Monday, April 03, 2017

The Sword of the Lord, Really The Scoop Shovel of Revivalism

John R. Rice started The Sword of the Lord (TSTL) on September 28, 1934.  At present it is a bi-week twenty-four page tabloid.  I first became aware of TSTL sometime around my jr. high years, when John R. Rice was still alive.  I didn't know what it was, just that it was somewhat promoted in those days within my circle of independent Baptists.  In general now, I would characterize the TSTL as a vehicle to spread revivalism of revivalistic fundamentalism.  At present it doesn't even represent a true gospel.

If you are supporting TSTL or placing advertisements therein, then you are helping to promote a false gospel. On purpose, TSTL leaves out biblical repentance as a necessary prerequisite for justification or salvation.  Even if some of the participants of TSTL believe in a scriptural view of repentance, the paper itself leaves it out in part because many of its supporters would oppose repentance. Someone can't really believe in biblical repentance and still support TSTL in any way.  You can say you believe in it, but when you continue supporting in any way those who don't, then you don't believe it either.

As it stands, TSTL avoids preaching a true gospel and doesn't care that it proclaims a false one.  If you read TSTL and you can't tell that it preaches a false gospel, then you either don't understand the gospel well enough or you don't care about the gospel enough. TSTL sends a free copy to me every two weeks.  Sometimes I don't look at it at all.  Other times I leaf through it to see if there is anything I might want to read.  The most recent of the latter was the February 24, 2017 edition and its top fold, p. 1, sermon by Oliver B. Greene, entitled, "God's Plan of Salvation."  I wondered, what would TSTL be willing to publish (if Greene preached a true gospel)?  I've never heard Greene on the radio, but for a long time, he had a national radio program called the Gospel Hour.  So I also wondered, was the gospel preached in that hour?  My conclusion, not always, at least.

I'm going to move to the end of Greene's presentation on p. 21 of TSTL.  He prints the heading: Salvation Is God's Gift to the Sinner.  To explain that, he writes, "Salvation is bestowed upon the Hell-deserving sinner when that sinner believes on Jesus and trusts in His shed blood.  The only possible way to come into possession of a gift is to receive it from the giver."  All of that might be true, depending upon how it is explained.

Greene's next heading reads, Three Things Make a Gift Possible.  "First, there must be someone who is able to purchase the gift to be given, which means that he must also be unselfish and willing to give the gift."  God "provided enough grace and supplied enough blood to save the entire world if the world would receive Him by faith."

Greene continues.  "Second, to make a gift possible, there must be a gift to give; and Jesus was that Gift -- the only Gift God could give to settle the sin question."  "Third, before giving can be complete, there must be someone to receive the gift; and that is where man comes in.  Man is the recipient of God's gift."

The crux of Green's message comes in the last paragraph of the section:
We need only receive the finished work of Jesus, and God will save us for Jesus' sake.  The only way for any sinner to be saved is to accept God's gift, the salvation purchased at the cost of the precious blood of God's only begotten Son.
Is what Greene preached correct?  There is no doubt that our salvation, justification, depends on the finished work of Jesus and His precious blood.  However, nowhere does the Bible teach that justification or salvation comes by receiving those two things.  They are necessary for salvation, but salvation will not result from receiving them.  Someone must believe in Jesus Christ or receive Jesus Christ, which is to "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  When someone receives Jesus Christ, He receives Jesus Christ for Who He is, Lord and God and Savior.  When someone receives Jesus Christ, he turns from his way to the Lord's way, from his sin to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

TSTL adds a final section to Greene's article, entitled, Receive God's Free Gift, which reads:
You have just read "God's Plan of Salvation" by Oliver B. Greene.  He has very carefully explained God's plan, showing why salvation must be a free gift and how God can justly offer it as a gift. 
Will you call upon Him now?  From your heart say this prayer sincerely and with a repentant spirit. 
Dear God, I'm a sinner headed for Hell, and I need to be saved.  I cannot save myself, but I know You can do it for me.  I do believe that Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection paid my sin debt and purchased salvation for me.  I believe it, and right now I submit myself in full trust to Him.  Please, God, forgive my sin and save me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen. 
If you have at this moment turned to Christ in faith and received Him as Saviour, would you fill out the decision form and mail it to me so that I can pray for your success in your new Christian life?
TSTL uses the words "repentant spirit," as its only representation of repentance, which is in tune with its regular understanding of repentance being merely a change of mind about belief.  Greene himself doesn't use the word repentance in his sermon.  He doesn't include it at all.  By the time someone finishes reading his article, he wouldn't know what it is to receive Jesus Christ or to believe in Jesus Christ.  From what I've read of TSTL, it doesn't understand that itself.

Salvation is characterized as a free gift in scripture, but if you get wrong how that gift is received, then you still don't have the gospel.  TSTL gets it wrong again and again.


Bill Hardecker said...

A few things to consider. TSTL has in fact revised or edited sermons and songs and taken out "repentance" where they should be. I don't know if they would have done that with Greene's sermon, but that they have done stuff like that isn't good at all. It's very much like how the Watchtower Bible Tract Society folks did their New World Translation - corrupting the words of the text because they didn't like what the words actually say. Not good. I have heard many sermons by Oliver Greene and I can say that he is a preacher of the Gospel. He has a Biblical position on repentance. Here is a quote from his commentary on Acts (I got this from David's Cloud's website, but I do believe this to be a good sample of Greene's position on repentance): “True repentance is sorrow for sin committed against a holy God and not only sorrow for sin, but turning from sin, forsaking sin and turning to God. Sin nailed the Savior to the cross and certainly that fact alone is sufficient reason why all who have genuinely repented hate sin and forsake sinful ways.” His name was placed in Anderson's "Repentance Blacklist" - which means that Greene got the issue of repentance right. I certainly can't defend TSTL, and won't, but I can Greene, although perhaps not this specimen sermon.

Jeff Voegtlin said...


It's a good thing you didn't post this two days ago. If you had, many would have thought you were pranking TSTL. As it is, there will still be some who don't "get it."


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Bill,

I don't want to misrepresent Greene and I have read some of Cloud's stuff saying that Greene taught repentance. You can also read quotes from John R. Rice, saying that he took a different position on repentance than what the Sword presently takes. I have to speak to what's happening right now, because that is the Sword that people will deal with. It's also the Gospel Hour people have to deal with.

Before I wrote this, I did go to the Gospel Hour website and I saw that they are closely aligned with the Sword.

It speaks well of Greene that he made Anderson's repentance black list. It does say something about Anderson's weight, that we go to him to find out who believes in repentance. If you are on his list, you must. I'm not saying Greene didn't, but if the Sword left his sermon alone, then he didn't think it worth putting into a sermon called God's Plan of Salvation, where he is at least confusing, and falls short of proclaiming what a sinner needs to hear.

Kent Brandenburg said...


What happened to TSTL with the pranking business? Was this just a reference to April Fools and my title? That is funny if that's what you meant. I heard the PATS traded Tom Brady to Buffalo on April 1 too.

Jim Peet said...

On S/I here Thanks

My view = bird cage liner

JMark said...

I recently discovered if you leave a SOTL church and make it known that the pastor is preaching a false gospel it causes the sword group to send Shelton Smith to defend the pastor. First hand experience.

Kent Brandenburg said...


The Sword Group is a network, it would seem, that is intended to protect what is a sort of denomination with certain, various distinctives that are not biblical. The politics of it are important. This isn't a defense of scripture, but a defense of a Sword member.

JMark said...

Other pastors in the area are too afraid to confront the pastor preaching a no-repentance gospel. Unity appears to be the common thread among the pastors and I believe too many pastors are afraid they will lose members with family connections between this "church" and the gospel preaching churches. It is an interweaving of families between the Baptist churches and ignorance of the true gospel is clear to me. I am sad for this entire city as no one wants to contend for the Faith and point out the error.

Kent Brandenburg said...


The major premise of Shelton Smith's Sword is a lie. I can't tell whether the adherents, all the Sword people, know it's a lie. Do JWs know they are part of a lie, Mormons? It is a very dangerous lie, for even one person who accedes to their repentanceless message. They swallow a placebo, but they really are a dupe of a Sword church, sucked into it with their methods, and now on the broad road. The Sword church gets the statistic.

There are many who won't join me in pointing this out, which really indicates what a big problem there. They are at least in some way part of the coalition. People are tied to people who are tied to people, and someone might be loss by being a part of exposing it. That's not all. Some are not sure it is wrong. They give a wide latitude in their doctrine.

Jeff Voegtlin said...


I probably shouldn't post while sleep deprived...because it's never really funny if you have to explain yourself. Which is what I'm trying to do now. Anyway, my point was that, to many, your statements about TSTL are unbelievable. They couldn't conceive of it being something other than the gospel.

If I didn't succeed in being clear this time, I'm not going to try again :) I'll just act like a drive-by commenter.