Signed in as:
Signed in as:
The following are a list of popular questions that have been raised to the ministry. While we provide Scriptural basis for our beliefs, we are aware that others may not agree with everything that is stated. In answering these questions, we are not trying to change your point of view or prove ourselv
This is really part of a broader question about what it means to be saved. While it is not possible to cover all of that in this message, we are happy to point you to a few Scriptures that provide light on this topic.
From God's perspective, He saved the entire world over 2000 years ago when Jesus was crucified and risen from the dead (John 3:17, John 1:29, John 4:42, John 12:47). However, clearly this does not mean that every person is saved, for then no one would go to hell. So how can God save the world and everyone in the world not be saved? This may seem like a contradiction until you understand that God is dealing with us from an eternal standpoint. He knows the end of the matter from the beginning, so He speaks in relation to things being a completed work even though we (mankind) have to experience these things as they happen in time and space.
So, how do we experience salvation for ourselves? God has identified the conditions of our salvation in His Word. We must believe that He has sent His Son to be crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and that He has been risen from the dead (John 3:17). We must obey His Word (John 14:15, Romans 6:17, Philippians 2:12). We must repent from sin (Matthew 4:17, Mark 6:12). We must not continue in sin (1st Peter 1:15, 1st Peter 4:1, Hebrews 10:2, Colossians 3:5). We must be born again (John 3:3, 1st Peter 1:23). We must have our minds renewed (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23)... These are just a few, but Scripture is filled with the conditions God has given for those who would be saved.
Once you enter into a salvation experience with the Lord, can you still be lost? There are numerous references in God's Word to believers (saved people, members of the church) being lost. Paul states that it was possible for him to still be a cast away (1st Corinthians 9:27). It is stated that there will be believers who fall away because of temptation (Luke 8:13, 2nd Peter 2:22) Specifically, we are told that a great falling away or apostasy in the Church is one of the signs of the end times (2nd Thessalonians 2:3). We are even told that you can get to a point with God that, should you turn/fall away, there remains no repentance left for you (Hebrews 6:4-6). Jesus Himself even says that those who do not stay committed to Him will be cast from His Body (spewed out of His mouth) (Revelation 3:15-16) and that He can blot your name out of the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). How do you know those who are saved? Jesus says that you will know them by their fruit (not verbal confession, lip service, religious denomination...).
Why isn't our salvation eternally secured the moment we accept Jesus? When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you are entering into a covenant relationship with Him. In Scripture we see God's promises for those who enter into this covenant as well as what He expects from man in order to uphold our part of the covenant. The key here is that it takes two to make and keep a covenant. Our salvation is not all on God (as we have seen above, there are conditions we have to meet) neither is it all on us (He gave His Son, He forgives when we repent...). Although God is faithful to always meet His part of the covenant, man is not always faithful. When we disregard our part of the covenant we have made with God, the covenant has been broken.
We can look to the Old Testament for a picture of how God handles those who break His covenants. First, He patiently gives time for repentance. He sends prophets with a word of warning for the people to turn back to Him. Then, if there is no repentance, He sends forth judgment. It is the same with us. God extends grace to us to give us time to be conformed into the image of His Son, so that we may be spared His wrath. You can see in the Old Testament that when Israel was in rebellion against God, he referred to them as adulterers. He uses the same terminology when referring to rebellious members of the church in the New Testament (James 4:4). Looking in the New Testament, we see an important revelation from God about how he views covenants. He indicates that a covenant between a man and wife is to be honored (Matthew 19:8); however He also says that one can freely walk away from this agreement when adultery is present (Matthew 5:32). When we turn from God through disobedience and rebellion, He considers us adulterers. At that time, we have chosen to break the covenant, thereby absolving God from His part of the covenant. Thankfully, due to God's grace and mercy, He does not immediately cast us away from Him in these times. However, if we refuse to repent and change, we place our very salvation in jeopardy.
Finally, we will leave you with the following Scripture from Hebrews 10:26-29:
"For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
Why is the "Once Saved Always Saved" belief a doctrine of devils? Because it contradicts Scripture. At best, it falsely gives people the impression that they have no role in keeping the covenant of salvation they have made with God. At worst, it allows people to believe that they can continue willfully in sin and still be saved. Either case, it creates an apathetic group of people who claim Jesus in name, but do not go through the steps necessary to be cleansed and made into manifested Sons of God.
How can you believe that salvation can be rejected when God says that we are sealed with His Spirit?
Some people point to the Scriptures stating that believers in Christ are sealed by God with the Holy Spirit as "proof" that believers cannot later reject salvation and be lost. However, this belief is shown to be false when we examine what God has to say about the sealing of His people.
First let's examine the seal used by God with Abraham to identify His people.
"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also"
In the Old Testament, the circumcision was a "sign" of the covenant that God has made with Abraham and his seed. Further, Scripture says that it was also a "seal" of the righteousness that had been imputed unto God's people. However, we also know that Scriptures state the circumcision (both a sign and a seal) could be made uncircumcision (no sign, no seal) if you rebelled against God.
"For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision."
"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."
1st Corinthians 7:19
Having a "seal" from God does not preclude one from having to obey His Commandments. It is also important to understand what a "seal" is. The seal of the Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance in the Lord. The word "earnest" [Greek - Arrhabon] is the equivalent of what in the world you might call earnest money. It is a downpayment, according to Strong's, representing the sealing of a contract or in God's economy a covenant.
For example, to purchase a house you must enter into a contractual agreement with the owner and give a down payment (earnest money) demonstrating your intent to buy. However, if after entering into the agreement, the owner does not honor the terms of this contract, you have legal grounds to get out of this agreement.
When we enter into salvation, we are creating a covenant (agreement) with God. To seal this agreement, God gives us a down payment (earnest) of His Holy Spirit.
"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
2nd Corinthians 1:22
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whomalso after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise"
It is also important to note that the actual purchase by God does not take place until the "day of redemption."
"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
In light of this fact, Jesus' commandments that we "abide" and "endure to the end" become even more clear. Yes, the Holy Spirit is given as a "seal" to those who are saved. So can those who have this seal of the Spirit fall away and lose salvation?
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
The purpose of the tithe in the Old Testament was to provide for the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were the only tribe forbidden from having an inheritance in the land (Numbers 18). God provided for their inheritance through the tithes of the people. They relied on the other tribes for their sustenance, because their lives were devoted to offering sacrifices to cover the sins of the people. The storehouse referred to in Malachi 3:10 was a literal "storehouse" where firstfruits of the people could be held for the priests consumption and for making sacrifice to God.
As a result of the sacrifice of Jesus, man no longer has to perform to a "law", including that of a tithe (For more information on this topic, please see Are we still under the law?). We no longer have a Levitical priesthood to support, nor do we need one. As stated in Psalms 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, Jesus is forever our priest. God Himself was the perfect sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ, so no other sacrifice is needed. To continue to honor the Levitical priesthood through a tithe is to place yourself under the law, thereby disannulling the sacrifice of Jesus.
People often refer to Genesis 14:18-20 as proof that the tithe transcends the law. However, there are some key differences between Abraham's interaction with Melchizadek and the law of the tithe. First, Abraham was not mandated to give a tithe. This is something that he decided to do. Second, Abraham was not under the new covenant made possible by Jesus' death and resurrection. Third, consistent with the tithe of the Old Testament priesthood, Abraham was honoring God by giving a tithe to His most high priest, Melchizadek.
The question then becomes, "How do we now honor Jesus as our high priest?" First, we must acknowledge that Jesus never instructed His followers to pay a tithe. He did, however, instruct the scribes and Pharisees to pay a tithe because they were still under the law. Jesus also paid a tithe, because He came to fulfill the law (For more information on how Jesus fulfilled the law, please see Are we still under the law?).
Not only did Jesus not instruct His followers to continue a tithe, but the Apostles never instructed new Christians to tithe. In fact, we see the discussion among the Apostles and elders regarding the law occur in Acts Chapter 15. The instruction to have new believers adhere to the law was specifically referred to as a temptation of God, an unbearable yoke, and an attempt to subvert their souls (Acts 15:10, 24). Furthermore, when they came to agreement on exactly what they would instruct the believers to keep, the tithe is not even mentioned (Acts 15:24-29). If God expected us to continue in the tithe in honor of Jesus as our high priest, surely this instruction would have been passed on to new believers.
Since Scripture does not support the assertion that believers in Jesus are to continue a tithe, what should we do to honor Christ? Romans 12:1-2 gives a good summary of what God expects from Christians:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Jesus was the ransom for our lives, so God in turn expects us to lay down our lives for Him. This means forfeiting our will in favor of His, which is a much heavier and more meaningful commitment than a monetary 10%. Everything that we have is His, and our lives (time, money, resources) should be totally committed to spreading the Gospel.
While some undoubtedly preach the tithe in simple error, be aware of 2nd Peter 2:3: "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
Hebrews Chapter 7 answers this question quite well. He says:
"For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore."
This question is one that is debated throughout the church world. Even those who say we are not under the law often bind themselves to the law in one area or another (i.e. tithes, Sabbath days...). There are numerous Scriptures which show that believers in Christ are not under the law.
One reason why we are no longer under the law is because belief in Christ places us under a new and more perfect covenant with God (Galatians 3, Hebrews 7, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 10:1-17). The new covenant is better because, through one sacrifice, it accomplishes what the Old Testament could not: the perfecting of the conscience, the purging of all sin, and the eternal salvation of the soul (Romans 11:27, Hebrews 9:9 and 12). In an allegory about the old and new covenants, the Apostle Paul writes that we should cast out the bondwoman and her son - the old covenant - for her son shall not be heir with the freewoman's son - the new covenant (Galatians 4:21-31). Further, Scripture indicates that duration of the old covenant and its ordinances was only until the coming of the better covenant of Christ (Romans 7:6, Romans 8:2, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:10).
As proof for our need to keep the law, many people point to Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled". The key to this statement, however, is in HOW Jesus fulfilled the law. Romans 13:10 states "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Similarly, 1st Timothy 1:5 says, "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." The love or charity referred to in these Scriptures is not an expression of love governed by how we feel. It is the Greek word agape signifying a selfless and deliberate choice to love regardless of how we feel. This is the type of love that allows us to not only love those who love us, but to love our enemies as well (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:32-35). That is why Jesus said that all of the law hangs on two commandments to love (Matthew 22:37-40). We know from Scripture that God is this kind of love (1st John 4:8, 1st John 4:16). Jesus' sacrifice was the ultimate demonstration of God's love to mankind (John 3:16, John 15:13). Therefore, the law was fulfilled when God came to earth in the person of Jesus to be crucified for our sins. When we accept Christ, this same love is imparted to us (John 16:27, 1st John 3:23, 1st John 5:1)
Another way in which Scripture shows that we are not under the law is through an examination of righteousness. 1 Timothy 1:9-11 states that the law is not made for a righteous man. Jesus, being without sin, was a righteous man. He didn't need a law telling Him what to do or what not to do to please God. He obeyed God and did His will by nature. Similarly, when we abide in Christ, the gift of righteousness is imputed onto us (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 6:33, Luke 1:74-75, Acts 10:35, Romans 4:5, Romans 5:17-21, Romans 6:18, 2nd Corinthians 5:21)
As you read the Scriptures, you can see how the religious leaders of Jesus' day were always trying to bind Him by the law. When we look at one example where they questioned Him about the Sabbath law, we hear an interesting revelation from Jesus (Mark 2:24-28). Jesus says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. In other words, man was not created for the purpose of serving the law, the law was given to serve a purpose in man. The purpose of the law was to help man restrain his sinful nature inherited from Adam. As further illustration, Jesus reminds them how even David was allowed to do that which would ordinarily be considered unlawful because he was operating under God's anointing. Jesus goes on to say that He is Lord of the Sabbath. The word translated Lord in this Scripture is the Greek word kurios meaning supreme in authority, controller, Master, or God. Here we can see how life in Christ frees us from the law. Jesus is a higher authority than the law. He does not direct us to the law of sin and death (Acts 15:24) but to new life in Him.
This is the key not only to understanding the issue of the law, but to understanding what salvation is about. In the Old Testament, individuals did not have the ability to kill the old, Adamic nature. So, God gave laws to guide man so that he wouldn't stray too far. The best they could do was struggle with the lusts of the flesh in an attempt to keep it in line with the commandments. However, it was not possible for man to keep the commandments for although the law was righteous, man was not (John 7:19, Galatians 6:13).
Through the sacrifice of Jesus' life, we have been given the ability to change our nature. Although the Holy Spirit could rest on individuals in the Old Testament, it wasn't until Jesus' death and resurrection that the Holy Spirit could indwell man to transform him into the image of God in Jesus. Through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, we can now be made righteous through faith in Christ. And again, the law was not made for a righteous man.
We don't gain God's acceptance by trying to keep the law. God expects us to believe in His Son, and to be transformed into His image through the power of the Spirit. Did the law serve a purpose? Yes, but now we serve the Lord in the Spirit of the law, as the nature of Christ indwells us.
Salvation then is not man's ability to conform to God's will through his own obedience to a law (which results in self-righteousness), but acknowledgement of our own sinful nature by putting to death the old man and experiencing new life in Christ, which obeys God by nature. In terms of the life of liberty in Christ, we are told, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).
For those who would still like to hold the Church captive to aspects of the law, look to James 2:10:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
We will answer this question in four parts:
Ephesians 4:11-12 states that a pastor is one of the five-fold ministry offices given to perfect the saints. The word translated "pastor" in this Scripture is the Greek word poimen, which means shepherd or supervisor. This word is one of only two ministry offices given by God that are grammatically masculine nouns with no feminine equivalent - the other word being Apostle. Each of the other offices are either neutral in gender and applicable to either sex (evangelist, teacher) or have specific masculine or feminine uses (prophet - male, prophetess - female). There is no such thing as a "pastoress" or an "apostless". In other words - there are no female pastors or female apostles!.
The logic behind this distinction is clear when you examine the functions of these offices. Apostles are messengers sent by Christ to make disciples of the nations and to lay the foundation for local church congregations. The pastoral role is patterned after Jesus' role as our Chief Shepherd (1st Peter 5:4) and just like a shepherd, they are to feed, direct, heal, and protect the sheep (Jeremiah 3:15, Jeremiah 23:1-2). The performance of this role in seen in two ways - as shepherds and bishops (1st Peter 2:25). A shepherd guides and nurtures while a Bishop oversees the development of the flock. To fulfill the responsibilities of nurturing and overseeing the flock, a Pastor is equipped with a rod and a staff—a rod to discipline and correct and a staff to nurture and nudge in the right direction. The shepherd, bishop, pastor and overseer are all the same role.
The qualifications of a pastor are clearly delineated in 1st Timothy Chapter 3.
Specifically, 1st Timothy 3:2-4 states, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity"
We see here that a man in this role must be the husband of one wife. This clearly disqualifies any woman from functioning in this role. We also see the reason for God making this distinction in verse 5, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"
A candidate for the pastoral office must first prove himself by demonstrating the ability to lead his household. Since we know that the man is the head of his family, this again eliminates the possibility of women serving as pastors (1st Corinthians 11:3, 1st Corinthians 11:7-9, Ephesians 5:33, 1st Timothy 2:12). Just as God has appointed man as the head of individual family units, God has also appointed man to lead the local church family of God.
The reason God makes these distinctions between the sexes is because the government of God is patriarchal. God is the Father of all spirits. Starting with the creation of Adam, God has continued to establish his authority in men. In evaluating the election of Abraham, we can see that God favored Abraham because he was a patriarch who had his house in order (Genesis 18:18-19). In fact, the last Scripture before the New Testament reads:
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
God has not only established a patriarchal order of authority, clearly He expects us to respect that and operate in it.
First of all, doctrines separate. There is no way around that. If I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and you do not, then what we believe places a distinction between us. This holds true for non-Christian religions as well as Christian denominations. If you believe that praying to Mary provides intercession for us to God and I believe that this is idolatry, then there is a division. Unless our interaction remains completely superficial, then these distinctions created by what we believe will undoubtedly become evident in one way or another.
Now we may choose to pretend that these differences don't exist but how can two walk together unless they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). Cloaking under phrases such as "Unity in Diversity" and "tolerance", the ecumenical movement is simply preparing people to receive the Anti-christ and his one-world religious system foretold in Revelation. Today you can see the resistance and resentment that comes forth if anyone dares to say that Jesus is the only way to God, even from individuals who claim to be Christians!
Does Scripture support the premise that we are to accept beliefs contrary to the Word of God in order to put forth a facade of unity in this world? On the contrary, Scripture warns us about pursuing friendship with the world at the expense of our relationship with God (John 15:19, 1st Timothy 4:10, James 4:4, 1st John 2:15, 1st John 3:1). Further, God not only acknowledges that belief in Him will cause separations with the world, He commands us to be separate (Matthew 25:32, Luke 6:22, Romans 1:1, 2nd Corinthians 6:17). This separation does not mean that there is no interaction between believers and non-believers, but it means that the believer is not a participant in the worldly lifestyle. In other words, He is speaking of sanctification (John 17:17-19, Acts 20:32, Acts 26:18, Romans 15:16, 1st Corinthians 1:2, 1st Thessalonians 4:3-4, 2nd Timothy 2:21). How are we to be sanctified? By not wavering from the Truth of God's Word, but rather, letting the Truth transform us so that we may be a light unto the world.
God does love us all regardless of our religious beliefs, because God is love. However, God's loving nature does not preclude His existence as a righteous judge (Hebrews 12:23). Although God loves all, He does not accept us all. Just because God loves us, does not mean that He will not damn those who deny the truth (Mark 16:16, 2nd Thessalonians 2:11-12, Romans 13:2). The litmus test for love - as seen by God Himself who is love - is not a liberal acceptance of all views as legitimate and God-ordained.
So what is a "loving" position towards beliefs that contradict the Word of God? 2nd John 1:6 says, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it." Obeying the truth of God's Word is a demonstration of love (1st Peter 1:22).
In John 14:15-17 Jesus states, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Jesus says that our obedience is a demonstration of love, and that as a result, we receive the Spirit of truth.
The fruit of love is then borne out of us as we adhere to the Truth and allow it to transform us into the image of Christ.
You claim to base your beliefs on the Word of God, but you seem to have overlooked the Scriptures about prosperity, so how can you criticize the prosperity movement?
Prosperity in the Bible is not based on what you have, but WHOM you have. It is not about material things, but refers to the prosperity of being God's child and bearing fruit for Him. As His children, we become heir to the riches of God's goodness, glory, grace, forebearance, longsuffering, wisdom, knowledge, liberality, understanding, and of His Christ. His outpouring of wealth and riches transcends any and all environmental elements that limit us to natural pursuits. If the Lord blesses financially, He will do it based on one's level of maturity and willingness to go forth and do His will at the expense of our own.
The prosperity doctrine presents a mutated form of Christianity that has brought men and women to their knees before a god of greed. It is earthly, sensual, and demonic; centered around man's ability to get material things and acquire the wealth of this world. Jesus knows what is in the heart of men, which is why He told the rich man to sell everything he owned and follow Him to be made perfect. In most cases, those who possess an abundance of wealth tend to trust in material things and not in God. How have we now changed the Gospel so that the riches are now seen as a sign-off on us following Christ? In Matthew 13:22, Jesus states that one of the most prevalent worldly cares that chokes off the Gospel is the deceitfulness of riches. Despite Jesus' warning, many in the church are falling prey to the devil's doctrine built around the principle of prosperity and obtaining more riches.
Why do people fall prey to this delusion? Because they have not put to death the carnal lusts and desires of the Adamic nature. They desire "stuff" more than Jesus, and the ministers are able to make a fortune off of their greed and covetousness. Therefore, preachers can get them worked-up emotionally about getting more material things. Being vain in their imaginations, false prophets create gospels to satisfy the insatiable cry for more. They make God into a genie, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. Just get your wish list, and confess over it daily to conjure up the genie god who will bring you more. What is being taught in the name of prosperity is basic sorcery 101; using the Bible like a magic wand to divine up the power to get what you want. God no longer acts based upon His own Sovereign Will, but merely responds to the dictates of men as they propagate such phrases as: "There is a blessing in your mouth," "Speak it into an existence," "Name it and claim it," and "Call those things that are not as though they were."
Men have become overnight millionaires as they proclaim that God and Jesus are rich, and that They want us to be rich also. If Jesus were rich, then why would He have to go to a fish's mouth to get tax money for himself and Peter? Why didn't He just reach into His pocket to get the money or tell Judas to take the money from the treasury? Jesus was not rich materially, but He was rich with the power of the Spirit in Him. The supply line from God the Father was always available to Him because He is an eternal being. The Holy Spirit was able to provide anything He needed at any particular time whether it was material possessions, the power to cast out devils, open blind eyes, or raise the dead. That is why Jesus instructed His disciples to take no thought for what they would eat, drink, or wear. When you walk in the Spirit, God automatically takes care of your needs. Jesus Himself said that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.
Ministers who promote this doctrine are not really interested in your salvation. Instead they focus on the sowing of "seed faith gifts" which only serve to finance the extravagant lifestyles of these false servants. Do not just accept what self-proclaimed men of God tell you without processing their words through diligent study of God's Word. We must hold them accountable to the Word of God - which is the only standard of righteousness. They spin these deceptions to justify their own lusts and extravagant lifestyles, which blatantly contradict their claims of Kingdom service. If true servants of God receive an over abundance of worldly riches, then why did the Apostles say that they were hungry, thirsty, naked, whipped, and homeless? How is it that today, ministers can promote their lavishness as a badge of honor and live luxuriously off of the tithes of the church, when Paul said that a godly minister does not burden the people by using their finances for personal gain?
The result is that as people vigorously seek things to secure their position in this world, like wealth and prosperity, they lose the desire to end the world and see the Kingdom of God come online. The devil is preaching the world into the church so that they will be programmed to fight with him against God in the final battle. This is the ingenious strategy of a rebellious, fallen angel looking for a way to snuff out the longing of Jesus' people for His appearing. Through prosperity teachings, many are being led as far away from Christ as the east is from the west. The prosperity doctrine has been formulated by the devil himself to make people crave his world at the expense of God's will, exaltation, and glorification.
So, if the prosperity doctrine is false, then why are these ministers so wealthy? In Matthew 4:8-9, Satan boasts that it is in his power to provide Jesus with all the riches of the world. Scripture is clear that Satan is the god of this world, and we know that he is willing to reward his servants (2nd Corinthians 4:4, 1st John 5:19). In Revelation 18:12-13, we can see what this harlot religious system trades in, "The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men." Not only are all manners of riches represented in this system, but lastly, we see that they trade in the souls of men. This is why 2nd Peter 2:1-3 states, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
Is it a sin to be rich? No. But it is wrong to make riches the goal or confirmation of the Gospel. Will God bless people financially? Yes, but only for the purpose of propelling the Gospel and not to make individuals wealthy. In terms of riches or any material need, the Bible says, "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:31-34)
Bible prophecies are designed to prepare us for events that will happen in the future. In order to see the full revelation of the end-times, we cannot color the Bible with our prejudices, belief systems, or denominational positions. Jesus never tried to be optimistic or pessimistic; He always presented generic truth without thought for His emotions or what He personally may have wanted to believe. We must follow the pattern of Jesus and the prophets by viewing prophecy from the most abandoned arena of our time – realism. To be an effective witness for God, you cannot be controlled by your emotions. You must remain committed to being crucified to serve as a conduit for God, so that His will is accomplished, as He is able to express Himself through you.
Closely examine the analysis of the following passage of Scripture to see if the pre-tribulation rapture theory holds water. If a pre-tribulation rapture is unscriptural, then belief in this theory is extremely dangerous because it leaves millions of Christians completely unprepared for the persecution that will be unleashed upon the Church in times ahead. Many will, therefore, be unable to stand during the severe pressure because they have been lulled to sleep by a self-serving, worldly perversion of the Gospel. My friend, you can be absolutely sure of one thing; you will suffer if Christ has genuinely saved you. Let’s review Matthew 10:16-25 together:
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?"
Remember, he that endures to the end shall be saved. You and I have to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We will come under severe persecution in the last days from religious leaders who have not been converted and filled with the Holy Ghost. The saints of God will come under severe persecution from family members and friends who don’t want to serve Jesus themselves. We will also come under severe persecution from government and economic systems that view us as a threat to their New World Order. We will be seen as the problem on earth (not the solution) when we refuse to compromise the Word of God in support of the one-world systems led by the false prophet, who cause all men to worship and glorify the beast.
It is time for denominationally bound traditionalists to repent and receive a mighty baptism in the Holy Ghost. There is no other way that we can be made ready to wage a spiritual battle against the adversary of God. Listen carefully; the Bible exhorts us to pray that we are accounted worthy to escape all these things coming on the earth. Many theologians like to quote 1st Thessalonians 5:9, which states that God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. This Scripture is absolutely true, but there is a difference between the wrath of God and the wrath of the devil.
The first three and one-half years of the tribulation period is void of God’s wrath. During this time, Satan is allowed to build his empire and sign a peace treaty with Israel in preparation for the end-time sequences to begin. However, he will be angry because the saints (you and I) are busy preaching the gospel with powerful signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost to confirm what is preached. This will warn the nations that Satan is a counterfeit and that he is raising up a false god.
The wrath of Satan is not to be feared, but confronted with power and authority, while draped in the protective armor of God’s Word. Just like the apostles, the prophets, and all the New Testament saints who have gone before us, we will be under persecution for a season. As we witness to the truth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost will come through us like a mighty rushing wind to refresh the nations and bring deliverance to those who have been bound by satanic influence.
The rapture is not an escape from the devil’s wrath, but a complete removal of the Bride of Christ before the 16th chapter of Revelation takes place. Read it for yourself,
"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great."
Verse one plainly states that the vials represent the pouring out of God’s wrath. This passage refers to the judgment of God upon a rebellious world that refuses to repent; even after the end-time church has preached the Gospel of the Kingdom with an uncompromising witness. “Then the end shall come” the Bible reveals.
Do not fall prey to end-time delusions, but prepare yourself to stand in trying times. End-time prophecy conferences, books, tapes, and videos are big business now and have been used to fuel an industry that is making many preachers rich. If you want to clearly see, then come out from amongst them and touch not the unclean thing so that God can receive you to Himself! Only then can you be an effective and powerful witness for the Lord.
Remember, the Greek word for witness is martus, the root for the English word martyr. You and I should not be doing our own thing, but following the leading of the Holy Ghost as He crucifies the old Adamic nature and resurrects the nature of Christ (that is in the Body of Christ) to qualify us for this promised departure.
I believe the “catching away” of the Body of Christ parallels the ministry of the head of the body, Jesus. He was born of the Virgin Mary, raised as a Jewish carpenter and taught in the synagogue. When He was thirty years old He was led to the Jordan River and baptized in water. At that point the Holy Ghost came upon Him to fill Him with the power necessary to demonstrate who He was. The Bible says that Jesus was revealed with many signs, wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. For three and one-half years, He lived, walked, and worked amongst the people teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God. After those three and one-half years, He sent the Holy Ghost to His disciples to do the same work He did.
I believe that we will have the same three and one-half years into the seven year tribulation to demonstrate the power of God to a sin-filled, God-forsaking world. Then we will be caught up to escape the wrath of God poured out on rebels who refused to heed our warning.
Friends, do not be deceived into believing a pre-tribulation rapture theory. In order to arrive at that conclusion, the Bible has to be grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted. It is time to gird up our loins with truth and stand in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation so that we may proclaim the truth of God’s Word without fear. Do not let your mind be twisted into falling away under the sway of soft-spoken words by a false prophetic voice. The Church is prepared to carry this message to the nations and see a generation dramatically saved and ushered into the Kingdom of God.
You can sit and read a multitude of fairy tales about the end-times or you can strategically prepare for them. The tragedy is that this pre-tribulation rapture lie is so ingrained in the religious mind that it will take a tremendous shaking to awake people from this lethargic state. Movies and books like Left Behind are making millions of individuals believe that they will be taken away from the earth, even while they sit in a rebellious, religious state totally separated from the Spirit of God.
I was taught that I received the Holy Spirit when I was saved.
Do you teach something different?
The first thing we must consider is – what does the Bible say? Sometimes it will be necessary for what we have been ‘taught’ to be overridden by what scripture says. Frankly, many things we have been taught must be ‘untaught’ because it simply is not true. Many teach that as soon as we accept Jesus Christ into our lives we receive the Holy Spirit. This quote was from the "Statement of Faith" from the web site of First Baptist Church of Atlanta – which is led by the popular Charles Stanley: “Simultaneously with salvation, the Holy Spirit imparts new life, baptizes the believer into the body of Christ (His church), permanently indwells the believer, and securely seals the believer unto the day of redemption”. It’s quite clear in this statement that believers, upon receiving salvation (i.e. accepting Jesus as personal savior), we then (simultaneously) receive the Holy Spirit and He permanently stays with the believer and thusly the believer is eternally ‘sealed’. This is not truth! This is a deception! (see FAQ Why is the "Once Saved Always Saved" doctrine wrong?).
Now let’s examine what the Bible says about this subject. First we will look at what it means to be "sealed" (see FAQ How can you believe that Salvation can be lost when God says that we are sealed with His Spirit?). We see this in Ephesians 1:13-14: "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise’, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
In the context of chapter 1 of Ephesians we are told about being chosen before the foundation of the world and predestinated into an adoption Ephesians 1:4-5. Now verses 13 and 14 tell us that we are sealed with the holy Spirit of promise who is the "earnest" of our inheritance (which is really the promise). Another word for "earnest" is "down payment".
What is a down payment? “a part of the full price paid at the time of purchase or delivery with the balance to be paid later; broadly : the first step in a process”.
In a large transaction like when we buy a car or a house, we put up a down payment. This is a way that we show forth a commitment in good faith which indicates that we are serious about fulfilling the terms of the contract of purchase. We don’t actually "own" the car or house until the terms of the payment are fulfilled, usually after a number of years. During that time, situations and conditions can occur which can cause us to have to break the contract and the car or house is lost. As with the transaction of a person’s salvation, this seal or a stamp of the Holy Spirit is the promise or down payment for commitment to and for us, but can actually be removed if we do not fulfill the terms or conditions put upon us by the payer.
Let’s look at a few cases in the book of Acts that should absolutely demolish any doubts that anyone should have as to whether we always and automatically receive the Holy Spirit when we are "saved".
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 8:12-17)
It’s obvious here that Philip preached Jesus Christ to both men and women and they were baptized, but yet Peter and John were sent to pray for them so that they would receive the Holy Ghost “For as yet he (the Holy Spirit) was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”…it doesn’t get any plainer that that!
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:1-6)
Again, this time Paul comes upon some disciples and flat out asks them if they’ve been baptized with the Holy Ghost. They’re response was that they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Ghost! They had been only baptized (brought to repentance) by John in the authority of Jesus Christ. Paul then prayed for them and the Holy Ghost came upon them. Clearly, the Holy Ghost is not always immediately received by believers. We are admonished to continually ask, continually seek and continually knock so that we will ultimately receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is NOT an option in our salvation walk. He is an absolute necessity. Do not be deceived into believing that you have received Him if you have not!
“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
1st Corinthians 12:3
The trinity is clearly put forth in the Scriptures. We will examine where Scripture puts forth evidence of the trinity and exactly what the trinity means about the nature of God.
The reality of the trinity of God is first introduced in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The word translated "God" in this Scripture is the Hebrew word elohiym which means gods. It is the plural form of the Hebrew word eloahh which means deity or god. The extension "-im" is consistently used in the Hebrew language to illustrate plurality. In fact, the majority of the references to God in the Old Testament are in the plural form of elohiym.
As you examine the story of creation, you can see the trinity in operation. Let's look at Genesis 1:1-3, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."
The presence of both God and the Spirit of God in these verses is obvious. However, Jesus is represented in the spoken Word of God indicated by "God said..." How do we know that the voice of God refers to Jesus? First we know this because the Bible indicates that the voice of God is a person. After the fall of man Scripture states in Genesis 2:8, "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden." Here the Bible says that God's voice was walking and that it had a presence. Also, in John 1:1-3 we are told that Jesus is the Word of God, that He was with God from the beginning, and that nothing was made without Him.
We can see further evidence of the trinity in God's discourse on the creation of mankind. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Genesis 1:26a) In this Scripture, God refers to Himself in the plural. He says "Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness." In agreement with His Word, God created man as a triune being - a reflection of God's image. Mankind is a spirit, housed in a body, that has a soul. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1st Thessalonians 5:23)
We also see the concept of the trinity of God carried over to the New Testament. A physical manifestation of the trinity is seen in Matthew 3:16-17, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Here we have three distinct yet simultaneous presentations: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is being baptized, the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove, and God the Father is speaking from Heaven at the same time.
The trinity is defined explicitly in 1st John 5:7, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." God cannot be more clear than in this Scripture. There are THREE bearing record in Heaven and these three are ONE. The three being one means that there are three in unity or tri-unity resulting in the word trinity. It does not say that there is ONE who manifests as THREE.
The problem that many seem to have is in knowing exactly HOW the three are one. The concept of the trinity is not some mystery that we cannot understand. In fact, as Christians, we know that we are the Church of God, we belong to the Body of Christ, and we are being prepared as the Bride of Christ. Although Church, Body, and Bride are singular expressions, we have no problem understanding that these terms actually represent a multitude of believers. It is clear that although we are many, there is something that unifies us into one body. This "something" is the one mind under which we all operate (the mind of Christ) which brings us into obedience to God. The trinity is the same way. God the Father, Jesus the Son , and the Holy Ghost are not one because they are one vessel. They are one because they are three eternal beings that are always in agreement with each other; they are united in will and therefore always operate in unison.
An excellent presentation of how the trinity functions, according to Scripture, is the earthly family. In His divine wisdom, God has set-up the family unit in such a way as to reveal the authority and order of God to us. The roles God has designed for the family unit is a direct reflection of the roles of each member of the Godhead. God is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the Comforter is the equivalent to the role of a mother. Remember, we are not talking about genders here. We are talking about "roles" and how those roles relate to each other.
Although comprised of more than one person (father, mother, and children), a family functions as one entity because all of the members of the family are to be in subjection to the head of the family - namely the father. Scripture tells us that it is the same way with God.
Jesus' "role" in relationship to the Father was in obedience and subjection to His will as His Son. He takes commands from His Father and subjects His will to that of the Father (John 5:30-37, John 6:38-39, John 6:57, John 10:18, John 12:49, John 14:31, John 15:10, Luke 2:49, Luke 11:2, Matthew 26:42). This is consistent with the "role" given children in earthly families (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20).
The "role" of the Holy Spirit is to perform God's Word as the life-giving power of God. The Holy Spirit also operates in obedience to the Father (John 16:13-15). As a life-giver, comforter, and nurturer of God's people, the spirit's "role" is like that of the woman (John 6:63, John 14:16, Romans 8:11, 1st Peter 3:18). The woman also produces life in the earthly family and is a comforter and nurturer. Also, we know from Scriptures that the woman is the glory of the man (1st Corinthians 11:7). Likewise, the Holy Spirit reveals the Glory of God (2nd Corinthians 3:18, 1st Peter 4:14).
1st Corinthians 11:3 states, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." God tells us two important things about the structure of a family and the order of God. The head of the woman is the man just like the head of Christ is God. In each instance, we see that the final authority rests with the father (both in the earthly family and in the family of God).
Further Ephesians tells us specifically that the order of the earthly family is also a direct reflection of Christ's relationship with the Church.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Ephesians 5:22-33)
So, how are the three members of the Godhead one? Because God is like a family. An earthly family is one because the wife and children are in subjection to the head of the family - the father. God the Father, Jesus the Son , and the Holy Ghost are one because the Son and the Spirit subject their wills to the Father's allowing them to always be in agreement with Him. The church is one body because the Spirit of God allows us to be in agreement with and in submission to Christ and therefore in obedience to the Father. In all cases (earthly and spiritual), it is obedience to the Father that brings about unity or oneness.
A number of you have contacted us about the difficulty you are having in finding a local church in your area. We too are aware of how rare it is to find a church willing to preach the unadulterated truth of the Gospel. Yet, we also know that in order to be used in these end times, God has to shake from us any vestige of "religion" that may be hindering the progression of His work in us. This includes our own perceptions about "Church." It is important that we move away from thinking of church as a "building" or a "service" so that we can begin to function as a "body" of believers. Now more than ever, we must "become the church" instead of just looking to "go to church." Wherever we go, we should take the "church" with us because Christ is in us.
I do not mean to downplay the importance of fellowship in the life of a Christian. In fact, I happen to believe that the local church is a bedrock for Christian growth. In His Word, God clearly instructs us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together as we see the end approaching (Hebrews 10:25). Yet, this "assembling together" may not be in the same way as we have traditionally defined it. As the world turns more and more anti-God, and specifically anti-Christ, it will become difficult for the real church to openly worship together. Although those of us in the United States have been generally protected from this type of religious persecution, our brothers and sisters in China, Afghanistan, and other countries of the world understand this only too well. Do not be misled. This same type of pressure will soon befall us in America.
Our intent with this message is to encourage you! If God has not given you clear direction about where to go for local fellowship, He may be calling you to do something else at this time. Remember, there is no spiritual office in the church for ministers. We are all called to be ministers or proclaimers of the Gospel. For example, what if God is looking for you to offer a place for believers to study and worship? While I am not saying that this is true for all of you, the point is to stay in prayer about what God has set before you and what He wants you to personally do about it. Do not see this as a dry spot in your life and by all means do not let Satan lull you into being passive. Look to God for the blessing that He has prepared for you in this. God knows your hurts and your needs, and He has already provided an answer!
As a member of the Body of Christ you belong to a church that has no boundaries and is not separated by location, class, or gender. These body of believers are all pressing towards the same focus: proclaiming the Good News until Christ's return!
We understand that the lack of a church home has been a painful void in many of your lives.
We continue to pray that God's will in this area be made manifest to you.
Although we are not always able to recommend local congregations, please know that our ministry is available to you. If you ever need prayer or guidance, we are more than happy to assist.
"By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand."
1st Peter 5:12
In the above Scripture, Peter states why he has written his first epistle. He is bearing witness to the elect about the nature of the "true" grace of God. Why is an accurate understanding of God's grace so important? Because it is the grace of God that brings us into a saving relationship with the Lord (Ephesians 2:5-8, 1st Peter 1:10).
Pervert the presentation of God's grace and you are left with a distorted, unscriptural view of salvation. "True" grace is put forth and defined by the Scriptures. Anything that does not measure up is something less genuine, it is a cheap or false grace. By cheap grace, we are referring the presentation of God's grace absent of any acknowledgement of holiness and a turning away from sin.
In His divine wisdom, God knew that the grace of God would be cheapened by men in an attempt to accommodate their own sinful natures. Jude 1:4 states, "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." The word "lasciviousness" here is the Greek word Aselgeia meaning unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, and insolence.
This is what's happening today. Men are cheapening God's grace in order to accommodate sin. Instead of teaching that we must crucify the flesh and its desires, many are saying that we are "covered" by grace even while willfully participating in sin. God may be merciful to those who sin, giving them time to repent and turn away from it, but grace does not cover you while you are in sin. Grace is extended to those in sin and it pulls them out of sin into right relationship with God. Oftentimes Christians will say "I am just a sinner, saved by grace." This is one example of the cheapening of God's grace. Christians were sinners, but now they are called to be saints -- saved by grace through faith. You cannot be a sinner and a saint at the same time. If you examine the "true" grace of God as defined in Scripture, you will see that what many people are calling grace is far from the mark.
Let's examine what Scripture reveals about the grace of God:
In his first epistle, Peter provides insight into what makes up the "true grace" of God. Accordingly, true grace contains the following attributes:
How many times have you heard someone define grace as the "unmerited favor of God?" While this is true, many misunderstand what this means. Just because you cannot earn God's grace (unmerited) does not mean that there is nothing necessary for the gift to be received (unconditional).
Let's say that I purchase a gift for you and then tell you how to get it. Your following my instructions to retrieve the gift does not mean that you have earned it nor that you now deserve it. Likewise, refusing to retrieve the gift does not nullify the fact that I have given it to you. The failure to distinguish this difference is one of the most common flaws with those who aspire to a "grace only" or "grace alone" doctrine.
God Himself never says that grace is unconditional. On the contrary, He identifies two attributes necessary for those who would receive grace. Proverbs 3:34 states that God "scorns the scorners: but he gives grace unto the lowly." Similarly, we see that He "resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1st Peter 5:5, James 4:6). The Bible also states that it is faith which gives us access to the gift of God's grace (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:8). In order to receive God's gift of grace that brings salvation we must first recognize the fact that we need the gift (humility) and then trust that God is the only one who is able to redeem us (faith).
The first reference to the word "grace" in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8. In the verses leading to this Scripture, we see that God is planning to destroy mankind due to their wickedness. Right after God makes this determination, Scripture says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Just as the world is set to be condemned, Noah finds favor with the Lord and is given protection from His wrath! This is one of the more obvious benefits of God's grace. It saves us from experiencing the judgment of God.
While God's grace is evident throughout the Old Testament, Peter tells us that the grace New Testament believers have was not available to Old Testament believers (1st Peter 1:10). One might say that the obvious difference between the two is Jesus Christ, but that is only part of the answer. Peter tells us that these prophets were prophesying about the grace we have by the Spirit of Christ (1st Peter 1:11). If the Old Testament prophets had access to the Spirit of Christ, then how is our grace so different? The answer is in the blood. In the New Testament, God's grace is applied to the life of a believer through the blood of Jesus.
The mystery of "true" New Testament grace is not that it simply covers sin, but that it changes us from the nature of a sinner into the nature of Christ (Ephesians 1:6-7). The grace of God - through the blood of Jesus - is applied to the believer allowing us to become partakers of the divine nature. The purpose of God's grace is to transform us into the image of Christ by birthing the nature of Christ within us. As Paul stated in Romans 8:29, God has called us by His grace in order to reveal His Son IN us. Salvation is not about simply receiving a knowledge of Christ, but being transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2, Galatians 1:15-16, 1st Corinthians 15:49, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:2). This is why Hebrews 10:29 states that those who insult the Spirit of grace by rejecting Christ after salvation are guilty of degrading the "blood" of the covenant.
Do we receive grace, get saved, and that's it? Not according to Scripture. The Word of God shows us that just because we have received grace does not mean that this is all the grace to be received. We are expected to grow in grace just as we are to grow in other aspects of our salvation (2nd Corinthians 8:7, 2nd Peter 3:18, 2nd Timothy 2:1). We must be good stewards over the grace that God has given us, understanding that we may each experience different forms of this grace (1st Peter 4:10, Romans 12:6, Ephesians 4:7).
The Bible urges us to continue and be strong in the grace that God has given us. Yet Scripture also shows that God's grace can also be resisted, even by believers. One of the most prominent verses on this is Galatians 5:4 which states, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Those who seek justification by the law after having been saved make Christ of no effect and have fallen from grace.
Additionally, we see that after admonishing us to seek holiness, Paul says in Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
Friends, this is so important! Failure to be diligent to the things of God can cause us to fail of God's grace. We are told that such individuals have received God's grace in vain (2nd Corinthians 6:1, 1st Corinthians 15:10).
If God promises that His grace will save us in spite of our faithfulness to Him, then how can we be removed from Gods grace (Galatians 1:6)? How can we frustrate God's grace - which in the Greek means "to do away with, to set aside, disregard, to thwart the efficacy of anything, nullify, make void, frustrate, to reject, or to refuse" as referred to in Galatians 2:21? God is not directing these comments to those who are lost. In each instance, He is speaking to the believers, the church, the brethren.
If the "grace only" doctrine is correct, then the Bible is wrong. For Scripture is clear that we can fall from God's grace, frustrate His grace, be removed from His grace, and have received His grace in vain based upon our actions after receiving salvation.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ"
1st Peter 1:13
"...Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment."
II Chronicles 19:6
In the world today, the admonition not to "judge" is frequently used to place a virtual gag order over those who would speak up against popular and accepted world practices. Even some Christians will use a "don't judge" stance when erroneous teachings and ministries in the church are examined. In fact, many false prophets are using Scripture references like "touch not my anointed" and "do my prophets no harm" in order to protect their doctrines and actions from exposure. The word judge has been so perverted that to judge anything is now considered by many to be anti-Christian behavior, and anyone who does so is likely to be labeled as an "accuser of the brethren."
Well, what does God have to say on this subject? Is it true that Christians are told not to judge? The simple answer is no. In fact, according to Scripture those who do not judge are more likely to be led astray by false doctrines and are less effective witnesses for Christ.
To get a complete understanding of this topic we will be looking at the following:
Webster's defines the act of judging as "to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises." Simply stated, judging is simply the process of evaluation that people naturally employ everyday to make determinations of what is true: we judge when we need to leave to arrive on time to a particular destination; we judge what we should wear based on what the weather is for the day; we judge the credibility of others, etc.
The problem arises because judging can be subjective. In other words, your judgements are based on your perceptions, motives, and understandings. This is why two people can judge the exact same situation and come up with different determinations. Since the judgments of man are therefore rooted in the "opinions" of man, no man's judgements can be taken as absolute or complete truth. This is the implied accusation behind every admonition not to judge. "Who are YOU to judge? What makes you think YOUR judgements are sure?"
We know from Scripture that God is the Judge of all (Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27; I Samuel 2:10 Psalms 50:6; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; Isaiah 3:13; Isaiah 33:22; Jeremiah 11:20; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 33:20; Hebrews 12:23; I Peter 1:17; Matthew 12:27). God is set in position as our Judge because He is all-knowing, He is Truth. As such God's judgements are righteous and true (John 8:26; Romans 11:33; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2).
Although God alone is the Judge, this does not mean that only God judges. In fact, the Word of God says that God enables man to judge, commands man to judge, and is pleased with those who seek to judge righteously.
Scriptures clearly show that throughout time God has imparted to man the authority to judge (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:18; Judges 2:16-19; 2nd Chronicles 19:5; Ezra 7:25; Isaiah 1:17; Ezekiel 23:45; John 7:24; Romans 2:27; 1st Corinthians 2:15; 1st Corinthians 6:2). In Zechariah 3:7
God states that He gives those who obey Him the authority to judge, "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." There are also additional references in Scripture to this process of judging that may not specifically use the word judge. For example, in the original languages, the words translated as judge in Scripture are also translated examine, search, discern, ask, question, contend, esteem, and determine.
In the Old Testament, God specifically identified those who were set in positions as Judges over His people as chronicled in the Book of Judges. We also see that one responsibility of the prophets was to declare God's judgment to the people (Judges 4:4; 2nd Samuel 12:1-12; Micah 3:1-8; Malachi 4:4; Hosea 6:5). In Ezra 7:25, it states that those who judge serve two purposes: 1). To judge those who know the law; and 2). To teach the law to those who do not know.
Scripture also shows that God considers the exercise of judgement to be evidence of our seeking truth (Jeremiah 5:1). The fact that the desire to judge righteously is highly esteemed by God is clearly illustrated in 1st Kings 3:9-13. In verse 9, King Solomon asks, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?". We see here that Solomon asked God for discernment to judge between good and bad. This request not only pleased the Lord, but God blessed Solomon greatly for asking for the wisdom to judge.
In the New Testament, we continue to see that God expects us to exercise judgement. Jesus Himself criticized the Pharisees for being unable to judge the spiritual things of God and the importance of judging spiritual matters continued to be stressed throughout His disciples' ministries (Matthew 16:3; Luke 12:56-57; John 7:24; Acts 4:19; 1st Corinthians 2:15; 1st Corinthians 5:3; 1st Corinthians 6:2-5; I Corinthians 10:15; 1st Corinthians 14:29; Hebrews 5:14). Further, we are told that it is to our shame if there is none among us who can judge the things of God. God also states that judgement is considered one of the weightier aspects of God's law, even more than offerings (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:14).
When citing God's "command" not to judge, people often refer to Matthew 7:1, however, let's look at the complete Scripture in context. "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
Jesus clearly says do not judge so that you will not be judged, but to whom is He speaking? He identifies His audience in verse 5 with the words "Thou hypocrite." Jesus is not forbiding Christians to judge (unless He is calling every Christian a hypocrite). He is warning that we will be held accountable for what we know. In other words, if we know enough about sinful behavior to tell others that it is wrong, then we have no excuse as to why that sin would be present in our lives. This is consistent with Paul's advice in 1st Corinthians 11:31-32 that we judge ourselves first so that we will not be judged. As Jesus says in verse 5, we should cast the beam out of our own eye and then we are in position to point out the fault to others.
In truth, God does not forbid us to judge, but He sets up conditions wherein we must judge.
The primary stipulation given for Christians regarding judging is that we are not to proclaim our own judgements (based on our opinions) but to pronounce the judgements of God (based on truth). Jesus serves as the best example in this manner. "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)
Here Jesus confirms that all true judgement comes from God alone, but He also sets forth the criteria for what constitutes just judgements. Jesus says that because He places His will in subjection to God the Father, He is able to hear God's words and be sent by God to pronounce His judgements. Again in John 8:15-16 Jesus asserts that only judgements that come from God are true, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me."
This is the pattern for how we are commanded to judge righteously, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24). We must have our will in subjection to God's which enables us to know God's words and allows us to be sent by God to others with His message.
Scripture also shows that God has given us His Spirit to specifically fulfill these purposes in man (among other things), thereby allowing righteous judgements to be pronounced by man.
* The Spirit Engenders Obedience to the Father
In Acts 5:32, we see that having our will in subjection to God as our Father is a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit, "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." Also Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:6; I Peter 1:22; and I John 3:24.
* The Spirit Reveals God's Words to Us
We are also told that the Holy Spirit will reveals the words of the Father to us as He leads us into all truth. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." Additional references include John 16:13; Luke 2:26; John 14:26; Acts 13:2; I Corinthians 2:10-14; and Ephesians 1:17.
* The Spirit Sends God's People to Accomplish God's Work
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18-19; Also Acts 13:4)
* The Spirit Places the Words of God in Our Mouths
"For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." (John 3:34). There are other references like Matthew 10:20; Matthew 12:18; Luke 12:11-12; Mark 12:36; Mark 13:11; Acts 1:16; Acts 2:4; Acts 2:17; Acts 4:31; Acts 21:11; Acts 28:25; 1st Corinthians 2:4; 1st Corinthians 2:13; and 2nd Peter 1:21.
The Word of God also states that one of the gifts of the Spirit is that of discernment (1st Corinthians 12:10). In fact, this is the same discernment that is cited as an evidence of one's maturity in God in Hebrews 5:12-14, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Through the Spirit of God, man is able to hear God's words and proclaim His judgements righteously. "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." (1st Corinthians 2:15)
Although Scripture shows that God expects, equips, and commands man to judge, there are stipulations that govern this decree.
We must not be hypocrites when judging others. God states that when we judge others for committing sins that we partake in, we are condemning ourselves. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; Romans 2:1-5; Romans 2:20-23) This is clearly depicted in God's judgement of David for the killing of Uriah. The prophet Nathan approached David for judgement regarding a story of a rich man that had stolen from a poor man. Yet, after David pronounces his judgement, Nathan's words were "Thou art the man..." (2nd Samuel 12:1-7) This is what God is warning us. We will be measured by the same yardstick with which we measure others.
We are also told not to judge according to appearances or by the flesh (John 7:24; John 8:15; James 2:1-4). This means that sound judgement cannot be based on what we see, hear, or think. Since God's thoughts and ways are are higher than ours, He is not bound by our perceptions, opinions, or prejudices. This again is a confirmation that God alone is The Judge. Our judgements must therefore be based in His word in order for them to be true.
We are not to judge others regarding legalistic adherence to ordinances such as holyday (holiday) observances and what to eat or drink, for such are only matters of faith (Romans 14:1-23; 1st Corinthians 8:7-13; 1st Corinthians 10:28-33; Colossians 2:16-23). Scripture states that in Christ we have liberty which frees us from the law of sin and death (Luke 4:18; Romans 8:21; 1st Corinthians 10:29; 2nd Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:1, 13; James 1:25; James 2:12; I Peter 2:16). This is the same liberty that allows Paul to say, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (1st Corinthians 10:23) Although the Son has made us free, we can only walk in this liberty to the degree that we have faith in God. This is why we are told to be "fully persuaded in our own minds" because "whatever is not done in faith is sin." (Romans 14:5, 23) If someone - whom the Scripture describes as having weaker faith - chooses to adhere to such ordinances, they are doing so as unto the Lord. To judge them is to place a stumbling block before them because you are attempting to get them to commit what in their minds is sin. (Romans 14:13; Romans 9:32) This is why we are warned, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak." (1st Corinthians 8:9) Likewise, those who are walking in the liberty of Christ should not be judged by those who choose to adhere to such ordinances. As stated in 1st Corinthians 10:29-30, "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?" Those who make judgements in these areas are mistaking matters of faith for matters of doctrine.
We should not judge anyone's eternal destiny. Although we will judge the truth (in ourselves, in others and in doctrine) based on the Word of God, only God can bring about the consequences of His judgements: justification for the righteous and condemnation for the wicked (1st Kings 8:32; 2nd Chronicles 6:23). 1st Corinthians 4:3-5 states,
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."
Here Paul says that although he will be judged by his brethren, justification can only occur from the Lord and will only be known at Jesus' second coming. God alone knows the end of the matter from the beginning.
We should not base judgements on malicious lies or evil misrepresentations. "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:11-12) To speak evil of in this Scripture is the Greek word Katalaleo which means to malign, vilify, or traduce. It means exposing someone to contempt or shame based on false witness. This is why James says that such judgements are actually judgements of the law, because false testimony is a perversion of the law. Obviously, we should not judge others under these conditions. It should also be noted that these are the circumstances under which Jesus was judged by the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 26:59-66; Mark 14:55-64). They sought false witnesses by which they could judge Him for blasphemy. Further, we are warned that as Christians, we should expect to be subjected to these same "evil" judgements by the world. "Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." (1st Peter 3:16, also 1st Peter 2:12)
According to the Bible, the act of judging righteously is a benefit to the individual Christian and to the body of believers as a whole. Judging helps to sanctify the individual believer, prepares us to do the work of God, protects us from heretical doctrine that jeopardizes our faith, makes us an effective witness for Christ, and is a demonstration of God's grace to others.
Judge Ones' Self
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)
Judging ones' self with the Word of God is a key part of the process of sanctification through which every believer proceeds. This is why we are told to examine ourselves to see if we be in the faith. (2nd Corinthians 13:5) This is not simply an act of casual reflection. God is charging us, "Judge yourself to see if you really are what you claim!" Does the fruit of our lives attest to the words of our lips? Although we proclaim to be Christians, do our day-to-day lives line up to the Word of God? Christ has come in direct opposition to the god of this world, the Father of lies. To combat the lies, Jesus presents us with incorruptible Truth. It is only by submitting to this Truth that the Spirit of God can be a lamp unto our feet, searching out our souls and turning our stony hearts into hearts of flesh. (Psalms 119; Acts 26:18; Romans 15:16; Ephesians 5:26-27; 1st Corinthians 6:11; 2nd Corinthians 3:3; 1st Thessalonians 5:23; 2nd Thessalonians 2:13; 1st Peter 1:2, 22)
Sanctification is not a one time, immediate change that occurs when we accept Christ. It is a process of being cleansed through the washing of the water by the word whereby we can be transformed into the image of God as we walk in relationship with Him. It is this process of judging ones' self that prompted David to cry out, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalms 139:23-24)
As we judge our own selves in the light of God's word we continue in the process of sanctification, which is the will of God for every Christian. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour." (1st Thessalonians 4:3-4) In fact, the Apostle Paul said that if we would simply judge ourselves, we will not be condemned when God judges us. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (1st Corinthians 11:31-32)
Not only does judging one's self keep you in a place of being sanctified by God, it is only then that we are made fit for the Master's use. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (2nd Timothy 2:21)
Today, the judging of doctrine is predominately taking one of two extremes. Many refuse to judge anything for fear of being called divisive. Still others cause senseless disputations by making everything a matter of doctrine; judging others in legalistic areas that are not germane to salvation. However, Romans 16:17 makes it clear not only what constitutes a division, but how to treat those who cause them.
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
First, this Scripture does not say to simply mark those who cause divisions or offenses (although this is what many who will say not to judge would like us to believe). It says to mark those who cause divisions or offenses by espousing doctrine that is contrary to Scripture. This is an important distinction because it implies that there are divisions or offenses that are not contrary to Scripture. In fact, Scripture itself can be such a division or offense. We are told that the Word of God is a sword dividing the wheat from the chaff, both within the inner being of an individual and between individuals. (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Matthew 10:34-36) Further, both the written and the incarnate Word of God are referred to as a rock of offense (Romans 9:33; 1st Peter 2:7-8) Every Christian needs to settle in their minds that the Word of God will be considered divisive and offensive by those who rebel against God.
If you have determined that you will not "judge" so as to avoid these accusations, then you have essentially chosen not to be a witness for Christ.
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1st Timothy 4:16)
In the above Scripture, we are warned to "take heed" for not only our own selves but for the doctrine. In other words, God is saying to pay attention to, watch out for, take care of the doctrine. Why? Because not all doctrine is sound doctrine. In fact, we are told specifically that devils also have doctrines. (1st Timothy 4:1; Revelation 2:14-15; Revelation 2:24) It is precisely because there are these other "gospels" that we are warned to hold fast to what was given to us originally. (2nd Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-7;Titus 1:9; 2nd Peter 3:1-13; 1st Timothy 1:6-7; Romans 6:17; Acts 2:42; Revelation 3:3) Yet, the only way that we can hold fast to the Gospel is if we can discern or judge between the true and the false. (Hebrews 5:13-14) Once again, the Word of God is presented as the standard for such an evaluation (Matthew 15:3-6; Romans 6:17; Romans 16:17; 2nd Thessalonians 2:15; 1st Timothy 1:3; 2nd Timothy 1:13; 2nd Timothy 3:13-17; 2nd Timothy 4:2; 2nd Peter 3:1-13; 2nd John 1:10; Titus 1:9). Why is judging doctrine so important? Because there are doctrines that can jeopardize your faith and even your salvation. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2nd John 1:9-11)
1st Timothy 4:16 also states that it is not only important to take heed to the doctrine but to continue in it. This is precisely the type of problem that the Apostle Paul was addressing in Galatians 1:6-7, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." We are further warned that in the last days these doctrines of devils will be more prevalent and persuasive than ever, even to the point of deceiving the elect of God - if it were possible to do so. (Matthew 10:11; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2nd Thessalonians 2:3; 1st Timothy 4:1-5; 2nd Timothy 4:3-4)
Lastly, 1st Timothy 4:16 reveals that by taking heed for and continuing in sound doctrine we will not only see salvation ourselves, but so will those to whom we witness. Conversely, as supported in 2nd John 1:9-11, not continuing in sound doctrine results in us believing and spreading a perverted gospel that is powerless to save.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1st John 4:1)
Everyone who claims to be a minister or even a Christian must be believed by virtue of their confession. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must not question or judge one another because God alone is our judge. If someone is in error, it is not for us to point it out. After all, no one has it all right and God will correct them if they are wrong. To judge another person is not only unloving, but is against Scripture.
While perhaps not verbatim, the above sentiments are often expressed when the subject of judging one another is raised. Yet these views are not only ludicrous, Scripture directly refutes such claims.
Not Everyone Who Says "Lord, Lord" Is Your Brother
The Word of God continually warns about the presence of false prophets in the world. Even more disarming, Scripture tells us that these deceivers will be mixed in with the church itself. (Matthew 13:24-40; Acts 20:29-31; 2nd Timothy 2:20-21; 2nd Timothy 4:3; 2nd Timothy 3:13; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; 2nd Corinthians 11:4; Philippians 3:18-19; Galatians 2:4; 2nd Peter 2:1) "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15) God is telling us that there are ministers of Satan in the church who are actually transformed so that they appear as ministers of righteousness! We are even told that some of these false ministers will have Satanic power to perform supernatural signs, wonders, healings, and other miraculous events. (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2nd Thessalonians 2:9).
Throughout Scripture, God warns us about these false prophets, false brethren, false apostles, etc. Is His direction for us to accept these individuals without question in a show of love? No. God is no fool and He knows that the intent of these individuals is to pull you out of the faith. (2nd Peter 2:1-22) The end times, we are told, will be specifically marked by a great apostacy as people are drawn away after false gospels. As a result, God commands us to judge whether they in fact are members of the Body of Christ, discern the signs, try the spirits, examine the fruit and be purged from these! (1st Corinthians 5:7; 2nd Corinthians 6:14-17; Ephesians 5:11; 1st Timothy 6:5; 2nd Timothy 2:21; 2nd Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10) How do we identify false brethren? Because they preach and live a gospel that is a perversion of the Word of God. (Isaiah 8:20) Scripture not only tells us how to identify the false, but it shows us how to recognize the true Body of Christ? We know them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:16-20; Matthew 12:33; Matthew 13:23; Matthew 21:19-43; Mark 4:8, 20; Luke 6:44; Luke 8:15; John 15:1-16; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9-11; Colossians 1:10)
Do You Not Judge Them That Are Within?
As Christians, we are not only engrafted into the family of God, but we are made a part of a spiritual family of brothers and sisters with whom we can fellowship, learn, share, and grow in the faith. We have been birthed into a body of believers who can encourage, strengthen, support, and yes even admonish each other when necessary. "And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another." (Romans 15:14) Webster's defines admonish as "to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner." Although some in the church would say that we should not even do that, there are Scriptures that show this as one of the responsibilities of the church. (Colossians 3:16; 1st Thessalonians 5:12; Acts 27:9) In fact, we are specifically told to admonish and rebuke those brethren who may be in error (Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15; Titus 3:10; Ephesians 5:11; Colossians 3:16; 1st Corinthians 4:14; 2nd Timothy 3:16-4:2; 2nd Timothy 4:2). "But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2nd Thessalonians 3:13-15)
The Bible even shows that it is sometimes necessary to specifically name those who are erring in the faith in order to protect others whom they may influence. "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already: and overthrow the faith of some." (2nd Timothy 2:16; 1st Timothy 1:19-20; 1st Timothy 5:20-21; 2nd Timothy 4:10; Galatians 2: 11-14; 2nd Timothy 4: 14-15; 3rd John 1:9)
When a brother or sister is in error, it is an extension of God's grace and mercy to have another member of the Body provide correction. This gives the one in error an opportunity to repent and it serves as a witness for others in the faith. Letting a brother or sister continue in error is the most unloving and self-righteous act, because it allows them to continue in something that may result in them falling away from the Lord. Our fellowship with each other is but one of the ways in which God helps to steer us in the right direction when we go astray.