August 2, 2017

The Enticement of Cultural Relevance: Serious Thoughts for Preachers and Other Christians

Recently an insightful evangelist I know published a blog based on an informal survey of his friends

Dr. Rick Flanders
regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the independent Baptist churches over the years. Those responding to his survey named several strong points exhibited by the independent Baptists, and also criticized them for a number of serious weaknesses. The evangelist said that the survey responses influenced his own thinking, and led him to make his own evaluation of the people and the churches with which he has spent his life serving Jesus Christ. His conclusion is that the principal strength of the independent Baptists has been their allegiance to the authority of the Bible. He thinks that their primary weakness has been neglecting the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They have done well by emphasizing the Word, and have faltered by de-emphasizing the Spirit. As I indicated, this writer is intelligent and insightful. He goes on to identify four problems that have been produced among Baptist fundamentalists because of their unnecessary and wrongful neglect of the Holy Spirit:

1.      “Emperor-ism”—neglecting of the role of the Spirit in the churches often led them into an exaggerated dependence on human authority. Although this was not true in all of the independent Baptist churches, a number of them have suffered under authoritarian pastors, and my friend sees the source of this problem in the neglect of the Holy Spirit in the churches.

2.      “Traditionalism”—not walking in the Spirit is blamed for leading some independent Baptists into living by traditions without biblical warrant. Although this accusation is used by some to criticize the commendable practice of following and preaching high standards of living, there is some truth in the charge that some believers live strictly and exclusively by the rules handed down to them, and seek to keep them in the strength of their own character and determination. The Holy Spirit is the secret to holy living, and not rule-keeping, although guidelines for life that rise out of Bible teaching and do not contradict Spirit-led living can help. But ignorance of the Spirit’s ministry has left many in many floundering in defeat within the confines of a fleshly legalism. They maintain the standards handed down to them, but fail to experience the reality of the Spirit-filled life.

3.      “Lack of Love”—the fruit of the Spirit, of course, is first “love.” Therefore carnal Christians (who live according to the lusts of their flesh), even if they profess to be committed to Christian living, will lack love. And this lack of real love for people will readily be detected in churches. Unfortunately, many independent Baptist churches have been plagued with a cold, harsh, and uncaring atmosphere, due undoubtedly to their neglect of the Spirit.

4.      “Pride”—Since Christians who strive to live the Christian life and to serve the Lord Jesus without depending on the Holy Spirit sometimes see a measure of outward “success,” their tendency is to take credit for it. This is the reason for the pride in carnal preachers. And independent Baptists have had a number of them. The Lord Jesus warned His followers to beware of pride (as in Matthew 18:1-4), and thus we can expect it to be a problem in every group of Christians. And so it is. But it cannot be denied that neglect of the ministry of the Spirit has left independent Baptists especially open to the sin of pride.

My evangelist friend concludes correctly that while emphasizing the Holy Spirit without emphasizing the Word of God leads to delusion, emphasizing the Word without emphasizing the Spirit produces deadness. Deadness has been a problem for many independent Baptist churches in recent years, and it is because so many of us have neglected the Holy Spirit. It is as if Pentecostalism made us afraid of Him. Of course, such an observation is a generalization with many exceptions, as are all four of my friend’s observations about the effects de-emphasizing the Spirit. Every group of Christians has trouble with all four of these problems, and certainly independent Baptists have experienced them in recent decades. But let us, as we discern that these problems come from our neglect of the Spirit, let us also recognize a fifth significant problem experienced by independent Baptists which has also been created by neglecting the ministry of the Spirit. That fifth problem plaguing us today is the attraction in Baptist churches to making unwise changes based on what is called “cultural relevance.”

Because they learned over the years to depend on the flesh rather than upon the Spirit, pastors who want their churches to grow are particularly susceptible to the enticement of cultural relevance. Anyone who has paid attention to the conversation among pastors in the past ten to fifteen years is aware of the emphasis that has been given to “cultural relevance.” It has been a subject of real importance in many minds ever since students of church growth began to adopt business methods to build churches. “Cultural relevance” is seen as essential to the business of growing churches, especially since Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren began producing his “purpose-driven” books. A church that is serious about growing in our time must make sure that their approach to growth and to church itself is culturally relevant, we are constantly told.

What iscultural relevance?Actually it is a pedagogic term emphasizing the importance of a teacher’s “cultural competence” in his efforts to educate effectively students with different backgrounds. In the context of reaching people for Christ, the term indicates that Christians must make themselves aware of the demands and prejudices of the culture in which the people live they are seeking to evangelize. What the culture dictates will also dictate how the churches must evangelize, is the basis of the theory. Because they are fundamentalists, with a conservative point of view, we would expect independent Baptists to take offense at appeals to cultural relevance, but these appeals are having a remarkable influence on them. Maybe our problem in reaching people, they reason, has been that our lifestyle and church-style have ceased having cultural relevance to those we invite to church. Who we are, how we live, and what we do at church tend to give them a negative impression, the experts on church growth are telling us, and they present an obstacle to those we are commissioned to evangelize. So if we change our ways to be more culturally relevant, we can win more souls and build bigger churches.

This approach is especially appealing because so many independent Baptist churches have been evangelizing and building churches based on fleshly methods and appeals for years. In the hey-day, the thinking implies, we reached a lot of people without much help from the Holy Spirit. Our congregations became very large because of our effective methods, hard work, smart plans, and appealing events. But the times and the culture have changed. This has made our old methods ineffective. What we did in the ‘70s doesn’t work anymore. The Baptists never say it this way, but they do think this way. So when the old flesh-based methods quit working, it is asserted that we need simply to adopt new methods based on the changes in our culture. What appeals to people these days? What turns them off? Why don’t they like our churches anymore? What can we do to make church more appealing to the unchurched? You can’t expect to succeed if you are not willing to change, it is said. And our flesh-dependence has opened our minds to this approach.

However, the preachers and the people who have kept their noses in the Bible are much less often seduced by appeals to cultural relevance. They are instead persuaded by scripture that the way the world is to be reached is through the power of God, and not the energy of the flesh.

“Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

(Luke 24:47-49)

“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

(Acts 1:8)

Let Christians in the twenty-first century see how insignificant cultural relevance is in God’s plan for evangelizing our cities, our country, and our world. The secret to spreading the gospel effectively in any generation is partnering with God the Holy Spirit. In comparison with the supernatural biblical means, every natural means for evangelism based on human methodology must appear weak and ineffective. Consider four biblical facts about cultural relevance:

1. The first Christians did not consider cultural relevance when they set out to evangelize their world. The book of Acts begins with the command of Jesus that His followers spread the gospel in Jerusalem, to the surrounding area, to the next country, and then finally to the “uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). Then, as we continue reading, we follow them as they do it. What did they do, and how did they do it? They prayed and were filled with the Spirit (1:12-2:4). Then they simply worked at telling people in the city that Jesus had risen from the dead. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, sent the Holy Spirit, and is both Lord and Christ (2:5-47). They were bold and aggressive as they preached the gospel to everyone, but really they just preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. There wasn’t really any method to their work; they just worked at it, depending on the Lord for power, boldness, and wisdom. We have no hint that the leaders of the Jerusalem church held strategy meetings before Pentecost to determine the most appealing approach to telling the news that the One they had crucified at Passover arose from the dead and is the Savior of the world! It would be hard to take the sting out of this message, and they never tried to do it. Peter rose and made his announcement and then told the multitudes who listened in rapt attention that they must repent. Was the cultural relevance of the message or the delivering of it even considered? Apparently not. Was the preaching of the gospel effective? Apparently so. The first-century world was turned upside down through the simple obedience of Christians to the Great Commission.

One influential writer in the evangelical world of our day, who has expressed concern about this focus on cultural relevance, is Karl Vaters. He is the pastor of an Assemblies-of-God church in California who is gaining a hearing by opposing the emphasis on cultural relevance in building churches. In the magazine Christianity Today, he said, “Forget being culturally relevant; the church needs to be contextually real!” The church of Jesus Christ needs to be true to its Lord and to its mission if it is to have an effect on the world. Conformity to the world does not go with winning the world to Christ. “Chasing cultural relevance makes our churches look the same in ways we should be different…from the world,” he said. “I don’t care if the church is culturally relevant…cultural relevance is not the answer…I want the church to be better than relevant. I want us to lead…Trying to be culturally relevant is turning the church into followers instead of leaders.” On this issue, Mr. Vaters is dead right. When we try to fit the culture, we cease trying to persuade sinners. It’s as simple as that.

2. The Holy Spirit does not seem concerned about cultural relevance in His work to convert the lost. Of His work through Christians, Jesus said (read His words in John 16:7-14), “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Reproof doesn’t take into account cultural relevance, and the reproof of the Spirit is absolutely essential to the conversion of a sinner. They were “pricked in their hearts” on the day of Pentecost before three thousand Jews were converted to Christ (Acts 2:37). You cannot be saved until you know you are lost, justly condemned before the law of God. The Holy Spirit is not approaching sinners based on the principles of public relations or cultural relevance. He is reproving them based on the Word of God we are sharing with them. He shows them that they are in trouble, and that their only hope is in Jesus Christ. His work through us as witnesses brings people from death unto life. And cultural relevance has absolutely nothing to do with it.

3. Concern about cultural relevance seems to contradict the passion for holiness. Ephesians 5 is one of many chapters in the New Testament that calls on Christians to live holy lives (See also John 8, First Thessalonians 4, and First Peter 1). It tells us not to live like unbelievers (verses 1-7). It tells us not to endorse what they do (read verses 8-11). It even says that as children of light, we should not talk about the way wicked people live (verse 12). We are to be separate from the world. The Hebrew and Greek words for “holy” imply separation. Those who have an obligation to separate from the sins of the world around them cannot afford to be draw into an attraction to cultural relevance. Can we? Shall those who have left the world behind to follow Jesus keep looking back in the interest of maintaining some kind of cultural relevance?

4. Culture is based on religion. Acts 17 says that in one generation the first Christians “turned the world upside down.” It is a fact of history that the spread of Christianity changed the Roman Empire into “Christian civilization,” which is the foundation of Western culture today. Culture is not morally or religiously neutral. It is based on certain beliefs and standards. The paganism of the Greek and Roman worlds gave the Roman Empire its culture, and the people their way of life. The gospel of Christ changed all that. Great numbers of the people “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God” (First Thessalonians 1:5-10) in just a few decades, and the culture changed. So it has been with every great awakening. Thus conforming to the culture as a strategy for evangelism is in reality a form of betrayal. When the churches fail to recognize the false ideas and moral perversions behind the culture in which we live, they adopt ways of doing things that betray the truth they claim to represent and fail to win the people to the true God. When we preach the gospel without apology we are actually laying the groundwork for a new culture as a by-product of our mission. To adopt pagan culture as a way of winning pagans is counter-productive and a form of denying Jesus. Of course, some misinterpret and misapply the words of Paul in First Corinthians 9 about becoming as a Jew in order to win Jews and becoming as weak in order to win the weak and becoming all things to all men, to justify conforming to the culture for the cause of evangelism. But if you study the whole chapter, you will find that just the opposite is taught. Chapters 8, 9, and 10 argue that Christians ought to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to false gods in the temples of the idols for several good reasons, although to eat something dedicated in a ritual to an imaginary deity cannot be proven to be inherently sinful. The idea is that through the self-denial of the Christian life, a believer will be stricter in his life on himself than technically he might be required to be. He will do this out of love for others (Chapter 8), for the cause of evangelism (Chapter 9), and out of loyalty to the true God. Study it. Paul was not justifying dropping his standards in order to please the pagans, but rather he was advocating the raising of our standards so as to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy in order to give credibility to our evangelism. Read it.

Making reasonable changes in the way we do things to improve our effectiveness can make sense, but becoming enamored with cultural relevance is dangerous. Let independent Baptists keep their noses in the Bible, their eyes upon Jesus, and their dependence on His Holy Spirit, as we move forward to reach our world with the truth about the love of God and the salvation that is in His Son!

 
Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

July 12, 2017

The One Biblical Hermeneutic by Clay Nuttall, D.Min.

The following is a pre-publication “sneak peek” at the book, The Normal Hermeneutic: The One Biblical system.  The authors are Hani Hana, an Egyptian national, and Clay Nuttall, who prepares the Shepherd’s Staff.  Have fun.
 
PREFACE
 
We have discussed the need for a book on hermeneutics, a book that is foundational and that would be consistent with the normal use of language.   After observing students who finish degrees in theology and still hold to theological error, we sought to find out why.  The answer became very clear: their interpretation wasn’t the problem, varied as it might be.  The problem was that they had no authoritative system of interpretation.
 
After searching through the plethora of humanly generated systems, it was evident that a lot of systems will produce many conflicting interpretations. Did God intend for us to have such theological confusion?  Is the text of holy scripture so weak that it could not sustain the one interpretation that God had placed in a text?  Was there a single system that would, with major passages, always provide the same interpretation that everyone could arrive at?  The problem wasn’t that God has not given us the answer, but that man was always tempted to add to and subtract from the text.
 
The answer to the problem has been clearly established.  It was in the correct use of all language in the plain, clear statements of the text. Following this path, this book -The Normal Hermeneutic - only deals with that one system of language that all literature follows.  The Bible is literature, and it is the one book of interest for us in this discussion; but it is a book like no other.  God is the author of this text.  The Holy Spirit produced it, using human writers.  Every word and thought, hence the whole, is inspired, reliable, sufficient, and authoritative.  There is no higher authority.  Anything scripture speaks to is the final word on the subject.  Only one biblical hermeneutical system rises from the Bible text.  It is the normal, clear, plain, consistent, literal use of language.  The faithful, consistent use of the normal hermeneutic is a scientific process, and it is mathematical.  When this system is utilized, it will produce the same answer every time for everyone, unless it is corrupted by human insertion.
 
Every doctrinal error has its roots in an erroneous system of interpretation or some corruption of the one biblical system.  To practice the normal hermeneutic, one must pay attention to the rules that guard all literature. The focus in this work will be on the correct use of grammar, context, and the historical setting of the text.  These are rules that are used not only for this specific genre, but for all literature.  They are identified in this discussion, as is the proper use of application once the normal hermeneutic has produced that one interpretation of a text.
 
The nature of this material is foundational.  Philosophical discussions are identified only for the purpose of reference, and they have no real authority.  We are interested in the clear, plain statement of scripture.  This is the real authority.  Once a reader leaves the plain, clear text, the temptation to rewrite it is always present.
 
One has to ask why it is that various learned scholars go to the same text and come away with a dozen different interpretations.  It is particularly troubling because many of these commentators claim to use the same system of interpretation.  That simply isn’t possible.  Intellectuals argue that there is no such thing as exactitude in the matter of interpretation of the Bible text.  The Biblicist demands that the inspiration of scripture by careful oversight of the Holy Spirit is a verbal, plenary product.  The Bible is inerrant.  Everything placed in Holy Writ is pure and correct.  God cannot be accused of error in the writing of the text.  It is fair to ask if God gave us the tools and ability to get out of the text that very same truth that God placed there.  This, however, is the point of The Normal Hermeneutic.  God did make it possible for us to draw from the Bible the very truths He inserted therein.  It would be a scandalous thing for God to leave the Bible student without the ability to know exactly what God said and also to know that He meant what He said.
 
 
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 Shepherd's Staff.

June 30, 2017

A Tribute to America & Her Flag







The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light.
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?



You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan - 1906

You’re a grand old flag, You’re a high flying flag And forever in peace may you wave. You’re the emblem of
The land I love. The home of the free and the brave. Ev’ry heart beats true ‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, Keep your eye on the grand old flag.



America, The Beautiful Lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates - 1913

O beautiful for spacious skies,
 For amber waves of grain,
 For purple mountain majesties
 Above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
 And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!



O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
 Whose stern impassion’d stress
 A thoroughfare for freedom beat 
Across the wilderness!
 America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
 Confirm thy soul in self-control,
 Thy liberty in law!



O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
 Who more than self their country loved,
 And mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
 And ev’ry gain divine!



O Beautiful for patriot dream
 That sees beyond the years
 Thine alabaster cities gleam,
 Undimmed by human tears!
 America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
 And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea!




June 22, 2017

Dumb Things People Say by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

Some of the things people say are just plain funny, while others are extremely harmful.  Quite often, things that are stated are only strange because of where they are uttered.  This is like the visitor who goes to the OB ward to visit an obviously expectant mother.  The visitor says, “Are you still here”?  Then there is the man who is visiting at the funeral home and comments about the deceased, “My, he looks so nice.”  My favorite is church bulletin humor.  “The Pastor’s message: What the fool said.”  Dumb things can often be quite entertaining.
 
When the time rolls around for elections, we are subjected to some of the dumbest things I have ever heard.  You sometimes have to wonder how anyone could possibly be elected who appears to be totally brain dead.  I love one-liners, and they probably are the best way to respond to dumb statements, if you are not still laughing after five minutes.  Dumb things are not always verbal; sometimes they are put in print.  I tend to do this in emails because I never spell- check them.  That can get you into a lot of trouble, as some of you well know!  Then there is social media. This is the king of written dumb things.  It covers almost 50% of the comments posted. We live in a world that doesn’t think. That, of course, is the fruit of today’s liberal American education, and almost everyone I know struggles with thinking before speaking.
 
IN THE CHRISTIAN CIRCLES
 
Let me begin with dumb things preachers say.  An oft repeated statement is, “The lost will be separated from God for eternity” or “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there.”  Unless you have a different God than the one described in the Bible, that is a dumb statement.  The God of the Bible is omnipresent.  That means He is present always, everywhere, for all time and eternity.  There is NO place where He is not eternally present.  The psalmist put it this way: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”  (Psalm 139:8)
 
My pet peeve involves a string of things that all mean the same thing.  “I believe,” “I think,” “my view,” “my opinion is.”  Let me be blunt.  What the preacher believes, thinks, opines is not relevant.  I don’t care.  What we want to know is what the clear teaching of the Word of God says.  If you don’t know, either say so or wait until you do know.  The authority in the pulpit is the Word of God, not the imagination of the preacher.  If you do know what the Bible says, then say it clearly and pointedly: “The Bible says…”  That is not arrogance; it is obedience.
 
We should all agree that preachers telling lies in the pulpit is dumb.  Everything we say ought to be tested with the truth.  Let me focus on lying about time: “This is my last point,” “I am almost done,” “Just a minute more.”  This is fine if it is true; but if you then ramble on for another half hour, let’s face it - you lied, and that is dumb.  Oh, I see - “the Lord led you.”  Why do we always blame our errors on God?  That is also dumb.  The best preaching doesn’t ever refer to time.  It holds the attention of the listener so that, when the end does come, the listener is surprised.
 
The problem appears to be that there is more error taught in the name of God than truth.  Part of this has to do with a tragic, casual approach to the study of God’s Word.  Digging in the text is hard work.  It takes time, energy, and persistence.  I often wonder why anybody listened to me in my early years of preaching, and I wish I had known then what I know now.  What I do know, for sure, is that I now know very little of the whole even after fifty-seven years of ministry!
   
A second problem with this issue of dumb things is the infringement of “historical theology” upon the clear teaching of the Scriptures.  Instead of being like the saints at Bera (Acts 17:11). who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” too many preachers blindly accept what other men have said about the text.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, so asking questions about historical positions is off base.  To those who have chosen to be followers of a man, disloyalty is almost criminal.  Even the faithful know better than to ask questions about historical conclusions that don’t make sense. 
 
This would include the problem of the worship of scholars.  I repeat: scholars and scholarship have great value for all of us, but they do us no service if we are not allowed to ask questions. How often are scholars wrong?  The answer is “often”, and that is easy to prove.  With so many and such varied conclusions about a text, they couldn’t possibly all be right.  Maybe one of them is; but even if one is right, it means the majority must be wrong.  Let me remind you that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the common man.  Deep inside, the liberal in you may be saying that this writer is opposed to scholarship and serious education, even if the evidence is the exact opposite.
 
THE HEART OF DUMB THINGS
 
The road to “dumb things” is paved with wrong interpretation.  Actually, it is paved with wrong systems of interpretation.  I am racing to finish the book “The Normal Hermeneutic.” In it I deal with the word “interpretation.”  The Bible interprets itself.  God put truth in, and He wants to lift it out of the text.  Somewhere, it seems, we got the idea that God needs our help; so, we began to add our wisdom to that of the scriptures.   We end by adding our ideas to the text.  Our task is to find out what God has plainly said and to make sure that is what we teach.  What has happened is that we teach what we think about what the Bible says and so end up saying a lot of dumb things.
 
An example of this problem is found in our own national government.  The founding documents of this nation are its laws.  The responsibility of the courts is to see that the original documents are upheld and that people obey those laws.  Now enters a system that allows the courts to interpret the law rather than uphold what was written.  The product is a corrupted judicial system that does not represent the original documents.
 
That is exactly what has been done to the Bible.  Instead of letting the Bible speak, we have added our ideas and ignored the things we don’t like.  So, we end up drowning in a sea of dumb theological ideas.  And then there is music…but don’t even get me started!
 
 
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 

June 5, 2017

A Pie in the Sky?

Socialists have long accused religion of offering “a pie in the sky by and by” as a way of distracting

Dr. Rick Flanders
and pacifying those who suffer under capitalism, thus keeping them from rising up in insurrection.  The phrase (which has moved into our general conversation in reference to things other than religion) comes from a folk song, titled “The Preacher and the Slave,” which was written by a radical revolutionary named Joe Hill a century ago.  He was echoing the charge of Karl Marx that “religion is the opium of the people.”  The far Left has long regarded religion in general, and the church in particular, as supporting the interests of the rich (who, they say, control religion) by mollifying the discontent of workers using vain promises of heavenly rewards for those who will not make trouble for capitalists.  The ironic fact, however, is that it is socialism, and not Christianity, that promises rewards it never delivers.
The different kinds of socialism that have appeared on the scene in the past 250 years have all promised utopia and yet they have all failed to deliver.  And it is strange that those who in our time are charmed by Leftist promises have not noticed this fact.  So-called “utopian” socialists in the 19th century set up a number of communal colonies, such as Robert Owen’s New Harmony, Indiana, and, and none of them succeeded.  One of the participants in the New Harmony experiment explained the reason for its failure in these terms:
“We [the members of the famous communal colony] had a world in miniature—we had enacted the French revolution over again with despairing hearts instead of corpses as a result…It appeared that it was nature’s own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us…our ‘united interests’ were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation…”
(Josiah Warren, 1856)
Every one of the other utopian colonies set up in America and abroad in those days (such as those in Nashoba, Tennessee; New Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fruitlands, Massachusetts; and the Oneida Community in New York) failed for the same reason.  Human nature makes successful communalism impossible.  And government-enforced collectivism must always become oppressive.
The communist revolutionaries who overthrew the monarchy in France gave the French the Reign of Terror and a corrupt dictatorship, instead of the liberty, equality, and fraternity it promised.  All of the revolutions inspired by Marx and Engels ended badly, and certainly not in the Workers’ Paradise they convinced people they were creating.  Look at the miserable histories of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Cambodia and East Germany.  See how socialism sucked the very soul out of these once-great nations, and put them under the rule of terrorists who murdered great numbers of innocent people.  The history of the past two centuries seems to prove that if politicians promise Heaven on earth, they will give us Hell on earth.
In Europe and America, socialism and communism arose in response and opposition to the gospel preached by evangelical preachers in the churches and revival meetings.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes to us as good news in contrast to the bad news that all men are sinners and justly condemned before God for our sins.  The good news is that God loves us and sent His Son on a mission to rescue us from the power and consequences of our sins.  Jesus died on the cross “for our sins, according to the scriptures” (First Corinthians 15:1-3-4), and God “raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).  Sinners who come to Jesus for their salvation and trust Him to bestow the grace of God upon them will receive eternal life, and a new life of peace and hope, and also the promise of Heaven.  They will not be condemned because Jesus paid for their sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1).  They can live triumphantly because He arose the Victor over sin and death.
Preachers of the socialist gospel say that the evil present in human society does not arise from the human heart or the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, but rather is generated by the way we operate the economy.  Capitalism, they proclaim, creates evil.  Suffering and injustice come, not from our innate sinfulness and our need of the Savior, but rather from the selfishness and oppression that is part and parcel of our economic system.  Our need is not for Jesus, but for a new economic system.  We need to devise and implement some system of collectivism and force it upon our society.  Private property and free enterprise are the enemies of the good, and must be crushed by a socialist revolution and communist-type government.  Things will be better for everybody, they say, soon after the socialist gospel is believed and accepted.  But all of the nations that have received and implemented socialism, expecting the pie that was promised, are still waiting for it to come out of the oven.
The Apostle Peter wrote by divine inspiration about the false prophets that will come to challenge the truth:
“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.  For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.”
(Second Peter 2:17-19)
Socialist rulers rise to power by offering empty promises that desperate people accept.  Whether it was Lenin or Stalin or Hitler (who called himself a “national” socialist) or Mao or Pol Pot, every socialist dictator gained absolute control over his people by promising them the pie in the sky, which he never produced.  This is true also of less vicious rulers who have gained power with the same vain socialist promises.  Socialism in any form has never worked.  It doesn’t share the wealth, but only the misery.  It is never a movement of love and compassion, but always a movement of hatred and envy.  It is a false gospel that has been proven a lie over and over again.  And the revolutionaries of our day in our country still sway people by promising the pie that never materializes.
On the other hand, the gospel of Jesus Christ comes through with all that it offers, and has never been a message offering only hope in the next life.  Those who receive Christ receive benefits of profound value right away.  Jesus told the sad and sinful woman He met at the well of Sychar,
“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:10 and 13-14)
The sinner who comes to Jesus for everlasting life receives immediately a new life that satisfies him forever.  Just ask a born-again Christian if all He got in Jesus was a promise of something after he dies.  He will tell you that the need of the thirsty soul is fully and forever satisfied the moment he turns to Christ for salvation.  It happens every time, in this present life, because Jesus came that men might “have life and, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

May 16, 2017

Vulgarity Celebrated

Under Old Testament law, vulgarity was forbidden and the penalty was serious.  “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”  (Exodus 20:7)
 
Under grace, the standard for such speech is even higher.  It extends to any words that have the slightest bent toward disrespect of God’s name, vulgarity, swearing, and even vain repetition.  In setting a higher standard, Jesus said that committing such an act in the heart is the same as actually doing it.  (Matthew 5:29)  The epistles overflow with commands saying that questionable speech and vulgarity do not belong in the mouths of the saints.  Paul tells us that if we rein in our thoughts, we can guard our words against those things that offend a holy God.
 
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5) 
 
With all this in mind, can you tell me why our present world is covered with a tidal wave of vulgarity?  The offense is multiplied when humans, made in the image of God, actually defend the right to be foul mouthed!  A celebration of vulgarity.
 
WHO SHOULD BE SURPRISED?
 
A foul mouth rises from a corrupt, putrid heart.  We are surprised when a wicked heart is polite, kind, reasonable, and gentle in speech.  It does happen.  The reader has learned by now that I leave the devotional ministry, in the main, to my other friends; and they do well with it.  My task, however, is to be a truth teller; and even believers are uncomfortable with truth in plain speech.  Let’s be clear about this.  Any heart that has rejected Christ as Savior is “wicked”.  It has committed the most heinous sin that can be committed.  The murder of the unborn and sodomy are wicked acts, but rejection of the Son of God, His deity, and His virgin birth are the height of wickedness.  That is why liberalism is a wicked movement.  It is why the majority of people you know are wicked.  That is why some politicians, judges, and business men and women are wicked.  So, when they vent their wickedness through their foul mouths, it is only a confession of just how evil they are.  We are obligated to remember that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.  We are commanded to remember that God hates all sin, both small and great.  While we are commanded to love all mankind, we must hate what God hates.
 
IMMERSED IN A WORLD OF VULGARITY
 
It is everywhere - news, radio, television, printed media, and our own communities.  Spirit-filled Christians are buried in verbal filth at work, school, and out in public.  No-one seems to care that God has forbidden such low-level conversation.  If we go out for a special dinner, the conversation at the next table often turns to garbage.  Try enjoying a night with the family at a special sports event -there is an onslaught of offensive language on all four sides.  How many times have you been driving somewhere and encountered vulgar warfare between drivers or pedestrians?  We live in a world where many people have the morals of a “junk-yard dog” with language to match.  If you want a real eyeful or earful, go to social media.  If you try to have a reasonable discussion, some liberal will bust in with a string of vulgarity that only demonstrates that he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what an answer should be… but he sure knows how to cuss!
 
You get the point: it’s a bad world out there.  Let me ask you a question: Is there anything God’s people can do when buried in such despicable situations?  There are times when it is best to be silent.  In the vulgar world, people have been known to become violent if they think you are “judging” them.  We know what Jesus did under such temptation; He quoted scripture.  Many of you do that on Facebook.  We can try a reasonable answer, but that usually doesn’t work with people who have rejected truth as a way of thinking.  We probably don’t think of praying for depraved people, but that might be the first thing that should come to our mind.  Of course, you could isolate yourself and pretend it is not really happening; but remember that “Silence isn’t always golden; sometimes it is just plain yellow!”  Of course, you could side with the perpetrator and defend him/her by attacking the person who brought up the subject of holiness and truth.
 
THIS IS WHAT REALLY HURTS
 
It is so easy to pick on the children of the devil.  In case you have forgotten, anyone who is not a child of God through faith in Christ is a child of the devil.  That is the reason why they lie, cheat, steal, and communicate with vulgarity.
 
Would someone please explain why there is so much vulgarity flowing from the mouths, pens, and keyboards of those who call themselves Christians?  You can see it for yourself.  Go to Facebook right now, and see how many vulgar words are being used by those you think are believers.  Sure, they think hiding vulgarity in code (OMG, etc.) is not the same thing.  Shame on anyone who tries to defend “hidden swearing.”  If I were an unbeliever, I sure would not be impressed with the fact that your foul language is just like mine.
 
You sure wouldn’t expect to hear this kind of language at church, right?  Then you might want to listen a bit more carefully.  Have you listened carefully to the conversations of teens?  What boggles my mind is that several “evangelical gurus” have been championing vulgar language inside their messages and teaching.  It may get some laughs, but it is not funny.  Teaching others to sin does not set well with a holy God.  Those who feel free to abuse grace hate it when their feet are held to the fire.  When they are angry about the message, they attack the messenger.  That is an old liberal trick.
 
APPLICATION
 
This seems like an impossible task.  How do we get rid of this plague?  In our own lives, we follow the commandment “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”  
(1 Peter 1:15)  Since God lives within us, the answer is that His holiness makes it possible for us to live His holiness out in our living and speech.  That means we don’t defend vulgarity in our lives or in the lives of others.  Remember - silence is approval.
 
 
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
 
For related reading see, The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness by Dr. Peter Masters.

April 25, 2017

Reformed Theology vs. Keswick Theology

The following Q&A recently appeared at Dr. John VanGelderen’s Revival Focus blog.

Dear John: Would you please explain the main difference between the Reformed theology sanctification model and the Keswick model?
Thank you for this relevant question! Much misinformation has been communicated on this subject,
Dr. John VanGelderen
so I’m glad to address it. Although pages could be written on the various differences, dealing with the main difference can be addressed briefly. For years I have maintained that the underlying issue between Reformed theology and Keswick theology (and for that matter Arminian theology) revolves around one’s view of faith.
 
Basically, there are three views of faith: unfettered choice, inevitable faith, and responsible faith.
  1. Arminian theology (at least with those of a thoroughgoing persuasion) views faith as unfettered choice. Man is responsible to believe and can believe when he wants to.
  2. Reformed theology (with those of a thoroughgoing persuasion) views faith as inevitable for “the elect.” Faith is viewed as a human work. So, to insure salvation by grace, and keep “works” out of salvation, those whom God elects are regenerated in order to believe. Regeneration precedes faith. If you are regenerated, it is inevitable that you will believe, and it is inevitable that you will persevere in progressive sanctification.
  3. Keswick theology views faith as responsible faith. Faith is not viewed as a work, but rather as dependence on the Worker—God. Faith is man’s response of God-dependence to God’s convicting work. But man can resist or respond to God’s conviction. It is not inevitable. This principle would apply to salvation and Christian growth. Faith is a responsibility that is not a human work. Faith is the cooperation of a relationship of trust in God, both His will and power. Keswick is often defined as “sanctification by faith.”
Personally, I believe God’s divine order is divine initiation, human responsibility (faith), and divine enablement. For example Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The phrase “it is God which worketh in you” reveals the need for divine initiation. Man does not choose right without God convicting him to do so. The phrase “to will” highlights man’s response of faith. The phrase “and to do of his good pleasure” expresses God’s divine enablement. This order holds true for salvation and for Christian growth. Arminian theology minimizes divine initiation. Reformed theology minimizes the responsibility of faith by making it inevitable. Keswick theology embraces divine initiation, the faith response, and then divine enablement.
 
The key here is discerning whether or not faith is a human work. Some Reformers thought of faith as a human work, and thus the system of inevitable faith. But faith is not a work. Romans 4:5 makes this abundantly clear by saying, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him.” Faith then is not a work, but dependence on the Worker. Faith says, “I can’t, but God can.” Faith is man’s responsibility, but it is not a work—the Bible says so. But because of misunderstanding regarding this truth, some Reformed theologians tend to accuse Keswick of being man-centered because Keswick emphasizes faith. But this reveals a misunderstanding of faith. For it is impossible for God-dependence to be man-centered!
 
 
John R. VanGelderen
 

Related Reading:
Keswick: A Good Word or a Bad One?

Keswick theology teaches that “progressive sanctification” does not mean an inevitable gradual sanctification, but rather that sanctification is accelerated by faith choices and is hindered by choices of unbelief. Obviously, the Holy Spirit keeps working, but believers are responsible to cooperate in faith for sanctification to progress according to God’s will. Keswick teaches that just as justification is by faith, so also sanctification is by faith.

April 17, 2017

Who Taught You to Think?

There are two basic premises in the process called thinking. Within each premise there are a variety of differences, but at the poles of each there is a difference as great as that between night and day. In philosophy, this idea is demonstrated in Raphael’s painting, The School of Athens. At the center of the painting, Plato is pointing upward and Aristotle holds his hand downward. Each of them is emphasizing his center of thought and authority - Plato the absolutes or ideals and Aristotle the particulars of earth.

The difference between these two foundational issues is critical to life and death. It is clearly demonstrated in the third chapter of Genesis. God is the authority, and everything He utters is true and flawless. Eve allows the devil to deny God’s Word and add his own ideas to God’s words. Then Eve follows that error and adds some words of her own. God’s Word is wholly without error; its statements are pure truth. Repeating what God has said is always trustworthy. This is the correct process of thinking with the words and mind of God. The majority of individuals in our world, however, have followed the thinking process that Satan invented. They deny truth or add error where they choose. Here you have the conflict between pure truth and truth that has been corrupted.
Some years ago, I started using a term to clarify this contrast. There are only two religions on earth. I know Christianity is not really a religion, but please bear with me. Christianity holds that the eternal, sovereign creator is God and that our authority is the pure Word of God. The other religion is “Humianity,” a play on words. All other religions are part of this. The god of Humianity is man, and his authority is human reason. Once again, you have the contrast of two authorities, two ways of thinking.
CLEARING THE AIR
The problem is that human authority often borrows true statements from God, but then adjusts them to fit flawed human reason. The sad commentary is that believers who should know better often take the clear statements of scripture and either add to them or do the unthinkable - they deny the plain statements of scripture. Believers who can’t find the answer they were looking for simply go ahead and invent one. Unfortunately, the discipline of Systematic Theology is full of these inventions. They call them “different points of view.”
Just a reminder, in case you may have forgotten: Shepherd’s Staff isn’t about forcing answers on the reader; it is about making people think. So, before you get all bent out of shape, do some thinking, and beware of borrowing from flawed human reason.
THE SAME QUESTION
We began this discussion by asking “Who taught you to think?” Thank God for churches, pastors, professors, parents, etc., who have reminded us that true thinking begins and ends with the Word of God. All other expressions are opinions. On the other hand, though, we also had teachers who ought to know better tell us that science, physical evidence, philosophers, and scholars are the true source of authority. As a result, we borrowed from human thought, experience, physical evidence, etc., and made them part of our authority. State education is particularly culpable in this shift of authority. In fact, almost everyone reading this - if not all of us - have been moved in our thinking and have adjusted the one trustworthy authority.
Science, as defined by man, has become an authority higher than God. Let me ask you this: has science ever been wrong? In the Old Testament, if a prophet gave one false prophecy, he was stoned. Why would believers ever doubt the clear statements of Scripture in order to please the false prophecies of science? Is God wrong - was there indeed a “big bang?” Read the plain statements in the book of Romans, and consider what God says about those who deny Him as creator.
This, however is the problem; the god of intellectualism permits men to deny the things that God has simply stated in His Word. Their argument is that it can’t really be that simple, so they borrow from another authority to get their way. That is why “intellectualism complicates to confuse” while the biblical thinker “simplifies to clarify.”
Science, falsely so-called, has information, but not truth. It is intellectual, but it does not have intelligence. Did you forget that those who deny the creator are absolutely sure that there was no “intelligent design” in what they call “nature”? It has knowledge, but it does not have wisdom; it has opinion, but not fact; it has belief, but no final authority.
BRING IT HOME
It is easy to pick on intellectual pagans; however, we shudder to consider how deeply the wrong kind of thinking and the final authority of flawed human reason have made their way into theology. Most of my day, at this point, is spent in study and research in the Word. How can it be that theologians in our camp can go to the same text and come away with a dozen different conclusions? If they go to the same statements, with the same authority, why do they disagree? The answer is simple; you cannot go to the same text, and use the same language system and universal rules, and get more than one answer. I know that scholars tend to hate simplicity. It robs them of human creativity and the power to have it their own way. Remember, though, that the Bible was not written to scholars; it was written to the ordinary humble believer who finds peace in the fact that each text has only one interpretation. If the answer is illusive, there may not be an answer; but we certainly are not free to invent one. That is a major problem with historical theology - it certainly does have value, but it is not authoritative. An error long held is still an error. Any idea as to what you are thinking, or how you are thinking? Your next words will reveal that.

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

April 10, 2017

Archival Series: Lordship Salvation, A Misuse of Scripture



For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.


There is one passage of Scripture that virtually always comes up in the discussion of repentance with advocates of Lordship Salvation and needs to be carefully explained. How does John MacArthur, for the Lordship view of repentance, interpret the first verse of this passage?

As metanoia is used in the New Testament, it always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin. In the sense Jesus used it, repentance calls for a repudiation of the old life and a turning to God for salvation. Such a change of purpose is what Paul had in mind when he described the repentance of the Thessalonians: “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Note the three elements of repentance: turning to God, a turning from evil, and the intent to serve God. No change of mind can be called true repentance if it does not include all three elements. The simple but all too often overlooked fact is that a true change of mind will necessarily result in a change of behavior. Repentance is not merely shame or sorry over sin, although genuine repentance always involves an element of remorse. It is a redirection of the human will, a purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness and pursue righteousness instead. 9

What is the gospel, after all, but a call to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30)? In other words, it demands that sinners make a change—stop going one way and turn around to go the other (1 Thess. 1:9). 10

Those quotes represent Lordship’s classic misuse of 1 Thess. 1:9. MacArthur starts by addressing the Greek word metanoia as it is used in the New Testament, and then quotes a verse that does not even contain the word metanoia. The Greek word for “to turn” is completely different; it is epistrepho (epistrephō) and means simply “to turn, turn to or toward.” Epistrephō does not mean “to repent.”

Through the balance of this section I am going to draw from the Inspired Commentary, the Word of God, to bring out the meaning and context of 1 Thess. 1:9. Before we can draw a conclusion on 1 Thess. 1:9 we need to begin by reviewing Paul’s initial evangelistic ministry to the Thessalonicans. In Acts 17:1-4 we find Paul arriving at Thessalonica and, “as his manner was,” preaching the gospel. He was preaching Jesus who suffered and rose again. He said, “…Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” He is exhorting the Thessalonians, in their unsaved condition, to change their mind about Jesus. In verse four we see that some were persuaded, “some of them believed,” but some “believed not.” What was it in Paul’s preaching that some were persuaded of and believed? That Jesus, who suffered, died and rose again, was the Christ. In Paul’s evangelistic appeal to the Thessalonians is there any call or exhortation for “turning from evil” or the “intent to serve” for salvation? No, there is not! MacArthur is forcing “turning from evil (sin) and the intent to serve God…to forsake all unrighteousness” into the narrative of Paul’s sermon.

Those who “believed not” set in motion a wave of persecution against the new believers (Acts 17:5-9). The events at Thessalonica set a pattern for what we find in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonian believers.

In 1 Thessalonians 1 Paul acknowledges and praises them for their “work of faith” and “labor of love.” They set an example for others on what Bible Christianity should look like. Their fine example was being set with “patience” (v. 3) in the face of “much affliction” (v. 6; Acts 17:5-9). They were setting the right example for fellow believers (Macedonia and Achaia, vv. 7-8) to emulate how to go through persecution. The reputation of the Thessalonian church preceded Paul in his missionary travels; therefore he did not need to speak of it (v.8). Their testimony of faith and patience in the face of persecution was a living example and a sermon without words. With respect to Lordship Salvation, this raises a serious problem. If the example of the Thessalonians in their willingness to change their behavior after they believed is considered the necessary condition of true saving faith, then in what way were the Thessalonians “examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7)? How could they be the example to all other believers when all believers in Christ will necessarily live and behave just like the Thessalonians as Lordship advocates insist?

1 Thess. 1:9 opens with, “For they… .” The “they” is their “faith to God-ward,” which became known abroad. The Thessalonians “turned to God,” which put them in a position for the capacity to serve God. The example they became to other believers was the result of their believing the message Paul preached unto themthe One who suffered and rose again is the Christ. The “patience of hope” (v. 3) is defined in verse 10, “And to wait for his Son from heaven.” While they expected and patiently waited for Him to come they kept working out their faith and labored in love. Today when so many are occupied with His coming, we would do well to learn from the Thessalonians that we should keep occupied (doing something for Him) until He comes.

Lordship advocates who use this passage as an illustration of repentance only quote verse 9, “and how ye turned (epistrepho) to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Grammatically, however, there are two parallel infinitives of purpose, which are found in verses 9 and 10. The sentence structure, therefore, if breaking it down into main points and sub points, could be visualized this way:

v9, For
     they themselves shew of us
           - what manner of entering in we had unto you
             and
           - how ye turned to God from idols
                 - to serve (douleuein) the living and true God
v10,             and 
                 - to wait (anamenein) for His Son from heaven,
                              -whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus,
                              - which delivered us from the wrath to come.

There is a major problem for the Lordship position in claiming that 1 Thess. 1:9 is making the intent “to serve” a necessary description (thus condition) of genuine repentance/faith. If “to serve” is a condition/necessary description, then syntactically so must the phrase “to wait” be as well. Wait for what? “His Son from heaven,” i.e. the Second Coming of Christ. There is no other passage in Scripture that conditions the reception of eternal life on believing in Christ’s Second Coming or waiting for it!

There is simply no way the two infinitive clauses can be separated. They are both present tense, active voice, infinitives, and they are both subordinate, dependent clauses that are parallel to one another and dependent upon the main, independent clause of 1:9, “how ye turned to God from idols.”

To be born again do the lost need to believe in the Second Coming of Christ? If we accept MacArthur’s view that the Thessalonians were saved by “turning from evil and the intent to serve,” then the Scriptures also demand waiting for the second coming of Christ as a third condition for conversion.

There is, however, an even larger point with 1 Thess. 1:9-10. This passage is not even describing their initial, saving faith. The emphasis of the passage is clearly upon describing their faithful example in following the Lord subsequent to their initial, saving faith. In 1 Thess. 1:9 Paul is not speaking of how to become a believer; he wrote to them about their growth and testimony as believers.

This interpretation fits perfectly with Paul’s introductory description of these Thessalonians in 2 Thess. 1:3-4. Notice there too they are described not as to their initial, saving faith, as if Paul is saying to them there, “Your conversion was genuine.” No, he is pleased with the fact that their “faith groweth exceedingly” (1:3) and that they were exercising “patience and faith” amidst the trials they were enduring (1:4).

This interpretation, furthermore, fits perfectly with the Inspired Commentary on the Thessalonian Epistles that we have in Acts 17, where the Thessalonians’ initial, saving faith is described in 17:1-4, esp. v. 4 “persuaded” (peitho) or “believed” (KJV) and v. 5 “were not persuaded” (apeitho) or “believed not” (KJV). The content of their faith is described in v. 3, that is, they believed in Christ’s substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, which were according to the Scriptures (1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). There is no mention of turning from idols, serving the living God, waiting for the Second Coming, etc. Instead, what we see is that immediately upon believing, these baby Christians in Thessalonica were persecuted for their faith (Acts 17:5-9), particularly by Jewish unbelievers (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

From the Scriptures we can firmly conclude that 1 Thess. 1:9-10 is a post conversion passage. Paul is addressing the things that followed their conversion. He was teaching them post conversion truth. In verse ten he concerns himself with their growth in light of the Lord’s imminent return. At the time of their persecution Paul and Silas were ministering to them as new believers (1 Thess. 2:8). In both epistles to the Thessalonians Paul is ministering to them as new believers. Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with Paul referencing the Second Coming of Christ, which is a vital truth for believers. In 2 Thessalonians 1 we find Paul speaking of their growing faith, charity toward one another and patience in persecution. Paul is commending them for their faith that grew out of their believing the gospel.

Lordship’s repentance, as MacArthur defines it, is to “stop going one way,” i.e. stop sinning and replace sinning with the “intent to serve,” i.e. do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again believer. MacArthur changes the gospel from repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to a man-centered message that conditions the reception of eternal life on the lost man’s, “purposeful decision to forsake all unrighteousness,” which is an upfront commitment to certain expected levels of behavior. Believing the gospel should result in some form of a change in behavior as one grows in grace. However, nowhere in Scripture is the gospel for the reception of eternal life defined by a sinner’s intention, commitment or resolve to change his behavior.

In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, from the chapter, What is Biblical Repentance, pp. 133-138.

Footnotes:
9) John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith,
p. 178.

10) John MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, p. 33.