Friday, August 30, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 22

            John’s Gospel teaches that believers have their faith strengthened and deepened through the believing reception of greater revelations through the Word (John 2:22)[i] of the Triune God in His ontology and economy,[ii] particularly as seen in Christ the Mediator,[iii] and through their response, enabled by grace, of fuller surrender to and entrusting of themselves to Him.  Even the smallest degree of true confidence in, coming to, and cleaving to Christ will bring union with Him, and conseequently justification, sanctification, and all the other blessings of salvation, but one can cleave to Christ more closely, grow in confidence in Him, surrender more fully to Him, and entrust oneself more fully to Him.  Such a greater degree of trust in the Person of the Redeemer and in the Triune God, which is associated in Scripture with receipt of a fuller revelation of His nature and work through the Word, is growth in faith.  Through such an increase of faith the saints partake of an increase of spiritual life and fellowship with God.  Christ’s exercise of creative power in transforming water into the fruit of the vine in John 2 was a manifestation of His glory, in response to which His disciples, those who had already exercised saving faith, believed on Him in a deeper way (John 2:11).[iv]  His miracle, both an exercise of creative power such as pertained only to the eternal Jehovah and a manifestation of His grace and lovingkindness as the Provider for and Redeemer of His people, showed forth Christ’s glory as both the eternal Son of God and as the incarnate God-Man, and the faith of His disciples was directed towards Him[v] as all He was in Himself and on their behalf in a greater way as a consequence.  Furthermore, through the display of the Divine glory manifested by the incarnate Christ through His raising of Lazarus from the dead, His disciples were led to believe in Him in a deeper way (John 11:15).  Christ was revealed as One who, weeping over Lazarus’ death, could perfectly identify with human sorrow, and was filled to the fullest extent with perfect human love and sympathy (John 11:35-36), while He was also revealed as God the Word and the Father’s only begotten Son, as One who was Himself the Resurrection and the Life, and who, out of His infinite Divine love, could and would exercise the Almighty power of God to redeem His beloved ones from even that last enemy, death (John 11:25-27).  While revelation of the glory of God in Christ leads His people to deeper faith (John 2:11; 11:15), at the same time their response of faith to His Word is a condition of and a means to a greater revelation of His glory (John 11:40).[vi] Christ reveals Himself to His chosen ones, so that love that contemplates Him, faith that trusts in Him, and obedience that follows Him, is aroused the more in them.  To such faith, love, and obedience, Christ in turn responds by revealing Himself in yet clearer and clearer ways.  Christ also predicted His betrayal to strengthen His disciples’ faith in Him as the Messiah and as Jehovah, the I AM (John 13:19).[vii]  In John 14:1, Christ addressed His disciples:  “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”[viii]  His disciples had already believed, and were believing, in God, and already had come to saving faith in Christ, but the Lord exhorts them to a deeper faith in Himself as the One who is going to go away and come again to receive them to Himself, to a faith that clearly respects His humiliation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and mediatorial office (John 14:6, 29[ix]), to be added to their already extant justifying faith.  The Lord Jesus exhorts His disciples to a deeper faith in His Person in John 14:1, but does not there exhort His disciples to a deeper faith in the Father in particular, because the first Person of the Trinity is not the One who they would see in such a radically different light or have difficulty recognizing in light of the cross.[x]  Christ then proceeds to lead His disciples to a stronger faith in the Trinitarian perichoresis[xi] (cf. John 10:30, 38) and to Himself as the One in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily on account of His Word and works (John 14:10-12).[xii]  As a result of the discourse of John 14-16, the disciples, who had already come to saving faith in Christ with all of its permanent results, and consequently loved Him and were loved by the Father (John 16:27),[xiii] declared that they were now believing in a deeper way in Christ (John 16:30),[xiv] although the Lord warned them that their faith was still weak enough that it would not keep them from forsaking Him when He was betrayed (John 16:31-32),[xv] for stronger faith leads to a more decided stand for Christ against the world and to all other fruits of righteousness.  Unbelievers are exhorted to trust in the crucified Christ, and believers exhorted to a closer embrace of Christ in faith,[xvi] because of the revelation of His saving work, as predicted in the Old Testament, grounded in His substitutionary death, and producing justification and sanctification for those in union with Him (John 19:34-37).  Men should follow the pattern of a believing response to the Divine saving self-revelation in the crucifixion and resurrection by entrusting themselves to Christ as their own Lord and God (John 20:28-31) and becoming people who are believingly faithful (John 20:27).  Such a response of faith appeared in the Apostle John when, in light of the empty tomb, he “saw, and believed” (John 20:8), and in the Apostle Thomas when he saw and believed (John 20:29)[xvii] and was consequently no longer on the path to faithlessness, but was believing (John 20:27, 25), although in truth “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).[xviii]  All believers are in such a state of blessedness, for they have come to saving faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ[xix] and have consequently become believing and faithful people.  The record of Thomas’s response of faith to the crucified and resurrected Son of God as Redeemer, Lord, and God, contained as it is within the climax of the Gospel of John in chapter twenty,[xx] is set forth as a pattern for all men—those who are unconverted need to make a comparable faith response in Christ to enter into life, and those who are already converted need to continue to embrace Christ in faith ever the more fully, that they might experientially possess spiritual life in an ever higher degree, such earthly spiritual life being a sweet foretaste of the blessed fulness of life in the coming eschatological glory.  John’s Gospel is written “that ye might believe[xxi] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing[xxii] ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).  The revelation of the glory and salvation of Christ and God through the signs recorded in the Gospel are written so that people might come to initial saving faith, and that those who are believers might through a continuing and ever deeper entrustment of themselves to Christ experientially possess a greater fulness of life in all its senses—that is, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)—for life is not bare existence, or simply a future state of joy instead of pain, but knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3).  It is impossible for the unbeliever to possess any saving knowledge of God and Christ, while all believers possess such cognitive and experiential knowledge, but the believer’s knowledge, and thus his experience of spiritual and eternal life, can be deepened through repeated, stronger, and fuller responses to the revelation of his God and Savior in the Word.

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i]           In John 2:22, both the Old Testament Scripture and Christ’s audible speech during His earthly ministry are the Word of God (e˙pi÷steusan thØv grafhØv, kai« twˆ◊ lo/gwˆ wˆ— ei•pen oJ ∆Ihsouvß), which the disciples believe in regard to His resurrection (2:18-22).

[ii]           The “ontological Trinity [refers to] the internal, intratrinitarian distinctions ad intra or within the Godhead itself,” while the “economic Trinity [refers to] the offices or functions performed by each of the three members of the Trinity. The economic Trinity concerns the roles that each member performs in terms of the created order ad extra or outside of himself” (pgs. 954, 959, Dogmatic Theology, W. G. T. Shedd, 3rd. ed.  Phillipsburg, NJ:  Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003).  That is, the ontological Trinity is God as He is in Himself, while the economic Trinity is God as He is towards us.

[iii]          Brian Kay, in setting forth the Trinitarian spirituality of John Owen, effectively explains the connection between meditation on the Trinity and on Christ the Mediator:

[W]hat exactly is the connection between meditating on the Trinity in action and actual growth towards Christian maturity?  The best way to understand this may come by examining . . . another related question which is more specific:  how is meditating on Christ transformative for the believer?  These are related questions, of course, because . . . the prime ad extra act of the Trinity is to communicate Christ to the believer[.] . . . Thus, to meditate on the glory of Christ as Redeemer is to meditate on the most important work of the Trinity. . . . [A]pprehending Christ in his glory is not only the remedy for spiritual decays, but our apprehension of this glory is the spring of all our obedience and is also the controlling object of Christian affection because of Christ’s consuming beauty.  How is this contemplation so effective?  Two reasons . . . rise to the surface.  The first is that since the Spirit’s work is to fashion believers into the image of Christ’s human nature, the believer’s own transformation begins as he fills his mind with thoughts of the now glorified human nature of Christ [and other elements of His Theanthropic glory].  In other words, one slowly becomes what one fills one’s mind with . . . one becomes what one apprehends or gazes upon.  The connection between beholding and transformation comes also in the scriptural language “we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord[.”] . . .
         More deeply, a consideration by the worshipper of the very hypostatic union by which Christ’s human nature is united to [the] divine nature is especially powerful.  On one hand, diligently inspecting the Son of God’s condescension to take on human nature impresses the believer’s mind with the prototype of all Christian self-denial, for human obedience is similarly acting in self-denying submission to the will of the Father.  On the other hand, the hypostatic union presents to the mind a glorious mystery that exalts God’s ineffable wisdom in salvation. . . . [C]ontemplating . . . Christ as fully God and fully man . . . raises the human mind to new heights of both delight in God and progress in sanctification.  Somehow, such lofty thoughts of such an inexplicable union, yet a union made real by the Godhead as an act of love for those who would be saved because of it, moves the soul to humble worship and new sensations of appreciative delight. . . . [E]njoyment [is] the language of . . . meditating on Christ[.] . . . In the last analysis, the enjoyment of Christ is what drives out the enjoyment of sin, for the former causes the believer to lose his appetite for the latter.  The late-born Puritan Thomas Chalmers would express the same idea with the title of a sermon on the secret of dislodging fleshly appetites, “The Expulsive Power of a new Affection.” (pgs. 70-71, Trinitarian Spirituality, Brian Kay.  Some quotation marks have been removed and the traditional English generic pronoun restored.)

[iv]          tau/thn e˙poi÷hse th\n aÓrch\n tw◊n shmei÷wn oJ ∆Ihsouvß e˙n Kana◊Ø thvß Galilai÷aß, kai« e˙fane÷rwse th\n do/xan aujtouv: kai« e˙pi÷steusan ei˙ß aujto\n oi˚ maqhtai« aujtouv.  The specific manifestation of Christ’s glory in the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, and the specific belief in Him as a response to this particular manifestation of His glory, is specified by the aorists e˙fane÷rwse and e˙pi÷steusan.  Note that John 11:15, 40; 13:19; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29, 31; 1 John 3:23 also contain aorists.

[v]           pisteu/w + ei˙ß.

[vi]          e˙a»n pisteu/shØß, o¡yei th\n do/xan touv Qeouv.  While all present in John 11 saw the physical miracle of the raising of Lazarus, only those with spiritual sight could see the glory of God in Christ revealed by the miracle.

[vii]         aÓp∆ a‡rti le÷gw uJmi√n pro\ touv gene÷sqai, iºna, o¢tan ge÷nhtai, pisteu/shte o¢ti e˙gw¿ ei˙mi.

[viii]         Mh\ tarasse÷sqw uJmw◊n hJ kardi÷a: pisteu/ete ei˙ß to\n Qeo/n, kai« ei˙ß e˙me« pisteu/ete.  As in the Authorized Version, the first pisteu/ete is an indicative, while the second is an imperative;  cf. Non turbetur cor vestrum. Creditis in Deum, et in me credite (Vulgate).  Support for taking pisteu/ete in 14:1b as an imperative is also found in the present imperative pisteu/ete in 14:11 and the exhortation to pisteu/w in 14:10.

[ix]          The pisteu/shte of John 14:29 is a specific and deeper faith in Christ as all He has revealed Himself to be in John 14, specifically in Christ as the soon to be crucified and ascended Redeemer who would send the Spirit, and come again.

[x]           The pisteu/ete, both the indicative and the imperative, are in the present tense.  As the disciples were already believing in God, so they were to believe ever the more deeply in Christ as His saving work on their behalf was revealed to them in the Word and fulfilled in history.

[xi]          “[T]he Greek perichōrēsis (περιχώρησις), or emperichōrēsis . . . [is] used as a synonym of . . . circumincessio: circumincession or coinherence. . . . Circumincessio refers primarily to the coinherence of the persons of the Trinity in the divine essence and in each other, but it can also indicate the coinherence of Christ’s divine and human natures in their communion or personal union. (pgs. 67-68, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Richard A. Muller.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985).  The fact that the fulness of the Godhead is in the Theanthropos is the natural consequence in salvation-history of the ontological trinitarian circumincession.

[xii]         The question “Believest thou not[?]” (ouj pisteu/eiß) of 14:10 expects a positive answer.  Note that 14:11 subordinates belief based on Christ’s miracles to belief based on His Word.

[xiii]         The disciples already had a perfect tense faith (pepisteu/kate o¢ti e˙gw» para» touv Qeouv e˙xhvlqon, John 16:27), one which began at the moment of their regeneration and which had abiding results.

[xiv]         nuvn . . . pisteu/omen o¢ti aÓpo\ Qeouv e˙xhvlqeß.

[xv]         ⁄Arti pisteu/ete; i˙dou/, e¶rcetai w‚ra kai« nuvn e˙lh/luqen, iºna skorpisqhvte eºkastoß ei˙ß ta» i¶dia, kai« e˙me« mo/non aÓfhvte.  Their faith was deeper, but it still was far weaker than it should have been.

[xvi]         pisteu/shte, John 19:35.  The audience of the “that ye might believe” is the same as the audience of the gospel of John as a whole, 20:30-31.

[xvii]        Oti e˚w¿rakaß me, Qwma◊, pepi÷steukaß.

[xviii]       By means of Christ’s exhortation to Thomas to not become faithless and unbelieving, but faithful and believing (mh\ gi÷nou a‡pistoß, aÓlla» pisto/ß, John 20:27), accompanied by His effectual grace and power, Thomas was brought into a state of believing, having passed out of his position as one on the road to faithlessness to a state of faith and consequent faithfulness (pepi÷steukaß, 20:29, so that Thomas was now pisto/ß, not one on the path to a‡pistoß, 20:27).  John 20:27 contains the only references to the adjectives pisto/ß and a‡pistoß in the Gospel;  the noun pi/stiß does not appear in John’s Gospel.  A comparison with the Johannine epistles and Revelation, supported also by the context of John 20, indicates that the emphasis of pisto/ß/a‡pistoß in John 20:27 is faithfulness (1 John 1:9; 3 John 1:5; Revelation 1:5; 2:10, 13; 3:14; 17:14; 19:11; 21:5; 22:6 & Revelation 21:8) although, of course, such faithfulness is impossible without faith (3 John 5; Revelation 2:10, 13; 17:14; 21:8).  Thomas is exhorted to embrace the truth of the resurrection, with all that it involves about the Person and Office of Christ, and consequently become one who is faithful, not faithless (note the present imperative in mh\ gi÷nou a‡pistoß, aÓlla» pisto/ß; cf. gi÷nou pisto\ß a‡cri qana¿tou, Revelation 2:10, and the discussion on pgs.121ff. of A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 1, J. H. Moulton).  As Christ’s exhortation is accompanied by His Almighty power, Thomas does indeed respond in faith to Christ’s self-revelation, confess Him as Lord and God, and become one who is believing and faithful (pepi÷steukaß, 20:29).  The believing response in the Apostle Thomas is a paradigm of the faith of the normal Christian, the one who has not seen, and yet has believed, and so is blessed (maka¿rioi oi˚ mh\ i˙do/nteß, kai« pisteu/santeß, John 20:29);  such a believing response is the purpose of the Gospel (John 20:30-31).

[xix]         Thomas’s faith-response to the revelation of Christ is set forth as a pattern by John for the response of faith in the conversion of the lost and for the continuing faith-response to greater revelations of the Person and work of Christ by the Christian, although, in light of 1 Corinthians 15, the specific doubt about the bodily resurrection of Christ by Thomas is not possible for the child of God in the fully inagurated dispensation of grace as it was for the disciples in the pre-resurrection and ascension period.  Indeed, John 20, in its context, clearly teaches that rejecting the resurrection is an the act of the unregenerate, and Christ prevents Thomas from reaching that point through His command, accompanied by His effectual grace, in 20:27.

[xx]         For a helpful outline of John’s Gospel, its themes, purpose, and plan, see “The Purpose of the Fourth Gospel, Part I” and “The Plan of the Fourth Gospel, Part II,” by W. H. Griffith Thomas, Bibliotheca Sacra 125:499 (July 1968) 254-263 & 125:500 (October 1968) 313-324.

[xxi]         iºna pisteu/shte, “that ye might come to initial saving faith in Christ,” the first purpose of the Gospel of John, a fact supported by the aorist tense verb.  (The aorist, found in the Textus Receptus and 99.5% of Greek MSS, is indubitably the correct reading.)

[xxii]        iºna pisteu/onteß zwh\n e¶chte e˙n twˆ◊ ojno/mati aujtouv, “that you might through continuing deeper and fuller entrusting of and surrender to Christ, be having life in every greater spiritual fulness through Christ’s name,” the second purpose of the Gospel of John, a fact supported by the present tense verbs.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who Loves Jesus?

I talked to someone I know really well and knows me really well, who also knows other professing Christians very well.  This person I know really well is not very discerning, but he thinks he's very discerning, which is a bad combination.  I've met other people like that.  If they don't change, it doesn't turn out very well for them.  This person to whom I talked thinks I love Jesus, but he doesn't treat me as though I love Jesus like another professing Christian, who is emergent, does.  He seems convinced that this emergent guy might love Jesus more or better or more sincerely at least.  This person has said two positive things about me, to me:  that I know the Bible very, very well, and that I am a hard worker.  When I criticized this emergent, he said, "But he loves Jesus."

When I said that this person doesn't have discernment, the above is a part of what I'm talking about, a very important part.  You'll hear someone talking, like the above person, and he says, "They're Charismatic, but they really, really love Jesus."  "They're Roman Catholic, but they really, really love Jesus."  When someone says he loves Jesus, conversation over, because he must really love Jesus.  He said it.

Whether Jesus loves me or I love Jesus is very basic to Christianity, to a proper theological understanding.  May I say something about Cain, of Cain and Abel?  Cain loved God.  How do I know?  He knew where God could be met.  He met God.  He brought God an offering.  He grew up in a godly home.  He brought God his best.  He brought God of his own labor.  All of that says to me that he loved God.  And yet he didn't love God.  We've got to have some discernment about what we say is loving Jesus and about who we say loves Jesus.  I use Cain, because even the "love Jesus" guys would say Cain didn't love God, and yet Cain had it more together than those people who say they "love Jesus."

I hear people singing songs "to Jesus" that sound like pop singers sing to their girlfriends.  They're "loving Jesus."  They might even be considered to have some kind of authentic love for Jesus, since they use that type of sound and song.  It's to the point that many young people especially think that the 'girlfriend song' does a better job at saying "I love Jesus" than an old hymn.

A very basic consideration must be, "How do we love Jesus?"  Sentimentalism.  Sappiness.  Eyes clinched.  Hands raised.  Those are not evidences of loving Jesus.   Most likely, almost certainly, those people do not love Jesus.

A very basic answer to this very basic consideration is that Jesus wants His commandments, words, and sayings obeyed.  That is loving Jesus.  So if someone knows the Bible very, very well, and then works really hard at doing what it says, that very likely is loving Jesus.  Real love beats sentimentalism.  Somebody who studies what Jesus said for a really long time (because he loves Him) and then puts what he studies into practice, works hard at it (because he loves Him), is loving Jesus.

Much more could be said here, but I want you to take it into consideration.  My biblical knowledge of Jesus clashes with sappiness, sensuality, rock rhythms, and worldliness, in relationship to Jesus. Jesus may be a friend to us, but I don't relate to Him like a buddy or a pal and especially like a girlfriend.  That's not how I express love to him.  That level of disrespect for him is not love.  It's essentially self-serving.  It's so incompatible with Jesus that I hate that perceived love.  That love should be hated.  If someone loves that love, it says to me that he doesn't know Jesus.  You won't love Jesus if you don't know Him.

All of the above could bring me to another question, which I'll perhaps explore with you another time, and that's the statement, "Jesus loves me."  I read someone retweeting Mark Driscoll saying something about "Jesus loves me."  "Jesus loves me" has become a go-to statement too for professing Christians.  They feel "Jesus accepts me" from that statement.  It's true that Jesus loves them, but that doesn't mean they are in fellowship with Him or reconciled to Him or at peace with Him.  In most cases today, it's most likely that even though He loves them, He's also going to cast them into Hell.  But that's another topic.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pandering: The Actual Tie that Binds Most of American Churches

It's attributed to professional baseball player Mark Grace, "If you're not cheatin', you're not tryin'."  Christians can't support that particular credo.  Christians aren't supposed to cheat.  It's not Christian to cheat.  But Christians do.

Pandering is a type of cheating.  Jesus has His will.  He has a way church is to be accomplished, how people are added to His kingdom.  Instead of depending on Him and following His ways, the church in America especially has been cheating.  By pandering.  They have pandered to the American public for awhile in different ways and to different degrees to 'get' and then keep people.  And now churches are doing it more than ever.  It's a disgusting form of cheating by churches.

There is only one Bible and one truth, but there is a tremendous amount of doctrinal and practical divergence between churches in America.  There is a lack of commonality between churches, except in one way, that being pandering.  What churches have most in common today, as I see it, is pandering.  They might not agree in belief or practice, but most of them pander.  They do it with pride.  They're proud of their pandering.

Pandering in churches closely relates to the Mark Grace statement.  Winning is important in America.  Churches don't want to lose.  Rather than lose, they would rather cheat.   And what the cheating churches do in order to keep from losing is pandering.

I think many American churches would say they dislike the pandering of race hustlers and politicians.  They expose their type of pandering.  Shameless pandering.   And yet they themselves pander.  They don't see it as shameless pandering, but it is.  Is it worse when it's churches that are doing the pandering?

What am I talking about?

Pandering is to cater to lower or baser desires.  It is a means of appeal for support by indulging or gratifying the audience with something it wants.

How do churches pander?

Much of American church growth has become related to pandering.  What first comes to my mind is the halfway covenant of colonial America, in which churches changed the requirements for membership in order to indulge those who needed it to further their social agendas.  Later Charles Finney wrote in 1835:

Without new measures it is impossible that the Church should succeed in gaining the attention of the world to religion. There are so many exciting subjects constantly brought before the public mind . . . that the Church cannot maintain her ground without sufficient novelty in measures, to get the public ear. The measures of politicians, of infidels, and heretics, the scrambling after wealth, the increase of luxury, and the ten thousand exciting and counteracting influences that bear upon the Church and upon the world, will gain men's attention, and turn them away from the sanctuary and from the altars of the Lord, unless we increase in wisdom and piety, and wisely adopt such new measures as are calculated to get the attention of men to the Gospel of Christ. . . .  It is evident that we must have more arousing preaching, to meet the character and wants of the age. Ministers are generally beginning to find this out. And some of them complain of it . . . The character of the age is changed, but these men retain the same stiff, dry, prosing style of preaching, that answered half a century ago.

Pandering.  Moody, Sunday, and then Rodeheaver followed in that same path (Scott Aniol writes and documents this here and here).  Os Guinness argues:

The Christian faith is unrivaled among the world religions for its genius in innovation and adaptation.  And no branch of the Christian faith has demonstrated this genius more than the evangelical movement. . . . Fundamentalism . . . prides itself on being world-denying by definition.  Today it has become world-affirming in a worldlier and more compromising way than . . . liberalism.

Relying on a study entitled, "The Rise of Evangelical Youth Movements" (among others), Richard Kyle writes:

Groups . . . engaged in youth work . . . thoroughly accommodated themselves to American culture. . . .  [T]hese youth groups did not ignore the pop culture.  Rallies were a Christianized form of entertainment, tailored for the youth.  The music was lively, celebrities gave their testimonies, and the leaders dressed in the latest styles.

More pandering.

If you grew up in an American church, you probably grew up with pandering.  I did in the 60s.  If they weren't cheatin', they weren't tryin'.  If you weren't pandering, you weren't tryin' to get bigger, tryin' to grow.  I rode the church bus, where every week there were handouts.  There were prizes upon prizes in junior church. There were promotions and marketing campaigns of many different types catering to the fleshly desires of lost people.  We had an M and M Sunday, where packages of M and M's were given along with the Musician and the Magician, and more.

Our family moved to Wisconsin and the youth were pandered to. We had to be constantly entertained by the church with regular youth activities.  Our Christian college pandered.  I participated in the pandering because it was fun.  When I traveled with the college, I was in churches that took pandering to completely different depths than I had ever witnessed.  We visited one youth room with posters of Christian rock stars on the walls.  I remember our bus breaking down and our choir crowded into a 40 seat auditorium with a tiny platform three quarters filled with the drum trap set and the other quarter with their multi-colored mush microphones.  I've seen many of those stages since then.

Let me give examples of how widespread and accepted pandering has become.  It stretches across and bridges almost every "camp" of evangelical Christianity.  A major form of pandering are the indulgences offered the lost to interest them in church ("the sacred").   Several churches still have an incredible ratio of unbelievers attending their churches every Sunday based on pandering.  You can visit churches with 2000 in their services, over a 1000 of which are unsaved kids lured in by fleshly goodies.  They keep coming until they get bored with whatever is being handed out.  In the meantime, they are totally desensitized to the sacred through the pandering to which they are exposed by professing Bible-believing and practicing churches.  If you criticize this method, this pandering, you will be attacked as uncaring and not compassionate, most likely slandered. These same people say they are against racial pandering, and yet they have hundreds of black kids in an almost exclusively white church, because they lure them in with candy and toys and games.  They say they are feeding them.  If they were feeding them, why not try something healthy, like spinach salad with balsamic vinegar dressing, and see how many still come "to be fed."  This method is sick and it's still being done all over.   I say, "Shame on you!"  All of you.

Methods like I mentioned above, which are pandering, are justified because "kids get saved."  How do kids get saved?  Isn't it the gospel?  Please don't say it's because of a sno-cone.  Please don't.  That is offensive to God.  Dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of these kids are turned away from church permanently, when they are through being pandered to.  A minuscule few make it all the way through, very few, especially compared to those who eject.

I don't know where Hybels and Warren and their kind of pandering stem from, but it wouldn't surprise me that they looked at what Hyles did and just erased some of the scruples Hyles held, that kept him from the extent of the seeker sensitive movement.  Now you've even got Calvinists, the young, restless, and reformed using similar methodology.  John MacArthur uses it in his church and has with the Resolved Conference, where they pandered to the youth culture with their music and dress.  People grow up no longer able to discern between what is holy and what is profane.  That's easy to see.

Evangelical and fundamentalist colleges pander to get students.  They attract students with fleshly means.  Pensacola Christian College uses the symbol of the palm tree, even though they aren't native to that area of Northern Florida, attempting to lure people in with the symbolism of the beach culture.  The Master's College panders.  Christian colleges most often compete for students by pandering to a lower common denominator.

Churches pander by softening their approach to certain sinful practices and not preaching against certain sins.  They pander with short sermons laced with stand-up comedy.  They pander by offering programs to indulge people with special interests.   Certain academics choose to fellowship in a wide range of associations to make their position seem more credible.  There are exponential further examples.

Pandering ultimately comes out of insecurity, a lack of trust in God, a dissatisfaction with the sufficiency of scripture, pragmatism, or worldliness.  The solution is contentment with biblical practice out of one's completion in Christ.  God is not honored by pandering.  Pandering says God is not enough or less than whatever is used to cater to a fleshly desire.

Let us all consider whether pandering is part of what we do.

Friday, August 23, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 21

     Finally, Paul[i] also quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in the book of Hebrews.  Based on the foundation of justification by faith, Paul’s quotation in Hebrews 10:38 emphasizes the perseverance that results from genuine saving faith.[ii]  Warfield notes:
“That in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is the general idea of faith, or, to be more exact, the subjective nature of faith, that is dwelt upon, rather than its specific object, is not due to a peculiar conception of what faith lays hold upon, but to the particular task which fell to its writer in the work of planting Christianity in the world. With him, too, the person and work of Christ are the specific object of faith (Hebrews 13:7, 8; 3:14; 10:22). But the danger against which, in the providence of God, he was called upon to guard the infant flock, was not that it should fall away from faith to works, but that it should fall away from faith into despair. His readers were threatened not with legalism but with ‘shrinking back’ (Hebrews 10:39), and he needed, therefore, to emphasize not so much the object of faith as the duty of faith. Accordingly, it is not so much on the righteousness of faith as on its perfecting that he insists; it is not so much its contrast with works as its contrast with impatience that he impresses on his readers’ consciences; it is not so much to faith specifically in Christ and in Him alone that he exhorts them as to an attitude of faith—an attitude which could rise above the seen to the unseen, the present to the future, the temporal to the eternal, and which in the midst of sufferings could retain patience, in the midst of disappointments could preserve hope. This is the key to the whole treatment of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews—its definition as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1); its illustration and enforcement by the example of the heroes of faith in the past, a list chosen and treated with the utmost skill for the end in view (11.); its constant attachment to the promises (Hebrews 4:1, 2; 6:12; 10:36, 38; 11:9); its connexion with the faithfulness (Hebrews 11:11; cf. 10:23), almightiness (Hebrews 11:19), and the rewards of God (Hebrews 11:6, 26); and its association with such virtues as boldness (Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19, 35), confidence (Hebrews 3:14; 11:1), patience (Hebrews 10:36; 12:1), [and] hope (Hebrews 3:6; 6:11, 18; 10:23)” (“The Biblical Doctrine of Faith,” Biblical Doctrines, Warfield, vol. 2 of Works).
Those who are truly just, Paul teaches, will live by faith:  “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”[iii]  The just, those who believe to the saving[iv] of their souls, all the people of God, are contrasted with those who apostatize instead of persevering, who “draw back unto perdition”[v] and are eternally damned.  Paul sets forth this truth as an encouragement to the believing Hebrews to persevere in the faith despite persecution and as a warning to those who would apostatize from Christ and return to the shadows of Judaism that they will receive, not freedom from persecution only, but with it God’s eternal curse and everlasting damnation.  Those who respond in faith to the gospel (Hebrews 4:2) have more than a bare faith in God (Hebrews 6:1, cf. v. 1-9), but a kind of faith that will be mixed with patience and therefore will receive an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 6:12), a kind of faith that brings with it the purified heart of the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:22; 8:8-12).  The heros of the Old Testament recalled in Hebrews 11 are the justified, those who obtain a good report and will be perfected in eternal glory with those of the first century who persevered in like manner (Hebrews 11:2, 39-40);  they are the just who live by faith, those who believe to the saving of their souls, those just men made perfect who enter the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:23) and are a great cloud of witnesses to encourage the Hebrews in Paul’s day to persevere (Hebrews 12:1), even as the godly Christian preachers known to the recipients of Hebrews had a saving faith that led them to a blessed eternity with Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:7-8), in contrast with those in whom God has no pleasure (cf. Hebrews 10:38; 11:5-6), those who draw back to perdition (Hebrews 10:38-39). 

            Thus, explicating Hebrews 10:38-39, Hebrews 11 supplies an extensive analysis of how genuine faith, that possessed by those that believe to the saving of the soul, appeared in the life of Old Testament believers.  The “by faith”[vi] refrain of chapter 11  indicates that the Old Testament worthies acted as they did both because of the presence of genuine faith in them and through the instrumentality of that faith.  The chapter does not affirm that they were free from the effects of indwelling sin, or that they never experienced spiritual declensions, but it does teach that, as people of genuine faith, they possessed a graciously given predominent bent towards God that manifested itself in a life characterized by faithfulness and acts of faith.  The servants of God in Hebrews 11, therefore, do not represent a second or higher class of Christian, but all those truly in the kingdom of God their recognized Creator (Hebrews 11:1-3), the just or righteous (Hebrews 10:38; 11:4) who please God (11:5-6), who are righteous by faith and receive salvation (11:7), who will, like Abraham and Sarah, enter the heavenly city (11:8-19), who look for future reward and therefore suffer affliction with the people of God instead of enjoying the temporary pleasures of sin (11:25-26, cf. 20-26), who forsake the heathen and are not destroyed with them (27-31), and who live by faith in whatever circumstances God places them in and enjoy the resurrection to life with an abundant reward (32-38), receiving the promise of eternal inheritance with the rest of those who possess true faith and consequently persevere (9:15; 11:39-40).  That is, Hebrews 11 teaches both that justification is simply by faith and sets forth the pattern of the life of faith that will mark the justified.[vii] Since the elders obtained a good report simply by faith (11:1-2), works do not justify;  nevertheless, those who have such a good report will manifest that they are just or righteous by acts such as Abel’s worship of God even at the cost of martyrdom, and will, after their life by faith as just men, enter into eternal blessedness.[viii]  They will be resurrected with the just because in their lifetime they pleased God,[ix] as did Enoch (11:5), by faith (11:6).  Like all the righteous of chapter 11, their good report before God in justification will issue in sanctification (11:39).[x]  Those who would inherit “the righteousness which is by faith” will stand for God against the opposition of the world like Noah did when he built the ark (11:7).  Those with saving faith will follow the example of Abraham, who “by faith . . . obeyed” God’s call, even at the cost of separation from one’s kindred and way of life for a wandering existence as a stranger and foreigner (11:8-9), because enduring such earthly trials to inherit the New Jerusalem is worthwhile (11:10).  Saving faith recognizes the validity of God’s promises, as Sarah did, even if they seem impossible (11:11-12).  Saving faith not only intellectually apprehends and is persuaded of God’s promises, but embraces them, resulting in an open confession of and identification with Him, His ways, and His people (11:13), and an open declaration of a preference for His heavenly country (11:14, 16) because of an inward preference for such a holy land and for its holy King—one who truly inwardly prefers this world to God’s coming kingdom will find an occasion to turn back from the way of faith and spiritual and everlasting life (11:15).  True believers are not ashamed of God, and He is not ashamed of them, but has prepared an eternal city for them.[xi]  They characteristically respond in faith to trials, as Abraham did when he put God’s command before his own son Isaac (11:17-19).  They have respect to the promises of God and act in accordance with them, as did Isaac (11:20).[xii]  Saving faith has respect to the Divine promises even to the time of death and manifests itself in a true heart of worship, as seen in Jacob and Joseph (11:21-22).  Saving faith fears God rather than man, and honors Him even if the government commands the contrary, as seen in Moses’ parents (11:23).  Saving faith identifies with the people of God and their worship, esteems reproach for Christ greater riches than worldly treasures, forsakes the world, and endures, because it looks to the coming eternal reward, as Moses did (11:24-28).  Faith exposes its possessors to what appear to be severe physical dangers if required by the command of God, as is evident in Israel’s passing through the Red Sea, whose waters could, were they not restrained by God, have drowned the whole nation as they did the Egyptian army (11:29).  Faith will fight the spiritual warfare to which God has called His people in accordance with His commandment (11:30), as seen in Israel’s conquest of Jericho.  Faith will lead believers to protect God’s servants even at great personal risk, so that those who possess it, as didRahab, will not perish with those who are unbelievers (11:31).[xiii]  Indeed, the Old Testament validates that faith is the cause and instrument for both obtaining spiritual victories and for possessing an overcoming endurance of extreme suffering, torture, and martyrdom for Christ’s sake (11:32-38).  Since such Old Testament heros received life and lived by faith, Paul concludes, so must the Hebrews endure and overcome by faith if they are to obtain the promise of eternal life (11:39-12:1)—indeed, they must look to and follow the greatest Pattern of all of overcoming endurance, Jesus Christ Himself (12:2-3).  As they took up the cross to follow Christ at the moment of their conversion, so must they continue to follow Him.  As Habakkuk made clear, the book of Hebrews affirms that the just not only enter into life by faith but also live by faith during their earthly pilgrimage and consequently enter into their promised eternal inheritance.  The complete idea taught in Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4 appears, although with differences of emphasis, in all the New Testament quotations of the Old Testament text in James, Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews.

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i]           There are many convincing works defending the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, from John Owen’s “Of the Penman of the Epistle to the Hebrews” in his Exercitations on the Epistle to the Hebrews in vol. 17 of his complete works, to Charles Forster’s The Apostolic Authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: James Duncan, 1838), to William Leonard’s Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Critical Problem and Use of the Old Testament(Rome:  Vatican Polyglot Press, 1939), to more modern works.  However, the testimony of Scripture itself to the Pauline authorship of the Apostle’s 14th epistle is conclusive.  2 Peter 3:15-16 indicates that Paul wrote an inspired epistle, a work that is part of the New Testament canon, to the Jewish diaspora (2 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 1:1; cf. James 1:1).  Since Paul’s other thirteen inspired and canonical epistles are written to specific Gentile churches, the book of Hebrews must be the Pauline epistle that Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3:15-16.
[iii]          oJ de« di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setaikai« e˙a»n uJpostei÷lhtaioujk eujdokei√ hJ yuchmou e˙n aujtwˆ◊. hJmei√ß de« oujk e˙sme«n uJpostolhvß ei˙ß aÓpw¿leianaÓlla» pi÷stewß ei˙ß peripoi÷hsin yuchvß.
            The critical text corruption that changes Paul’s oJ de« di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai into oJ de« di÷kaio/ß mou e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai in Hebrews 10:38 contradicts the Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:4 and Paul’s own method of quoting the passage in Romans and Galatians.  The Textus Receptus follows 97% of Greek MSS, while the critical text corruption follows the remaining 3%.  There is even evidence in the MSS of the LXX for oJ de« di÷kaioß e˙kpi÷stewß zh/setai rather than oJ de« di÷kaio/ß mou e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai.
[iv]          While aÓpw¿leia is a word Scripture reserves, in spiritual judgments, to the unregenerate, peripoi÷hsiß, “saving” in Hebrews 10:39, is employed only of blessings upon the people of God (Ephesians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 10:39; 1 Peter 2:9).
[v]           The proud person, the wóø;b wäøvVpÅn hñ∂rVvÎy_aøl h$DlVÚpUo of Habakkuk 2:4a, is the one who draws back (uJpostei÷lhtai) in Habakkuk 2:4a, LXX—the passage identifies him as an unsaved person.  Furthermore, “perdition,” aÓpw¿leia, is never used in the New Testament of a spiritual judgment that a saved person can undergo, but is very regularly used of the eternal damnation of the unregenerate (cf. the complete list of uses:  Matthew 7:13; 26:8; Mark 14:4; John 17:12; Acts 8:20; 25:16; Romans 9:22; Philippians 1:28; 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 2:1–3; 3:7, 16; Revelation 17:8, 11).  Note also sunapo/llumi for the fate of unbelievers in Hebrews 11:31.
[vi]          pi÷stei.
[vii]         Compare John Owen’s extensive exposition of chapter 11 in his Exposition of Hebrews.
[viii]         Hebrews 10:38; 11:4; 12:23 are the only texts with di÷kaioß in Hebrews, and they all refer to the same sort of person.  Those who are the just will live like just Abel, and then enter into the eternal home of just men made perfect.
[ix]          eujhresthke÷nai twˆ◊ Qewˆ◊.  eujareste÷w appears in the NT only in Hebrews 11:5-6; 13:16.  As in Hebrews 11:5-6 those with saving faith please God, so in Hebrews 13:16 God is pleased with the good deeds and charitable sharing with needy fellow Christians that arise out of a heart established with grace, rather than being pleased with the sacrifices performed by the unconverted Jews who would call the Christian Hebrews back to the shadows of the ceremonial law (13:7-17).
[x]           Note the continuity demonstrated in the uses marture÷w in Hebrews 11:
11:2 e˙n tau/thØ ga»r e˙marturh/qhsan oi˚ presbu/teroi.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
11:4 pi÷stei plei÷ona qusi÷an ⁄Abel para» Ka¿iœn prosh/negke twˆ◊ Qewˆ◊, di∆ h∞ß e˙marturh/qh ei•nai di÷kaioß, marturouvntoß e˙pi« toi√ß dw¿roiß aujtouv touv Qeouvkai« di∆ aujthvß aÓpoqanw»n e¶ti lalei√.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
11:5 pi÷stei ∆Enw»c metete÷qh touv mhi˙dei√n qa¿natonkai« oujc euJri÷sketodio/ti mete÷qhken aujto\n oJ Qeo/ß: pro\ ga»r thvß metaqe÷sewß aujtouv memartu/rhtai eujhresthke÷nai twˆ◊ Qewˆ◊:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
11:39 kai« ou∞toi pa¿nteß, marturhqe÷nteß dia» thvß pi÷stewßoujk e˙komi÷santo th\n e˙paggeli÷an,
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
[xi]          Hebrews 11:16;  cf. 2:11; Romans 9:33; 10:9-11; 1 Peter 2:6.
[xii]         Genesis 27, which is referred to in Hebrews 11:20, illustrates both the true faith present in Isaac and that serious sins and manifestations of corruption from indwelling sin can be present in those with saving faith.
[xiii]         Note that the section from 11:4-31 begins with a plain statement that acts of faith manifest the presence of spiritual life in the just or righteous and are instrumental in holy practice (11:4) and ends with an indication that those who do not possess those products of faith in the life will perish as unbelievers (11:31).