God's Word Combats Confusion<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
There seems never to have been a time in the history of the world when there has been so much confusion exists on so many different matters. Banks all over the world are failing. Greece and other countries are facing the possibility of bankruptcy. The United States alone has a debt approaching fifteen trillion dollars ($15,000,000,000,000.00). Our elected officials cannot agree whether to borrow more money or stop borrowing at all and cut spending. There are disasters of such magnitude that no one living can remember anything greater. There have been outbreaks of tornados in Alabama and Missouri, floods along the Mississippi River, earthquakes in Haiti, Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and other places, wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Christians are being killed in Liberia. Muslims are killing each other all over the Middle East. There are pestilences and diseases of such magnitude that there is no known cure yet. Politicians can't decide whether to go left or right. Confusion also reigns in churches across the United States and around the world. Many, including many well-known "church leaders" are advocating a "type of religion" that mixes Christianity and Islam, called "Chrislam." Many nations are openly advocating the annihilation of Israel. Many are also advocating the need for, and the possible rise of, a one-world government and a one-world church. What should Christians think? What in the world is going on? What is the Christian message? What constitutes the authentic Christian message? There are well-known church leaders advocating "Liberation Theology," "Social Justice," "redistribution or reweaving of wealth," removing crosses from the churches to make it more appealing to non-Christians, and even the President of the United States requested that the crosses and God's Word be covered prior to speaking at Notre Dame. Do you know Biblical Truth? It is the Word of God. The average non-Christian and some professing Christians think that the Christian message is just about social action, the relief of world poverty, and trying to live a good, moral life based on the Sermon on the Mount. What can be done? The Bible is God's Word, God's Truth, and reveals that when Solomon finished the building of the first temple in Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to Solomon by night and spoke to him as follows:
"If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7: 13 and 14)
Thus, there is no equivocation. No confusion. This nation needs to return to God by true repentance and saving faith. We need forgiveness, not just new politicians. God's people (the Church) need to humble themselves and pray and seek God's face and turn from their wicked ways. We need to earnestly seek repentance. We need God's revival, or, Great Awakening. Is this not the true task of the Church?
The Task of the Church
The confusion that seems to be prevalent today is not new. The confusion which exists regarding what is the primary task of the Church is also not new. The Great Expository Preacher, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said in a sermon that he preached in 1966:
"Everything that is said today as criticism [of the Christian Church and the task of the Christian Church] is not new. It was all said in the First Century."
In the First Century, the question of the primary task of the Church and the consequent division of labor was addressed by the Church, and the actions are recorded in the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts. It is recorded there that a dispute had arisen amongst the Church members, particularly the Greeks and the Hebrews, because the Greeks thought that their widows were being neglected. The Twelve Apostles considered the matter and decided that they should find "seven (7) men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" whom they could appoint to take care of the matter. It was the prayerful consideration of the Apostles, however, that they would give themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word." Indeed there is no greater need today!
We also see in many places such as Paul's epistle to his young protégé, Timothy, that the command was to "preach the Word. . . and to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine." (II Timothy 4:2) Thus, the stated business of the Church is to preach the Word, to preach the Gospel of Christ. Paul addressed the issue of the authority to do just exactly that when he said in his letter to the Church at Galatia that ". . . I certify unto you, Brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man." Thus, Paul is affirming to the Church at Galatia that this is not something that he merely dreamed up. It is also not something that some other man dreamed up. Peter affirms the same thing when he says in his second epistle, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the Excellent Glory, this is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And he concluded the first chapter of his second epistle saying, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Thus, the Bible is God's Word! It is not cunningly devised fables. It is not a concoction of man. It is both authoritative and sufficient because it is the Word of the Living God.
Many, even in the Church today, are confused regarding both the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Some have expressed it in effect saying, "The Bible is only inspired in spots." Many who espouse such a position also take the position that "they are inspired to spot the spots." Many have taken the position that the Church should not be talking about Heaven and Hell. These are concepts, they maintain, which cannot be proven. Some say they exist only in the mind. Heaven is what you make of it, they say, or hell is right here on earth some say. They maintain that the Bible is not any more authoritative than other "great" books and that preachers should not be preaching on and maintaining the authority of the Bible, doctrine, dogma, and the like. They maintain that the real important message is the philosophy and teachings of Jesus, such as trying to live as stated in the Sermon on the Mount and being concerned with social justice.
Ravi Zacharias, on one occasion, stated that "Jesus did not come to make bad men good, but, rather, Jesus came to make dead men live." Indeed, Jesus Himself says that "He came to seek and to save that which was lost." Jesus came as the Savior to redeem lost mankind and to make them a new creation. One who truly comes to the Messiah is made "a new creation, through faith alone in Christ alone." Of course, it has been said that "the faith that saves is not alone." James says that "faith without works is dead." Saving faith is a sheer gift of the Living God. "By grace are we saved through faith and that not of ourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2: 8 and 9) Jesus spoke of both heaven and hell on numerous occasions. One such place where Jesus spoke of both is Luke 16: 19-31:
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, Father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." And he said, Nay, Father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
So there is a real heaven and a real hell according to Jesus, The Word of God.
The business of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus, and this can be done only if the Church is true to its calling, to preach the Word of God. There is no confusion in God's Word. Paul tells Timothy to "preach the Word." (II Timothy 4:2) Our message is not something that we must "think up" or "come up with." It is that which has been given by revelation. It is the Word of God from the Living God. It is not a contrived plan to solve modern problems. It doesn't even focus on the problem. It is not some new and innovative idea in order to reach the unconverted. The Apostle Peter said that the Word of God is given by revelation from God and is not some "cunningly devised fable." It is not man's thoughts. It is revelation from God. God's Word stands alone. It is the Word of the Living God! We, like Moses, are but messengers. God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, and He gave him a code by which his people should live. This "code" is the Ten Commandments. God has spoken in time's past at sundry times and in diver's manners through the prophets. However, in these last days, He has spoken in the language of Son. Jesus, God the Son, is God's Living Word and is God's Last Word. We receive God's Living Word by faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that "through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Hebrews 11:3)
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Church, we see that the "world by wisdom did not know God." Indeed, God's Word says that the Jews seek after a sign, and the Greeks seek wisdom, but "we preach Christ crucified." To those who are called, that is, those whom the Father has given to the Son, the message of the cross, the message of Christ being crucified, being raised from the dead, and ascending into heaven is the wisdom of God and the power of God. It is not something that one can simply conjure up, or, dream up.
When Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain and was transfigured before their face, the Bible says that while Peter was speaking, "a bright cloud overshadowed them and . . . a voice out of the cloud . . . said, 'this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.'" (Matthew 17:1-5) God's people are commanded to hear Him. Jesus is the Living Word of God. He is the last Word of God. He is God the Son. Hear Him.
God's Word Begins With Him.
It is because God has revealed certain things to His people, that God's Word is authoritative. No scientific investigation, analysis, or discovery has ever proven God's Word untrue! Indeed, it is truth itself! "Sanctify them through thy truth: Thy Word is truth." (John 17:17) All that we may know about the Living God comes from God's Word. The Reformers recognized that God's Word is "our only rule of faith and practice." In Matthew's gospel in the eleventh chapter, Jesus said, "I thank Thee oh Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." So God reveals His Word to whom He will, and He does not reveal it, but, in fact, hides it from whom He will.
Those Who Undermine the Authority of God's Word are False Teachers
Much of the confusion that exists today both inside and outside the Church is a result of men who are willingly ignorant. These are men who have "professed themselves to be wise," but have become as fools. Nevertheless, as they undertake by one means or another to persuade men and women that God's Word is not authoritative, they are false teachers. This is nothing new. False teachers were prophesied long ago. Jesus Himself told His disciples shortly before His death that they should ". . . take heed that no man deceive [them]." He told them that many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ, and would deceive many. Jesus also said, ". . . and many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." They are abounding today. The Apostle Peter also stated that there were at that time ". . . false prophets also among the people, even as their shall be false teachers among you who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (II Peter 2: 1-2) Many so called "leaders" of the Church even today deny the Lord who bought them. Woe unto them! They are bringing upon themselves "swift destruction."
This fact of the existence of false teachers was foretold by Jesus and by the apostles. The Apostle Peter, in his second epistle, clearly affirms that ". . . we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, saying this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount," referring to the passage of scripture set forth in Matthew Chapter 17.
Peter goes on to affirm that "knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1: 16-21) Thus, Peter clearly, without equivocation, says what Scripture is not, and what Scripture is. It is not just some "private interpretation," i.e., some individual or random thought, but it is the very Word of the Living God, given to holy men by God, the Holy Spirit. It is the Word of the King of the universe. It is authoritative!
The Apostle Paul also affirms the authority of Scripture in his second letter to his young protégé, Timothy. Paul told Timothy ". . . continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hath been assured of, knowing of whom though hast learned them; and that from a child, thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (II Timothy 3:14-17)
The Bible is the Inspired Word of God.
So we see clearly that Scripture itself says that it is inspired. It is "God breathed." It is not conceived and written by man. Indeed, the Apostle Paul adamantly affirms that his writings are not the concoctions of men. "But I certify to you, Brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my conversation in times past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure, I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it and profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me by His grace to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me, and I went into Arabia and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:11-19) Thus, Paul is clearly stating that the things which have been written by him have been given to him by the Lord Jesus. It is God's Word. It is by revelation and inspiration, and, therefore, it is authoritative. It is sufficient. It is all we need.
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in a sermon preached in 1966, that "this is God's Word. We have no right to try to make it fit the modern palate." In II John 1: 7-11, we are reminded of a truth that many modern teachers, preachers, and scholars (so called) have forgotten. We are told don't forget this truth. If one denies this truth, do not receive him! Don't even bid him God speed; for if you do, "you are a partaker of his evil deeds." And John says, "If there come any of these unto you and bring not this doctrine (that Jesus is the Christ), do not receive him even into your house, neither bid him God's speed." If you do, you become a partaker of his evil deeds.
Declare the Whole Counsel of God
It is the mission of the Church and the minister of the Lord Jesus Christ to declare the whole counsel of God. We are not to add to it. We are not to subtract from it. Many today are suggesting subtracting a number of things in order to make the unconverted "feel more comfortable." We are not to drop the cross; the virgin birth; the crucifixion; the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus; the ascension into heaven of the Lord Jesus; we are not to drop repentance; we are not to drop the miracles; and, we are not to do things in order to please either the intellectual or the ignoramus. We are to preach the whole counsel of God. We are to preach Christ crucified. We are, to be sure, to recognize that the preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to many. In fact, it is always "foolishness to those who are perishing." So notwithstanding that the Jew demands a sign and the Greek seeks after wisdom, we are to preach Christ crucified. One cannot "design a worship service for the pagans," said Alistair Begg. As Paul said, ". . . seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the Truth [we] commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." (II Corinthians 4: 1 and 2)
The Manner of the Preaching
We are not to use "wisdom of words." This means, among other things, we are not to preach Christ crucified in order to make ourselves look "intellectual," "brilliant," "compassionate," or any other reason other than to glorify the Lord God and to enjoy Him forever. We are not to use philosophy or psychology, such as, if you have insomnia, come to Jesus, and He will cure your insomnia. Do you have depression? Come to Jesus, He will cure your depression. He will cure your aches and pains. He will cure what ails you. Jesus is not a philosophy or a psychology, but the Living God who "makes dead men live anew." We should preach humbly, manifesting the Truth. God's Word states clearly that "God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble." (I Peter 5:5)
The Starting Point
The Gospel of Christ actually starts with God. One must first believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him. God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and told him he would make him a great nation. Some four hundred (400) years later, He brought Israel out of Egypt through Moses, His deliverer, at that time. He eventually killed the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. He took Israel to Sinai and took Moses up on top of Mount Sinai. He told Moses before he went up to tell the people to stay away. God then revealed Himself to Moses. He gave Moses a code by which the children of Israel were to live. They were to take these commandments that God gave to Moses and hide them in their heart and write them on the doorposts of their houses and teach them diligently to their children when they lay down in their houses, and when they rose up, and when they sat in their house, and when they walked along the way. In all cases, they were to instruct their family, and their children, and their descendants that God is to be revered and honored, for He is holy; His Word is holy; and, it is authoritative.
He is the judge. He has told the Israelites and all who have come thereafter that He judges sin. Jesus said He came not to condemn the world, for the world was condemned already. Jesus said He came to seek and to save that which was lost and to give His life a ransom for many. So the Gospel actually starts with God and calls for "repentance toward God" and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Savior of the world. For all who will receive Him, He gives eternal life. Jesus is our substitute. God's Word says that "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. " (II Corinthians 5:21) In other words, Jesus took our sorry record and our punishment, and He gave us His perfect record and the privilege of sitting with Him on His throne. He is our substitute. This is the Great Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement.
Alistair Begg, in a sermon preached in 2003, said:
"If we thought about our singing a little more than we do, then we would sing a little better than we do. And when I think -- think. That's the problem number one. "And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin?" He goes to the garbage heap for all of my garbage? He goes to the cross for all of my rebellion, for all my filthy thoughts, for all my selfish preoccupations, for all my pride, for all my self aggrandizement, he dies for that? "Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood. He sealed my pardon with His blood?" "How deep, how deep the Father's love for us. How vast, beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure." The reason that some of you are unsaved is because you refuse to admit what you are - wretched, lost, pitiable, blind, and naked. And Christ died for the wretched. And that's why in our affluent, superficial religiosity, we have no interest in a crucified Christ. "How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. How deep the pain of searing loss. The Father turns His face away. And wounds that mar the chosen one bring many sons to glory."
It is stated that Emel Bruner once said:
"At every period in the history of the church, the greatest sin of the church or the one that causes the greatest distress is that she withholds the Gospel from the world and from herself. She does not know the reason for her own existence and consequently has no real message for the present situation."
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that:
"The business of the Church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas. It is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths."
It is the mission of the Church to preach the whole counsel of God. It is the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel of Christ. It is the mission of the Church to use this authoritative Word of God in every aspect of preaching. God's Word is like a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29) according to the prophet Jeremiah preach it. Preach God's Word in season, out of season, at all times. His Word is able to make one wise unto salvation.
Now may the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that Great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Worldview Weekend Foundation
PO BOX 1690
Collierville, TN, 38027 USA