The Humble Servant
William MacDonald was a Bible teacher and the former president of Emmaus Bible College in Iowa (associated with the Plymouth Brethren assemblies). He is the author of a number of books on the Christian faith, including Believer's Bible Commentary (with Arthur Farstad). He passed away on Christmas Day in 2007 at the age of 90.
Before dedicating his life to the Christian faith, Bill had a successful career as an investment analyst. He held an MBA from Harvard Business School. From what I understand, once he committed his life to Christian ministry, he led a very simple life, eschewing anything beyond the basics.
William MacDonald did not hold to the all the beliefs I espouse. He was what I call a "Classic Dispensationalist." But that's OK. His commentary has some very valuable notes. I can disagree with a Bill MacDonald on some points and still recognize his commitment to Christ. He will stand before his Savior and answer for his service and his work as a student of the Word (as we all will). The man dedicated his life to the basic premise that the Bible is the absolute and infallible and sufficient Word of God and to the doctrine of the finished work. His foundation was solid. What he built on it is for his Lord to judge. That does not mean I am not allowed to critically examine his teaching (and you mine), but that is not the focus of this entry.
As we noted in our study on the words of Brennan Manning, we can disagree, but we must find fellowship around the essentials. For example, my belief on the state of the dead is closer to what a Jehovah's Witness might believe than to most Evangelicals. However, the JW is so horribly apostate on Christ himself and His finished work, all that is left is an insignificant agreement on a secondary issue. I would encourage all of us, no matter how much we admire or appreciate the words and works of anyone, we never lose sight of the foundational truths of regenerative faith. Christ is all and his work perfect. That can never be sacrificed on the altar of "unity." Ephesians speaks of "the unity of the faith." That is where we find true unity, not in sacrificing Christ afresh on an altar of inclusivity.
A Prescient Warning
I had the pleasure of hearing Bill speak at a Bible Conference in late 1993. I was a young Christian and relatively new to the concept of self-study of scripture (despite having been a Religious Education Teacher). I was also blessed to attend a seminar at the same conference by Arthur Farstad (who was the primary editor of the New King James) on Bible translations and manuscript evidence.
William MacDonald was the keynote speaker for three group sessions. He gave series on Christian Commitment:
- Commitment to the Assembly
- Commitment to the Bible
- Commitment to Christ
I believe it was in his second message (Commitment to the Bible) that he told the story of being invited to speak at a conference and discovered one of the other speakers was not committed to the infallibility of scripture. When he spoke to the organizers and asked them why they invited this man, they said the following words to him:
"You don't know the brother, he loves the Lord."
MacDonald said it slowly so it would sink in, and it did. He warned it would be the excuse used to allow wolves into the fold. I have heard that excuse in one form or another many times over the years. In fact, there was someone at the 1993 conference I attended who was an invited speaker at my local assembly many times. Just a few years after the conference, he spoke very similar words to me.
After the invited speaker gave his message, I was part of a group which was invited to dine with him. He spoke about a friend of his who is a known denier of biblical truth. I started a conversation, told him a personal story about the man, and noted several of his unbiblical positions. Then it came, the conversation about what the man teaches was ending because "I know him, and he loves the Lord."
I was floored. I reminded him that's exactly the excuse William MacDonald had warned us about. He didn't care. Now, if it was just some friend of his, that would be one thing. But this is a very influential speaker and writer. It's great that he loves the Lord, but in his doctrines and practice he denies the very basics of both what it means to be a believer and what it is to live the Christian life. It is our duty to kindly and with great humility refute (reprove, rebuke with all patience and doctrine) his teaching. He privately told me he did not agree with the man's teachings, but he would never publicly oppose him. Hopefully, he has thought better in the intervening years.
The Enemy is Within the Gate
Our apostle, Paul, had many enemies within the cloak of Christendom. Paul names some of them. He points to Hymenaeus and Alexander and states, "whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme." He says of Hymenaeus and Philetus, "And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth..." In one epistle Paul notes Demas as his companion, only to tell us he had abandoned Paul by the time of his final epistle.
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
In the Book of Philippians, Paul tells of "the enemies of the cross of Christ." And we have seen from our look at that passage, that these enemies are fellow Christians. Also in that book. Paul rejoices when the basic truths of Christ are preached while simultaneously warning against any false doctrines these may also teach. By the end of his ministry, Paul says that "all in Asia" had abandoned him.
In our day, there are a few who may get the foundation right and still preach grave errors, but it seems the problem is more that the teachers of this age are also attacking the foundation. The foundational truths of the finished work and the sufficiency of scripture are under assault by "Christian" teachers.
The Red Letter Error
We have touched on "Red Letter Christians" who have exalted the words of Christ in the gospels above all other God-breathed revelation in previous studies. I've attached the audio from my podcast on this topic at the bottom of this post. You will note, that they don't really follow the red letters, but the insinuation that the red letters are superior to all other revelation is demonic.
The proponents of this approach have wantonly grabbed the words of the Lord for themselves despite both the Lord and Paul teaching that his earthly ministry and the earthly kingdom are for a future, believing Israel. The gospel of the Kingdom preached in Matthew has no cross and no resurrection and is limited to Jews only. Many of these teachers, unironically, side with Israel's enemies in our day. Of course, Israel is in the land in apostacy, but her enemies spit on God, spit on Christ, and are filled with murderous hate. The sellers of some generic love have sided with those who openly spew hate and teach their children to hate. They seem to be OK with hatred towards Jews and Christians.
This is yet another example of those who land in the Bible not knowing where they are and start to claim whatever they want for themselves (as we saw in our post on the failure of Evangelicalism). Even among the "red letters" they pick and choose (check out the attached audio file).
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.
Remember How Satan Works
George Harrison loved his sweet lord, but his lord is not my lord. That's George Harrison's business. He's free to believe what he wants. But I wouldn't invite him to speak at a conference because he "loves the lord."
We do well to recall Paul's warning as to how Satan works. Satan is not in the pool hall or in the brothel (the flesh leads people there), he is in the pulpit.
For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And it is not a thing to marvel at, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. So it is not a great thing then if his servants also transform themselves, as if they were servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
-2 Corinthians 12-15
We battle against wicked powers in "heavenly places" and the wiles of the devil. He is a clever foe. He can use the flesh as we are warned in 1 Cor 7 in regard to a spouse withholding himself/herself and in Ephesians 4 in regard to our anger. But his main attack is an appeal to our pride and the related desire for religious duty we can fulfil. We have rejected the grace of God and spiritual blessings and grasp onto earthly ordinances and temporal goals. We are witnessing to "principalities and power in the heavenly places" (both good and evil) of the grace of God. We make a mockery of God's plan for this age when we steal from other ages. We have failed in our mission.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the many-sided wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.-Ephesians 3:8-12
We are not sure what these principalities powers encompass, but they are currently in the heavenly places (note: not in man's "hell") and their attack is against the mind as they appeal to the will.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Judge Not (Except Those We Want to Judge)
Ironically, the heretic I referenced has no problem lashing out at "fundamentalists." In fact, when I saw him, every lash was met with cheers. Yet criticism is shouted down with accusations of "a lack of love" or "gracelessness."
He said of those who oppose one plank of his agenda that they are "instrument[s] of the devil!" He openly mocks believers in a way he would never apply to those who deny the very basics of the faith (he openly praises Islam, for example). Now, it can be argued that I am calling him an "instrument of the devil." And that is true. I am. The difference is that I'm not pretending that the core beliefs of Christianity are not about the ages to come, but about making this place the best it can be (as they teach). I'm not saying kindness is more important than the Plan of God. These ideas are surely not mutually exclusive, but they must be seen in their order. We are warned of those "having a form of godliness but denying its power."
If he thinks kindness and the mysticism of Catholic mystics and Muslim Sufis is pleasing to God and my dispensationalism is "unbiblical to the core" (as he has said), fine. He can believe that. But the corruption should be evident. Would he ever say Catholicism or even Islam is "unbiblical to the core?" No, but watch this, if *I* say that, I'm projecting an unbiblical Christianity! He can attack my beliefs with extremes, but if I use the same words in regard to faiths which openly deny Christ himself, I'm being unchristian? Madness.
He can call me what he wants. I don't care. That's not the point. The point is the hypocrisy of criticizing Christians who focus on the ages to come and accusing them of teaching a "false theology" (their words) which is "unbiblical to the core" (their words) as he embraces two of the greatest persecutors of the finished work in world history! But if I say either he or Islam represent a "false theology" which is "unbiblical to the core," I am met with accusations of "hate."
He wrote, aimed at fundamentalists, that Jesus was concerned about "intolerance." This from a man who embraces the enemies of the gospel and openly attacks conservative Christians. This is a common theme among "Red-Letter Christians" (who, as we have noted, don't actually hold to all the red letters).
A. Islam represents a false theology which is unbiblical to the core (UNACCEPTABLE HATE)
B. Fundamentalism represents a false theology which is unbiblical to the core (CHEERS)
A. The Bible condemns greed and covetousness as terrible sins! (EXPOSE AND REBUKE)
B The Bible condemns sexual immorality and deviancy as wicked (DO NOT JUDGE)
Brennan Manning (who we examined in our most recent study) states that we have no business telling even a prostitute that what she is doing is wrong. In "Ragamuffin Gospel" (embraced by a number of contemporary Christian artists) Manning excuses a prostitute, a homosexual, and a woman who had an abortion, none of whom had any remorse. That is neither loving nor biblical. He had a "let God sort it out" philosophy. However, he had no problem lambasting Christians for things like "covetousness." Why? Because the world will love you for both positions.
From my post:
We can love the prostitute, the homosexual, and the woman who had an abortion of Manning's book, but to leave them unreproved and unwarned is an act of a different sort of love. It is an act of self-love. The failure to warn those walking in darkness (whether believers or not) in the name of love will bring accolades from the world and a sense of self-glory. But is an act of hate to leave people in darkness in fear of offending them and an act of hate towards the testimony of scripture. Those who practice this sort of love risk nothing. It is the height of pride.
Convince, Rebuke, Exhort, with all Longsuffering and Teaching
Approve of and embrace Christ-deniers and the cheers will ring out. Attack believers who hold to core evangelical beliefs and they again cheer (I cheered as an unbeliever). Yet when I tried to point out his madness and the dangers of his movement and one of its most public adherents, (and its abandonment of the finished work of Christ) to someone who knows what I'm talking about, all of it was dismissed with, "You don't know the brother, he loves the Lord."
He doesn't have to invite me to his conferences and I don't have to invite him to mine. A core teaching of this blog is the individual responsibility of the believer to study on his own as each will answer for his own theology before God. My concern is his influence. If you want to excuse the wolf, fine, excuse him. But don't give the pretense of acceptance.
I write these posts knowing I will answer for every jot and tittle. I have repented of many things I used to teach. I only pray that the damage I may have done in teaching those things will be corrected by God in my hearers. If any of these teachers are true believers, it better for them to examine themselves now and accept the chastening of the Lord.
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.
If you start to listen closely, you will begin to here William MacDonald's prophecy play out in your circles. "He loves the Lord," will be tagged on to excuse denials of the very foundations of the faith.
Would you hire a "fundamentalist" accountant or a "sincere" accountant to do your taxes? When the IRS shows up at your door, "but he really loves the tax code" will be no excuse for his errors. You'll both end up in the ditch.
From the last chapter in the last inspired writing to date (not in red, but still inspired):
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
-2 Timothy 4:1-4
For those who think I excuse all things in fundamentalism, you're not familiar with the breadth of my posts. I will soon post another examination of David Cloud's mangling of Paul's warnings in his gospel-denying doctrine that one cannot be a Christian and a homosexual. Of course that's possible. Peter teaches us that Christians cane be murderers. If a Christian can commit adultery, a Christian can be a homosexual. We excuse none of these things, but Cloud (and those who ignore the context wherein we find these sins) strikes at the foundation of Christ and his finished work by teaching that a Christians committing certain sins, cannot have Life.
We previously looked at David Cloud and his position on contemporary Christian music.
We must balance God's grace on the one hand, and the heinousness of sin and the Judgment Seat ahead.