Thursday, December 30, 2010
The Necessity of Poetry in the Praise of God
I knew that if you were a Christian, you had to like poetry. I want to help you with that, to explain to you the necessity of poetry in the praise of God. We were created for the praise of God and poetry is indispensable to that. Why is poetry necessary?
1. The Psalms Are Poetry and Inspired by God
This is the most obvious reason. If you don't like poetry, you don't like the Psalms, because they are poetry. If God inspired poetry, then He too likes poetry. That would mean that if you didn't like poetry, you don't like something that God does like. None of us should expect God to change His taste, but we should alter ours to conform to His. We could stop here, but we will go on.
There are reasons, I believe, that God inspired poetry and likes poetry. We know He does because of the Psalms, but now I want us to think about why He inspired and likes poetry.
2. God Deserves Greatness and Skill
Four times Scripture says "great is the Lord and greatly to be praised" (1 Chron 16:25, Ps 48:1, 96:4, 145:3). God is great so deserves great praise. God wants skillful praise (1 Chron 15:22, Ps 33:3).
Psalm-like poetry requires skill. It requires great and skillful word choice and meter and metaphor. Poetry asks for more time and thought to put the words together. God is given that effort and He is worth it. We can write non-poetry and spend far less time to put the words together. Poetry makes us stop to get the word order and adjectives and verbs and nouns right. This pause is the essence of waiting on God, not moving ahead to get done, but slowing down to make sure that all the words work together.
3. To Understand Poetry about God, We Must Love God More with Our Minds
God should captivate the thoughts of those created in His image. To comprehend all of what a poem says, we must think over the words again and again. We must mull them over, regurgitate them in our minds, meditate upon them. Our flesh is repulsed by that kind of mental labor, but it will be the discipline of those who love God. We are to cast down imaginations that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). On the other hand, we should embrace the imaginations that exalt the Lord God. With the exercise of poetry, we are afforded the opportunity to love God with our minds. The thoughts required to ascertain even one line of poetry will yield more and more truth about Him.
4. The Form of Poetry Mirrors Attributes of God
The symmetry and structure of poetry fits the character of God. God is a God of order. A certain mathematical precision exists in poetry that aligns itself with the nature of God. Since God's Word was settled in heaven before the foundation of the world, God invented poetry. Poetry exists because God exists, and poetry as a form reveals something about God that no other form can.
Poetry and Good Poetry
As I talk about poetry, I hesitate to call all poetry, well, poetry. It reminds me of the debate about culture---does it reflect reality or cause it? We should start with the form and content of what God calls poetry. That would reveal to us something about God and, therefore, about beauty. What is lovely is defined by God (Philippians 4:8). With objective truth, which comes from God, comes objective beauty. Psalm 96:9 says that it is the beauty of His holiness. True beauty is separated unto God, affiliated with His majesty. We would find that represented in His creation and in His Word, God's revelation of Himself.
In biblical poetry, the psalms, we see creation and biblical history used as figures of speech, the descriptors that reflect the symmetry and substance of God. Good poetry will contain those same reflectors of God's majesty. God defines beauty.
In the history of English literature, both British and American, good poetry has strong similarities with the poetry of the poetic books of scripture. They provide the elements of good poetry. We can judge the quality of the poems by their parallel with God's Word.
Poetry that is offered as praise to God should be good poetry. The best English poetry was written previous to the 20th century. Today we might not identify with that poetry. We might not even like it. However, for praise we should change our taste to what reflects what we know God wants to hear. These poems are being offered to God as worship. They should be the best. Perhaps some poems today are like those poems. We do well to consider this.
We shouldn't care what people like. Worship is what God wants. What He wants is the best, and the older English poetry in content and form is superior to almost all of the modern. For this reason among others, our church sings out of the Trinity Hymnal, Baptist edition, and the Comprehensive Psalter. The former has the best English poetry in a hymnal and the latter are the best versification of the Hebrew Psalms.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Jerome's Preface to the Canonical Epistles--Ancient Evidence for 1 John 5:7
Monday, December 20, 2010
The King James Version and the Doctrine of Separation
Northland and Matt Olson invited Rick Holland to preach in chapel. Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran are joining Mark Dever on the platform of Tim Jordan and Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. To explain, Matt Olson sends out a public letter and preaches a couple of chapel sermons, and Kevin Bauder writes a now 24 part series, which publishes at SharperIron. How do these relate to the Bible version issue? That's probably hard to figure out if you didn't know fundamentalist politics. Here's the gist of it: KJVO (King James Version Only) fundamentalists are worse than Holland and Dever, which explains Bauder and Olson's fellowship with Holland and Dever---if fundamentalism doesn't cut out its KJVOists then Holland and Dever shouldn't be a problem. Or stated differently: if they're closer to Holland and Dever than these KJVOists, then they'll just get together with Holland and Dever. If someone is going to criticize them for Holland and Dever, then someone may need to criticize John Vaughn for preaching with Clarence Sexton and Jack Schaap. So there we go.
I don't really care if Northland has Olson or Bauder speaks with Dever. I don't. It doesn't change anything for me as it relates to those two men and their institutions. However, I have to say something about the way the Bible version issue is being represented as a part of their explanation for getting there. I see at least four parts to the problem. Not necessarily in this order, but, first, schismatics, second, bibliology, third, history, and, fourth, stupidity. These events and then proceeding debate indicates the impossibility in fundamentalism to sort out unity and separation.
In the debate that followed the publishing of Bauder's article at SharperIron, the charge of schismaticism against KJVOers was used as a reason for separating from them. In other words, many KJVOers are schismatics, that is, they cause division over the Bible version issue. The correct position would be not dividing over differences in Bible version. According to them, it is permissible to divide over certain doctrines, but not that one. If you do, you're a schismatic.
One wrote this:
The real issue is divisiveness. If a KJVOer mistakenly believes only one translation has value, it is a relatively minor problem. If he is divisive, demanding that everyone agree, etc, the minor problem becomes major. But the problem isn't really his view on translations, but his divisiveness -- a problem of the heart not the head, a problem of pride.
I believe this comment represents what fundamentalists are saying about schismatics over Bible versions. Is what he writes true? He is saying that differing on the Word of God is acceptable, but dividing over it isn't. He is saying that you're not wrong to differ on what the Word of God is, but you are wrong to divide over the differences. He is saying that you can't divide over the usage of the ESV or NIV without being a schismatic. Why? Where does Scripture tell us this? What passage in the Bible do we base this upon? I'd like to know.
From reading Bauder's latest article, I'm supposed to understand that we've got no problem with fellowship despite a different mode or recipient of baptism, but I do if I separate over Bible versions. And none of this is supposed to be confusing? It's only not confusing if you have a handle on fundamentalist politics. Knowing the Bible won't help you at all with getting how they come to make their decisions on separation and unity.
"Schismatic" relates to division, and division is a church (local) issue---period. A heretic, a schismatic, causes division in his church (see Titus 3:10-11). Division in "fundamentalism" or "evangelicalism" or in a certain branch of fundamentalism isn't heresy or schismaticism. They throw schismatic around like the pope threw around the term "heretic" during the Spanish inquisition. These people want to bring people into line with their own sacral society with their use of the label "heretic" or "schismatic," just like the pope did. I suggest that everyone just ignore this concept of division or heresy or schismatic. This fundamentalist false view of unity is much more dangerous than a division over Bible versions. These are men that can't persuade of their position on Bible versions, so they use these labels to frighten people, just like the pope did.
The issue of Bible versions is a matter of faith. #1, does the Bible teach that God would preserve every Word? Answer: yes. #2, does the Bible teach that every Word would be available for every Christian of every generation? Answer: yes. #3, does the Bible teach that God's Word would be perfect? Answer: yes.
If you have the text behind a version with 7% variation from another one, they can't both be the same. With what I see the Bible teach about preservation, I can't overlook the variation. I can't say they are the same. I won't say they are the same. I won't say they are the same like I won't say that rock music and classical music are the same. They are not. I can't say the differences don't matter. God inspired every Word.
There is no way that the text that is the basis for the modern versions could be the Words of God. They can't. They weren't available for hundreds and hundreds of years. That would conflict with what the Bible teaches about its own preservation.
The Bible version issue is a doctrinal one. The modern version people don't believe what the Bible says about itself. At the most, they will say that they believe that God has preserved every Word in the multiplicity of the manuscripts, but upon further investigation, you will find that they don't even believe that. Most, if not all, don't believe we have a manuscript with the words of 1 Samuel 13:1 in it. Mike Harding wrote in God's Word in Our Hands (p. 361):
I believe the original Hebrew text (of 1 Samuel 13:1) also reads “thirty,” even though we do not currently possess a Hebrew manuscript with that reading.
So they don't even believe #1. And they don't believe #2 and #3. And what do #1, #2, and #3 have to do with the authority of Scripture? They would say that the errors in what they possess don't affect authority. They know they do. Everyone knows they do. The uncertainty about the Words takes away from authority.
You get beliefs #1, #2, and #3 from Scripture. So if you don't believe those, where are you getting your beliefs on those? You aren't getting them from the Bible. They get upset if we say they are getting them from rationalism, when there seems to be a load of evidence that say they do. Does it matter how they got them? I think it would be helpful for them to try to connect the dots. I think they are easy to connect, but why not start with placing faith in what God said?
So when I separate, I separate over these doctrines. You can't be a modern or multiple version person and not reject at least #2 and #3. Is less than a perfect Bible a separating issue? Doesn't a rejection of those doctrines reflect on the veracity of God too, since He inspired those doctrines? Will propagating a false doctrine or even just accepting a false doctrine on these have an impact on people? Does it affect the Great Commission, which says that we are to teach the new believers all things that Jesus commanded? If we get blessing from reading all the Words of the prophecy of Revelation (1:3), will people not get the blessing God promised if they read only some of the Words?
Mike Harding cut and pasted this in response to Bauder's article:
The FBFI affirms the orthodox, historic, and, most importantly, Biblical doctrine of inspiration, affirming everything the Bible claims for itself, and rejecting, as a violation of Revelation 22:18-19, any so-called doctrine, teaching, or position concerning inspiration, preservation, or translation that goes beyond the specific claims of Scripture.
The use of Revelation 22:18-19 is clever, especially since those verses warn against adding or taking away from the words of the book, not the doctrines of the book. They misuse a verse, which is actually about preservation of Scripture, against the doctrine of preservation. What they're saying, of course, is that the claim of perfect preservation of Scripture goes against the teaching of the Bible. I just wag my head.
I believe that these bibliological doctrines are more important than my association with modern or multiple version men. What God said is more important than them. They can call me a schismatic. I'm sorry about that. I'm just not going to be able to allow that to have an effect on me. So I won't let it.
Mike Harding wrote this:
Bauder's article pointed out that a significant element in the fundamental movement holds to the KJVO position and that some do so in such a fashion that is doctrinally aberrant or historically misinformed.
I've read this type of comment from many fundamentalists. They are the ones who are either ignorant or rebellious against historical evidence. The modern or multiple version position is the new position. Every word perfection in the apographa is the historical position. It is true that fundamentalism has accepted critical text advocates, but that is a movement a little over 100 years old. That is the historical argument of God's Word in our Hands, of which Harding was one author, and then God's Word Preserved, by Mike Sproul. Their historical, textual arguments go back around a century. That's it. That doesn't present really any kind of historical argument. So they have a doctrine that isn't in the Bible and can't be backed up in history.
Someone else commented later:
Hundreds of young people are continually led astray and given a fraudulent view of history and Christian certainty of truth.
The fraudulent view of history is the modern or multiple version position. It isn't found in Scripture or in history. Neither is it logical---two things that are different cannot be the same. It is true that men have written against the preservation of Scripture. They have also written against inspiration, against the deity of Christ, and against other true biblical doctrines. That doesn't make what they have written to be true. When you speak to Islamics, they are some of the greatest advocates of the critical text and copyist errors in the Bible. Their writings are in books, pamphlets, and all over the internet.
As the part of the context of a previous comment, Harding also wrote:
Enough ink has been spilled on this issue to correct the problem, and yet the problem dogmatically persists. The KJVO movement in its various forms was never a part of historic, biblical fundamentalism.
A regular feature of fundamentalist criticism of KJVO is that KJVOers are stupid. They try and try to explain, but these knuckleheads just don't get it. This is a fundamental aspect to the problem of fundamentalism with KJVO. The fellow KJVO fundamentalists make them look bad with their "fellow scholars." It is more important to fit into scholarship than just to believe the Bible and what it says about preservation. The same kind of criticism comes from scientists about young-earthers, who don't believe in evolution. The issues are very similar in nature. Both critical text supporters and old-earth creationists have altered the historical, biblical views to fit into science. They have changed doctrine in light of new human discovery.
Intellectual pride always causes problems. It's a sin in itself, but it will result in further error, both doctrinal and practical.
Someone else wrote:
The arguments for the KJVO, and some KJVP, positions have now been thoroughly exposed and refuted many times. Yet the Pastors and leaders in the KJVO movement continue to side step common reality and seek to offer the same old mis information and factually wrong history.
Here you get the same history criticism with the addition of a subtle stupidity one. KJVOers "side step common reality," even though their position has "been thoroughly exposed and refuted many times." The reason they don't change is because they need a scriptural position and explanation. They would also like to see where Christians have believed the same further back than 100-150 years. It's not because they are stupid.
Churches will separate over doctrine and practice (Romans 16:17-18). They should. There is nothing more fundamental in the realm of separation over doctrine than "errors in Scripture." If someone says there are errors, our church says that is false doctrine. We will separate over that. We want to preserve and propagate the doctrine of preservation and availability and perfection of Scripture. One of the biblical means for doing that is separation.
Kevin Bauder wrote a comment after the most recent post in his 24 part series. He wrote:
The most egregious error is the one that Sexton advocates. The New American Standard Version is the Word of God. The New International Version is the Word of God. The English Standard Version is the Word of God. For someone to insist that they are not is to show contempt for the Word of God. I believe that this is grave error, every bit as serious as anything that Billy Graham has done.
In my opinion, this is mere game-playing. I think we have good reason not to share a platform or fellowship with Clarence Sexton that relates to defense of the gospel. However, if we were to say that the NASV was not the Word of God with the explanation that it comes from a corrupt text, a text not received but rejected by the churches, how does that not respect the Word of God? This is where we have game-playing on the part of Bauder. For instance, I would say that the NASV is the Word of God where it represents the text received by the churches, but not so where it has been corrupted. Do we have to call what we think is a corrupt text the Word of God? If not, we disrespect the Word of God? Wow. Who really is disrespecting the Word of God?
I don't believe this is ultimately about the Bible or translations as it is holding together a coalition of men who use a wide variety of translations. Everyone must call each translation the equal, when they are actually not equal. They couldn't be, when they are different words. This is an attack on the inspiration, preservation, and authority of Scripture. Why? Because God inspired Words. Words that are different can't both be inspired. That is obvious, which is why what Bauder is doing is game playing. For instance, what if we added the apocrypha. Is that the Word of God? Are deletions or additions the Word of God? It seems that Kevin Bauder must have a faulty bibliology be the thing that he most seriously disrespects about Clarence Sexton, even though Sexton would probably say something similar to what I wrote about the NASV. And yet, the infant sprinkling of a Presbyterian is a lesser problem for him.
Several comments to the last two Bauder articles say that the NKJV is the same text, the identical Greek words to the TR. This is an error that should stop.
Jude 1:19, the MV/C text omits eautou ("themselves"), as does the NKJV.
Acts 19:39, the the NKJV follows the MV/C text in "peraiterw" instead of "peri eterwn", subtle but different.
Acts 19:9, the NKJV follows the MV/C text in omitting "tinos."
Acts 17:14, the NKJV omits "as it were" ("ws" in the Greek) and thus once again follows the MV/C text.
Acts 15:23, the NKJV follows the MV/C text in omitting "tade", or "after this manner."
Acts 10:7 the NKJV follows the MV/C text in omitting "unto Cornelius" in the first clause.
Another error propagated in comments to the last two Bauder articles is that the belief in perfect preservation is the same as believing in double inspiration. One commenter wrote:
There is really no difference between a Ruckmanite and someone who believes that God's Word is preserved perfectly only in one of the TR texts.
This is patently false. I won't call it a lie, just someone trying to say something impressively extreme, in complete ignorance. If you have the same words as the those originally inspired in the Greek and Hebrew, that is called preservation. The words don't need to be given by God again, because they already exist and have been preserved. The false doctrine of double inspiration deals with English words, because God didn't inspire English words. These types of errors are then congratulated and no one points out the error. And this group talks about false bibliology. Can they be trusted?
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Join Me in the Campaign against BABEL: Bigotry Against the Bible Executed Legally
Babel represents the world system, the Satanic offensive against God and His way. The homosexuals and their advocates say we're the bigots for opposing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but who really are the bigots? Are the bigots those who stand against perversion of nature, of creation, and of obedience to the Bible? Or are the genuine bigots those who force their own immoral desires upon the majority of Americans? Our government should not be executing the will of bigots against the biblical beliefs of its own citizens.
I know there are many of the readers of this blog who don't agree with some or even much of what I write here, but this may be something with which you agree with me. So I am asking everyone that does, join me, unify with me in a campaign against Babel, the spreading bigotry against the Bible, which is being executed legally. We shouldn't have to tolerate evil. We should not be forced to live and serve side by side in the defense of our country with blatant perverts. This is not fellowship. This is not biblical unity. This is public and democratic. This is We the People.
It's enough that our country allows the practice of sodomy, let alone the endorsement of it by executing laws that require acceptance of it. Stand with me against BABEL. Join the campaign starting here and today.
What does the Campaign against BABEL require from you? It requires public opposition to BABEL. That's it. Bloggers, today join with me in the campaign against BABEL. Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not the only evidence of bigotry against the Bible executed legally. However, for me it is a kind of final straw. The camel's back is broken.
I want to redefine bigotry in our society. Bigotry is not a stand for the Bible. Bigotry is support for unbiblical behavior, practice, laws, or standards. I will not join BABEL through my silence and neither should you. Those endorsing, supporting, and joining the execution of these attacks on biblical belief and practice should receive the bigot label.
Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Linda Murkowski, George Voinovich, and Mark Kirk are bigots, bigots against biblical belief and practice. They are bigots against those who believe and practice the Bible. Today they have showed their hatred of Bible belief and practice---hate speech, hate legislation---and forced their hatred of the Bible on all citizens of this nation. They have protected and propagated their bigotry everywhere.
Join me in the Campaign against BABEL.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Apostle Paul and His View of Unity and "Non-Essentials"
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
I call on all true preachers of God's Word to stand against the attack of fundamentalists and evangelicals on the preaching of the whole counsel of God's Word. If it's taught in the Bible, you teach it. If God said it, you say it, and you apply it. The Bible is to be applied. Paul did. You do that too. Essentials, non-essentials, tertiary, primary. All.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
The Biblical Mandate for House to House Evangelism, part 4
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
This record of the final command of the Lord to His church is not an option. While it is certainly a church command, doubtless the imperative of reaching every creature falls upon all those who are members of His assembly. The imperative is repeated in the other gospels: “Go ye . . . teach” (Matthew 28), “repentance and remission of sins should be preached” (Luke 24). The version of the Commission in John is notable: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23). When the saints faithfully preach the gospel, men believe, and their sins are remitted them. In this sense, believers do remit the sins of the lost. Compare Jude 22-23: “of some have compassion, making a difference [distinction]: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” The believer is the subject of the verb “save.” We save people in a certain sense, when we preach the gospel to them; and when we fail to fulfill our duty to do so, we retain their sins. What a responsibility Christ gives His church in John 20:23: “whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained”! They are damned because of us. We are accountable for the fact that they will suffer unspeakable, everlasting torment in unquenchable fire forever and ever. Some, “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone . . . And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:10-11), because of us. They weep, and wail, and suffer there, because we would not remit their sins. We were afraid to speak out boldly to them. We had our reasons to not go door to door. We had something else to do, so we did not go out soulwinning—and they will writhe, and cry, and drown in the lake of fire forever because of this something else that we made a higher priority. Paul states this truth as well. Because the apostle had “taught you publickly [mass evangelism], and from house to house [canvassing every person in the area], Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” because he had been faithful to “testify the gospel of the grace of God,” he was “pure from the blood of all men.” (Acts 20:20-26). He was not responsible for the blood of their eternal damnation. How much better to kill a man physically, yea, to expose him to the worst of earthly torments, than to be responsible for drowning him in everlasting perdition. The physical murder will last only a few moments—his spiritual murder will last forever. Had Paul not been faithful in going house to house, and doing mass evangelism “publickly,” the blood of the lost would be on his hands. Allusion is made to Ezekiel 3:18; 33:8: “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. . . . When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” If I do not evangelize as God has instituted—publically, and house to house—the blood of the lost will be required at my hand! Will countless souls rise up before me at judgment, and say, as they each pass groaning away before my eyes, “You retained my sins—I am here because of you—I am going to burn forever because you skipped out on door to door that week—I am here because you left early, and did not put in the hours regularly into evangelism that you ought to have—I am here because you did not carry tracts that one time—I am here because you were not filled with the Spirit, and so did not speak as you ought to have, nor been as urgent with me as you should have, when you spoke to me—I am here because you did not know how to deal with my spiritual problem, and did not use the verses you should have—I am here because you used shallow, non-convicting tracts—I am here because you, and your church, did not follow Biblical methodology—how many lost will point at me, and with voices filled with both despair—for it is now too late for them—and just anger, give me the undeniable accusation, “I AM DAMNED, AND MY BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS, BECAUSE YOU, YOU FAILED TO OBEY CHRIST’S COMMAND TO REACH ME!” We rightly view the mass-murderer, the serial killer, as one of the vilest of men—what multitudes, oh my soul, have I killed, what multitudes of sins have I retained, what legions of “true worshippers” (John 4:23) have I prevented from coming to know God, and offering Him glory forever, and so what infinite quantities of glory have I robbed from Jehovah?
It is no excuse if others around me are committing the same sin likewise. It is no excuse that many who go house to house also slaughter souls by their failure to properly interpret Scripture, by practicing easy-prayerism and generating false professions, or the like. Do few faithfully fulfill their evangelistic duty in my church? Their disobedience does not justify mine. Indeed, it makes it all the more necessary that I be on my guard to not wretchedly commit soul-manslaughter. It is necessary that I stand in the gap and set the right example, and thus seek to keep my brethren in Christ from having blood on their hands, rather than giving in to general apathy and allowing that to lull me to sleep.
We are very busy. We can convince ourselves—and the flesh will delight in it—that we are really fulfilling our duty when we pass out tracts to people we come across. However, “every creature” is the command, and that requires a systematic method of seeking to reach every single person in our area, which is not possible without going house to house (as well as using the tracts, which is the “publicly” portion of Acts 20). We may even be discouraged from going because of the necessity to perform lesser, though important, goods, from doing chores, doing physical labor for the church, doing non-evangelistic but spiritual work in the church, and so on. We absolutely must not allow these things to prevent us from getting out and reaching “every creature.” The cost is far too high—the awful guilt of having on our hands the blood of lost souls!
Furthermore, not having an organized soulwinning program in a church, with specific listed days and times to go out and preach the gospel, is a very bad idea. It makes many more people guilty of this terrible sin of soul manslaughter. This brings the judgment of God upon the congregation and the individuals guilty of this, instead of His blessing. Since Scripture declares that “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise,” and “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3), it also deprives people of immeasurable eternal reward. One learns how to deal with people’s souls by doing it, so not doing it also prevents parents from knowing how to effectively deal with their own children, making them more likely to bring their offspring to false conversion, and having them lost to the world. It also prevents saved young people—and adults—from developing the spiritual toughness, tenacity, and boldness that comes from having to take a stand for Christ at doors and speak to people there. It is easier to take a stand against the world in other areas when one is regularly taking a stand against it by preaching the gospel to it. Churches that do not go soulwinning should, therefore, expect to lose more, likely many more, young people to the world and to neo-evangelicalism. People are also deprived of ability to do ministry; fulfilling the Great Commission really is the definition of what ministry is (cf. Philippians 2:22; 4:3). Church unity is weakened by not having soulwinning; the saints are bound closer together when they participate in evangelism together, communally face the opposition of the world, and experience their Savior’s consolation in their obedience. It makes it easier for someone who does not want to follow God to feel comfortable in church every week, which is a bad thing. It brings the loss of the power of the Spirit, for He empowers for the purpose of producing boldness in evangelism (Acts 1:8). Revival should not be expected. Fewer prayers are answered. How can men lift up “holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8) when those uplifted hands are dripping with the blood of damned souls (Ezekiel 33:8; Acts 20:26)? It reproduces a bad model for ministry, as young people who are future preachers and leaders do not learn how to properly win souls, and so will fail to lead churches they will pastor or otherwise lead in the future to obey God in this area, so disobedience and all the ruin it causes will multiply over time. Conviction in soulwinning does not develop in a vacuum—the flesh very easily slips away from obedience in this matter, and pastors very rarely have pressure from the congregation to go door to door—the pressure is almost always to drop or decrease or minimize it, so if passion for reaching every household in a community is not deeply ingrained in young people, they will not do it later. A wrong view of church growth methodology also results—when we do not follow Scripture by reaching “every creature” in the world by going “publicly and house to house,” we adopt a system where inviting visitors becomes the main focus, and church services are changed from being for the purpose of edifying the saints who will them themselves go out into the world to do ministry—the Biblical pattern, Eph 4:11-12 (the pastor/teacher is given to perfect the saints, and the saints do ministry), to a model where church services are designed to evangelize the lost instead of edifying the saved. (Of course, it is not bad for the lost to come to church, nor to evangelize the lost that do come, but that is not the focus in Scripture for the assembly of the saints.) This inviting-the-lost-in model, versus the go-out-and-preach model of the Bible, is the root of the “seeker sensitive” megachurch, Rick Warren, neo-evangelical model that has destroyed many formerly sound churches. Indeed, the distinguishing marks of the two churches in Revelation 2-3 that were not going bad were evangelism and the reciept of persecution (Revelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13)—and the latter tends to come with the former, 2 Timothy 3:12; cf. Acts 7:59; 28:20. In short, when we don’t have organized, aggressive soulwinning going out to reach “every creature,” where we don’t strongly preach that everyone should be going door to door, as well as speaking to neighbors, friends, etc. (and we will be much less effective with the neighbors and friends without the experience from speaking to others), God is not properly glorified, saints lose out on eternal reward, saints do not grow on earth as they should, and the lost are not saved as they could be—it is an unutterable tragedy.
What can we do? First, we must constantly make sure that we as individuals do not become apathetic, and that we put the time into reaching the lost that is requisite to be fully obedient to God. We should not let a week go by without getting out there and putting serious time into that final, great command Christ gave us before He ascended to heaven. Second, we should try to bring as many people along with us, and strive to convey to them a passion for evangelism, as we can. If we are in a leadership position, we can, indeed, we must, make sure that organized efforts for weekly house to house evangelism are going on, must preach strongly the necessity of participating in soulwinning, and must set the example of passionate obedience in this area ourselves. We must make sure we have the love of Christ for the lost in us, the love that led Him to even suffer the horrors of infinite wrath (Matthew 27:46) to save them, and that will move us to do our part to reach them, and convey it to others. If we have “great heaviness and continual sorrow in [our] heart” over the unconverted so that we “could wish that [we] were accursed from Christ” to save them (Romans 9:2-3), we will go out and preach to them. Third, we should fervently pray for, be deeply concerned about, troubled in spirit concerning, and passionately desire a return to and an increase of obedience to the Great Commission in our church and in the kingdom of Christ on earth at large.
Friday, December 03, 2010
The Biblical Mandate for House to House Evangelism, part 3
Commentaries support the concept of house to house visitation in Acts 5:42 and 20:20, rather than church meetings in houses:[i]
“Every day, with great constancy and assiduity, both publicly and privately; in the temple, the place of public worship, where the Jews resorted on that account; and in each of their private houses . . . they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by John Gill, Acts 5:42)
“The apostles taught and preached not only publicly in the temple, but ‘from house to house.’ In this they give an example to the ministry of all ages, which is well worthy of imitation. Private instruction and admonition bring the teacher and the taught into closer contact, and secure an individuality of effect not attainable in a public assembly. It can not, therefore, be well dispensed with; but he who employs it most diligently will, other things being equal, employ his energies most successfully.” (Commentaries and Topical Studies by J. W. McGarvey, Acts 5:42)
“Though Paul preached in public, and though his time was much occupied in manual labour for his own support, Ac 20:34, yet he did not esteem his public preaching to be all that was required of him; nor his daily occupation to be an excuse for not visiting from house to house. We may observe here . . . that Paul’s example is a warrant and an implied injunction for family visitation by a pastor. If proper in Ephesus, it is proper still. If practicable in that city, it is in other cities. If it was useful there, it will be elsewhere. If it furnished to him consolation in the retrospect when he came to look over his ministry, and if it was one of the things which enabled him to say, ‘I am pure from the blood of all men,’ it will be so in other cases. . . . His aim was to show the way of salvation, and to teach in private what he taught in public. . . . while public preaching is the main, the prime, the leading business of a minister, and while his first efforts should be directed to preparation for that, he may and should find time to enforce his public instructions by going from house to house; and often he will find that his most immediate and apparent success will result from such family instructions.” (Barnes’ Notes, Acts 20:20)
“It is worth noting that this greatest of preachers preached from house to house.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures, Acts 20:20)
“Did an apostle, whose functions were of so wide a range, not feel satisfied without private as well as public ministrations? How then must pastors feel?” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Acts 20:20)
“From house to house. Else he had not been pure from their blood. For even an apostle could not discharge his duty by public preaching only. How much less can an ordinary pastor!” (Notes on the Old and New Testaments, John Wesley, Acts 20:20).
The specific illustrations in the book of Acts, given for the saints’ examples and admonition, in addition to the general exhortations found throughout the Bible, including the Old Testament (Proverbs 11:30, Daniel 12:3, etc.), to give the gospel to every creature, and the logical necessity, for those with a Christ-like love for the unconverted (John 3:16; cf. Romans 9:1-3), for aggressive evangelism because of the fact that all without Christ are headed to eternal torment, renders inexcusable the churches and all Christians not bedridden and crippled that do not go house to house in nations such as the United States, where the chances of imprisonment or martyrdom for such a labor of love are essentially non-existent—first century Rome heavily persecuted believers, yet house to house evangelism was still practiced by all members. Saints who do not aggressively evangelize grievously sin against God, hinder the sort of revival found in Acts, and apparently do not esteem the blood of Christ highly enough to simply inform others, in line with the Savior’s command, of the great salvation their professed Lord had to leave heaven and suffer infinitely to make possible.
[i] Commentators from Protestant denominations may believe that ministers can celebrate the “sacraments” private with only a few members of their “churches” present, but Baptists recognize that, as the church is the assembly, “private” meetings where baptism and the Lord’s supper are distributed to only a select few who are invited, are unbiblical, and corporate worship is something meet for the whole church. “House to house” does not, then, refer to “cell groups” or meetings of the ekklesia, the church, the assembly, where the members do not actually assemble.
Furthermore, Protestants that believe that only ministers were given the Great Commission and are responsible to preach the gospel may affirm that these text indicate that ministers should go house to house, and may try to explain the plainly evangelistic nature of the texts in question and the command to go to “every” house as a command to bring to salvation those, often essentially an entire community, baptized in infancy and thus part of their “church,” who are, despite this, plainly unconverted; Baptists, who maintain a regenerate church membership distinct from the community and the priesthood of every believer, and who properly recognize the Commission was given to the church and is the responsibility of her members as a whole, will learn from these texts that all church members should go “house to house” to “every house.” Acts 8:1, 4 indicate that all church members—not just the apostles or other leaders—were going out “every where” preaching the word (euangelidzo, evangelizing). Every member of the Lord’s church, unless paralyzed, etc., is responsible to go house to house. Speaking to friends, coworkers, and neighbors simply is not the teaching of Acts 8:4; 5:42; 20:20.
Of course, the fact that these passages teach that church members are to go house to house evangelizing the lost does not mean that they should not as well go to the homes of their fellow believers to strengthen them when they have needs, for discipleship Bible studies, etc.