Reblogged from one of my favorites….Possessing The Treasure
by Mike Ratliff
1 Μὴ κρίνετε, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε· 2 ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε κριθήσεσθε, καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν. 3 τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ ἐν τῷ σῷ ὀφθαλμῷ δοκὸν οὐ κατανοεῖς; 4 ἢ πῶς ἐρεῖς τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου· ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ δοκὸς ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ; 5 ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ τὴν δοκόν, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις ἐκβαλεῖν τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου. (Matthew 7:1-5 NA28)
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)
I believe that I have been called a hypocrite more this year than in any other year of my life. No matter who says it or writes it, it still stings. What is so troubling to me, however, is not that I am called that, but that most believers are ignorant of the fact that the most prevalent example of hypocrisy is to profess Christ as Lord and Saviour, while being totally enslaved to one’s flesh with the resultant fleshly behavior that is the fruit of pride.
In v5, the ESV’s rendering of the word “hypocrite” translates the noun ὑποκριτά (hypocrite) whose root is ὑποκριτής (hypokritēs). The “hypo” portion of both words is from the preposition “hypo.” This word means “under” indicating secrecy. The second part of each word above is derived from the Greek word “krino.” It means, “to judge” or “to divide” or “to separate.” By the time of the New Testament era, hypokritēs had come to mean an actor who wore a mask impersonating a character. It’s common usage was to refer to a counterfeit, a man who assumes and speaks or acts under a feigned character. The one doing this did so in order to distinguish oneself.
With that in mind, let us look closely at our Lord’s words from Matthew 7:1-5. In v1 our Lord gives us a command. Most translate it thus, “Judge Not!” The verb structure here is present, imperative, active. The present imperative occurs only in the active and middle voices in the New Testament. In the active voice, it may indicate a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action or, when it is negated, as in v1, a command to stop doing something. Since this is present, imperative, active, this command is to stop doing something that has become a way of life. This something is to judge in a way that brings judgment back on oneself. We have to make judgments or we could never make decisions. So our Lord isn’t telling us to stop all judging, but we are to stop judging sinfully. If we skip down to Matthew 7:12-20 we see where we are to make judgment calls about the veracity of believers professions of faith.
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:12-20 ESV)
Therefore, we know that our Lord’s command from v1 to “Judge not” is not referring to all judging so we must determine what He is forbidding us to do and then repent of it by His grace. Here is the entire passage again.
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)
We find our answer in our Lord’s examples and analogies here followed by the word that describes the ones who do this. The ones judging sinfully are doing so in a way that will bring about the judgment on self to the level or measure of how they mete it out. They are critical of others while being guilty of doing the same thing they are bringing to light. Jesus calls them hypocrites. Using the definition from above we know that the purpose of this type of judging is to make self look good. It is done pretentiously to put others down in way that will make self look better. Jesus says that the ones being criticized by the hypocrites probably are guilty and the only way we can help them is to repent of our own sins first then get right with God (1 John 1:9) then we can come along side our brothers and sisters and help them into the light as well.
I find this very interesting because Jesus is actually teaching us here to live humble, repentant lives so that we can help others repent in our humility rather than in our hypocrisy. If we rebuke professing believers who are in apostasy or deep in some sin from any self-oriented motivation while we are being hypocritical, the result will not be their repentance. Instead, we will bring judgment back on self. On the other hand, if we humbly obey our Lord in rebuking those enslaved to sin or apostasy from the motivation of delivering them from darkness we will not bring judgment back on self and God will use us to either draw them into the light or cause our words to be judgment against them if they do not repent.
Lastly, if we are to do battle in this arena of spiritual darkness, we must be prepared. That means we cannot fight effectively if we are in any form of hypocrisy ourselves. Paul was extremely effective as God’s warrior because he was content wherever God had him. In this state, his concern was never for self, but always on the repentance or obedience of those with whom he dealt with the ultimate goal of their edification and future glory with God. (Philippians 4) Therefore, let us not be hypocrites. Let us be penitent former hypocrites who are eternally grateful for the grace of God in us. Where would any of us be without God’s Amazing Grace?
Soli Deo Gloria!
by Mike Ratliff
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
Observing unbelief in a professing Christian is a terrible thing. Unbelief, which is rooted in spiritual blindness, is deceitful. We must never forget that spiritual blindness is the product of idolatry. These nominal Christians never walk by faith. They make choices based entirely within a flesh-bound value system. This decision making process is part of self-worship. Their value system is based entirely within self-worth, self-focusedness, self-protection, et cetera. If they are at all religious then their religion will be the same.
This is idolatry. It is worship of self. As a result, God blinds their hearts. They are given over to their idol. Genuine Christianity is of faith. God’s grace accords with His people’s faith thereby washing them clean in their regeneration. Their faith was dead, but now it it is alive. They are new creations. God justifies them by this faith and begins their sanctification. This sanctification is the process of removing them from sin. This process takes time and will result in their spiritual blindness coming under attack. This means that their self-worship must go. They are called to humility and to be God’s servants forever.
In a Christian culture, unfortunately, some people who do not know God become theologians. Some are well educated. Others are self-made. In any case, just because a person goes to divinity school is no guarantee that they are a genuine Christian. Here is an example of a man who was considered one of the greatest theologians of his day until his unbelief led him into Liberal Theology.
Crawford Howell Toy, professor of Old Testament 1869-1879, was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1836. Toy was named after his uncle, R. B. C. Howell, the second president of the SBC. An impressive student, Toy professed faith in Christ while attending the University of Virginia. He earned his B.A. in 1856.
After graduating, Toy taught at the Albemarle Female Institute until 1859, when he joined the first student class at Southern. Toy brought a keen intellect and a kindled heart to Southern. He passed examinations in Church History, Old Testament, Hebrew, New Testament, Greek, and Systematic Theology in one short year—an impressive achievement. He also organized missions prayer groups. Toy was courting a young missionary named Lottie Moon in this period, and they talked of pursuing missions work together in Japan. When the Civil War broke out, however, Toy joined the Confederate army and fought in several battles. Union forces captured him at Gaithersburg and he taught an Italian language course in the prison camp.
Toy traveled to Germany in 1866 to study theology and Semitic languages. In this period, his relationship with Lottie ended. When he returned from Germany in 1868, he joined the faculty of Furman University as a professor of Greek. In May of 1869, Toy was elected professor of Old Testament interpretation and oriental languages at Southern. Toy developed a progressive theology like that of his liberal German professors. He embraced the methods of higher criticism and sought to harmonize Scripture with Darwinian evolution. Toy’s views came under public scrutiny in 1879 when he published two pieces construing Isaiah’s suffering servant figure as national Israel, not Christ. Later that year, at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Toy presented the seminary trustees a defense of his opinions along with his resignation. To his surprise, the trustees accepted the resignation. Toy left Southern, never to return.
In 1880, Toy began teaching at Harvard University, where he was appointed the Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages and the Dexter Lecturer on Biblical Literature. Toy eventually became a Unitarian. His later works rejected nearly every doctrine central to Christianity. Toy retired from Harvard in 1909 and lived in Massachusetts until his death in 1919. – Sources: Billy Grey Hurt, “Crawford Howell Toy: Interpreter of the Old Testament.” Th.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1966.
Did you notice what started Dr. Toy on his slide into Liberal Theology? He developed a “progressive theology” which embraced the methods of higher criticism. These are things “theologians” do in order to be seen as less stringent or strict about their “religion.” This is compromise in order to make the narrow gate which few find wider so that everyone can come in. Of course this requires a “secularization” of doctrine and to do that the Bible must come under attack. Never forget, what Jesus’ message reveals is a very narrow Gospel that does not allow in those who simply want Heaven, but refuse to have Jesus as Lord.
Unbelief is the root of Liberal Theology. Never forget, the attacks we are witnessing in our day on our faith are coming from within the visible Church. Here is an example of their mindset.
I am not at all surprised that Southwestern Seminary faculty members have now been told they must teach that wives are to be submissive to their husbands. I am not surprised because:
In the early 1980’s, while the Southern Baptist controversy was in its early stages, several pastors were invited to meet in Atlanta to try to discuss the differences that divided and threatened to destroy the convention. I was one of those in attendance.
I well remember our dialogue concerning the importance of academic freedom in the educational processes of our seminaries and colleges. I vividly remember what Adrian Rogers, a leader of the takeover movement, said at the meeting. Of Southern Baptist seminary professors, he said they must teach, “whatever they are told to teach. And if we tell them to teach that pickles have souls, then they must teach that pickles have souls!” Those were his exact words. Everybody in the room heard them.
Frankly, I thought he was joking, or at least exaggerating. Subsequent years, however, have proved that he was doing neither. It’s not funny, and it’s no exaggeration. Southern Baptist seminary professors must now teach whatever they are told to teach.
So much for academic freedom. – Gene Garrison
Adrian Rogers was not serious about pickles having souls. He was making the point that seminary professors must be bound to teach Biblical doctrine. These seminaries are supported by the churches. Churches support them so they will produce godly theologians, not something else. Here is an excerpt from a fine post by Ken Silva that shows us how we got to this sorry state.
There’s no such thing as a little bit pregnant. Got the message? No such thing as a little bit pregnant—you are, or you’re not. Well, there’s no such thing as a mild form of cancer; it’s cancer. You don’t get rid of it, you don’t deal with it, it gets you. And we have to deal with these things today; if we don’t, they’ll end up getting what’s left of the Church…
The form of godliness, but without the power; without the sound doctrine of Scripture. And what do we have today as the reigning school of [biblical] interpretation in Protestantism in our theological seminaries world-wide? I’ll tell you what it is: Bultmannian exegesis; named after Rudolph Bultmann, “the demythologizing of the Bible.”
And what did Dr. Bultmann teach, for forty-some years? He taught that you couldn’t rely upon any single thing—virtually—in the entire New Testament record; about Jesus Christ. It all had to be “demythologized,” and then the pieces put back together again. What does Paul say; “they will gather to themselves teachers who will tickle their ears, and the Truth of God will be turned into mythology.”
It’s here. The reigning school of American theologians has progressed from bad to worse. We only have to deal with Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1920s; but then, it accelerated to Edwin Lewis, Nels F.S. Ferre, Reinhold Niebuhr, and on from Niebuhr to Paul Tillich, and crowned in Rudolph Bultmann. Not one single one of those men believed the historic doctrines of the Christian faith; but they were all the leading theologians of America.
[Episcopal] Bishop [John] A.T. Robinson cannot be unfrocked by the Anglican Church despite the fact that he is a living devil when it comes to Christian theology—denying everything and turning the faith of people into darkness. Do you know why they can’t unfrock A.T. Robertson; because [Episcopal leadership] is heretical as he is. Therefore they can’t touch him…
You can see these people in the cults and the occult if you have any degree of discernment at all because they are outside the church. But how do you see the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian professor of theology? How do you get him in a place where you can find out his theology is? The moment you question him he reverts to orthodox terminology. And then if you press him for the definition of the terminology, he claims you’re being suspicious, bigoted, and unloving.
So the average layman is defenseless, they’ve got to take what comes from behind the pulpit, and recommended by his church authorities, because the moment he opens his mouth, he’s accused of being divisive in the church, unloving and disturbing the fellowship of the faith. When it is the devil behind the pulpit, not the victim in the pew that’s responsible for it…
British theology was corrupted by German theology; by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, David Strauss. Finally [it moved] to the United States in Walter Rauschenbusch; and from there to Harry Emerson Fosdick, Nels Ferre, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Rudolph Bultmann—and the school that’s emerging from them today. Where do you think we got the “God is dead theology” from? From historic Christianity; from Christian seminaries?
You did not. You got it from a good, solid Baptist theological seminary known as Colgate-Rochester in New York, which was absolutely orthodox and which sold out to liberalism. And when it did, they embraced the theology of Paul Tillich and ended up with—God is dead. It was called at the time, “the gospel of Christian atheism.” Did you ever heard such linguistic nonsense in your life? The gospel of Christian atheism, T.J. Alhizer, Emory Universtity.
(The Cult of Liberalism, Walter Martin Religious InfoNet, CD Rom)
Unbelief is the root of many things. It has its roots in human pride. Liberal Theology is Humanism dressed up in Christian clothes. Secular Humanism is not Christianity. The Social Gospel is not The Gospel of Jesus Christ. To those of you reading this who have been intimidated into remaining silent so you won’t be accused of being suspicious, bigoted, divisive, and unloving, I want to encourage you to become educated about what is really going on. Do not challenge these people out of emotion or outrage or anything else. Instead, go to the Lord in prayer. Learn the truth and become equipped for the battle. Then and only then should you confront error. Never forget that this is a spiritual battle and we do not struggle against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
Soli Deo Gloria!
by Mike Ratliff
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Revelation 22:12-15 ESV)
Spiritual blindness is a wonder to behold. Those false prophets who profess to be Christian while loving and teaching the doctrines of demons have been given over to their sin by God. Their consciences have been seared and no matter how adamantly we tell them the truth and prove it by showing them what the Word of God teaches, they cling to their false doctrines while stopping up their ears like a rebellious child. The proponents of what has come to be called “Christian Universalism” love their false doctrine, which teaches that the Lake of Fire is not real or it is only temporary regardless of the Word of God clearly saying the opposite.
Let us look at some passages that teach the eternal separation of what is sacred from that which is evil.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? ’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14 ESV)
This passage is part of the parable of the wedding feast which begins in Matthew 22:1 and runs through v14. There is a man found at the feast who does not belong. The king has his servants bind the man and cast him into outer darkness. This place, outer darkness, must be dreadful because in there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Those in it were called, but they were not chosen. What does this mean? Our Lord used the term “outer darkness” several times. “Outer darkness” describes the darkness farthest from the light. The weeping and gnashing of teeth describes inconsolable grief and continual torment.
40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law- breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV)
This passage is part of our Lord’s explanation of the parable of the Weeds. It describes what will take place at the end of this age before the age to come. The weeds in the parable represent evil people in the world. At the close of this age He will send His angels to gather these evil people together for judgment. They will then be thrown into the fiery furnace. In this fiery furnace there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth just as there was in “outer darkness.”
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50 ESV)
The net in this parable is a drag net. One end is fixed on shore while the other end is carried out into the water by boat. Then at the right time, the fishermen pull the net to shore at a 90° angle from the pivot point. This will pull all sorts of fish onto shore. Some are good while others are not. This is an analogy of our Lord saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In any case, those not chosen, the non-elect, are separated from the righteous by angels. They will cast these evil people into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51 ESV)
This passage is part of our Lord’s teaching that no one knows the day or hour of His return. He is saying that those who are genuine Christians will be found doing His will when He returns, but no one else will. These are the wicked. What happens to them? They are cut in pieces and placed with the other hypocrites in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We have already seen that this place is called “outer darkness” and a fiery furnace. All in it are in torment and they gnash their teeth in pain and sorrow because there is no end to it. Is it eternal? We know that the fiery furnace here is the lake of fire from Revelation 20:11-15.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)
Who is thrown into the lake of fire? Those whose names were not found in the book of life are judged according to their works and cast into this placed prepared for Satan and His angels. This place is the second death. Is it eternal?
47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48 ESV)
The Greek word used here for “hell” was a name for the Valley of Hinnom, which was the Jerusalem garbage dump where fires constantly burned. The lake of fire is eternal. The way the statement, “the fire is not quenched” is structured in Greek is saying that the fires of judgment are eternal. We also learn here that worms, which do not die, will eat those in the lake of fire. What a dreadful place this outer darkness must be.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The past two years have been devastating. I have watched the lives of four Christian friends destroyed for want of care. These are men I have loved and respected. All of them had families, loving wives, and children. Three of them were pastors and another was a nationally recognized professional at the top of his field. And all of them were consumed by their lusts. Everything in their lives destroyed because they chose to play with fire. For each of them it started small. One look at a website or the brush of someone’s hand. And now the three pastors are out of the ministry, one sits in prison, and two of them are separated from their children and wives. The professional’s wife is exploring divorce. All of them have lost their homes, their jobs, their friends, their churches, their reputations, their lives. Sin is deadly. As Christians, we must be busy about the business of the mortification of sin. We are to employ ourselves with all our strength by the power of the Spirit. Here are a few thoughts on mortification:
Renewal of the Mind (Romans 12:2): The mind is crucial in battling sin. We must renew our minds. We need to remind ourselves of the indicative: what we are in Christ Jesus. I am already a child of God, holy, set apart, free from the dominion of sin, a temple of the Holy Spirit, sanctified, etc. I must now seek to live like it.
Rely Upon Christ (Matthew 5:8): Christ is the true pure in heart. All that is secured in sanctification is purely by my union with Him. I must never trust myself, but rather always have my eyes fixed upon Him It is in Him that I must rest and upon Him that I must rely
Spirit enabled effort: Though I need to strive in my sanctification, it must always be by the power and strength of the Spirit. There will be no mortification apart from Christ and the work of the Spirit. Only those who love Christ will have the desire. Only those set free from sin will be able. Only those who are filled with the Spirit have the means. Only those with eyes set on eternity will be zealous to prosecute.
Have a view to all of life (Isaiah 58:2,5-7): The Israelites fast in Isaiah could not heal them, because though they were particular in fasting and praying they were negligent and careless in other areas. As I seek to mortify the deeds of the flesh, I must consider my entire life. As Owen said, “There is harmony in obedience: break but one part, and you interrupt the whole.”
Look Back to the Cross: Looking back to the cross reminds us of the awfulness of sin, the horrible wage it inflicted, the offensiveness of sin is to the Lord, and how great his love for us is.
Look Forward to Heaven (1 John 3:3): Looking forward to heaven makes it easier to pass up fleeting pleasures for those that are eternal. Hope for the eternal excites practical purity. John demonstrates this in 1 John when he links the two together, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Assess Your Enemy Rightly: Never underestimate the power and effect of sin. There are no small sins. One crack of the door can reap a destruction. It can wreck home, work, society, reputation, finances, body, mind, and even soul.
Flee when Needed (Gen. 39): Joseph fled, even leaving his clothes behind, when faced with temptation in Potipher’s house. Flee from sin. If there is a billboard in a certain part of town, then go a different route. If a particular person leads your mind to wander, steer clear of them. If having cable television is a temptation, then pull the plug. If you can’t have the internet, then don’t. If Jesus said we are to gouge out our eye, then surely we can pull the plug on the television or cancel the internet subscription.
Attend to the means of grace (Acts 2:42; Romans 8; Galatians 2;): God has given means to His church. He works through the Word, sacraments, and prayer. They convey grace to us as we receive them in faith. And weary pilgrims need the refreshment, sustainment, nourishment, and life they provide. Neglect them, you neglect your soul.
Vivify (Colossians 3:12-17; Galatians 5): If we are to mortify, we are also to vivify. It is not enough to just put to death the deeds of the flesh, we must live by the Spirit and walk in a manner worthy of our calling.
Sin is our enemy. Don’t entertain it, play with it, be gentle with it, ignore it, or feed it. Its desire is nothing more than our very destruction. Let us seek, by the power of Christ and the strength of the Spirit, to inflict blow after blow upon it rather than it upon us. Mortification is business that the Christian is to be gainfully employed in. An employment that is aimed at life and living that life abundantly.
John Owen Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Crossway, 2006).
Thomas Watson The Doctrine of Repentance (Puritan Paperbacks) (Banner of Truth, 1998).
Thomas Brooks Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (Puritan Paperbacks) (Banner of Truth, 2010).
We live in dark days my friends, and I have been noticing lately that a plethora of marriages are under attack from the Enemy of our souls and of marriage as God has created it to be. So many sisters upset at what they see happening in their marriages, what is happening with their husbands, etc., it is almost astounding! And the thing is, gals, that, husbands aside, …
Abomination, apostasy, Biblical Authority, Christian, christianity, Disobedience, Doctrine, false-prophets, God's Word, Jesus Christ, Knowledge, Last Days, Lies, Solid Scripture, theology, Truth, Word of God
By John MacArthur
we have the great privilege I think of looking at a subject that is important to all of us. I’m not gonna be dealing with the specific text, although we’ll cover a number of texts before we’re through tonight. But I wanna carry on our special study of Charismatic chaos looking and evaluating the Charismatic movement from the Word of God by focusing on the issue of interpreting the Bible. One of the things that allows for the Charismatic movement to continue to move ahead is that it is engaged in misinterpretation of Scripture. I know that’s a strong thing to say, but it’s true. The movement continues really at an amazing pace, not only in America but around the world. And as it moves and catapults itself along, it does so at the expense of Scripture. There is in my judgment, very little understanding in the Charismatic movement a proper Bible interpretation. Much of what exists in the Charismatic movement could be eliminated with just some very simple, straightforward, basic understanding of how to properly interpret the Bible. It falls technically under the title hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a theologian’s word to explain the science of Bible interpretation, and hermeneutics is a crucial building block in discerning theology. In fact, the absence of hermeneutics or misunderstanding of it feeds the Charismatic movement. Pentecostals and Charismatics tend to base much of their teaching on poor principles of Bible interpretation.
One of their own, a Pentecostal by the name of Gordon Fee has written this, “Pentecostals, in spite of some of their excesses, are frequently praised for recapturing for the church, her joyful radiance, missionary enthusiasm and life in the Spirit. But they are at the same time, noted for bad hermeneutics. First, their attitude toward Scripture regularly has included a general disregard for a scientific exegesis and carefully thought out hermeneutics. In fact, hermeneutics has simply not been a Pentecostal thing. Scripture is the Word of God and is to be obeyed. In place of scientific hermeneutics, there developed a kind of pragmatic hermeneutics. Obey what should be taken literally. Spiritualize, allegorize, or devotionalize the rest.
Secondly, it is probably fair and important to note that in general, the Pentecostal’s experience has preceded their hermeneutics. In a sense, the Pentecostal tends to exegete his experience.” This is not as I said, the appraisal of someone hostile to the movement, but the appraisal of one who is himself a Pentecostal. His assessment is right on. You only have to watch the typical Charismatic television program to see exactly what he’s talking about. You might of watched along with some of us in horror. Sometime back if you happened to be watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network, they were interviewing a guest on one of their talk shows, and he was explaining the Biblical basis of his ministry of possibility thinking. This is a quote, “My ministry is based entirely on my life verse, Matthew 19:26, ‘With God, all things are possible.’ God gave me that verse, Matthew 19:26, because I was born in 1926.”
Obviously intrigued by that method of obtaining a life verse, the host grabbed a Bible and began thumbing through it excitedly. “I was born in 1934,” he said. “My life verse must Matthew 19:34. What does it say?” Then he discovered that Matthew 19 has only 30 verses. Undeterred, he flipped to Luke and read Luke 19:34, and they said, “The Lord hath need of him.” Thrilled, he exclaimed, “The Lord has need of me, the Lord has need of me. What a wonderful life verse. I’ve never had a life verse before, but now the Lord has given me one. Thank you, Jesus, Hallelujah,” and the studio audience began to applaud. At that moment, however, the talk show host’s wife who had also turned to Luke 19 said, “Wait a minute, you can’t use this. This verse is talking about a donkey.”
That incident, while being absolutely ludicrous and bizarre, gives you some idea of the willy-nilly way that some Charismatics approach Scripture. Some of them, looking for a word from the Lord, play a sort of Bible roulette. They spin the Bible at random looking for something that might seem applicable to whatever trial or need they are facing and they find a verse and say, “Well, the Lord gave me that verse.” And then the Lord supposedly gave them the interpretation of it.
These are silly and foolish ways to approach the study of the Bible. Perhaps you’ve heard the familiar story of the man who wanted guidance about a major decision. Started to close his eyes and not knowing where to look, wanted God to answer him. In the dilemma, he opened his Bible, put his finger down to get guidance from whatever verse his finger happened to land on. His first try brought him to Matthew 27:5, “Judas went out and hanged himself.” Thinking that verse was really not much help, he determined to try again. This time his finger landed on Luke 10:37, “Go thou and do likewise.” Still undeterred and not ready to give up, he tried it a third time and his finger landed on John 13:27, “What thou doest, do quickly.”
Now, I certainly don’t wanna vouch for the authenticity of that particular account, but it does make an important point. Looking for meaning in Scripture through some mystical process is a way to get an ill-gotten theology. Looking for meaning in Scripture beyond the historical, grammatical, logical understanding of the context is unwise and dangerous. It’s possible, of course, to substantiate almost any idea or any teaching from Scripture if you take it out of its context and twist it around. I remember hearing about the preacher who didn’t think women should have their hair up on their head because a woman’s hair should be down, so he preached against what used to be called bobbed hair, women having their hair up on their heads. His text was top not come down, taken from Matthew 24 where it says, “Let those on the housetop not come down.” So, if you just pull out, if you just pull out exactly what you want, you can probably get it. We laugh at that because it sounds so bizarre, but that is precisely the process that many are using to substantiate their experiences or to invent their theology.
Now the task of hermeneutics is to realize, first of all, that there is a God given meaning in Scripture, apart from you or me or anybody else. Scripture means something if means nothing to me, understood? It means something if it means nothing to you. It means something if it means nothing to anybody. It means something in itself, and that meaning is determined by God, the Author, not by one who is going through some kind of mystical experience. The interpreter’s task then is to discern that meaning. To discover the meaning of the text in its proper setting, to draw the meaning out of the Scripture, rather than to read one’s meaning into it. The importance of careful, Biblical interpretation can hardly be overstated. We spend three or four years at the master seminary trying to teach men how to do this because it is the heart and soul of effective ministry. In fact, I would go so far as to say misinterpreting the Bible is ultimately no better than disbelieving it. So what do you mean by that?
Well, what good does it do to believe that the Bible is God’s final and complete word if you misinterpret it? Either way you miss the truth, right? It is equally serious along with disbelieving the Bible to misinterpret it. Interpreting Scripture to make it say what it was never intended to say is a sure road to division, to error, to heresy and to apostasy. In spite of all of the dangers of misinterpreting the Scripture, today we have these casual people who approach the Scripture whimsically without any understanding of the science of interpretation and make it say whatever they would like it to say. Perhaps you’ve been in one those Bible studies where you go around the room and everybody tells you what they think the verse means? Or worse than that, “Well, to me this verse means,” so-and-so. In the end, what you get is a pooling of ignorance, unless somebody knows what it means apart from them. The truth is it doesn’t matter what a verse means to me, it doesn’t matter what it means to you, it doesn’t matter what it means to anybody else, it doesn’t matter if it means anything to anybody else. All that matters is what does it mean? What did God intend to say? Every verse has intrinsic meaning apart from any of us and the task of Bible study is to discern the true meaning of Scripture. That’s why I can come to you week after week, month after month, year after year and explain to you the meaning of the Word of God, apart from any personal experience I’m having. That’s irrelevant.
The task of the interpreter is to discern the meaning of Scripture. In 2 Timothy 2:15 it says, “Be diligent,” or study, “present yourself approved to God as a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed because he’s handling accurately the Word of Truth.” If you don’t handle it accurately, you oughta be ashamed of yourself. And if you’re gonna handle it accurately, you have to be diligent, you have to work hard at it. Clearly handling Scripture involves both of those things, hard work and diligence. It must be interpreted accurately, and those who fail to do that have reason to be ashamed.
Now, there’s so much to say about this that I can’t give you a whole course on hermeneutics. I teach some of that in the seminary as well as other professors and I’m not intending to give you a seminary course, but let me just suggest three errors that need to be avoided that are not always avoided in contemporary interpretation. One, and they’re very simple, do not make a point at the price of a proper interpretation. It’s like the preacher who said, “I have a good sermon, if I could just find a verse to go with it.” Do not prescribe your theology and then try to make the Bible fit it. You might have a good thought, good idea. It even might be that the principle that you have in mind is true, but do not allow yourself to make the point at the price of a proper interpretation.
Remember reading years ago, a good illustration of this found in the Jewish Talmud. One Rabbi was trying to convince his people that the primary issue in life is concern for other human beings. That’s good, good point. We oughta be concerned about other human beings, but he wanted to illustrate it and so he took ‘em to the Tower of Babel and he told them that the stones of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the building of that through the carrying of those stones illustrated his point. He said that the builders of the tower were frustrated because they put material things first and people last. Now where is that in Genesis? “Well,” he said, “as the tower grew taller, it took a hod carrier or a stone carrier many hours to carry a load of stones up. The higher it got, the longer the walk.” And he said, “If a man fell off the tower on the way down, nobody cared because you only lost a man, not the bricks. But if he fell off on the way up, they mourned because the bricks were lost. And that,” said the Rabbi, “is why God confused their language, because they failed to give priority to human beings over bricks.” Now, none of that can be found in Genesis 11, none of that can be found in the Bible. In fact, it totally skews the meaning of Genesis 11. It is true, people are more important than bricks, but that is not the point of the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11 says absolutely nothing about the importance of people or bricks. The point is God is more important than idols, and God will judge idolatry.
I remember being at a Bible conference in Wisconsin one time. And I got into the Bible conference with another well known preacher, and we were preaching every night, and one day we were eating lunch, and I said, “What are you gonna preach on tonight?” He said, “I’m gonna preach on the rapture of the church.” I said, “Really? The rapture of the church, great. What’s your text?” He said, “John 11.” I said, “What?” He said, “John 11.” I said, “John 11, the rapture of the church isn’t in John 11.” He said, “You wait and see tonight.” I said, “Fine, fine.” That night he preached on the rapture from John 11. That’s the resurrection of Lazarus. He allegorized it, Lazarus was the church, Martha was the Old Testament saints and Mary was the tribulation saints and he got this thing goin’. And the people were just sitting there saying, “Deep, deep.” You know, they were just thinkin’ this is the profoundest thing. They couldn’t find it anywhere. They thought he was goin’ deeper than they had capability to go. And afterwards he said to me, “Have you ever seen that in John 11?” To which I replied as kindly as I could, “No one has ever see that in John 11.” And he took it as a compliment. The next night he said, “John MacArthur told me that no one but me had ever seen that in John 11.”
Now, I don’t wanna argue with the rapture of the church, but I will argue that the rapture of the church is not in John 11, and if you’re gonna make John 11 say something that is true, then you’re just as likely to make John 11 say something that what? That isn’t true. That is not the way you approach Scripture.
God has not hidden His truth from us, but its meaning is not always instantly clear. It demands hard work. That’s why in 1 Timothy 5:17 it says that, “Those elders who labor in the Word and doctrine are worth of double honor,” because it’s hard work. That’s why God has given teachers to the church so that we can work hard and understanding God’s Word correctly, instructing people in the Scriptures through persistent, conscientious labor in the Word.
Now, today we have, frankly, a lack of respect for the work of gifted theologians, a lack of respect for the hard work of gifted expositors who have spent years studying and interpreting Scripture. In fact, that lack of respect tends to be somewhat charismatically characteristic. They tend to sort of look at all of us that way. I think I read you of the letter from the lady who said, “Your problem is you’re too much into the Bible. Throw away your Bible,” remember that, “and stop studying.” You see, Charismatics place more emphasis on letting people in the congregation say whatever they think Jesus is telling them the verse means, and to listen to what one writer calls, “Airy fairy theologians.” There’s a vast difference, by the way, between the whimsical kitchen table interpretations of laymen, the teaching of skilled men who work very hard to rightly divide the Word.
I heard a radio interview with a Charismatic woman pastor. She was asked how she got her sermons up? She replied, “I don’t get ‘em up, I get ‘em down. God delivers them to me.” That’s an all too familiar thing. I can promise you that God has never delivered one to me. I haven’t gotten them down. I’ve had to ‘em up. Some people even believe it’s unspiritual to study. After all, some say, taking another verse out of context, didn’t Jesus say, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you and that very hour what you want to say,” so you just go into the pulpit and whatever comes into your mind, you say? And that’s why they invent their theology as they speak because they have no idea what’s going to be said until they hear it. We should be greatly concerned about this ad lib approach. You never ever make a point true or false at the price of a proper interpretation. Otherwise, you are the final authority and not the Word of God.
Secondly, don’t spiritualize or allegorize the text. Some people think the Bible is a fable to teach whatever you wanna get across. A myriad of illustrations of this. I remember back when Jerry Mitchell was on our staff and a young couple came into him for counseling, marriage counseling. He began to talk with them and after about 30 minutes, he said he’d been married only six months and you’re already on the edge of a divorce? Why did you ever get married? You’re miles apart. “Oh,” said the husband, “it was a sermon the pastor preached in our church.” “What was the sermon?” “Well, he preached on the walls of Jericho.” “Jericho? What does that have to do with marriage?” “Well,” he said, “God’s people claimed the city marched around it seven times and the walls fell down.” And he said, “If a young man believed God had given him a certain girl, he could claim her, march around her seven times and the walls of her hear would fall down. That’s what I did and we got married.” “That can’t be true,” he said. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” I remember him sayin’ that. “You gotta be kidding.” “No, it’s true. And there were many other couples that got married because of the same sermon.” Some people believe their marriages were made in Heaven. That was made in an allegory and a bad one at that. That’s the kind of interpretation that has gone on since the early days of the church, continues today, especially in the Charismatic movement.
Remember listening to a series on the book of Nehemiah. The whole purpose of the book of Nehemiah by this Charismatic preacher was to teach Charismatic doctrine. Jerusalem’s walls were in ruin and that was representative of the broken down walls of human personality. Nehemiah was the Holy Spirit, the king’s pool was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the mortar between the bricks was tongues. And what Nehemiah’s teaching is the Holy Spirit wants to come rebuild your broken walls through the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. I had an opportunity to talk to that preacher about that and we had an interesting conversation. I tried to show him that that was nothing but the invention of his own imagination, read from the New Testament back into the Old, but never the intention of Nehemiah, to which he agreed. That kind of preaching is a form of hucksterism, and as I said, “You may come up with the truth that you teach, but if you spiritualize the text to do it, then you legitimize spiritualization of any text which leaves you with any fanciful conclusion.”
Well, the correct approach you probably need to go to Jesus and remember that when He was walking on the road to Emmaus, He said, Luke did, the beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in the Scriptures. The Word explained is hermeneual from which we get hermeneutics. He carefully interpreted the Old Testament. He used hermeneutics. He’s a model of a teacher, used sound interpretive methods.
So, when we teach the Word of God, when we come to the conclusions that we come to, we wanna be certain that we don’t make severe errors, one, by making points at the price of proper interpretation, two, by somehow concocting or spiritualizing something that isn’t there, and three, and I’ve already talked about this, by superficial study. Superficial study is equally disastrous. But I’ve said enough about that not to have to say more.
Now, if that’s the case, if we are to avoid doing that, how do we then interpret the Scripture? Let me give ya five sound principles, alright? If you work through these, you’ll be on the way to rightly dividing the Word. Principle number one we’ll call the literal principle, the literal one. When we go to the Bible, this is so basic, we assume that God is talking to us in normal speech, k? Normal language, normal, common, everyday communication. In fact, the theologians used to call it usisloquindi in the Latin, meaning the words of Scripture are to be interpreted the same way words are understood in ordinary daily use. If it says horse, it means horse, if it says he went somewhere, he went somewhere. If it says house, it means house, if it says man, it means man, and not everything is to be extrapolated off into some mystical spiritualization, allegorization or whatever. He is literal.
We understand Scripture then in the literal sense of language. Now there are figures of speech, there are simile, metaphor, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, whatever else, ellipses. All of the figures of speech will be there. There may even be sarcasm. There may even be exaggeration as a device. There may be symbolism such as the symbolism in the prophetic literature which is obviously symbolic, clearly symbolic. But it is in the normal language of speech. We use symbols in our language. We say, “That man is as straight as a pine tree,” or “that man is as strong as an ox.” Well, we’re using a symbol to make a literal point or statement. So then, when we interpret the Bible, we’re not hunting for some extrapolated, mystical experience.
Now the Rabbis really got into this. They started to look for this long centuries ago. In fact, they used to say, some of them said that Abraham had 318 servants. Nothing in the Bible says that, but they said the secret meaning of the word Abraham is in the Hebrew there’s only three consonants in Abraham’s name: ba, ra, m. All the rest are vowels or breathing points. So, if you take ba, ra, m, in his name, they had numerical equivalents in the Hebrew language and add ‘em up you get 318, so the secret meaning is he had 318 servants. Now they were into all that kind of stuff and even got more bizarre than that.
There was occasionally of course, figurative language in Scripture as I said, but they’re quite evident to us in the normal course of understanding language. Scripture was not written to puzzle people. It was not written to confuse them. It was written to make things clear to them. Even parables are nothing more than illustrations. They’re not riddles. They’re illustrations, and in most cases, Jesus explained their meaning. And in all cases, He said that the meaning would be revealed to those who belong to Him by the Holy Spirit. So, we can’t abandon literal interpretation and favor of mystical, allegorical, metaphorical kinds of interpretation to discard all hope of achieving accuracy and coherence, and throw us into some imaginary field. I would venture to say that most Charismatic preaching is imagination run wild, proof texted. They have, at least the popular part of it. I don’t know whether most is a fair thing to say, but the popular part of it that I hear has much imagination and very little hermeneutics. When you do not take the time to discern the literal meaning, you are not serving Scripture by trying to understand it, then you are making Scripture your slave by molding it into whatever you want it to say. So, we start with a literal principle. It’s literal language.
Secondly, an historical principle. Now, when the Scripture was written, they understood what was said, clearly. Just like the Constitution, when it was written everybody understood what they meant. Here we are a few hundred years later tryin’ to figure out what they meant. Why? Because history’s different. Time has past, culture has changes, circumstances have changed, and even language has changed, modes of expressions have changed, patterns of life have changed. And so we’re trying to get in touch with an old document and reconstruct what it must have meant to them when it was written. Same is true of the Bible, only it’s much older than the Constitution. Any ancient document demands interpretation. And so what do we have to do then to interpret it? We have to reset it in its historical context.
I’m always amazed when I hear someone say, “John 3 must be goin’ to the water and the Spirit means must be born physically, and you must be born spiritually.” Have you heard that? When a woman has a baby, there’s water, we say, “The water breaks and the baby’s born, that’s born of the water, and spiritually, you’re born of the Spirit.” The problem is that in the Jewish context, that wouldn’t have been said because the Jews didn’t say, “The water breaks.” So, what you’ve done is taken an American colloquialism and read it into an ancient book that would mean absolutely nothing to those people. The question is when He said, “You must be born of the water and the Spirit,” what water would they think about, right? What water was in the historical setting? The only water and spirit they would think about in their Jewish context, particularly Nicodemus, would be that of Ezekiel who said, “The day is coming when God’s gonna wash you with clean water and put His Spirit within you,” and he would have put it that context, the context of the new covenant, not some colloquial American expression for human birth.
We must then understand the need for the historical principle. When Jesus walks in, for example, to the temple courtyard and said, “I am the Light of the world.” Why did he say that? Did He just go around saying strange things at strange moments? “I’m the Light of the world,” and somebody would say, “What did He say that for?” Well, why would He say, “I am the Water of Life. Whoever drinks of this water, out of his belly shall flow rivers of _____?” What is He talking about? Why does He outburst with these obtuse remarks? No, when He said in John 8, “I am the Light of the world,” He was standing in the temple courtyard and there was a huge candelabra that had been lit for eight straight days in the feast of lights, and it had just gone out the day before, and He walks in to that very setting and says in effect, this thing has gone out, but I’m the Light of the world and I never go out. And when He said, “I’m the Water of Life,” they were going to the hallels and they were celebrating the water that came out of the rock in the wilderness, and He said, “There was water then, but it was temporary, I am the Water, and you drink this water, you’ll never thirst, but you’ll be a gushing well of water.” Always the context gives the meaning.
We’ve got to go back, what are the historical features? What is the characteristic of the city in which the believers lived who heard this? What was going on there? What were the politics? Who was ruling? What were the social pressures? What were the tensions, problems and crises that they were going through? What was the culture of the day? What was life like? What were customs like? I spend a great amount of my time researching all of that information so that when I get in the pulpit, I can make something clearer, and I’m always amazed, in fact, it happened a couple times this morning. People came to me and said, “You know, that passage is so clear. It’s so clear. I wonder why I’ve never seen it before?” The reason it was clear, the reason you understood it is because I fed you the context in which it had its significance. It seemed simple and clear to you, a lot simpler than you know. It is simple to the one who was there and heard it the first time, but it is more complex to me as I have to discern what they heard and how they heard it. That’s part of the process. To answer the cultural, historical question, you use Bible dictionaries and books on history and Bible handbooks, and commentaries, and books about Bible customs and so forth and so on.
Third principle, grammatical principle. You go to a text of Scripture and you have to approach it grammatically. This is called syntax, S-Y-N-T-A-X. Lexicography is the study of words, syntax is the study of the relationship of words. You have to learn about verbs and adverbs and adjectives, and you have to learn about infinitives and participles, and you have to learn about prepositions. You have to learn about conjugating verbs and you have to learn about cases for nouns and substantives, ablative and genitive and all of that and accusative, nominative. You learn all the structure of language. You have to learn about antecedents about relationships. You have to learn about conditional and non conditional clauses.
You know what makes this really difficult now in seminary? The latest statistics that I’ve seen regarding our seminary, we get the cream of the crop, we get the finest young men coming out of the universities of our nation. One out of four of the men coming into the master seminary, one out of four can pass the basic English exam, one out of four. They can all talk English, they can all read English, they just don’t understand the structure of language, and because they don’t understand the structure of language, you can’t teach them a foreign language until they do. We have people today who will never be able to understand the structure of the foreign languages Hebrew and Greek because they don’t even understand the structure of English trying to interpret the Bible. Now, grammar’s not anybody’s favorite subject. Sorry, those of you who teach English. Grammar is just grammar, it’s just there and you have to learn it. But it is essential in interpreting the Word of God.
People say to me, “What’s the first thing you do when you prepare a message?” The first thing I do is study the Biblical text in the original language and learn the grammar and understand all the word relationships, go over sentence structure and grammar so I know exactly what is being said, what modifies what and how it all fits together. In fact, more often than not, when I preach to you, the main idea that I’m trying to get across to you is contained in the main verb and the supporting ideas are contained in the participles that modify the main verb. Now, you can do this for yourself by reading commentaries which will help you in the process, by doing inductive Bible study, breaking down into diagramming sentences. Remember that terrible thing you used to have to do that nobody does anymore? But that’s all a part of discerning grammatical construction.
And another principle, let’s call it the synthesis principle, the synthesis principle. The old reformers use the expression scriptura scripturum interpretator. What that means is Scripture is its own interpreter, and you use the synthesis principle. What does that mean? That I always interpret a given passage in the Bible in the light of the rest of the Bible, right? I don’t come across a passage and say, “Wow, this is a new doctrine taught nowhere else in the Bible.” Wait a minute. If you think that passage is teaching a doctrine that is taught nowhere else in the Bible and appears contradictory to other things taught in the Bible, you’ve misinterpreted it, right? Because Scripture will be consistent with itself, why? One perfect author wrote it all. Who’s that? God. Scripture will interpret Scripture. The Holy Spirit won’t disagree with Himself, and you can interpret the Word of God by the Word of God. That is a very, very essential thing.
And then, one more principle, fifthly, the practical principle, the practical principle. The final question you ask, you go through this whole process starting out, alright, what’s the literal meaning here? Then you move to what’s the historical background, the context. What are all the grammatical components here? How does this synthesize with the rest of Scripture. You hear me do that, don’t you? I make a point and then I show you other verses where that point exists in order to see that this is the Scripture teaching and elucidating on its own truth. And then, the last question you ask is so what? What does it mean to me? What does it have to do with me? How does it apply to my life? But you never ask that question until you’ve gone through all the other steps, right? Most people today read the Bible and then say, “Alright, what does this mean to me,” and they skip all the stuff in the middle. By the way, I would recommend to you a helpful little book. If you wanna good tool that’s excellent for you, that’s Dick Mahew’s book, How to Interpret the Bible. It’s a paperback, it’ll be a tremendous tool for you. I know we have it in our bookstore and you can go in and buy ‘em all out tonight.
Now, in the process of this, one more thing I need to say. And these five principles of interpreting Scripture, there’s another component and that’s the principle of the Holy Spirit and illumination. Even when I have taken it literally and worked through the grammar and reconstructed the history, and when I have delved into all the terms and the words and synthesized it with all of Scripture, all of that effort would come up empty if it weren’t for the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit because He alone knows the things that are coming from God, 1 Corinthians 2 says. And He is the One who teaches them to us. He is the anointing, in 1 John 2:27, that teaches us all things. Remember that verse, 1 John 2:27? John says, “The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you. You have no need for anyone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and not a lie, just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” It’s not telling us we don’t need teachers and it’s not telling us we don’t need those who guide us because He’s given to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, teaching pastors, and even teachers to teach us. And he’s given us some the gifts of teaching and preaching so that we can be taught. But it is an assurance that we can know the difference between the heresy that is being discussed in 1 John 2, and the truth regarding the Gospel of Christ because we possess the Spirit. It doesn’t guarantee that we’re gonna have the correct interpretation of every verse in the Bible even though we do nothing. It doesn’t mean we don’t need human teachers. It just means, regarding the Gospel, regarding the basic truth of Christ, we can discern by the Holy Spirit’s leading truth from error.
Now, in closing, just a suggestion, four texts are commonly misinterpreted by Charismatics. And I’ll just apply what we’ve learned tonight to those four very briefly to help you understand how easily they could be rightly understood. The first one, I want you to turn to it. We’re not gonna do all that we could do because you can buy my commentary or get the tape on the passage and go through it in detail, but Matthew 12 is a good starting point because they use this quite often to intimidate Christians. In Matthew 12, you have the record of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and you’ll remember that Jesus said, “Anything could be forgiven you, anything said against the Son of Man, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven you.” If we had the time, we could read from verse 22 all the way on, but just go down to verse 31. Jesus says, “Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” Now, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Well, if you listen to two very, very popular Charismatics by the name of Charles and Francis Hunter, well known husband and wife team who’ve written numbers of books and speak on the road all the time, this is what they say. They say that anyone who questions tongues, and this is pretty much what you hear from the Charismatic movement, anyone who questions tongues or any other aspect of the Charismatic movement is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They imply that any critics of the Charismatic movement are perilously close to being condemned by Christ for such blasphemy. Is that what this is teaching? They use this verse to support that. Does a challenge to Charismatic error equal blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? When someone denies that tongues are for today or that the baptism of the Spirit is a post salvation experience, has that person committed the unpardonable sin? Not according to this passage. In this text, remember, a demon possessed man was born blind and dumb, brought to Jesus and He healed him? The Pharisees heard it, they said Jesus cast out demons by Satan, remember that? By Beelzebub, which was their name for the lord of the flies, the Philistine satan, the prince of evil spirits, they were saying Jesus does what He does by the power of Satan.
Now, according to the principles and interpretation which we’ve just learned, the first thing to do would be to look at the literal meaning of the passage. The Pharisees were literally saying Jesus Christ got His power from Satan, alright? We understand that. Let’s move to the historical principle. Jesus’ ministry had been going on for two years, and during that time He performed numerous miracles that proved to everyone really, should have proved to everyone, that He was God, He was the Messiah. The conclusion should have been He is God. Their conclusion was He functions under the power of Satan. They concluded the exact opposite.
Using the synthesis principle, we’ll go a step further. We check other parts of the Bible and we find that at His baptism, Jesus received the Holy Spirit, and after being baptized, the Spirit of God descended as a dove, came upon Him. And then we learned that when Jesus went out and performed His miracles, it was the Spirit working through Him. He had yielded Himself up to the Holy Spirit. And so, it was the Holy Spirit working in Him, casting out demons by the Spirit’s power. They were coming along and saying He did by Satan’s power. Blasphemy then against the Holy Spirit was attributing the works of Christ done by the Spirit of God to Satan. That’s what blasphemed the Holy Spirit. It was being exposed to the full revelation of Christ’s deity, seeing His miracles, hearing His teaching and concluding He’s satanic. For that you can’t be forgiven. Why? Because if you have seen it all and heard it all and you conclude that He’s satanic, you can’t get saved, right? Because you’ve concluded exactly the opposite about Christ. That’s the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12, doesn’t say anything about tongues, doesn’t say anything about the contemporary Charismatic movement.
We know that all of us, as sinners, resist the Holy Spirit. All of us who are convicted by the Holy Spirit and fight back at that conviction are resisting and in one way or another, blaspheming Him, but still we can be saved. The only way you can blaspheme to the degree where you couldn’t be saved is if you had had all the revelation and you concluded the opposite of the truth. You’re unsavable because in order to be saved, you have to acknowledge Jesus as God, right? First of all, the sin against the Holy Spirit referred to there as an historical event. And secondly, if there was some application to us, it would simply be rejecting Christ when you have full knowledge.
Look at another one, Hebrews 13:8. This is a very brief one, but again, it’s a classic illustration of the way they work. Almost every Pentecostal church you’ll go into, certainly in the past this was true, will have a verse in the front of the church, the back of the church on a plaque somewhere. It’ll be Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today forever.” Have you ever been into a Pentecostal church and seen that? It is in most all of them or was. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.” Now, why is that important? This is what they say. If Jesus baptized with the evidence of speaking in tongues yesterday, then surely He’s doing it today and He’ll be doing it tomorrow. And so they use that to say whatever Jesus did in the past, He’s doing now, He’ll be doing in the future. The silliness of that interpretation is the tongues never started until Acts 2, so though Jesus is the same yesterday, throughout all the yesterday of His eternal existence, He didn’t do that. You see how obvious that is? Then you say, “Now, wait a minute. In the yesterday He did miracles.” No, no, no, not in the yesterday of His eternal existence. Before the world began, He wasn’t doing miracles, and before the world He wasn’t sending the Spirit in clove and tongues of fire. You see, what you have here is a statement about the eternal, immutable essence of Christ. That He is eternal yesterday, today and forever and unchanging in His essence, not that He has always is and will always do everything the same way.
Well, we don’t have time to look at the other Scriptures. One favorite they like says that these signs will follow those that believe. They’ll cast out demons, speak with new tongues. They love to emphasize that. They’re not so hot on picking up snakes and drinking deadly poison. And then it says it’ll not hurt them if they drink it and they’ll lay hands on the sick and they’ll recover. They say, “See, we can heal the sick,” and “See, we can speak in tongues,” and “See, we can cast out demons.” But they don’t advocate picking up poisonous snakes and drinking deadly poison. It’s just, in fact, how they handle that is, I need to just tell ya how they handle it. The hunters, for example, say, “Well, that only counts if you pick up the snake accidentally.” Is that what it says in Mark’s gospel, if you happen to pick up a snake accidentally? Or it only matters if you drink the poison accidentally. In fact, they write do you notice the Bible says, “If we drink anything poisonous,” it means, “Accidentally it won’t hurt us. Hallelujah, best insurance policy we know of.”
The problem with their interpretation is it’s not literal. There’s no accidentally there. Furthermore, historically he’s talking about the apostolic age and those who responded to the ministry of the apostles. They even go so far as to make the silly remark, and of course, we all know that the biggest snake is Satan, and when he bites us, God delivers us from his deadly poison which just allegorizes the thing, spiritualizes it. They play fast and loose.
The concern that I have is to share with you just the sense that there’s an awful lot of irresponsibility in dealing with these texts and for your sake and mine, we need not, listen carefully to me, we need not just to criticize the movement. We need to be able to go beneath and to show where the critical flaws lie.
One text in closing, and you know it very well, 2 Timothy 2:15, just to remind you so you’re armed if you get into any conversation with folks like this. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed,” then the last phrase, “handling accurately the Word of Truth.” Beloved, this is where we must lay down the law. We must protect the integrity of Scripture by demanding a proper interpretation. That phrase, “handling accurately,” means cutting it straight. Paul was a tentmaker, in order to make a tent, he had to cut a lot of pieces of material, either hide or woven hair. If he didn’t cut the parts right, like making a dress or a shirt, that the hole didn’t fit together. You cut the parts right, you sew ‘em together, it works. And he’s saying if you don’t cut the pieces right, the whole theology doesn’t fit together, and what you’ve got is people hackin’ up the pieces and putting together an obtuse bizarre theology that does not make sense, is not coherent. We must know how to rightly divide the Word of Truth because if we don’t, mishandling the Scripture and not interpreting it properly just feeds endless confusion. And that is why there is so much Charismatic chaos.
Father, thank you for our time tonight and looking over these sayings and considering some of the basics of Bible interpretation, make us faithful, and Lord, help us again to realize that many people in this movement love You and are victimized. They’re victimized by these foolish interpretations that are given to them very authoritatively by people who sound convincing. We pray that Your Spirit will give them great discernment. We know that Your Spirit will grant them to discern if they’re true believers, between heresy about the Gospel and the truth of the Gospel, and we can only ask that somehow Your Spirit will lead them to true teachers who will teach them the right interpretation of Scripture so that they will not be confused, and thus, miss the privilege and opportunity of spiritual growth and giving You glory You deserve. Lord, thank You for giving us exposure to those who rightly divided the Word so that we can follow in their stead. Make us faithful to that Word which rightly understood must be applied, and all for Your glory, in Christ’s Name, Amen.
For more information on proper biblical interpretation and the chaos created by the false charismatic theology: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/219/charismatic-chaos
And just my own two cents, while God is speaking to Israel, His message is applicable to this and other false prophets and those who come in His name today claiming special revelation from a closed canon. As God says “In the latter days you will understand it clearly.” And those who are His clearly do.~AGM†
Jeremiah 23, ESV
1“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.3Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.4I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
5“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
7“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’8but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where hea had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
9Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. 11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the Lord. 13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”
16Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.17They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
18 For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? 19 Behold, the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly.
21 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.
23“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?24Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’26How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart,27who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord.29Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?30Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another.31Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’32Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.
33“When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden,b and I will cast you off, declares the Lord.’34And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ I will punish that man and his household.35Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the Lord answered?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’36But ‘the burden of the Lord’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God.37Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’38But if you say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’ thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the Lord,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the Lord,’”39therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers.40And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
“As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”
From The Valley of Vision:
My dear Lord, I can but tell Thee that Thou knowest I long for nothing but Thyself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with Thy will. Thou hast given me these desires, and thou alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with Thee, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride. How precious it is to have a tender sense and clear apprehension of the mystery of godliness, of true holiness! What a blessedness to be like Thee as much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator! Lord, give me more of Thy likeness; enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness; engage me to live more for Thee. Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and when I feel at ease after sweet communings, teach me it is far too little I know and do. Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to Thee, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with Thee, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved. Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring Thee, always humble and resigned to Thy will, more fixed on Thyself, that I may be more fitted for doing and-suffering.
May it be so Lord! May it be!
apologetics, Bible, Biblical Authority, Blessed, Christ, Christian, christianity, christians, church, Death, Disobedience, Doctrine, eternity, false converts, False Gospel, false repentance, Genuine repentance, God, God's Word, Haughty, Heart is deceitful, Hell, Jesus Christ, Knowledge, Lies, Only Son of God, Salvation, Scripture, Self appraisal, Sin, Solid Scripture, Test yourself, Truth, Word of God
by John MacArthur
What kind of evidence substantiates authentic repentance? When the crowds asked that question of John the Baptist in Luke 3:10, he told them to share with their needy neighbors (v. 11). To tax collectors he said, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to” (v. 13). To soldiers he said, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages” (v. 14).
In each case, he was calling for a selfless attitude and kindness to one’s neighbors. That short list doesn’t exhaust all the possible fruits of repentance, of course, but it demonstrates that genuine repentance ought to produce the kind of character change that results in a qualitative difference in the way we live. James wrote, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). In a similar way, repentance that doesn’t produce works is barren and useless. A person who has genuinely repented is never left unchanged.
The apostle Paul likewise looked for proof of repentance. “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision,” he said, “but kept declaring… to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:19-20, emphasis added).
The emphasis on self-examination is consistent throughout Scripture. Because true repentance is one of the first indications of salvation, believers can and should look to the fruit of repentance for assurance. As Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Scripture presents self-examination as an essential prerequisite for authentic assurance (2 Corinthians 13:5). The evidences of true salvation cited in Scripture include the fruits of one’s behavior (1 John 3:18-19), pattern of life (1 John 3:24), and way of thinking (1 John 5:1-2).
Don’t be misled: salvation is in no way merited by our works, and therefore true assurance is not ultimately grounded in our performance. Self-examination can destroy false assurance, but you’ll never find settled assurance merely by looking at yourself. In the end, we have to look away from ourselves and rest in the objective promises of God’s Word. True, lasting assurance is anchored in the promise of salvation to all who believe. That promise is as true as God Himself and needs no empirical verification.
Still, self-examination is a necessary and biblical aspect of gaining assurance. It is the process by which we evaluate the quality of our own faith. And the fruits of repentance are the evidence we must seek.
This is especially crucial in the contemporary evangelical environment. Multitudes believe they are saved merely because someone told them so after a cursory conversation, the simple reciting of a canned prayer, the raising of a hand in a public meeting, or sometimes even less. People have not been challenged to examine themselves. Rarely do they test their assurance by God’s Word. As a matter of fact, many have been taught that doubts about their salvation can only be detrimental to spiritual health and growth.
But Scripture demands self-examination. In fact, we’re supposed to examine ourselves regularly, every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28). Paul’s famous challenge to the believers at Corinth clearly has the doctrine of assurance in view: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 emphasis added). And Hebrews 10:22 indicates that “full assurance of faith” comes from “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.”
So we need to examine ourselves in the process of coming to grips with assurance. Nowhere is this made more plain in Scripture than 1 John, one of the key passages of Scripture on the subject of assurance. In fact, the epistle was written with the express purpose of building the assurance of true believers. John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). His aim is to deepen the assurance of genuine Christians—those “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” He’s not trying to provoke doubts in the presence of authentic faith; he is giving us a basis to “assure our heart before Him” (3:19).
Notice again, however, that our faith in Christ is the ultimate ground and foundation of true assurance. Self-examination is simply the process by which we examine whether our faith is genuine and our repentance real.
True believers should not be unnerved by the biblical call to self-examination. Unbelievers and mere hearers of the Word, on the other hand, need to have their self-confidence shaken. So the apostle John names several practical tests that may be used to determine the authenticity of faith—including such things as obedience (2:3-6; 3:1-10), sound doctrine (2:21-28; 4:1-6), and love for the brethren (3:14-19; 4:7-11). Those are fruits of true repentance.
If you judge yourself by your own estimation, you will always see what you are loooking for, you will always be what you want to be….But not what you truly are according to the word of God.~AGM†
A wonderful response to my last article (“Are You a New Creation in Christ?”) from a sister that I dearly love. I’m posting her message to me in it’s entirety (sans closing). Please check out her blog, if you will. And keep her in prayer. She is such a blessing to the Kingdom, and personally to me. I love you Lyn. ~AGM†
“This post is so VERY MUCH needed at this hour; this is from A. W. Pink…
“Three Kinds of “Christians”
Broadly speaking there are three kinds of “Christians”: preacher-made, self-made, and God-made ones. In the former are included not only those who were “sprinkled” in infancy and thereby made members of a “church” (though not admitted to all its privileges), but those who have reached the age of accountability and are induced by some high-pressure “evangelist” to “make a profession.” This high pressure business is in different forms and in varying degrees, from appeals to the emotions to mass hypnotism whereby crowds are induced to “come forward.” Under it countless thousands whose consciences were never searched and who had no sense of their lost condition before God were persuaded to “do the manly thing,” “enlist under the banner of Christ,” “unite with God’s people in their crusade against the devil.” Such converts are like mushrooms: they spring up in a night and survive but a short time, having no root. Similar too are the vast majority produced under what is called “personal work,” which consists of a species of individual “buttonholing,” and is conducted along the lines used by commercial travelers seeking to make a “forced sale.”
The “self-made” class is made up of those who have been warned against what has just been described above, and fearful of being deluded by such religious hucksters they determined to “settle the matter” directly with God in the privacy of their own room or some secluded spot. They had been given to understand that God loves everybody, that Christ died for the whole human race, and that nothing is required of them but faith in the gospel. By saving faith they suppose that a mere intellectual assent to, or acceptance of, such statements as are found in John 3:16 and Romans 10:13 is all that is intended. It matters not that John 2:23, 24 declares that “many believed in his name but Jesus did not commit himself unto them,” that “many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him lest they be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” which shows how much their “believing” was worth. Imagining that the natural man is capable of “receiving Christ as personal Saviour” they make the attempt, doubt not their success, go on their way rejoicing, and none can shake their assurance that they are now real Christians!
“No man can come unto me except the Father which has sent me draw him” (John 6:44). Here is a declaration of Christ which has not received even mental assent by the vast majority in Christendom. It is far too flesh-abasing to meet with acceptance from those who wish to think that the settling of a man’s eternal destiny lies entirely within his own power. That fallen man is wholly at the disposal of God is thoroughly unpalatable to an unhumbled heart. To come to Christ is a spiritual act and not a natural one, and since the unregenerate are dead in sins they are quite incapable of any spiritual exercises. Coming to Christ is the effect of the soul’s being made to feel its desperate need of Him, of the understanding’s being enlightened to perceive His suitability for a lost sinner, of the affections being drawn out so as to desire Him. But how can one whose natural mind is “enmity against God” have any desire for His Son?” ~ Pink, from http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Spiritual_Growth/growth_02.htm