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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
I want to thank each one of you for your faithfulness and your patience. The move to our new home has been completed. My wife and I have overcome many obstacles the past two week, and although there are many boxes yet unpacked throughout the house we are thankful to be in and moving forward.
Now concerning the collection for the saints (in Judea), as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come (16:1-2).
The last Bible lesson published was the introductory look at the beginning of the 16th chapter of this letter and I compared fund-raising by our Apostle Paul to fund-raising in the modern church. Now, please understand people were just as wary of church fund-raising in Paul’s day as some people currently are in the church today. So don’t get the idea that this is a modern concept. If you’ll recall, Paul took God’s Gospel to the gentiles (pagans); to cities, towns, and villages, i.e. places where other’s had never been. To be blunt they didn’t know him from Adam. How do you react to a stranger on the street or outside you car window asking for money? You’re thinking, “What’s this all about,” right? This is one of the reasons Paul chose not to be supported by the Corinthians and others he ministered to; not wanting anything (including money) to come between him and the gospel (9:14-19).
It’s important to note the purpose of the collection Paul mentions in 16:1. Paul wasn’t raising funds from the gentile churches to eradicate crime, homelessness, poverty, world-hunger, or war, and he wasn’t attempting to assume responsibility for the entire Jewish nation. This “one-time” collection or gift was intended to meet the needs of the impoverished Jews in Jerusalem, specifically.
I bring this fact to your attention this week because people in the church today are preaching a “different gospel” than what God revealed to Paul. Therefore, I’m going to take the time to look at the false gospel being preached by the Emerging Church and the social gospel’s message. Both of these false teachings have established a firm foothold in the U.S. and are leading Christians astray.
For various reasons Christians of different sorts have tinkered with the gospel that saves over the years as though it needed adjustments. Not major alterations, most will say, but just some minor tweaking here and there. The changes begin by someone declaring that there is no real change involved, actually, merely a change in emphasis. Yet, no matter the rationale behind the change, the end result is being “ashamed of the gospel.”
Our Apostle Paul let it be known he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (Romans 1:16a).
In addition we have this verse from Paul which commands our attention: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), let him be accursed! (Galatians 1:8).
To be “ashamed of the gospel” covers a number of attitudes from being totally embarrassed by it to thinking one can improve upon it a bit to make it more acceptable. One example of the former is the recent claim by the Emerging Church that the teaching regarding Christ’s paying the full penalty for the sins of mankind through His substitionary death on the Cross is irrelevant and viewed as a “form of cosmic child abuse.” More subtle examples include trying to make the gospel seem less exclusive, and the softening of the consequences which the gospel saves mankind, such as the wrath of God and the Lake of Fire. Some churches have gone so far as to remove hymns that contain references to “the blood” from their hymnals. The power is in the blood, folks! Shout it from the rooftops; don’t be ashamed of it…
The Social Gospel
Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) was a Christian theologian and Baptist pastor who taught at the Rochester Theological Seminary. Rauschenbusch was a key figure in the social gospel and ‘Single Tax’ movements that flourished in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also the maternal grandfather of the influential philosopher Richard Rorty and the great-grandfather of Paul Rauschenbush.
In the early 19th century the Protestant churches of America feared the worst. The American population was growing fast, but there were many empty seats and pews in the urban Protestant churches. Middle-class churchgoers were ever faithful, but large numbers of workers were starting to lose faith in their local church. The old-style and familiar heaven and hell sermons just seemed irrelevant to all those who labored long, hard hours for meager wages. Immigration swelled the ranks of Roman Catholic churches. Eastern Orthodox churches and Jewish Synagogues were sprouting up everywhere. But at the same time, many cities reported the loss of Protestant congregations. Empty seats meant empty coffers to the clergy. They would have to face this challenge head-on or perish. Thus began the practice of preaching for politics.
Out of this concern grew the social gospel movement. Progressive-minded preachers began to tie the teachings of the church with contemporary problems. The social gospel differentiated itself from earlier Christian reform movements by prioritizing social salvation over “individual salvation.” Christian virtue, they declared, demanded a redress of poverty, and despair on the earth. Many ministers became politically active, basing their appeals on liberal theology, which emphasized the existence of God in everything and the doctrine of Incarnation and valued “good works” over creeds; they usually showed more interest in social science than in theology, or what God had said.
Washington Gladden, the most prominent of the social gospel ministers, supported the worker’s right to strike in the wake of the Great Upheaval of 1877. The social gospel advocates supported the labor movement, calling for an end to child labor, the enactment of temperance laws, and civil service reform or an interventionist welfare state. They differed from secular activists in that their ultimate vision was not just a more equitable balance of power within society, but a Christianized society in which cooperation, mutual respect, and compassion replaced greed, competition, and conflict among social and economic classes. Despite all of their efforts to reach the working class and to cooperate with the labor movement, though, the social gospel failed to reach far beyond its middle-class, liberal, Protestant environment. Ultimately, the greatest achievement of the social gospel was to prepare the ground of middle-class America for progressivism. America was starting to follow the “advances” underway at that time in Western Europe and adopted numerous policies, such as a major transformation of the banking system by creating the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09); William Howard Taft (1909-13); and Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) are often referred to as the “Progressive Presidents; their administrations saw intense social and political change in American society.
*To be quite honest, there is no difference between a progressive and a socialist. Progressives like President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are merely “communists with patience,”
By the mid-1890s, the social gospel had the support of multiple denominations and a strong foothold in interdenominational organizations. The Episcopal Church, which had strong ties to English Christian socialism, the Congregational church, which boasted Gladden and social gospel leader Josiah Strong as members, and a small minority within the Baptist Church were the denominational leaders of the social gospel. The most prominent was a man named Dwight Lyman Moody. He was a former shoe salesman who took his fiery speech-making on the road. As he traveled from city to city, he attracted crowds large enough to affect local traffic patterns. He spoke the oppressed, working-man’s language in other words.
One of the more prominent social gospel advocates of the 20th Century is Rick Warren, the mega-selling author of “The Purpose-Driven Church” and the “Purpose Driven Life.” He’s taken this “other gospel” to where it’s never been before, i.e. not only world-wide but into the thinking and planning of world leaders.
Mr. Warren credits business management genius Peter Drucker with the basic concept that he is executing. Mr. Drucker believed the social problems of poverty, disease, hunger, and ignorance were beyond the capability of governments or multinational corporations to solve. Mr. Drucker contends the most hopeful solution is to be found in the nonprofit sector of society, especially churches, with their hosts of “volunteers” dedicated to alleviating the social ills of those in their community and elsewhere.
Mr. Warren, acknowledging the late Mr. Drucker as his mentor for 20 years, certainly learned his lessons. His two Purpose-Driven books, translated into 57 languages and selling a combined 30 million copies, reveal the game plan for what Mr. Drucker had envisioned. Warren had local churches implement this vision from his books through his enormously popular 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community programs.
My former church’s head pastor let it be known to the congregation that he was very impressed with Rick Warren and his vision, so he adopted his plan and “purpose” for our church. He called every member to purchase “The Purpose Driven Life” and then commit to a 6-week Bible study so that we could learn how to employ his community-based teachings. Afterwards we were to take this knowledge “to the streets,” as it were implementing the social gospel, every man, woman, and child. My wife and I, as dutiful members, followed our pastor’s instructions, but after reading the first few chapters it became quite evident Mr. Warren’s teachings did not line up with Scripture, so we dropped out of the study, and eventually the church altogether. However, to date, more than 500,000 churches in 162 nations have become part of his network. They form the basis for his Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan.
What is his P.E.A.C.E. plan? Warren's presentation of the plan to the church is found at www.thepeaceplan.com. On video, he identifies the "giants" of humanity's ills as spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy, which he hopes to eradicate by (P)lanting churches, (E)quipping leaders, (A)ssisting the poor, (C)aring for the sick, and (E)ducating the next generation.
Warren uses the analogy of a three-legged stool to illustrate the best way to slay these giants… can anyone say, “Goliath?” Two of the legs are governments and business, which have thus far been ineffective, (won’t argue that point; but as I’ve pointed out recently the world-stage is being prepared for the arrival of the antichrist, since man and government are incapable of solving the world’s problems) and, just like a two-legged stool, cannot stand. The third very necessary leg is the church. “There are thousands of villages in the world that have no school, no clinic, no business, no government—but they have a church. What would happen if we could mobilize churches to address those five global giants?" Mr. Warren reasons that since there are 2.3 billion Christians worldwide, they could potentially form what President George W. Bush during his administration termed a vast "army of compassion" of "people of faith" such as the world has not yet experienced. Yes, President G. W. Bush was an advocate of the social gospel as well.
In addition to the Christian version, Mr. Warren has an expanded inclusive version of the P.E.A.C.E. plan that has drawn support and praise from political and religious leaders and celebrities worldwide. At the 2008 World Economic Forum, he declared, "The future of the world is not secularism, but religious pluralism...." Referring to the ills besetting the world, he declared, "We cannot solve these problems without involving people of faith and their religious institutions. It isn't going to happen any other way. On this planet there are about 20 million Jews, there are about 600 million Buddhists, there are about 800 million Hindus, there are over 1 billion Muslims, and there are 2.3 billion Christians. If you take people of faith out of the equation, you have ruled out five-sixths of the world. And if we only leave it up to secular people to solve these major problems, it isn't going to happen."
To accommodate working with people of all faiths Mr. Warren has revised the "P" in his P.E.A.C.E. from "planting evangelical churches" to "(P)romoting reconciliation" and the "E" from "equipping [church] leaders" to "(E)quipping ethical leaders." Mr. Warren has elsewhere acknowledged his practical shift to pluralism: "Who's the man of peace in any village—or it might be a woman of peace—who has the most respect? ...They don't have to be Christian. In fact, they could be Muslim, but they're open and they're influential, and you work with them to attack the five giants [to which he has added global warming]." He quotes a secular leader who affirms what he's doing: "I get it, Rick. Houses of worship are the distribution centers for all we need to do." Warren has joined the advisory board of Faith Foundation, established by former British prime minister and recent Roman Catholic convert, Tony Blair. The Foundation's goal is to further understanding and cooperation among the six leading faiths: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jewish.
How does the Cross fit into this ecumenical gathering? It doesn't. Critical to achieving that ecumenical goal is the elimination of the problem of exclusive religions, a concern articulated by one of the World Economic Forum panelists: "There are some religious leaders in different religious faiths who, in seeking to affirm their own faith and its authenticity and legitimacy ...deny other people their faith with its legitimacy and authenticity. I don't think we can keep going like this without...spawning the kind of hatred we are all here to try and solve. I think it's up to us to hold the clergy's feet to the fire of whatever faith. That we insist that we affirm what is beautiful in our own traditions while at the same time refusing to denigrate other faith traditions by suggesting that they are illegitimate, or consigned to some kind of evil end." In case you missed it, Mr. Warren’s vision includes a “one–world religion” of sorts.
Our Apostle Paul was concerned that those who have been transferred from Satan’s domain to Christ’s kingdom not become enslaved again: See to it that no one takes you captive through (what) philosophy and empty deception, according to the (what) traditions of men (another term for this would be religion), according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).
Paul also writes: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (i.e. the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ) – Galatians 5:1.
The Bible declares all the religions or traditions of the world to be "unlawful" and "consigned," not to "some kind of evil end," but to their just end; for Jesus Christ was “the end of the law” (Romans 10:4). Only belief in Paul’s gospel saves humanity: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved; ...He who believes in the Son has eternal life (Acts 4:12; John 3:36).
The history of the social gospel is, in nearly every case, a sincere attempt by Christians to do those things that they believe will honor God and benefit humanity and there have been some positive accomplishments. But in every case, however, the practical working out of "benefiting humanity" has compromised biblical faith and dishonored God. Why is that? I’m glad you asked. Those who walk this path are starting out under a false premise, “...a way which seems right to a man;" but not God's way. So where can it go from there? Scripture says, "The end is the way of death," i.e., destruction (Proverbs: 14:12). Furthermore, the problems of the world are all symptoms of the chief problem which is sin.
Here’s the thing, what percentage of the "people of faith," who comprise all religions and make up five-sixths of the world's population, understand and accept the gospel—the only cure for sin, per God? How many of the 2.3 billion "Christians" in the world believe the gospel that saves? How many of these know what the gospel that saves is? The numbers tumble down exponentially. "Yes, but...they are a massive volunteer force and distribution outlet of resources for slaying the giants of world suffering!" What does it profit the billions of "people of faith" who may alleviate some of the world's symptoms yet lose their very souls? (Mark 8:36)
The social gospel is a deadly disease for "people of faith." It reinforces the belief that salvation can be attained by doing good works, putting aside differences for the common good, treating others the way we want to be treated, acting morally, ethically, and sacrificially—and that doing so will endear humans to God. Looks and sounds like they would have humanity adhere to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teachings, which it is, so the biblical response is, No in this dispensation. These are self-deceptive strivings that spurn God's salvation by Grace alone. They deny His perfect standard and reject His perfect justice. What does this book say? Salvation is "not of works, so that no one may boast." In fact, it is "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
With the following words Jesus declared Himself to be condemned humanity's only hope for reconciliation with God: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but through me" (John 14:6). There is no other way. People keep poking around in the darkness looking for another stairway to heaven, ignoring what God has clearly said, but it is what it is! God's perfect justice demanded that the penalty for sin for every human be paid; "for all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). Only the perfect, sinless, Son of God could and did pay that infinite penalty in full by His death upon the Cross. Only faith in Him reconciles a person with God.
The shameful social gospel today not only promotes "another gospel," it’s trying to prepare a kingdom contrary to the teachings of Scripture: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20). The Lord will return from heaven (John 14:3) to "rapture” His Church; retrieving all those who believe in Him, both the dead and those who are alive, up and away into the clouds returning with them to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The earth from that point on will belong to the antichrist; for a predetermined period of time.
Consistent with its amillennial/post-millennial beginnings, the efforts of the social gospel are earthbound in their attempted restoration of the kingdom of God. Eugene Peterson has infiltrated that heresy into his Message Bible: "God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again" (a perversion of John 3:17).
The Emerging Church
The Emerging, or emergent, church movement takes its name from the idea that as culture changes, a new church should emerge in response. In this case, it is a response by various church leaders to the current era of post-modernism. Although post-modernism began in the 1950s, the church didn't really seek to conform to its system of beliefs until the 1990s. Post-modernism can be thought of the dissolution of "cold, hard facts" in favor of "warm, fuzzy subjectivity." The emerging church movement can be thought of the same way.
The emerging church movement falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward and feelings over truth. These are reactions to modernism and are thought to be necessary in order to actively engage contemporary culture. This movement is still fairly new, though, so there is not yet a standard method of "doing" church amongst the groups choosing to take a post-modern mindset. In fact, the emerging church rejects any standard methodology for doing anything. Therefore, there is a huge range of how far groups take a post-modernist approach to Christianity. Some groups go only a little way in order to impact their community for Christ, and remain biblically sound. Most groups, however, embrace post-modernist thinking, which eventually leads to a very liberal, loose translation of the Bible. This, in turn, lends to liberal doctrine and theology.
For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. Relativism opens up all kinds of problems, as it destroys the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, negating the belief that biblical truth can be absolute. If the Bible is not our source for absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ is rendered meaningless.
To be brief the inherent danger in the Emerging Church movement is that this group has decided there is value; there is even virtue in uncertainty about Scripture. Bottom line: they believe that mankind is not supposed to understand what the Bible means to say. And that’s the big issue, of course. It’s an outright attack on the clarity of God’s Word and they elevate themselves by falsely humbling themselves, as if they’ve stumbled across some noble reality in saying, “We admit we don’t know what the Bible is saying.” This is just another way of saying no one can know what the Bible is saying, which is a false statement.
Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, reflects the "fix the earth" eschatology (a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind) of nearly all Emerging Church leaders: "Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems; God's desire is to restore all of it.... The goal isn't escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work."
For Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren, this is the future way of life for the Christian. In an interview July 28, 2008, on ChristianPost.com, he said: "I think our future will also require us to join humbly and charitably with people of other faiths—Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, secularists, and others—in pursuit of peace, environmental stewardship, and justice for all people, things that matter greatly to the heart of God."
No, biblically he missed the target set by God the Father. What matters to the "heart of God" is "that all should come to believe the gospel.” Anyone who puts his hope in the Emerging Church or the social gospel, which employs "people of faith" to make "this world the kind of place God can come to," needs to heed the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8b: "When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Jesus will surely find people of all faiths, but certainly not "the faith" that the Bible speaks of or for which Jude exhorts true Believers to earnestly contend (See Jude 17-25).
What Does The Scriptures Say?
As I pointed out earlier Paul’s one-time collection was not meant to alleviate social distress in the world and he wasn’t assuming responsibility for the entire Jewish nation. This gift was being sent to aid the impoverished Jews in Judea: but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26).
Everything begins and ends with God, so let’s go there. Anyone who has spent time reading the four gospels understands God the Father did not send Jesus Christ to bring about social change or to bring an end to Roman rule (John 5:19). The Jews longed for this, the disciples wondered about it, but you won’t find that message in the gospel of the kingdom being preached at that time. When put to the test, Jesus did clarify His political position by saying, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Mark 12:17), clearly drawing a line between heaven and earth. Jesus did request a change in people’s hearts toward God the Father, reminding them the whole law could be summed up in these two commandments, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND…’ “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ (Matthew 22:37-40).
There’s no denying Jesus died so we could change! Without his death, there is no reconciliation with God. There is no Holy Spirit coming to heal our rebellious hearts and souls. Without Jesus we’re trapped. We are slaves to our own sinful desires and couldn’t obey God even if we wanted to, and God had every right to leave us in this condition. But He didn’t! Out of the sheer force of His loving will, and matchless grace (alone), He sent Christ to take on our sin and to become our substitionary sacrifice. When you meet this unimaginable grace with all honesty and reverence, it will change you. That work was revolutionary enough, as we now know.
Despite the fact that progressivism, relativism, and the philosophies of men are corrupting God’s Church and the written Word of God. Movements such as the Emerging Church, the prosperity gospel, the social gospel, New Apostolic Reformation, WCGIP and others are leading Christians astray and are going to end up shipwrecking the faith of those who listen to them: holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith (1Timothy 1:19).
Jesus said, “Do not be deceived.” All deception is empty of real biblical truth, even though it may contain a smidgen of it here and there. It leaves people empty as well. That is why there is a “famine” of the Word today just as there was in the time of the prophet Amos: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11). Empty deception is vain deceit – plain and simple. All is vanity with deception that does not help anyone, in fact it hinders people from having a personal relationship with the Lord (Psalm 12:2, 119:37; 2 Peter 2:18).
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; (2 Peter 2:1-2a).
One of the most profound and eternally significant questions in the Bible was posed by an unbeliever. Pilate, the man who handed Jesus over to the mob to be crucified, turned to Jesus in His final hour and asked, “What is truth?” This was a cynical response to what Jesus had just said, “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Here we are two thousand years later and the entire world breathes Pilate’s cynicism. Some will say truth is a power play, one person’s opinion; a means of exploiting or manipulating the masses. Others believe there’s no such thing as real truth.
So, what is truth? The Bible teaches truth is that which is consistent with the mind, the will, the character, glory, and being of God. Truth is the self-expression of God. That, my friends, is the meaning of biblical truth. Because the definition of truth flows from God the Father, truth is theological (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). When Jesus said, “I am…the truth…” (John 14:6), He was in fact making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth be defined in terms of the living God (Hebrews 1:1-3).
How each person responds to the truth God has revealed is an individual decision, but their choice has an eternal significance. If you reject and rebel against the truth of God, this results in sinful behavior, judgment, and the eternal wrath of God. If you accept and submit to the truth of God, you begin to see clearly, to know with certainty, and you will find life everlasting.
(To be continued)
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