl”.

I’ll be back in touch soon.

All the best!

Rev.22:20

Response #2:  

Thanks for the added info (feel free to share the emails). This comes as no surprise based upon what I had found out. You want to get serious about being a Christian? By all means? But don't tell me to go jump off of a cliff – not unless you have some scriptures; and even the devil had a scripture when he tempted our Lord to jump off the temple. The point, of course, is that there is no substitute for the truth actually understood and believed. It always comes down to that, and "that" take time, effort and discipline, whereas folks who like the "Radical" approach want quick and exciting – and "difficult" in all the wrong ways, not the "good difficult" which growing up spiritually actually requires.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I was reading part of the Tribulation series where you talk about Laodicea. You say that we (the Laodiceans) sacrifice truth for inclusion. I know that you probably know more than me, but I keep seeing the older generation start to adopt the words of the PC Marxist left. (I mean I expect younger people to do it, but being able to enjoy the wisdom of the past is at risk). I spent some time studying communism and listening to lectures of KGB members who defected, and things like that. I don't want to annoy you going on about it. The example I always think of is if I am drinking myself to death, but don't want anyone saying 'hey, stop that, you are going to kill yourself', because I want to be included (and I presumably use the institutions to shut the person saying that down), so I use one of these special terms. But the term "inclusion" is a sort of doublespeak. Me being included isn't what is most important (in this case it is a misdirect and a wrong priority), but that word has been so loaded most people don't challenge it. There are many such terms popping up, and when we start using them, they start affecting our thinking. Please be careful not to absorb them. I just don't want good people to get their minds and hearts twisted with them.

Response #3: 

No worries.

By "inclusion" what I mean is that the organization in question (a church which should be teaching the truth) wants to include everyone and therefore does not make an issue out of the truth which might offend some people and cause them not to join, or give money, or work, or recruit, etc. Note the antecedent of the phrase "seeks inclusion":

Mega-churches which focus on entertainment, easy-listening Christianity-for-everybody approaches, and an overall "relativistic" philosophy that seeks inclusion to the detriment of truth (removing the "offense" of truth, we might say: cf. Gal.5:11) are symptoms of this lukewarm trend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hello sir

I recently connected with you on Facebook after reading quite a bit of your series on Satan's rebellion. I have finished that series and am currently making my way through The Coming Tribulation where I'm right now at Part 3A. I would have sent you this message on Facebook but it does not seem like your usual mode for communication and I have quite a bit to say.

First of all, I thank you very much for lending yourself to our Lord for this work. My life story is one I'm tempted to tell to explain how much it means to me to find a resource like Ichthys but it really is not worth it to do so. Suffice to say that I am grateful to finally be educated as to what it all means. I still have so much I want to confirm for myself. I have never been this deep before although it all has a ring of truth to it. I have read the Bible since childhood and your explanations make so much sense to me. Still, I had never even heard some of the things I just read from you. I am grateful for this much challenge and for confirmation that the Bible matters this much.

I have always had a sort of knowing that I will serve the Body of Christ as a teacher of the Word. It is something that I can't stop myself from doing. What little I know, even the errors I knew but thought to be healthy doctrines I automatically taught those around me. I write on Facebook as almost a reflex. But I have wanted to learn perfectly so that I can teach perfectly. For this reason, I would like very much to learn Biblical Hebrew and Greek as well as Bible History. I cannot afford to go back to school for a degree. But if I can find a job, I may be able to learn online if there are good sources that you could recommend to me.

I don't know if teaching is the ministry that God has committed to me for His Church but it is something that I have always found myself doing. And when I consider the enormity of the falsehoods in church (even before a Google search about what Christians think of competition brought me to your site), it's hard for me to not do something about it.

I am reminded how I am so poor when I read the things you have written. You say that we should preach with sensitivity and that our ministry should be out of love. The way it feels when I speak of God and what I know of Him to others has been like anger, frustration and impatience. I have been called arrogant more times and by more people than I can remember. It has always bothered me. It often occurs to me that very many of the people I know and interact with at best treat God like He is there only to give them good times and convenience and comfort. They have not seemed very willing to consider that He is a King, a Master to Whom we belong and to Whom we owe responsibility. When I discuss and debate with people (when they have bothered to tolerate me), I have been told that I think too much, that the way I see the Bible is not practicable and that I think that I am holier than God Himself. I have worried that they may be right.

That worry is why I often tried to "calm down" and not take everything so seriously. So, when I started reading you I was stirred up again. I realized that that desire for fellowship was turning me lukewarm as well. Although I finally accepted that regular church is damaging to my Faith in Christ several months ago, I thought continuing to maintain contact with other believers in any way possible was necessary. I still think it is but I think that that desire to not be so offensive has led me into the same kind of trouble I was having with church in the first place.

Still, they may have a point about arrogance and insensitivity. I don't know if it is at all possible to relate the Truth about Christ to anyone in this generation without annoying them greatly. And I am not sure that I know how to do it nicely while maintaining its Purity and Worthiness. I am just always so angry that people treat the words of the Bible with such little respect. Why is that? I mean, why do I get so angry? I often learn that I do the same thing too, that I overlook many things that I should pay earnest heed to. Still I get angry with them.

I crave your prayers, sir, and any advice you could offer me.

And I thank you again for giving yourself to the Lord and doing this work. May our God reward you beyond every possible imagination.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #4: 

The truth always hits "like a ton of bricks" as we say over here in this country. That is, it does so for those who are willing to receive it. We live in the era of Laodicea, as you have learned, and most are lukewarm and unimpressed / unmoved by the truth because they are disinterested in it. You, on the other hand, are determined to do what the Lord wants you to do – and there is no better starting point than that! This feeling you report is the one we all have had, that is, those of us who sooner or later in life decided that the only thing worthwhile in this world had to do with the Lord and what He was telling us.

As Paul says:

This is a reliable saying: "If anyone desires the office of overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher), he is seeking [to do] an honorable work".
1st Timothy 3:1

And there are many variations on the theme. Most pastor-teachers in the history of the Church it is fair to say have relied mainly on the work of others, and that is not necessarily all bad (depending upon whom is being relied on). Not everyone has the time, the energy, the inclination, the resources to do what I was privileged to be able to do after the USMC. And if I were starting now – and had a good idea of how short the time was – my approach may well have been different. Everything you say here indicates to me that you do have a teaching gift (though that is obviously something for you to decide with the Spirit's help). There are as many true ministries as there are true pastors, and some teaching gifts involve more evangelism than outright teaching or even apologetics. I can tell you that as you grow and begin to prepare, your niche will become more and more clear to you. In the meantime, learning everything you can about the truth and the scriptures is the best use of your time in this regard. If you have additional time, learning Greek and Hebrew is wonderful, and it can be done on one's own with internet resources entirely. Not that it's easy (it's not easy in any case), but it is possible. Happy to provide guidance on that.

We should always be in control of our emotions, but I would also be a bit reluctant to repress my personality entirely. There is such a thing as "righteous indignation", that zealousness for the Lord that brooks no white-washing of the truth. I think that is a good attitude to have. Learning how to direct it and use it, and how to comport oneself in regard to others may take some fine-tuning, but please don't repress your enthusiasm for the truth (even if we could all stand to do a better job about how we express it). Your courage in sharing the truth is a wonderful thing. Part of the problem is your audience (cf. Matt.7:6). There is not much you can do about that – except to have confidence that it is the Lord who will provide you with just the right ministry and the Father who will produce just the right effect, just as the Spirit has given you just the right set of gifts (1Cor.12:4-6).

Thanks so much for all your good words and good wishes. Looking forward to hearing from you regularly from now on!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Could you appraise this article on the Presbyterian Church USA?

"Is same sex attraction sinful?"

This is a big deal. Adam said to Eve “not to eat of the tree” and then added the rider “…or even touch it,” even though God never said that touching the tree or its fruit was sinful. You cannot add to God’s commandments like Adam did.

Here is how I see things:

1. Sin is transgression of the Law.

2. To be tempted is to suspect that a sin could be at this very moment delightful.

3. Because “sin” is defined to be “transgression of the Law” and the law doesn’t make distinctions between “conditionally bad” and “unconditionally bad,” therefore there is no difference between whether the transgression that tempts the sinner is “conditionally bad” (e.g. adultery) or "unconditionally bad" (e.g. pedophilia).

4. So even if some temptation is an “unnatural affection,” because a transgression of the Law still counts as the same transgression of the Law regardless of cause, it cannot be worse than a “natural affection used incorrectly.” It is impossible for it to be unless the Law shows favoritism.

https://purelypresbyterian.com/2017/07/10/is-same-sex-attraction-sinful/

In particular this quote from the article:

Claiming that SSA is merely a temptation or a morally neutral “brokenness” from the Fall is unbiblical, deceptive, and eternally dangerous for the souls who struggle with this particular sin. Soothing same sex attracted people’s consciences by telling them that it’s just a temptation and not sinful unless they act on it is only going to damn them to Hell. They need to be admonished to cry out to God for repentance!

In other words, the church is claiming that anybody who has struggles with same sex attraction and does not win those struggles in this life has been elected to reprobation and will be damned to Hell.

Response #5: 

Good analysis on your part.

I find it very strange, having grown up in the PCUSA and having seen how they have "developed" to think that anyone today still associated with them would see any point in writing such an article. The de facto position of that church today is that finding any fault with homosexual behavior of any kind is a horrible sin akin to racism.

Question #6: 

I’ve noticed a curious trend. Especially as of the 201X time period, many churches have been fracturing into a “Sadducean” wing (of unbelief and “rationalism”) and a “Pharisaical” wing (of hypocrisy and ruthlessness). This article seems to have come from the “Pharisaical” wing. Every action having an equal and opposite reaction and all that.

Usually what I’ve found is that if I start with “I was born into a Catholic family” (a true statement) people are more open to talking about religion, even if you hold very anti-libertine views (say against abortion or sex outside of marriage). They’ll be more forgiving about that. While if you start with “I am an Evangelical” they’ll get extremely defensive, even though Catholics and Evangelicals agree on all of the “hot button” issues.

Response #6: 

Yes, it's a lot like politics – actually, it is politics.

When Christians stop seeking the truth everything devolves.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

I've taken some to go back through the topic of our last correspondence to try and pull together what you have told me. I've attached a PDF file of my "write-up", so to speak, and I'd appreciate it if you read it and corrected me anywhere I am wrong (if I do in fact err somewhere). It's not very long. I am just trying to understand by putting things in my own words.

This exercise got me thinking about whether or not I am ready to start back up my internet ministry. The link you have to my blog on Ichthys is currently broken, since, if you recall, I took down my site because I felt I was not ready. Much has changed since that point in time, and while I'm certain I'm not as ready as I could be, one is never really as ready as one would wish. (You have to start sometime).

I have in mind a couple of places to begin. First, there are many issues covered at Ichthys that tend to "raise eyebrows" when I talk to people about the site. Off the top of my head:

Water baptism not being authorized for the Church age outside of the transitional period
Your teaching to the effect that the free-will/predestination question is really not all that complicated, rightly understood. (Most evangelicals I know tend to view this issue as some unknowable puzzle of existence, even when I try to explain to them that it's really not very complex: free will cannot exist without predestination).
SR2: Teaching concerning the gap and the six days of recreation
SR5: Dispensations in general, and the date 2026 in particular
Eschatology in general: being willing to take a stance on what Revelation actually says and means vs. viewing it as something not meant to be understood by man
Etc.

Of course, you treat all of these things fully on Ichthys (between the studies and email responses). But I feel there might be value in me tackling the issues from a somewhat different angle: not a strict "question and answer" format, but something more along those lines. It's not that Ichthys isn't accessible – I think even people who aren't academically minded can make it through the Satanic Rebellion series, say, if they wanted to – but it's not quite the same as having a resource that is a just few paragraphs and hits the main points.

For example, I was talking with a lady from my church the other day about pinning down eras in human history and the timing of the tribulation. Naturally, I mentioned SR5 where you treat these things. There was a bit of a pause when she realized exactly how long SR5 alone is – and this is the fifth part of the series. I truly do not know if she has gone on to look into it or not. I think the first reaction I get from most people is a sense of amazement that something like Ichthys even exists (hundreds of pages of close exegesis). I don't really know what it's like to be in their shoes, since I don't have a problem with it, but I'm assuming it must be a bit daunting.

From a pragmatic point of view, such an endeavor would also make it much easier for me to convince people to give Ichthys a fair go. A lot of the folks I bump into aren't particularly keen on me linking to another person's site to explain what I believe – especially when it becomes clear that I only really follow this one site. I've tried to explain time and again that truth must be believed for it to be of any use (and hence, trying to pit teaching ministries against each other is generally not the best idea, especially for people without the gift of teaching), but I haven't had much luck with this approach. Having some pages up about the "controversial" positions of Ichthys might give me a means to engage these people in such a way that they would not immediately discount what I have to say, or what Ichthys has to say.

Secondly, I'd like to tackle some of the other "difficulties" that laymen face: things that are hard to understand by their nature (such as those dealing with the nature and infinity of God), things that different groups in the Church teach different things about (with seemingly good, well-educated Christians taking different positions), etc. Some of these would overlap with what I mentioned above (e.g., water baptism) – I'm not really thinking of these as two separate categories; rather, the first category just has the added benefit of giving me a way to bring up Ichthys. Some things on this "other" list:

Evolution, dinosaurs, hominids, etc.
Once saved always saved
The timing of the rapture
The problem of evil
Understanding how "big" God is with respect to how he has perfectly planned out literally every event in the history of the universe
The hypostatic union
Signal and sign gifts
Tithing
The role of women in the Church
The role of the Church in society (i.e., why we should stay out of politics)
The (lack of) authority of tradition, church fathers, prominent/famous church leaders, English translations, and creeds/catechisms/denominational doctrine of all forms; Christian epistmology
True Christian charity (vs. the wrongheaded sort that predominates with organizations, donations, et al.)
etc.

Basically, the idea would be to try and handle difficulties that a lay Christian could not solve on their own by reading their English Bibles closely. Obviously, this is the point of all teaching ministries in one way or another – mine would just start by focusing on showing that all difficulties and apparent contradictions can be handled with scripture and hard work, so that peoples' faith in the truthfulness and sufficiency of the Bible might be strengthened. I would also branch out eventually – this is just an idea to start, and an idea of where I might contribute given the things that you, Curt Omo (of Bible Academy), and Bartek are focusing on.

It has also come to my attention that some people in my local church would be interested in me teaching a face-to-face class on Sundays (the equivalent of adult Sunday school). I have not yet talked this over with the elders, but I believe that they will be on board with the idea. I would aim to cover things similar to what I have described above, but would probably have a series focused on how Christians properly come to truth, how we know who to trust, correct methodology and hermeneutics, and so forth beforehand.

Several other people also expressed interest in me teaching Greek in this same time-slot (or perhaps on a different day depending on peoples' schedules). Teaching is, of course, one of the best forms of learning, so I am definitely not against this idea, but there are only so many things I can do.

What do you think about all this? I'd be perfectly content waiting a while more too – I am by no means effortlessly gliding along in Greek, and while I'm doing well in Hebrew, it's only my first semester.

Happy to hear your thoughts.

Yours in Christ,

Response #7: 

First, regarding the attachment, this is truly excellent, my friend! And I would appreciate being allowed to post it somehow in the future when the topic comes up.

As to your ministry idea, I think that would be an excellent way to work into just what style of teaching you want to be doing in the future. And I'd be the first to admit the materials at Ichthys are long and often overly dense. Believe it or not they are all mostly shorter and simpler than what I naturally have produced without keeping this issue in mind. I think there is a real benefit to a "basics series" that would truly be "basic". There is a limit to how far that can be pushed (in written materials in particular), but experience shows I'm clearly not the one to do it.

The Bible class would be an excellent companion effort because the way we teach face to face and orally is of necessity much different than how we write. The one caveat there is that people tend to be fine with the idea of something like this in theory, but the actually teaching of the truth always seems to produce strong reactions, both negative and positive. Much depends on the nature of the church and that of the people who actually show up to the class.

I'm less enthusiastic about the idea of teaching Greek. I tried this with Hebrew at UC Irvine one semester and a largish class of about a dozen quickly dwindled to a class of one, and that one was Jewish and not in the mood to be converted – and was always reproaching me with how her rabbi saw things differently. Fair enough. But it burned a great deal of time without at the same time really benefiting the Church or teaching me much about language instruction methodology. Where people are only doing it for fun without grades or any accountability, it is the very rare "student" who will be worth teaching. With all you've got on your plate – and like me you have a tendency to over-commit – I would advise sleeping on this one.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

This balancing problem is not ever going to go away. I've been fighting tiredness this semester since I have a class that gets out near 5:00 PM (meaning I'm on campus for the whole day – which I find more draining than having all my classes in the morning when I'm most alert). Adding a wife and kids to the mix, assuming I'm working a job around 40 hours a week in the future, is going to leave me with even less time than what I have now. Best learn how to get things done effectively on seemingly little time sooner rather than later.

I've also found that the tasks I have expand to fill the time I have, so I almost always end up being more productive the busier I am, to a certain extent (once it gets too crazy you just break down and burn out). I've tried to be productive over breaks, but it almost never works out how I intend it to.

I'll certainly keep you informed of how things are going, and report back when I launch the new website and start the class.

In Him,

Response #8: 

On balancing, what you say is true. However, unbalancing now is not necessarily the best way to find balance later on. In my experience and observation, the sooner a person learns to balance things out whatever the situation the better. You are certainly not alone in making the observation that with less time we have to be more efficient and quicker and thus get more done. However, there is also the counter-truth that it is possible to get into one of these high production phases and stay in it too long with a resultant crash (In the USMC, I got a very great deal done in 10 weeks of OCS – 10 months of that frenetic pace might have killed me). No matter how "good" a person is, there is always a tipping point if enough is added on for a long enough time, even if in the early going it seems "do-able". One does want to avoid a cowardly attitude of not taking on things that could be managed out of fear of overload when in fact the additional load could be handled. But just as many people have bitten off more than they could chew and failed to finish what they started. Its about knowing oneself, not only the person one wants to be but also the person one is right now (not tomorrow). A good barometer of this is the "joy" factor. All of the things you are engaging in ought to be "fun" on some level (but of course we are talking here about "running is [hard but] fun", e.g.); if you find yourself too tired to enjoy what you're doing, that is warning sign.

Health concerns are always a test. We know that the Lord can heal us. If He lets the healing take time, that tests our faith. As in all things, He is worthy of 100% trust because He is absolutely faithful. Trusting Him on some things is easier than on others, but it is the same exercise either way. Health is a tough one. I am having a good deal of trouble with my right hip/back. If I were unable to get out and jog every day, I think I might go batty. As it is, I've had to cut back seriously until this problem resolves – and it is up to me to have faith that it will. That doesn't mean I don't make use of God's provision (Advil, aspirin, a trip to the Dr. for this next month). It does mean I am confident that this "detail" is at one and the same time "small potatoes" in the plan of God but the Lord knows that it is big to me – and I trust Him that there is a reason for it. That's of course hard to hold onto sometimes, but Abraham certainly was able to do so, e.g.

I have been and will continue to be praying for you about this.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

Update: I was more than a little bit optimistic. I have my second round of midterms this week, and I'm not quite ready to tackle the website setup with my present knowledge (I may just use a temporary theme and whatnot until I learn enough to do what I really want). The timeframe on this is going to be longer than what I had thought, which is OK. I'm planning to start teaching a class next semester, which should give me some time to prepare beforehand; it would be good if I had a website up by then.

I spent some time with a friend this weekend who I think could benefit greatly from a serious Bible Study (and he expressed interest), so I may step into that role once again as well. I'm going to ask a couple other people who might be interested and see if I can't get a group of 3-4 guys, which is similar to the number I had at my previous college (I found that it was much better to have a smaller group of people who were really interested than a larger group with some people not really fully into it).

Prayers appreciated for upcoming tests and continuing focus.

In Him

Response #9: 

Sounds like a good plan. I'll keep this in prayer.

I'm happy to hear that you are flexible enough to adjust plans to reality. We all have to do this from time to time, after all. Doesn't mean we quite punching, however.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hi Bob,

I'd like to know if you are OK with me titling my ministry "Chrya: Bible Study For Spiritual Growth" (which is practically identical to Ichthys' title except the first word). I thought for some time about some other way to put this, but this honestly strikes me as the best and most pithy description of what a teaching ministry ought to focus on, which I'm sure is why you chose it. Anyone familiar with your ministry would probably see the parallel immediately, but I'm not exactly unhappy about that. I certainly am my own person with my own ministry goals, but it doesn't seem like a bad thing if my ministry comes off a bit "Ichthys-like". What do you think?

Finally, I've got a better idea now of where I'm going with this. I have the overview page for my first series up, as well as a plan for my next couple pages. Additionally, I've talked to several friends in my language classes about a Bible study (I believe I have mentioned this possibility to you before), and it is likely that I will organize a pretty serious study group for next semester. Of the four people I have in mind, two are just as far as me in Greek, one is just as far as me in Hebrew, and one is ahead of me in both Greek and Hebrew (though he might be a bit rusty since he is back in college on the GI bill after a stint abroad in the air force). All seem to be strong Christians – though most of them will not know each other except through me. This would be a face-to face arm of my ministry, and materials from this study would probably find their way onto the site as well.

All of this appears to have come together rather nicely, but I am cognizant of my workload and my primary responsibility in learning the languages. Assuming I'm not unrealistic about things, it is possible that having teaching responsibilities will actually, paradoxically, make me more effective in my language classes, since I'll have the motivation right in front of me.

Happy to hear your thoughts on all this. Wishing you and yours a blessed and relaxing Thanksgiving!

In Christ,

Response #10: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

I like your subtitle!

Your new plan seems very workable to me and one which clearly suits your approach and personal comfort with what to me will always remain the "new media" (in high school I trained as a "linotype" operator: look it up at the Smithsonian).

Congratulations on your continued impetus to get a face to face Bible study going. As Curt Omo said to me one time a very long time ago, "that's just how churches get started" – and it was how Ichthys got started.

I'm happy to hear that you are figuring out how to up your game gradually. That is the only way any of us can do things – those of us not gifted with immediate perfection right out of the gate, at any rate.

Best wishes (and prayers) for a solid finish to the semester, my friend, and a very happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well. I'm certainly thankful for you!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

 Good afternoon,

Your studies on the church are very insightful, and I just wanted to say thank you and ask you a particular thing.

A problem I have seen is that it seems some churches are a bit dysfunctional in that it sometimes comes out that a member committed a sexual sin against a child or woman, and it was known to that church they had a history of that. I myself saw a much older man talking in a strange way to a little girl in a Bible classroom and later found out it was well known he was a sex offender (the church knew but he wanted me to keep it a secret). I realized my being there was a chance thing, he could have easily been alone with her. I am aware of an older man being alone with some kids in a small church group in a room in someone's house, saying that if it was known what he had done in his past they would be afraid to be alone with him. This seems wrong. I am tempted to say 'then lets not go to church' and go to a secular community, because at least the secular (sometimes anti-god) community has a standard that they don't let known dangerous people in to kid's areas and prey on women (or they at least require it to be known to everyone). It seems improper for me as a stranger to just walk in and ask the leader of a church if their church is a safe environment (i.e. what their policy is on sex offenders in their church). If I am wrong,
please correct me, but what is the right thing here?

I did try to look if you already answered this question, but didn't see it. f you already answered this, please let me know and I will try to look again

In any case, thanks again for the very instructive website and studies.

Response #11:  

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your encouraging words.

When you state in your opening that nowadays "some churches are a bit dysfunctional", I think we can safely say that this is a great understatement. In the waning days of Laodicea, dysfunction in local churches is the order of the day. The purpose of assembly is to teach the Word of God and to encourage one another through the truth, along with ministry to physical needs which makes teaching and receiving the Word possible. But most churches today have very little to do with any sort of dedication to teaching and learning and believing and living the truth. So the instances you report which form the basis for your question are sad but not altogether unexpected. This is the devil's world, and wherever there is a serious chink in the armor – such as a lack of serious dedication to the truth – all manner of negative infiltration is possible.

1) Criminality: The first thing that should be said is that no Christian is above the law, and that if it is a case of any sort of vile, criminal assault, the fact that a person is a brother or sister or church member cannot be allowed to stop proper judicial process. We are seeing and hearing all over our society today about famous abusers being outed in public (finally), but it needs to be said that things have only come to such a pass because such individuals have been protected by their institutions. No church should ever fall into that category. No church should abet crime, in effect, by turning a blind eye. Those involved in criminal behavior should not only be expelled from the church but reported to the proper authorities; otherwise, those "in the know" who fail to do anything about the crime only make more such crimes possible.

2) Immoral behavior: Everyone sins (e.g., Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2), but that is not an excuse to sin. Everyone sins, but there are clearly some sins which are more damaging than others and which are more dangerous to the group than others (1Cor.6:18). Everyone sins, but sinning against others – especially the more vulnerable – is particularly heinous and not to be tolerated (Matt.18:6; cf. 1Thes.4:6). It is also true that believers are forgiven past offenses when we are saved and given "a new start for the heart" (cf. 1Cor.6:11), and we are also forgiven when we sin as believers, provided we repent and confess to the Lord (1Jn.1:9). So all congregations are composed of believers who are still human beings, any one of whom would be at the very least quite uncomfortable if all of our dirty laundry of the past were dumped out for public display. That past is our business and it is best forgotten and left behind and not discussed "with the church". So when you say, "the church knew", I think we have the heart of the problem.

Believers are NOT supposed to share their past sins, especially their salacious ones, with others, lest others be tempted (cf. Gal.6:1; cf. Jude 1:22-23). Confession is to the Lord, NOT to the pastorate or other members of the congregation (the only exception being extreme situations such as having fallen under the sin unto death: Jas.5:14-16; cf. 1Jn.5:16). Most people understand this intuitively, and especially if the sins / transgressions / indiscretions we are talking about are particularly shameful – as in this case you report.

So how could the church "know"? If it is not a case of the church demanding such false and un-biblical "accountability" from its members, then one can only assume that this person either made a point of telling others (a bizarre thing to do which invites more suspicion if true), or was caught / seen / observed either engaged in such behavior of toying with it – as seems to be the case in what you observed. That calls for immediate dismissal from the church.

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
1st Corinthians 5:11-13 NKJV

We are all accountable to God, not to local church, for our personal behavior and, one hopes, we are all getting "better" every day in every way as we grow closer to the Lord through the sanctification that spiritual growth brings. But if such is not the case, and if we personally by our bad behavior, whether within the fellowship or even outside of it, bring attention to ourselves as a person who is subject to inveterate and chronic shameful behavior, expulsion is the proper course.

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
1st Timothy 5:19-20 NKJV

The above verses refer to elders, not to the congregation as a whole, who have been caught in any sort of sinful behavior – and elders are held to a higher standard as those who guide and teach the congregation; but we can take from this passage the idea that some proper procedure (preferably standardized) for expulsion should be followed to avoid unfair and false accusation (such things also do happen) and to account for misunderstandings. Once the truth of egregious and dangerous conduct has been substantiated, however, expulsion rather than "rebuke" (meant for elders for lesser offenses) is the proper course.

Is there no place for forgiveness? God forgives, and we should also forgive, even "seven times seventy times" our brothers and sisters who repent; but that does NOT necessarily mean allowing them back into our fellowship. The Corinthian man who had married his step-mother (1Cor.5:1ff.) was allowed back into fellowship at Paul's request (2Cor.2:1ff.), so there is precedent for that in cases of complete reform. But if we are talking about serial offenders, that is a different story. And if we are talking about our children as the victims, there is little that is more important than protecting them.

Assuming that the behavior was not criminal, permanent expulsion would seem to be the best course of action (it would be the one chosen by me if it were up to me personally), because the feelings of one adult who is in the wrong are nothing compared to multiple children who are defenseless.

In case of criminal behavior, alert the authorities.

To reiterate, the purpose of the local church is to disseminate the truth of the Word of God, from the pulpit and through the mutual encouragement and ministry of its members. When church becomes rote, ritual, routine, more social than spiritual, all manner of troubles arise – this is just one of them.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

I had a pretty serious conversation with one of the elders at my sometime-church that meets in the house I live in about the concept of church membership. I get along with this individual quite well – and there is mutual respect going both ways – so the conversation was productive. But neither of us budged particularly.

Right off the bat I took the "show me" approach. Nowhere in scripture do we have any mention of official membership, in a ledger/list/organized sort of way. Believers met, assembled, and worshiped together. Based off of everything I am aware of, early Christians met in houses or local synagogues (especially in the case of Jewish converts who had a godly desire to discuss Christ with their unbelieving brethren). But scripture has no mention of church membership in any formal way.

Of course, we know very little about the specifics of how things were run (true biblical Christians being much less public and vociferous in arguing their practices than, say, the early Catholics), and no doubt a great degree of church organization is deliberately left vague in scripture to allow for flexibility across times and places. So I didn't get dogmatic in the manner of "this is actually what the early church did...," but I did stand pretty firmly on the side of "if church membership is a good idea, then it is so completely aside from scripture, which is silent on the matter."

Rather than specific doctrinal confessions or formal obligations to give money (which were aspects of "church membership" that we both agreed were distasteful), most of our conversation turned on church discipline. We both agreed that there is a line to walk between churches letting everything go (cf. liberal modern churches) – sin needs to be called sin, and not ignored in especially severe or public cases where fellowship ought to be broken – and the sort of top-down mind-control that cults employ. Essentially, I didn't understand why a public confession/proclamation of one's belonging to a particular group would have a great deal of bearing on whether or not the elders could speak the truth to you when it was necessary for them to do so, as their role as overseers would call for. Basically, it seems to me that people do belong to specific local churches de facto, so there is no need to make it de jure. It is not as if people's word would be much to stop them from breaking off fellowship if they didn't like what was being said in correction; we live in a free country, and people can and do choose to go to places that "tell them what they want to hear."

Here's a brief "synopsis" of the conversation:

First, he asked me what sorts of problems I had seen with church membership in my own life. I basically ignored this question, since it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we are supposed to practice it, and even if I couldn't come up with specific examples of problems, that doesn't in any way make it actively beneficial (merely something that doesn't cause specific problems when practiced in a reasonable sort of way). This one I don't think needs much comment.

But then we got to talking about changes in how churches operate nowadays, namely, the fact that technology allows for communication among people that are not geographically close to each other. I would consider you by far my closest mentor and teacher, yet we have never met in person or even heard each other's voices. It would be ridiculous, in my view, to think that I had to avail myself of someone local to be "engaging in a church community," particularly in the area of accessing teaching. In general, learning through reading is more efficient than listening to someone talk (for a whole multitude of reasons, most of which involve how our brains learn by forming neural networks for related information... which requires linking things together by actively connecting information through re-reading and checking what one has already read), and reading written works can happen all throughout the week rather than just on Sunday mornings.

But he asked more specifically about the idea of oversight in the church. Essentially, how can people over the internet practice church discipline if they don't really know you and can't observe your behavior? I didn't really have an answer for this, and didn't try to straw-man his argument by pretending like everything is exactly the same. I'd wager you know me – the real me, as in what I am like when my facade is down and I am being honest about where I am – better than most people in my life, and probably even better than my parents and siblings. But of course you are not around me day to day, and can't observe what I say, how I treat others, and so forth. But neither could church elders for that matter...seeing me in person once a week would not tell them much about me if I was on my best behavior in church.

As to specific questions:

1) Can you confirm that the thinking below is correct?

I've pushed back against pressure to go to local churches "because we are not supposed to give up meeting together" (people misinterpreting Hebrews 10:25), but I've never given much thought to specifically how the offices of elder and deacon have changed in the internet age. It seems obvious that there are still administrative things to be done for an "internet church" (for lack of a better term) – perhaps organizing a weekly newsletter, maintaining a prayer list, helping a teacher run and maintain a website, organizing money to be given to evangelistic ministries or those in need, and so forth. These are perhaps less "physical" than in the past, but are still service roles outside the scope of teaching. Teachers can now operate at the global level, either through printed works (like Ichthys), videos (like Bible Academy), or even things like podcasts. No need to be overly restrictive – I would be leery of telling someone they could not have a teaching ministry operating primarily through Facebook or internet forums, for example.

I would say that we are in a completely different "church paradigm" than the church of bygone centuries, and have been for some time. Arguably, ever since the majority of the population became literate and books became readily available through the printing press, the importance of speakers in a local church setting has diminished. It's not that the church doesn't need teachers – it most certainly does. It's just that teaching is not sermons – far from it (as you well know and have said many times on Ichthys). Now that we have the internet and reading materials are essentially free (as long as ministries make them so), things are even a bit different than 20 years ago or so, when the World Wide Web was invented.

This isn't quite the same as teachings on dispensations (since we are consistently talking about truth coming from qualified and prepared Bible teachers exercising their spiritual gift by explaining the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit), but I view it in similar terms: the early church functioned differently than Jewish synagogues, and now we function differently than when reading was the province of educated elites and books were so expensive so as to be inaccessible to the average person. The structure of the church has changed as the landscape around us has changed.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having physical meetings and with one gifted and prepared individual teaching from the pulpit. (As long as it is teaching and not vapid sermonizing). The difference is that this is no longer the only way for the church to operate, as it perhaps was in the past, when circumstances were different.

2) Could you explain to me exactly what church discipline should be for overseers in the Church Age (that are not Apostles like Paul who can hand people over to the sin unto death, etc.)?

3) Assuming my reasoning in (1) is correct, could you explain how church discipline ought to proceed in a geographically decentralized church? Would it just be a matter of people occupying the office of elder not being shy correcting brothers and sisters that they personally know in love?

Your friend in Jesus,

Response #12:  

Great to hear from you!

Most of you've asked about seems to focus around the question of church organization and particularly church "discipline". The next installment of the BB series will have plenty to say about this, but there already are postings at the site which deal with it (links below). First, I want to commend you for your shaping of the issue and for your flexible thinking on an issue that is not prescribed by the Bible. I think the dialogue you report is a great indication that so many Christians look at the issue of "church" through the lens of tradition even when they are not aware that this is what they are doing. Almost nothing of what we consider "church" comes from the Bible or biblical models, not even from the Book of Acts; almost everything of what we consider "church" actually comes from the Roman Catholic development of membership, assembly and physical structures. Granted that Protestants made some initial strides in partially separating from these baneful influences, yet they never completely escaped the negative gravity of Rome. And while one can understand some of the historical pressures leading to denominations and formal incorporation of churches, that does not mean that these are biblically required, let alone positive or recommended things. It's not necessarily "wrong" to engage in these forms; it is definitely, in my view, wrong to tell others that they are wrong not to accept them as "the only way". Since in the history of the Church Age, formal denominations and traditionally organized churches have been the rule, it is easy to see why individual Christians who are not "going to church" or "members of a church" are easily made to feel guilty about it. And, after all, one of the main roles taken on by modern churches and denominations today is precisely the effort to make people who are not joining feel guilty about it. Some go so far as to say that not joining forestalls salvation – and most others insinuate it. At the very least, you certainly CAN'T be a "good Christian" if you don't go to church and more particularly if you don't join theirs, give money, work, bring in other members, etc. It's a self-perpetuating system – which would be fine if a) it were authorized by the Bible, or b) accomplished the plan of God for individual Christians' lives.

What is the plan of God for individual Christians' lives? You've heard me summarize it a million times: grow spiritually, make progress in the Christian walk with Jesus by applying the truth so learned, help others to do so as well through effective ministry in accord with the gifts and ministries assigned. Do most local churches and denominations do that? Not in my opinion. They are dedicated to the buildings and to the organization and to their preservation and expansion. Add a good dollop of music and some Sunday morning announcements, a few "Bible classes" where people can sound off about how they feel about the Bible and whatever, dinners, communion, water-baptisms, Christmas and Easter pageantry, and a weekly sermon filled with inspiring rhetoric . . . and you have a "church". All you need to do now is encourage people to give, to work at all the tasks a building and an organization of this sort generates, and bring in more people, and you have your self-perpetuating system. Of course you need an inspiring pastor to make it all tick, preferably someone others will want to come and hear. But where is the studying, teaching, learning, loving and applying the Word of God with a depth and consistency necessary to achieve the plan God has for each one of us? Not in places like this, in my experience . . . not even in what we might consider "the best of them". So why does God allow such places to exist? Probably because there are so many "one percent-ers", and it's better I suppose to get your one percent than nothing at all – which is probably more than most Laodicean Christians would otherwise get: not enough to grow; possibly enough to keep them from falling away. God is gracious, after all. But all such places make me bilious.

Do we need such places for "church discipline"? Well, what is "church discipline"? I think your observations are spot-on. Most lukewarm Christians are excellently practiced at hypocrisy, and have no problem whatsoever looking the part on Sunday morning – and even perhaps on the one or two or more times a month they may engage with "church". Also, most sin is invisible or very easy to hide. So how did the apostles handle this? What I read from Paul and Peter and John is that they gave messages to the entire congregations – objectivity in teaching. They did not single out individuals except in very rare cases. True, Paul handed the incestuous Corinthian man over to the sin unto death. But that fellow was committing an outrage "not even heard of among the gentiles", doing something so horrific that it would even shock the pagan Greeks of Corinth (no small achievement), creating the worst possible witness and apparently flaunting it in the face of the entire church there, forcing Paul to make an issue of it in response (and note that even so he does not name the person in either letter). Similarly, without any sort of guidance from the Bible and even without this example, which of us if teaching even a small Bible study would permit someone to snort cocaine in our presence and offer it to others during our teaching? Would we not throw the person out and tell him/her to amend his/her ways or not come back? That is just common sense in any group – and basic spiritual common sense in our discussion. But that is FAR cry from me assigning a "watcher" to you to follow you around, or having you report to someone who is "discipling" you so you can essentially confess your sins to them, or calling you to the front of the church to reprimand you because brother X or sister Y "caught" you having a beer when you were out to dinner with your wife.

How do we achieve the plan God has for us? Is it not by the vigorous application of our free will in response to His Will? Is it not by exploiting the image of God He has given us in response to His truth? But if we hand our free will over to "the church" instead, how will the decisions be ours? Anyone given that sort authority will always abuse it. That is the history of the world and of all cults and of all political mass movements which have been only to happy to turn their members into slaves and exploit them. Churches are no different. If a church takes it upon itself to tell its parishioners how to behave in all things and at all times – NOT through objective and non-personal teaching coming from the teacher based on the Word but through correction and hands-on "guidance" of individuals by individuals according to their whims (as a necessary result) – then it will devolve into full blown legalism in short order. The result will be that there may be some differences between such a church and an outright mind-control cult, but only by a matter of degrees, not in essence.

Doesn't the Bible teach "church discipline". No, it does not – not in the sense we are talking about here (with the exception of outrageous behaviors which are horrible witnesses and/or temptations to everyone else where the person makes themselves an issue by flaunting it before the whole group and endangers others as a result). Paul doesn't do so; Peter doesn't; John doesn't (Diotrephes is not an exception; he is forming a cult in violation of apostolic authority, and it had to get to that point before John issues the rebuke in 3Jn.). The apostles taught the truth; individual Christians listened, applied it to themselves, and reformed themselves, confessing to God, not to man, and leaning on Him, not on some system devised by human beings. So the kind of "church discipline" that is being advanced to you as a good thing is actually diametrically opposed to the truth and to the entire plan of God for individual Christians where the whole point is to respond to the Lord from one's own heart, not because of coercion on the part of others.

After all, what is sin? If the church is supposed to discipline members for sin, what sins shall it discipline? I confess every day. We all should, of course, because it is in the Lord's prayer which we are to pray daily: "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt.6:12 KJV). If we tell a fib, do we have to stand in front of the church? If we have an angry thought, do we need to get in line to come up and be "disciplined"? Or is it only alcohol and sexual sins we are talking about here? You know, when people divide sins into these two categories of "real sins" (which of course I personally do not commit) and "not really important sins which may not be sins at all" (because I do occasionally lie, feel lust, behave in an unloving way, etc., etc. etc.), that is the functional definition of legalism. It's only a hop, skip and a jump from that to enshrining "the big five" as the "real sins" and disciplining members caught going to a Disney movie (e.g.). In other words, if we are going to "discipline" for sin, what gives us the right to judge only some sins when God requires confession of them all? And what criteria do we use to make this distinction since it's not in the Bible? But perhaps we'll have the disciplers take care of the "little stuff". In the Roman Catholic church they call this "the confessional".

Do not [verbally] strike an elder, but encourage him as [you would] a father, younger men as brothers.
1st Timothy 5:1

What about 1st Timothy 5:1? The imperative verb form here is in the singular and has to do with interpersonal relations between believers, with special attention to the pastor and how he should deal with members of his congregation. At times we do need to be "straight" with other believers and those close to us on a one-on-one basis (spiritual common sense here too: Ps.141:5); nothing here about institutionalizing it in a church setting. And notice what the verbs say: "don't beat" (= harsh rebuke) but instead "encourage", using the personal, positive approach to induce correction in our individual relations with other believers when perceived as necessary and needful.

I have given you straight-talking advice from time to time even though, as you rightly point out, we've never met; and you have no problem letting me know when you think something is amiss or have serious questions about some point I'm teaching (you always do so with appropriate respect). So this passage has nothing in common with the "church discipline" claimed as an essential reason for considering the traditional local church as it has developed after the Roman Catholic model as a necessity. There is plenty in scripture about the necessity for timely rebukes from the pulpit (e.g., 2Tim.4:2; Tit.1:13; 2:15), but these are to be courageously leveled at the entire church / group as a whole, not at individuals who are named and shamed. For the teaching of the Word of God to be effective, it has to be objective, and that means that it has to be impersonal; someone listening or reading must be able to accept the rebuke without feeling that they have been personally castigated and held up to public humiliation (which can be emotionally and spiritually devastating), listening to the Word of God as God's Word and applying it to themselves as the Spirit speaks quietly to their individual consciences. We sin against God when we sin; we confess to God when we confess; God forgives us when we ask for forgiveness. This is about our relationship with Him. If man intrudes into the process, grace of necessity exits, and nothing but a legalistic religious mess is left.

(20) Do not accept an accusation against a pastor/elder unless in the case of two or three witnesses.  (20) Rebuke those who have sinned in the presence of all (i.e., so as to make it known to the congregation) in order that the rest may [also] have fear.
1st Timothy 5:19-20

What about 1st Timothy 5:20 – doesn't that teach "church discipline"? Not the way most Christians like the person you are having this discussion with see things. The preceding verse makes it clear that we are talking only about elders here, not the majority of the group. Elders – which includes the pastor – have a higher measure of responsibility. So if an elder is indicted for cheating on his taxes, e.g., even though he never said anything about the subject of taxes to anyone in the church / group, this is a very bad witness and requires some action on behalf of the rest of the leadership if and when it becomes known. In this instance, Paul is telling Timothy that unlike the prior instance in 1st Timothy 5:1 where the encouraging correction of a sheep by the pastor was personal and private (and there would need to be some significant matter that had become known for that to happen too), here we have not just any member of the congregation making himself an issue but a member of the top leadership. How? By "sinning publicly". Yes, this phrase is to be taken with "those who have sinned" and NOT with "rebuke". It is the fact of unacceptable public behavior committed publicly that occasions this "rebuke" of a personal nature for a member of the leadership; all other "rebuking" must be impersonal to be directed to the congregation at large. Since "publicly" does not go with "rebuke" but with "those who have sinned", this is also not a command or directive for this rebuke to take place in front of the congregation. If you are a pastor or leader of a group or church, and one of your key men is caught in an indiscretion or the like, you will have to decide whether or not he is still able to serve, whether this was an anomaly now corrected or a chronic problem, and how to handle the matter generally – but you do have to let him know that you know that his conduct is unacceptable. If you were helping me with the website and I became aware that you were doing something worthy of rebuke, it would be my job to do this (these are both only hypotheticals for the sake of example of course).

So these passages are instructions primarily to pastors about how to handle their relations with their parishioners and their leadership. In the main, the guiding principle for local churches is the same one for all "members" of the one true Church: individual responsibility before the Lord. We are accountable to Him, not to others. But a pastor has a rod and a staff and sometimes he has to use them, gently correcting with his staff when a sheep is noticeably going astray, and seriously prodding with the rod when a bellwether takes a wrong turn – precisely because others may follow as in the analogy. All this is only spiritual common sense which probably anyone with, say, military experience would do anyway as unto the Lord if placed in a position of leadership. But of course it is nice to see it reinforced by scripture.

What these passages do not do – and what the Bible does not do – is give any group or church carte blanche to set up a system of dictatorial "accountability" to other human beings, then call it discipleship or church discipline or whatever you will, and use said system to manipulate the poor souls who make the mistake of associating with such a legalistic organization into doing what you want them to do (whatever that may come to mean, whether tithing or moving to Guyana).

I understand that your church is "not so bad" compared to others. However, this sort of thing has a tendency to metastasize.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Galatians 5:9 (cf. 1Cor.5:6)

Here are a few links:

*Local church III (see Q/A 7)

Local church vs. denominations

Judaism and Legalism in church-visible

Purpose of Assembly

True discipleship

Aspects of the False Doctrine of Institutional Security

Deacons and Elders

Church Polity

Dysfunctional churches (see esp. Q/A 6)

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

I would like to mention here a subgroup, if one may call it thus, of a Protestant denomination that says its ancestry of scriptural local churches can be traced back to the first local church at Jerusalem. It existed historically pure alongside but separate from the corrupt Roman church through the years, so they do not consider themselves Protestant. They have history books to back their claim. (I have copies of books about this in pdf. These are written in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Some authors names are Jr Graves, John T. Christian, Orchard, DB Ray) They are the groups who were persecuted during the medieval period by the RC and Protestants and RC after the Reformation. Though the names are different yet they have similar doctrines, especially about water baptism. They are the only authorized and scriptural churches. The only right way to do church is their way. They are the only churches who can give glory to God because of the pure church ancestry and pure doctrine they kept preserved through the centuries. They are big on words such as "authority" "scriptural" "unbroken link" "local church authority". What is your take on this?

I already have some idea based on the Bible, mostly from what I read and understood from your articles, sir, but I don't mind some corrections and enrichment from what you might answer.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #13: 

Original Church: There is only one Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, and it is composed of all who have put their faith in Him for salvation. We are the Church, regardless of whether or not we have pledged some fealty to any humanly concocted organization or go to a specific "church" or not.

[I write these things to you so that] if I am delayed you may know how [believers] ought comport themselves in a house of God which is a church (or "an assembly") of the living God, [that is] a pillar and support for the truth.
1st Timothy 3:15

A church (small "c") is an "assemblage" of believers. Such assemblies are always in flux as is their spiritual status. Denominations or indeed the transfer of some sort of mandate or authority from one group to another is not biblical and is in fact very spiritually dangerous. No next generation of any local church is ever the same as the founding one which immediately preceded it – and almost always becomes watered down and/or spiritually dead in time. If that is true of sequential generations, how much more of denominations! All one needs to do is to look at the R.C. church to see this clearly. The church at Rome to which Paul wrote was, though not perfect (to judge from the epistle), composed of genuine believers who were able to receive a great deal of biblical truth. But there is no spiritual resemblance today with what once was – and indeed there has not been for centuries upon centuries.

There is no "channel of grace" and whatever was yesterday means nothing today. We are here one day at a time and we live one day at a time. Every day we (and our "church") are either getting better or worse. The way things work in this world, while individuals do sometimes get better (that is the purpose of spiritual growth), institutions/groups almost always get worse – except to the extent that they are led and populated by individuals who are personally "getting better". But that is a rarity.

Take also the Jerusalem church to which this group you ask about looks for parentage. That church was not perfect during Paul's day (as we see from the events of Acts 21:18ff.), and before too long Paul had to write the longest of his epistles to that same group in order to deliver the congregation from apostasy (the book of Hebrews)! So even if a group could claim lineage "all the way back" it wouldn't make any difference. The R.C. church claims it back to Peter. Peter is one of the greatest believers – but the R.C.'s are (at least mostly) not even saved. The bottom line is that the great believers of the first century are deceased and with the Lord. The heritage they left was the Bible and that is available to us one and all – if we are truly interested in embracing it – regardless of what humanly conceived organization we may or may not belong to.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Dear Bob,

I recently took part in a discussion which was about, well, several topics, but religion did come up a lot (not just ours, but a few), and I saw one comment that interested me because I actually don't know much about it: how modern Christianity compares to how "it used to be", or at least that was what the discussion came to. Someone made the claim that modern Christianity is "vastly different from scriptures."

I wanted to immediately refute this claim, but then I realized that I did not exactly know why that was. I think on my part it is simply a matter of ignorance, and I don't wish to talk about something without knowing what I'm talking about. While I've read scripture, even the King James Version of the Word, I don't actually know all that much about the history of Christianity, if that makes any sense?

I was pretty sure that overall scripture and it's meaning has largely survived from issues that would normally be brought about by 'translation errors' as it's passed down through different language. was I right in assuming this? I was just curious about you and Ichthys had to say on the matter.

Response #14: 

Depending upon how one approaches it, this could be a very involved question – or a very simple one. Since the "simple" is also the most spiritually rewarding in this case, I'll try to lay this out briefly for you – do feel free to write back.

The Church of Jesus Christ is composed of born again Christians who believe in Him. Over the millennia, many of these have formed themselves into groups beyond the informal local church. There is no biblical mandate for that, and it is clear that denominations of every sort have been the cause of all manner of spiritual degeneration to the point where there are today many such which call themselves "Christian" yet contain no or very few born again believers at all. The Roman Catholic and LDS "churches" are prime examples of this, but the Protestant denominations are only marginally better.

The objective for Christians has always been the same, a set of mandates given by the Lord in scripture. As I have distilled them for readers of Ichthys these are 1) grow spiritually; 2) progress in the Christian walk (passing tests); 3) produce for Jesus Christ – by helping others accomplish these three things. However, very little of what passes for "Christian activity" in the world today has anything whatsoever to do with any of this. So it is important to make a sharp distinction between the "church visible" (that is, institutional Christianity as the world perceives it) and the actual Church of Jesus Christ (believers).

In terms of how the Lord sees things, things today are essentially the same as they were on the day of Pentecost: the Spirit is promulgating the gospel and guiding willing Christians to accomplish the spiritual goals laid out above. In terms of how Christians today in the lukewarm era of Laodicea are doing with these mandates, the record is not good. But the state of institutional Christianity, the "church visible", is only a symptom of this. In all things it is always a mistake to think in terms of generalities. It doesn't matter if 79% of group Y does / thinks X. The only thing that matters is what believer A does and what believer B does – as individual believers. The fact that the "church visible" has failed does not hinder the Spirit from providing everything A and B need to grow, progress and produce for Jesus Christ – just as was the case on the day of Pentecost. The fact that all the other letters of the alphabet are wandering around in a "purpose driven", "radical", "charismatic", "ritualistic" fog (to name only a few of the popular approaches today which are substituted for the genuine, biblical approach), has no effect on the Plan of God: all who wish to do what Christ wants them to do will be provided with all the truth and support they need to do it, regardless of how seriously in the minority they are – and today they are seriously in the minority.

When people say things like what you are reacting to here, however, they aren't talking about what I'm talking about. They are saying instead that they want to shake things up for the sake of having some fun (that is what it amounts to), so they go to the Book of Acts and extrapolate what they will tell you is "the way it originally was" and then found their own church or denomination – which will be different from the others only superficially in the manner in which it wastes the time, money and spiritual energy of those who are attracted to it.

In Paul's day, believers who were responsive to Christ listened to, learned, lived and ministered the truth of the Word of God.

Today, believers who likewise wish to be responsive to the Lord have even greater opportunities to do so than Paul's contemporaries because today we have the entire Bible.

That is how God sees things. How the world judges "contemporary Christianity" or "historical Christianity" is an academic question of no particular spiritual value. The important thing to know for you and for me and for any of our brothers and sisters who truly want to live their lives for Jesus Christ is that this is only possible through learning the actual truth of the Word, believing that truth once it has been taught to us, living our lives according to it, passing the tests that come to essay our level of commitment, and then once mature to help others in this process through whatever ministry the Lord calls us to. That is the only way to glorify Jesus Christ. That is the only way to spiritual reward.

Here are a few links which will go into this in greater detail:

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

*The Judgment and Reward of the Church

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob,

I never really understood why there is so much doctrinal disagreements in the body of Christ if the Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, and is supposed to guide believers into all truth? Ironincally, Christians will use that very verse to prove that their belief regarding a certain doctrine is the correct one, while the one they are in opposition to is incorrect. Yet, the other Christian will use the same argument. So which make one valid or "more" truthful or correct over someone else? I have come across some people that I have engaged in bible discussions with, and even if you were to use sound exegesis and hermeneutics, they'll completely ignore it all and tell you that you're wrong; and that the Holy Spirit convicts them that you're wrong and they're right...so there's no arguing with them. How do you help those who are in serious error? I'm speaking of doctrines that will condemn people to a Christless hell such as justification by works by taking passages out of context in James. Or water baptism for Salvation. Some denominations think they're the "chosen" denomination and all others are heretical or are NOT part of the body of Christ and has been led astray by Satan. How do you persuade people who have been led astray back to the truth? And why are there so many doctrinal disagreements within the body of Christ if the Holy Spirit dwells in them?

God Bless your ministry,

Response #15: 

If a person is so arrogant, so lacking in basic humility, that they believe whatever they "feel" is right and that "feeling" is the presence of the Spirit validating their "feeling", then they are far out of the will of God and going their own rebellious way. In fact, the very idea that a person without the gift of teaching and without the preparation necessary to bring that gift to the point of valid functioning thinks themselves sufficient and authorized by the Lord to make judgment calls on individual points of doctrine is arrogant in the extreme. Who placed teachers in the Body? Was it not the Spirit? But this (hypothetical) person believes that he/she has no need of any teacher, has no need of any preparation, has no need of study – just "feeling" something is right is correct. That clearly has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal.1:8-9). If the Spirit did not gift that person, and if that person has not pursued the path of diligent preparation – into which the Spirit would most definitely have led them if indeed He has gifted them and if indeed they were humble enough to follow the Spirit's guidance, how can said person claim to be superior to those who have been gifted, who have prepared, and who have bothering to diligently study the matter out? The fact that said person is not even willing to listen to the well-reasoned argument of someone who has consulted good teaching and who has at least bothered to search it out and test it out in the Bible just goes to show that the individual in question is arrogant and not humble. If a person is arrogant, they are unteachable. If I – who know nothing about engineering and very little about mathematics – tell the math professor I will not listen because I "feel" I know what the answer should be, and if I tell the engineer to build the bridge a different way because I "feel" it is better, disaster will result. You may think that is worse because lives may be lost; but teaching and or accepting false doctrine because of an arrogant assumption that "anything I feel is right must be the Holy Spirit" is actually worse: because of course here we are talking about eternal repercussions.

The Spirit does not force or bully or act through emotions. The Spirit tells us things in our conscience and prods us to remember actual biblical truths, and the more we are willing to pay close attention, the closer He guides us – not through shouting or proclaiming or emotional excess, but through His still, small voice. But if we make an idol out of our pride and our emotions and call this "the Spirit", there is no end to the trouble we may bring on ourselves.

Why are there so many opinions? Because the vast majority of Christians in Laodicea do not have the basic humility to seek out a valid authority and learn humbly. They would rather be their own authority and dictate to God what must and must not be true. If that reminds you of the devil and his rebellion, well, it shows that YOU have been paying attention to the truth. Keep it up!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Bob.

It was very good to hear from you and thanks for sending more of your writings. I would like to run some stuff by you and hope that is OK with you. First of all, I have come to the conclusion that most of the believers in America at least, do not actually understand what God's purpose in salvation really is. They have come to the conclusion that it is only to escape hell or go to heaven and to me, that is a huge disgrace to God and His ultimate purpose for us here on earth. I contend that the first and foremost purpose for salvation is to restore communication, i.e. a relationship, between us and God. Yes, we often talk about our "relationship" with God, but we never put meat on those bones and it becomes ethereal and we put in the closet and forget about it. In the garden, Adam and Eve had an intimate relationship with God, one in which they communicated with each other every day and they got to Know one another quite intimately. This is, at least in my opinion, one of our most neglected aspects of salvation today. We want all of the bennies, but don't want to give up our right to ourselves so that God can work in our lives doing His will instead of our will and so the relationship that God wanted with us is never fully actualized. We remain firmly seated on the throne of our lives where Christ should rightly be seated.

Our prayers are filled with our requests, we want this and we want that and so on but miss the point completely of communication with God. God wants to Know us and for the most part we only want to know God enough to use Him as a cosmic bellhop granting our wishes, not really to Know Him in an intimate and personal manner from which we develop a deep and revered relationship with Him and He with us . If we truly want to Know God in a manner that He created us to have with Him, then we must have this intimacy with Him and in turn Christ can create in us the person He intended us to be via the power residing within us, the Holy Spirit. If this happens, then the Holy Spirit can work in and through us to do the bidding of the Father and His will becomes our will. Over the years, I noticed that my prayers have changed and I seek Him first by asking forgiveness of my sins, giving Him praise and thanking Him for all of my spiritual and material blessings, asking Christ to seat Himself on the throne of my life and then and only then do I petition God with requests and then they are usually for other people and for them to Know Him in a more intimate manner or seeking His will in someone's life situation.

Over the last several years, I have noticed that believers are more and more isolating themselves because of actual or perceived differences in how and what they believe and I have come to the conclusion that it is because they worship doctrine rather than their God. In other words, doctrine has become their god rather than God, their creator. Most believers never actually contemplate why they believe what they believe and have never actually researched or thought about why they think they believe something. They are mostly content to accept what their pastor, preacher, teacher or someone has fed them as truth whether or not it is actual Truth or not. Most of the time, it is not Truth, but just someone's rendition of what they think about something. The reason that I have come to this conclusion is that there is so little intimacy among believer and so much bickering and fighting about matters that in all reality, do not matter one way or another. If they truly understood the dynamics of God's plan of salvation and the reasons for it, then I believe that they would put down their guns and make peace with the body of Christ. There is so little actual Godly love among believers that to me at least, it is appalling beyond belief. If I were a non believer and someone who claimed to be a believer attempted to demonstrate my need to accept Christ as my Savior, I would probably turn away simply because of the lack of concern for me as a person and their lack of love for their fellow kind. We say we love everybody, and some personalities are more adept at putting on that front, but when the rubber hits the road, there is little actual love demonstrated among the body of Christ in today's circle of believers. We do not understand our role in the body of Christ and therefore, continue to be a part of the problem the world sees as us being a bunch of bible thumping hypocrites. Paul's epistles tells us exactly how we should act among ourselves and to the world, but it seems that we are more concerned with other minor issues that keep us separated from each other.

So in conclusion, salvation, at least how I perceive it anyway, is not being taught, preached or executed in any meaningful manner among believes and this affects us in how we interact with each other simply because we are confused about what God really wants from us. This is just a short synopsis of what I have been mulling around in my mind for quite some time now and it would take quite a bit of time to really put meat on these bones but please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are about this subject.

In Christ,

Response #16: 

You're most welcome, my friend.

I hope you find the new posting helpful. It's all about the problems you allude to in one respect, namely, helping Christians get serious about following the Lord the way He desires them to do so.

It's very true that the state of contemporary Christianity is quite sad. In this country there is a church on nearly every corner, but a person can look high and low and not find any place that is teaching the Word of God in a substantive way. There truly is a drought of the Word (Amos 8:11), at least in terms of traditional venues. But that is a demand problem as much as it is a supply problem. People are getting what they want: music, emotion, ritual, fellowship . . . but "no teaching of the truth, please". That explains why this ministry is on the internet; i.e., the few people who are interested are geographically disparate, scattered all over this country and indeed the world as in your case, but with no central concentration. Everything local tends to be stultifyingly lukewarm. But that has been prophesied after all. We find ourselves in the era of Laodicea (see the link).

So I think you are correct both in identifying this problem and in seeing it as essentially one of motivation. The Spirit doesn't boss us around. He speaks to us in a still, small voice. We have to be willing to listen to Him and respond to get the major benefit from His ministry to us. And to maximize that benefit we need truth in our hearts. The truth we have heard and believed is what the Spirit uses as His fulcrum, so to speak, and there is precious little such truth in the hearts of most Christians today. Our Lord's words certainly ring true:

"You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
Revelation 3:17 NIV

So it's a question of priorities. The new posting announced, BB 6A: Peripateology: the Christian Walk, is meant at least in part to help motivate those with some inkling of being positive to what the Lord really wants from us: spiritual growth, progress in our walk and passing of tests, and spiritual production. As far as the biblical details of Salvation are concerned, you might also take a look at BB 4B: Soteriology: the study of Salvation.

I'm not sure I'd agree that the overall trend is one of "isolation". Seems to me that more people are "going to church" than ever before and in bigger churches than ever before . . . albeit with less truth being taught or learned than ever before. And that is the real problem. So I can appreciate the disdain that would-be positive Christians may have for "church". After all . . .

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17 NIV (cf. Is.1:12-14; Amos 5:21; Mal.1:10)

However, merely staying away from what is worthless is not an answer in and of itself. What is really needed is the presence of what is good and godly. The providing of that is at least the objective of this ministry – and you are most welcome here any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob,

What I was referring to about isolation of believers is denominations. We hide behind denominations so that we do not have to deal with our differences, we merely stick our heads in the sand and call it a day without any attempt at learning about our real or perceived differences and seeing if we can learn from each other and help each other grow and mature in Christ. I guess what I am attempting to ultimately get at is we really don't care for one another like Christ and Paul instructs us to do and it really shows in today's religious circles. Oh, we say we do and put on a good front when confronted with this problem, but in reality, we just move on because building relationships with God and other people take a lot of time and effort which we are not willing to admit that there is even a problem. My question to you is, can we truly have a relationship with our God and not love and care for each other in a manner that goes beyond 'hi, how are you, and the weather is fine don't you think'?

In Christ

Response #17: 

Any reader of Ichthys who's a regular will know that I am no fan of denominations. There is no biblical basis for them, and they tend to cement in place the necessarily limited vision of their founders. As faulty as the understanding of the founders may have been, those who follow only do so because they love tradition more than truth, and eventually the group always devolves further and further away from whatever grip the founders did have on some aspects of the truth. The premier example of that is Roman Catholicism.

Breaking down walls between groups of people who on both sides of the wall have no true interest in learning the truth of the Bible and no genuine interest in following Christ beyond some small, comfortable nod-to-God level isn't going to accomplish too much in my view. That is why Ichthys is a new and non-traditional start.

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ”
Luke 5:36-39 NIV

What should the Church be? That is very clear everywhere in the New Testament, from e.g. Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts in 1st Corinthians chapters 12-14. We are one Body and ideally we all support one another with the proper functioning of our actual spiritual gifts. The problems today are: 1) spiritual gifts only function properly in the case of believers who have attained spiritual maturity through learning, believing and applying the truth learned from the teaching of others (verified of course through reading scripture), and 2) only the gifts a person has actually been given are useful in aiding others in the Church. But today, very few are willing to submit to the authority of a genuinely gifted and prepared teacher so as to become mature, and most want to be an authority over others or at least share authority although unearned, even if they do not have gifts which carry authority – and even if they do have such a gift they are generally not willing to do the hard work of spiritual growth AND specific preparation without which even those with teaching gifts have no business in any authoritative role. This is a recipe for spiritual rebellion, spiritual infancy, and spiritual lukewarmness – precisely as we have it in the Laodicean era of the Church.

One of the biggest problems with this syndrome is that when the Tribulation begins in a few short years, most Laodicean Christians will be absolutely unprepared to meet the pressures of that terrible time, resulting in the falling away of many into apostasy to be swept up into worship of the beast.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion (literally: "apostasy") occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
2nd Thessalonians 2:1-5 NIV

Christians who believe that they will be "raptured" out of harm's way are wrong; Christians who believe that they can't lose their salvation even if they abandon their faith to follow antichrist are wrong; Christians who believe that membership in their denomination automatically makes them safe are wrong. This trifecta of false doctrines which fits so comfortably the Laodicean lifestyle is rendering most Christians today incredibly vulnerable to what is about to come to pass (see the link: "Three false doctrines which threaten faith").

Nothing is more important than the truth. But a Christian has to be self-motivated to seek it out, humble enough to hear it, receive it and believe it, and determined enough to apply it consistently to life and testing in order to grow. For those who do so, the eternal rewards are wonderful and amazing (see the link); for those who refuse to do so – whatever the rationalization – the dangers cannot be overestimated.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

I meant because Pentecostal and Charismatic are similar, we were expected to speak in tongues at baptism and there was the loud dancy music and showiness. I read about the hard time you said you had with Pentecostals. I have background there too. But I don't subscribe to all of their theology. I mean I stood in line when it was time in the service, and I think I was prayed over, but I wasn't healed. Not that I blame them or the Lord, of course. My only hesitation is what I believed to be personal revelation from the Lord about something else. I don't like to share this kind of thing because I have found most people uninterested in it (or really in any Bible-related discussions). But if I misunderstood that experience, and if the time period you are thinking of is what the Lord has decreed, then that is what should and will happen. I don't want to be a coward. Thanks for encouraging my enthusiasm (most people, including teachers-not all) have been apathetic about that with me, too. As they would say in the ROTC: forward march!

Respectfully,

Response #18: 

I'm also very careful not to tell people how to interpret the personal experiences God gives them. These should be positive things, not negative things, and we should be grateful for them. The two things I always am quick to point out, however, are that 1) God is not giving anyone today new information – prophecy – that is not already present in the Bible; if a person thinks that he/she has received divine revelation that is in addition to what scripture teaches, he/she is mistaken. Also, this sort of claim is inevitably the basis for wolves in sheep's clothing to lead believers astray – from Joseph Smith to David Koresh; 2) if the experience one is given seems to contradict the Bible then one has to accept that since the Bible is always right this must be a case of misinterpreting the experience; it's also possible that the person's understanding of the Bible is incorrect, but especially if the person in question is a mature believer with a good grasp of scripture that thesis should be tested in depth and detail before altering one's view – because experiences by their very nature have a powerful emotional force and emotion, even in otherwise rational people, has a great capacity to overturn reason. In other words, if the evidence seems balanced, the point of view one WANTS to accept from emotional predisposition is probably wrong – or at least ought not to be accepted before there is preponderate amount of evidence in its favor.

I think we've all done things in our past of which we are presently somewhat embarrassed. It's the rare person of whom this is not the case. Personally, I have a history with a number of Christian groups and am now officially associated with none of them. Even in my worst associations, I learned some things (even if mostly negative), and I know that the Lord has worked these things out for good. Ideally we would all go in an absolutely straight line from point A (where we become adults) to point B before the Lord without any turning aside. Of course only the Lord Himself ever managed that, and I can't even think of any great believers in scripture who completely managed it (and we don't even have all of their "dirty laundry" included in the Bible of course). So we should be grateful to the Lord that He has brought us to a "good place" spiritually and endeavor to keep pushing forward from here. Life is too short to be worrying about or apologizing for the mistakes we've made in the past whatever our personal degree of culpability. We live this Christian life one day at a time, and every day is an opportunity to "live for Christ" that when we depart this world it might be "all gain".

Feel free to write me any time, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

People being led astray via false prophecy is something that could be said in Biblical times, so I don't think that in and of itself is an argument against the gift of prophecy because it would have held back then too, right (Jeremiah 5:13, Jeremiah 23:21, Deuteronomy 18:22, Jeremiah 28:7-9, 1Kings 22:23, etc.)?

So why can't there be more prophecy (so long as it doesn't contradict the Bible), and the person giving it does acknowledge the Lord? Corinthians could just be speaking of the Second Advent of our knowledge and such becoming perfect.

The words you wrote about experiences are very wise. It is hard for me to accept, though, because I grew up (mostly) in a church denomination where people having and giving prophecy was the norm. (Though no miracles...). Also because it when I thought God was talking to me, it
was my only cope when I kept getting rejected and was alone. But, like I said, the truth is more important, even if it is painful.

The truth is better to me than any fantasy. I believe the words written as more sure than
anything my mind, etc or some apparition might say. And I agree on the pushing forward!

Thank you and take care.

Response #19: 

It's no problem, my friend. As I said, I try not to tell others how to interpret their experiences – except to say that this can only support what the Bible has to say; and if there is no contradiction with the scripture, then there is no problem.

My issue with self-styled "prophets" and contemporary "prophecy" is that there are a great number of individuals and groups who claim this power and gift and want to use it to tell other people what they are supposed to do – that is, to control their lives. That is the absolute opposite of what the Christian life is all about (where we are supposed to respond to the Lord of our own free will). So I don't think we are necessarily even talking about the same thing.

Whenever someone tells me "God told me to do thus and so", I get a bit nervous; if the person has been given some experience and made some correct conclusions based upon scriptural truth (i.e., to stop some pattern of sin; to start a good pattern of spiritual growth), then I bite my lip; otherwise . . . .

But whenever I hear "God told me to tell YOU to do thus and so", I know I am dealing with something very dangerous.

Since neither of these things apply here, let's not worry about it.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

That makes complete sense. The truth is there were times I had experiences that were later seemingly contradicted. However I have also had a couple experiences that are hard to explain
away (I don't know how I could have come up with it on my own). But I don't want to be in love with something false which could lead me away from the truth. I do struggle over whether God has been/is really talking to me. I will try to just cling to the written Scriptures, because I believe they are trustworthy and solid.

Thank you for your concern and prayers, my friend! I have also been praying for you. Hope everything is well,

Response #20: 

I think having that sense that the Lord is with you is great – especially since He really is with you and in you (Jn.14:23; Col.1:27).

And I think we've all had experiences which can't be explained absent the miraculous presence and power of the Lord.

The word "miracle" is an English word (based on a Latin word) and it is really wrong to think in terms of the Roman Catholic view of what a "miracle" is. Etymologically a miracle is a "little wonder", and I think it would be a rare believer – a rare positive believer, at any rate – who has not experienced many of God's "wonders" which defy rational evaluation. That is all somewhat different from a perceptible voice which tells you "quit your job and go move to Borneo to be a missionary"; Paul was given that sort of exceptional experience, but I don't see it happening very often, even in the Bible. Because we now have the Bible. This is a very personal area of application, and a pastor-teacher has to be proportionally careful about how he speaks about it; because there are a lot of misguided people out there who are able to convince themselves that X happened when really it was Y or even Z; and there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there (some of them even apparently believers) who use the natural willingness of Christians to believe what they are told by other putative "believers" as a vulnerability to be exploited by outright fabrication of the truth. I think I have a pretty good idea about the things I've personally experienced, and I'm sure the same is true of you. As long as we interpret these things through the proper lens, the truth we know to be true from the Bible, then these experiences we've been given are all to the good and should be remembered and treasured. Because God really is with us – whether we are given to experience it in a super miraculous way like Paul did on the road to Damascus or not.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

 Hi Dr,

I hope all is well. My relative is doing well. He takes a lot of medicine but is doing well. Pray the Lord will deliver him from having to rely on it for too long.

As far as teachings, I have taken a break. There are a lot of divisions here. Firstly, not that many people attend any services here. Most people have decided to attend another bible study session where the teacher is Mormon. There is a lack of hunger for the true Word of God here just like elsewhere. The number of people attending the sanction bible study by the Chaplain has only been 5 and these are individuals that are and were committed to the Lord even before.

I have been struggling with a spiritual fight because of two competing views, based on denominations and it is tasking me. Another reason why I don't join churches. One is of the pentecostal persuasion and the other non-denominational. They both argue one or the other is not saved. When it comes to me, particularly the pentecostal person always tries to make jabs because I like to read and study your work. He currently is and was a senior pastor of a 2250 size church with many spinoffs and also was in a speaker circuit. Has a masters in theology but his walk doesn't follow what he preach in my opinion but I don't know if it is because he was at such a high level of pastorship, almost a bishop, that he doesn't know how to relate to laymen. So he always jabs at me about reading too much and need to walk by the Spirit. His favorite quote is the letter kills but the Spirit makes alive. I understand you have to apply the word which I do but I also love to read and study.

So it is just a lot of mental things going on and I am just asking the Lord for insights into why I am going through this. I understand from an obedient perspective, my walk has become more Christlike, meaning, no cursing, having the Fruit of the Spirit, and trying to live a holy life in this cesspool. I knew where I fell short at home and the Lord has corrected me he but the difficult thing is how to navigate divisions from other congregants and learning how to discern the spirit of individuals to see if they have a form of godliness but denying the power therefore. So please pray for me on all these scores and for the Lord to give me insight and courage.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #21:  

Apologies for the delayed response, my friend.

I'm very happy to hear about your relative. I will say a prayer about the medicine.I will be keeping you in prayer on these matters too.

People who don't want to do what the Lord wants them to do always feel more comfortable in dragging those who are trying to do the right thing down with them. That is typical cult behavior. The idea is that there is "safety in numbers", so the more people I can get to do the wrong thing with me, well then it must be the right thing and I am safe and good because there is safety in numbers. After all, that is how the devil managed his rebellion. I'm sure that many who followed him wouldn't have done so until the "band wagon" got pretty large . . . so it had to be safe. God couldn't condemn so many. Wrong. And your associate is wrong too. "The letter kills" is talking about the Mosaic Law being misused. In fact "the letter" means the Old Covenant in the context being deliberated contrasted to the New Covenant which is characterized and empowered by the Spirit (2Cor.4:6). And Paul makes that statement in writing, in the Bible, in an epistle, in the Word of God! So to use that verse as an argument NOT to study the Bible is upside-down on its face. But I understand why charismatics – and Mormons and Catholics and so many others – don't want people studying the Bible: it contradicts what they teach.

Nowadays there are two main trends in contemporary US Christianity, embracing either emotionalism or ritualism, and evangelicalism seems to have a foot in both camps. What both trends have in common is that both are excuses not to have to do the hard work of reading, studying, learning and applying the Bible and its truths. It's much more fun and easy (for these people) to carry on emotionally or to engage in comfortable rote routines. That is the definition of lukewarmness, however, no matter how high-pitched the emotion or how weighed down with impressive paraphernalia the ritual. Doing what you are doing takes consistent effort, self-discipline, and sacrifice on many levels. But it also honored by the Lord.

I pray for your deliverance daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Hi Bob,

I wanted to mention this in my email yesterday but as it was sent by a reader/author of hubpages and I wanted to read all of what he asked me before I make any comment about it. A lot of the things he says are truthful as they adhere to scripture but there were two main areas that give me reason for concern. One of the things he mentions and belabours the point many times in what he has written, is the scriptures that speak about becoming a disciple first in Matthew 28: 19 & 20 and he is very dogmatic about it, saying that if we wish to become a disciple, EVERY one of these things are a requirement/command and that unless we do ALL these things ourselves, we cannot be His disciples.

The other thing he says is the ‘catching away’ is a lie first perpetrated by Schofield and Darby in 1830, invented by them and others caught on to it and preached it because it was popular. He claims there is no rapture at all saying it all ends at judgement, straight after Tribulation with no mention of the millennium, and that those unsaved are removed from earth as he says they were in the time of Noah. Unfortunately for him, he has everything back the front.

Of course these things were warning bells when I read them and I can pretty much anticipate what you will say but I wanted to run it past you for a qualified response should I respond to his request that I read what he has to say – which I now have done and I am not obligated to him any further but I suspect if I don’t respond and attempt to dispel his theories with truth, he may send further emails. If that be the case I don’t need to reply and he’ll soon tire of it. He didn’t just put a comment on my END OF DAYS article, he contacted me directly via email.

Reading between the lines of his email, I sense that he wants me to be a disciple or follower of him and I cannot agree with everything he says. This was one of my concerns about posting on hubpages but persecution will come from many quarters and I can accept that.

Hoping not to be of an inconvenience Bob and again with brotherly love,

Response #22:  

Internet ministries such as you are attempting are not for the faint of heart, it's true. There are plenty of trolls and wackos out there, and many of them have learned how to upset people very effectively. Believe me, I've dealt with enough of them over the years. Also, all cult promoters and loony tunes ALWAYS are emphatic and dogmatic about what they have to say. They have to be, because, since they don't even have a toe-hold on the truth, that is the only way to persuade people, namely, through their zeal and emotion. It's amazing how many people have been led into all manner of evil and lies by just such evil enthusiasm.

On Matthew 28:19-20, this is a command to us who are believers on how to bring the truth to others; it doesn't say anything at all about how those receiving the truth are to accept it. We know that a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ, NOT by "doing" anything:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

The "work" that the Father wants us to do to be saved is to accept the Gift of His Son, the One who did the real work on the cross:

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:29 NKJV

The resurrection takes place after the Tribulation but before the Millennium. There are many denominations which reject the Millennium, but that involves rejecting nearly everything the Bible has to say about eschatology. The reason for the prevalence of this sadly incorrect perspective is that the R.C. church is amillennial and they left that legacy to most of the mainline denominations, all Calvinists (at least originally), Lutherans, Episcopalians and others. The R.C. church didn't want to be concerned with the truth or a truly heavenly perspective, so their abandonment of this area of doctrine is not surprising in the context of abandoning nearly every other biblical truth as well. The reformers only got so far in their reform and their successors codified the point they reached as a "this far and no farther" blinkered confessional.

What group this fellow is attached to is hard to discern, but if you continue to communicate with him you may find out that he has an individual, esoteric position. Some people like this are truly insane (or close to it), and they thrive on contact with the VERY few people who are willing to hold a conversation with them. So if you do continue, please be careful. If and when the discourse becomes nasty – or there is a complete lack of willingness to engage you on your points of truth – it is usually best to sever contact and move on.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Hi Bob and family,

Thank you for your quick and accurate response – it was as I was expecting. I honestly don’t think there is any point in further dialogue with this man concerning scripture as he already made his position very clear and nothing I say will influence him at all. He claims only to be a disciple belonging to no denomination, saying we must carry out all the commands of that passage – that is, we are to do the baptism. Of course, he is holding to the position before the Holy Spirit was imparted – John foretells it in Matthew 3: 11 and Acts 2: 1 – 4 confirms it.

The only way I could check him out was to look at articles from others and see if he has commented on those and sure enough, he’s had plenty to say that confirms my suspicions.

Because I had already said I would look at what he sent me and then respond to him, my position hasn’t changed and I shall ‘take a leaf out of your book’ by responding to him in a kindly manner. If that doesn’t convince him that my views are different from his, then he will tire of my unresponsiveness.

Yes, I agree with your last paragraph – good advice.

Looking forward to immersing myself in your good work in ichthys and again dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #23: 

I figured his reason for camping out on that passage was the mistaken belief in water-baptism. As you know, the passage doesn't mention water and it is speaking of Spirit baptism – good job reasoning that out here.

If only ministries that drew enthusiastic responses were rewarded, then Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel would be left out in the cold on the day of reward. Moses was pretty much "dissed" in his own day too. We do our job as unto the Lord and realize that it is up to every person to respond to Him and His truth or not. It's about Him, not us.

Thanks for all of your good words, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

Dear Dr. Bob,

How are you, sir? I hope you are doing great on this earth journey. Been thinking, from the beginning, to ask you if there is any matter that you would ask to pray for, but I was afraid you might take it as prying. So, anytime you feel like it please let me know your prayer requests. I am happy knowing that it is a believer's duty and privilege to intercede for all people especially for those in the household of faith and it is the least that I can do for my siblings in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I will write an update next time of how things are here, feeling alone but not lonely. A believer's joy is in his Savior and in the fellowship of his like-minded siblings in God's family, who believe that distance (even as far as a third world country where I live) is not a hindrance.

Sir, I would like to ask for your thoughts on the following situations and opinions. Being surrounded by fellow believers with different (or sometimes opposing) takes on matters of faith keeps me on my toes.

a. An able-bodied believer cannot land a job for reasons that are beyond the person's control yet uses one's time productively, although not financially gainful compared to if employed.

Bible opinion 1. Do not associate with the person.

2 Thessalonians 3
6In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. 14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that
he may feel ashamed.

Bible opinion 2. He is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:
8If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

b. (Related to number a. with no proof verse) "You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, & training them up in God’s fear, & minding the house, & making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts."

c. Is introverted behavior and enjoying minding one's own business unchristian? (I am thinking of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 which says different). Introversion is a personality type one is being born with, like the sinful nature which must be reversed in order to be sanctified and be useful to the Lord and the local church. A truly spiritually transformed believer, who is a new creation in Christ is friendly to believers and nonbelievers alike and takes the initiative to meet new people to lead to the Savior. Jesus is a friend of sinners.

Support verse used - Proverbs 18:24 KJV A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly. (other translations say different, even the opposite!)

d. A's relationship with B is negatively affected after A was mistreated by B and Co on several occasions. A can no longer trust B's ability to provide spiritual common sense. (Being a denomination mouthpiece, saying the all-too-familiar pattern of canned responses) A does not feel comfortable being around B and his ilk but does not resent them. A believes everyone has the right to what he stands for. Is A unforgiving for believing so? Does the Bible require one to behave like nothing bad really happened, begin a "clean slate" or "good as new" relationship, "start over", for one's forgiveness to others be truly sincere and biblical? Anyway, forgiveness is an act cancelling debt, releasing of debt, restoring a relationship, pardoning the offender, throwing the garbage away, "is not keeping an account of injury" 1 Cor. 13:4,5, right?

No rush here, sir. It is embarrassing to ask knowing you are busy at ichthys.com and in your day job. I need your help. As always your thoughts are valued and help me form a solid point of view.

Always grateful for your selfless and caring ministry and kind patience in your emails. God bless you, Dr. Bob, and wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

Sincerely,

Response #24: 

Good to hear from you, my friend, and I do pray for you daily. How are you doing? Thank you for your prayers. Like most people, I have health and financial and job issues and concerns, so it would be good of you to remember these (since you ask). But God is absolutely faithful and He has kept me here and employed and afloat despite all that had happened over the years. He is good! His mercy endures forever!

As to your questions:

a and b) This is a difficult, evil world, and discrimination of every sort is rampant. Believers may not be the best educated or the best connected or the most handsome or personable or the youngest (or the most "whatever") in the pool competing for job ABC. In my experience, things in our country at least have never been tougher, trying to find gainful employment. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur (a successful one, any way); not everyone has the capital to start their own business. Most of us are grateful to have a job of any kind, even if it does not provide enough (as we see it – with the Lord there is always enough, one way or another). But I have known a good many Christians who have had severe economic struggles of this sort, and I can tell you that this is part of the testing of this world, not a blot on their record or "punishment" for something they have supposedly done. Obviously, if a person is not willing to look for work, not willing to take an honorable job (even if it is not the "perfect job), not willing to lift a finger in his/her own cause, that is not a godly approach. But there are plenty of our brothers and sisters who had to fight long and hard to get back into the job market after illegal and ungracious terminations who are doing their best through all such trouble to live honorably before the Lord. Giving them a hard time for their trouble is akin to what Job's false friends did to him. So this is really a matter of cases (i.e., what really is the situation with Christian X?), and while sometimes it is clear that he/she is really trying or clear that he/she really isn't trying, oftentimes it is not absolutely clear – to us; in such case we are wise to leave judgment to the Lord (not a bad idea in any case!).

c) We are told several times in scripture specifically to mind our own business (e.g., 1Thes.4:11; 2Thes.3:11; 1Tim.5:13; 1Pet.4:15). We get together with other believers for the purpose of mutual encouragement in the Lord through the Word of God – that is the proper purpose of all Christian assembly formal or informal (Heb.10:22-25). I don't like using psych terms because modern psychology denies the spiritual aspect of human beings – which is the most important thing – and also because it is ALWAYS wrong at least to some degree about just about every subject on which it opines (except for things which are so obvious an eight year old has already figured them out . . . if not given them fancy names). What we can say is that everyone is different in terms of personality and that the Bible never tells us to change our personalities or pretend they are different from what they are. Some people are naturally more outgoing than others. That is neither good nor bad, just a fact. It may be an advantage in evangelism, but even here we have to remember that 1) it is the Spirit who does the evangelizing – we are only His mouthpiece; and 2) the response of the one listening depends on his/her heart decision and has nothing whatsoever to his/her reaction to our personality – it if does, then it is not a response to the Spirit and the truth (p.s., KJV is wrong on Prov.18:24, not to mention unintelligible).

d) I agree. We are not required to associate with others to whom we are not related or with whom we are not in job-related situation. Voluntary associations are just that. It is a trap to believe that because someone is a Christian (or says so), that we must associate with them as a personal friend. For such a person may be a bad Christian or one in name only, or may be going from bad to worse. We should use spiritual common sense in all of our associations. As you suggest, that does not mean that we are calling for judgment on the person or treating him/her unfairly, but we have an absolute right to use our time for the Lord as He is calling us to use it, and we have an absolute responsibility to be "wise as serpents" when it comes to avoiding situations and people who are clearly going to be nothing but trouble.

Thanks so much for all your good words!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hello Dr. Bob,

Thank you for your kind words, encouragement and prayers.

My father's passing away gave me time to look for a job - my children being old enough to need little supervision at home. Sadly, I am way over the age limit. Hands down I don't stand a chance over many young applicants in almost all categories. Employers would rather hire young graduates who are naturally compliant and more than willing to do anything to please than take the risk with middle-aged, sickness-prone, unsophisticated and slow applicants like me. After many failed attempts at job hunting (I consider myself a veteran at it) it became obvious to me that it is an exercise in futility. Nowadays, I just kept myself busy with whatever occupies me to use my time in a productive way. Most of the time I am at home working in the yard, do household chores, fixing things. Later in the day I study the Bible and prepare lessons for the evening family Bible study.

I thank the Lord and for you and our siblings in the Lord's prayers because my wife and older child now slowly understand the truths that we have been studying. They stopped going to Sunday worship services for several months now on their own accord but I still advised them to fellowship in non-religious activities (I am the one who is not welcome anyway). Considering contemporary church life these days, it would be a rare situation not to "throw the baby out with the bath water", especially when tradition is mixed with entertainment-centered popular contemporary religious practices and while biblical truths are ignored. What good that may remain is diluted, no longer solid and therefore unhealthy. I myself can vouch for the truth of this from my own experience.

I have a question. How do you respond to the idea that a certain religious group is fine for fellowshiping with as long as they believe in a biblical gospel (salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus alone), Trinity, and virgin birth; that wrong but non-heretical interpretations of the Bible and non-biblical traditional religious practices are allowable and harmless because they cannot affect salvation and do not endanger a person's eternal destiny; that the important thing is what is inside the heart, that whatever one is doing is sincerely for the Lord and for His glory?

By the way, I am plodding slowly halfway through BB Eschatology, sometimes rereading portions. I am trying to understand the future application of prophetic passages. Like, how a particular invading nation/nation group has a present-day equivalent by referencing past and present maps.

Greetings from the Philippines and still gratefully amazed and joyful that the Father saved us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God bless you and keep you safe, Dr. Bob!

Sincerely,

Response #25: 

You're certainly welcome, my friend.

I'm very sad to hear about your father. I'm also sorry to learn of your continuing difficulties on the job hunt front. We do have to be realistic in this life about possibilities reasonably adjudged. But we also have to have absolute faith in the Lord that He will provide whatever it is we need, should we really need it. He is absolutely faithful and worthy of our complete trust in this and in all other things. I know what you are saying about us older people, believe me. In my country, age discrimination is ubiquitous and I have seen it very many times. So I completely understand where you are coming from. I also know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible for the Lord. I have confidence that you will sort this out correctly. Applying the truth in faith in the face of competing principles and realities is what living the Christ life is all about.

As to your question, there was a long time when I tried to walk this tightrope myself. Where I come down now is that Ichthys is my church, and those who are interested in being helped by it are the Christians I am most interested in "socializing" with. I certainly don't avoid other Christians, but I feel no compunction to go out and seek "Christian fellowship" for the sake of social life. The purpose of the Christian assembly is for the building up of the Body, and that is accomplished by the Body caring for each part as guided and instructed and provided for through the Word of God. But if there is no truth being taught, even if the church in question is not abysmally wrong on numerous important points of doctrine, there is not much profit in the relationship in my view – unless one is using the opportunity to evangelize for the truth. This is a tricky business, however, because even if the pastor/elders of the deficient church are little interested in the truth, they are still the authorities in that church. So I vote with my feet in all such cases. I do not, however, tell or advise anyone else to do the same. All individual circumstances are different and we are all here to make our own decisions.

I will continue to keep you and your family and situation in my daily prayers, my friend. Do keep me in the loop.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

I have gone through your articles on the subject and I know the predominant views on the same;
1. The more liberal approach ties it to culture of the day and more readily depart from it
2. The more conservative ,and I think you fall here, insist whatever Paul says was right.

Personally I’m conflicted; I for one have sat under great women ministers, pastors and evangelists. That’s my subjective experience which though shouldn’t be the basis of my Doctrine is hard to ignore. I lean towards #1 though I see the Pandora’s box. What else was ‘cultural’? On the other hand, Paul is very clear.

Here are my thoughts;
1. Paul ranks spiritual gifts and the highest is prophecy.
2. Philip had daughters who were prophets- Acts 21:9
3. Paul statement in 1 Cor 11:5 indicates women did prophesy.
3. Prophecy is greater than preaching/teaching- 1 Cor 12:28

Why would God entrust women with the greater gift of prophecy and then forbid them from the lesser one of teaching? Women preaching and women covering their heads seem to me to be very similar. The fact that we treat them dissimilarly appears to me to be product of our cultural and traditional biases. We are very quick to be true to literalism on teaching and reluctant to follow the same on covering yet in both Paul elaborates the spiritual/scriptural basis for both.

Please note that these are my personal thoughts on the subject and I’m still wavering, I lack or have yet to take a firm position on women though I lean towards #1.

Response #26: 

Hello Friend,

Good to make your acquaintance. I'm happy to hear that you have found some of these materials somewhat helpful. I will say that this ministry is in many ways a "sum of the parts greater than the whole" phenomenon. That is to say, the impression gotten by reading a few things will be different in some respects from the overall result of reading many things on many topics.

That said, let me assure you that I have no personal or misogynistic axe to grind on this subject. I would be happy to tell you that women are perfectly welcome in the Lord's opinion to teach the Word to the assembled believers of a local church . . . if that is what I found in the Word. It is not, and so I teach what I have found to be true from reading and studying scripture. If you have read some of the pertinent postings, then I'm sure you know that I have repeatedly made the point that the fact that women are not allowed to teach the Bible to adult men does not in any way devalue them or reflect poorly on them or forestall their winning of the maximum possible eternal rewards. We are all equal in the Lord in respect to what is most important, namely, the opportunity to be saved in the first place and to win the three crowns of eternal reward in the second. I have no doubt that there will be many women among the first ranks of those rewarded in the resurrection and many men in the last rank. It all depends on how we respond to the Lord and to His will for our lives, both general and specific. But if we reject that will and substitute our own will, then we are likely not going to please Him or win great rewards in this time we are suffering through here on earth. So it's not at all about what I say or think or teach; rather, it's about what He says and thinks and has put in His Word.

A man who wants to be a preacher or teacher but who does not actually have the gift is not going to prosper by arrogating to himself the latter role (i.e., "teacher"); in the former role (i.e. "preacher"), since it is not a biblical one, he may have worldly success – and I will concede that there have been a good number of women who have been successful "preachers". But the body of Christ is not edified without substantive teaching of the truth, and that is what the gift of pastor-teacher is all about. Is there encouragement in good teaching? Indeed there is, but it is encouragement through the truth and in accordance with the truth – rather than highly emotional performances given in dulcet tones which produce an "experience" but which do not edify and which more often than not lead in the wrong direction where the truth is concerned. Neither a man or a woman who goes down this road will receive much on the day we are evaluated.

A man who wants to teach the Word and is indeed gifted by the Spirit to do so – but who does not bother to get prepared to do so, both in terms of personal spiritual preparation (of growing to maturity and advancing with Christ in passing the tests that then come) and also in terms of academic preparation (learning a solid system of theology from a good teaching ministry, learning the original languages of the Bible, and studying other pertinent subjects) – will also not prosper in the role, even if he does have the gift.

In terms of actual cases, therefore, we are talking about a very small "set" for men, and no doubt a "null set" for women (based upon any reading of 1st Timothy 2:12 which respects the clear sense of the text in English or in Greek). The vast majority of men in the pulpit today in this country (and around the world, for that matter) are doing the Church of Christ little good, from what I can see. They may be popular and build large churches and bring in a lot of money, but if they are not teaching substance from the Word of God, no one can grow under such "ministry", and if what little they are "teaching" is wrong, as is often the case, then they may be doing "more harm than good" (1Cor.11:17; cf. Is.1:11-12; Amos 5:21, Mal.1:10).

Finally, there is the case of gifts. I have no doubt that many women are particularly gifted as teachers. Indeed, women are natural teachers. And there is no restriction placed upon them in the Church in regard to teaching other women (in fact they are directed to do so: Tit.2:4-5), or in regard to teaching children (some of the best Sunday school teachers I ever had were women). The point is not the gift; the point is the scriptural prohibition. There are reasons for it (we can discuss that, if you like), but the prohibition is clear enough.

So while you make a good point about women prophets, 1) there is no indication that these women used their gift to prophesy to men or in the assembly wherein adult men were present (it is precisely in this context where Paul commands silence); 2) that gift has now ceased to be given to anyone, regardless of gender or any other consideration (1Cor.13:8-12); and 3) there is no similar attribution of the gift of pastor-and-teacher to women as we do have with "prophet" in the example you cite.

So if the objective is personal growth and personally pleasing Christ, we should do it His way even if it is not what we personally would prefer; and if the objective is the edification of the Church, likewise Christ's will should prevail, otherwise there will be no growth.

My approach here is the same taken to "head covering", by the way, namely, to find out what the Bible actually has to say and then to teach that (see the link: "Hats and Hair").

So please believe me I say that I could care less what the "predominate view" is – on very many issues, Ichthys is opposed to that "view" . . . whenever such a view is opposed to the truth of scripture.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your detailed response.

On women prophets, you seem to suggest that since women were not allowed to teach men, then in all likelihood the prophetic gift in then was similarly restricted. Supposing and I mean supposing you have solid evidence that women prophesied publicly in congregations with adult men. Would this change anything? I am of the opinion that exercise of the gift of prophecy by women was exercised publicly. My reason is simple; if the Old Testament women prophesied to BOTH men and women, what good reasons are there to suggest a dramatic restriction of operation of this gift in the new Testament?

I could give many examples of Noadiah, Huldah, Deborah, Miriam, but I pick Anna of Luke 2. In verse 38 she prophesied to ALL in Jerusalem that sought redemption.

Kind regards,

Response #27: 

You're most welcome.

When you say, "you seem to suggest that since women were not allowed to teach men, then in all likelihood the prophetic gift in then was similarly restricted", let me assure you that my conclusion on this point of whether or not women are given teaching ministries by the Lord is based on scripture, not logical deduction:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1st Corinthians 14:34-35 NIV

A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1st Timothy 2:11-12 NKJV

To take these passages at anything other than face value would be "suggesting" something based on a logical deduction, then preferring that deduction to what scripture actually says in a very forthright and hard to misinterpret way.

As to specific points, prophecy is not precisely the same thing as teaching. Prophecy in the Old Testament is one thing, and very few were called to that position by the Lord over a very long time. Prophecy as a gift in the early churches of the New Testament was much more common; it was a spiritual gift given as a stop-gap measure whereby truth was made available in the absence of all of the New Testament scripture becoming available: a person with the gift "knew the truth" about some topic through direct enlightenment by the Spirit without recourse to a Bible not yet on hand. But when the complete (perfect) Bible was available, such prophecy stopped – because the Spirit stopped giving the gift.

So there are differences between all of your examples and what we find in the epistles, because all of your examples predate the cross, whereas the prophecy of spiritual gifts comes after the first Pentecost and is a specific gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit – something no one in the Old Testament had as a permanent gift.

The other main difference between most of the examples we find in the OT and what obtains in the NT is that in Old Testament times "prophet" was an office as well as a gift. In other words, individuals were appointed to this office by the Lord and had a specific mandate, most often to call Israel to repentance, with their message sometimes also being written down as scripture. Prophecy after Pentecost, on the other hand, is to the Church as a whole, not to the nation of Israel exclusively, and it has to do with providing information that could not otherwise be known without the entire Bible (with only the inspired words of apostles and those closely associated with them being written down). No doubt the NT gift had other applications on occasion (as when the prophet Agabus, informed by the Spirit, tells Paul not to go up to Jerusalem: Acts 21:10-11), but even if such messages were given to women to tell men, these were not part of the church service as far as we know – and Paul's two passages above prohibits such a thing as a common practice in the church service. As far as I know, moreover, there is no recorded example of this sort of thing when churches met together.

Anna, whom you mention, performed her witness prior to the resurrection and prior to Pentecost. Moreover, Luke 2:38 says only that she "was speaking about the child". It doesn't say she prophesied or taught assembled groups, and it doesn't specify the context of her conversations. Surely, there is nothing wrong with women speaking – just not as teachers of the Word of God to the congregation of a whole, because this would constitute the exercise of authority over men.

I am aware of the others you mention. Noadiah is a bad example because she was a false prophetess. Miriam ministered to the Jewish woman only (Ex.15:20), and was turned leprous when she attempted to usurp her brother's authority (Num.12:1-16). Huldah and Deborah are both examples of noble women picking up the slack when the men refused to do so and the country found itself in the midst of spiritual degeneration (cf. Judg.4:8-9). If there were any cases today of women serving legitimately as teachers of men in response to an actual call from the Lord then it would have be a case of this sort of thing (we are in the lukewarm era of Laodicea, after all; see the link), but I know not of any such (and cannot see how that would not contradict scripture).

So teaching is not prophecy, and the Old Testament regime is not that of the New (we do not sacrifice sheep on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem, e.g.). And I find no convincing scriptural evidence to lead me to interpret the two passages quoted above for you in anything but the very natural and straightforward way in which they cry out to be interpreted.

If a woman actually is told by the Lord to teach, then by all means, she should follow the Lord. But if a woman has not actually received such a call and sets herself up to teach anyway, that is a disaster in the making for anyone who sits under such a ministry. The same is true of men, by the way. And there are many men who claim to have the gift, claim to be prepared, and pretend to a ministry "from God" when it is actually anything but. So while it may be of some value to debate this issue in theoretical terms, the real issue is a practical one: is the tree producing good fruit or rotten fruit? Any Christian with a modicum of spiritual common sense can tell the difference, and any Christian who is genuinely seeking spiritual growth through attention to what the Bible actually says and means (few enough of these types around in Laodicea too), then it will be no terribly difficult matter to figure out if the ministry under consideration is to be avoided, regardless of whether or not the person in the pulpit is a male or not.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

Dear Robert,

There is nothing wrong with logical deduction as you imply.

The slave masters of North America read the 'plain text' and finding nothing but regulation of slave-master relations concluded God was only against abusing slaves not keeping them. We both know where that led, don't we?

To your points. I was quite categorical that I was referring to women prophets under the OLD covenant. My objective was simple; demonstrate that operation of the gift of prophecy by women was no different from that by men. Anna prophesied to ALL.

Following on this point, I said we have no reason whatsoever to assume that operation of this gift in the new Testament by women was restricted to the same gender audience. That is a wild baseless assumption that one only reaches if they are already made up their mind.

Third, the idea that prophecy was meant to help before New testament Canon was completed is a popular but again baseless theory. There is nothing in the text nor outside that confirms this. It is just popular theory. Besides, New testament compilation took centuries to compile and the process was fraught with uncertainties all the way.

Fourth, I shared from 1 Corinthians how Prophecy is the highest gift above teaching and this of course means I acknowledge the difference between prophecy and teaching. I haven't said they are one though. I merely wondered how women could operate a higher gift before men and not a lower one.

Fifth, I have at no point disputed what Paul said; it is very clear he never suffered women to teach and he communicated as much to Timothy. He wrote and said so but it is no doctrine, just cultural accommodation no different from circumcising Timothy or observing Jewish feasts and even taking the Nazirite vow complete with animal sacrifice.Thats why he speaks of the law being shadows while following it somewhat. That's why in Christ there is neither male nor female while using biology to restrict operation of a spiritual gift.

I totally agree with you that sitting under those who called themselves is disastrous from the start. If I may add, even under the called,unless they maintain the walk, it can easily be disastrous.

Anna received Revelation of who Christ is, and she spoke of Christ. She directed all who sought redemption to Jesus. If that's no preaching or teaching I don't know what is.

The notion that women can only teach/prophesy,if at all, when men fail or are absent is fallacious. Isaiah's wife was a prophetess(Isaiah 8:3) and so was Mirriam

Finally, and this is really an aside. I saw part of your site where you said that the fact that heaven as 12 gates for the 12 apostles means the office ceased. What about Paul, he was not one of the 12.

Thank you for your site. Though there are parts I don't agree with like on us being the 'Laodecian' church , I lean towards post-trib rapture. But to be honest, just about every approach to Revelation has serious logical holes. I pick the one with the least holes. There is no watertight interpretation of this Book. All make some assumptions at some point. And I think our biggest challenge is mistaking symbols for literal and vice versa.

Thank you once again

Response #28: 

I certainly don't want to get into a "set to" with you over this. I had thought initially that you were asking a question; pastor-teachers like yourself certainly have a right to have their teaching "between them and the Lord". So I hope this last response will be the end on this topic; a response is in order because while I believe I do understand your position, I apparently haven't made mine entirely clear.

Before I return to the topic of women teaching men in the assembly, however, let me clear up a few other things. First, I certainly do believe in a bodily resurrection wherein those who are alive when it happens will be "caught up" in resurrection without seeing physical death – right after the "dead in Christ" who "rise first" (1Thes.4:13ff.). I do most certainly agree that this happens AFTER the Tribulation, not before: it happens when Christ returns (the second advent). That position is plastered all over the site (see the most recent link: "Dangers of the Pre-Trib Rapture False Teaching"). I'm really surprised that you could have spent any serious time at Ichthys and not know this.

Secondly, Paul is one of the ultimate 12, the greatest of the apostles, picked by the Lord Himself – as in the case of the other eleven – as "My chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). See the link: "Paul is #12".

No, there is nothing wrong with logic . . . if there is nothing wrong with the logic. Here is what I don't agree with in your logic:

a) You say women were prophets in Israel,

b) and you say women might possibly have prophesied in the time of Acts (though scripture doesn't say so),

c) so you conclude that therefore it is fine for a woman to teach adult men in the assembly, even though scripture on two separate occasions prohibits it.

The last point to me is the key. I don't find anywhere in our discussion where you address the two passages of prohibition, except to dismiss them out of hand (see below).

Bringing in slavery is an "invidious juxtaposition" – a little like saying the Nazis practiced gun control so anyone in favor of gun control is a Nazi. Besides, the shoe is really on the other foot. In the case of slavery, individuals looking to justify what they wanted to do picked and chose passages from the OT and NT at random to support their cause in spite of the fact that the New Testament was in spirit opposed to the practice (cf. 1Cor.7:21 NKJV: "but if you can be made free, rather use it"). In the case of women teaching adult men in the assembly, it seems to me that in similar fashion dissimilar passages are being picked and chosen from OT and NT and applied by questionable logic to support a practice that is really not parallel, one which is specifically prohibited in fact.

Anna "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem": the "all" is qualified, and we certainly know from our Lord's experience that this "all" was a very small number. What this passage does not describe – and in fact what it seriously suggests did not happen – was Anna standing up in synagogues around Judea and teaching the assembled men about the coming of Christ. That is the parallel which this passage supposedly supports. And this was before the beginning of the Church Age for all that (so it is an OT example in terms of application). But even if we could apply this to the NT after Pentecost (not sure why anyone would think so), there is nothing here at all which would support a justification for women teaching men in the assembly. Anna didn't do so.

On your claim that the scripture I gave you is a "baseless theory", I note that there is nothing in your paragraph but an assertion (backed up merely by condescending remarks) that the straightforward interpretation of 1st Corinthians 13 shared with you is "baseless". You are certainly free to think that without sharing any reasonable "why" (even though you would be wrong). If interested, here is one link explaining the details and leading to others: "More on 'the Perfect' ".

On higher vs. lower, not all have the same gifts and gifts are not the same as each other. The fact that a person is an evangelist does not necessarily mean that he has the gift of helps, e.g.; the fact that a person is a pastor-teacher, does not mean he has the gift of healing, e.g. If one woman had the gift of prophecy, it doesn't mean that others had the gift of pastor-teacher. If women are prohibited from speaking in the assembly authoritatively, that has nothing to do with whether or not they had the gift of prophecy or tongues or interpretation or any other gift. There were (and are) other venues for using gifts. The assembly where a woman would be exercising authority over a man is the one place where it is prohibited for her to use the gift of teaching – assuming she had such a gift, but no one has the gift of prophecy today or apostleship or tongues or healing (though many claim to).

I find your statement "[Paul] wrote and said so but it is no doctrine, just cultural accommodation no different from circumcising Timothy or observing Jewish feasts and even taking the Nazirite vow complete with animal sacrifice" most disconcerting. Let me repeat:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1st Corinthians 14:34-35 NIV

A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1st Timothy 2:11-12 NKJV

These passages were written to Corinth, a largely gentile church, and to Timothy, when he was pastoring at Ephesus, a largely gentile church. What need was there of cultural accommodation to Jewish standards when the recipients were largely gentile? I think it is fair to say, moreover, that since virtually all the precepts given in the NT have antecedents and parallels in the OT, using the method you suggest it would be possible to excise any passage in the NT one found offensive on the grounds that it was "not doctrine, just cultural accommodation". Don't want to pay taxes? Passages which teach we should are just "cultural accommodation" (tithes in Israel). Don't want to be morally chaste? Again, that is only a Jewish cultural thing (the Law banning same-sex relations). If this is the basis for allowing people who want women to be their teachers to go that route, it's no actual basis at all.

I did not seek you out and try to correct your teaching. You sought out this ministry and (I thought) asked a genuine question. I have done my best to answer. If you prefer to go your own way and listen to a woman teacher, that is certainly no concern of mine. That is between you and the Lord (but I would strongly counsel you against suggesting that practice to others or justifying it for others: Lk.17:2). And if you get no true spiritual benefit out of that (since women are in fact not being given the gift of pastor-teacher – that is clear to me, at least), then perhaps you are no worse off than if you sat under a man's teaching who was likewise not actually gifted by the Spirit (even if he is a good preacher), not prepared to teach in any case (even if gifted), and promulgating false doctrines. That is where we are in this era of Laodicea (all one has to do is read the passage in Revelation and apply it to the church-visible today to see that the identification is correct): the lukewarm leading the lukewarm into the ditch. But that is what "the people" want (cf. the etymology of the name Laodicea).

The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
Jeremiah 5:31 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Thank you Robert,

I close by saying that we have Old testament, which ends with the Resurrection and we also have rich history from which we can interrogate Old Testament women prophets and there is ample evidence women who operated in the gift were in no way restricted to doing so to women alone while their male counterparts prophesied to everyone.

If you don't wish women to teach on the basis of Paul's statements, at the very least be honest to research women prophets in the OT. And you find they prophesied to men. And if they did,why would God suddenly restrict them in NT?

When I said cultural accommodation I never Jewish cultural accommodation; the times Paul lived in were deeply patriachal so whatever offended Jews offended Gentiles in this matter, just as slavery. It was not a Jewish/Gentile affair.

The parallels between women teaching and slavery are outstanding. Slavery was so deeply woven into both Jewish and gentile cultures that nobody was prepared to upset the cart. We ended up with mere regulation and reminder that slaves and the free are equal in Christ. Partriachy too. Paul seems to endorse it by forbidding women teaching while at the same time reminding his audience that in Christ male and female are equal.

So slavery, women teaching are one of those things that we can say with our Lord, 'but it was not so from the beginning.…..'. ' But why.....'. 'Because of the hardness of your hearts...'

I like what you said about the 'spirit' of the scriptures being against slavery. And that's my point; the 'spirit' of NT is against discriminating believers on the basis of biology despite what those two 'isolated' texts say.

Concerning spiritual gifts. There's something you said regarding pre-trib rapture, that studying scriptures nobody would ever arrive at it, unless they heard about it and were actively searching for it. Same applies to extinguishing of spiritual gifts upon completion of NT Canon. All the wrestling of Pauline Greek around this is a fishing expedition. And here's where Christian history comes in. How young or old is the idea that the perfect refers to NT Canon? And what were believers making of the statement before the idea of NT Canon was introduced?

I have seen post-trib arguments against pre-trib arguments along these lines. That an interpretation is novel,you rightly pointed, does not make it wrong. But ignoring centuries of interpretation in favor of a new one should be exceptional, and with very solid basis.

Regarding rapture I think you misunderstood my point. I have studied and I'm still studying these things. I have shifted from pre-trib to post-trib, a position you support. That said, there are other things, which I may seek clarifications later one, that I don't agree with you. As I said, I find none of Revelation interpretations exhaustive; all have gaps and I have decided to work with the one with the least gaps in my view. I will be writing separately on these matters.

Thank you for your time and patience

Kind regards,

Response #29: 

You're very welcome.

I'm comfortable in the knowledge that I'm being honest, the long dormant gift of prophecy having nothing to do with the gift of pastor-teacher. I'm also not advocating for or against women preaching (preaching is meaningless) or teaching (which is what the assembly is all about, biblically speaking). I'm just explaining what the Bible has to say.

As I mentioned, I don't dictate to other pastor-teachers what they should teach. I do answer questions when asked. You are responsible to the Lord for what you teach. I'm very comfortable with what I teach since I'm convinced in my heart through the Spirit and through much detailed work that it is correct.

Best wishes for your ministry and may the Lord lead you into all truth for the spiritual benefit of your congregation.

In Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of all us sheep.

Bob L.

 

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