January 26, 2015

Dr. Clay Nuttall, Abusing the Bride

Often, when people are pressing a particular opinion or personal belief, they tend to spend their energy on simply making statements.  In doing this, they fail to ask enough questions of the text.  I have just finished reading a number of theological articles that make their argument by limiting their conclusions to texts that support their presuppositions.  Some of these subjects are intertwined, so we will enter this discussion by asking, “What think ye of the Bride of Christ?”

Believe it or not, there are those who maintain that there is no such thing.  The Old Testament writers recorded that they saw Israel as the wife of God.  Hosea is a good illustration of this.  Paul clearly identifies the Body of Christ as the Bride of Christ.  These two identifications are eternal.  One has to wonder why the clear, plain statements of scripture are not sufficient.  The answer, of course, is that if you have two different interpretations, you can be sure that one - or both - is not using the same system of interpretation.  The one biblical hermeneutic is mathematical in that when it is used faithfully, you will always end up with the same answer.  I have also noticed that variant conclusions nearly always flow from similar historical theological systems.  This can be accurately illustrated by the way people deal with the issue of the Bride of Christ.

TO THE BRIDE ALONE

God gave us the earthly illustration of marriage, the bride, and the bridegroom so we can understand this heavenly truth.  It is like the discussion in Hebrews 9 where the earthly tabernacle is a picture of the heavenly one.  It is why God shared His name “Father” with men on earth so we can be a picture of the Heavenly Father and communicate the depth of meaning involved.

Every bride has things ascribed to her that no one else can claim.  Failure to recognize this is tragic, and we are not to violate the sanctity of the bride.  There is a theological theory called “Replacement,” which simply says that Israel is replaced by the church.  It is interesting to note that those who hold this philosophical idea are all tainted by the same hermeneutical aberration.  The plain, consistent statements of scripture make it clear that God’s plan for Israel is definitely different from His plan for the church.  While they hold some things in common, it is still a fact that similarities are not equals.

The real threat is not in the theological movements that feel the need to invent such error, but rather comes from those who are “on the fence” on these issues.  Instead of a total rejection of the distinction between Israel and the church, these folks pick at the distinctions of the church one by one.  While there are transition periods, the major turning point is Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, so He did not come in presence at Pentecost; He came in special ministry - or special presence, if you prefer.

There were things that happened at Pentecost that had never taken place before that time, and they are distinctive to the Bride.  On this day, the first believer was baptized into the body of Christ; the first believer became continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the first believer was sealed by the Spirit and was perhaps the first believer ever born of the Spirit.  To assign any of these distinctive things to anyone other than the church is to chip away at the whole and ultimately move toward total “Replacement.”  The special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the bride does nothing to harm God’s plan for Old Testament saints, and it assures a special place for the Bride of Christ.  Let me note that all these little threats also depend upon a hermeneutical system that has been invented by major theological movements.

There is only one biblical hermeneutic, and that hermeneutic produces a theology that is biblical.  There is no such thing as a “dispensational hermeneutic.”  No one has a right to invent his own hermeneutic and then use it to invent variations in his own belief system.

WITHOUT SPOT OR BLEMISH

The Bride is not a puzzle; it is a unit.  Everyone related to the Bridegroom is saved the same way.  While our fellowship on earth with Christ may vary because of what we choose, the Bride is one.  At the catching away of the church, the Bride is complete.  At the judgment seat of Christ, different rewards are awarded to different believers.  There are no “penalties” handed out, no second-class believers, nor flaws in the Bride.  If there is any negative at all, it might be that some may not receive a reward.  Once the BEMA is past, there are no purgatories or blemished believers; the Bride of Christ is whole and pure.  This is the work of God and not of man.  Christ loves the Bride through all of it, and the actions of life are left behind at the judgment.  Christ presents to Himself “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The plain, clear, consistent statements of the text leave us with no doubt; the Bride is whole.  It is pure, down to the last believer, because this is about God, not man.  Christ does not cast away His wife or any member.  He does not divorce some believers.  If He did, it would be His failure…and that is impossible.  So, how do people ascribe impurity to the Bride of Christ?  First, they are obligated to do this because they have adopted a flawed theological hermeneutic from a flawed theological construct and flawed theological movement.  Secondly, they have failed to obey a hermeneutical maxim; and so they go to texts that have nothing to do with the church and in doing so, they borrow someone else’s grief.

I do not condemn these failed theologians, but the truth is that to abuse the Bride of Christ is no light matter.


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address, shepherdstaff2@juno.com or ShepherdStaff 

January 21, 2015

American Sniper: A Fighting Marine’s Response to the Critics

Last weekend the movie American Sniper, the story of US Navy SEAL Christopher Scott Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) opened in theatres across the nation. In recent days negative comments have been directed toward the movie coming from certain Hollywood elites. Some have responsed to the critics.  I think my son, Peter, (USMC Cpl. Infantry, 2010-2014) pictured below, has said very well what many veterans and/or American patriots might believe is an appropriate response to critics of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and by extension criticism of all US military personnel past, present and yet to come to our nation’s defense. From Peter's FaceBook he wrote,


Upper Gershak Valley, Afghanistan 2011
I have yet to see American Sniper, and probably won’t see it, but if anyone has a problem with Chris Kyle, if you think he was some kind of sociopath or racist, I have an offer for you. Send me your address and I’ll FedEx you my size 10.5 Belleville boots that saw two deployments to Afghanistan. Go ahead and put them on, lace them up, and take a stroll for a mile or so. Maybe you’ll see things a little differently.

In other words, or if that metaphor went over your head, you have no right to judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his boots, especially when you’ve never left the comfort and safety of the blanket of protection that other, better men than you have provided. You don’t know why men volunteer to go to war; you don’t know all that they did, or how the things they did make them feel. You haven’t seen the savagery and barbarism that they’ve witnessed. And before you rant about the atrocities done to Iraqis and Afghans at the hands of Americans (unfortunately, such has happened), perhaps you should do a little research into what the Taliban and Al Qaeda have done to their own people. They are not “freedom fighters;” freedom fighters don’t hide behind their women, and send children out as suicide bombers. Their cause and their actions are as ignoble as you purport the American cause to be. In my short time as a United States Marine, the only civilian casualties I witnessed had been killed or wounded by the Taliban, not coalition forces.


Combat action: Taliban ambush (26/6/11)
Simply put, if you’ve never been to war, your opinion on war and its fighters counts for precisely nothing. You can have your opinion, sure. It’s a free country. But know that it is an ill-informed, ignorant opinion because you have no experience in the matter. Chris Kyle was not perfect, and he surely had his faults. But he was a genuine American hero, and I will defend him no matter what because when our nation was at war, he stepped forward to serve. And if it wasn’t for the millions of men and women who, like Chris Kyle, volunteered to fight, millions of others would have been conscripted and forced to fight anyway. For that, you owe him nothing less than your respect. Now carry on.


Peter was decorated for heroism in combat during his first deployment to Afghanistan (2011).  Presently he is a full-time student at Purdue University.  His younger brother, Jonathan, is in the US Navy, petty officer 2nd class, MM(N)3, aboard the nuclear submarine USS Topeka (SSN-754).

January 19, 2015

What Christians Want From the President

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (First Timothy 2:1-4)


In these turbulent days that bring the year 2014 to a conclusion in the United States, Christians, as they usually do, have a lot of influence over how issues are decided.  The surprising reversals in the November elections came in part from strong Christian participation.  As salt and light, American Christians are bringing new strength to the movements in their country to defend life, marriage, and the rule of law.  Yet these days have also brought dangerous confusion to the minds of many as to just what God’s people want, or should want, from their government, and specifically from their President.  Both believers and unbelievers alike have reason to find out what the Bible says about this, and thankfully there is a passage in the New Testament that gives us a definitive answer.

The early followers of Jesus Christ had great interest in politics and government.  They had little say in what their rulers would do (since the republican form of government was not being followed in any real way during the first century), but they definitely had an interest in it.  Jesus predicted that they would be “brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake (Luke 21:12),” and they were.  It was said that the great apostle Paul was “a chosen vessel to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15),” and he was.  Paul and many others ended up on trial before rulers and magistrates, and many died in the custody of civil authorities.  In scripture, Christians are told to “be subject unto the higher powers…not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” (Romans 13:1-7).  The Word of God tells us, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well…Fear God. Honour the king” (First Peter 2:13-17).  The apostle guided by the Holy Spirit tells us in the First Epistle to Timothy how to pray for those in government.  And what he tells us to ask God for them is a little surprising.

We are to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (First Timothy 2:2).  We are not asking the government to help us, to support us, to adopt our convictions, or to wave our flag.  Christians would love to have God-fearing leaders, as we can see in Proverbs 28:2-5, 15-16, and 29:2, 4, and 14.  Certainly First Timothy 2:1-6 encourages every believer to pray for the personal salvation of our authorities, including President Obama.  But the main concern in our prayer for our rulers is simply that they leave us alone!

We only ask that we not be harassed as long as we live “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  This is what the earnest Christians that preached the Word in the newly independent states that became our nation were asking of the framers of our Constitution.  They begged that a Bill of Rights be added to the original document guaranteeing that the new government would stay out of the important affairs of its decent citizens.  The main body of the Constitution gives the power to make laws into the hands of a “Congress” of the peoples’ representatives (Article I) in order to restrain the President or anyone else in the federal government from becoming tyrannical.

Although the civil authority of the Roman rulers was not particularly limited, the Christians prayed that they would restrain themselves.  And although believers in Christ were prepared to submit to unfair and oppressive measures decreed by their rulers, and to respect and honor their persecutors, they were praying that those in government would leave them alone.  That was their main desire.

They were not looking for federal aid to faith-based initiatives.  If a ministry is based on faith in God, why would it need federal aid?  No, the Christians want to see the government restrained and limited and out of their business.  To a Bible-believer, the business of government is to condemn and punish evildoers and not to solve the other problems of society.  If Christians can be free, they can use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to solve social problems.

Those who will take the time to read the first chapter of this Bible book (First Timothy 1) will see the contrast it gives between the Law and the Gospel.  As in other passages of scripture, we learn that the Law (both the Law of God and the law of man) can only condemn people (see verses 9-10).  It can’t really solve their problems.  The Law of God shows a man his real problem—sin—but it cannot take away his sin. Knowing what the rules are doesn’t give anyone the power to keep the rules.  The Law has no power to change us. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can save a man from his sins and change his life (see verses 11-17).

“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God,…Christ Jesus our Lord…hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

Because of the limitations of Law, the government cannot solve the great social problems: immorality, divorce, prejudice, greed, poverty, hatred, violence, hunger, ignorance, suicide, addiction, insanity.  Fundamentally these are sin problems, and only Christ can take away sin.  The Gospel of Christ must be preached and believed, and only Christians can preach the Gospel of Christ (note First Timothy 2:5-7).  It’s not the government’s job.  So Christians are praying that the government will leave them alone so that they can do their all-important work.

Every unnecessary expansion of government power works against the spread of the Gospel.  Even high taxes, which Christians will pay (Mark 12:14-17, Romans 13:3-6), restrict the work of the Lord by removing from the economy billions which Christians could use for church and mission work.  Deliberate efforts by the tax-collectors (such as we have been deeply disturbed to discover) to use tax exemptions to oppress Christian organizations clearly put the powers of government against the Cause of Christ.  The diminishing of the Congress in recent years threatens everybody’s freedom, and principally that of those who are spreading the Gospel.  Our forefathers guaranteed that law-making authority would be reserved to Congress, where the people are represented, but the practice of Presidents who have gone to war without Congress declaring war, operated government without submitting budgets to Congress, and made laws by executive decrees not subject to Congress has threatened everybody’s freedom and served to make our chief executive more and more like a king.  Christians do not want this to happen.  If we must serve the Lord under the oppressive rule of a too-powerful government led by a tyrant, we will, but it is not what we hope for.

Let the followers of Jesus Christ in this time work and pray for limited government, as our spiritual fathers did, and let us re-dedicate our lives and efforts to the spread of the Gospel.  This work is the main reason we have a right to ask the Lord for freedom.  It is not the freedom to get rich, to do wrong, to stir trouble, or to control others that we seek.  We just want to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  Let believers believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to every human trouble.  In the times of great revival in the past, the churches have stepped up to meet society’s deepest needs, and have succeeded in meeting them.


Dr. Rick Flanders



January 5, 2015

Dr. Clay Nuttall: What’s a Believer to do at This Point?

Some time ago we had an active discussion about what is happening in our world.  It centered on God’s involvement in weather and the freefall of society in general.  God does use weather events to accomplish His purposes and to judge humans for their evil actions.  Bible prophets were not popular in most cases because they told the truth. Their message was not popular or welcome.  Even believers did not want to hear truth if they deemed it negative.

Like it or not, God has begun to judge this world.  He is doing this by using serious weather events, as He did in the past.  His purpose is to bring judgment on those who violate His person and holiness.  God is using government leaders to punish nations who turn their backs on Israel.  Wickedness of the most serious nature, such as the murder of the unborn and the acceptance of sodomy, is something God cannot ignore. Worldwide economic disaster waits in the wings, and the planet “groans” under horrible military conflicts like we have never seen.  The growth of Islam with all of its atrocities is just part of what happens when a world forgets the sovereign creator God.

HERE AT HOME
 All of the above events are real threats to our own nation.  I have said repeatedly that we are just one major event away from civil war in our own land.  Now rioting in the streets has become a national pastime, with the approval of those who are supposed to be protecting everyone’s freedoms.  All these things are in the hand of God, and He uses them to judge those who have trampled His truth underfoot.  Any serious student of Nazi Germany would recognize what is happening in our country.  Instead of a free people, able to speak and practice what they believe, a new era of slavery is underway. We are not free to condemn the evil of sodomy; we must be silent or pay the price.  It is one thing for people to practice evil; it is another thing to force other people to recognize it, to accept it, to be silent about it, or to be punished for opposing it.

So here we are, and you don’t want to talk about these subjects.  You don’t want to hear about them because they are negative.  We are just supposed to play our silly little church games.  Let me sound a warning: you will not escape the fallout of all of this.  Let me add that the problem is made much worse by evangelical leaders who have taught us to hide our heads in the sand of activity and self-centered theology.  We do have a responsibility in this world, and it is about light and truth.

WHERE DO WE STAND?
 The sounds and images of conflict are on the horizon.  Please consider some ways that God would have us respond.  Deal with ignorance.  There is no safety in not knowing. Those who told you not to waste your time on current events have simply given you a sleeping pill, but the truth will be there when you wake up, as you most certainly will do.  Deal with denial.  To say that something isn’t happening when it actually is serves only to rob us of the very attitude of power that we need for the coming conflict.

Study the scripture.  I and II Peter, along with other books of the Bible, give us direction for dealing with situations similar to the ones we face today.  They provide a proper perspective that will help us to stand tall.  Let me remind you of a great truth: in the end, WE WIN!  We are not losers; we are overcomers, so stop talking and acting like a loser!

We are strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land, and we need to look at this challenge from heaven's point of view.  I don’t like pain any more than you do, but it is part of the believer's challenge in this world.  I don’t like rejection, either, but remember that if they hated our Lord, we should expect the same treatment.   You can’t compromise with pagans. To the worldlings, you are a bit less than human with almost no thinking ability. We might be able to fly under the radar for a while, but the day will come when what you believe and practice will be considered criminal.  We already know the results of the final judgment, so their condemnation of us is but a small thing.   

Pay no attention to cowardly professing Christians.  They will criticize you.  They should be holding your arms up, but they will condemn you.  You will be accused of being political, or of lacking love.  You will be accused of ignoring or hindering evangelism. When you speak the truth as it is revealed in scripture, they will allegorize the text in order to cover their disobedience.  You don’t have to have the approval of those who live with superstitious fear; fear God alone.

STAND STRAIGHT AND STAND TALL
 Stop whining and start winning.  The present and future persecution is small compared to that of saints of the past.  This is not a time to feel sorry for ourselves; rather, hateful opposition should cause us to REJOICE!  We should be thankful for the privilege of suffering for our Lord.  This is biblical Christianity.  See the enemy for what he is and the compromisers for what they are, but stand straight and stand tall.  Some of my readers may live long enough to win a martyr's crown, but we do not fear those who can kill the body; we only fear Him who can condemn the soul.

Sorry to disturb your fairy-tale, sugarplum mindset, but if you think all this will go away because you don’t know (ignorance) or don’t care (denial), you are in for a rude awakening.  Wake up, stand straight, and stand tall - be an overcomer!


Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.  Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches.  Write for information using the e-mail address shepherdstaff2@juno.com or at the Shepherd Staff site.