December 7, 2015

Facing the Challenge: Now What?

Maybe we have had enough time now to get used to the idea that the Supreme Court has changed our country’s official definition of marriage. Certainly Christian people in the United States ought to draw conclusions and make decisions about what they will do about the new situation. Here are seven things we surely ought to do.

Without a doubt, it is time for Christian families to take their children out of the public schools. Public education has been wrong and dangerous for Bible-believing families for many years, but it is even more so now with the new marriage mandate. It will not be permissible for state-sponsored schools to present traditional marriage as the norm any more. Since same-sex “marriages” are as legal as traditional marriages, they will be presented as equally normal and acceptable. It will not be allowed for teachers speak of daddy-and-mommy homes as the standard, nor two-mommy or two-daddy homes as anomalies. A child’s whole view of family and marriage will be perverted, and his life will likely be ruined. We cannot afford to leave the kids in public education. It is now absolutely necessary that Christian families choose a Christian option for the schooling of their children. Some may worry that if there were a mass exodus from the public school districts there could be real damage done. Yet, if you think about it, the widespread abandonment of the school system could be the best and most powerful wake-up call of the people in response to the cultural collapse that is now happening. Hardly anything would do this country more good than a wholesale withdrawal of students from the public schools. Every other response would be weak in comparison. Now the disaster of the court ruling is being met with barely a whimper of protest. Pulling our kids out would do a lot of good for society as well as for our families and the next generation.

It is time to take a stand against the new definition of marriage. We will have to take our stand in order to stay true to our faith in the Word of God. In 2016, just a few politicians running for office will openly oppose the court decision, and propose constitutional steps to undo it. Christians should openly support those who do. Everybody running for any office this coming year should know about the millions who reject “gay marriage,” and should fear us to some degree. We must not be silent. Both Republicans and Democrats should expect to pay a political price for compromising with the immoral, illegal, untraditional, irrational, and unnatural concept of homosexual “marriage.” Some Christians ought (as the Lord directs them) to run for office this year, and the rest of us must consider supporting them.

Get your nose in the Bible, and renew your mind for these confusing days. Study the Word and learn what it says about marriage, sex, and homosexuality. Don’t just repeat slogans or follow your gut feelings about this emotional issue. Study it out from the viewpoint of scripture. Ask your pastor to preach sermons and teach lessons on these subjects. Know the facts, and think along with the Lord about this whole thing. Make scriptural and reasonable statements about the issue to those you can influence.

Love those who have “come out” as living the homosexual way, and seek to win them to Christ. Recognize that “homosexual” is not a word that describes what someone is, but rather identifies something that he or she does. See the person trapped in this lifestyle as a person, and not as an object of scorn. Approach them with the Gospel, and not first with condemnation for this particular sin. In other words, seek to win them to Christ in the same way that you witness to other sinners. Remember that you are a sinner, too, and that Christ came to save sinners (First Timothy 1:15). Of course you should be ready to answer questions that they may have, just as you should be prepared to answer the questions of others with special hindrances to coming to Christ. Treat them all as human beings, and let God break your heart for their predicament (Matthew 9:36-38). The Gospel is the solution to their bondage and misery (read again Romans 1). Have compassion on them all, and tell them the Good News.

“Gay marriages,” although recognized by the state, are not marriages by any rational, natural, traditional, or scriptural definition of the term. So we must not recognize them as such. Christians must be ready to lose their money, respect, and even their freedom, as a consequence of standing for and telling the truth. It isn’t love that would motivate us to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. It is the fear of reprisals. It is a lie to describe them as marriages, and the consequences to the partners are many and dire. The homosexual lifestyle is the most degrading, disease-producing, and depressing way of life known to man. The statistics prove it. Don’t be rude but don’t treat the weddings as weddings or the marriages as marriages, and don’t treat homosexuality as normal and healthy.

Homosexual people are not “born that way.” Science contradicts the popular notion that the homosexual orientation is genetic. Other factors lead to it, as counsellors have recognized for years. The current idea that people discover their sexuality as they grow up, and that gender cannot by determined by anatomical factors, will draw many more of the young and impressionable into the homosexual life. This is a reason to keep kids out of the public schools, away from the popular media, and from influences that blur correct gender distinctions and roles. Bring up little girls as girls, and little boys as boys, and dress them appropriately. The Bible makes a distinction in gender appearances and activities (Genesis 1:27, Deuteronomy 22:5, First Corinthians 11:4-15), and Christian families should do so also.

The answer to society’s ills and insanities is the answer to mankind’s plight: His name is Jesus Christ. Sins and every perversion of God’s original and ideal plan for mankind have resulted from Adam’s original rebellion. The answer to all of these evils has been provided by the Second Adam, Jesus (see Romans 5:10-15 and First Corinthians 15:20-49). Those who have believed in Him for their personal salvation are charged with taking the message of His love and redemption to every person in the world. The reason our world has become so dark is the failure of Christians to keep the Gospel charge. And revival is the work God does in which He brings His people back to the place they ought to be. The great American revivals transformed our society by making the Christians what they are intended by their Lord to be: the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and empowered witnesses for the Savior. Our nation needs another “great awakening,” and we can have one, if believers will forsake their sins, humble their hearts, and seek the Lord (see James 4:1-10). The homosexual crisis is upon us because God’s servants have failed to be revived, and the Gospel has not gone forward as it should. Our primary responsibility today is to draw near to God for the revival we need. In every community, we should gather for revival prayer meetings, for preaching aimed at revival, and for efforts to spread the Gospel everywhere. The disintegration of society has resulted from the failure of Christians to take their place in the world. We must step up to the plate, and show the world that Jesus is the Way to peace and to deliverance.

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries

November 4, 2015

How to Know When the Emerging Church is Emerging in Your Church

WARNING!!! To keep you from having a “hissy fit,” please keep this in mind. Most of the things on the following list are not bad in themselves. This is not a condemnation of change or of things that are new; rather, it is a list of things that almost always appear on the road to the Emerging Church and its denial of biblical authority and sufficiency.

My heart is grieved by the fact that many of my long-time friends have been fooled into replacing a theology that is biblical with “culture authority.”  They do this by mocking things of the past and ridiculing those who press for biblical responsibility. Theology is a nasty word to them, but theology is actually a growing understanding of the God whom we serve.

Hymnals disappear. The Psalms are actually a hymnal. There is nothing wrong with a hymnal, even though there are things in some hymns that are errant. The Bible doesn’t command us to have hymnals in our churches. On the other hand, many people need to see the notes in order to be able to sing. Some churches have put the score on the screen to solve that problem. Without it, the blending of voices in harmony is nearly impossible.
The organ disappears. The Bible does not require that a church should have an organ, but trying to replace it with a tinny technical sound does not solve the issue. Nothing in our world can possibly replace the majestic sound of a pipe organ.
The platform is renovated. Anything that represents the past is bad and has to go. The choir loft and other furniture, including a communion table, are all replaced with new items designed to modify worship activity. Even the pulpit has to go, one way or another. It is certain that none of these things are commanded in Scripture, but their removal is the first hint that the Bible is no longer the center of worship.
The building is renovated. In this war on history, anything that speaks of the past has to go. When walking into some of the today’s new facilities, it’s hard to even know for sure that you'’e in a church. We can worship anywhere, but that is not the question. The question should be, “Is real worship going on here at all?”
Music does a turnabout. There are many kinds of music, much of which can be used tactfully. This is not an easy area to discuss, but replacing beautiful harmony with discord, yelling, repetition, and songs written by low-talent writers is certainly not helpful. It’s not that all current music is by any means bad; but when lyrics fly in the face of Scripture, there is a problem. It seems that the great majority of “worship leaders” don’t really even have enough theology to know when they are offending God.
Sermonettes replace biblical preaching. This is the second thing that reveals a turn away from Scripture. Preaching of the text is derided. Certainly some truth is spoken, but there is so little solid teaching of what God has said that people are starving spiritually. This happens when the communicator only knows about the Bible and very little of what God has actually said in the Bible.
Services dry up and disappear. The assembly of the local church is necessary for the health of the fellowship. Even with three services a week, there is a dearth of Bible teaching. People should be doing studies personally and with their families, but it is probably less than ten percent of the congregation that actually does. The Bible gives no strict rule on this, but during the persecution in the first century, they met daily. After all, how could once a week possibly provide for the coming persecution?
Evangelism almost disappears. For most churches, this is long gone. The task of reaching the lost should not be relegated solely to the preacher. The first line of evangelism is each true believer living and sharing the gospel in a needy world. Some human theological inventions have removed this from the believer’s responsibility, but it is still there.

Altar calls are non-existent or non-effective. Invitations at the end of a service are a recent invention, but they do have value. The important issue is why they have disappeared. If no one ever responds, why should you even bother to have one? And why doesn’t anyone one respond? This has to be a topic for another discussion, but a lot of it has to do with poorly crafted messages.
Unregenerate membership. This is an old problem. We invented a church membership concept that allows professing Christians to be part of a local church. When attendees act and talk like pagans and confess that the Spirit of God does not dwell in them, they should not be part of a membership. The new approach today, however, is to welcome pagans into the church without any clear testimony of conversion. The percentage of unsaved people in today’s congregations is now staggering. This is a third major area identifying the departure from scripture.
Man-centered worship. Worship is about God, to God, and for God; but you wouldn’t know it in most of today's "worship" meetings. Yes, there are lots of words about God, but it hard to actually find Him. How can you worship when the words being used are offensive to God and to His Word? Who in such a meeting can really worship? Unsaved Christ rejecters, as well as carnal, out-of-fellowship believers can’t truly worship. So, how many true believers who walk in the Spirit and who are able to worship are present? Man-centered entertainment "worship" is carnal and fleshly. One certain “worship leader” has confessed that “We do what we like.”
A hatred of history. This is the mantra of liberalism, socialism, and communism. Those on the road to the Emerging Church must shake the dust of history off their feet. The true believer rejoices in factual history, learns from it, and respects it, but does not live in the past. The road to “what we like” can have no historical markers.
A disdain for doctrine and scorn for theology. This is where it all ends. It is why churches often change their names, neuter their public doctrinal statements, and make fun of exegetical preaching. Their sick defense is that “We change our methods, but not our message.”  Sorry, but that is an impossibility and, frankly, it is a lie.
WHOA!! Don’t waste one breath in trying to argue about any of the above. The fact is that we need change, and many new things do indeed have value. The standard, however, should ever be the Holy Word of God. The tragedy is that most people don’t know enough of a theology that is biblical to allow them to avoid the dead end. That dead end is the Emergent Church mob. How much of this has emerged in your world?
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 or at ShepherdStaff

October 25, 2015

Archival Series: Lordship Salvation’s Misuse of Scripture, 1 Thess. 1:9-10

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
           - 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.

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.

For related reading see, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page of John MacArthurs The Gospel According to Jesus.

October 12, 2015

Ignorance & Apathy

The story was told of a reporter who was taking a brief survey on a city street.  He asked a passerby to comment on the biggest problems in our country, ignorance and apathy. The individual supposedly replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  That response reflects the attitude in the average church toward the Bible. I am amazed at the gross ignorance of the scriptures amongst those in our circles. The same is also true of the average church leadership and, unfortunately, of some pastors.

And now, if I have your attention, let me explain.  Most people I know have knowledge about the Bible, but few actually have knowledge of the Bible.  To know about Adam in the garden, Joseph’s coat of many colors, Daniel in the lions’ den, or David and Goliath is to know about the Bible.  That is not the same as knowing what God is communicating to us.  The Bible is a book about God.  The scripture is there for us to understand who He is, what He has said about Himself, and what that means to us.

It doesn’t take an extended conversation to see that the average person in the church has surface information about the Book, nor does it take very long before they demonstrate a lack of understanding of what God has actually stated.  They tend to repeat what other people have said or written, but they have never tested it with the text.  A greater tragedy is that, when you ask them to explain their beliefs, they simply don’t care.  Their ignorance is displayed when they say, “I think” or “I believe” or “my view is.”  What is even worse is to hear them say, “That is what my pastor, or my church believes.”  Apathy is evident when they say, “It’s not all that important.”


Over the past year, I have been grieved again and again by people from my past who don’t know or even care what God has said.  As students or members of the church, they have all had the same basic teaching.  Some have done very well in embracing “what the Bible says,” so at least there is some success.  Others have no shame in rewriting the Bible anytime it doesn’t agree with them.  Some of these folks who sat under biblical teaching have joined churches that are actually cultic.  Most of them do not even have a clue about the doctrinal position of the church and have never asked.  Many have moved to the “emerging church” because of its entertainment emphasis as opposed to true worship.  They have no idea where the church is or where it is headed theologically, and they don’t seem to care.  Even when God has written Ichabod over them and closed the doors, they just move on to another church tragedy filled with ignorance and apathy.

I have been tempted to use some of the names of those churches and the individuals who have turned their back on God’s word, but then ignorant people would call that “judging.”  One thing that seems evident is that this curse is caused by the fact that so many people in those churches have never been born again, and so they have no ability to understand the text that is spiritually discerned.

Do you have any idea why so many so-called churches today have changed their names?  There was a time when you could see a church name and at least know where to begin with your questions.  With the “dishwater” types of names so many churches have now adopted, you have to begin at the beginning;  there is no other obvious place to start with your questions. Church websites have deliberately watered down their statements of faith in order to prevent your realizing that they are a cult.  They know that most folks don’t know what questions to ask, nor do they know why certain doctrines are a key for understanding.


This problem often begins with churches when they try to select a new pastor.  To start with, it is Christ who calls pastors, not local churches.  The church’s main task is to find out who it is that Christ has selected as His under-shepherd for that congregation.  Countless hours are wasted in ignorance and apathy as those who are responsible discuss surface issues and miss the main focus.  If Christ designates a man as local shepherd, you can be sure that person will be equipped and qualified.  You can be sure that Christ would approve a man of the Book - not a man who knows just about the Bible, but one who actually knows what God is saying.  We often end up with someone who is telling only what they think God is saying.  God help us!  When it comes to finding out what a man really believes, who in the average local church would be able to do that?  Get off your high horse!  Yes, it is true that all of us know some basic Bible facts, but who is going to protect the church from doctrinal error?  Who in the church’s leadership has understanding that would root out false teaching in a candidate?

This is why so many churches have fallen prey to the “emerging church” movement and to entertainment in lieu of true worship.  Pastors who know what God has said in His Book and who are called of Christ have backbone and will stand up to such nonsense.  A man who is called by Christ will be a man who understands God's holiness as being central to what we know about Him.  He would be reviled by the worship of man and intolerant of having the filth of the world dragged into a congregation.


How do we deal with ignorance?  There is no end to opportunities in this arena.  Ask yourself, “How many minutes each week does the average church member spend in solid, serious study of God’s Word, including church meetings?”  There you have the heart of ignorance.  The first step is to make sure that any and all teaching and preaching are carefully crafted and filled to overflowing with who God is and what He says.  Then ask in what ways we can increase valuable study of the Word by each member.  It should begin by setting aside books written by humans and then moving to studies of the Book.  How do we deal with apathy?  Challenge people to search their own hearts.  God will speak to them if they have not become His son by faith.  A spirit of revival is needed in the church that is self-absorbed, and that includes the preaching of God’s word regarding sin.  Because they love their sin, the “emerging church” hates preaching on wickedness.  They breed immorality because to them God’s word is only a toy.

Only God can break through to the mind that has embraced ignorance.  Only He can break the heart of someone who doesn’t care.  I grieve for those who are comfortable in their trap, but there surely must be some of them who are still open to preaching about a holy God.

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 email address or Shepherd Staff

September 15, 2015

Israel is a Tough Nut

A lot of opinions have been tossed around as to who Israel is, and it is time to ask some questions. To begin with, what is behind the “replacement theory?”  That is the idea that the Church replaces Israel. Actually, this theory comes from a humanly developed hermeneutic. The one biblical hermeneutic recognizes the clear, distinct, and eternal differences between Israel and the Church: Israel is the wife of God, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. This distinction cannot be changed and will remain in eternity.

At least the replacement idea is clearly stated and is easy to recognize. The problem for those in our camp is that there are small encroachments on this subject. Any narrowing of that clear biblical distinction has to use the same hermeneutic that the replacement theory uses. Any distinctive that belongs to the Church and is assigned to Israel is a step in the wrong direction. It even appears to be a mild form of anti-Semitism.


In the Arabic world, we teach some of the finest believers I have ever known. This subject is difficult for them because of things that have been done to them. I don’t excuse anything that anyone does that is wrong or inconsistent. On the other hand, though, this discussion deals with who they are and not what they have done.

The nation of Israel that is now in the land is a nation. It is foolish not to recognize that fact. This present nation, however, is not equal to the Old Testament theocratic nation of Israel. It is not equal to the nation of Israel in the Millennium. The people in this present nation are God’s chosen people despite their rejection and hard-heartedness. The Bible does tell us that they will return to the land, but that they will return in unbelief. They will be a different people in heart when the “New Covenant” is fulfilled just prior to the Millennium. That will be a miracle of God, just as your own personal salvation was a miracle of God.


Many writers have been proposed opinions about this subject. It has been suggested that the nation now in the land has no claim on the land. This would be the Reformed position, but it is wrong. It is the Jews that God has chosen as His special people, no matter when or where they are on the earth. The land grant - all of it - was given to the people, not to the nation. (Genesis 15:18-21) Even when there was no organized nation, the land belonged to them, the people; thus the people in the land at this hour do indeed retain the promise of the land grant.

I have often been asked, “If the present nation of Israel were driven into the sea, would that affect my understanding of prophecy?" The answer is no. We know only what we see and what is clearly stated in the Bible text, but God knows what He intends to bring to pass. On this subject we must be careful about assigning to Old Testament texts meaning that is not clearly tied to the specific subject.


Bible history is very clear: any nation, group, religion, or individual who offends God’s chosen people will, without question, be judged by God. In due time, any nation that has turned its hand to God’s chosen people will be destroyed. Theologians ignore this judgment by simply having those people disappear. In the end, scholars will be judged for their philosophical and allegorical treatment of Israel. The problem is that any offense, whether large or small, offends a Holy God. This is not just a matter of disagreement; it is a serious consideration.

The leadership of our country has turned its hand against God’s chosen people and has opened the door to their destruction. If the nation that is now in the land were to be slaughtered, how is that any different than what Germany did to the Jewish population? This is not about what the present nation is doing; it is about who they are. They are in unbelief and have rejected their Messiah, but they are still God’s particular people, like no other people in history. It is a backdrop for those who try to blend the Church and Israel. No matter how small, it is not a light matter; and everyone who has participated in this, no matter who they are, should expect judgment.

One has only to read the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to see what happens to those who set their teeth against this ancient people. Without doubt, it ends in the greatest bloodbath in the history of the earth.


You can do your own study from scripture and history as to why God’s people lost possession of the land. It was their own fault. They failed to obey, to keep the covenant; and God promised they would be dispersed and that others would take their land. In God’s time, though, they will have all of the land that God willed for them. While they are driven out of the land, not occupying it, the land still belongs to God’s chosen people. He has never revoked that promise of ownership.


The cancer of the “emerging church” has swept through our own ranks. The mantra is, “We have changed our methods, but not our message.”  It is possible that some do not understand what they have done, but that is a bold-faced lie. The “emerging church” is filled with theological error, and on the subject of Israel they are dead wrong. I find it difficult to understand why people who have been taught truth seem to find it so easy to ignore doctrinal error when moving to one of the “entertainment churches.”   In their disobedience they now say, “It doesn’t matter.”  Even those who have moved into cult congregations are unable to see the false teaching. They appear to be blinded to truth, and what is worse is that they actually enjoy the Laodicean congregations they have joined! Perhaps the “noise” has helped to impair their hearing and their hearts. In the end, they have no idea how these false teachers have arrived at ideas that offend a Holy God.

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, or visit Shepherd's Staff.

Related Readings:
An Introduction to Dispensationalism

George Zeller's: Introduction to Dispensationalsim

August 5, 2015

Dr. Rick Flanders: Who Was John Birch?

Most people who have heard of John Birch associate his name with the John Birch Society, a public-policy educational association founded in the 1950s to combat communism. But the truth is that if nobody had named an organization for him, his name would be properly honored today, especially by fundamental Baptists. On August 25, 1945, John Birch was murdered in China, which was a significant event at the beginning of the Cold War because he was killed by Communists who, at the time, were supposed to be our allies. The seventieth anniversary of his murder occurs this year, and there are many reasons for Christians to remind themselves at this time of who this great man was.
1. HE DID NOT FOUND THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY. The John Birch Society was organized in 1957, but not by John Birch, who had been dead for more than a decade. The founder was Robert Welch, a successful candy manufacturer who had made himself a serious student of world events and saw the need to take action against forces he saw were threatening the freedom of the United States and the so-called“Free World.” The society was named for John Birch because of the significance of his death to the larger situation we called the Cold War. Not only was the young Birch killed by the Communists, but the murder was covered up by the United States government. This cover-up of an act of aggression against us by the Communists, along with several more such cover-ups that were exposed in the post-war era, revealed a tangled web of treason and conspiracy that moved some to take action for the preservation of their liberty from powerful forces that threatened them. The death of John Birch, and the efforts of the American government to hide the facts about it, demonstrated the awful predicament in which our nation has been since World War Two. It also relates the remarkable story of the bravery and dedication of a young American Christian to his country and to his Lord in the face of great peril.
2. HE WAS A BAPTIST PREACHER! John Birch was born in India to Presbyterian missionary parents in 1918, and was twenty-seven years old when he died. At seven years of age, he was “born again” (read John 3:1-17) by trusting in Jesus Christ for his salvation after hearing the gospel in the Baptist church his parents (who had been Presbyterians but left them over theological liberalism) had joined. When he was eleven, he surrendered to the Lord’s call to be a missionary. John was a dedicated Christian as a teenager and a strong Bible-believer as were his parents. When the time came for him to go to college, he went to a Southern Baptist Convention institution, Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, to begin ministerial training. He was already an accomplished preacher and preached often as a student, even pastoring a Baptist church for a time while in school.
3. HE WAS A FUNDAMENTALIST. As a student at Mercer, John Birch came to see clearly the issue of infidelity in the churches, and took a stand against professors at the university who were undermining the faith of the students. He also had a chance to hear the famous fundamentalist preacher, J. Frank Norris, preach against what in those days was called “modernism” (a term for the liberal theology that had crept into the churches, which questioned or denied cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith), and determined to take his stand. In his senior year, Birch united with a dozen other Mercer students to petition the state Baptist convention to investigate certain teachers on charges of heresy. In the midst of the furor that ensued, University officials threatened to expel the upstart. The newspapers made his name a household word in Macon, in either positive or in negative terms. In time, the heresy charges failed to convict the professors, and John Birch finished his senior year. He was graduated magna cum laud from Mercer. Instead of going on to a Southern Baptist seminary to further his education, he enrolled in the new Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute that had been organized in Fort Worth, Texas, by Norris, who was a leader in the national “fundamentalist” movement. Fundamentalists contended that Christianity must be defined in terms of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, and that those who denied any of these cardinal tenets of the Faith, even if they are ordained ministers, are not really Christians. Fundamentalism was a grassroots movement in the historically evangelical churches against the influence of liberalism. John Birch was an all-out fundamentalist, and his intentions were to train to be a missionary and go to China to help the Baptist fundamentalists who were laboring courageously and faithfully there.
4. HE WAS A MISSIONARY. In 1939, God sent John Birch to China as an independent Baptist missionary. He worked with two legendary fundamental Baptist men, Oscar Wells and Fred Donnellson. When he arrived, China was torn in the conflict that became the Second World War. Japan had invaded China, and the United States was putting pressure on them while seeking to stay out of the war. The government of Nationalist Chaing Kai-Shek over China was being challenged both by a Communist insurrection and the Japanese invasion. As the war progressed, his missionary support diminished to a trickle, and the place of his service came under Japanese control. Nevertheless he vigorously and zealously spread the Gospel, won souls to Christ, and nourished the Baptist churches in occupied China. American interest in the plight of China brought military help from the United States even before Peart Harbor. Volunteers from our country formed a unit of air force to aid the Chinese that was famously called “The Flying Tigers,” which fought the Japanese bravely until they were absorbed into the U.S. Army after we entered the war. All this time John Birch served the spiritual needs of the Chinese people with the war raging around him.
5. HE WAS A PATRIOT. In this situation, Birch volunteered to join the United States Army. He made application to be enlisted, based on two appeals: (1) he wanted to help his country and the Chinese he came to serve, and (2) he needed an income. He argued that his fluency in the language and familiarity with the culture of the people would make him valuable to the war effort of the United States. As an ordained Baptist minister, he was seeking appointment as a chaplain. Eventually he made an attempt to join General Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers, the fighting unit of American volunteers this great man commanded. It was the general that told Birch that they had no need for a chaplain, but that they did need an intelligence officer who could work behind Japanese lines and provide important information for the 14thAir Force (as the Flying Tigers came to be known). Eventually Birch was appointed an officer and served in the Army during World War II while he served the Lord as a missionary and an evangelist in war-torn China. He preached on Sundays and spied for Chennault during the week. After Birch was killed, General Chennault said, “John was more than just a very good officer in my command. In fact, I have always felt toward him as a father might feel toward a son.” In a letter to the Birch family after John’s death, General Charles Stone, his commander after Chennault, commended his service.
“As an intelligence liaison officer of the Fourteenth Air Force, Captain Birch performed invaluable services which greatly aided the achievement of ultimate victory. His work was performed to a great extent behind enemy lines and often under hazardous conditions, in circumstances of extreme personal hardship and immediate danger. His unassuming manner, unswerving loyalty, and personal courage earned him the respect and admiration of officers and enlisted men among both American and Chinese units.”

John Birch played a unique role in wartime China: he was a combination of Baptist missionary and American intelligence officer. His service at to both God and country was virtually unprecedented.
6. HE WAS A HERO. While interviewing with General Chennault regarding his application to serve in the Army, Birch played an important role in the renowned mission of Colonel Jimmy Doolittle to bombard Tokyo. After the attack on Japan, Doolittle’s squadron of planes ran into trouble over China, as the famous flier’s plane ran out of fuel. He and his comrades wandered the Chinese landscape until providentially they ran into John Birch. Birch and his cohorts were able to get the great pilot and his men to American troops and safety. The news of his heroic efforts in this incident gave Birch credibility and favor before General Chennault, and got him a commission as captain. As the war with Japan came to a close, Birch had proven himself to be a remarkable soldier. He also had come to serious spiritual and political conclusions about the significance of the war. He wrote to his family,
“I believe that this war will set the stage for Antichrist. I’ll have a lot to tell you when I get home. Things about the future of China and of the world.” 
As he prepared to come home, John Birch was to fulfill one more mission. Under orders of General Albert Wedemeyer, commander of American forces in China, he and ten other soldiers (three Americans, five Chinese, and two Koreans) were to take a train to Suchow to inspect the airport there before Birch would make his way back to the United States. In their journey the eleven where detained by Communists and eventually John Birch and his Chinese personal aid were shot and Birch was killed. The aid (whose name was Tung) was badly wounded and basically left for dead but survived and gave an eyewitness account of the captain’s abuse at the hands of the Communists. John Birch repeatedly refused to surrender weapons and other equipment carried by his men, insisting that since the war was over and Americans were supposed to be allies of the Communists, they were under no obligation to be subject to this treatment. They would not be disarmed by the Red Chinese. The arguments were heated and repeated. Tung warned John Birch against antagonizing the Communists, and several times the captain replied, “Never mind, Lieutenant, I want to see how the Communists treat Americans. If they kill me, America will stop the Communist movement [advance] with atom bombs.” They did kill him. He was buried we think in Suchow. But instead of holding the Communists responsible for this hostile action, the American government decided that the incident should not be made known. The story of the murder of John Birch became a tightly-guarded secret.
In a letter to his parents in 1944, John testified,
“If my hour to depart should strike, I am ready to go, thanks to the merits of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The source of his bravery in the final hours of his service to his country was the assurance John Birch had in his mind and in his heart that he would go to Heaven. His decision to risk his life by standing for the rightful interests of the United States was based on the conviction that his life could be a sacrifice for the betterment of the world. All of these amazing qualities in the life of John Birch resulted from the work of grace wrought in his heart by Jesus Christ.
After the war a newspaper reporter who had spent much time in China (Adeline Gray) wrote in amazing terms about John’s life and service in a letter to his parents.
“Yesterday, I read of John Birch’s death in the [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star and was very shocked. Your son was one of the finest men who ever came to China. He never drank, smoked, swore, or did an unkind thing to anyone. He believed that wars were due and are due to lack of religion. He talked of this in most lofty and beautiful worded sentences. He exerted a profound effect upon the thousands of people who came in contact with him…

“His loss is a great loss not only to China, but to America and the world. He loved China and the Chinese people dearly and planned to stay in China all his life. During the war he performed many dangerous and heroic feats. As a member of the U. S. Army Intelligence, he often was parachuted out into Japanese areas and spent weeks and months behind the lines. He was a beloved man of the U.S. Army in China; he was widely known all over China…

“I understand that no news agency was allowed to send out the story of your son’s death from China for fear of arousing Chinese Communists and American relations to a higher pitch of instability and ill-will. So his death was not mentioned in any news story from China. Otherwise, it would have been on the front page of every paper in the U.S.”

On the Fourth of July in 1945, he had written a letter home that eloquently stated his perception of the need of the world:
“There is only one real problem in the world with all its complicated evils, and there is only one answer, amidst the maze of futile plans. Here is the problem and the answer: ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).”

Over the years after his death, the heroism and martyrdom of John Birch occasionally leaked out from the classified report, with statements made about him in Congress and the press. But the report itself was never seen by the public until it was de-classified in 1980. However, the testimonies of soldiers and family-members who knew his story have inspired thousands of Christians and patriots for seventy years. How he lived, what he said, and what he did tell us all that there is more to life than staying alive, that only in Christ can the needs of men be met, and that the still-spreading collectivist conquest of nations is evil at its core and essentially spiritual in its errors. May he be remembered, and the lessons of his life heeded.
Have you bowed to Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior? Reader, have you received the gift of eternal life by faith in the Son of God? Christian friend, will you stand bravely for the truth of God in these dark days when many may be challenged to pay a price to live for Christ? As we remember John Birch, may the Lord use the testimony of his life and death to draw us to love the One Who loved us, and gave Himself for our salvation.
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
(Revelation 6:9-10)
1. Welch, Robert. The Life of John Birch. Belmont, Massachusetts: Western Islands, 1960.
2. Hefley, James and Marti. The Secret File on John Birch. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.
3. The John Birch Society, 770 N. Westhill Blvd., Appleton, WI 54914—920.749.3780.
4. Arlington Baptist College, 3001 West Division, Arlington, Texas 76012—817.461.8741: ask for information on John Birch.

Dr. Rick Flanders

July 28, 2015

The Failed NIU to be Reconstituted as "Northland Baptist Ministry"

Update (8/6/15)

It is with great regret that we must announce that, for personal reasons, Jeff Kahl has resigned his position as Executive Director of Project 14 Global Missions. This is effective immediately. Please pray for Jeff and his family as he seeks the Lord’s will for his life. We want to thank Jeff for tirelessly working to promote world missions and the other endeavors of P14GM. 
Because of Jeff's departure from P14GM, this seriously impedes our ability to assume control and operation of the Northland campus. We are currently reviewing our options, and the Board of P14GM is working with the current Board of Northland to determine the best course of action. Further announcements will be forthcoming as soon as any decisions are made. 
Respectfully, P14GM Board

Dear Ministry Friends,

After weeks of prayerful consideration, in-depth research, and constituency testimonials, it became clear God would have us continue a walk of faith in reviving a fresh, dynamic, impacting Northland campus. Therefore, the board members and executive leadership team of Project 14 Global Missions voted on Saturday, July 25, 2015, to unanimously and cheerfully accept the stewardship responsibilities of the Northland campus, effective immediately.

I have already notified the founding family members of this decision, and they stand in full support of moving Northland forward in the tradition of its original core values and vision. With an aggressive youth and family camping program, along with a relevant and impacting training facility, Northland and P14GM will have an opportunity to impact churches, campers, and the world. Utilizing this beautiful Wisconsin campus, along with our national office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and our two Nicaragua campuses in Central America, the goal of getting more trained laborers into the harvest field is an exciting prospect.

Exceedingly generous funds were pledged and given on behalf of Saving Northland. The friends of Northland and P14GM made this achievement possible, because of their many kind and heart-felt gifts. Out of one love for God, love for Northland, and love for ministry, the future of Northland continues. We are still receiving gifts and donations to satisfy a bank note that is due soon, but not due immediately. We ask that friends of Northland will continue to help this worthwhile cause.

We are pursuing the name Northland Baptist Ministry, focusing on camps, education, missions, and ministry helps. Northland Camp and Conference Center will change to Northland Camp and Retreat Center. The Project 14 Global Missions board of directors will lead Northland Baptist Ministries in parallel philosophy and commitment to our other ministry and mission focuses around the world. We will merge our global mission efforts at Project 14 Global Mission agency, Global Bible University, OneLife Christian Camps, and BluePrint Church Planting program to Northland campus in strategic ways to be determined soon.

On behalf of our entire P14GM leadership team, we publicly thank the Lord for this opportunity and consider its stewardship a sobering responsibility. Praise God for His faithfulness.


Jeff  Kahl
Executive Director
Project 14 Global Missions & Northland Ministries

Related Reading:
Northland International University Closes

An Anecdotal Answer to the Demise of Fundamentalist Schools

July 15, 2015

The “Standards” Mess

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

(Second Corinthians 3:5-6)

Dr. Rick Flanders
Many organizations have and maintain standards.  Of course, over the years churches in particular have preached and upheld certain standards of belief and behavior.  The concept of doctrinal standards, creeds, and statements of faith in religion is normal and expected.  The idea of standards of conduct for church leaders, church members, and the Christian way of life is also generally accepted.  The question is not whether churches should have standards.  All religious movements and organizations do.

There is a problem today, however, over the mess that has grown up over standards in conservative churches.  There is a whole movement against the standards fundamentalists have followed, and there is anotherone over whether they should have standards at all.  In all the fussing on “both sides” of the standards issue, some very basic facts are being lost.  When Christian thinkers come back to the basics, the truth about these matters becomes clear, and we can clear up the mess!  So let’s take a constructive approach, and consider four important and indisputable facts.


Somehow we have forgotten that the standards Bible-believing churches have maintained over the years were developed from the teachings of the Bible.  Before anybody debated standards, preachers and teachers in the churches were preaching that the Bible has things to say against certain things and for certain things.  They preached that scripture condemns drinking and intoxication, speaks against the lasciviousness of social dancing, advocates modest apparel, calls for personal restraint, mandates sanctifying the body, and exhorts believers to stay away from worldly amusements.  That’s where we started.  Christians were living by the Bible.  They studied God’s Word to learn how to live!

Do church people today know that holiness in the Bible is separation from evil and to God?  Do they know that Christians are called upon to live holy lives (check First Peter 1:13-16)?  Scripture requires both ecclesiastical and personal separation (see Second Corinthians 7:1 and Second Timothy 2:16-22).  The children of light, according to Ephesians 5, must not do what the children of darkness are doing (verse 7), nor endorse what they do (verse 11), nor even unnecessarily talk about what they do (verse 12).  That’s what the Bible teaches!  It’s separation, a concept that is controversial today among critics of the standards. The Bible makes an issue of clothing and the covering of the body from the beginning to the end (you can see this first in Genesis 2:24-25 and 3:6-11 and 21, and follow it throughout scripture).  Scriptural promises (such as Matthew 5:18 and 24:35) are the basis of believers insisting on the traditional text behind the King James Version and rejecting the revised text followed by so many of the new Bibles.  Keeping the law will not save anybody’s soul; but grace doesn’t mean that there aren’t any rules, that the Lord has no opinions, or that saved people have no obligations about how they behave.  The “rules” or standards that spiritual Christians followed and taught for years were not arbitrary or based on tradition.  They came from Bible teaching.

The real issues in the “standards” debates are questions like “Does the Bible have anything to say about gender roles and distinction?”, “Is there Bible doctrine that would motivate a Christian to abstain from using tobacco?”, “According to the scriptures, does it matter what Bible a church uses?”, or, “What teaching of the Bible would affect whether or not we go to the movies?”  Many have believed that scripture does teach things that apply directly to questions such as these.  The real and legitimate discussions regarding the standards are discussions about Biblical interpretation. They are not arguments over whether or not certain old “standards” are still appropriate for our day.  They ask whether our spiritual fathers were right or wrong about what they understood that the Bible said.  Many of us think they were right!  For example, reasonable people see that Christians who dress modestly and appropriately for their gender are following scriptural principles.  These are not petty squabbles over personal tastes.  They are serious issues about the revealed will of God.  No kidding!


As conservative churches grew and added to their ministries and staff, it was necessary for them to set standards of life and belief for those who led and represented them.  These standards were actually applications of the Bible teaching that had led those churches for years.  In other words, although it normally takes time for new church-members to arrive at the same conclusions about Christian living which are followed by their teachers, when they joined the ministry team, they had to follow standards that reflect the corporate viewpoint of the ministry.  When people takepositions of responsibility in the ministry of the church, they are expected to uphold and live by these standards even before they have come into total agreement with all of them.Leaders are responsible to some degree for the behavior of those who have joined the team! This is why the conclusions of the Bible teaching were “standardized.”

What the New Testament says about polluting oneself with idols (Acts 15:20 and 29, First Corinthians 8 through 10, and Revelation 2:14 and 20) by eating the meat sold at the pagan temple was applied to modern issues by setting the standard not to attend movie theaters or night clubs or other places associated with sin.  What the Bible teaches about gender distinction (in places such as Genesis 1:27, Leviticus 18:22, Deuteronomy 22:5, First Corinthians 11:1-16, First Timothy 2, and Revelation 9:8) led leaders to call on co-workers and followers to dress with their gender in mind.  Teaching and interpretation led to the specific standards, when behavior necessarily had to be “standardized.”

Some standards were also sometimes recommended to everyone up front, before they had a chance to be supported with reason and scripture by the pastors and teachers.  Bible teaching always leads to behavior adjustment.  Sometimes the conclusions or “bottom line” of the teaching had to be stated at the beginning and came to be regarded as a set of standards.  Ordinarily believers who are being instructed “to observe all things” that Jesus taught (Matthew 28:20) will grow in knowledge over a period of time, and come to correct conclusions only after a while.  But when the conclusions are “standardized” for workers up front, the period of instruction and growth is not in the mix, and there can be problems.  Certainly church workers can follow the rules without really buying into them, and often this set-up has helped people grow.  Many adopted the standards from their hearts, based on what they saw in the Bible, only after following them for other reasons as they grew in grace.  This isn’t really a bad idea.  The man who smokes may save his own life by giving up tobacco because the preacher told him to do it (Hebrews 13:17) well before he really understands why.  However, standards must eventually be backed by persuasion from scripture if they are to do the good they were supposed to do.  And before they are, there can be misunderstanding and problems.

Such standardizing necessarily took place in Christian schools.  Students, as well as faculty and staff, were required to follow Bible-based standards from the first day.  In many cases, these rules were not adequately defended or justified with scripture during the school year, provoking some to wrath.  The connection between certain standards and God’s will and ways was not always made.  But the standard-setting in the form of rule-keeping was justified.

Note that the setting of standards for God’s people to help them in their lives was done in both the Old and the New Testaments.  Deuteronomy 4:5-8 teaches us that following standards can help us live with more wisdom than we really have.  Adopting the rules will give us a head start on living wisely while we are growing in grace and knowledge.  Acts 15 records the setting of standards for the benefit of the Gentile Christians, at the same time that Legalism was rejected (notice especially verses 1, 5, 10-11, 19-29).  Standard-setting is not necessarily Legalism.  Legalism requires rule-keeping for salvation or spirituality.  Standards followed under the truth of God’s grace can really help growing believers, as we can see in Acts 16:4-5.  So standards are good, not bad, although they cannot stand alone.  They must be backed by the Bible.


Critics of the standards complain that the kind of Christianity they knew growing up was “all about the rules.”  They identify it with Legalism, and sometimes make fun of having to keep a bunch of rules.  Supporters of the standards zealously defend the “old-time” expectations and taboos while sometimes neglecting to defend them from the Bible.  Both are wrong.

Christianity is not just about rules.  Rules and guidelines have always been part of church and Christian living, but they have served only as helps and props.  The Christian life is really about love!

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

(First John 4:7-11; read also verse 12 through 5:3)

Christianity is God’s love coming to us through Christ, and coming through us to others.  See this also in John 15:9-12.  The real thing is often lost by both pro- and anti-standards people, and the rules become the big thing.  They aren’t the big thing.  According to Galatians 5:22-23,walking in the Spirit keeps us within the boundaries of the rules (“against such there is no law”).  Those who are absolutely surrendered to Christ observe higher ideals than those who just live by rules.  They live the way they do because they love Jesus with all their hearts.  Carnal people who hate the rules can only see the rules, and resent them.   Prideful and unspiritual people who keep the rules also only see the rules, and miss seeing Jesus.Both kinds of Christians are carnal.

Some folks who complain the loudest about the old standards as they were enforced in their families or churches are really hurting from the hypocrisy of their parents and leaders, and not the effect of the rules.  Proud and harsh attitudes are not spiritual.  Efforts to cover up inconsistencies in the homes we grew up in were not the result of following the Bible.  They were products of making the standards the big thing and not making love for God the heart of the home.  Making mean and harsh statements against others isn’t spiritual either.  Jesus taught us not to judge others (remember Matthew 7:1-5).  Yet the Bible does say that spiritual people, while not judging people, should judge things.

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things…”

(First Corinthians 3:15)

We are to discern from scripture what things are right and what things are wrong, from God’s perspective.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “That’s wrong.”  But we are taught to love the erring brother and meekly hope to pull out the mote from his eye, instead of scorning him and proudly holding up ourselves as better (see Galatians 6:1-2).  Much of the heat in the arguing over standards is generated by carnal people engaged in combat with other carnal people.  Take a look at Galatians 5:13-16.


The Bible has very many good things to say about keeping rules, while also warning us against giving rule-keeping a role it should never have in the Christian life.  We find this help in Second Corinthians 3:5-6:

“Our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

The Law of God expresses the opinions of God, and therefore is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12).  However a set of rules in itself does not enable me to keep the rules.  “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin” (see Romans 7:13-24).  In other words, the Law is good, but not good enough to help me.  Just knowing what is right does not give me righteousness.  But Jesus Christ came to give me His righteousness.  It is His righteousness that saves me, and it is His righteousness that provides me with the Christian life.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

(Read Romans 7:22-8:4)

Those who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is the key to living the Christian life!  We learn that our sufficiency is in God alone, that Christian living only happens when we are living by faith, relying on the Holy Spirit to provide the life of Christ!  The rules set the standard for how we ought to live, but they can’t get us to that standard.  The standards describe for me what a spiritual man looks like, but they do not make me spiritual.  It is the Holy Spirit that does this.  The letter of the law only can condemn us when we fail, and the Bible says that it kills people.  Standards without the Spirit are deadly.  A revival that acquaints believers with the ministry of the Spirit will liberate the unhappy believer and give him the victory he wants and needs.

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

(Second Corinthians 3:17-18)

The devil got us into this mess of looking at standards apart from the bigger picture.  The rule for the Christian is, “What does the Bible say?”  And the Bible calls upon us to conform to the will of a holy God.  Doing so will require self-denial and sacrifice, as Jesus told us.  But the Bible tells us that the Christian life is Christ’s life in us.  Loving Him and yielding to the influence and power of His Spirit within us is what causes us to experience the abundant life He came for us to live.  When we come back to these simple truths, we will get out of the mess we are in, and get back to reaching our dark and lost world for God!  Revival will deliver us from the standards mess!  Those who rebel against good standards must humble themselves and learn the reason for the standards, which is love for Jesus Christ.  Others who have been killing those under them with the letter of the law must go deeper than the rules, and learn to be filled with the Spirit!

Dr. Rick Flanders
Revival Ministries