The early church after the resurrection of Christ faced many threats. Externally these threats came from both Roman and Jewish leaders, who thought Christianity was a threat to each of their power bases.
Internally the church grappled with another threat. There were two different sets of beliefs that threatened to undermine the gospel message of salvation and sanctification by grace through faith alone. One group attempted to impose sections of the Old Testament Law on believers: The Judaizers. Another group was teaching that since God is Spirit that it did not matter what we did in the flesh–that sin no longer mattered. They were the Gnostics. The Apostle Paul fought against both sets of false beliefs infiltrating the early church. He was dually concerned that people would either be put back under bondage to the Law that could not save men, or that men would believe that since they were saved by grace that sin no longer mattered to God.
Both of these sects operate today in some form. Today’ legalists are similar to the Judaizers, imposing unbiblical rules on others for salvation and sanctification. Today’s “Emergents” are similar to the Gnostics, discounting biblical doctrines about sin, and encouraging people to “go with their feelings”. The danger in this is that our feelings are very susceptible to our flesh which constantly seeks to justify its actions.
Salvation is received solely by the grace of God through our complete faith in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross.
- Legalists will add additional requirements to salvation requirements just like the early Judaizers.
- Emergents often discount the doctrines of sin in the bible and at times even the exclusivity requiring faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross for salvation. A growing number support what is called the “Kingdom Circles” theology that God works through other religions like Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism–all of which deny that Jesus is God.
So legalists stress strict rules and regulations in salvation and sanctification, while Emergents stress freedom and emotions over doctrines.
The reason we struggle and see this modern day fight between Legalists and Emergents is that both sides have a few things right and a lot of things wrong and they fight about who is “more wrong”, confusing a lot of believers.
Legalists correctly point out that grace is not a license to go on sinning, but they are quick to condemn those that continue to sin in an area that the legalist feels personal conviction in. If the legalist has a personal conviction from God that having a glass of wine or watching television is something he should avoid, they just assume that every believer should be convicted in the same way on the same issues.
Emergents stress the ongoing grace of God, which is important, but discount biblical doctrines as unimportant. In fact you often hear them insinuate that Jesus abolished The Law, in direct contradiction of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
- So legalists are all about restrictions, discounting freedoms given to us by God.
- Emergents are all about freedom, discounting important doctrines for salvation and sanctification. So both have areas where they are wrong, and since they are both wrong neither can be truth from God. So what is the truth? We can use a tool often used in the bible to identify it: What I call a Biblical Conjunctive.
A conjunctive can be defined as the place where two facts intersect to form truth. In the bible one of the conjunctive circles is always a BENEFIT/FREEDOM and the other is a RESTRICTION on that freedom/benefit. Let’s look at some of the most read quoted verses of scripture: Starting in John 3:16:
John 3:16-17 is a freedom
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3:18-19 is a restriction
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Emergents only cite John 3:16-17 to justify the false teaching of universal salvation. But true Christians realize that verses 18 and 19 bring us the light of truth.
God’s forgiveness and grace save us from the punishment of eternal separation from God. But biblical doctrine is important to teach us how to pursuer a life holy and pleasing to God.
TRUTH: WE HAVE FREEDOM IN CHRIST AS LONG AS WE DO NOT WILLFULLY AND CONTINUALLY VIOLATE THE DOCTRINES GOD HAS GIVEN US.
Biblical Conjunctives are crucial to differentiate between biblical truth and human traditions:
“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, Honor your father and your mother,’ and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:1-9
Presenting human doctrine and claiming it is Godly doctrine is a very serious offense, tantamount to self-idolatry. We are claiming that our beliefs are equal to God’s, and that we are as right and just as He alone truly is. This is pride and a lack of true humility necessary for salvation and sanctification.
I was watching a nationally-known preacher on television one night. He claimed that drinking any alcohol in any amount was always sin. Someone called in and asked “Then why was Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine? Was Jesus leading others to sin?”
The preacher started justifying his man-made doctrine, claiming that every time the word “wine” appeared in the Bible it actually meant “grape juice”.
“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Luke 7:33-34
“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” John 2:7-11
1 Timothy 5:23
“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
The word in these New Testament passages for wine is OINOS: literally WINE.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,”
Same word: OINOS. Paul gives us the biblical conjunctive: We are free to drink wine, but not get drunk (restriction). A fleshly/animal thought process says “I can drink as much wine as I want”! A human thought process says “Drink no wine at all because nothing good can come from it.” A Godly thought process recognizes nothing God has provided is bad in itself, but it can be used for evil when it is abused.
Many of the disagreements that lead to serious arguments and breaking of fellowship could be avoided if we understood the Conjunctives taught in the Word of God.
CONTINUING SIN OF THE BELIEVER
Legalists are quick to condemn others when they sin. Emergents fail to hold others accountable for their sins, claiming unbiblical “grace” applies without condition.
1 John 1:9-10
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Continuing sin of the believer requires careful study and application of the Word of God. When a true believer humbles himself before God by confessing and repenting, and placing his complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ, he is given the gift of eternal life. His ongoing occasional sin does not forfeit that gift. But our ongoing unconfessed sin does detract from our eternal reward in heaven. Proof of the salvation we claim to have received is a life increasingly sanctified. When the grace of God reveals hidden sin in our lives, we confess (humble, admit our guilt) and repent (change our mind about our behavior). This is the process of sanctification, proving the believer is maturing in his Christian faith.
GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
From my study of the scriptures, I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available as God gives them for a specific time and purpose. Certain denominations teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer in operation, but nowhere in the Bible can that argument be clearly justified. These people are known as “Cessationists”.
Other Christians believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation. They are often referred to as “Continuists”. But some of these people believe in wild “manifestations” that lack order or purpose. Some so-called “Holy Spirit revivals” show people barking like dogs, clucking like chickens, or falling down claiming they are “drunk in the Spirit”.
A correct biblical understanding, using conjunctives, brings clarity to this issue.
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” 1 Corinthians 14:1-5
“If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:37-40
This entire chapter from 1 Corinthians urges believers to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church and as a witness to unbelievers to draw them to the faith. But notice the conjunctive Paul gives us: “all things should be done in order”. Dog barking, chicken clucking, angel feathers and gold dust is not edifying, nor orderly. They do not meet the restriction side of the biblical conjunctive.
The pastor or church that allows “gifts” to go on without order or purpose is using a fleshly/animal thought process, allowing people to openly act in a way that opposes the Bible. The pastor or church discouraging the gifts of the Holy Spirit is using a human thought process: Forbidding any manifestations because some false ones could come up and possibly lead a weaker believer to stumble.
A Godly thought process understands that true manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit fall into the overlapping part of the conjunctive circles—and that the gifts are not given to puff us up, but to edify and build up the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:27;33
“If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
When we see dozens, or hundreds of people at one time “speaking in tongues” it is a sign of a false “gift” since it violates the restriction side of the conjunctive.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are always given to benefit others, not to draw attention to the one used as a conduit for the gift. If the church does not benefit, the manifestation is not of the Holy Spirit.
*We will be posting on these issues and other false teachings more frequently on this blog.