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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Why Is Evangelicalism Failing?

I'm using "Evangelicals" and "Evangelicalism" for lack of better terms. 

We are starting with biblically based Christianity with this foundation:

  • the full deity of Christ
  • the absolute finality of his sacrificial work
  • the glory of his bodily resurrection
  • the free gift of resurrection life by grace alone through faith alone
  • the sufficiency of scripture, and his eventual return

Those who read this blog know that I hold to what some would call "unorthodox" doctrines, but none of these touches on the foundation that is Christ and the Word of Truth. My views on death, resurrection, and the afterlife (among some other things) would be rejected by most "fundamentalists." That's OK. The doctrines listed in our opening are the foundations of what it means to be an Evangelical Christian (have Life through his Name) to me. Yet, in acknowledging our differences, I am not leaving the differences aside as I believe the rejection of these latter doctrines contributes to the failure of American Evangelicalism and is thus part of the answer to the question posed. 

All of the failures can be traced to our failure to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Unfortunately, I am between a rock and hard place on this one. If you don't understand what it means to rightly divide the Word of Truth, you won't understand my core argument. I would encourage those unfamiliar with this scriptural command to look through the blog links at the end of this post. I have tried, however, to explain as best I can within this entry. Be that as it may, let us plow ahead.

Failure to Recognize the Judgments to Come

Any of us is capable of great wickedness and falling into sin. In fact, this topic permeates these pages. I have asserted repeatedly that the vast majority of warning passages in scripture are given to believers. We are each charged with the responsibility for his own walk. And we are each responsible for our study of the the Word of Truth. We will be judged for both our service in the flesh and our handling of scripture. Of course, the gift of resurrection is free. These judgments have nothing to do with Life.

There are many verses we could reference here, but I have chosen two representative verses.

Judgment of what we do in the flesh:

He who does wrong will be requited for what he has done wrong, and there is no partiality.
-Colossians 3:35


 Judgment for how we handle scripture:

Be studious to present yourself approved to God, a workman with no cause for shame, rightly dividing the word of truth.
-2 Tim 2:15

 It is in the failure to heed this latter charge which I believe is at the root of the decline of Christ-centered worship, doctrine, and evangelism. And the result of that decline is the decline of the West. Western Europe is in steep decline since neither Catholicism nor Catholicism-lite (Protestantism) has been able to control its culture for long. In trying to tame the flesh with religion, we have failed. 

No kingdom or empire ever collapsed from too much righteousness. They collapse and decay from immorality and superstition and greed. And, as we shall see later in this post, earthly ordinances have no power over the flesh. 

Men like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin rejected the weak (in spiritual terms) Christianity of Europe. Despite being steeped in rituals, candles, costumes, clergy, and cathedrals, Atheistic communism grew out of Russian Orthodox Russia and Catholic/Protestant Europe. This trend has come to the United States (albeit more slowly).

Failure to Recognize How Prophecy Works

If you listen to the contemporary Christian music of the 1970s and early 1980s, it is filled with apocalyptic overtones. Songs and even rock operas about the return of the Lord and end of the age. On one hand, "looking for his appearing" is both biblical and healthy, but, as with all doctrines, it must be based on "rightly diving the word of truth."

I have expressed my concerns about Hal Lindsey's book "Late Great Planet Earth" and Tim Lahaye's "Left Behind" book series. It's not that I fully reject the structure of the works. I, too, believe in the future fulfillment of the Revelation and things such  as Daniel's 70 Weeks. It is the place these speculative books have taken in Evangelical theology. Misplaced dispensational theology is as bad as Reformed theology.

My concern is that these books laid out scenarios in such specific terms. It is my contention that things like the events of the Revelation can only be seen through a glass darkly from our perspective. The Book of the Revelation (and parallel prophecies) are meant to be understood by those living in those days. We guess at best. And looking at the movies based on Lindsey's and LaHaye's books, their guesses were awful. 

I believe a delusion set in culminating in disillusionment. Evangelicalism has adopted two roads and has sought to travel either or both and no matter the course, have ended up in the ditch. The intellectual Christian and the emotional Christian. The intellectual Christian sees Christianity as a set of doctrines laid out in an approved catechism (in one form or another). It surrenders the faith to "authorities" and systems. They will not admit this, hiding under the mantle of Sola Scriptura while bowing to authorities.

Failure to be Truly Satisfied with Scripture

We saw this unconscious denial of the authority of scripture in  our look at RC Sproul's worship of Thomas Aquinas. Sproul stood on the mountain top with a Sola Scriptura flag as he bowed the knee to "the early church fathers." I want to be careful here. I am not the judge of another man's servant, but I certainly want to oppose those who oppose truth. Sproul's accolades directed at Aquinas and others are the matter of public record.

In addition to intellectualism, the other road preferred over the road of right division is emotionalism. This road melts down Christianity to washing feet, virtue signaling, social justice programs, and valuing love over all. Of course, love is absolutely essential, but as with all things, we must let scripture define true love. And to be sure, there is nothing wrong with a soup kitchen, but such a thing is secondary to exaltation of the great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

As I understand it, Martin Luther King, Jr. denied the resurrection. That does not exclude him from praise for his work done on behalf of those excluded from access to parts of society, but it surely excludes him from any praise as a "Christian." All the good works in the world are of no value apart from Christ's completed work. There is no life beyond the grave in his denial (if this is in fact true).

In any case, we are to exalt no man above or with Christ. When we gather to worship the Lord, no other should intrude on that calling. We must draw strict lines. I honor Thomas Jefferson, for example, for his great work on behalf of the rights of men, but I would never include him in anything involving praise of the Savior.

Often these two roads merge. The intellectual wants to "rise above" what is deemed a "fundamentalist" (used as a pejorative) approach to scripture to find a "higher purpose" which is inferred. This is often mixed with emotionalism as the intellectual adopts earthly altruistic programs believing this is a "higher
Christianity. It scoffs at "base" fundamentalism. 

Before I became a Christian, I attended a meeting featuring speaker and heretic Tony Campolo. Tony raised the roof with his emotional plea in the context of a "higher" Christianity. His talk culminated in a rattling off of members of different "denominations" coming together to do social justice work in Philadelphia (to the delight of the crowd). I bought into it. Any struggles I had as a devout Catholic wrestling with the claims of Evangelicalism melted away in emotion and this "higher" Christianity. I adored the message. It was not until my conversion that I realized the man had sold me a packet of magic beans. he hid Christ from me in the guise of showing me the "real" Christ.  

Many of the proponents of this "higher" Christianity have so much disdain for what they mock as "fundamentalist" Christianity that they side with the enemies of the faith (and the enemies of Christ) to prove their intellectual bona fides. 

Now remember, those who call themselves "fundamentalists" have no use for doctrines I hold dear such as the state of the dead and the judgments to come. But we agree on Christ, so I don't mind what they call me. Adopting Paul's attitude (who in turn adopted the Lord's earthly attitude of humility), I rejoice when the death, burial, and resurrection are preached. What I don't do is reject Christ or lower Christ or compromise the finished work of the Savior merely because they've rejected me. That is a manifestation of the fatal flaw in modern Evangelicalism. Fundamentalism rejects me as I am thankful when they preach Christ faithfully. In the end, it is neither about my intellect nor my emotions, but about Christ.

Failure to Understand that Christianity is Christ

Take another example, singer Leslie Phillips. I actually met her before I became a Christian. I saw her perform at the annual Christian music festival "Creation" in  1986 in Pennsylvania. After her afternoon show, I waited to meet her. I'll be honest, I was taken by her voice and also because she was very cute and I was very 19 years old.

We chatted and she asked me to turn around. She took a sharpie and wrote on the back of my shirt "Romans 12:2" and signed it. I still have that faded shirt. I tread very lightly here as I do not know Leslie (now "Sam") Phillips and I do not want to speak for her, but we seem to have gone in two very different directions. I continued my search for truth, finding it in 1991, as Leslie seemed to drift. (I base that conclusion on her own words taken from interviews.)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

-Romans 12:2

Let's pull this in. Leslie released a song in 1984 called "Hourglass." It is representative of the "time is coming to an end" theme of the CCM scene in the 70s and 80s. Other songs were more overt, but you can sense the spirit of the age in the chorus and bridge.

And I'm looking to the hourglass
That's running out of sand
I'm looking through the hourglass
Into another land
Time is sifting away so fast
I've got to love what lasts

'Cause where you have your treasure
You hide your heart
If you hide it in this world, you know it's gonna fall apart

Not only is she saying that time running out, she warns (in light of the end) that the only things that matter are spiritual and eternal, not material. As she pursued a Christian record label, playing Christian festivals, I don't think it is a stretch to say she claimed a Christian faith (which was more obvious on other songs as well). After departing CCM, she seems to have held onto the generic idea of a nebulous "love" in her post-Christian life, but somehow that includes torturing and slaughtering babies in the womb to her. 

I think that love is always the most important thing, and what I felt a lot about the fundamentalist doctrine and their behavior was that they became exclusive, that they were excluding people who didn't believe in the same thing, or they were excluding gay and lesbian people, basically excluding a lot of people, and that didn't feel like love to me. Love is always my gauge in anything, or any kind of philosophy or group, whether it's religious or political, if love isn't apart of it I have a dubious view of it, I'm not going to trust it 100%. I feel like I am closer to having a spiritual life rather than a religious life. I think just going through the [Christian Rock] process, and watching all of that in full swing. At that point in my life the anti-abortion movement was beginning to take hold. I watched those kinds of clouds gather. It was a really interesting thing, because I think it was a metaphor for how that culture felt aborted from the culture at large. I don't talk about politics and about that very much, but it was definitely something that pushed me out of the [Christian Rock] world.

        -Sam Phillips (Excerpt: Pop Matters Interview, July 2011) 

I'm picking on Leslie because her career took a stark turn in the late 80s, about the time CCM started to ditch the apocalyptic themes. She also ditched any pretense of being Christian. OK, you don't like "fundamentalists." They don't like me too much and I have my issues with the movement. What I don't have a problem with is Christ or any doctrines they teach which honor Christ. She rejected Christ because she thought the Christians around her were too pro-Life? Because she didn't like Evangelical "culture?" 

One's Christianity, although surely affected by those around us, shouldn't be defined by those around us. I surrendered my fate to the work of the Savior while teaching Religious Education in my Catholic parish. I was eventually let go because of my faith in the finished work. No matter what Leslie/Sam felt about the way Evangelical Christianity was trending, it had zero to do with what Christ accomplished.

I went from a Catholic parish to a charismatic church. I eventually ended up in a Plymouth Brethren assembly and a Southern Baptist church. None of these traditions have much use for my distinctive doctrines. But that's OK. I answer to Christ alone. All judgment is with him. Leslie didn't like the direction the "movement" was going so she apparently abandoned Christ?

Failure to be Satisfied with Christ

The drift in Evangelicalism (and subsequently in the United States) has been for similar reasons. That is, Evangelicalism has always been subject to its desire for ritual and outward expression. The latter is not bad if it emanates from what we looked at in our last post: the example of humility set by the Lord.

CCM had its issue, "The End is Nigh." Readers of my blog know that I also believe that we are closing in on the last days. However, my Christianity is centered on Christ's death and resurrection and the Plan of God. Christendom has adopted Greek Myths like a fiery torture in hell by God and the bodiless souls in bliss, in doing so, it has demoted the place of the resurrection. The doctrine of the lack of decay of the Lord in the tomb (the reversal of the curse) is rarely mentioned.

There has grown out of these doctrines (unfortunately tied to the word "fundamentalist") a sometimes sick love of the idea of unbelievers being roasted by God. This damage (blasphemy) to the image of God has been used to justify a rejection of Christianity by unbelievers and a rejection of walking in the faith by some professing believers. Obviously, I think their "hell" is a terrible doctrine, but I don't blame Christ. 

Of course, each of us is responsible for seeking truth for ourselves. I was entrenched in a system which teaches not only the Greek Mythology of fiery torture for unbelievers, but also the prospect of that fire for believers who commit a "grave sin" and a form of that fire for believers who don't.  Truth, however, is all that matters. Sam can reject the system she doesn't like, but reject Christ? Reject the finished work? Reject the exclusivity of Christ? That is her responsibility alone. "I didn't like fundamentalists" is not going to fly.

Of course, based on her believing the torture and slaughter of babies in the womb and sex outside of biblically defined limits is central to the faith, it's doubtful her Christianity was ever about Christ's sacrifice and resurrection on her behalf. Readers will know, I hold that Christians can be homosexuals (because we're told it's possible). Christians can also be fornicators, adulterers, prostitute-seekers, etc. All of these make them subject to judgment at the judgment of servants. My beliefs are outside what you are going to hear from most Evangelical pulpits. But do I thus deny Christ or my Christianity? She can believe all she wants that God approves of every sexual liaison. But the fact that someone disgarees with her has led her to deny be associated with Christ? 

Failure to Recognize the Current Age

Let us move away from Sam. Lots of roads to go down there, but we'll leave it as far as we've covered it. I want to turn back to the fatal flaw in Evangelicalism that has led it down the same path as apostate Catholicism, the Orthodox faiths, Protestantism and its offspring: a failure to rightly divide the word of truth and to recognize the current present age.

I've touched on a number of topics in this post. I'll post links below to other posts with more details. I've bitten off more than I can chew in a single post (again), but I did want to circle the wagons back on the notion that earthly ordinances and religious fervor will fail in the end. We see a profound warning at the end of an illuminating chapter about what Religion will do to believers; it will delude them into thinking they are pleasing God in the flesh and and delude them into thinking they are invulnerable to sin and error.

If you have died with Christ to the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you imposed upon with ordinances? – “Do not touch, and do not taste, and do not handle”, which are all destined for decay with falling into disuse, these being after the commandments and teachings of men, which indeed have a reputation for wisdom in self-willed worship and humility and austerity of the body, but not of any value for satisfying the flesh.

-Colossians 2:20-23

The entire chapter is warning against falling back into practices meant for other groups in other ages. Chapter 1 of Colossians points the reader back to the focus of Paul's revelation in Ephesians 3 in regard to the age in which we live and revelation of the Dispensation of the Mystery. Understanding this age (by rightly dividing the Word of Truth) is the greatest deterrent for falling for either the world's secular or religious "wisdom." And as we see in the verse above, such "wisdom" and practices (no matter the appearance of wisdom and piety) will not satisfy or curb the desires of the flesh. Remember, the flesh desires not only sins like sexual sin, but sins of religious piety (virtue signaling) and self-glory.

I now rejoice in sufferings for your sakes, and I contribute my share to what is left behind among the tribulations of Christ, in my flesh, for the sake of his body, which is the church, of which I have become a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given to me for you, to complete the word of God – the mystery which was hidden away from the ages and from the generations, but now has been made manifest to his saints, to whom God wished to make known what the richness is of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, for which I also labour, striving according to his invigoration which invigorates me with power.

-Colossians 1:24-29

Evangelicalism has fallen for the world as the other systems have. Not finding full satisfaction in Christ (evidenced by its need for rituals and works), it has drifted. Instead of doing the hard work of one who is studying so as not to be ashamed, we have taken an earthly Jesus in his humility and built systems around practices found in his life and in the Bible, failing to rightly discern and divide them.

A shallow faith will seek to supplement itself with ritual. In the case of Evangelicals, this is found its rituals of baptism and the "Lord's Supper." A shallow faith will also tire of scripture. That might seem like a head-scratcher as most of these gatherings are seemingly centered around the Bible. But listen carefully and you find that scripture is often reduced to merely a jumping-off point for the same messages of self-improvement, works, tithing, and the gospel. Of course the last is a good thing if it is not sandwiched in a fear of fire (from which many false professions have arisen). But of those who truly come to a knowledge of Christ, most are then herded into works and rituals to pacify them. They are handed an answer key. Programs of individual study are discouraged.

We've noted on this blog the glory of scripture and its supernatural composition. It is a book of endless depth. It can feed a baby with its milk, it can provide endless meat for those seeking to go on to full maturity. Its structures and arrangements and doctrines within doctrines are so rich and deep they cannot be be grasped in one lifetime. God does not expect us to know everything, but she does expect to study as though it's possible. 

Evangelicalism is failing in America as Christendom has failed everywhere else, by abandoning Christ in his headship of the One Body and adopting the rudiments of the world, both secular and religious. If you want works, there are many who do works outside of Christ. If you want ritual, there are many who offer far more ritual, pomp, and religious garb than we can offer. 

Critics of CCM accuse the genre of trying to win the world with the world. Yet scripture's view of the world is defined as anything not derived from the word of God AND anything meant for another age. If you plan on taking a sheep to Jerusalem for slaughter, you might be able to find such a thing in your Bible, it might feel religious, you might feel as though you have participated in a God-ordained act... but all you'll be doing is denying Christ. Such an act, although biblical, was never meant for this age.

Evangelicals get caught up in rituals and traditions which blur God's purpose for the current age. It is unsustainable and does not have the power of God with it. Such systems have failed everywhere in the world, they will fail here.

Additional Reading:


In a previous chapter we have mentioned the landslide away from the Truth before the apostle Paul died and its gradual recovery down through this age.  Even to-day the full-orbed truth given by the glorified Lord Jesus through the apostle is little known in our pulpits.
This is a potent reason why these riches are not received and enjoyed among the people of God. Another stumbling block is for Christians to approach the Bible from the wrong end, so to speak. Instead of first of all seeking an understanding of the purpose of the ages in the large and seeing it as a whole, and then finding the place in it that God's Love and Redemption has secured for them, they approach the other way round and become so taken up with themselves and their own needs that many of them never advance beyond this point.

Consequently they know little or nothing of other callings and imagine that God's plans revolve solely around themselves. This is a species of slavery to self that we all need to be delivered from. 

One result of this is to see a part of the revelation of God and imagine that it is the whole.
There are those who can only see God's purposes for a Kingdom on this earth.
Others deny this and see only a spiritual fulfilment and going to Heaven after death.
Both are only half truths, and like all half truths, are thoroughly misleading.

-Stuart Allen (Excerpt: The Unfolding Purpose of God) 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Correction and More on the Use of the Name "Jesus" (Be Careful)

 In a previous post concerning the hymn "Come Thou Fount," I noted that one of the changes Charles Welch made to the lyrics of the hymn (to make more doctrinally sound) was to change "Jesus" to "Christ" ("Jesus sought me when a stranger"). I then listed the references to the Lord as "Jesus" in the Epistle of the Ephesians thusly:

  • Jesus Christ (5)
  • Christ Jesus (6)
  • Lord Jesus Christ (7)
  • Christ Jesus our Lord (1)
  • Lord Jesus (1)

During a recent study I noticed this in Ephesians chapter 4:

But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

-Ephesians 4:20-24

I went back and looked for the use of the word "Christ" (with or without any other name) and (according to Gateway) it is used in Ephesians in 43 verses (AKJV, Young's Literal concurs). So, we have an overwhelming use of "Christ" (I believe some 24x used alone).

This makes the one use of "Jesus" by itself interesting. We find it in the practical section of Ephesians in the context of the walk (lifestyle) of the believer. It is also used in a sentence which references "the Christ" (Young's Literal). I think that is significant, but it does not answer the question in toto.

Generally, when we see "Jesus" used alone, it refers to his humanity. In this dispensation (in particular), we no longer know him after the flesh. In the great section starting in 2 Cor 4 and continuing into 2 Cor 5, we have both our resurrection and the Lord's resurrection at the center. His resurrection is the hope (guarantee) of our resurrection. We now have the risen Lord. It culminates with this thought:

He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

-2 Corinthians 5:15-17

This is a subject on its own, so we limit ourselves to reference the descriptions of the Lord's earthly ministry while in the flesh. The Lord himself stated that he was sent to "none but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt 15); he forbade his disciples to preach the kingdom to anyone but Jews, etc. Paul tells us in Romans 15 that the Lord's ministry was to "confirm the promises made to the [Jewish] fathers." The Lord came "under the law to redeem those under the law" (Gal 4:4), This is all on Jewish/Kingdom ground. In light of the resurrection, even the Acts Age church was to no longer consider the earthly Lord Jesus in all its practices. (How many groups in Christendom today insist on keeping him in his flesh and following him as he lived under the law?)

We'll leave that there and turn back to the use of "Jesus" by Paul. Putting together these thoughts, we see that the earthly Jesus was connected to his ministry to Israel. I did not do this counting, but rather I turn to Lucia Chua in the Philippines who counts a total of 12 uses of the lone "Jesus" in Paul's epistles (10 in the Acts Age epistles and 2 in the Post Acts epistles). By my count, Paul uses "Jesus" in some way or another over 200 times in his epistles. 12 is a number closely tied to Israel and represents a very limited use by Paul. Again, we add that for your own study.

Those who knew him according to his earthly walk (such as John) have a privilege we do not have. So, we must note this when studying those epistles and the writings of his chosen. It is interesting to note here that his own physical brothers, James and Jude, use "Jesus" 7 times; 5 times as "the Lord Jesus Christ" and 2 times as "Jesus Christ" (Jude only). His own brothers do not call him "Jesus" alone.

Let us now note the only other use of the lone "Jesus" in Paul's Post Acts epistles. We find it in the great chapter of the Lord's humiliation (identification with humankind) in Philippians chapter 2. This section of scripture reveals the Lord's seven steps down before his seven steps back to his glory.


Seven-fold Humiliation of Christ (as listed in The Berean Expositor Vol 46, 1971):

(1) He emptied Himself (made Himself of no reputation)
(2) Became a bond slave
(3) Likeness of a man
(4) Fashioned as a man
(5) He humbled Himself
(6) Obedient unto death
(7) Even the death of the cross

Let's look at the closing of this section in Philippians 2:


being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What I see here is our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, having willingly humbled himself in obedience, having completed his calling perfectly in the flesh, will lead to men recognizing his Lordship "to the glory of God the Father."

That is, at the name of the humbled Christ ("Jesus"), mocked at rejected, all of creation will bow their knees and "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." The humble and obedient carpenter of Galilee is now back in glory and back at the right hand of the Father.


Seven-fold Exaltation (from Philippians 2):

(1) The Name above every name
(2) Every knee shall bow
(3) Things in heaven
(4) Things in earth
(5) Things under the earth
(6) Every tongue shall confess
(7) Jesus Christ is LORD

Back in Ephesians 4, the use of the lone "Jesus" causes me to pause in light of these things. We must remember, the context of this chapter is the worthy walk.  

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation ["hope of His calling" Eph 1:18] wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

-Ephesians 4:1-3

We will not quote the entire section in regard to our walk (Ephesians chapters 4-6), but we will note that Paul, as he does in Philippians, refers us back to his willing humiliation. We see his ascension contrasted with his entrance into humanity in the incarnation. The phrase "the lower parts of the earth" (4:10) is sometimes assumed to be his time in Hades in death (and I do not discard that possibility fully). Even if that is the case, it does not do extreme violence to my point, but it is my assertion (in pencil) that the lower parts of the earth (sometimes referring to the grace) is here a reference to his decent into the womb (humbling himself by taking on the form of a man as we see in Phil 2).

 For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

-Psalm 139:13-15

In either case, whether in birth or in death, we see the Lord identifying with humans in our humble state. It is from this humble state that we learn how to live. We must be careful, this is not a call to "do what Jesus did," but rather to adopt his humble attitude. For we are not born under the Law (Gal 4:4) nor do we live under the law as Christ did.

We look, in a limited way, to the earthly Lord is his attitude of setting aside the privileges of deity (Philippians) and his choice to walk in "lowliness and weakness" (Ephesians). We are blessed with all the blessings of the heavenly places (if we are in the Body). Despite this, we walk among others recognizing our humble place as a fellow-sinner and fellow-servant. 

Ephesians 4 teaches us that when we walk unworthily of the calling of this age, when we walk in a haughty way, trusting in the strength of our old nature, we were not taught this by the risen Christ. The risen Christ points us, in this limited way, to his humble attitude. 

But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Christendom, unlike the witness of the Holy Spirit in the pages of scripture, wantonly calls our Lord Jesus Christ, simply "Jesus." It pretends it is following in "the things Jesus did" as they ignore his obedience to the Law (not a part of this age). We must make the distinction the Holy Spirit of God makes ("rightly divide the Word of Truth"). We are to bow before The Lord Jesus Christ as we seek the attitude of the lowly "Jesus." 

Before we leave today, I refer again to my own error in the original post. None of us is infallible and each of us is running a race which carries on to the grave. I gladly acknowledge my oversight as it has caused me to review my own work and ask more questions and seek more truth for today. It has led me to be reminded me of his choice to humble himself that I might be exalted (in him) and that he has taken his place back in glory and has revealed to me the great Dispensation of the Mystery.

I have to check my attitude. In this regard, I look to the "lowly" Lord Jesus in his humiliation (identification with us). But I am always to be cognizant of his great glory and his eternal deity. Let us be very careful when we refer to "our Great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." We must learn to deny worldly lusts as await his appearing. He gave himself to cleanse us, we seek to walk accordingly. In all these things, all the title of the Lord come into focus.

For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.

-Titus 2:11-14 


Even during his earthly ministry, the chosen Apostles of God did not address him as "Jesus," however, his enemies did.

From E.W. Bullinger's Appendix 98, Section X, The Companion Bible:

Iesous is the same as the Heb. Jehoshua, or the abbreviated form Joshua (cp. Heb. 4:8), and means [the] Salvation of jehovah, or Jehovah [the] Saviour.

The name "Jesus" expresses the relation of Jehovah to Him in Incarnation, by which "He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8); Who, being God, did not deem His glory a thing not to be thus relinquished (see note on "robbery", Phil. 2:6). The name "Jesus" is the name associated with "the shame" which He endured in order to "save His People from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). His People therefore never addressed Him as "Jesus", but always as "Master" (No. XIV. v) or "Lord" (VI, i, a, 3). (John 13:13, 14. Luke 6:46), and so should all His people to-day; not following the example of demons (Matt. 8:29), or of His enemies, who irreverently called Him "Jesus".

Note that last point clearly. His own beloved dare not address him as "Jesus," whereas his enemies (even the demons) readily did. We follow the example of his humiliation, we should be careful not to leave him in it.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Unbelievers Being Evil and Believers Being Evil

One of the unfortunate cults which has thrust itself upon Christendom is KJV-onlyism. That is, there are people who do not just prefer the King James Version (KJV) or King James Bible (KJB, you'll see it both ways), they declare it is an inspired and infallible version. Of course, there is nothing wrong with preferring the KJV, but to declare it infallible is ridiculous.

In my experience, the proponents of KJV-onlyism are so entrenched in that indefensible position, they fail to truly study the Word of Truth. Worse than that, their insistence on the infallibility of every word keeps them from differentiating words in the original language which are translated by the same word in English. The opposite problem also presents itself. That is, sometimes the English literary tendency to shun the use of the same English word in a passage causes us to miss a continuity in the original language.

We have also looked at cases where the doctrinal prejudices of a manmade church hierarchy influences a translation. Some Catholic-version bibles use "penance" for "repentance," for example. Some Reformed-influenced bibles take Greek words like "Sanhedrin" (used in the Sermon on the Mount) and "synagogue" (used in James) and translated them to words which rob from the clearly Jewish context of those passages. 

"Sanhedrin" is reduced to "the council" and "synagogue" as "assembly." There may be generic applications of these terms possible, but the setting of both Matthew and James is clearly Israel. 

The Greek word "synagōgḗ" appears 57 times in the New Testament. The KJV translates it "synagogue" or "synagogues" 55 of those times. It is only in Acts 13:43 and James 2:2 where they depart. And there is no reason to depart from the word "synagogue" unless one wants to obscure the context of the verses involved. Acts 13:43 may be a case of English translators simply trying not to use the same word in close proximity (the "English literary" confusion) as the word is properly translated as "synagogue" in verse 42. James, however, has no such issue.

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment...

-James 2:2 (KJV)


For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and is dressed in bright clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in...

-New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.

-New International Version (NIV)

For if there shall come into your assembly a man having a golden ring, in fine apparel, and there shall come in also a poor man in mean attire

-Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

for if there come unto your synagogue a man with a gold ring in splendid apparel, and a poor man also come in in vile apparel...


for if there may come into your synagogue a man with gold ring, in gay raiment, and there may come in also a poor man in vile raiment...

-Young's Literal (YLT)

We have covered translation issues elsewhere. But I wanted to remind us how important it is to do the work of a diligent student lest we miss some important distinctions. We have also looked at this issue in a previous post: the importance of comparing things that differ.

Let us now turn our attention the English word, "evil." A quick search of the KJV shows the word "evil" being used in the New Testament some 123 times. Three words, however, cover most of those 123 uses. On the flip side of this issue, "evil" is mostly used, but not always. In the case of "kakós" I believe it is only translated as "evil" twice. 

So, "evil" presents itself in our English versions quite often, but it represents a number of different ideas.

Let's take a quick look at these Greek words and their uses.

  • ponērós (76x)
  • kakós (16x)
  • phaûlos (4x)

Now let's take a quick look at Strong's concordance and Mounce's Definitions. Remember, as valuable as Strong's work is, he was not infallible. There are some occasions wherein he, also, was influenced by tradition. I just note that for your personal studies. Here we will use his definitions as a guide to our look at "evil." 

ponērós - From a derivative of G4192; hurtful, that is, evil (properly in effect or influence, and thus differing from G2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from G4550, which indicates degeneracy from original virtue)... [Mounce: bad, the negative quality of an object; evil, wicked, crime, the negative moral quality of a person or action opposed to God and his goodness; (n.) wicked deed, wicked thing; the Evil One, a title of Satan]

kakós -Apparently a primary word; worthless (intrinsically such; whereas G4190 [ponērós] properly refers to effects), that is, (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious: - bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked. [Mounce: evil, wicked, wrong, bad, a perversion of what pertains to goodness; as a noun, an evil thing can refer to any crime, harm, or moral wrong]

phaûlos - Apparently a primary word; “foul” or “flawy”, that is, (figuratively) wicked: - evil. [Mounce: evil, bad]

Now we turn to representative uses of these three words.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil [ponērós] . (John 3:19, KJV)
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil [kakós], bear witness of the evil [kakós]: but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18:23, KJV)
For every one that doeth evil [phaûlos] hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20, KJV)

First, we have to examine kakós. A majority of the time it is used to refer to the sick or diseased (10 of its 16 uses). Other uses refer, as we see in John 18, to speaking ill of someone or something. Thayer's Definition has this: 

  1. miserable, to be ill
  2. improperly, wrongly
  3. to speak ill of, revile, one

So, we shall set that word aside, but we still note the KJV uses "evil" in John 18. The point being, it is not the same "evil" as we see elsewhere. I hope we can see that sometimes we have to look beyond the English and not assume all "evil" is the same "evil."

Now let's look at the juxtaposition of the words "ponērós" and "phaûlos" in John 3. Remember, phaûlos is only used 4 times in the whole of the New Testament. Here is the passage in question in Young's Literal Translation:

`And this is the judgment, that the light hath come to the world, and men did love the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil [ponērós]; for every one who is doing wicked [phaûlos] things hateth the light, and doth not come unto the light, that his works may not be detected; but he who is doing the truth doth come to the light, that his works may be manifested, that in God they are having been wrought.' (Jn 3:19-21)

The context of John chapter 3 is believing versus not believing. Those not believing are not judged by the Son, for they are already judged by their choice. We refer here to what we have covered elsewhere, that God holds no sin against man in this age (2 Cor 5:18-19). We also note that the gospel of John was written after the revelation of the Mystery. The Book of John presents the Son of God as God and focuses on "Life through His name."

For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

-John 3:17-18

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

-2 Cor 5:18-19

So, if the Lord Jesus Christ is not judging anyone, and God is not counting men's trespasses against them, how should we handle John 3:19-20? Let me offer a suggestion.

A. Those who do not believe in the name of the Son of God, do not have life. Death still reigns over them for they have rejected the free gift and have not been reconciled to God who has already been reconciled to them. The reason they do not want to believe is because they do not want to bring their lives into the light for examination. If they did, they would be found wanting and their deeds falling short of God's standards (evil).

B. The passage also applies to believers who do wicked things. They have life, but they still shun the light of God's Word and the conviction of the new nature because their deeds are wicked.

I am suggesting that the Lord is recognizing that all men, saved or lost, are capable of doing "wicked things." The Lost have no interest in their deeds ever coming into the light of truth while some of the Saved who have chosen to walk according to the flesh also shun the light available to them for similar reasons. 

I believe this is why the Holy Spirit chose two different Greek words here. The Lost's works, all of them, are tainted to one degree or another with evil and are "opposed to God." The works of the unbeliever and of the carnally-minded believer can both be said to "foul" or "flawed."

See how James applies phaûlos to believing Jews in this warning in his epistle: 

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile [phaûlos] practice.
-James 3:13-16

Believers in any age can be carnally-minded (earthly, unspiritual, devilish). Works have absolutely nothing to do with the free gift of Life by grace through faith, but our works are central to the judgment of our service at the Bema Seat. Believers have been "delivered from this present [ponērós] evil age," [past tense] (Gal 1:4) but we are still subject to its effects. 

The wicked works of the unbeliever condemn him to eternal death because he has rejected the free remedy. The wicked works of the believer condemn him to a lesser resurrection and loss of reward, prize, and crown. Both are "condemned," but the works of the believers are outward carnality and eternally evil. 

It is a subtle difference, but consistent with the witness of scripture. 

Finally let's take a quick look at the works of the flesh and note that these warnings are given to believers. Note in this well-known passage from Galatians 5 that the "desires of the flesh" are very possible for the believer.

But I say [to you believers], walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.

Similarly in 1 Corinthians 6, we have a warning for believers

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ [i.e. believers]? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.


The unbeliever chooses darkness and evil over the light of the gospel of the grace of God, but too often the believer chooses darkness and evil because he has chosen to live in the old nature (flesh) and not according to the new nature (spirit). The unbeliever, having rejected the free gift of Life through his name, has no other option than to walk in the evil acts of the flesh. The believer has a choice. May we choose wisely, knowing we will be judged for all we do while in the flesh.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

-Colossians 3:23-25


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each one may receive according to the things done in his body--what he has practiced, whether good or evil [phaûlos].
-2 Cor 5:1

Note the use of phaûlos at the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers. This takes us back to John 3:20.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Quick Response to Accusations Against E.W. Bullinger

 Dr. Bullinger doesn't need me to defend him. He was a humble man who gladly accepted critiques of his work. He famously told Charles Welch, after Mr. Welch pointed out a concern in regard to Dr. Bullinger's exegesis of the Pauline epistles, that he would have to denounce half his own writings! He did so with a laugh. The critique was valid. He humbly accepted it. If one is to accuse him of error, he had better be precise. Publicly bearing false witness against a brother in Christ is a serious matter.

This will not be an exhaustive post in regard to one such public critique, but I did want to address a few issues. Specifically, false charges and blasphemy against E.W. Bullinger,  

Let all bitterness and rage and anger and clamour and blasphemy be put away from you, along with all malice,

-Ephesians 4:31


I refer to to this post by Dan R. Smedra: The Anglo-Catholic Errors of E.W. Bullinger

I write from the perspective a former, devout Roman Catholic. I was born, raised, and educated in the Catholic Church. Catholic school, altar boy, acolyte. Religious Education Teacher, Youth Leader, etc. I even made a trip to the Vatican. I can usually spot Catholic influence a mile away. That is why the title of Mr. Smedra's post struck me.

Again, I'm not embarking on a line-by-line defense, but I do want to address some of his accusations. We have noted before Harry Ironside's atrocious attack on Mr. Bullinger's teachings (accusing us of being universalists). That attack contained downright lies. What I see in the above referenced post is a similar mischaracterization or misinterpretation of Dr. Bullinger's teaching. 

The irony here is that Bullinger (possibly more than any other teacher), very much different from what is taught in the Catholic Church, stressed the absolute singleness and individuality of Bible Study. That is, the responsibility for rightly dividing the word of truth rested solely with every individual believer. Let me quote from the conclusion to his monumental work, "How To Enjoy The Bible."

All Bible study must in the end be individual. As with ordinary bodily food: others may prepare the food and serve it up in various forms: they may cook it in more senses than one: they may present it in "made dishes": they may carve it, and cut it up, and even put it in the mouth, as with babes; but, after all, there is no more that they can do. They cannot eat it or digest it for us; they cannot assimilate it for us; even so it is with the spiritual food of the Word of God. Notwithstanding all that has been said in the foregoing pages, the great necessity remains: the work of Bible study must be, to the end, intensely personal and individual. Each one must look out the reference for himself. He must trace the words through all their occurrences where these are given; he must consider their usages; he must read the contexts; he must make his lists and tables, and do his countings for himself: for so only can he feed upon the Word and the words, and be nourished, and be strengthened himself, and grow thereby: so only will he be able to say with Jeremiah: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." [E.W. Bullinger] 

emphasis mine 

Now let us turn to a few points from Mr. Smedra (and as we always do, we encourage the reader to read the original post, linked above, in its entirety).

Mr. Bullinger did not clearly acknowledge the necessity of the Holy Spirit's sovereign illumination of the Text.  Either he believed that the Fall wasn't serious enough to render man incapable of grasping truth with one's natural abilities, or he believed in the Wesleyan doctrine of common grace, thus siding with Roman Catholicism rather than the Reformation or historic dispensationalism.  [Dan R. Smedra]

This is a sweeping and irresponsible conclusion to draw simply because Dr. Bullinger taught that the believer can and should study the Word diligently. I turn back to the conclusion of Bullinger's book noted above where we find this utterly clear statement in regard to understanding scripture:

It is assumed, from the first word to the last, that the readers have passed from death unto life, and have the Divine gift of a spiritual "understanding," apart from which all that has been said will be useless. We must be able to say: "We know that the Son of God hath come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may get to know HIM that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 5:20). We have not written to convince unbelievers, though God may over-rule our work to that end. We have not written in defence of the Bible, for not only does it not need any defence of ours, but it is our own "shield" (Psa 91:4) and "sword" (Eph 6:17), without which we are defenceless indeed. We have written only for those who have "peace with God" (Rom 5:1), and enjoy "the peace of God" (Phil 4:7), and know "the God of Peace" (Rom 15:33). Only such have leisure to be occupied with God. Only such can "sit at the Lord's feet and hear His Word" (Luke 10:39, RV). All others must be "cumbered about much serving." 

They must needs be occupied with themselves: either as sinners taken up with their sins, or as penitents with their repentance, or as believers with their faith, or as saints with their holiness. Unless and until we know our completeness in Christ (Col 2:10), and "believe God" when He declares that "He hath made us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col 1:12), we shall be in such a condition of conscience, and heart, and life as will not leave us any time for occupation with God. Instead of going on our way "giving thanks to God" for what He has done, we shall be giving way to mourning for what we have not done. We shall be like David when he "sat in his house" and was occupied with what he would do for the Lord. For, not until we learn what the Lord has done and purposed to do for us, shall we be ready, with David, to go in and sit before the Lord (2 Sam 7:1,18). In the former case David's thought was, "Who I am"; in the latter he was exclaiming, "Who am I, O Lord God?" [E.W. Bullinger]

emphasis mine 


Could he be more clear? There is not one scent of "common grace" here. Quite the opposite! Absolutely no one in his natural state can possibly understand scripture is the argument. He says of this extensive work on tools for understanding scripture, that the passing from death unto life by faith is absolutely necessary and "apart from which all that has been said will be useless." That is, Dr. Bullinger clearly taught that the natural man cannot understand spiritual things. 

Summation of the excerpt: Without the new nature from God, which comes with a Divine Gift of Spiritual understanding, study is useless.

How could Mr. Smedra accuse Bullinger of teaching that man can "grasp truth with his natural abilities" or that he somehow believed all men have the benefits of "common grace?" Such irresponsibility! Either his scholarship is sloppy, his research incomplete, or (like Ironside before him) he chooses to grind his axe based on his assumptions, desired conclusions, and a personal disdain for Dr. Bullinger. 

We end this section with Dr. Bullinger's reference to the necessity of God's hand in the use of Bullinger's own book:

May the Lord deign to use these pages, and make them to be that "guide" to a better understanding and a greater enjoyment of His own Word.

Let us now turn to the attack in regard to what Mr. Smedra calls "spiritual death."


Most seriously, [Mr. Bullinger and his followers] failed to understand the biblical truth of "spiritual death".

I find the use of quotation marks interesting. They are curiously used as the phrase is nowhere found in the pages of the Bible nor is any spirit ever said to have died. It is a doctrine of the Reformers and Reformation theology which is itself a product of Catholicism and its doctrine of "spiritual death."  

Ironically, the concept of "spiritual death" has as one of its proponents, John Wesley. In doing so, Wesley (as have countless others) denies the words of the God in Genesis and promotes a lie. The phrase could be said to be a "Wesleyan doctrine," but not a "biblical" doctrine. 

From John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on Genesis:

That is, thou shalt lose all the happiness thou hast either in possession or prospect; and thou shalt become liable to death, and all the miseries that preface and attend it. This was threatened as the immediate consequence of sin... Not only thou shalt become mortal, but spiritual death and the forerunners of temporal death shall immediately seize thee.

Furthermore, those that teach that unbelievers are tortured by God by fire, without hope and without end, are teaching that man is immortal. They teach that he "will not surely die." It is the lie of Satan as is the doctrine of bodiless bliss at the time of physical death. All men are mortal, believers and unbelievers. It is only in resurrection that believers "put on immortality," (1 Cor 15:54).

Christ came that men might have life. Without Christ, men have no life in them. Read the story of Lazarus in John 11. Is there any doubt that Lazarus was dead? Is there anything in the text that suggests he was waiting in bliss somewhere? What is the only hope spoken of there by Martha or by the Lord himself? RESURRECTION

Who Is Promoting Catholic Doctrines?

The idea of a fiery pit wherein God tortures the lost is UTTERLY Catholic. It is creation of the "Early Church Fathers," borrowed from Greek mythology. It is these men to whom the Reformers and the Catholic Church bow and forsake their responsibility to study. 

Bullinger, in no uncertain terms, stated that Bible Study is an INDIVIDUAL responsibility, it requires hard work, and that ONLY BELIEVERS have any hope of understanding scripture. 

We are called to be WORKMEN who must STUDY in that way that we be APPROVED and not ASHAMED. Is that Catholicism? Is that a denial of the role of the Spirit? Is that "common grace?" Of course not. Bullinger calls us to do the WORK and in no way implies this is an accomplishment of the carnal nature. 

Mr. Smedra quotes Lewis Sperry Chafer as though he is in conflict with Dr. Bullinger's understanding. Ironically (again), a right division of scripture reveals that instant understanding and having the words to answer all men is a Pentecostal Age truth. The Catholic understanding of the Pentecostal gifts and the Pentecostal ordinances is far more inline with Mr. Smedra than with Dr. Bullinger.

Do we imagine that Chafer would suggest that no study is of any value? That any and all believers only understand scripture in accordance with whatever the Lord gives them at the time of conversion? Of course not. 

Perhaps Mr. Smedra should concern himself less with the judgment of unbelievers and his desire to see God torturing billions of men and women (torture Reformed teacher R.C. Sproul says we'll all rejoice in watching some day) and worry about his own judgment at the Bema Seat. All of us need to be concerned. 

As we have noted in regard to study of the Word, we must go about it as "WORKMEN" that we may be "APPROVED" and not find ourselves "ASHAMED." 

Are we to conclude from Smedra's argument that anyone, including himself, who quotes scripture in defense of, or in proposition, of, or refutation of any doctrine is denying the work of God in us? Is it an appeal to "free will" if we do so? That is, for me to refute my previous Catholic doctrines, I have to study the Bible. Such knowledge is not magically bestowed on all believers. If that were so, Paul wouldn't waste time either warning us about false teachers or warning us about being ashamed for lack of proper studying. 

After quoting two lines from Bullinger's massive library of writings, Smedra states:

Again, not a word about the Holy Spirit's sovereign ministry of revealing truth (John 16:13) nor of the natural man's inability to understand spiritual things, as expounded by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2.

So, let us apply his reasoning to this assertion.

By quoting John 16:13 as part of his argument, Dan is assuming we can understand it. He must conclude that we either know the truth there or do not know the truth there based on whether God has illuminated us to its meaning. In quoting from scripture, Dan thus denies God's hand and exalts the free-will of the reader over the work of the Spirit. 

That sounds like intellectual crap, because it is. But I would argue it is in line with the accusation that Dr. E.W. Bullinger taught that understanding scripture is independent of a work of God. We have clearly dispelled that blasphemy against the man. 

Here is a summation of the position and it should be clear for all to see from Bullinger's writings:

A. No one can possibly understand scripture without the new nature which is a gift of God by grace through faith alone. 

B. Each of us is workman who is instructed to read and study the Word of Truth for which we will answer, having our work found approved or ourselves found ashamed.

To say that by teaching the second statement, one is denying the first is nonsense and food for weak minds ready to hate.

Final irony here, Dan refers to Bullinger as "Mr. Bullinger." Yes, Dr. Bullinger's title was honorary, but Dan chose to slight him since he did not receive this honor from a university. Conversely, he quotes as an authority "Dr. L. S. Chafer" who also received only honorary doctorates.

The Spirit Works Through Study (A Basic Concept)

And we are left to ask, if ALL understanding of scripture is solely by the illumination of the Sprit apart from any effort on our part, who is to determine whether Bullinger, Chafer, or Smedra are correct on any point of doctrine? How can any Christian disagree on anything?

Denying the personal responsibility of the individual to do the hard work of a Bible student leaves us all vulnerable to pronouncements of men who claim illumination by the Spirit. A Pope and his Council, perhaps? And let me assure you, the discouraging of study on the premise that all such work is useless is a very Catholic concept

Bullinger's critics would argue  they are not teaching this, but if not, their attacks on Dr. Bullinger must be abandoned. For he taught 

  1. the inability of the natural man to understand scripture
  2. necessity of the creation of the new nature by God as an act of grace
  3. and the responsibility of the one with the new nature to feed that nature by diligent Bible Study  

Dr. Bullinger encourages all of us who have the new nature to INTESELY study God's word. In doing so, in no way does he discount the necessity of either the New Nature or the role of the Spirit. 

I refer readers to an excerpt from Dr. Bullinger's  "The Two Natures of the Child of God." Could he be more clear on his belief that the natural man (old nature) cannot understand truth? If a man is to understand anything, God must "deign" he do so?

“The Natural Man.” And we are told that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he get to know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor.2:14).

In the structure of this portion of 1 Corinthians, verse 14 stands in correspondence with verse 8; which tells us that “none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of God”, i.e., the great Secret–the Mystery–for it was “hidden” in God (Eph. 3:9), and no eye had ever seen it, or ear heard it. And even when now it is “revealed” (1 Cor. 2:10), the natural man cannot get to know it, because it is only discerned by the spirit, or the new nature within us, created and enlightened by the Holy Ghost. This is conclusive as to the character, power, inclination and condition of “the natural man”; which means man by nature, as he is born into the world.

Another of Smedra's charges, "failure to clearly understand or articulate the truth of spiritual blindness" is refuted by the statement above as here as well:

“The Old Man.” And what about him? He, we are told “is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). The old man is full of desires or lusts. These lusts are deceitful and deceiving. They are in all things contrary to God, contrary to His Spirit, and His Word; and to the new nature, the spirit, when it is once implanted within us. In this connection, it is called...

“The Heart” i.e., the natural heart, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), so deceitful that it constantly deceives and betrays us: so deceitful that none but God can really know it. The Lord Jesus has some “teaching about the heart” of the natural man in Matthew 15:19. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”

Do any of these quotes suggest that Bullinger fails to understand the spiritual blindness of the carnal nature? 

Accusing Dr. Bullinger of teaching "common grace" or enlightenment apart from the Holy Ghost is blasphemy.

More from Dr. Bullinger on the sad state of the natural man:


In the light which shined out of darkness (Gen 1:2,3) we shall see the light which has shone "in our hearts to give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face (or person) of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). No wonder that those who know nothing of this spiritual light of the New Creation know nothing of the light that was created on the first day as revealed in the record of the old creation. The natural man sees only a myth and an old wives' fable in the Creation record, and seems actually to prefer the Babylonian corruption of primitive truth. These "other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph 4:17,18). Woe be to those who follow these blind leaders, for "they shall both fall into the ditch" they have prepared for themselves by their fleshly knowledge and worldly wisdom." 

One last thought from me; the doctrine of eternal, fiery torture is both "Babylonian" and "Catholic." And it is Mr. Smedra who promotes this human Catholic tradition (along with the Satanic lie that men shall ever live), and not Dr. Bullinger. He seems to be a victim of the traditions he claims to reject.

Here a few other blog entries on this and related topics:

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Fresh Look at the Power of His Resurrection

The phrase "the power of His resurrection" comes from a passage in Philippians 3:10. It is often taken out of its context and treated as a lone scripture. This practice is common and can be dangerous as we have seen with other verses such as 1 Cor 6:9. 

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites...
1 Cor 6:9

As we saw in that study, this verse is often used to "prove" that homosexuals either are not truly saved or they have lost their salvation. It is clearly a warning. and Paul is writing to Christians, so some preachers have to do theological gymnastics to get it to mean unbelievers. We note this error and the other great error too often drawn from the verse/passage; equating the Kingdom of God with the hope of resurrection life. We have to note:

  • The context is clearly believers
  • The issue is inheriting the Kingdom of God, not the free gift of Life

We have a similar problem in the standard interpretation of Philippians 3. In this case, the problem is not so much to whom it addressed (although we will see how one verse is misapplied to unbelievers), but as to what area of the hope of the believer is being addressed. While different in scope, as with 1 Cor 6, we have a failure to note the full context.

so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death

 -Philippians 3:10 

I've used the Far Above All Translation because (a) I think it's a good translation overall and (b) it maintains the dependence of the verse on the context. Small thing, but note how the KJV starts the thought as though it is independent, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection..."

So, let's pull the lens back and look at the passage and its full scope. Let's walk through the passage as it leads to Paul's warning concerning "the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end in destruction" (3:18-19). We looked at this phrase in a couple of previous studies (most notable HERE). Again, it is wrongly applied to unbelievers and, again, it misses the main thrust of the passage, that is, "Suffering."

Chapter 3 of Philippians has to do with suffering. It is suffering which is central in bringing the believer to maturity (perfection) and it is suffering which conforms one to the image of Christ making him eligible to "attain" a reward, the prize, a crown. Let us look back to Philippians 1:27-30. We are called to not only believe (the path to the gift of Life), but to also suffer (the path to reward). 

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

 Chapter 3 carries on the theme of suffering and maturity. 

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature [perfect], have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Paul starts off with his religious pedigree. The enemies he references are those who preach earthly ordinances in this age. Is circumcision a biblical practice? Most certainly! Was it still being practiced after Pentecost by Jewish believers? Most assuredly! And with no objection from Paul or James. Here is an excerpt from our look at the Council in Acts 15:

In Acts 21, James tells Paul of an accusation against him, that he is teaching Jews to forsake Moses and not to circumcise. Paul was not guilty! It was a false accusation. Paul himself circumcised Timothy (Acts 16). I've covered that elsewhere, but suffice it to say, in the Acts age and in the Acts epistles of Paul, God still recognizes a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. It is in Acts 21 that the mini-law for gentile believers [stated in Acts 15] is repeated.

Philippians is one of the epistles written post Acts. It is for the current age. We no longer teach circumcision for either Jew or Gentile as the kingdom hope is no longer our hope. Paul reveals that, post Acts, the middle wall of partition has come down (Eph 2). No longer is there a distinction between Jew and Gentile in any way. Furthermore, there is no more earthly kingdom hope for those who step into the blessings of the "one new man" of Ephesians. 

The enemy who could cause a loss of an inheritance in 1 Cor 6 (Acts Age) was one's own flesh. In this age (Post Acts, Dispensation of the Mystery, Eph 3), we still have the old nature (flesh) to contend with, but we have a new enemy: the rudiments and ordinances and rituals of previous ages (Colossians). These are earthly things for an earthly hope. Since the hope of those who step into the blessing of the "one new man"  in in heavenly places (far above the heavens, where Christ dwells in the true Holy of Holies), we have an added enemy of earthly religion, traditions of men, and kingdom practices.

Man's traditions and religions may steal the hope of the free gift o f Life in any age by hiding the doctrine of God's free gift of Life by grace alone, but for the believer of this age, traditions and religion can also rob a believer, not of Life, but of reward. This is the setting for Philippians 3:19.

After Paul lays out his religious pedigree in verses 2-6, he continues with this (7-11):

But what things were gain to me [religious accomplishments], these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul is content to discard his religious standing. He says in regard to the Law in verse 6 that he is "blameless." He makes no claim to being "sinless," but rather he has followed the Law in all its precepts which included animal sacrifices for sin (which could never take away sin) before he understood grace, and religious adherence after (such as trips to Jerusalem for the feasts, baptisms, Passover Lord's Supper, etc.).  

These are biblical practices which had a proper time and place and purpose. But when we "rightly divide the Word of Truth," we must note that not all practices are for all ages. The most obvious example is the sacrifices. Surely Christendom recognizes that the blood of bulls and goats are not for this age. We also have no such command as building an ark, or refraining from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or a prohibition against eating certain foods (here we should note that in the Acts Age, Gentiles were commanded to eat kosher). 

Post Acts, Paul sees all these things as nothing more than rubbish. He seeks only to "know Him." In his first reference to this idea, he connects it with his suffering for him (or possibly suffering in order to know him). He adds to his second reference concerning "knowing him" that he also know "the power of His resurrection." What could this mean? Is it some mystical power from within?

I believe it is a large and encompassing concept. Surely, the new, divine nature we are given by grace upon faith in Christ finds its strength in the conquering of the grave. But I think there is much more which is borne out in the rest of the chapter.

Paul seeks to "attain to the resurrection of the dead" in verse 11. We have looked at this goal in a previous post. Suffice it to say here, this is not a reference to the common understanding of  "resurrection." Such a thing is assured in Christ as a free gift. Paul refers here to the special reward of a resurrection which is "out from among the rest of the dead." We know from 1 Cor 15 that there are ranks in resurrection and each will be raised "in order" (1 Cor 15:23). The Lord referred, in the Greek, to his own resurrection as one of these "out from among the rest of the dead" resurrections. A statement which confused his disciples.  

Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

-Mark 9:9-10

No Jew would be confused about the idea of the resurrection of the last day. This was common knowledge as Martha states in regard to the hope of seeing her brother, Lazarus, "in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:24). They were confused by the Lord's use of the same structure we have in Philippians 3; a special resurrection out from among the rest of the dead.

As of Paul's writing in Philippians, he had not yet "attained" the hope of this special resurrection nor of "the Prize" he sought. He was to press on in the race set before him. He was to go on to maturity (perfection). Those who wanted to grow in maturity had to leave yesterday behind and press on towards the high calling of this age. To do so, we must eschew practices which bind us to an earthly hope.

We must rise above outward shows of righteousness and the rudiments of the earth.

This is where the enemy enters in. This is a new enemy. We already have these enemies: the principalities and powers in heavenly places and the old nature. Added to these enemies are fellow Christians who seek to bind us to earthly things and deny the life of suffering for the Lord.

If we are to truly know Him and the power of His resurrection, we must overcome these three enemies. 

  • We overcome the flesh by walking in the new nature
  • We overcome Satan and the powers on high by the Word of God rightly divided (sound doctrine) and the full armor of God. 
  • We overcome the enemies of the cross of Christ by refusing earthly ordinances and teaching the Dispensation of the Mystery to those who will hear it.

All of these come with suffering. The flesh will war against the new nature. This is both a physical and a mental war. Memories will be used to haunt and depress us. Our flesh will be pulled toward gratification. The powers in heavenly places, filled with hate for Christ and those that are His, will make us suffer mentally and emotionally. They will attack us with "fiery darts" of false doctrine, doubts, fears, worry. And, finally, our fellow Christians will reject us as they present a way to appease the flesh through ritual and traditions. They will reject the high calling of this age. Even those who claim to have heaven as their hope, they will cling to kingdom practices. They will try to drag us into the ways of the earth. 

This last temptation comes in two forms

  1. An absolute denial of self in the form of self-aggrandizement through religion
  2. A promise of heavenly blessing in this life as the reward for faith
We must resist both as both will be presented to believers as the path to maturity of faith. These Christians are still our brothers and sisters. We still esteem them better than ourselves. We still seek their good. Paul's love and care was for ALL the saints, even those who sought to make his bonds harsher; even those who were his "spiritual" enemies. They were never his personal enemies.

Without a knowledge of the Dispensation of the Mystery, true maturity is impossible. We shall be judged some day for the deeds done in the flesh (Col 3). This includes both carnality and religious activities of the earth. For Colossians 2 warns us not be robbed of our reward (there is our goal) through the vanity of religious practices of other dispensations which are bound to the earth and its kingdom. 

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ... So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival [feast day] or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

-Phi 2:8, 16-23 

The "power of His resurrection" Paul sought by knowing him better is the power of the "out from among the rest of the dead" resurrection. It is attained by maturity (perfection) which is come by through: 

  1. "studying to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15)
  2. "walk worthy of the [heavenly] calling with which you were called" (Eph 4:1)
  3. "hold fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (Col 2:19)

This just scratches the surface. But all of it is predicated on understanding the calling of this current age and understanding its hope. We have to start there if we want to "attain" to that special resurrection. We must accept the suffering that will come from both the world and Christendom which rejects it. 

God is calling us to suffer. And it is through suffering for these truths that we can begin to get to know him and join in His suffering and rejection. Of the nearly 8 billion people alive today, 75% reject even the name of Christ. Of those who claim it, most reject His finished work. Of those who understand the finished work and proclaim it, the vast majority reject the heavenly calling of the Dispensation of the Mystery, and in doing so they reject Paul. And it is only in following Paul that we can find our way to truly suffering with Christ.

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Let us understand the difference between the free gift and that which attained.

"For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. [FREE GIFT] 
If we endure, We shall also reign with Him." [CONDITIONAL]

-2 Tim 2:11-12

With Paul, let us "eagerly wait for the Savior." There is reward in that as well.

"Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 
-2 Tim 4:8