Monthly Archives: February 2014

Questions about the End Times: What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Midtribulational View of the Rapture (Midtribulationism)?

 

Eschatologically speaking, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on three things: 1) there will be a future time of Tribulation such as the world has never seen, 2) the Ssecond Coming Jesus Christ, and 3) a translation from mortality to immortality for believers, commonly known as the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). The question is when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Second Coming? The three main theories concerning the timing of the rapture are pretribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), midtribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and posttribulationism (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation). This article deals specifically with the midtribulational view.

Midtribulationism teaches that the Rapture occurs at the midpoint of the Tribulation. At that time, the seventh trumpet sounds (Revelation 11:15), the church will meet Christ in the air, and then the bowl judgments are poured upon the earth (Revelation 15–16) in a time known as the Great Tribulation. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by a period of three-and-a-half years. According to this view, the church goes through the first half of the Tribulation but is spared the worst of the Tribulation which occurs in the last three-and-a-half years. Very close to midtribulationism is the belief in a “pre-wrath” rapture, i.e., a belief that the church is caught up to heaven before the “great day of … wrath” comes (Revelation 6:17).

In support of their view, midtribulationists point to the chronology given in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3. The order of events is as follows: 1) apostasy, 2) the revelation of the Antichrist, and 3) the Day of Christ. The midtribulational view teaches that the Antichrist will not be decisively revealed until “the abomination which makes desolate” (Matthew 24:15), which occurs at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Also, midtribulationists interpret “the Day of Christ” as the Rapture; therefore, the church will not be caught up to heaven until after the Antichrist is revealed.

Another foundational teaching of midtribulationism is that the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the same trumpet mentioned in Revelation 11:15. The trumpet of Revelation 11 is the final in a series of trumpets; therefore, it makes sense that it would be “the last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians 15. This logic fails, however, in view of the trumpets’ objectives. The trumpet that sounds at the Rapture is “the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but the one in Revelation 11 is a harbinger of judgment. One trumpet is a call of grace to God’s elect; the other is a pronouncement of doom on the wicked. Further, the seventh trumpet in Revelation is not the “last” trumpet chronologically—Matthew 24:31 speaks of a later trumpet which sounds at the commencement of Christ’s kingdom.

First Thessalonians 5:9 says that the church has not been appointed “to suffer wrath but to receive salvation.” This would seem to indicate that believers will not experience the Tribulation. However, midtribulationism interprets “wrath” as only referring to the second half of the Tribulation—specifically, the bowl judgments. Limiting the word in such a way seems unwarranted, however. Surely the terrible judgments contained in the seals and trumpets—including famine, poisoned rivers, a darkened moon, bloodshed, earthquakes, and torment—could also be considered the wrath of God.

Midtribulationism places the Rapture in Revelation 11, prior to the start of “the great tribulation.” There are two problems with this placement in the chronology of Revelation. First, the only occurrence of the term “great tribulation” in the entire book of Revelation is in 7:14. Second, the only reference to a “great day of wrath” is in Revelation 6:17. Both of these references come too early for a midtribulational Rapture.

And a final weakness of the midtribulational view is shared by the other two theories: namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: What Is the Definition of Evil?

 

A dictionary definition of evil is “morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked.” The definition of evil in the Bible falls into two categories: evil against one another (murder, theft, adultery) and evil against God (unbelief, idolatry, blasphemy). From the prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9), to the destruction of Babylon the Great, the embodiment of evil to come (Revelation 18:2), the Bible speaks of evil.

For many centuries Christians have struggled with both the existence and the nature of evil. Most people would acknowledge that evil is real and has always had devastating effects on our world. From the sexual abuse of children to the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11, evil continues to rear its ugly head in our own time. Many people are left wondering what exactly is evil and why does it exist.

The existence of evil has been used as a weapon by opponents of theism-and Christian theism in particular-for some time. The so called “problem of evil” has been the subject of various arguments by atheists in an attempt to demonstrate that a God who is good simply cannot exist. By implying that God must be the creator of evil, God’s holy character has been called into question. There have been many arguments used to indict God as the cause of evil. Here is one of them:

1) God is the creator of everything that exists.
2) Evil exists.
3) Therefore, God is the creator of evil.

The logic of this syllogism is sound. The conclusion follows logically from the premises. But does this syllogism demonstrate that God is the creator of evil? The problem with this argument is its second premise, that evil is something. For evil is not a thing; it is a lack or privation of a good thing that God made. As Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland has noted, “Evil is a lack of goodness. It is goodness spoiled. You can have good without evil, but you cannot have evil without good.”

Goodness has existed as an attribute of God from all eternity. While God is perfectly holy and just, He is also perfectly good. Just as God has always existed, so too has goodness as it is a facet of God’s holy character. The same cannot be said for evil. Evil came into being with the rebellion of Satan and subsequently entered the physical universe with the fall of Adam. As Christian apologist Greg Koukl has said, “Human freedom was used in such a way as to diminish goodness in the world, and that diminution, that lack of goodness, that is what we call evil.” When God created Adam, He created him good, and He also created him free.

However, in creating Adam free, God indirectly created the possibility of evil, while not creating evil itself. When Adam chose to disobey God, he made this possibility a reality. The same scenario had previously played out when Satan fell by failing to serve and obey God. So it turns out that evil is not a direct creation of God; rather, evil is the result of persons (both angelic and human) exercising their freedom wrongly.

While evil is certainly real, it is important to recognize that evil does not have existence in and of itself. Rather, it only exists as a privation (or a parasite) on the good. It exists in the same way that a wound exists on an arm or as rust exists on a car. The rust cannot exist on its own any more than cold can exist without the existence of heat or darkness can exist without the existence of light.

Despite the horrible effects of evil on our world, the Christian believer can take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ recorded for us in the Gospel of John, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). More importantly, we look forward with great anticipation to our home in heaven where the ultimate evil, death, will finally be destroyed along with the “mourning, crying and pain” which it inevitably produces (Revelation 21:4).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

NoCo Radio: Genuine Assurance

What are the biblical grounds of assurance? Let me offer you 4 answers.

 

Answer #1: Looking to Christ

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This is what Spurgeon emphasized, that we are to look to Christ. Scripture is clear on this. Jesus Himself said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life . . .”(John 6:37). The apostle Paul made it very clear to the Philippian jailer:

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”(Acts 16:30-31)

Romans 10:9 assures us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

All these verses affirm that if a person looks to the Lord Jesus Christ alone with the eyes of faith, then he has eternal life and is saved.

 Answer #2: Understanding that Regeneration Precedes Faith

God is the one who causes us to be born again, not our faith. That is why Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again . . .”(1 Peter 1:3).

Since we are dead, He must give life first before we can believe.

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The apostle John also wrote,

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God . . . (1 John5:1)

Notice in this verse that the one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is because he has already been born of God (for more on this, listen to the No Compromise Radio episode, “”Myth-Busters: Faith Precedes Regeneration“).”).

 Answer #3The Work of Each Member of the Trinity in Salvation

In his run-on sentence that begins his epistle to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul is very clear about this point:

God the Father elects (Eph 1:3–5)

God the Son redeems (Eph 1:6–9)

God the Holy Spirit seals (Eph 1:13–14)

 Answer #4Fruit/Evidence/Change in Life

The Apostle John states clearly the purpose for which he wrote his first epistle:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

Throughout his epistle he gives clear evidences of salvation:

 1) Obedience

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4–5)

 2) Love for the Brethren

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[a] there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9–11)

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15)

 3) Righteous Living

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:29)

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

This does not mean the perfection of our life, but the direction of our life. After all, in the beginning  John wrote that true believers readily confess and acknowledge their sin, while those who do not prove that they are not saved.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10)

“The apostle is clearly not making sinless perfection a test of salvation. Nor is he making an issue about the frequency, duration, or magnitude of one’s sins. As we noted in chapter 8, all Christians sin, and true believers are capable even of prolonged and heinous sin. The issue John is raising here has to do with our attitude toward sin and righteousness, our heart’s response when we do sin, and the overall direction of our walk. The test is this: What is the object of your affections — sin or righteousness? If your chief love is sin, then you are “of the devil” (3:8, 10). If you love righteousness and practice righteousness, you are born of God (2:29). What is the direction of your affection? (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000], 150.)

By Hariton Deligiannides, head of the elder board of Bethlehem Bible Church

Source

12 Signs That Russia Is Ready To Fight A War Over Crimea

Russia will never, ever give up Crimea without a fight. Anyone that thinks otherwise is just being delusional. The Russian Black Sea fleet’s main base at Sevastopol is far too strategically important. In addition, ethnic Russians make up approximately 60 percent of the population of Crimea, and most of the population is rabidly pro-Russian. In fact, many prominent Crimean politicians are already calling for reunification with Russia. So if you have been thinking that Russia is just going to fold up shop and go home now that pro-European protesters have violently seized power in Kiev, you can quit holding your breath. The truth is that Russia is more than willing to fight a war over Crimea. And considering the fact that vitally important pipelines that pump natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe go right through Ukraine, it is not likely that Russia will just willingly hand the rest of Ukraine over to the U.S. and the EU either. If the U.S. and the EU push too hard in Ukraine, a major regional war may erupt which could ultimately lead to something much larger.

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Why Are Christians the World’s Most Persecuted Group?

The answers may surprise you…..

Christianity is a proselytizing faith that seeks to win over converts. No other major religion—including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism—except Islam itself has this missionary aspect (these faiths tend to be coterminous with their respective ethnicities: Buddhists, Asians; Judaism, Jews; Hinduism, Hindus). Thus because Christianity is the only religion that is actively confronting Muslims with the truths of its own message, not only is it the primary religion to be accused of proselytizing but, by publicly uttering teachings that contradict Muhammad’s, Christians are accused of blaspheming as well.

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I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.'” (1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ESV)

God is Sovereign. He is at no one’s beck and call. He is not subject to anyone. Men may indeed insist that God must follow their ideas of who He is and what He will or won’t do, but these things come from flawed Human reason. Men are arrogant creatures who have been trying to usurp God’s place on His throne since the fall in Genesis 3. Most people do not correctly understand God’s revelation of Himself that we find in the Sacred Scripture, therefore, their doctrines are…

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Questions about Eternity: If Reincarnation Is Not True, Why Do Some People Remember Their past Lives?

 

While the Bible never addresses reincarnation specifically, it is clear that the biblical model of life, death, and afterlife is incompatible with any form of reincarnation as posited in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and certain New Age or Neo-Pagan belief systems. In Hebrews 9:27–28, we are told that “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” This passage alone appears to eliminate the possibility of reincarnation.

Along the same lines, in Luke 23:43 Jesus tells the thief on the cross that he will be with Christ in paradise that very day, which assumes that the man will not be reincarnated back into earthly life. Similarly, passages such as James 4:14, which discuss the temporal nature of human life are inconsistent with a reincarnationist idea of living earthly lives over and over for centuries, millennia, or all eternity. On top of all this, if human souls were reincarnated over and over, then how could some people in the Bible see the spirits of long dead people, like Moses being seen by the apostles in Matthew 17:3 during the transfiguration of Christ?

But what are we to do with those who claim they have memories of their past lives? The first and perhaps most important question we should ask is whether or not these “memories” are genuine. Human memory is notoriously unreliable (just ask any lawyer or detective), and people frequently misremember things, believing they remember things that never actually happened or not remembering things that did happen. In the case of those claiming to remember their past lives, one can easily imagine them misremembering images from TV shows or movies, mental fantasies from books they read years earlier, or mistaking dreams for genuine memories. How can we know with any certainty that their past-life memories are not one of these things? Is it really more logical to assume that their memories are genuinely from past lives rather than one of these other things? While some modern “past-life experts” claim to find evidence for reincarnation by connecting things like phobias and physical ailments in currently living people with traumatic events in past lives, the past-life “experts” are assuming the existence of a past-life (or past-lives) in explaining current health problems, not showing that those past lives actually happened.

The fact of the matter is that there is simply no solid, scientifically acceptable evidence that the memories of past lives claimed by some people are genuine, rather than misremembered events or simply make-believe. Ultimately, the question comes down to whether we will find Truth in the unreliable minds and memories of fallen and fallible human beings or from the timeless, holy Word of God. Christians can confidently assert that reincarnation is not a possibility for the human soul; when this life ends, our eternity in the afterlife begins.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christianity: What Is the Reformed Baptist Church?

 

In order to understand the Reformed Baptist Church, we need to answer two preliminary questions: 1) What does it mean to be Baptist? 2) What does it mean to be reformed?

To be Baptist is to be part of a church or denomination that, broadly speaking, holds to adult believer baptism (typically by full immersion) following a credible statement of faith as the only biblically acceptable way to administer the sacrament of baptism as commanded by our Lord in his Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). This is the view called credo-baptism (“believer” baptism), which is held over against the view of paedo-baptism (“infant” baptism) that is commonly practiced by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and many continental Reformed churches.

Baptists also generally believe in the autonomy of the local congregation over the more hierarchically-structured denominations such as Roman Catholicism (which is based on an Episcopal model of church government) and Presbyterianism (which is based on a Presbyterian model of church government).

Within this broad category there are many different types of Baptists who hold various views on soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and ecclesiology (church structure and governance). Some fundamentalist Baptist groups hold that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true, inspired version of the Bible in the English language. Other Baptist groups are so theologically liberal that they fall outside the boundaries of what is generally accepted as orthodox. All this to say that Baptists come in many different shapes and sizes, but nominally they are all unified on the doctrine of adult believer baptism.

Baptist history is also a bit difficult to trace. There are some Baptist groups that claim the Baptist tradition can be traced in an unbroken line back to New Testament times, somewhat akin to the Roman Catholic tradition of papal succession. Others claim that while there was not an unbroken chain of Baptist churches going all the way back to New Testament times, there was a continuity of Baptist forms of faith going all the way back to the earliest beginnings of the church. The most commonly accepted view holds that Baptist tradition is traced back to the English separatist movement of the early 17th century. The English separatists were a group of individuals who were unsatisfied with the changes made during the English reformation, which was part of the larger reformation movement sweeping the continent, and hence they separated from the Church of England. From this separatist movement, two strains of Baptists emerged—General Baptists and Particular Baptists. This leads us to our second question noted above: What does it mean to be reformed?

Generally speaking, to be reformed means to flow out of the Protestant Reformation movement of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Reformers were those who protested against certain abuses within the Roman Catholic Church. It is often said that the Protestant Reformation had both a formal cause and a material cause. The material cause of the Reformation (i.e., the particulars of the dispute) was over what became the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. In other words, the debate centered on the question of how a man is made right (justified) before God. Rome’s basic answer to that question is that grace, faith and Christ are all necessary, but they are in and of themselves, not sufficient. The Reformers argued that grace, faith and Christ are both necessary and sufficient.

The formal cause of the Reformation was the question of authority. What is the ultimate authority for the Christian in matters of faith and practice? For Rome, the answer is both Scripture and tradition. However, since according to its dogma, the Roman Catholic Church is the source of both Scripture and tradition, as well as the infallible interpreter of both, the matter of authority essentially boils down to the Catholic Church alone. The Reformers believed that the Scriptures alone were the sole infallible rule for Christian faith and practice; hence the Bible is the ultimate authority in these matters. All other lesser authorities—church councils, synods and other such declarations—are only authoritative insofar as they conform to Scripture.

Inasmuch as Baptists are Protestant, they are reformed in this general sense as noted above. However, there is a more specific sense of the word ‘reformed,’ and this is more germane to our discussion. Reformed in the more narrow sense refers to those groups that follow in the theological footsteps of John Calvin—in particular his doctrine of salvation. This is what separates the General Baptists from the Particular Baptists. The General Baptists are so called because they hold to a belief of general atonement—Jesus died to make all men, in a universal sense, savable. Particular Baptists hold to the Calvinistic understanding of salvation that believes Jesus died only for the elect, and He died to actually secure their salvation, i.e., particular atonement. Reformed Baptists flow out of this Particular Baptist stream.

Today there is no official Reformed Baptist denomination, but there are several federations of Reformed Baptist churches, such as the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA). Most Reformed Baptist churches subscribe to the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) as their doctrinal standards; the 1689 LBCF is essentially the Westminster Confession of Faith reworded as it pertains to baptism. Some notable Reformed Baptists in history are John Bunyan, William Carey and Charles Spurgeon.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho Guitly, another case of Strange Fire in Asia

The Domain for Truth

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NOTE: We have written on the topic of “Strange Fire,” specifically the problems of Charismatic and Pentecostal Theology in the Asian context here on the blog in the past and will continue to do so from time to time in the future.

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho is the founding pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in the Assembly of God denomination and reputed as the world’s largest congregation.  There are concerns about his theology being biblical since he’s an advocate of Word of Faith teaching, among other things.

“Pastor” David Yonggi Cho was recently on the news this month, having gotten himself in legal trouble and found guilty by the court.  A Gospel Herald news article writes,

According to reports, Cho was identified as an accomplice through committing breach of trust in 2002 by ordering the church to purchase his elder son Hee-jun’s stocks at four times the market price. The…

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5 reasons why that guy didn’t really go to Heaven…

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

I got an e-mail from a pastor friend who was picking my brain about the whole “I went to Heaven” book industry since one of the largest and most successful fleece-job books is now becoming a movie. I couldn’t be more please, since that always turns out to be a smashing victory for biblical fidelity and the proclamation of truth, right?

the-bible-angels(Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Angels?)

Here’s what I said to him (with minor edits to remove names…and make it a tad more entertaining):

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A Word of Caution: Ecumenical-Backed Movie, “Son of God,” May Send Subtle New Age/Roman Catholic Messages

“If everything begins with intention, our heart on ‘Son of God’ was to find the places that we could bring people together.”—Roma Downey, New York Times

On February 28th, 20th Century Fox will release the movie Son of God in theaters. The movie is produced by husband/wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (Downey plays Mary in the film). While the movie is about the life of Jesus, and if the movie trailer is any indication, it will be  a very moving and emotional account, Lighthouse Trails wishes to issue a word of caution and warning to those who will be going to see it. Between Roma Downey’s affinity toward New Ageism and the highly ecumenical (evangelical, emerging, contemplative, Catholic, Mormon, etc) group of endorsers and advisers, there may be subtle messages in the movie that are contrary to the Word of God and its portrayal of Jesus Christ and truth. Thus, we encourage those who will be seeing the movie to watch it through the eyes of discernment and the filter of God’s Word.

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“The Responsibility to Rebuke” – John MacArthur

 

Among many pastors and church leaders today there is a popular rationale that proclaiming truth is the viable alternative to rebuking error. Rather than wrestling with false teachers and their heresies, they’re content to cover their eyes, plug their ears, and “stay positive” in their teaching.

But there is no either/or when it comes to preaching the truth and confronting error—that’s a false, unbiblical dichotomy that contradicts the examples we see throughout Scripture. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul made it clear that both duties are fundamental to the work of a church leader:

For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:7­–9)

Pacifism has never been a pastoral option in the war for people’s souls. Any pastor who teaches faithfully is called both to exhort believers in sound doctrine, and to refute those who oppose sound doctrine.

Pastors have the God-given obligation to cultivate discernment among their congregations. And that discernment is needed to give their people an understanding of the truth necessary to protect them from the ubiquitous error that incessantly assaults them. Antilegō (to refute) means literally “to speak against.” The Lord’s preachers and teachers are to be polemicists against unsound doctrine that goes under the guise of biblical truth.

Not long after Paul himself ministered in Crete, “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,” were causing trouble and confusion in the churches there (Titus 1:10). They were not to be ignored, much less tolerated, but were to “be silenced because they [were] upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (v. 11). They were particularly dangerous because they arose from within the congregations. “They profess to know God,” Paul said, “but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (v. 16).

Even the spiritually mature church at Ephesus was not immune to false teaching. “I know that after my departure,” Paul warned elders from that church, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).

Although false teachers in the church exist under many guises, they all, in one way or another, contradict biblical truth. They are the enemies of sound doctrine and, therefore, of God and His people. Simply to accept Scripture as the inerrant Word of God does not protect against its being misunderstood or even perverted. To give personal insights and decisions of church councils authority equal to Scripture is to contradict God’s Word—just as surely as is denying the deity of Christ or the historicity of His resurrection. The final warning of Scripture is: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19, emphasis added).

The dual role of the godly preacher and teacher is to proclaim and to defend God’s Word. In the eyes of the world and, tragically, in the eyes of many genuine but untaught believers, to denounce false doctrine—especially if that doctrine is given under the guise of evangelicalism—is to be unloving, judgmental, and divisive. But compromising Scripture in order to make it more palatable and acceptable, whether to believers or to unbelievers, is not “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). It is speaking falsehood and is the furthest thing from godly love. It is a subtle, deceptive, and dangerous way to contradict God’s own Word. The faithful pastor must have no part in it. He himself tolerates, and he teaches his people to tolerate, only sound doctrine.

All Christians share the biblical mandate to cultivate biblical discernment. Remaining passive in the church and ignoring the cancerous effects of false teaching is a serious dereliction of our duty as believers. We are to be equipped with the biblical tools necessary to identify, expose, repudiate, and excommunicate all wolves who sneak into the church. Out of love for Christ, His people, and the pure exclusive gospel that He delivered, each of us must take up arms in the ongoing war for the truth.

 

(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus.)


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