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Looking into the Microscope of History
in God's Word
In Acts 10-11, we have a marvellous demonstration of the power of the truth and the tongue of truth. Love is not another name for nonsense; nor is truth an alternative for feelings.
In Acts 10, we read of Peter's exploits before being put in prison by Herod, a second miraculous episode following: for just as he was delivered from this king, so earlier, he had been (Acts 5:17-29) from the high priest's loving care, and ecclesiastical solicitude, no prison being able to hold him while the Lord had work for him to do. And work he did! After having dealt death to Jesus, the priesthood was still in good form. Yet it did not prevail; for each case saw God countervail.
We should learn from all this:
NOT TO FEAR TO SEEK ONGOING DELIVERANCE'S FROM THE HAND OF THE LORD - indeed Paul DECLARES that...WE SHOULD TRUST NOT IN OURSELVES BUT IN GOD
WHO RAISES THE DEAD,
WHO DELIVERED US FROM SO GREAT A DEATH,
AND DOES DELIVER US: IN WHOM WE TRUST THAT
HE WILL STILL DELIVER US (II Corinthians 1:9-10).
However, we must add this: it also teaches us:
THAT WE SHOULD WORK, FOR THE NIGHT IS COMING WHEN NO MAN CAN WORK (John 9:4).
We should seek the lost, consider the afflicted, forthtell the gospel, making every day one of light in the Lord (cf. Hosea 6:3, II Samuel 23:4).
1. THE LABOURS OF LOVE
THE CHURCHES ... HAD PEACE AND WERE EDIFIED ... WALKING IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD AND
IN THE COMFORT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Note first, then, the QUALITY and CALIBRE of the Church in Acts 9:31 - in mercy, love, impact. Then consider Peter's own contribution: Aeneas, Dorcas - the paralysed and the dead, both restored. Then came the notable case of PETER'S USE OF THE KEYS, in that GENTILES were approached with the Gospel. (This was before Paul was sought out - .)
The KEYS DID NOT alter anything; they DID enact what was right. It was ALWAYS (Isaiah 49:6) right for the Gentiles to have the gospel preached to them. NOW IT HAPPENED. Other KEYS CASES were a) The Gospel to the Samaritans 8:4ff., and b) the acknowledgment of Paul as a Scripture writer - II Peter . Indeed, Peter also is historically attested as giving to Mark the background to his gospel. But thought of pre-eminence? God forbid! - 1 Peter 1:11, 5:1-4, 2:4-7; Psalm 62:2.
CORNELIUS then came, by
divine guidance, onto Peter's service horizon. Note the visionary inducement,
the leading of God, the education God supplied to Peter (the MOST necessary
sort!), the tying of truth and action (they arrive), the early obedience in
GOING to Cornelius, as requested, its speed, its result - 10:9ff..
2. THE TONGUE OF TRUTH
Observe the gravity - , ,
the candour - ,
the openness of God to truth-seeking - 10:34-35 ... but NOTE the contextual phrase "fears God",
the content of the preaching (Professor Gordon H. Clark stresses this in opposition to mere feeling or emotional manipulation);
the resurrection, prominent in the content,
the updating to show where Peter fits into things, as the preacher; and
the application - - To Him the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.
3. THE UTTERANCE OF TRUTH
The KEY to what now happens is in Acts 11:15 - it is NOT a Corinthian type 'tongues', we find, but a Pentecostal type, that is one decisively intelligible, not unintelligible. There is no sign of confusion - let alone 'holy laughter' (cf. Psalm 2:8, Hebrews ). Indeed (Acts ): They heard these Gentiles speak with tongues and MAGNIFY God - just () AS the apostles themselves had done. THIS IS EXPLICITLY STATED. YOU KNEW what they did, because you understood.
These words being
intelligible (cf. Acts -38), there remained no question of
the acceptance of the Gospel, so that here, as in Acts 2, BAPTISM ensued (for
the role of baptism had yet to displace that of circumcision, with which babes
4. TRUTH IN LOVE
In total harmony with this truth and love beforehand, is that which follows: SO OBVIOUS was the attestation of faith by the converts that Peter even cried: Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have!
So Peter later SHARED these developments with the apostles and brethren - 11:1. He RECOUNTED the steps, the data, the divine dealings, including the 'temptation' to eat what was sacrificially unclean, a thing of the OLD COVENANT, so that the BREADTH of the New Covenant NOW was expressed in an apparent exhortation to him to break the Old Covenant. In fact, however, it was only a vision, and the principle of openness to all, so that PEOPLE were not RECKONED UNCLEAN JUST BY RACE for the Gospel, but rather ready for it, was given to Peter. He applied it at once.
Of course, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (cf. I Corinthians 12:13, John 6:56 - it is part of conversion, of being 'in Christ') was by no means always accompanied by these particular, external miraculous events. (Acts 8 in both the group and the single instances shows nothing such, nor does Acts 2; just as I Corinthians 12:30 forbids any such expectation and Proverbs 30:6 any such gratuitous additions.)
In this Acts 10 case, the KEYS were turned, to the Gentiles for free and open access to the ministration of the GOSPEL, though they knew the Lord had come to them. It would seem that one SHOULD know this the same as one knows whether a typhoon has come; but the manner of its coming is quite another question. Let us emphasise this. DO ALL SPEAK IN TONGUES? Paul asked, in the same breath, as it were, as asking if ALL WERE APOSTLES! (I Corinthians 12:29-30). Whatever the manifestation
(I Corinthians 12:5-11), form, format, function: this is a matter of acute and astute divine sovereignty, for:
One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
It is indeed regrettable that some seem to have some difficulty in the "He wills", whether it should be 'he' or even 'I'; but it is the Lord God who is sovereign, selective and directive. THAT is part of having JESUS AS LORD. It is no use universalising our wishes in this or that, against the mouth of God, which speaks what HE wills.
The gift, then, to the Cornelius clan as recorded in Acts 10, it was not one requiring governance, interpretation, restriction; for it was not lacking in EDIFICATION. ONE KNEW what was what, with this case, just as occurred at Pentecost. It was a gift focusing intelligibility.
Note further the MASSIVE GRANT of REPENTANCE (Acts 11:18), far more precious than any government grant, which comes and goes; for REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE, a repentance not to be repented of (II Corinthians 7:10.), a whole totality of change of heart in which the Spirit of God convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8 ff.) - this comes and stays (I John 3:9).
Consider therefore this preliminary to revival: THE CONVICTION THUS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. It cannot be induced by man, but is given by God: we preach, HE reaches. The reach is not this way or that way in external sign, but like the kingdom of heaven, is within, and it leads to faith which leads to results. Once one is saved, there may be many fillings, seasons of refreshing, enduements, enablings, empowerings, gracious fashionings in the heart (Acts 3:19, Ps. 92:10, Zech. 4:7, II Cor. 3:17-19).
Thus Barnabus continued in
the love of truth and the truth which is in love, his labours of love. Off he
went - a "good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" () for his part in this multiple work
of the Lord in those early days of the church, to give his special
contribution. We find that he proceeded to
Soon he was on excursion to find Saul, now changed not merely in tongue, but in truth, and now renamed 'Paul', that marauding but later crusading Jew whose conversion is recorded earlier in the book of Acts (chapter 9).
And when he had found him,
he brought him to
There they taught in unison, many believing with such effect that it was in fact there that disciples were first CALLED Christians!
THIS finding of Paul by Barnabus is beautiful: someone saved is secured for service abundantly, by thoughtfulness, in the Lord.
This is worth a little consideration.
The love of Barnabus includes:
a) CARING about Saul
b) knowing about him
c) not being baulked by NOT knowing precisely where he was
d) actually finding him
e) finding him with purpose
f) BRINGING him to a place of service.
Let us then ponder the results
of the matter, as the Scripture shows it...
THIS is Christianity:
FACTS, GOSPEL, POWER,
v IN THE LORD, PEACEABLENESS, LOVE, PITY, CONCERN, STRATEGIC INSIGHT AND COUNSEL, WILLINGNESS TO LEARN, TO BE CORRECTED, FEARLESS BOLDNESS FOR THE FAITH, INTELLIGIBILITY AND BOTH PRACTICE AND PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD, CENTERING ON CHRIST, REDEEMER AND RESURRECTED LORD IN WHOSE NAME ONE WORKS, BY WHOSE WORD ONE BOTH GOES - A WORD HEEDED - AND ACTS.
As the word of God living was wrongly marred, so the Christian has no heart for the marring of the inscripturated testimony, as if to add to the abuse of Christ, now before He comes, the abuse of His word.
We must seek His governance, selection, direction and PRAISE and follow Him INTELLIGIBLY, EDIFYINGLY, LOVINGLY, MERCIFULLY AND FAITHFULLY, BELIEVING THE TRUTH AND USING HIS POWER IN OBEDIENCE, WHILE PERSONALLY KNOWING HIM (John 17:1-3, Acts 5:32, I Corinthians 13), the One true God, knowing Jesus Christ, whom to know is eternal life ... yes Him who was in the very FORM of God and for us, made Himself to be in the form of a servant. If then HE did that, let us not falter to serve AS HE DIRECTS.
These things being so, it becomes timely to consider diversions, departures and dissidences from the 'weightier matters of the law', which are apt to offer themselves for adoption, and to see these in the Biblical perspective.
FREQUENT MISTAKES . . .
In summary, we note widespread and frequent errors.
1. Too much emphasis on tongues: it is the last named gift in explicit order, and is interpreted arithmetically such that - 5 words with the mind exceed in value 10,000 with 'tongues'.
2. Too much use of tongues - Paul in I Corinthians 14 not only makes the principle of edification the rule, in allowing precisely 2 or 3 tongue speakers WITH interpreters, the maximum, but says in 14:13-14 that the tongue speaker should seek to interpret FOR if he prays in a tongue, his understanding is unfruitful. In this, he specifies verbal praying as a form of speaking which of course it is; and indeed, he goes on in his inference to include singing in tongues also, under the broad Greek term used in , this equally being covered in the application, in . The Greek term in 14:13 means: utter articulate sounds, speak, declare, express oneself, to utter, and it covers of course just all the forms of utterance to which Paul speaks in applying it in 14:15 - i.e. prayer, singing.
This misuse of tongues, then, is almost universal and constitutes just as great a refusal to bow to the word of God as does prohibition (contrary to Acts ) of tongues altogether. NEITHER of these things is scriptural. Now it is about time the word of God was taken quite seriously, and not as an option, like some dish at a smorgasbord function.
3. Too much de-emphasis on obedience. Experience, impressions and the like can readily in this free-wheeling atmosphere, come to have a 'sanctity' which makes it 'formalistic' or even 'legalistic' to INSIST on DOING ALWAYS what the word of God clearly states - such as keeping SUNDAY as a day of rest, and as sacrificing oneself when one is not feeling bright, still DOING the COMMANDMENTS, and SETTING AN EXAMPLE thereby.
5. Often there is expressed the view that all should speak in tongues in order to be sanctified or blessed or whatever; and this is simple rebellion against the word of God (I Corinthians -30). ALL should NOT speak in tongues, for the gift is specifically restricted by the word of God - by DIVINE LAW (I Corinthians , 2:8-13).
6. Neither psychology nor pseudo-spirituality is the word of God. Thus ALL should not speak with tongues for ANY reason, even if some kind of spirituality is claimed for it; for that gift is explicitly NOT GIVEN to ALL. That is what master-church builder Paul declares (cf. I Corinthians ,12-17); and states with strength! Hedonism is heedlessness, not holiness.
7. Tongues are often made a target for action, as if it is a form of therapy desirable for release or relief or whatever; but the word of God points to Christ for rest, not to tongues (Matthew 11:27 ff.). This emphasis is the normal style of exaggeration which bedevils sects like Jehovah's Witnesses in their misuse of (sometimes neglected) prophecy, while they defile the name of Jehovah, seeking to separate Him from Christ (John 8:58, Exodus 3:14), who, Jehovah Himself, is His own witness (Philippians 2:10-11, Isaiah 44:6, 48:16, 45:23, 42:8). Much the same occurs with Christian Science, in its misuse of (sometimes neglected) healing and so on. It is no excuse that some do not live UP to the Scripture, that one should then 'SURPASS' it, far less be proud of doing so!
8. There can be no fellowship with those who, being warned and taught, still refuse to keep the word of God. THIS IS NOT TO CONDEMN persons, but practices contrary to what God prescribes; and it forms a necessary restraint on fellowship (Romans ).
9. There are other matters which might profitably be pursued in this theme, for they often occur in the Pentecostal syndrome; and some of these are found elsewhere in this monograph.
10. On the topic of Sunday and rest in particular: the word of God specifically states in Exodus 20 that we should rest BECAUSE OUR Creator who made us in His image, did so, after the creation of the heavens and the earth. NOTHING alters this PAST fact, and God's stated REASON for our life conduct in this matter, in this matter in this earth, being as there stated.
Paul in Colossians refers
to the shadow of THINGS TO COME, which the whole assembly of technical Sabbaths
could indicate; but as to the GROUND of REST, this remains STATED and PAST and
UNCHANGED. As to SPIRITUAL rest, even DAVID had this in his own day (Psalm 32,
cited in Romans; Psalm 37:5-7, Psalm , 8). SPIRITUAL rest is denied
It is for man, not man for it? Of course, so we can do good works. We can handle genuine emergencies; but let us not abuse what is good as an expression of our liberty, lest we come into the bondage of self-will, loving God so much that we ignore what He says. We do well to remember what Isaiah said: THIS PEOPLE DRAWS NEAR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT WITH THEIR HEARTS, THEY ARE FAR FROM ME (Isaiah 29:13). Mindless mouthings fit readily into this category in this context, and are readily mimicked, whether consciously or unconsciously.
11. Looseness here, as in the matter of women Ministers and elders, is vain; for whoever falls into this anti-Biblical trap (see I Timothy 2 with Acts 20:28) likewise illustrates what may be found in Pentecostalism very often, as in dispensationalism not seldom: undercutting the clear statement of the word of God on the ground of superior knowledge which turns out to be the simple contradiction of what IS written. What is 'between' the lines displaces what is on them. To that extent, such an approach becomes a form of gnosticism.
12. Knowledge does not DISPUTE with God; or ADD to God's words, or subtract from them (Mark 7:7, Proverbs 30:6, Deuteronomy ); but understands self-control (II Peter 1:6, Galatians ), seemliness - and authority: that of God, which overarches that of man, as the mountains overarch the streams (Luke , I Corinthians 13:5).
Culture can pose as an overlord, and it is doing so in this country increasingly in the name of that multi-cultural United Nations (which hardly shows either the purity or the power of God, yes or His wisdom). We can learn that boys should be girls, women men, that to distinguish one from the other, instead of being the work of a 6 year old who grows in knowledge, may even be highly blameworthy; and so the myth supplants one equally horrid, that married women could not even possess their assets or be paid for equal work, equal pay. Extremes abound and knowledge vanishes. Children, it would seem must be adults, women may prefer to be men, and all may be - or almost all - persuaded to act as gods.
But it is not so. It is merely a myth; and when such myths invest the church, what becomes of the word of God? Perhaps an Anglican archbishop then will praise the theological word of Paul Davies11 in his busy burial of God in the interstices of things: which God created, as an author creates a poem. Burying authors in poems does not really help you interpret them, and when the 'burial' is carried out by part of the poem, this interment becomes positively grotesque.
Churches then should beware of contemporary excursions into burial of the Lord or His word, however vain the endeavour; for they might remember that the real BURIAL of Christ was broken, as will be those who depart from God, by the resurrection of the God who made all.
13. CHRIST, THEN, AS OUR REST, its arch and splendour, base and support (see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 570-594, 611-619), does not evacuate the way we were MADE or annul God's comment and command ... alter what God wants us to do. HE, Jesus Christ, is indeed the ETERNAL WORD OF GOD (Hebrews 1, John ) who neither abrogates nor desecrates; but rather it is man who desecrates.
Such rest from labour of spirit, explicit in Psalm 95 (cf. Numbers -26) reminds us of this. Rest from business, and rest in Christ, these are two different things: each is possible. Confusion does not help either. That is like saying: NOW I have learnt to drive restfully, there is no further need to concern myself with such details as the side of the road on which I am driving! That is restlessness, not rest!
KEEP then His commands! This, applicable to all men, is intimately so for Christians. LOVE does not make obedience irrelevant: quite the contrary. LOVE it is which makes it palatable, indeed a matter of rejoicing (Psalm 119:14, 69:9, II Chronicles 17:3-6); and Christ Jesus the Lord said this:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word ... he who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me (John 14:23-24).
With this, one might do well to compare John 12:48-50, and Matthew 7:24-29...
His commands? Keep them, whether they be spiritual, physical or directly spiritual: for their varied domain is for your good, in His name. Why? He asks, or rather expostulates, do you call Me, Lord, Lord and NOT DO THE THINGS THAT I SAY (Luke ). Just as He says 'YEA!' to His promises (II Corinthians ), so let us say 'yes' to His instructions. Imagine saying to one's beloved in times of romance, 'I love all of you except your mouth!'
Let us not love then in word only, but also in deed; and amongst the deeds, let us add this: the love of His word. This is one lovely thing we both are permitted to and obligated to ... keep!
Our century however, it has not been one of notable obedience to the law, the words, the way of Jesus Christ, and it is time to see a broader framework for our topic in our time.
The twentieth century has
been a time of wastage. True, advances have been made; but Protestantism no
more has the vast coverage and enormous power of the
Toleration has turned into
adulteration. A letter dated
What then was the answer to the letter protesting the Archbishop's remarks about primacy for the pope and his positive attitude towards it?
It says this: "May I first of all assure you that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not been saying anything new. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission - officially established as long ago as 1970 - has been working on the important and long disputed questions of authority between Churches. In 1976 it produced a first Statement ... and in 1982 its Final Report. The Commission spoke therein of the role of leadership of the Bishop of Rome to which the Archbishop alluded.
"The Final Report ... was given a measure of approval by the Bishops ..." in 1985.
It goes on to stress that
"ecumenical primacy" doesn't give away the power to
Comforting as this may seem,
DOES mean that
to ACCEPTANCE of the Pope as Christian;
Ø ACCEPTANCE of the papacy as functional in its midst;
Ø and to a congenial relation of bishops to PRIMACY of the POPE.
The Joint Statement of Pope and Archbishop deals with "the necessity for unity for ... mission to" a "godless world". There is thus a JOINT MISSION in the name of Jesus Christ - without which no church can operate, if Christian (Colossians 3:17); and THAT necessitates due communion or fellowship. Now the British sovereign is forbidden this; the British head of the Church of England is forbidden this, on pain of losing the crown; but do the underlings perform what the head cannot!
Therefore the future of
long famed British freedom of speech is again in doubt. Not for nothing did
Charles Dickens say: "Roman Catholicism is the most horrible means of
political and social degradation left in the world" or John Milton:
"Popery is a double thing to deal with, and claims a twofold power,
ecclesiastical and political, both usurped and the one supporting the
other." (Cf. Unam Sanctam, papal Bull, 1302.) The Shadow of a
The coercion which is apparent in the Council of Trent is not revoked. The errors are not corrected. The British State's legal and constitutional rejection of Rome's intrusion (not for private desire but for final power) fostered a measure of freedom for which England since 1689 has on many occasions been justly famous; but now it is perilously compromised. Indeed, much modern ecumenism departs from objectivity, and is ready for almost anything, including totem poles and addresses on alien spiritism at the level of international Conference (W.C.C. case).
Such devices then are merely an example. Meanwhile existentialism has made rank subjectivity, often anomalous and outré, a matter of pride. Like odd hats in their fashion day, this is becoming fashionable in an increasing area of earth's religious environment. Secularism for its part is now seldom effectively leavened with any real moral thrust, rather seeking to cover all with its polluted skirts.
It is true that pure
religion cannot be imposed by law, and SHOULD NOT BE
REQUIRED AS TO FAITH, BY FORCE, despite the torrents of blood
Nihilism, relativism, militant missionary-minded atheism, theosophy dressed in Adelaide in particular, in the garb of physics; together with secularism, humanism - man measuring man by man, as if that would tell the race of anything to the point; and neo-orthodoxy, neo-evangelicalism - say anything and do what seems good - with the whole dismal mess and abyss of subjectivity, human autonomy and human coercion, rationalism and irrationality, indeed the New Age old-time duplicity: as to this, its tongue strides throughout the earth. The tongue of truth is often left for that of convenience, attraction or appeal.
In the midst of this predicted and vast decline from the objective Jesus Christ, in the milieu of the objective word of God to man with objective sin, requiring objective ransom for objective reasons, there has come a new peril (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 699ff., 850, 867ff. 993-994, 743). Surging into the muddle and the mêlée, like a surfer in the turmoil of the ocean, has come Pentecostalism.
Indeed some - despite the prophecies of the Bible against Rome (op. cit. pp. 946ff.), and its vast contradiction by Rome - join tongue with tongue, to make by a sort of verbal chaos, a clouded uproar ... They do it 'charismatically' with baby talk; and certainly this diverts from the application of the word of God, that immeasurable source of clarity (Proverbs 8:8-9).
Not for nothing do we indeed repeatedly hear of large involvements with Roman charismatics on the part of seemingly Protestant bodies12 , the tongue of confusion becoming the bridge of betrayal.
The triple idolatry13 of Mass, pope and Mary (each used in ways God reserves to Himself), allied with the Gospel of conditional salvation (contrary to I Thessalonians 5:9-10, John 10:9, I John 3:0, John 6:47, 4:14, I John 2:26-27) puts people in servitude of mind and spirit, as well as of body; and God forbids such association (op.cit. p. 950 - Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10, Ephesians 5, Isaiah 8:20, I Timothy 4, a specific prophecy also, II Timothy, I Timothy 6, I Corinthians 5:11, II Corinthians 6:14-18, II Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). Thus toleration of Roman contradiction of the Bible, in a church, is excluded by the word of God.
Misuse of tongues as to
priority, in relation to the word of God and its teaching, joint
utterance and so on in the litany of riot: these things merely add spice to the
rebellion, speed to Satan's deception, and confusion to betrayal, when
fellowship is held with
It is true that Pentecostalism for its part sometimes has good elements (as indeed does much else), and that it is very varied; but it has been so subjected to the forces of the Age, that it is frequently found not only EXCEEDING the Bible but CONTRADICTING the Bible, making unconscionable requirements (as to show you are converted, much in the manner of Rome, which has used OTHER MEANS to make its point, but similar officiousness). It has set up - in cases so numerous that total and beneficial exceptions are extraordinarily difficult to find - conditions, criteria and practices so far from the Bible that although, like Rome, it claims very often, belief in it, it often becomes a reservoir for the disaffected, whose revival might have been hoped for (cf. Luke 11:52).
While God can use what He will, open rebellion against His word, as indicated earlier in A QUESTION OF GIFTS, is a sadly lapsed vehicle.
The spirit of our Age is this way; and the word of God it is which needs to be examined, and followed, not some experience based in subjectivity, without the certain buttress of the word of God. Another Jesus, another gospel and another spirit, Paul says (II Corinthians 11) can indeed attract; but as to THIS SAME JESUS WHO SHALL RETURN IN A MANNER LIKE THAT IN WHICH HE WENT (Acts 1), HE SAYS: He who loves Me keeps My words (John 15). The word of God, obedience to it, is not the work to secure salvation; but it IS the expectation from salvation, that you will love it; and hearts that are His do, and those who do, do not find it burdensome; but being founded on Christ, build on the rock of His words. (Matthew ), Himself the foundation (I Cor. ).
This brings us to a vital Biblical concept.
Nothing can fray the power14 of God, or cancel its availability to His people (cf. John , Ephesians , II Corinthians 1:9-10); but it neither needs nor requires the social, psychological, political or administrative additions of man, that it might operate. Does it not say it (Acts -32) of Christ: The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance ... and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him!
And does not Galatians 3 with II Corinthians 11 warn of manipulators, human or otherwise, of silly shibboleths, vacuous words and straying standards till even "another Gospel" and "another Jesus" are invested, with "another spirit"!
As to man's sometimes insidious and pseudo-spiritual works, is not obedience better than sacrifice, and is not rebellion as the sin of witchcraft? Let us then be crafted in Christ, moulded by His word, and let Him send forth His refreshing showers at His pleasure (Acts , I Samuel , Isaiah 30:15,18).
With this in mind, we need to consider the source of those showers in all His wonder and His majesty.
... "I AM"
and the meaning of "I AM WHO I AM"
Exodus 's "I am who I am" is in the midst of a context of "the Lord" who made covenant earlier with Abraham (Genesis 15:1,7,12-18). This included absolute control over all history on a personal basis, and complete covenanted faithfulness on stated and unchangeable conditions.
In Exodus the "I am certainly with you" indicates the same loyalty based on WHO HE IS. In Exodus 3:14, the meaning is partly found in this, that it does NOT say I AM THE ONE WHO DERIVES FROM THIS OR THAT OR DID THIS OR THAT. The ABSTRACTION from all such expectations is the precise jolt; and there the anomalous aspect of I AM WHO I AM, has this as part of its intended impact.
In view of all this, a good exegesis of the meanings seems perfectly clear, and something like this:
THE ABSOLUTE PERSON
WHO IS THE
OF SUPERNAL AUTHORITY
OF BRILLIANT AND UNOBSCURABLE CLARITY
and is moreover OF FAITHFULNESS WHICH IT IS UNTHINKABLE TO QUESTION.
You do not add, subtract or suppress: you love, believe, receive and follow (John 1:12, Luke 14:27, 33, Galatians 6:14, 1:6-10, Hebrews 13:8, Deuteronomy Chs. 4, 12, 28, Revelation 22:18-19).
All other names (Exodus 3:15) are eclipsed in this eternal name; so that this is no longer to be even thought of as an aspect or facet or feature to be held amongst others over time; rather it is the end of all names of the pre-incarnate God; and indeed when GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH, was it not HE, Jesus Christ, who said, "BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM"! (John 8:58) - not 'I was'. There He identified Himself, who also identified man's sin and constituted for all who come to Him by faith, man's salvation.
God had led Abraham through the beginnings, and Moses to the high-power focus on the eternal name above all names, the name at which every knee will bow (translated into Jesus Christ - Philippians ). Changeless, as a name, it so represents in specific focus, that God who IS, is also: CHANGELESS.
This we now add to our list. These 11 features begin to express in the context, something of the magnificence of God, personal and all-powerful, reliable and - in that He has revealed and attested His unchanging name to man, also:
on His revealed terms, to this race (Acts -12).
THOSE terms are the living Covenant (Isaiah 42:6,53, 66:2-3, Matthew 26:28-29, John 10:9,27-28, Proverbs 8; 30:6, Hebrews 8-10) in the immutable Christ, through - not the blood of heifers, goats, doves or pigeons (Genesis 15:9ff.), but His own blood (Colossians 1:21-22). This to faith in Him according to His word, gives eternal redemption (Hebrews ), covering forever and to perfection (Hebrews ,14, Romans 5:8-11) the DERIVATIVE and DEFECTIVE SINNERS who may indeed have acted AS IF AUTONOMOUS.
Now however they are receivable as REPENTANT in terms of this COVENANT and through the INCARNATE FORM OF CHRIST (Luke 13:1-3, Isaiah 66:2, 57:15). He suffered, the "just for the unjust", that He might bring us to God the sender (1 Peter ), having come forth from Him (John ), His very Word, Expression and only-begotten Son; greater than Moses, here was found the friend of Abraham. In Him, the unchangeable One has kept His own, and WILL undeterrably keep them (John 10:9, 27-28, I John ): Father, Son and Holy Spirit: ONE GOD (Revelation -13, ,3, , Isaiah 42:8; Revelation 22:5,17).
Our God, then the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible, is changeless (Malachi 3:6, John ) and unalterable (I Timothy ). Willing to hear and respond covenantally and compassionately to the entreaties of faith, through Jesus whom He sent from Himself (Isaiah 48:16, Psalms 45, 40, John ), and through whom He may be approached (Hebrews -16), He Himself is inviolate in character and constancy. Indeed, He keeps His word (John 12:48-50, Matthew 7:24ff., -23) with all the rigorous certitude of Him whom nothing can overtake, deceive or dupe or overcome (Isaiah 43:13, Ephesians ). Thus, when the heavens themselves, and the earth, that stage for history, are themselves worn out and removed (Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:12-14), that word will still continue, remain, like the salvation which has been covenanted to those who are saved by the blood of the New Covenant (Isaiah 51:6, Romans 5:8-21).
This our God may grant the privilege of experience but is not 'changed' by it - He who has chosen whom He will before the foundation of the world (Colossians 1:4) and works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 41, 43, 48) responds personally to need, but is not at all manipulable.
It is to this majesty and grandeur, clarity beyond crystal and richness (Ezekiel 1, Ephesians 3:18-21) that we come; it is He with whom we must deal, and His personal dealings are full of grace and character, though He will not suffer presumption (James 4:6, I Peter 5:6, Jude 3,17ff., Psalm 19:13, 103:17-18).
GIFTS are given by God
(Ephesians 4:8-14, I Corinthians 12:28-29, 12:4-6), not at all as levers of
control... or for the satisfaction of mere appetite or will in man, but
according to His own counsel; and indeed, do not even we ourselves tend to
determine what we shall give, rather than being directed to it ? That is what
the Bible is stating quite categorically. Of His own sovereign purpose they are
distributed, and in His own seemly atmosphere, order and rule, they are to be
used (Psalm 29:2, 89:7, I Cor. 13:5, Matthew 26:39). There is but one God ...
Pentecostalism, like Schullerism, is very concerned about the experience of the worshipper. In Pentecostalism this frequently, if not routinely leads to such errors as unlimited tongues speaking, for a certain period, without interpreters. Experience can become the tell-tale quantity. If it DOES good (as judged by those who judge), then it IS good, seems often the cry.
Schuller goes even further. If it does NOT elevate self-esteem, it is sin. Here the latent experiential distortion of so much Pentecostalism goes to its sad terminus. MAN has here become the centre; Christ is valued as the last, the best, the ideal man, the man who is to show man what man can be. He is the possibility specialist, and other debasing damnings with faint praise.
DOCTRINES such as the virgin birth, the resurrection, the deity of Christ, we learn, are not to the point. What MATTERS is that you reach the unreached, teach the untaught and bring in the absent, making the whole world awhirl with the possibilities too often lost in sad, or bitter, or sour dislike ... of people or self or doctrines. We are to get with the action with the possibilities teeming; and go for it.
Here then is hyper-active theology: one much lurch of frustration, it would seem, for which the solution is to remove the remedy. MAKE them come in, whatever the door, to whatever room.
Now of course MAN is not the beginning; and any OPERATIONAL beginning with man (for effect, don't you know!) has led to DOCTRINAL results for God, who has just to sit there and take it. 'After all, what do all those doctrines matter. PEOPLE matter.' And that it is like someone saying to the doctor: What do all those anti-biotics matter: YOU make the man well!
The BIBLE is to be set beneath a 'CHRIST' who is one who HAS and BEGETS self-esteem (you guessed it, that being, contrary to the parable of the servant deeming himself unworthy after all his service - the whole point: Luke 17:8-10). Gone Christ's 'If you, being evil ...' (Luke ). We must not think of SINNERS, or if of them, only of their voidance of self-esteem, their 'real' sin. We MUST not cast them down, says Schuller, only to build them up. UP, up they must go at once. We must start UP! We cannot get enough of it.
PAUL is to be set aside in
favour of Jesus; the Reformation was a reaction (actually the
Thus Christ is re-drafted ... in terms of Schuller performance requirements: the ultimate performer. Sin is re-drafted as a Schuller non-achiever; judgment is re-drafted as feeling loss of self-esteem; and salvation appears largely as a matter of perceiving (and rejoicing in) one's own glory, God being glorified by this style of thing, according to ... the model.
Thus man is central, the conditioner of thought, the arbiter of doctrine, the teacher of truth; his destiny determines what God may or may not do, and his philosophy is a judge, we find, even of the Bible, of God's word. THIS is explicitly put down beneath a Schuller Christ, who being 'another Christ' with 'another gospel' (II Corinthians 11:4,13-15), is able to snare, if it were possible, the very elect.
However, the Bible has other news.
Beware, it says, of wolves (Matthew ). I for one do not approve of 'transferring' lambs to wolves, in terms of church membership, or facilitating this. Humanistic cries about what this or that congregation may appear are simply not relevant when it comes to what the organic whole holds, the -ism to which it voluntarily subjects itself, whatever may be the name, traditional or other, currently in use for such Church bodies.
What applies to Schullerism
applies no less to ANY subjectivistic, or humanistic intrusion into the
objective validity of the word of God; it applies for example, to the Billy
Graham disregard of fundamental Biblical truths about Roman Catholicism,
brought to light with much power and sacrifice in the days of the Reformation.
It is like including arsenic with aspro. The WHOLE product must then be withdrawn. It applies equally when a Church elects to stay with the World Council of Churches. Again humanism lifts its arrogant head, complete with totem pole, antichristian speakers at formal Assemblies, dialogue with listening not forthtelling the gospel (I Thessalonians 2:13, 1:5, I Corinthians 2:9-13, 14:37), fostering of Liberation Theology, redrafting scriptural truth in alien Marxist terms and co-operating with Roman Catholicism in the Faith and Order Commission. I Corinthians 5:11, Ephesians 5:3-7, II Corinthians 6:14-18 are sufficient barrier, even if common sense did not tell that contrary lords have never been the Biblical mandate, from Elijah to the Pharisees; and if even seemingly near variants are delusive, what is the case with clear denials! (Cf. Isaiah 26:13-14, I Kings 18:32-39.)
Beware, says the word of God, of wolves - in lamb's clothing indeed - who bring in damnable heresies; and carefully assess all new teaching, holding fast to what is good (Acts 20:29-31, Matthew 7:15-21, I Thessalonians 5:21, Titus 3:10, Romans 16:17-19), while using apostolic teaching from the word. (See I Corinthians 2:9-13, Matthew 7:24-27, Ephesians 2:20-22, Matthew -19, Galatians 1:7-16, I Corinthians , I Corinthians 15:1, Revelation -19. Cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Appendix D, Vol. III, esp. pp. 1161-1163.)
Here then is another spirit readily available (II Corinthians 11:4) with another gospel and another 'Christ', set up while the doctrine of the written word is selectively disregarded. Small wonder Schuller for one is not keen on Paul, while others use other devices to dismiss and dispense with his words at will, as if his declarations were theories, as if he had never declared with the utmost vigour the exact opposite indeed, that no man was his teacher (Galatians 1:6-11), while giving an execration to any presenting any other gospel than the one he had already given. Peter in fact declared Paul's epistles scripture (II Peter -16), while depicting in realistic denunciation, the follies of the unstable; using his 'keys' wisely and well. Small wonder so many of these innovators are not keen on scripture's determinative and objective power or authority, for it is there that Jesus Christ designates Peter with this responsibility (with indeed - John 20 - many others, but distinctively).
Certainly let us not decry experience (II Corinthians 12:2-6), or the actual value of men; Christ indeed came with a loving desire for the godless. Yet this is not their objective value as sinners, but their visionary value as redeemed: NO GOOD THING, says Paul, dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans ). A smashed car may have value, but not without a vast amount of work and skill, perhaps pain and sacrifice to restore it. It cost CHRIST HIMSELF to do it, and that indicates the GULF between the case to be addressed and the result: HE is the difference!
Paul would not glory in experience (II Corinthians 12:5-6) lest he be thought of more highly than he should, he tells us. There are even things not lawful to speak of, readily involved. But experience is the RESULT, and not the CAUSE of the Gospel. GOD is NOT for modelling, nor does He approve going into religious dives, mixtures and miasmas, for fellowship. Heed then (Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 111:10). Consider Daniel (Ch. 10) whose concern was unutterably more with the face of God and with His definitive prophetic revelation ... than with the ferment of his feelings, justly filled with awe and godly reverence. As to his mind, it was revived and used (Daniel 10:8-11; cf. Psalm , 119:20,28,66,98,111,123,144).
11. See The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 422A-M.
12. No wonder one R.C. response to such a combined meeting with 'protestants' was this: MARY WAS SERVED WITH NEW RELISH... ! By their fruits (Matthew ) ... is precisely applicable here. Into the void, it can be easy for anyone... to speak. The devil is a skilled speaker. He will use what he can to confuse ...ANYTHING to deter from Christ.
13. See allusions to The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, p. 61 supra.
14. See also: I Peter 1:5-8, Isaiah 40:12-31, Luke 1:37; pp. 57ff. Infra; and The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 338-342, 485-498, 576-578, 584-592, 620-631, 712-714.