Saturday, July 16, 2011

Does Shelton Smith and the Sword of the Lord Teach a True Gospel? part two

One of the unfortunate casualties of the multiple belief and multi-Bible doctrines is now multiple gospels. A wide latitude is given to what the gospel is. Someone can be far enough off on the gospel to preach a false one, but still be be considered to have preached a true gospel. Some may question this evaluation, especially since Shelton Smith, editor of the Sword of the Lord (SOTL), is King James only, so he believes in only one Bible. Multiple positions has now become the norm along with the idea in society that there is more than one truth, except for perhaps the "one truth" of tolerance. The multi-truth idea is influencing fundamentalists in a major way.

I imagine certain fundamentalists would agree with my analysis so far about Shelton Smith. They can't say they do, because that might show support for someone who is King James only, even if they profess "gospel centeredness" with other doctrines peripheral to the gospel. Actually, in many cases their opposition to one Bible has slid very close to their warm center of gospel emphasis. If you could zoom in on their gospel bullseye, you might see on-screen their opposition to the King James and dress standards hugging the gospel. How could these two issues have become as serious as the gospel itself? Does that perhaps even diminish or devalue their own elevation of the gospel? But I digress.

It's hard for a Shelton Smith to take fundamentalists critics of his gospel too seriously when, first, they don't take evangelism very seriously, and, second, he receives fellowship with some with whom they also fellowship. Many fundamentalists would rather talk about the gospel with their friends, or write an online treatise defending their view of the gospel, than actually preach it. Smith understands that he and his friends at least actually do preach a lot their version of the gospel. Why take critics of his gospel seriously when they rarely preach theirs? And then sometimes it's even hard to distinguish the methodological differences between the SOTL churches and the fundamentalists who would critique them. But I dupli-digress.

Full Surrender and Sinless Perfection

Part one of this now series began considering part two of Shelton Smith's article on repentance in the SOTL. After writing about "Lordship," Smith writes the sub-head: "Repentance Does Not Mean a Fully Surrendered Life or Sinless Perfection!" Under that heading, he writes nothing about it. Nothing. He writes six sentences, but none of them have a thing to do with the heading. You are welcome to tell me how I'm wrong on this. However, again, I have never heard someone equate repentance with sinless perfection. That is another straw man. I would await anyone who could show me one example of someone who has even written that. However, fully surrendered does fit a biblical presentation.

To have life, we must lose our life. In other words, we can't hang on to our life, if we are to have God's eternal life. At salvation, God restores our soul, converts our soul. He does that because He has our soul. We offer by faith our soul, our life to God. He converts it, restores it. He won't do that if we keep our soul for ourselves. That is the rebellion that runs contrary to repentance. This is the eternal trade that occurs the moment of justification. God takes our life and we get His. We become partakers of the Divine nature. In the Smith gospel, we offer God our mere lipservice or acknowledge certain salvation facts and for that we receive eternal salvation. We get the pearl of great price and God gets an IOU. This perverts the true gospel.

Salvation Passages Do Not Mention Repentance

The next major "proof" for Smith is found in his next sub-head: "Numerous 'Salvation' Passages Do Not Mention Repentance!" And he could have also written: "Numerous Salvation Passages Do Not Mention Faith!" What does that prove? Nothing. It is not just faulty exegesis. It is preposterous.

He prints off a column of verses, which include John 1:11, 12, 3:14-18, Romans 10:9,10,13, and Ephesians 2:8-10, and then asks, "Where is the repentance in all this?" He should consider Romans 10:9,10,13, and rethink His Lordship position.

He concludes:

Follow any one or all of the Bible passages noted above, and you will see that there is a call in each of them for the unsaved sinner to "change his mind" and come to Christ! Though the word repent is not there, the concept certainly is!

So what am I, as a soul winner, trying to get you to do? I want you to see the great eternal God for who He is and at the same time to see yourself, a sinner, lost, helpless, and hopeless. I want you to stop thinking everything is okay. I want you to understand the Gospel (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ) and know that the Holy God has paid the sin debt you owe.

At the moment you acknowledge those facts, repentance occurs, and you almost simultaneously place your trust in Christ to save you.

You'll find none of his observations in the quoted verses. There is nothing in any of them about changing your mind. He's merely reading all of that into those passages. A large percentage of the unsaved people who I talk to know they are sinners, know Who God is, and even recognize the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The last sentence is perhaps most tell-tale. Smith sees repentance as acknowledgement of facts, and when someone does, he's trusted in Christ---all nothing but intellectual. Intellectual assent to facts falls short of faith or repentance.

Repentance of One Sin, Unbelief

Smith asserts that repentance is for his one sin, the sin of unbelief or rejecting Christ. He ends that section by writing:

Once you get your mind-set right toward God, you will have a different attitude toward your "sins" (here comes sanctification again).

According to Smith, believing and repenting is getting "your mind-set right toward God," which will result in a different attitude toward your plural sins, but that isn't until after you're already saved.

When Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount, He preached individual sins that were an issue regarding the sinner's salvation---murder and adultery among others. Not until Zacchaeus confessed, "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8), did Jesus proclaim, "This day is salvation come to this house" (Luke 19:9). It is true that salvation doesn't come from a sinner confessing individually every one of his sins---I've never heard anyone define repentance as even meaning that---but certain sins especially will be the idols that keep him from turning to follow Jesus Christ. "Unbelief" is nowhere said in Scripture to be the one sin for which a sinner needs to repent. Nowhere.

How to Explain What Happens

How do we explain what happens with these folks who hear the SOTL edition of the gospel that excludes biblical repentance? Some of them are saved. They repent even though it hasn't been preached that way. I believe this happens just like it might in a Billy Graham meeting when he soft peddles his salvation message.

Many of the professions, perhaps even most, are false. These types of churches, however, become masters at getting their new people involved. They do seminars on how to get their new believers into the baptistry, often using similar ploys to succeed as they have invented for their evangelism. The people involved feel good about what they are doing, even though they have fallen short of a scriptural knowledge of salvation. The church programs are many times built on keeping them busy with the activities they have designed to occupy their membership. Sermon after sermon is motivational and pragmatic to produce a morality that would closely match a Christian life.

The music, the activities, and all the programs captivate an audience, giving them experiences that could easily counterfeit real conversion. The schedule is crafted to have enough of these to hold everyone, leading them along from one to another to another. The preaching fits the program like the score of a movie. It moves people and even keeps them entertained. The church has a social aspect that feels good like a family many never had. The results produced seem like God is working. He must be. How else could one explain? The feeling they get from the emotional music and preaching they mistake for the Holy Spirit. Many of these aspects have their parallel in false religions. It often is nothing more than another religion. It takes almost zero faith to be a part.

What makes it more insidious in many of these churches is what happens if you question what's going on. You would be considered to be disloyal and unspiritual. You are attacking the man of God like the young boys did with Elisha (and you know how that turned out). And you're also not to "touch God's anointed," a reference to David's experience with Saul. In other words, switch off your discernment, because discerning would be akin to blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The people who question are considered traitors. Strategies such as these hold people in lockstep, sometimes out of fear and intimidation.

It is possible that someone always questioning is factious. He could be a rebel. That often happens in churches even as accounted in Scripture. But it should be easy for a true church to show from the Bible why they do what they do.

By the way, most of evangelicalism is no better than these professing fundamentalist churches that take this SOTL gospel position. Most Southern Baptist churches are just the same, except more outwardly worldly. The big difference is that the evangelical churches keep their people entertained with more corrupt forms of entertainment than these SOTL churches. Don't be fooled into thinking that a right reaction or response to the SOTL strategy is to swing over to evangelicalism. You're just co-opting another form of silly, one likely even more banal than what is seen in a certain segment of fundamentalism.

More to Come.


Terry Basham, II said...

This is a very thought provoking article. So, are men like Shelton Smith and his ilk damned because they preach another gospel - Gal 1.6-9?

d4v34x said...

Bro B. It's easy for a fundy like me to show agreement with you when you're so right. :^)

I really appreciate the nitty gritty on both the true and false ideas of repentance.

And trading one silly/corrupt for another silly/corrupt is a great warning. Sort of like a yoke of wood for iron.

Thanks again.

John Gardner said...

Hi Pastor Brandenburg,
David Cloud wrote some similar thoughts on repentance here:

and some on the major/minor issue here:


Thank you sir.

John Gardner

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful article. I am pondering, however, some words in the final paragraph:

"Most Southern Baptist churches are just the same, except more outwardly worldly. the big difference is taht the evangelical churches keep their people entertained with more corrupt forms of entertainment than these SOTL churches."

I have long wondered about the entertainment factor and how something is deemed entertainment. A person once told me that he could not attend my church because we were only there for entertainment. I was offended by this statement and asked him what he meant by entertainment. He said that we sang music that was only designed to entertain, and that we used a powerpoint to show the outline of the pastor's sermon and show some illustrations/pictures. He said that no church should sing any hymns that had 3/4 or 6/8 time because it seduced people into waltzing in the pews and that it was just entertainment.

So..... how do you define "keeping the people entertained?"

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Terry,

I'll answer your question, but do you think that is what Galatians 1:6-9 is teaching, that is, that those who teach a false gospel are damned? Leave names out of it, just the doctrine of it. And then, do you think that Shelton Smith is teaching a false gospel?


Yes, you are more independent and free than most online, beholden to no man.


Thanks for those links. I know the second half of part 2 by Smith is mostly dealing with David Cloud.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I would probably follow a dictionary definition of entertainment, but let's say "man-centered." I've never met someone who determined such a thing based upon the time signature of a song. Do we start with what people want or like in our evaluation of what we do or use?

Anonymous said...

The two articles you have written concerning the SOTL is great. My question/comment is more along the lines of help. In conjuction with what you have written "how would a person witness and what would it sound like if I am witnessing to include repentance". My question has always been the "how".


philipians2511 said...

I will second D4 Br. Brandenburgler!

I was once a subscriber to the SOTL I too thought something was amiss with their plan of salvation. The same can be said for Revival Fires and Dennis Corle (unless he is clarifying it as I write).

Take note folks, Shelton did the same shuckin' and jivin' with the inspiration issue (he stated that he didn't believe in double insp. but didn't state how the KJB is inspired).

Respectfully Submitted,

Br. Steve
Galatians 2.20

Kent Brandenburg said...


Corle has written a book on repentance that I read about 5 years ago that is far better than Smith's or Hutson's on this, but he also makes a sharp conclusion that no one should separate over the difference between them. He is dogmatic in his conclusion that we should not separate over the intellectual-only versus biblical repentance. His basis for that: politics essentially.

Charles e. Whisnant said...

Having been a pastor of two Southern Baptist churches and two GARBC churches and worked in FIBC, I have had a up and close association with the Sword of the Lord for many years. And I have struggled with the doctrinal and methodological of all those churches.

While they have had a high standard of dress code, and living, they seemed to have a low level of presenting the Lordship of Salvation and in presenting the Gospel of salvation.

My only conclusion in this whole matter is found in my faith in the sovereignty of God, who in His grace can pull out from among those churches where there is such a weak Gospel preached and save them in spite of what they hear in the church.

1611 said...

To anonymous concerned about the 'how' for being clear on repentance when witnessing: If you're not familiar with Ray Comfort and Living Waters you should check them out. I don't agree with everything they teach but repentance and faith is clear in their gospel presentation. You can even watch 'on the street' witnessing encounters on their website if you want to familiarize yourself on how repentance can and should be included in our encounters.

philipians2511 said...

What saith ye Br Brandenburg? Have you seen the aforementioned way of the Master videos and their presentation? Do you have any thoughts?

Respectfully Submitted,

Br. Steve

Galatians 2.20

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Steve,

I've watched their presentations and I think their overall approach is better than Hyles and Hutson, but it still falls short of how a biblical presentation of the gospel should go. Way of the Master came across as a 1-2-3 pray with me approach too. Maybe I'll do an online seminar on this and post it sometime, that is, video it, put it on youtube and then post it on my blog---something like that. I preach the gospel every week multiple times, so I have a position on how it ought to be done, but it would be more difficult to write out than to show what I do.