Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Devil in the Details? Matthew 5:18, 19 and the Authority of Scripture part two

A few years after our church got started, we had a man who would attend our church a couple of times a month. He never joined and I visited him on several occasions. He told me why he came to our church, despite his unfaithfulness and disobedience, and it was something like this: "I know that you preach it exactly like it says in Scripture, so I figure if I come here and keep even 50% of what you're preaching, I'll be better than somewhere else where it isn't being preached like this." I've had different names for that kind of thinking through the years---home-spun or seat-of-your-pants theology. It isn't a biblical approach to Christian living. In one sense; however, I was glad to hear that someone believed, and fairly objectively, that he noticed that we were serious about everything that God said.

Wholeheartedness is what anyone should expect of Christianity if he were to read the life of Christ in the gospels. Jesus called for complete obedience to everything that He said. So why is it that we don't see this occurring today in churches? I'm not talking about sinless perfection but a striving to sort out all of Scripture and live every detail by faith. A first way that even professing believers shirk this responsibility is by saying that "Many Things in God's Word Are Doubtful." Anything else?

"We Must Stay Together for the Gospel"

As good as this sounds to some, there is something about it that is slightly off. It isn't exactly taught anywhere in Scripture. It has some truth in it and could be completely true if interpreted a certain way. But what is wrong with this? Mainly, Scripture doesn't say it.

The closest thing to this, I believe, is in Philippians 1:27, and I think we can be sure that Philippians 1:27 is where the seed for the idea comes.
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
I'd love to stay together for the gospel if the Bible taught that. However, notice what the verse says at the end---"with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Of course, first here, it isn't "staying together," but "striving together," and then it isn't "striving together for the gospel," but "striving together for the faith of the gospel." The Greek word translated "striving together" is found only one other place in the New Testament and that is in Philippians 4:3, which says:
And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Philippians 4:3 is closer to the "striving together for the gospel" idea. It is easy to see what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4, however. There was a conflict going on in a single church, the one gathering at Philippi. Two women revealed in v. 2 were having a major fight in the church and that was causing instability there. There were all sorts of false teaching and practice in that area, which Paul mentions in chapter three, that could have caused dissension in the midst, but that wasn't even the issue with these two women. They just weren't getting along for personal reasons. They were two women who had before been working harmoniously together when Paul was there, but now they weren't. They were involved in the work of the Lord, preaching the gospel to the lost in the Philippi area but after Paul left, they started bickering at some point. He wants the church to help them, it seems, get it stopped, for the stability of the church and the well-being of these women.
That isn't anything like---"let everybody in the world who professes the gospel get along and stop fighting over anything other than the gospel." And then there is Philippians 1:27. What does it say we're striving together for? The Faith. Not the gospel. The gospel produces the faith. We can't believe or practice what Scripture teaches without the power and work of the gospel. We can't separate "the faith" from the gospel. However, the striving together is for the entire content of the Bible---that is THE faith---the Christian faith, the truth in Christ, the once for all delivered to the saints faith (Jude 3).
The verb "striving together" speaks of a contest and we are in a struggle, working together in concert as a church. This is the church at Philippi doing the job that God intends in a dark and wicked city. Like their church, our church is in a conflict to preserve and protect the faith from those who attack and destroy. Our members are in a conflict over the truth.
"The faith" isn't the gospel. You can't disconnect it from the gospel, but it isn't synonymous. A parallel passage is Jude 3. Jude wanted to write concerning "the common salvation." He would have gone on and on about the gospel, because he loved it. And it was something that those to whom he was writing had in common. That's something he would have gladly parked on. But he didn't. Why? He neededed instead to exhort them that they "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." So Jude contrasts the common salvation from "the faith." Certainly they were related, but they weren't the same thing.
If men can widdle away and strike down several, various truths of Scripture, then they can also impact the authority of Scripture. If they affect the authority of God's Word, then they will also negatively impact the gospel, which is part of the faith once delivered.
Romans 10:1-10 and Deuteronomy
There's something else that anyone should consider that thinks that they are emphasizing and highlighting and adoring the gospel of Christ, when they ignore other teachings of Scripture for the sake of what they call "unity." God saved us to keep the details. The gospel changes us into detail believing and practicing people. I can show this in many places, but we'll consider Romans 10:1-10.
In Romans 10, Paul assures Israel that he really is interested in their salvation. If they did not get saved, it wouldn't because Paul didn't have the desire. He had it big time (Rom 10:1). If they didn't obtain salvation, it would be because of their own zealous, yet perverted thinking---being ignorant of God's righteousness, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting to the righteousness of God (vv. 2-3). If they wanted righteousness, they needed to understand that Christ was the opportunity for righteousness for them (v. 4).
With Christ being their righteousness, they couldn't use inaccessibility as an excuse. To get across this point, Paul uses an Old Testament passage---Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Deuteronomy was an explanation of Israel's salvation. Israel could believe, love God, and they would receive blessing. It is obvious in Deuteronomy that this faith in the Lord was tied into everything that God told them to do in His Word. They were not to add or diminish from anything that God said (Deut 4:2; 12:32). This was the fundamental respect for God and His Word that was believing in Him. Don't turn this into salvation by works. It was never works that were a basis for God's saving Israel, but faith. However, their belief in Him was always directly connected to His being the powerful, conquering, faithful Lord and they being the surrendered servant. That is how the whole book of Deuteronomy is laid out.
And Paul quotes that particular passage to explain what it is to receive Jesus Christ in order to be saved. They could confess Jesus as Lord because God would make sure that everything that He said would be available for them to keep. Man believes unto righteousness. Righteousness is positional, yes, but it is also practical. The practical part is not just some of what God said, but everything that He said.
As a part of what we comprehend in Deuteronomy 30 and Romans 10, it is that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, the saving message, doesn't add to or diminish from what God said. Someone Who understands and then receives Jesus Christ as the end of righteousness does see Him as the end of righteousness. What they couldn't possibly themselves accomplish, Christ could and would.
Separating the gospel from doing everything that He said misses the mission of the gospel. The gospel saves. It doesn't save just from the punishment of sin, but also the power of sin. Jesus said to the woman at the well that it is also about making us true worshipers of God. What unifies us in worship is the truth. We worship in truth. God isn't worshiped by false beliefs and practices. He is worshiped by humble, submissive obedience to everything that He said.
Together for the Gospel?
Consider with me Together for the Gospel (T4G). This is the parachurch organization of a Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney, a Presbyterian, Ligon Duncan, a Southern Baptist pastor, Mark Dever, and a Southern Baptist educator, Albert Mohler. Supposedly, because they get together for the gospel (perhaps together for Calvinism, because Calvinism seems to be the primary common ground with them) despite doctrinal and practical differences---infant sprinkling (paedo-baptism) and signs and wonders (continuationism)---they love the gospel more than others that separate over these doctrines and practices. Is that true? Do people love the gospel more who won't separate over other doctrines and practices? Should they just set aside "the faith" for the sake of "the common salvation?" What does that say about everything else that God said in His Word? What does it say about what God saved us for? If we miss what God saved us for, could we ourselves be misrepresenting the gospel?
The T4G guys have other differences---church polity and government, eschatology, worship, methods, and more. What seems to make them so popular is that they, along with their other friends that you'll see on their conference line up, unify on this one point. As much as they stay together for the gospel, that doesn't mean that they will always separate over the gospel. On the campus of Southern Seminary, where Albert Mohler is president, is the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth. In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes concerning Billy Graham:
Not long ago I saw Billy Graham join Shecky Greene, Red Buttons, Dion Warwick, Milton Beryl and other theologians in a tribute to George Burns [a blasphemer of God] who was celebrating himself for surviving 80 years in show business. The Reverend Graham exchanged one liners with Burns about making preparations for eternity. Although the Bible makes no mention of it, the Reverend Graham amused the audience and assured them that God loves those who make people laugh. It was an honest mistake. He merely mistook NBC for God.
Billy Graham, who denies a literal hell and has taught universalism, is together with Albert Mohler too. Here's some transcript from one of Billy Graham's appearances on Larry King several years ago:
Larry King: "What do you think of Mormonism, Catholicism, other faiths within the Christian concept?"

Billy Graham: "Well I think I am in wonderful fellowship with all of them."

Larry King: "You're comfortable with Salt Lake City. You're comfortable with the Vatican?"

Billy Graham: "I am very comfortable with the Vatican."

Larry King: "You were preaching in his church (Pope) the day he was made pope."

Billy Graham: "That is correct."
You may wonder why Larry King, a Jewish man, would mention Mormons first. He's married to a Mormon. Billy Graham has wonderful fellowship with the pope and Albert Mohler has fellowship with Billy Graham and John MacArthur has fellowship with Albert Mohler. At some point, should someone separate over the gospel, you know, to make sure that we preserve it? Do you find it interesting, like I do, that these men and especially their evangelical and fundamentalist admirers could constantly exhort everyone about careful exegesis and then take the truth of "together for the gospel" so out of context?
The TG4 men should do more emulation of Jude, who, before he would teach of the common salvation, would exhort that they should earnestly contend for the faith. You can't preserve the gospel without even separating over the gospel. God is in the details of Scripture. The gospel isn't a reason to ignore or disregard the details, but a reason to be even more careful with what God said.


Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

What a great post. Billy Graham certainly has come a long way. I also liked the story at the beginning about the man who only came a few times a month. Very good post.

Don Johnson said...

Don't miss this article by Doran in Dever's online magazine:,,PTID314526|CHID598014|CIID2397374,00.html

I'll try it in a little more userfriendly format:

Potential and Pitfalls of Together For The Gospel By David Doran

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

I seldom miss reading one of your blogs so I thought I was beyound the "shock" stage. However, this one is a bit tough.

When I was very young my Mother and my Sunday School teacher taught me to be careful of what I said concerning "men of the cloth". I have held true to that thru the years. I am always amazed at other so called men of the same that must resort to "faulting" their peers to make their point or make themselves look better.

Prove your point with your own resources not by faulting others.
I am surprised that you would resort to pointing to Billy Graham, who loves everyone in his way.

Guess that proves you should never be to positive about anyone.I should pick better reading material. I'll have to look around since I have learned many things right here.

"One part of knowledge consists of being ignorant of such things as are not worthy of being known"


Kent Brandenburg said...


I think it is true that we should be careful about what we say about anyone. However, all I've done here is report what Billy Graham said. What do you think is worse, Billy Graham denying what Jesus said, or reporting what Billy Graham said?

I think is true that none of us are guiltless. All of us are sinners. All of us at one time or another have either a mote or a beam in our eye. This is a doctrinal direction here that we must warn to protect the gospel, which is bigger and more important than any of us.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I had downloaded the whole article from 9 Marks and read the Doran article, read other parts, and skimmed all of it.

Here is a big and important word for everyone: nuanced. That's what the new-evangelical admires, even the conservative ones---nuance. Why nuance? Where does Scripture tell us to nuance? I think we should nuance where nuance is required, but how do we nuance what Scripture says?

Why is there the unity side and then the separation side? Do we really give up one to have the other? How is true unity any enemy of separation and how is separation any enemy of unity? But that's how 9 Marks presents it.

Don Johnson said...

Yeah, I agree.

Nuance is one of my pet peeves. What is the deal with using words like this? Is it intended to prove I AM A SCHOLAR AND I KNOW BIG WORDS? Or what?

I thought the forum was pretty predictable. No surprises from anyone. All the evangelicals are still bitter over the split, but they blame the fundies for the split! Weird.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Sam Hanna said...

I see Doran is trying to have it both ways. I question his spiritual discernment when he embraces in his article that a man like John Piper and says "one of the most spiritually beneficial conferences I’ve attended—the message by John Piper alone was worth the time and cost of the conference"

Piper is an absolute apostate who argues that Mother Theresa is a perfect example of Biblical Sanctification; that Rap music is acceptable for worship; and Bruce Metzger (despite denying inerrancy) is a godly Christian man.

Doran and his friends at Detroit and Central Seminary ilk are Neo-Evangelicals in all but name. They collectively wrote a book "One Bible" in which they deny that there is even a verse that promises preservation of Scripture. Two of these "scholars" (Glenny and Pettegrew) a few years later jumped ship to Openly Neo-Evangelical Seminaries where they teach today!

Bauder et al reeeived their higher degrees from Trinity and Dallas so it is no surprise that they all hit it off in their Neo-Evangelical presuppositions!

Take no lectures on sepration from Dave Doran - he would be better advised in cleaning out the unclean nest in Detroit and Central!

Anonymous said...

"What do you think is worse, Billy Graham denying what Jesus said, or reporting what Billy Graham said?"
(Quote Kent)

Better the question. Why do you feel the need to quote him or anyone else at all? Or you could quote some of the more memorable things he has said. How about in Russia..." God love all men that confess and believe in HIM. He died for you". You have always been able to make your point and/ or clarify you position without the help of anyone else. There are certainly enough written words to keep you busy all these years. Why change now.

From the story about the chinese cafe to the glory of the children that excel, it has not been necessary to quote enyone ....except our Lord and Savior.
But, you write as you must and it is my choice to read or not to read.

"Suit the action to the word, the word to the action"...Shakespere


Bill Hardecker said...


You still need to answer Pastor Brandenburg's question.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Bill,

First let me say I do not see anywhere here a quote that says Graham denied what Jesus said. I do see that he (Graham) states he "is in fellowship with them".

We should all be in fellowship with our fellow man; not to say we condone what they are doing. Didn't Jesus say we are to love our fellow man. Fellowship COULD be taken many ways. However Webster defines it as "friendliness".

Bill, don't you believe honey draws more flies than vinegar? Our life is an open book to those around us. How they read that book may well depend upon what happens in their lives.

Remember the story of the Deacon that led a "Christian life" except on Friday nites. He drank and caroused until one Friday nite he met up with his brother Deacon doing the same thing. That changed their lives forever.

Read Rev. Graham's open book and model your life after that. Would your book read such that I would want to use it as a guidebook for my life?

"Let he that is without sin cast the first stone".

Careful guys.....your rock pile appears to be getting smaller.


Kent Brandenburg said...


This is not a matter of sinless perfection. I haven't even spoken about how anyone lives. I've never been one day around Billy Graham and his life. I have no reason to think that he didn't treat other people well. We're all sinners, none righteous, none that doeth good, every man at his best state altogether vanity. We're not talking about that.

We're talking about doctrine. Jesus is the theologian who taught hell. Hell is real fire. Billy Graham denies this. He is the foremost evangelist in modern American history and should be the chief proponent and declarer of real hell fire, and yet he denies it.

How is this the same as casting stones, as in the John 8 account? It isn't. Let's say I never ever lived or existed---the truth itself is still the truth, which is bigger than me or Billy Graham.

And then look at the other two examples above. These are doctrinal matters. We can't afford to tolerate unrecanted false doctrine. The doctrine itself is too important and the damage it causes to the people who believe the false doctrine.

Have a good day.

William D said...

You talk about these men (the T4G group) as though they are deliberately in blatant disobedience. So, who should we fellowship with? I guess in your estimation, only the few churches represented by those with whom you team up to blog with are obedient Christians while everyone else is disobedient?

Kent Brandenburg said...


The passion does make me smile. Your rhetoric is fiery, but it doesn't really make an argument from Scripture.

I don't know if they are deliberately disobeying. My other choice is ignorance. Whatever the reason, I'm pointing out something that I believe is clear Scripturally. I actually don't include on my blog every church with whom I fellowship. I would have to maintain a church directory to do that and it is actually difficult enough to maintain a blog, as you would know.

With complete sincerity and truth, William, I believe that we must practice biblical separation. We are living in wicked times and I believe that missing separation contributes to it. I am open to what these men say. In other words, I am not defiant to what they teach. Isn't that where fellowship should be, around God's Word? Isn't anything else a faux fellowship? I do believe that we have a spiritual and familial unity with all believers, but there is nothing that is measurable except in a church and then between churches of like faith and practice. This is how it is presented in Scripture.

William D said...

Hi Kent,

I agree that we must practice separation. I was just at the Shepherd's conference and I took a session on that very subject. They acknowledged that neoevangelicalism has totally thrown out the idea of separation all together and compared them to the church of Laodecia.

The opposite extreme, is to hold everyone else to one's own ideal and separate from all those who don't measure up. We need to ultimately separate from those who are disobeying clear direct orders in scripture with the due process spelled out in Matt. 18. Where I draw the line on certain issues that I don't believe are clear as crystal is on my best understanding of the scripture and knowledge of God's character .

Where someone like John Piper draws the line (and I really disagree where with where his lines are)must be assumed that he is trying to be obedient to God. That would be the loving Christian thing to do. I wouldn't totally cut him off, but it would be a limited kind of cooperation.

I do like what you said that true fellowship must center around the word of God or else it really isn't fellowship. That is true, and since that is true, that should prompt us to discuss the word of God with these brethren and either learn from them or lovingly correct them. Thanks for your reply.

Kent Brandenburg said...

There must be due process, but what I've found is that new-evangelicals talk due process but they are no better than fundamentalists on the subject. As you know, I'm always directly speaking to these men and interacting based on God's Word. What I get back is political posturing and cold shoulder, just like the fundamentalists that they criticize.

Do you think a metaphorical hell and a universalist soteriology of Billy Graham changes the Gospel. Let them be accursed is strong language, but they don't break fellowship over that. I don't think you can get together for the gospel and not clearly separation at least even based on the gospel.

We are planning on writing a book, exegetical and expositional, on separation. Some have already been written. They alone would be worth reading. What I've found is that even those are not consistent and there is a clear reason why, which I've confronted here.

Thanks for the interaction.

William D said...

The universalist Billy Graham and metaphorical hell does change the gospel, and he must be separated from. Has Al Mohler preached for Billy Graham or had him preach for him lately? Or is it just that his missions program is named after him? If I were president of SBTS I would change the name or do something to try, but should I separate from someone who preached for someone who preached with someone who preached for someone who preached with Al Mohler?

Anyway, I won't give the cold shoulder to anyone, in fact I was hoping you were going to have that Truth Conference at your church so I could attend.

Don Johnson said...

William, Mohler not only has the BG school of missions as part of his seminary but chaired the BG crusade in Louisville just a few years ago.

But I am not that concerned with Mohler, or the T4G guys. I am not involved with them, nor would I be.

I am very concerned at the warped misinterpretation of Matthe 18 that the MacArthur guys are touting. The passage has nothing to do with the kind of conflicts under discussion. Acts 20 would be more appropriate.

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

If a wolf approaches the flock, should I go to him first to see if we can resolve our issues? If from within our flock someone arises speaking perverse things, should I make sure that I dialogue with him before I warn the flock?

I don't think so.

It isn't just a matter of where does Piper (your example) draw the lines compared to me. The question is this: does his teaching ministry impact the flock under my care positively or negatively?

I actually have never mentioned Piper to my congregation as far as I can remember. If I heard that some of my people were reading him, I would warn them strongly about his many errors. I would NOT recommend his books to my people. I am constantly amazed at so-called fundamentalists who are so willing to tout the writings of men whose ministries they would not want to emulate ... or would they? ... recommending these men to their own people.

The bottom line is this: are men like Piper, Mahaney, Dever, MacArthur promoting teaching that will help or harm the flock?

These men are not all the same. But each of them are teaching things that do harm the flock to some extent, in my opinion. As such I will warn against them. Some I will warn against more strongly than others.

And I don't have to go to MacArthur and talk to him about it before I do. What a farce this notion of 'due process' is. What a lie of the devil!

[Not that I feel strongly about it at all!!!]

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

William D said...

"These men are not all the same. But each of them are teaching things that do harm the flock to some extent, in my opinion. As such I will warn against them. Some I will warn against more strongly than others."

I would agree that Mehaney and Piper's view of the charisma and the gifts would be harmful IMO, because it has the potential to lead to listening and embracing more extreme forms of Charismatic theology. I would agree about warning the people of my church concerning those errors. I don't think that keeping them from his books on the joy of the Christian life would harm them in any way and to shield them from those because i disagree with him on another unrelated issue, would not be right.

"And I don't have to go to MacArthur and talk to him about it before I do. What a farce this notion of 'due process' is. What a lie of the devil!"

So, MacArthur is a wolf trying to devour the flock? I really don't buy that. What is MacArthur promoting that harms the flock? If you mean his anti-KJVO stand and Calvinism, then I understand what you mean and understand why you would call him a wolf.

Don Johnson said...

No,no, please don't misunderstand. I don't think MacArthur is a wolf at all. But he and his surrogates are wrong about this 'due process' business. I don't need to call him up and try to resolve issues with him before I warn my people about his errors.

There is some history to the 'due process' teaching, and in some circumstances it is warranted. (The MacArthur/Bob Jones blood controversy feud is what I have in mind.) But the MacArthurites have overreached in their teaching on this.

And that is hamstringing the ministry of those who accept the teaching. That is the lie I am speaking of and what I totally reject.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bill Hardecker said...

Dear ILA,
Fellowship is Biblically deeper than "friendship." In Phil. 1:5 Paul was thankful unto God for the Philippian church's fellowship in the Gospel. They were separated by time (10 years of not having heard from them) and space (Paul of course being in house arrest in Rome and the church at Philippi being of course, in Philippi). And yet inspite of those factors both Paul and the church had shared a "fellowship" in the Gospel. This is vital that we note fellowship is an active participation in the work of the Gospel. In essence, Paul and the Philippian church were working together (actually "partnering") in spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were pulling in the same direction. They were partners in the work of the Lord.

Billy Graham has departed from the Bible way. For all the preaching and teaching and meetings he has done; he and I are NOT working together towards a common goal. We literally have no fellowship. When Dr. Graham said that he thinks he is in "wonderful fellowship" with them, I think he is sadly mistaken if he thinks that there can be any kind of fellowship with them UNLESS he thinks that their "Gospel" is the same as his. And if that is the case,then their gospel (like his) is wrong. Rome's gospel message is opposite of the Bible's. And how Dr. Graham can "OK" such a distorted message is beyond me. I am left with no other choice than to say that Graham's gospel message is unsound, unbiblical, and wrong.

Further more the Bible says not to have "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" and it even begs the question: What fellowship is there with light from darkness?

Think about it Billy Graham had a golden opportunity on Larry's show to proclaim the pure and powerful Gospel but instead he seems to have validated false teachers and false teachings by not setting the record straight. This is a classic neo-Evangelical trait.

Yes I believe that honey draws more flies than vinegar, but I am not here to draw flies. I am here to be salt and light in this world, If our Gospel is hid, it is hid to them who are lost. I was taught in Bible college, that if anything offends let it be the Gospel. I live by that because it is Bible.

I am not here to cast stones on Dr. Graham, nor anyone for that matter, rather I'll throw the Book at him instead (i.e. The Bible). That is about the only thing worth giving people anyway.

Sorry for rambling on...BTW, you still need to answer Dr. B's question. The reason I say that is because it really is the heart of the matter.

"What do you think is worse, Billy Graham denying what Jesus said, or reporting what Billy Graham said?"