Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Purpose Driven/Seeker Sensitive Advertisement

YouTube - Joel Osteen: Christless "Christianity" (WHI) [2of4]

YouTube - Joel Osteen: Christless "Christianity" (WHI) [2of4]

Ed Young, Jr., the Seeker Sensitive/Purpose Driven Southern Baptist

Opening a Can of Woop Bass??

This video is a strong argument for the MANDATORY and FREQUENT drug screening of Purpose-Driven/Seeker-Driven pastors.

YouTube - Joel Osteen: Christless "Christianity" (WHI) [1of4]

YouTube - Joel Osteen: Christless "Christianity" (WHI) [1of4]

Today's neo-liberals emerging out of the Quackeries of modern hothouse Pentecostalism, Joel Osteen.

Ed Young, Jr., a Southern Baptist Quack

Ed Young, Junior, son of EJ, Senior. Junior is a megachurch Pastor-Quack and pro-Osteen opportunist. An excellent collateral site is "The Museum of Idolatry: Artifacts of Apostasy" at

Playing the Pharisee Card «

Playing the Pharisee Card «

Triablogue: Apostolic Succession (Part 1): Introduction

Triablogue: Apostolic Succession (Part 1): Introduction

(This will be a fifteen-part series.)

In his recent series of articles responding to me, Dave Armstrong made comments such as the following about apostolic succession:

The authoritative Church also includes apostolic succession. The true apostolic tradition or deposit is authoritatively passed down....

If there is such a thing as the Church and the indefectibility of that Church (as there assuredly are), then we can certainly believe that this extends through history.

How do we do that? By following the line of apostolic succession and determining what was believed everywhere and by all, and the true line of development of doctrine. If an office was valid in the New Testament, then it was intended for the Church perpetually, not just for New Testament times....

There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on apostolic succession, but Protestantism either ditched that or completely redefined it....

Arius agreed with the Protestant rule of faith, and he did so for the same exact reason: if one can't trace his beliefs back through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession and tradition (Arius, being a denier of the Trinity clearly couldn't do that), then one must become a-historical and pretend to arrive at one's heresies by Scripture Alone....

In other words, if he [Irenaeus] were here today, he would tell me to separate from a Protestant pastor if he doesn't adhere to the succession of unbroken doctrine, and teaches heresy. He would recognize Jason as a heretic insofar as he espouses false doctrine. But he would recognize me as one of his own party: a Catholic....

When we go to Eusebius (III, 39) to see what exactly Papias stated, we find an explicit espousal of apostolic succession and authoritative tradition....

The additional element is what we call indefectibility. It is a root assumption of apostolic succession: that the truth will never be lost; it will always be preserved....

Patristic data doesn't have to exhibit explicit awareness of infallibility because it was just the kernel or early development of that idea. It was not inconsistent with infallibility, which is aligned with many similar concepts: authority, binding power, reliability, indefectibility, tradition, certainty of truth, doctrinal assurance, apostolic succession, orthodoxy, the standard over against heretics, etc. Jason's mistake is what I noted early on: he irrationally expects to find the full-blown oak tree when it is only reasonable to find the acorn or small tree. (sources here, here, and here)

And he links to some other articles in which he discusses the subject, such as here and here.

As I address Dave's claims about apostolic succession in the coming days, keep the following in mind:

- Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy aren't the only modern groups that claim some sort of apostolic succession. Such claims are also made by Anglicans, Lutherans, and others. See here, for example.

- Apostolic succession can be defined in many ways. Dave criticizes Protestants for "completely redefining" it, and he refers to concepts he thinks are associated with or implied by apostolic succession. Ask yourself whether Dave is being sufficiently specific. Do the sources he cites define their terms as he does? Is he consistently arguing for his own view of apostolic succession, or does he sometimes claim without justification that a different view supports his own?

Gregory Rogers, an Eastern Orthodox pastor, differentiates between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic concepts of apostolic succession and criticizes Augustine for his role in developing the Roman Catholic view. He writes:

"The concept of apostolic succession, by the way, shifts between the Eastern and the Western view with Augustine. The Western view adds a legal consecrator's emphasis to apostolic succession. The Eastern view reflects the patristic heritage prior to Augustine, which places the emphasis upon the Church itself - as a eucharistic community headed by a bishop - as the vehicle of succession, not the consecrator....This [the Western view] has led to the proliferation of numerous groups, usually small, who claim to be in the apostolic succession but are in communion with no one. These bishops are called episcopi vagantes, wandering bishops." (Apostolic Succession [Ben Lomond, California: Conciliar Press, 1994], pp. 22, 33-34)

- How important is apostolic succession to modern proponents of the concept? Though they often speak in a highly negative way about other groups that misdefine the concept or who don't profess to have such a succession, they'll often allow for the possibility that those other groups have a succession or that they're Christians without one. Gregory Rogers writes:

"Thus, for the Orthodox, the episcopi vagantes are not within the succession. Nor are the Anglicans or the Roman Catholics necessarily seen as fully in the succession, although in practice the Church has received Catholic priests without requiring them to be ordained in the Orthodox Church....So, given the established patristic theology, how do we relate to contemporary Christians who are outside of this line of apostolic succession? Most modern Orthodox thinkers, when looking at the tragedy of a divided Christendom, say that while we can say where the Church is, we can't always say where it isn't....[quoting the Eastern Orthodox bishop Timothy Ware] While there is no division between a 'visible' and an 'invisible' Church, yet there may be members of the Church who are not visibly such, but whose membership is known to God alone. If anyone is saved, he must in some sense be a member of the Church; in what sense, we cannot always say. [end of Timothy Ware quote]...We can say, 'This is the visible and continuous Church.' But we can't always say who is in and who is out." (pp. 34, 37)

Notice the qualifiers. Anglicans and Roman Catholics aren't "necessarily" part of the succession "fully". Protestants and other non-Eastern-Orthodox who are Christians are part of the church, but not visibly. Other proponents of apostolic succession, such as Roman Catholics, make similar qualifications.

- Claiming that one concept grew from another as an oak tree grows from an acorn isn't the same as demonstrating it.

- Papias illustrates the significance of these distinctions I'm making, which is one of the reasons why I chose to focus on him early on in the process of responding to Dave. Though Dave claimed that "we find an explicit espousal of apostolic succession" in Papias, he left the discussion without justifying that claim. When I asked him to support his assertion, he cited Eusebius' comment in section 3:39 of his Church History regarding how Papias had "received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their [the apostles'] friends". I discussed the nature of Papias' consultation of these sources, such as his attaining of information about miracles from individuals like the daughters of Philip and his attaining of information on premillennialism. To call such consultation of "friends" of the apostles "an explicit espousal of apostolic succession" is unreasonable. What we find in Papias isn't even an acorn. As I've said before, it's more like a mustard seed that Dave is trying to misappropriate as an acorn to argue for his denominational oak. He criticizes Protestants who "completely redefine" apostolic succession, yet he's doing a lot of redefining himself with Papias. Shortly before he left the discussion, Dave wrote, "the word 'explicit' was relative insofar as someone that early can only be so explicit. 'Direct' would have been a better term to use in retrospect, because of the meaning of 'explicit' in discussions having to do with development of doctrine". Dave never justified the conclusion that there's even an acorn of his concept of apostolic succession in Papias. His claim that Papias was explicit "insofar as someone that early" can be explicit seems to be another way of saying that Papias wasn't explicit. Dave hasn't shown that Papias supports his position on apostolic succession explicitly or directly.

- Is Dave adding qualifiers that his sources don't mention or suggest?

- Is Dave neglecting qualifiers that his sources include?

- One authority can be subordinate to another. Parents and states have authority, for example, but a child shouldn't obey a parent who tells him to become a Muslim, and a citizen shouldn't obey a state that tells her to have an abortion. There's a hierarchy of authorities. We obey a higher authority when it comes into conflict with a lower authority. If a church father appeals to apostolic succession, is he appealing to it as some sort of lesser authority that can be overridden by a higher authority in a manner similar to what we see in the parent and state examples cited above?

- Qualifiers not mentioned in one context may be mentioned somewhere else. Scripture often tells us to obey our parents, the state, or church leaders, and sometimes no qualifiers are mentioned in the immediate context. But qualifiers are mentioned elsewhere.

- What's the reasoning behind the appeal to apostolic succession? Does the source in question claim that the apostles taught that all future churches must have an unbroken succession of bishops? Or does he argue for apostolic succession on practical grounds without claiming that the apostles taught such conclusions? Does he make an argument for apostolic succession that would be applicable to future generations? Or is he using an argument that would only be applicable in some circumstances and may not apply to Christians in general throughout church history? As I mentioned in some earlier responses to Dave, we often recognize such limitations to an argument in other contexts. The availability of reliable oral traditions about Tertullian or Abraham Lincoln in one generation doesn't prove that reliable oral traditions about those men would be available in every generation.

Some of the points I've made above were illustrated in my earlier discussion of Papias. I want to close this introductory post with another example, Clement of Rome. He wrote:

"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those ministers already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties." (First Clement, 44)

Why would Evangelicals disagree with such a concept of apostolic succession? Clement was writing to the church of Corinth in a context in which the leaders being opposed hadn't done anything wrong. Who would deny that there should be an ongoing succession of church leaders in such a context? He isn't addressing what should happen if the leaders would become corrupt, though his comments suggest that he would allow exceptions if corruption was involved. And the fact that some churches, such as Corinth, were founded by apostles doesn't imply that every church must have a line of bishops going back to the apostles. The only way to make this passage in Clement of Rome inconsistent with Evangelicalism is by reading assumptions into the text that neither the text nor the context imply.

And it should be noted that the Roman church at the time of Clement probably didn't have a monarchical episcopate. See here and here, for example. Just after what I've quoted from Clement above, he refers to those who hold "the episcopate" as "presbyters", and earlier he had referred to only two offices, bishops and deacons (First Clement, 42).
Labels: apostolic succession, Catholicism, Dave Armstrong, Ecclesiology, Jason Engwer, Orthodoxy

LC 25, SC 18 « Daily Westminster

LC 25, SC 18 « Daily Westminster

Can the Anglicans match this, confessionally? No.

Q. 25. Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin,[93] the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually;[94] which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.[95]

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin,[43] the want of original righteousness,[44] and the corruption of his whole nature,[45] which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.[46]

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9 « Daily Confession

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9 « Daily Confession

Can Anglicans match this? No.

9. Lord’s Day

Q. 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; [a] who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) [b] is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; [c] on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body [d] and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; [e] for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, [f] and willing, being a faithful Father. [g]

More on the Papal Offer

Exactly what the English Reformers would have entertained (tongue firmly in cheek).

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Neoorthodox Way of Justification by John Gerstner | Ligonier Ministries Blog

The Neoorthodox Way of Justification by John Gerstner Ligonier Ministries Blog

Reasonable Christian: Calvin: Why We Should Avoid the Term "Free Will"

Reasonable Christian: Calvin: Why We Should Avoid the Term "Free Will"

Old Life Theological Society » Blog Archive » Forensic Friday: Warfield on Justification

Old Life Theological Society » Blog Archive » Forensic Friday: Warfield on Justification

Preach Reprove Rebuke & Exhort - 2 Tim 4:2

"The Pharisee Card" as the tool to silence inquiry, analysis, exposure and, where necessary, rebukes and chastisements. Preach Reprove Rebuke & Exhort - 2 Tim 4:2. What do you do when you confront someone with their false doctrine and Bible twisting and they accuse you of being a Pharisee? You need to hear this segmen...t of the Fighting for the Faith Radio program about those who play the Pharisee Card. We've seen Crouch/Pentecostal defenders "play the card." Rich Warren is now playing the card. My view? A sign of desperation at being reproved and rebuked. A sign of one losing in reasoned, Confessional, Biblical inquiry.

Very commendable and recommended.

"The Great Exchange" - Table of Contents by Philip Eveson

"The Great Exchange" - Table of Contents by Philip Eveson

Marilynne Robinson, Narrative Calvinist | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Marilynne Robinson, Narrative Calvinist | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Is Mankind Lost in Sin? - The Westminster Presbyterian

Is Mankind Lost in Sin? - The Westminster Presbyterian

The Beginning of the Reformation's End? -

The Beginning of the Reformation's End? -

Johannes Weslianus: Reply to the Joint FV Profession - Introduction

Johannes Weslianus: Reply to the Joint FV Profession - Introduction

LC 23, SC 17 « Daily Westminster

LC 23, SC 17 « Daily Westminster

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.[91]

Westminster Shorter Catechism, my beloved Little Catechism
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.[42]

Canons of Dordt, week 9 « Daily Confession

Canons of Dordt, week 9 « Daily Confession

The First Head of Doctrine: Divine Election and Reprobation

Article 15: Reprobation

Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election — those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.

And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.

Article 16: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation

Those who do not yet actively experience within themselves a living faith in Christ or an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ, but who nevertheless use the means by which God has promised to work these things in us — such people ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to count themselves among the reprobate; rather they ought to continue diligently in the use of the means, to desire fervently a time of more abundant grace, and to wait for it in reverence and humility. On the other hand, those who seriously desire to turn to God, to be pleasing to him alone, and to be delivered from the body of death, but are not yet able to make such progress along the way of godliness and faith as they would like — such people ought much less to stand in fear of the teaching concerning reprobation, since our merciful God has promised that he will not snuff out a smoldering wick and that he will not break a bruised reed. However, those who have forgotten God and their Savior Jesus Christ and have abandoned themselves wholly to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh — such people have every reason to stand in fear of this teaching, as long as they do not seriously turn to God.

Saint Paul Cathedral Choir: Once in Royal David's City

The Book of Martyrs/Chapter XVI - Wikisource

The Book of Martyrs/Chapter XVI - Wikisource

Necessary to re-read, lest we forget. Lest we break faith with godly forbears who stood the test, as must we.

Dr. Phil Ryken: Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia to leave for Presidency of Wheaton College

Dr. Phil Ryken of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia heads out to become the President of Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL. This historic church in downtown Philadelphia has stood nobly for Reformed Theology. Sharon and I were members there while attending Westminster Theological Seminary. As such, we came to know and become friends with Dr. James Montgomery Boice, not just during those years but throughout our years with the military and until his death, 15 Jun 2000. Jim started the famous Philadelphia Conferences on Reformed Theology that did so much, nationally, to advance the biblical faith. Jim maintained and Phil continued the great and traditional ministry of expository biblical preaching. Tenth was always the richer for it.

When Phil goes to Wheaton, we hope his first act will be to remove the picture of "Charles Finney" that hangs in the Billy Graham Centre at Wheaton.

We wish the Rykens all good success and Tenth Presbyterian as they seek to replace their pastor. It's Wheaton's gain and Tenth's loss.

Congregational Meeting - 2-21-2010 from Tenth Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

John Piper on John 6:44. Preaching you won't hear in Anglican Churches in America

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Trinity Broadcasting Network, Pentecostals, Charismatics

Join us at Facebook if you are a Confessional and Reformation Christian. We're growing and getting the word out. We're gathering a body of clips, articles, and reviews of these Pentecostal-Charismatic quacks, hucksters, liars and false prophets. The picture is Paul and Jan Crouch, heads of the Pimping-Clan.!/group.php?gid=308173344359

This group upholds the Reformation solas, the Reformation Confessions, and is solidly and unabashedly Protestant and Confessional. We "actively confess our faith" in these matters to the world. We study, research, post articles, lament and most vehemently protest against the Trinity Broadcasting Network and its doctrines. Moreover, we confess with our mouths, with full hearts and minds and stand most affirmatively against these false teachers, false prophets, and charlatans. Positively, as Confessional Churchmen, we actively confess our faith to individuals, families, within our churches, to cities, nations and the world where ability and opportunity is afforded. We strenuously confess our faith while opposing these lying and false spirits. We're fed up. They have twisted Scriptures, preached a false Gospel, fleeced the sheep and have practiced cultic powers over the weak, gullible, untaught, poor and desperate. "Here we stand, so help us God." Psalm 46.

What Is The Prosperity Gospel? |

What Is The Prosperity Gospel?

I’ve mentioned the “Prosperity Gospel” in some presentations recently, and I’ve had some questions about what I mean when I use the term. I’m going to outline some very basic responses- and have a little to say about them- so that I can refer others to them as a more complete answer than I can give in a cafeteria line.

I believe it is critical that every pastor take this subject on directly, and that we speak clearly about it. The prosperity message is not the Biblical gospel and is a distorted, spiritually dangerous muddle at the very least, and a damning spiritual cyanide at the worst. This is an error that is consuming millions of evangelicals around the world as it is propagated by way of TBN and so forth. Clarity and Biblical faithfulness are important at this moment.

[As is true so often, John Piper is to the point and on target with what's wrong with the Prosperity message.]

What is the Prosperity Gospel?
The Prosperity Gospel…

1) is NOT God’s promise to meet the needs of his people as an expression of his Fatherly kindness within his sovereign will.

2) is NOT God’s old covenant physical blessings to Israel and its kings.

3) is NOT the Bible’s teaching of blessing by the will of God expressed through the consequences of wise choices or the consequences of obedience.

4) is NOT the reasonable implication of Biblical stories of miraculous provision.

The Bible teaches us that if “we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, all these things will be added..” This is not, however, an appeal to materialism or the desire for wealth. It is dependence on God- and on the freedom of God- to provide in whatever situation we find ourselves. God’s provision is not a promise to enrich, but to provide as needed for our lives as we live out his Kingdom’s purposes.

The Prosperity Gospel….

A) is the presumption that God wants us to be rich.

B) is the assumption that the blessings of the Gospel are a guarantee of material and financial blessings now. (The mediation of Jesus makes all blessing possible, but it does not guarantee wealth or health, etc.)

C) is a denial and replacement of the true meaning of “give us this day our daily bread.”

D) is the replacement of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the New Testament with a method that causes God to bestow material and financial blessings on anyone who uses the method.

Why does the Prosperity Gospel appeal to American Christians?

a) American Christians are focused on money as a symbol of the “good life.”

b) American Christians tend to focus on God as a problem solver above any other role.

c) American Christians have a strong preference for legalism and transactionalism.

d) The Prosperity Gospel (or elements of the message) appeals to particular churches:
-Suburban churches stressing the teaching of “life principles.”
-Church growth churches interested in drawing crowds.
-Word-Faith and TBN influenced churches.
-Churches led by faddish pastors.
-Churches that emphasize miracles.

e) American Christians generally fail to distinguish between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The best example of this is the emphasis on tithing that persists in many churches though it is not a New Covenant teaching. (I agree that tithing may be a useful spiritual discipline, but I do not believe there are New Covenant blessings attached to the practice.)

f) American Christians are unable to distinguish between law and Gospel.

g) American Christians prefer manipulation and transactionalism as ways of dealing with God to confessing dependence on his sovereignty.

h) Cultural factors cause some groups of the historically poor and economically disenfranchised to be very open the the Prosperity message.

i) The Prosperity Gospel seems to “prove” that God exists and that faith “pays off.”

j) Many American Christians do not know the Biblical Gospel and, therefore, cannot spot a counterfeit.

k) Christian publishers have published books like “The Prayer of Jabez” in order to enrich themselves.

l) False teachers and greedy ministries abound in America.

m) The teaching of Jesus on material possessions, money and discipleship are generally ignored or reinterpreted in American Christianity.

Posted in American Idolatry, Commentary, Sermons and Devotions · 36 Comments
36 Responses to “What Is The Prosperity Gospel?”
michele says:
August 17, 2007 at 4:19 pm
when my husband had cancer, we received a book called, “make god’s miracles work for you.” it infuriated me.

most of us in the west are already living in tremendous prosperity, far beyond most of the world. what does the prosperity gospel have to offer someone in the Sudan, for instance.

thanks for taking on this topic.

mason says:
August 17, 2007 at 4:50 pm
if you get a chance go to the following website and check out an edited video presentation of one of Piper’s sermons on the prosperity gospel given to a group of college students in birmingham, alabama. it is quite moving and something to think about. i do not agree with all of it…but it is powerfully presented like only Piper can. you will need to stop the music before playing Piper’s sermon. the sermon is located as a youtube presentation. btw the music is from one of my friend’s albums (chuck hooten) check it out.



Julana says:
August 17, 2007 at 5:20 pm
You said in one of your posts that you live in one of the poorest areas of the country. I have to wonder if that makes your neighbors more, or less, susceptible to the prosperity platform.
Could Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker have had the same impact in a wealthier area of the country?

Rick Shott says:
August 17, 2007 at 8:18 pm
I have a sad report. I have seen the Piper excerpt and he alludes to this as well. The prosperity gospel is strong in other parts of the world.

My first encounter with Kenneth Copeland was in Cameroon, while I was a missionary there. (Which is ironic because my sending church was in Texas.) It is hope for the poor, unfortunately a false hope.

Personally, I would go one step further in your classification of the prosperity gospel as manipulation. The prosperity gospel turns the sovereign Lord into our servant. The part of the message I think that appeals to most people is that if a christian says it with faith then it must happen. This turns the sovereign Lord into the subservient lord.

lorijo says:
August 17, 2007 at 8:32 pm
good stuff. good thoughts.

Phil says:
August 17, 2007 at 9:22 pm
I’ve had the rude awakening that most American Evangelicals who don’t preach the prosperity gospel still practice it. Because in order to continue living as normal Americans, Christians must radically “ignore or reinterpret” Jesus’ teachings about money and possessions, and then they end up essentially excusing their greed and materialism as “God’s blessings.”

Phil says:
August 17, 2007 at 9:47 pm
P.S. I’ve seen the prosperity gospel in practice at a Mexican orphanage, and it’s really heartbreaking. They spend a ton of money and volunteer labor on luxuries and aesthetics, but could instead meet the actual needs of twice as many children.

Heteroclite says:
August 17, 2007 at 9:58 pm
Nailed it on the head again, iMonk! Jesus as Cosmic Genie (or is it the Cosmic Rumpelstilzken?). Now if there isn’t irony in that! Making God Himself into an idol. Pheh.

Scott says:
August 18, 2007 at 1:50 am
One word: syncretism.

David says:
August 18, 2007 at 7:53 am
iMonk, great post!
In my church in Holland they don’t teach the prosperity gospel per se, but they do emphsize the importance of tithing. And of course the blessing that’s connected to it.

@Rick Shott: I totally agree with your remark about Prosperity Teaching making God our servant! Ridiculous that we think that we can make God do something.

Wolf Paul says:
August 18, 2007 at 8:12 am
I would like to second Rick Shott’s observation that the prosperity gospel is not an exclusively American phenomenon — and while some of its proponents overseas are American-trained and affiliated, not all of them are. London is full of Nigerian churches preaching prosperity, their “pastors” demonstrating a life style most of the congregants will never attain.

I’s a hot topic in German and Austrian Evangelicalism, as well, and many of its proponents here seem to think themselves above the (secular) law, as well.

@Heteroclite: it actually makes the GIFTS into an idol rather than worshipping the GIVER — one of the oldest temptations, especially of the pentecostal and charismatic movements from which the prosperity gospel has sprung.

Rob (an heir to the Kingdom) says:
August 18, 2007 at 8:18 am
While what I’m posting here is not directly related to the Prosperity Gospel, there is a connection with regards to American prosperity. When Ivana Trump divorced Donald, she had put $60,000 per month in her divorce settlment for flowers. $60,000 per MONTH for flowers!? She reasoned that she was entitlted to her same level of lifestyle after the divorce. Oi vey.

(I can’t find the report now on the web, but I remember reading it at the time. I’m farily sure that $60k per month for flowers was asked for. Anyways, whether or not that was granted specifically is still sealed, but reportedly, she did get a settlement in the order of $20MM,

And more recently, (very young) people are getting into home mortgages far beyond their ability to make the monthly payments. Seems everyone wants an Extreme Makeover kind of house. If Jesus can provide that, why not try Him out? Of course there is a problem with that biblically. Jesus came as the unblemished sacrifice for sin (Matthew 26:28 & Hebrews 9:14), not to make us prosperious.

Do you ask with wrong motives? See James 4:2-3 We are to seek God first. But if we seek God for the purpoose of prosperity here and now, then that would be for the wrong motive.

bob3 says:
August 18, 2007 at 10:23 am
Agreed, and not just another nod from the “amen” corner. But you may have to remove this post due the tithing aside written in parenthesis. That is an incredible hornet’s nest you’ve swatted at. That verse from Malachi is the most taken out of context verse in history. In the past,I was forcing my wife to wear clothes ripped and falling apart so the church could accumulate junk.

Yet, I still feel left out by God and guilty of some sin because those awful “dreams come true” messages pounding repeatedly. It’s like being constantly told you’re fat and ugly. After a while……

Nicholas Anton says:
August 18, 2007 at 10:49 am
It would seem to me that the prosperity Gospel has it’s roots in revivalism. One of the tenets of this movement seemed to have been that if one was “truly” born again, one would be “spiritually” whole, which meant “emotionally” whole, which transitioned into being “physically” whole, “materially” whole, “monetarily” whole etc. This movement had little use for the maimed, broken, and weak. Such conditions were not to be and were considered the direct results of “personal” sin. Gradually this movement became “sensual”, pleasure based as hinted at firstly in the “holiness” churches, as developed in the Pentecostal movement, as blossomed full scale in the Charismatic movement, and in our day, in the pseudo-evangelical churches, in the “worship and praise” phenomenon.

This was NOT the Gospel Jesus preached, NOT the Gospel the apostles preached, and NOT the gospel of the early church. The whole emphasis of the New Testament is that we live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ does not of necessity remove the infirmities of the flesh, the physical results of a fallen human race, but gives us the power to go through them in the Spirit.

Bob Sacamento says:
August 18, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Great post. I am tempted to say that the prosperity gospel is the biggest present day obstacle we have in the church itself to preaching the true gospel and to believing it ourselves. You are exactly right: This is an error that is consuming millions of evangelicals around the world as it is propagated by way of TBN and so forth. Clarity and Biblical faithfulness are important at this moment.

One point, though: The prosperity gospel did originate in the good ol’ U.S. of A. (whrer else would it have originated?). But, as indicated in a couple of comments above, it is no longer an American phenomenon. It is very strong in Africa now and is riding the coattails of Pentecostalism to great effect in Latin America.

And as for what is happening here in the U.S., the propserity gospel in its “purest” (or “impurest”) form is more of an urban phenomenon than a suburban. It is really infuriating that these preachers are simultaneously fleecing our poor, telling them to expect riches, and taking away from them the very tools they need (industriousness, delay of gratification, etc.) to get, not rich, but just simply out of poverty.

Of course, however, as noted in a previous comment, alot of suburban megachurches that don’t preach the propserity gospel are still practicing it 24×7.

Black Angus says:
August 19, 2007 at 7:01 pm
The prosperity gospel is alive and prospering in Australia too. I was at the book stall at a conference where I met a pastor from the Solomon Islands. He was telling me that $50/month would provide all his family’s needs to free him up to go full-time. But he couldn’t earn anywhere near that. We were standing next to books telling us that all Christians should be rich and if you weren’t, your sin was to blame. This brother’s faith far outshone mine, and I was ashamed that these books insulted such a genuine Christian. I had a strong urge to kick those tables over.
I see another danger in prosperity preaching. The financial scandals that seem to inevitably come to these churches damage the reputation of all churches. The Australian government gives some tax breaks to churches that enable smaller churches to keep functioning. If the big prosperity churches abuse those breaks (and I fear they do) it could ruin many small churches if the government decides to remove those breaks in response to the abuses.

Jon Barltett says:
August 20, 2007 at 3:01 am

Good thoughts. I was mulling over prosperity the other day, and remembered a quote from Bishop David Shepherd, who was devoted to inner city ministry in the UK. He said there was a real problem with working class people who became Christians, then learnt not to waste their money on drink etc, and moved out of their old areas to the suburbs to ‘better’ themselves. This was both a good thing, as it showed the transforming nature of the Gospel, but also a bad, as it took people away from their roots where they could have been ministering.

It seems to me that here are the roots of the prosperity gospel. There is often (but obviously not always) the possibility of material improvements to life when comes to faith in the West (but again obviously not in many other parts of the world). Distort this and overempasise this and you get the prosperity gospel. I therefore think your commentators are exactly right that this heresy has strong roots in ‘poor’ churches – perhaps here is the strong link to the Pentecostal church, rather than any other doctrine (I say this as a Baptist Charismatic with no sympathy to the prosperity gospel and the clowns that promote it at all). But there again, I am rather middle class and don’t have those motivators.

Martin Spence says:
August 20, 2007 at 6:51 am
Good post Michael

Having spent time in Africa, 1 year in particular with YWAM I have seen the false hope given to so many by the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel…

Scott Love the poster of Name it Claim it – made me laugh!!! Excellent poster…

Pastor Adam says:
August 20, 2007 at 9:34 am
Maybe I’m going to get my head chopped off here….

I agree 100% with everything you said except the part about tithing. I would agree that it is often framed in the “do this and God will bless you” context instead of a discipline of recognizing that God is the Lord of our finances. But I think that it’s wrong to brush it off as unimportant. Even if it is only a spiritual discipline, so is prayer, fasting, worship, and other practices that are assumed as normative of the Christian life in the NT.

One of the main problems with the prosperity gospel, as it pertains to tithing, is the promise that God is obligated to give you an abundance if you tithe. While, in my own life, I have seen countless examples of God’s provision directly linked to what He was showing us about the disciple of tithing, I also have examples of God NOT providing saying to my wife and I, “will you still be faithful even if you don’t see a direct blessing to this?” The latter part of that has caused some fairly major challenges from some of my “prosperity” friends.

I hope that made some sense. I’ll clarify if I need to.


Veritas says:
August 21, 2007 at 7:02 am
Gidday Michael – spot on again. However the distinction that this is just an American festering pestilence needs to be adjusted as I know the same principles apply in Australia, Africa, the Pacific, the United Kingdom – basically everywhere where there are money hungering impastors trying to fleece their flock.

Matt says:
August 21, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Is God opposed to us being rich?

Is there anything wrong with a Christian striving to be rich by means of shrewd business practices and investments, while at the sam etime acknowledging God’s sovereignty and the primacy of seeking first his kingdom?


Michael Spencer says:
August 21, 2007 at 7:32 pm
A simple question with a complicated set of factors to consider, not the least the human need that surrounds us and the statements of scripture about those who accumulate wealth.

Work so that wealth passes through you? Not wrong. Wealth so that you have wealth per se? Not so sure that is the same thing.

pbandj says:
August 22, 2007 at 6:36 pm

i think you make great pts. and i agree that the prosperity gospel is not the Good News, and in fact is contrary to the Good News.

sadly, this “gospel” is being preached in many countries around the world, not just america. uganda is extremely caught in the lies. in fact, many third world countries are embracing this false “gospel”.


Matt says:
August 28, 2007 at 5:37 am
People so quickly mistake blessings with momentary monetary gain. It is sort of the way of society – the short attention span “need it now”.

It appeals to our selfish desires. In actuality, Jesus has already given us much more than we deserve.
And in the mean time churches preach this, growing ever larger and wealthier. It is like the holy lottery – people buying tickets…

People in the west don’t realise that we are so lucky to be born in wealthy countries. God could just have easily deemed for us to be in, say, Sudan. But you can’t tell me that just because we are wealthy monetarily that we are any where near as rich in spirit as some people – remember the poor widow and her offering.

In ways I am jealous of them because of their faith, and our reliance on being comfortable has deadened our souls.

The whole thing feels like a pyramid scheme.

There is also a dark flip side to this – linking prosperity to Godliness. If you are doing well financially, then God is with you. You may be very Godly and Christ loving people, but if you are poor then you failing badly.

I do believe that God isn’t the only one who can bless you. This is sort of the Gordon Gekko gospel.

Keisha says:
August 31, 2007 at 12:22 pm
I agree with what has been said. This message about prosperity has gone too far, and people are straying far from the truth of God’s word.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures here on earth where moths can destroy but lay up treasures in heaven. If your treasure is to be with Christ and to do his will, then that is where your heart will be.

Anny says:
September 2, 2007 at 6:25 pm
I must say to all everyone…it’s so good to know it’s not only me feeling this way…really thought I was all alone on this one.
My question is though who started this whole prosperity gospel message thing anyway? Does anyone know of its origin? I mean because it’s really been pressing on me and in my spirit to research this because the “churh” (and when I say church I mean us)we’ve fallen so far away from what Jesus taught. We’ve gotten so caught up in this world until we’ve lost sight of this dying generation. There are lost people that need to know that they need Jesus and that this world won’t last forever. We must all remember we are only pilgrims passing through…we didn’t come here to stay we came here to help someone to get to know Jesus. That is our great commission! Pray people that God would wake us up…we need prayers.

Mary says:
October 6, 2007 at 9:36 pm
I found where prosperity is and it is true prosperity. It is found in 2nd Tim. Paul was in a roman jail sending letters to Timothy. Paul was not wearing gold chains, but prison chains, he was not in a mansion sending out request for money for pieces of cloth to gain prosperity, he was in a cell. Those who have gone before us waited in a prison cell to die for the cause of Christ. To live is Christ to die is gain. Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to endure is to reign with Him. Our home is not on this earth, our riches are not in this earth but stored up in heaven. True prosperity is to pledge our lives and live our lives to the only one, Jesus who gives us life and gives us the grace to live it here on this earth until we see the Lord. The Lord tells us He goes to prepare a place for us, and the place He has prepared is heavenly. Those who chose to do whatever they can to obtain from those who do not know the word and are desperate to have and keep having do not know the Lord. It is for those who sit in the prosperity preaching and are desperate to have and keep having have to OPEN THE BIBLE AND SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES TO FIND THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH WILL SET A PERSON FREE FOR IN THE WORD A PERSON WILL FIND THE GREATEST TREASURE AND THAT IS JESUS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US CANNOT BE REPAYED NOR CAN RICHES ON THIS EARTH BUY SALVATION. Pray for these and pray God will send you as He has commanded to a dying world to preach the gospel.

Nick says:
November 14, 2007 at 3:11 pm
So should we be preaching the poverty gospel? What scriptures support that God takes pleasure in His servants being impoverished? Oh sure “Blessed are the poor”. I agree that we should not treat God as a cosmic bellhop to do OUR will. Furthermore did Jesus really abolish tithing? If I am living in severe lack i should not ask God to meet my need? Yes we are to praise God in ALL things and I do but I do not relish living like a gypsy on the financial edge. I acknowledge suffering as part of the Christian walk but I’m not to expect deliverance?

Mary says:
November 15, 2007 at 11:33 pm
Will money buy the life of one who claims Christ at the hands of those who hate Christ..Will money buy salvation that only Christ can give that cannot be paid back..A rich ruler went away saddened for he would not give up his riches…Riches are not important as it can fade away as fast as it comes..but it is the riches that are stored up in heaven that matter..For God’s word says..”To endure is to reign with Him.” to endure to the end and let me tell you all the money in this world will not be enough for any man..but no man can come to the Father but through Jesus and it is to all men..what is free is discarded and what has been discarded is the most valuable of all..To constantly sit under prosperity preaching is to sit and do nothing that God has commanded..for He told us to GO and to preach the GOSPEL..NOT PROSPERITY..BUT THE GOSPEL TO ALL MEN THAT THEY WILL BE SAVED AND NO AMOUNT OF MONEY CAN BUY HEAVEN…

Katie says:
November 16, 2007 at 2:23 am
I appreciate this post so much. The increasing prevalence of the “prosperity gospel” has been a pain in my spirit for a long time now, and since I have been following your blog for some time, your view on it is of no suprise to me. I wonder, though, what you would say to my mother who I can see is caught up in the “promises” of these “prosperity” preachers. I would be very thankful for some insight as to how to approach those caught up in this mindset, and a gentle, charitable way to deemphasize the ‘treasures’ of this world and place the focus back on “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus”.
Peace of the Lord to you.

Dude says:
January 18, 2008 at 1:09 pm
As a deist I view all organized religion has rubbish, especially with the idea of somebody dying for my actions (sins). I do however hold the ethical philosophy of Jesus in my believes towards a good life and Jesus never said anything about money getting you into heaven or money being important. Christians wonder why people go to Islam, this is why. There is no spiritually in the prosperity gospel, only economics through God’s will. This is a corrupt message. God doesn’t make people rich, people make themselves rich. This is the best example of people thinking God is some sort of personal butler that waits on them.
God is seen as a way to get material wealth and nothing more or less. People may say they beleive in God, but God is really dead to them.

–Nietzsche—Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”
As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.”

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: “what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?” These crazy new age beliefs are because God is dead. Man is re-writting the laws of morality as we see fit. Man cares more about material wealth than spiritual guidance.

What Nietzsche is concerned at in relating the above is that God is dead in the hearts of modern men – killed by rationalism and science. This same God however, before becoming dead in men’s hearts and minds, had provided the foundation of a “Christian-moral” defining and uniting approach to life as a shared cultural set of belief fully within which people had lived their lives.

Nietzsche seems to be suggesting that the acceptance of the Death of God will also involve the ending of accepted standards of morality and of purpose. Without the former and accepted faith based standards society is threatened by a nihilistic situation where peoples lives are not particularly constrained by considerations of morality or particularly guided by any faith related sense of purpose.

dave says:
December 10, 2008 at 12:07 am
The prosperity gospel is definitely one of the biggest attacks on the gospel. Jesus becomes the means rather than the end. Jesus gets me _______ instead of, Jesus gets me Jesus. He’s the treasure!
What confuses me is how people use the bible to justify idolatry. In all the times Jesus talked about money, he wasn’t talking about “naming and claiming it.” He actually talked about the dangers of pursuing wealth and a lavished lifestyle.
The Bible is full of warnings against pursuing material gain…….”But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”-1 Timothy 6:9 for example. This is why it makes me scratch my head when I hear some of these T.V. preachers. I know if Jesus was in the crowd, he sure wouldn’t be throwing out any “amens” to this false teaching. He said himself it’s “harder for the rich man…..”
Not that being wealthy in and of itself is a sin, but when these pastors use “in jesus name” to get all their fancy houses, boats, and jets, instead of using all that we have and all that we are for the kingdom of christ, it scares me.
I even heard on pastor say “the main reason Jesus died was to take away poverty”……really??? Wow…I guess all the apostles didn’t have enough faith.
Let’s remember, God is the gospel! Not god’s stuff.

Ron says:
April 30, 2009 at 4:16 am
Whether it’s obsession with financial prosperity, doctrinal correctness, proper liturgical order, impressive architecture, talented orators, mass evangelism, social relevance, displays of spiritual emotionalism, or particular styles of music, the church has developed an amazing knack for aiming at every point on the target except the center. Christ, Paul, and the other New Testament writers made it very clear — the bullseye of the good news of Christ is God-inspired, self-sacrificing love. As Christ laid down His life for us, we are called to lay down our lives and our pride and our selfishness for the good of others and for the glory of Christ. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t what we call the church (the eklesia or gathering in Greek) originally designed to be a visible expression of Christ, His love, and His truth to the world. Admittedly, actually loving our fellow humans as Christ loves us is very difficult, probably the most difficult endeavor a human being can undertake. And I suspect that’s why we Christians so often look for other things we can focus on, though we often give lip service or a doctrinal nod or two to the importance of love. Money and stuff, on the other hand, are things we humans (we Americans in particular) have no trouble placing at the center of our sights. And with a little scriptural tweeking here and there, we seem to have found a way to serve God and money at the same time.

CEKPET says:
May 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm
Премного благодарен. Прочитал с интересом, и вообще полезный у Вас блог

rama says:
June 21, 2009 at 12:02 am
what is an example of prosperity?

when asked about an example of prosperity, the dollar sign, vacation homes, and heaps of gold coins pop up. But in reality, true prosperity is not synonymous to materialism nor is it limited to financial stability. I definitely agree on this part here:

The Bible teaches us that if “we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, all these things will be added..” This is not, however, an appeal to materialism or the desire for wealth. It is dependence on God- and on the freedom of God- to provide in whatever situation we find ourselves. God’s provision is not a promise to enrich, but to provide as needed for our lives as we live out his Kingdom’s purposes.

rama says:
June 21, 2009 at 12:04 am
what is an example of prosperity?

when asked about an example of prosperity, the dollar sign, vacation homes, and heaps of gold coins pop up. But in reality, true prosperity is not synonymous to materialism nor is it limited to financial stability. I definitely agree on this part here:

The Bible teaches us that if “we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, all these things will be added..” This is not, however, an appeal to materialism or the desire for wealth. It is dependence on God- and on the freedom of God- to provide in whatever situation we find ourselves. God’s provision is not a promise to enrich, but to provide as needed for our lives as we live out his Kingdom’s purposes.

Benny Hinn ‘Praying’ God Will Heal Marriage

Benny Hinn ‘Praying’ God Will Heal Marriage

In a letter to ministry partners, evangelist Benny Hinn said he is praying God will heal his family.
Hinn's wife, Suzanne, filed for divorce from the high-profile minister Feb. 1. The filing says the couple had been separated since Jan. 26, according to the Associated Press.

Hinn said his wife had been under great stress, but he and his children "never expected this to happen."

"Divorce was the last thing on my mind and theirs," Hinn wrote in the letter posted on his ministry Web site. He said it was a "total shock" when his wife's attorney called Feb. 17 to inform him that she had filed for divorce.

"Suzanne never gave the family even a hint that this was on her mind," Hinn wrote, adding that his wife's parents did not know she had filed for divorce until he told them Feb. 17. "Even to this moment, the children and I don't know why she did it. ... I love my wife, and I am praying that the Lord Himself will take care of this and bring healing to my precious family."

Hinn said his wife does not have biblical grounds for divorce because neither of them engaged in immorality throughout their 30-year marriage.

"We both have kept our covenant with God and stayed pure before Him, and I am praying with all my heart that our precious Lord Jesus will heal my family and protect His work for His glory," Hinn wrote.

Hinn said he does not plan to take a break from preaching and leading healing crusades worldwide. "I am going to continue preaching the Gospel and praying for the sick as I have for 36 years," he wrote. "I will not allow anything to slow me down or stop me. My commitment to my precious Jesus is forever, and nothing will ever change that."

Read more:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deliverance: From Error to the Truth, Part 1

Deliverance: From Error to the Truth, Part 1

Deliverance: From Error to the Truth, Part 1
Selected Scriptures

Code: 80-222

Well, as I said last week, I have taken a bit of a diversion from our study of the gospel of Luke. I warned you a few weeks in advance that I was prompted to write a book on the subject of deliverance because the theology of deliverance which is so intensely biblical is so completely neglected today. And when I was away for a couple of weeks in Italy, it really began to weigh heavy on my mind that I needed to address this subject. And so it became like Jeremiah, fire in my bones and I can't go back to the gospel of Luke until I have delivered my soul on the subject of deliverance.

As I said last week, and I would just encourage you, if you weren't here last week to get the tape and listen because what I said last week is essential and foundational to this discussion. It's not one of those messages that's sort of optional, it's a mandatory theme to be understood by all of us. So if you didn't hear the message, you certainly can pick up the tape out at the tape center today.

I said last week that one of the great words in the Bible is the word "deliverance," though it is not commonly used in the Christian vocabulary. Sad to say, rarely do you hear theologians talk about, rarely do you read theologians write about the truth of deliverance, and yet it is nonetheless a profoundly important term for understanding God's redemptive work. God is in the business of deliverance. And deliverance may be the best, it may be the most clarifying and it may actually be the most comprehensive word to explain God's gracious and powerful work in our lives. We were prompted to this discussion by the fact that Jesus came with a ministry of deliverance. And when we began to see that in the case of Jesus, it drew us into the greater theme of deliverance which covers really all of God's redemptive purpose.

Now the theology of deliverance is not just some academic exercise, it is not merely a matter for theological discussion. The theology of deliverance is practical, it is intensely practical and it is extremely necessary for all believers to understand because it is the theology of deliverance that defines what salvation really does in the believer. A person who is a true Christian has been delivered from certain realities. True salvation, we could say, is deliverance. It is the dramatic rescue of the sinner from all of the elements of life that threaten to destroy and damn him. In fact, deliverance defines what it means to be a Christian. There are the undelivered and the delivered. We are the delivered. In Romans 11:26 Paul writes, "The Deliverer will come and He will remove ungodliness and He will take away sin." The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ is there identified as the Deliverer. In fact, every time in the Bible you see the word "save, saved, salvation, or Savior," you can translate it with some form of the word deliver. Essentially it means the same thing. But deliver communicates well to us because we understand in the English the meaning of deliverance.

Now as I said last time, for you who were here this I hope is still ringing in your mind, the theology of deliverance and understanding of deliverance is a critical area of truth. And it becomes critical at the point of understanding who is a true Christian. And that, I pointed out, is absolutely essential to the health and well-being and effectiveness of the church. If the church blurs the line between Christians and non-Christians, it then invites the enemy into the camp, totally distorts its own identity and allows Satan to gain a foothold. It is a matter of being content or even inviting the tares to be sown among the wheat. And yet that is exactly what is happening in evangelicalism today.

The evangelical church is inviting non-Christians in and then redefining them as Christians. I told you last week, the greatest failure of professing Christianity in this day and for this century past has been the failure to distinguish between true Christians and false. And it's worse now than it's ever been. It's been going on all through the century and it's now worse than it's ever been. The true church is the society of the delivered and we have to keep that distinction very clear because the Lord wants a pure church, He wants a chaste bride and He wants a bride without blemish and without spot. The church must be made up of true believers and it must be clear who is a real Christian and who is not so that we protect the church from the encroachment of Satan, and also so that we protect the lost from being deceived. Not only when we allow non-Christians to be defined as Christians do we pollute the church, but we also aid and abet the deception of Satan and people live as though they were Christians when in fact they are not.

I told you last week than when people ask me what is the biggest problem in the church? I say it's the inability to discern. And when we talk about what is that the church doesn't discern, the top of the list is they don't discern between who's a Christian and who is not. That is a deadly error.

Now as we closed last week, I told you that there are a number of categories in which we have to understand the nature of deliverance. Being a true Christian is being delivered. And it's being delivered from several very important realities.

The first one is the one I want to talk to you about this morning. True Christians have been delivered from error to truth--from error to truth. Now this is not an easy message for me to preach to you for a number of reasons. One, I have too much material in my head...too much to try to sort out so that it takes a tremendous amount of effort mentality and a confidence in the Spirit of God to help the filtering process. Secondly, you're going to have to think with me because there are going to be some subtleties, as well as some not so subtle things that you're going to have to comprehend as we go through. But this is very, very important. Nothing is worse than a person thinking they're a Christian when they're not. Nothing is more deadly to the impact of the church than embracing non-Christians as if they were Christians. So we're dealing with an issue that is at the very center at what the church really is and it applies in all the lives of folks who come near the church.

So the first thing we want to know about the doctrine of deliverance, or the theology of deliverance, is that true Christians have been delivered from error to truth. Turn with me in your Bible to Colossians chapter 1 and let's start there and we're going to try to go through this as rapidly as we can. And I will have to leave some things out. But in Colossians chapter 1 I think we can get a good start. Here is a passage that expresses the great miracle of deliverance. And verse 13 is the notable verse, verse 13, Colossians 1:13, "For He...that is the Father mentioned in verse 12 to whom we give thanks...He the Father delivered us, rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son."

Back in verse 12 Paul says, "We therefore give Him thanks because He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." Now here you have that very familiar biblical contrast between darkness and light. We have been delivered out of the domain of darkness. We have been delivered into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, as the Greek literally says, which is a Kingdom made up of saints in light. Darkness is synonymous with ignorance, darkness is synonymous with error. Light is synonymous with truth. We have been taken out of error, out of darkness and delivered into a Kingdom of light ruled by the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ. That's the first category of deliverance.

True Christians understand the truth. They have come from darkness to light. They have come from error to truth. Psalm 119:130, "The entrance of Thy Word gives light." "Thy Word," we read in Psalm 119:105, "is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path." That is the first great area of deliverance. Out of the darkness of error, into the bright light of truth.

The Apostle Paul when he was commissioned to preach, according to Acts 26:18, was sent to sinners to open their eyes that they might turn from darkness to light so that darkness and light are really symbols or metaphors of error and truth. And notice please, in verse 13, that truth is synonymous with Jesus Christ. We are delivered from the domain of darkness which is the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of His beloved Son and He is the light of the world. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world and whoever comes to Me will never walk in darkness." The light is synonymous with Jesus Christ. It is synonymous with entering into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

So the first thing that is true about the delivered, the true Christians, is that they do not believe error because they have come to the light. They have come to the truth. To borrow the language of Ephesians chapter 6, they are engaged in a battle against the spiritual forces of darkness but they are triumphant because they have put on the armor of God and the first piece of armor is the belt or the girdle of truth.

A Christian is someone then who understands the truth, who has been delivered from Satan's lies to God's truth. To be saved, according to 1 Timothy 2:4, to be saved is to come to the knowledge of the truth. That's a very important verse, write that down, 1 Timothy 2:4, "To be saved...and translating it this way...even to come to the knowledge of the truth." That is to say, one and the same. Being saved is not some kind of mystical cryptic, some kind of inexplicable feeling. Being saved is come to the knowledge of the truth. Luke tells us in the book of Acts that when the gospel was preached on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people believed and they continued in the Apostles' doctrine. They started there and they continued there. A true Christian is a person who has been deposited, rescued out of ignorance and deposited in the realm of truth. They came into the realm of truth and they continue in the realm of truth. To be saved is to come to the knowledge of the truth. The Christian is someone who understands the truth, who believes the truth, who embraces the truth, who loves the truth and who submits to the truth.

And, you know, it amazes me that there are so many people in evangelicalism today, leaders in evangelicalism, pastors and writers, who believe a person can be a Christian without ever being delivered from error to truth. I'm reading today that there are those saying there are people in countries in obscure places and tribes in hidden back waters of the world who have never had a Bible and never hear the truth of Jesus Christ who are going to be saved because God is going to be gracious and kind to them and they're going to be saved even though they've never heard the truth. Well, that is a lie. If, according to Romans 1, they live up to the light they have and if they see the creator in the creation and through reason and according to Romans 2 follow their conscience back to a lawgiver, if they live up to the light they have, Christ who is the light that lights every man who comes into the world, John 1:9 says, God will reveal more light to them and they'll come to a greater light because God will give them a greater light. But no one will ever be saved who doesn't come to the knowledge of the truth.

They're saying today that you don't have to come to the knowledge of the truth. Call all the missionaries home. Stop proclaiming the gospel to every creature, even though Jesus told us to do that. But the Bible tells us that when you're delivered, you're delivered out of error into truth and you come literally into a paradigm, a realm, a domain, a kingdom of light. In the words of John 6:45, all believers are taught by God. They possess an enlightenment which sets apart the teaching of God from all the teaching of men. True believers understand the truth as opposed to error. They have received by regeneration a new nature and that new nature has a capacity for the truth. That new nature has an infinity for the truth. That new nature has a devotion to the truth, has a love for the truth. We have an anointing, 1 John 2:27, from God and it abides in us, he says, so that we don't need anybody to teach us. We don't need a human teacher to explain the world to us. We don't need some human approach to life philosophically. We don't need some religion invented by men or devils because we have been delivered out of darkness into light. We live in a realm of truth.

Listen, we have been given, according to John 14:17, a Spirit of truth who has taken up residence in us and we understand the truth. And it is that truth that saves so that 1 Timothy 2:4 is the sum of it all. You have been saved, meaning you've have come to the knowledge of the truth. You've believed it, you've assented to it, you've embraced it, you love it and you submit to it. In John 8, Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall...what?...set you free." The search is over. You're out of the darkness. You're no longer wandering around blind and dark because you've been liberated, you've been set free. The truth has made you free. And let me tell you something, folks, the only thing that will ever set the sinner free is the truth. Until the sinner comes to the truth, he's locked in darkness. Ephesians 5:8, Paul explained it this way, I love this, "Once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord," does that say it? Once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord.

Simply stated, being saved demands coming to believe whole-heartedly the truth...that saves. And if you don't believe the truth that saves, you can't be saved. You have to believe the delivering truth to be delivered.

A woman once wrote to me, she said she thought Christianity was fine but frankly she was in to Zen. And she liked to listen to Christian radio, she says, because quote: "The music soothed...smoothed out her karma." But she said I interrupted that karma because I am too narrow minded and too minded toward other religions. So she wrote to encourage me to be more broad minded. And she said, here's a quote, "God doesn't care what you believe as long as you believe. God doesn't care what you believe, she says, as long as you're sincere." She went on to say, "All religions...all religions lead ultimately to the same reality, it doesn't matter which road you take." That's pretty reflective of our generation, isn't it? That's a popular and pervasive lie that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe something and as long as you're sincere because everybody's going to get to the same end any way. That's not what Matthew 7 records that Jesus said, He said, "The gate is wide and the way is broad," that's the religious road that most people are on, "and it leads to destruction." And in Proverbs 14:12 it says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death."

Now I understand it's political correct to have this kind of lattitude. I understand it's political correct to not say your religion is right, and your faith is right and you believe right and everybody else is wrong. That doesn't fly today, does it, in a post-modern world disinterested in truth? The great goal of post-modernism is that everybody is accepted no matter what it is that they believe and they certainly have a right to believe that. And who are you to come along and say you have the truth? We all know there is no such thing as real truth, it's only a matter of preference, whatever makes you feel better is fine for you to believe. But don't tell me it's the truth and everything other than that is error. That's not popular.

Now that kind of indiscriminate view of truth, or a view of non-truth is so pervasive that it is literally infecting evangelicalism and people are now saying that there are folks, as I said earlier, and all over the world and tucked off into little corners who never will know the truth and God will take them to heaven any way. And there is a book, I referred to this when I was teaching in Italy a couple of weeks ago called Ecumenical Jihad. Jihad is a holy war and the writer of the book, Peter Kreeft is a Catholic apologist, is saying that if we're going to win the holy war which is the war for the culture, if we're ever going to get the world to be more moral and get the world to be behaving itself better and end the wars and the crime and all the rest and get a moral world, we've got to fight that holy war together so we have to get ecumenical, so we all have to get together. We can't do it alone.

So he says in the book, we have to recognize that we're really all God's children, we're all going to...down the same road to the same heaven. And he writes the book in a very clever way. It opens up with him surfing in California, I guess, and he gets turned over by a wave and he hits bottom and has an out-of-body experience. He goes to heaven. And when he goes to heaven he's amazed to find out when he arrives in heaven he sees Buddha, in whom anybody would recognize, I suppose, he's a rather unique looking character. No doubt he didn't have too long to discover who this was and he meets Buddha and he says, "What in the world are you doing in heaven?" I mean, Buddhism is not Christianity. What are you doing? He says, "Well, you know, I was in to contemplation, I was into peace and I was into tranquility and what I didn't know about Jesus God sorted out when I arrived."

And then he went a little further and he ran into Mohammed and he said, "What are you doing here? You just believe Jesus is another one of the prophets like Mohammed. What are you doing here, how did you get here?" And he said, "Well, we were into morality." In fact, Kreeft says in his book that Muslims are better Christians than Christians because they don't fornicate, adulterate, commit homosexuality and other's against their standards so they tend to do it less than people who claim to be Christians do and so they're actually better Christians than Christians. And Mohammed says...What I didn't know about Jesus, God straightened out when I arrived.

And he goes a little further and he comes across some Jews who didn't believe in Jesus either but they were worshiping the true God, the God of the Old Testament and that was good enough for God because they were worshiping Him, the true God. And what they didn't know about Jesus they found out when they arrived in heaven.

And then he ran into a group of atheists. And the atheists were searching for truth, and since God is truth they were really searching for God and that was good enough for God. So they were there, too.

And Peter Kreeft's point is that look, when we get to heaven we're going to find each other there anyway, why are we fighting down here? Let's all get together and win this war.

Well, toward the end of the book, I'm going through it rather rapidly, he says, "Now we need a general, we need a great leader to lead us if we're going to fight this war...getting all the Muslims, and all the Buddhists, and all the Jews, and all the atheists, and everybody else together. And there were others as well. And we're going to all get together, we have to have a leader." He says, "There's one great leader, the great winner of unwinnable wars." He calls him, "The Pope, and he'll be our leader and we have to have an internal power and so we all have to devout ourselves to Mary. Mary is the great spiritual power, the great spiritual source. So we'll all get together, we'll all worship Mary, we'll have the Pope as our leader. We'll all embrace and we'll win the jihad."

And you say, "Well, that's pretty bizarre stuff?" Well what is even more amazing is on the back is an endorsement and the endorsement is by Chuck Colson and this is what it says, on the back of the book. "Peter Kreeft," the writer, "is one of the premier apologists in America today, one of our most valiant, intellectual warriors," end quote.

Peter Kreeft is a deceiver and a liar. He's not one of our most or premier apologist. And even more shocking was a quote from J.I. Packer who talks about the book and then asks at the end of his little blurb, "What if he is right?"

Are we asking that question? Is he right? Is everybody going to heaven no matter what they believe?

You say...How can...I can understand the lady who's in to Zen having that kind of tolerance, but evangelical leaders? How can you have the Amsterdam meeting over there, that great convocation of evangelists sponsored by the Billy Graham organization? The opening prayer was by a Roman Catholic and one of the messages was by Archbishop of Canterbury who denies that Jesus rose from the dead. How do you embrace all of that and call it Christianity? Where does this end?

It is the nature of fallen is the nature of the undelivered to believe lies. It is not the nature of the delivered. We have been delivered out of the lies into the...what?...the truth. We have been rescued from that.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 10, I have to show you this passage. I've referred to it before, it's pertinent to this discussion. Second Corinthians chapter 10, I'm really going to have to hurry here, 2 Corinthians 10 verse 4, Paul says...well, verse 3, he says, "We are making war, we can't make war in the flesh, that is with human weapons, human ingenuity, human cleverness, human thoughts, theories, ideas, techniques, marketing," whatever. "We can't fight this battle with human weapons." Verse 4, "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh," they're not human, he means, "but mighty unto God, divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."

He says...Look, we're in a spiritual war. The spiritual war that we're in is a formidable thing. We're attacking these great fortifications. We're attacking these massive fortresses. And the picture is of some huge granite fort. And he says we've got to go in and destroy them. We've got to have pretty powerful weapons. We can't go in there with all the little clever ideas, we've got to destroy those fortresses.

What are those fortresses? Verse 5, here's what they are. Verse 4 ends, "...the destruction of fortresses." Verse 5 begins, "We are destroying speculations," the NAS says. "Imaginations," some other versions say. This is defining the fortresses. These great fortifications, these great prisons are nothing other than speculations. They are logismos is the Greek word, it means ideas, ideologies...ideologies. What kind of ideologies? Follow verse 5, "Every lofty idea raised up against the knowledge of God." Any unbiblical idea, anything contrary to the truth of God, we have to destroy. Why? So, verse 5, "We can take every thought captive to Christ." In other words, the world is full of people imprisoned in ideological systems, in lies, in error, in darkness, in blindness. And our responsibility is to go and smash those ideologies down in order that we can set the prisoners free because those fortresses become their prisons and eventually their tombs.

This is a tremendous responsibility. Every lofty thing...that's a proud, intellectual thing, a complex system, or whatever. Any idea, idea of philosophy, religion, theology, psychology, whatever, any idea that is contrary to the knowledge of God must be assaulted or those people will die captive to that lie. What we want to do is smash those ideologies and bring everybody's thinking captive to Christ. We want them to think the way God thinks, to have the mind of Christ to see the truth and know the truth and love the truth.

Now how do you smash that? Well it's very simple. What is the one thing that destroys error? Truth, that's why you have to preach the truth. People say, "Well, you know, you're preaching is so dogmatic and..." I'm just trying to preach the truth, it's the only thing that destroys error. And if we don't bring the truth then they don't come from darkness to light, they don't come from error to truth and they don't get delivered and they die in their sins and they're perishing.

The first thing that is true of a Christian is a Christian—a true Christian, not one who says he's a Christian, a true Christian—is somebody who has come from error to truth. Satan doesn't care what people believe. He doesn't care how sincerely they believe it as long as what they believe is wrong.

Did you get that? It's important. He doesn't care what they believe, he sponsors all kinds of religions. He sponsors every religion on the face of the earth that isn't true. He's behind them all. He's got enough diversity for everybody. He's provided an absolutely irresistible smorgasbord. There's somewhere for everybody to plug in. He doesn't care what they believe. And frankly, he is really into sincerity. He's into the strange and goofy people in India who hang themselves by hooks put their flesh. He's in to the self-immolating people who crucify themselves. He's in to the people who are so sincere they put needles inside their belt to tear the flesh on their waist when they walk around every day...somehow trying to expiate their sins. He's in to all of that. He's deeply into sincerity. He doesn't care what you believe or how sincerely you believe it as long as what you believe is wrong because wrong damns, right saves. That's why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and nobody comes to the Father...what?...but by Me. There isn't salvation in any other." And anybody who doesn't hold to the truth is damned, Galatians chapter 1, look at it, verse 6. He talks about a different gospel. Somebody's coming along and preaching a different gospel.

Well listen, there isn't a different gospel. The gospel means good news, there's only one good news, all the rest is bad. They may say it's good but it's bad. So he says it's a different gospel, verse 7, which is really not another. There isn't any other good news than the true gospel of Christ.

There isn't another gospel. So he says in verse 8, "If anybody comes along, even we, or an angel from heaven," and he's using sort of hyperbole there, "and preaches to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be damned...let him be damned." He doesn't say, "You know, you've just got to be a little latitudinous and it's got to be a little broad, you know, it's really, you've got to be kind here and who are you to say who's right and who's wrong." He says, "Damn those people who preach anything else."

You know, there's new in the elite academia, you know, the liberals who assault the Bible with their darkened minds, have invented a new hermeneutic and it's given a pretty inviting title, it's called "the hermeneutics of humility." Hermeneutic is an English word, it comes hermeneuo in the Greek which means to interpret or explain. And hermeneutics is the basically a word that refers to explaining the Bible. And there are certain hermeneutical principles, certain principles that help us understand the Bible...the language and the grammar and all of that, the history behind it, the context in which it's sitting and so we use all those hermeneutics to interpret the Scripture. Well the new hermeneutic is called "hermeneutic of humility" and this is what it is..."Oh, I am too humble to ever think that my interpretation of Scripture is right. And I am too humble to ever think that your interpretation could be wrong."

Isn't that magnanimous? But that is a damning approach. There is a right and a wrong interpretation to Scripture. But that's the climate of hermeneutics of's really the hermeneutics of darkness. Christianity is true and exclusively true and anything contrary to it is false. And the content of what we believe is the issue. I know this doesn't fly in the relativistic values of modern culture, I know that. I know pluralism is a big deal and diversity is the issue of today. And we have enshrined pluralism and tolerance on a higher throne than truth, haven't we? We don't even care if the candidates battling out for political office lie. It doesn't matter to this society anymore. It doesn't matter. So used to lying leaders, we'd feel uncomfortable if they told us the truth and we probably wouldn't believe them anyway. So there are people who think it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you call it Christianity...just label it Christianity and that's all that's required. Everything from Roman Catholicism, which denies that sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, to the extreme charismatic word "faith movement" which corrupts the nature of Christ, corrupts the death of Christ, the doctrine of Christ and makes salvation some ticket to wealth and health. And the liberals question the Bible who have a works salvation, want to embrace them, have them in for the evangelistic meetings, bring in everybody, the liberals, the Catholics, the fringe extreme Charismatics, everybody because doctrine doesn't really matter.

This isn't new, by the way. The church has fought for its own purity for a long time. It's just new to evangelicals. Modern evangelicals are eager to downplay doctrine, they say doctrine divides. And they want to tolerate everything. It's amazing to me they even want to tolerate explicitly contradictory belief systems so they forge alliances, spiritual alliances with Catholicism, eastern orthodoxy, Charismatic extremists, liberals. And you know, it's so clear in 2 Corinthians 6, "What fellowship does light have with darkness? What concord has Christ with Satan? How can two walk together except they be agreed. Come out from among them and be separate, don't touch that unclean lie."

People who have been delivered, true Christians, agree that there is a body of doctrine that is non-negotiable, okay? We might not agree on the mode of baptism, we might not agree on the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ or the Rapture of the church. We might not agree on all the ways in which God acts in history with regard to the church and Israel. But I'll tell you one thing, there is a body of doctrine that is absolutely non-negotiable that constitutes the necessary faith for salvation. It is the faith once for all delivered to the saints. There are real fundamentals of the faith that must be believed and when they're not believed we are to break fellowship because light and darkness can't walk together, they can't enter into the common ministry together. Nothing is more serious in Scripture than that a boundary exists between the true and the false and that Satan wants to confuse us as to that boundary. That's why Satan and all his demons appear as angels of...what?...light. They are darkness. They are all darkness. They are nothing but darkness. They are in the domain of darkness and they want to appear as angels of light to blur the line. When you blur the line, then Satan sows his people in the church, strips the church of its power, strips the church of its consistency of its testimony because then the world looks at people who are in the church and sees that obviously Christ hasn't transformed them. Even the world can recognize what the church sometimes is unwilling to see and it undercuts our testimony.

John the Apostle in 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but tests the spirits to see whether they're from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world." They're everywhere. They're ubiquitous. They're like ants, they're all over the place. That's Satan's strategy. Come out and build the fortresses of lying speculations, lying ideologies, lying belief systems and make the people prisoners in those fortresses and keep them there until they die so they'll go to hell and populate Satan's hell.

So you can't just accept everything. This is the strategy of Satan. We've got to be discerning. Second John really says it. Second John verses 9, 10 and 11, "Anyone who goes too far and doesn't abide in the teaching of Christ, that is the true doctrine of Christ, true teaching of Christ in the gospel, if he doesn't, he does not have God." If a person doesn't have the truth, then he doesn't have God. "If anyone comes to you and doesn't bring this truth, don't receive him into your house." Don't put him on your platform, don't make him a part of your meeting, your conference, your crusade, or whatever, don't put him on your TV program, don't receive him into your house, "Don't give him a greeting, not some kind of affirming welcome, if you do that you are participating in his evil deed."

I don't know how you can say it more clearly. If anybody comes along and doesn't have the truth about Jesus Christ, don't let him in your house, don't affirm him, and don't greet him. If you do, you are a co-conspirator. Now these verses command us to keep spiritually separated from those who corrupt the essential truths of the gospel. This is a very stern language, 2 John, very stern. There's a severe curse there on people who preach a corrupted gospel, or people who believe darkness and propagate it as if it were light. But there's also a stern and severe warning against those of us who blightly let those people in. False Christianity accepted by true Christians is one of the most heinous sins imaginable, according to that text. You cannot justify any spiritual union with anyone whose belief system and teaching corrupts the New Testament gospel.

Now that leads to the final question...what is the body of truth which delivers? What is the body of truth that must be believed? Does the Bible clearly identify specific truths as essential?

The answer is yes, loudly, firmly, yes! And the strongest words of condemnation are reserved for those who corrupt those essential truths. There are truths in the Bible that if you don't believe you'll go to hell. The gospel of salvation must be believed and embraced and loved and so it must be, first of all, understood.

What is essential first and fundamental? I'll give you several things. You must believe that all divine truth has its origin in Scripture. See, that's why the Mormons are out. They believe that God has spoken to them through the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, The Doctrines and Covenants, something other than the Bible. Those who have been delivered believe that God's revelation is contained in Scripture, not tradition, not papal decrees, not modern visions, not prophecies, not intuition, not any other source of authority. Those that have been delivered believe Scripture is able to make you wise unto salvation, that the Scripture is to make you adequate, equipped for every good work. We believe that the Word of God contains all that is fundamental, all that is necessary for salvation. That's where it starts. So you start with the conviction about the Scripture, that the Spirit of God, I believe, works in the heart of an individual. That is one of the great marvels of the work of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, I think it's a sure test of a true Christian how they react to the Scripture. Do they desire it like the Psalmist, do they love it? Do they hunger for it? See, unregenerate, undelivered people, they don't have that kind of response to the Bible. They don't have any moral ability to respond to the Bible. They don't have any faculty to love it. And they don't have any capacity to obey it. In fact, they don't have any interest in it, "The natural man understandeth not the things of God, to him they are foolishness," 2 Corinthians...or 1 Corinthians 2:14.

You see, undelivered people don't respond to the Bible. Jesus said in John 8, "Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me." Isn't that an interesting statement? If I told you a lie, you'd believe it because you're tuned in to lies. You're in the domain of darkness, you understand lying and deception. It's the truth you can't compute. Sometimes people say to me, "You know, I'd really like to go into the university system and teach the truth." You can't do that. I suppose, maybe here and there there's an occasion where you can sort of let it leak in, but you step into that environment and teach the truth and nobody's going to get it, nobody's going to understand it. They're going to resent it, resist it, hate it. Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me. And then he goes on to say, "He who is of God hears God's words, therefore you don't hear because you're not of God." If you're not of God, you're in the dark, you're in error, you can't even understand the truth.

On the other hand, that's why in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul said to the Christians at Thessalonica, "For this reason we thank God without ceasing because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us you welcomed it not as the word of man but as it is in truth the word of God." See, when regeneration takes place, when the life is changed...whew!!...the Word comes through and you hear it and you understand it and you embrace it and you love it and you long to obey it. First John 4, verses 5 and 6, "They are of the world so they speak as those of the world and the world hears them. We are of God, he who knows God hears us, he who is not of God does not hear us." Then he says, "By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error."

Do you know how I know who is a true Christian? They hear the Word, they understand the Word, they grasp the Word, they embrace it, they love it, they obey it. A true Christian responds to the Word.

I get people that write me letters and vilify me for what I say. I just say...why would I expect someone in the darkness to understand the light? The lady writes me, she's into Zen, she wants her karma smoothed out. Of course she can't understand me, I speak the words of God, she doesn't understand those. But what is amazing is you have Christianity or evangelicalism sort of sucking in these people who don't commit to the truth, don't understand the truth, don't know the truth. Many of them get put in positions of leadership where they are provided platforms to teach elements of their error that are rebranded with the term Christianity.

So it starts with believing Scripture. be a true Christian, you must believe that the Word of God is authoritative and that it speaks the truth of God...sola scriptura. You see, in the Roman Catholic Church it's just not that way. The Roman Catholic Church commonly threatens eternal damnation on anybody who questions the decrees of the Pope or the dogma of Church council. For example, Canon one of the seventh session of the Council of Trent pronounces anathema, damnation on anyone, who says there are more or less than the seven Sacraments established by that council. You're going to go to hell if you deny that there are seven if you say there are six or eight. That means that if any Catholic questions the Sacrament of Confirmation, Penance or Extreme Unction, to say nothing of Protestants who question all of them, even though none of them is mentioned in Scripture, not one of them, Confirmation, Penance, Extreme Unction not at all mentioned in Scripture. If we question those things we are subject to excommunication and in the Church's eyes we are worthy of eternal damnation. The canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, by the way, are loaded with dozens and dozens, up to a hundred of such anathemas. They are impudent enough, one writer said, to declare as fundamental their own wood, hay and stubble. But according to the Bible, no supposed spiritual authority outside the sacred writings of Scripture can give us any wisdom that leads to salvation, right?

To be a true Christian you must believe that all that pertains to salvation comes from the Scriptures. You don't need the writings of Mary Baker Eddy Patterson Glover Frye or Ellen G. White, or Madame Lavatski(?) or Judge Rutherford, or Joseph Smith or anybody else, or the Pope, or a council, or oral tradition, or some latter day prophecy.

Secondly, we not only believe the Bible is the source of these truths but, secondly, that the truths fundamental to salvation are clearly set forth in the Bible. That is we're not talking about some secret hidden thing, some mystery, some cryptic message somehow written backwards, upside-down, or across at angles. Jesus said He didn't...He didn't reveal these things to the wise and prudent, but He hid them from the wise and prudent, Matthew records, and He revealed them to babes. It's not riddles, it's not cryptic, it's not secret code, it's not backwards writing, it's not something that is hard to understand. The testimony of the Lord is sure and it makes even the simplest wise.

So there are very clearly revealed truths in Scripture. Some of them with proof text, some of them just the composite of Scripture. And they are clearly set forth. Anything pertaining to salvation is crystal clear in Scripture. We may not understand what it means to be baptized for the dead in 1 Corinthians, that's an obscure thing. We may not understand all of the nuances of passages in the Old Testament because we can't reconstruct all the historical background, but anything pertaining to salvation is crystal clear in the scriptures.

So one, we believe the Scripture is the source of salvation truth. Two, we believe it's clear. Three, the doctrines that must be believed are those upon which eternal life depends. So we go to the Scripture, we go to Scripture and we find what's clear and what pertains to eternal life. And what is it? You must believe, according to Hebrews 11, you must if you come to God believe that He is. What does that mean? You must believe in the God who is God. You can't believe in any god you want, you can't reinvent God. Somebody said to me just the other day, "You know, I think there are going to be a lot more Mormons in heaven than we imagine." And my response was, "How can any Mormon be in heaven, they don't believe God is a trinity, they don't believe Jesus is God, and they don't believe you are saved by grace. How are they going to get there?

What do you mean? If you're going to believe in God you have to believe in the God who is God, not any god you want God to be. Can't believe in Allah. You can't believe in whatever god there is in Buddhism. You can't just believe in the God who is the Old Testament God like the Jews do, you have to believe in the God who is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. You can't believe in the "holy other" as one theologian called Him. You have to believe in the God who is God, that means you have to believe in the trinity, you have to believe in the God who became flesh in Jesus Christ, the incarnate God. So you have to believe that Jesus was God in human flesh, fully human and fully divine. That He lived a sinless life, that He died on the cross a substitutionary death for sinners. That He arose again physically and bodily the third day and ascended to heaven. Sent the Holy Spirit and now intercedes for us and will come back in glory. That's the drive train of salvation truth that Jesus is the true God revealed incarnate in human flesh. That He is God a very God, a member of the trinity, that He is to be worshiped and honored and loved and adored equally with God the Father and God the Spirit.

You must believe in His substitutionary death on the cross as a perfect sacrifice with no sin in His own life, He was not a sinner and He didn't go to hell to suffer for His sins, as the Word Faith Movement says. He was a perfect spotless Lamb. He died there, though He didn't deserve to die, as a perfect substitute. He atoned for our sins which are imputed to Him that His righteous life might be imputed to us. He was raised from the dead, conquered death for us. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, Romans 10:9, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you'll be...what?...saved. You believe that He is God, a member of the trinity incarnate, virgin born...that's the only way God could come into this world...that He lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death and rose from the dead. If you believe that, you're saved. If you believe it to the point where you assent to it, embrace it and love the Lord Jesus Christ. Fist Corinthians 16:22 says, "If any doesn't love the Lord Jesus, let him be devoted to destruction, anathema.

You must also believe that salvation is by faith alone. That justification is by faith. Romans 4:4 and 5, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor but what is due, but to the one who doesn't work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. Great statement. You don't get saved by works, not of works lest any man should boast. You're saved by grace through faith. And what happens, this great statement, you believe in Him who justifies the ungodly. It isn't that He justifies the good and justifies the godly who have the good works, He justifies the ungodly. He justifies the wicked and the evil and the sinner who believes in Him, who comes and says I have no good of my own, I have no godliness of my own. Casts himself on the mercy of God who justifies the ungodly. That is one of the great phrases in the entire New Testament, Romans 4:5, He justifies the ungodly. That takes works out of it. You don't have to be good to get justified, you just have to recognize you're bad and cry out to God.

The Roman Catholic Church doesn't believe that. They believe He justifies the good, the people who take imparted grace that gets fused into them by their Baptism and the Mass and other Sacraments and mixes it with good works and do enough good works and enough good works and enough good works, God will justify the good. That's what liberal theology believes. It's not what the Bible teaches.

An error in understanding justification is the very reason that Israel was set aside, the very reason Israel was apostate for not knowing about God's righteousness, they went about to establish their own righteousness and were not subject to the righteousness of God, Romans 10:3. That is the precise error of Roman Catholicism, same thing of any works system, any religious system, any of the cults, any of those things connected to Christianity other than the truth.

You must believe in the doctrine of sin. You must believe that man is a sinner. If we say we have no sin we make God...what?...a liar and His truth is not in us. If you say you're not a sinner, you're not a Christian. Because if you say you're not a sinner then God's word isn't in you. First John 1:8, verse 10 as well, "If you say you haven't sinned you make Him a liar and His Word isn't in you." Verse 8 says if you have no sin you deceive yourself, His truth isn't in you.

So we affirm our sinfulness and we affirm our ungodliness. And then we affirm that we can't do anything to be saved. And we affirm that Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation and we desperately cry out as the ungodly to have God put the righteousness of Christ to our account. You see, that's the...that's the body of truth that must be believed. Now if you're a Muslim, you don't believe that. If you're a Buddhist, you don't believe that. If you're a Jew who doesn't accept Christ, you don't believe that. If you're an atheist, you don't believe that. If you're a Mormon, you don't believe that, etc., etc., etc. And you're still in the darkness. And if you believe somehow that all you have to do is say "I believe in Jesus" and you're going to go to heaven and you don't know the Jesus you're talking about, who He is and what He did and by what accomplishment on the cross He purchased your salvation and you don't embrace that as it's revealed in Scripture, you don' don't have to understand the fullness of it, but you have to understand the clarity of it. You may not understand all the implications of the doctrine of justification but you must understand this, you're a sinner, you're unworthy, you can't do anything, He did everything.

Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Every spirit that doesn't confess Jesus is not from God, the spirit of Antichrist. If you're wrong about who Jesus is and why He came, then you're a spirit of Antichrist.

See, really, everything that we need to believe to be saved is summed up in Christ, right? We see in Him the trinity because He's a member of the trinity incarnate in human flesh. We see in Him the perfect righteous standard of God lived out. We see in Him the substitutionary death on the cross, the power of resurrection over death. Everything is summed up in Christ. That's why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3, "For you can't lay any other foundation than the foundation which is Jesus Christ."

So, we believe in the Bible. True Christians believe in the Word of God. You know what happens when you're delivered, God plants in you a love for His truth. We also believe in the great doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. We believe Jehovah, chanu(??)in the Hebrew, the Lord is our righteousness cause we have none of our own. We believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. We believe in His perfect deity. We believe in His sinless humanity. We believe in His atoning death. We believe in His resurrection. We believe in the truth of every word He spoke and the reality of every miracle He did. Then go back to 2 John 9, "Anybody who doesn't abide in these teachings about Christ does not have God. Anybody who does abide in these has both the Father and the Son." Isn't that great?

Well, summing it up, there are non-negotiables truth...the absolute authority of Scripture, sola scriptura, justification by faith alone, sola fide, In Christ alone the perfect God/Man, sola christos. The Reformers had it all right. Those were the issues. And true Christians, beloved, have been delivered out of error into this truth. And whoever does believe a lie is not of God. And here's the church, back to where we started, blurring the line between the true Christian and the non-Christian. We have no business receiving into the communion of the church, the fellowship of the church, forging spiritual bonds with people who are in the darkness and are doing that we become guilty of a heinous sin, we become partakers of their evil deeds. It's like the arrogant Corinthians, you know, who had embraced a man who was living in the grossest kind of sin, having a sexual relationship with his father's wife and Paul said, "I'm going to have to turn that man over to Satan.

If it pollutes the church for somebody to be having a sexual relationship inside the church, what does it do to the church to embrace those who bring in lies? False teachers never wear a sign declaring themselves as false teachers. And they always come, according to 2 Corinthians 11:13 disguised as an angel of...what...that's why they always tell you they have the truth. We have to keep our church pure and we have to keep people alerted to the reality of what it is to be a true Christian. Nothing is more desperately needed in the church right now than to restore biblical discernment and to restore it at the level it starts at and that is who is a Christian and who is not.

The first realm of deliverance then is to be delivered from error to truth. Let's pray.

Lord, Your Word is light and it has shone brightly on us this morning. And we remember the words of Jeremiah who said, "I didn't send these prophets but they ran, I didn't speak to them but they prophesied." And, Lord, the world is so full of those You didn't send and those whom You never gave a message and they are disguised as angels of light and the church is so gullible for this. Father, we pray that You'll protect Your people, that You'll give them a passion for the light, for the truth. And help us to know the true Christians because they're the ones who have come out of the lies, out of the deceptions, out of the darkness into the clear, shining, brilliant, bright light of truth. Thank You for that deliverance and You did it, we could never have done it because in our darkness and in our deadness we couldn't see the light, we couldn't perceive the light. We were blind to it, deaf to it, dead to it. But You gave us life and light. We thank You for that deliverance. Amen.