All Christians are Christians?

This may seem like a strange title, but after my comments on an article that I read this week on FoxNews, I think you will see the dilemma I am in.

However, before I continue with my comments on the article, I want to say that there are many who will take umbrage and be offended at what I will say here today. You see, we have become a nation of wishy-washy, whatever-floats-your-boat, don’t-offend-anybody, and don’t-judge-me church goers. Sadly, the transition was so gradual that most people never even noticed the shift.

There was a time that you would walk through an airport and knew exactly who the followers of Sun Myung Moon (also known as Moonies or members of the Unification Church) were and what they were trying to peddle. For those who have not looked recently, they are still around (normally older couples though) but they no longer wear their hair long in a braid. They do not have a shaved head, nor do they wear saffron-colored robes. Today, they are very much a modern organization that is still looking to attract followers to its mantra of global peace, defense of religious organizations, and extravagant marriage ceremonies around the world.


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Was Joseph of Arimathea a Secret Disciple?

I have heard whispers throughout my lifetime as a Christian that hints at the fact that a person can be a Christian yet be a “secret disciple.” The primary example all fingers point to is Joseph of Arimathea, the “secret disciple” which asked for the body of Jesus. Is this true? Does the Bible teach that we can be “secret disciples” of Jesus Christ?

When we read in John 19:39 about Joseph being a disciple but “secretly,” we are not reading a narrative of approval. If we want to know how John felt (underneath the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) about those that “believed” on Jesus but didn’t confess Him openly, we must go to the book of John Chapter 12:42 – 43. It states:

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (Emphasis added).

The chief rulers here included those that are typically known as the Sanhedrin, which Joseph was an “honorable” member of (Mark 15:43). What John reveals here is the symptom and the disease. The symptom is that they did not confess Christ before men. Why? Because the disease is that they loved the praise of men MORE than the praise of God. Interesting. Moreover, if you were to consider what John says about Joseph in light of these verses, it is plausible to deduce that he felt the same way when he exposed why Joseph was a “secret disciple” in the first place. It says in John 19:38 that he was a disciple secretly “for fear of the Jews.” If someone is trying to justify that it is possible to be a “secret disciple” because it says so here, they would also have to consider the exposition of the rest of the verse and ask themselves whether or not this is a badge of honor. That is like saying, “Hey, I am proud to be a secret disciple because I’m scared.” While maintaining the position of being a secret disciple, it is inevitable that you would be biblically declaring your sin. Now, even though I have revealed all this, there are some good things that we can learn from Joseph’s mistake despite him being secretive about his belief in Christ.

Let us first consider that Joseph was known as being honorable and having a good reputation (Luke 23:50). Apparently he was also rich (Matt 27:57) and was held to a prominent position in the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43). It is also worthy to note that his faith in the Old Testament Scripture was genuine as well understanding that he was looking for the Kingdom to be come and be fulfilled (Mark 15:43). Finally, he was also of those among the Sanhedrin that did not consent to the unjust manner of Christ’s trial and death (Luke 23:51). So what we are dealing with here is an individual who was indeed sincere in his dealings, just in his judgments, and desirous to be a disciple of Christ, but he was confronted with what every person who wishes to follow Christ is confronted with – fear of man.

In my book, “Apocity: The Greatest Omission,” I reveal why the sin of not evangelizing (apocity) is caused by fear. Fear is one of the giants that seek to slay us when it comes to our open confession of Christ in any shape or fashion. But can we continually be a fearful “secret disciple” and still be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? I think the Scriptural answer is no! Here’s why. As we already stated, Joseph is not painted in a positive light when it says that he was secretly a disciple. The Scriptures and history teaches us pretty plainly how one is portrayed when they deny Christ in any fashion. Also, when you read how John portrays Joseph asking for the body of Jesus, it is clear that John is making a parallel. In order for Joseph to ask for the body of Christ, he essentially had to do two things:

  1. He had to forsake his worries concerning what the Jews were going to do and boldly ask for the body of Christ. Some Greek expositors say that Joseph literally had to “summon the courage.” Why? Because he knew that doing this was going to cost him his position, his reputation, and his standing among the Jews.
  2. In forsaking his position as chief priest, he willingly defiled himself with a dead body, even though Leviticus 21 teaches that priests are not to do so.

The only dead bodies priests were allowed to make contact with were the bodies of their immediate relatives (see Lev. 21:1-4). This presents a spiritual illustration that is powerful if you have ears to hear. That being said, we clearly see a bolder Joseph. Although I am speculating by saying this, it seems to me that John was somewhat putting his stamp of approval upon Joseph at this point. It is kind of like saying, “this man, who was once a ‘secret’ (insert sarcasm here) disciple, now boldly and unashamedly asked for the body of our Savior, even though he knew it would cost him everything!” Finally, John points out how even Nicodemus, “who first came to Jesus by night” (John 19:39), is now also putting himself at risk by day! This is what we should exemplify! Not secret discipleship! If you are of the persuasion that you can continually follow Christ secretly, here is my final plea.

quoteWhen someone justifies their apocity (in other words, their reluctance to share their faith in any way) by using Joseph of Arimethea as an example, it should sadden us considering the much happier and bolder ending to this man’s story. When we take the negative aspects of a person’s character in Scripture and we use that as an excuse as to why we can continue in sin, whether apocity or any sin, we miss the mark of what Scripture is teaching us. God’s word shows us our flaws so that His grace can abound, and so His goodness can lead us to repentance. Not only that, it serves as a warning to us to be obedient and NOT make the same mistakes (Romans 15:4). Although in the grand scheme of things, a person who is a professing believer will have seasons of shame, if the Holy Spirit truly resides within them, they can’t but speak the things which they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20). So if you are reading this, and you believe you can be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ “secretly” through fear, I beg you to consider the sin which you are justifying. Do not think that just because Scripture exposes Joseph of Arimethea as being secretive that you can continue in the same fashion. There is no shame in being a Christian. The shame we feel only comes when we refuse to openly declare that we are Christians, knowing that Christ openly bought us, bearing our shame that we deserved.

Special note: I foresee some making an clamorous rebuttal to what I have stated above by revealing the work of those in foreign countries whose work in the gospel in very “secretive.” The problem is context. Those who are “secretive” are so in a difference sense than Joseph of Arimathea. To point out the covert work for the sake of the gospel is not the same as being silent for fear of man. Not only that, shame on those that try to use the work of those who are missionaries overseas as a means to justify our fearful silence in America. It does not compare. Let’s remain steadfast in our witness. It’s one thing to use discretion concerning when to speak the gospel, it is quite another thing to succumb to fear. I pray the Holy Spirit will teach you the difference.

What Does John 3:16 Teach?

The following is part of the book I am writing, from a section on the gospel which is a necessary element of a biblical church. th

There are truths in God’s Word that rub our flesh the wrong way; predestination is one of them. I refer the reader to Appendix 5 for a biblical defense of this doctrine. We must embrace the truth of Scripture, even if it goes against what we’ve learned from me. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word is sharp and, as wielded by the Holy Spirit, cuts like a scalpel, bringing healing to our broken souls. False teaching is seen as less threatening, like a butter knife. And it works the same way – tearing the flesh as it pierces, bringing destruction rather than healing. Good counsel presents the truth of Scripture; this is biblical love – even though our beloved traditions may have to be abandoned.

Many who disbelieve predestination run to John 3:16, as if this verse disproves it. Let us briefly examine this verse to see what its message truly is. Here’s the verse, from the King James: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That settles it for many, who do not stop to see if the words may have had a different meaning when written 500 years ago than they do today; including Baptist preachers who ought to know better. But contrary to a popular hermeneutic which declares, “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense”, the plain sense of Scripture often contradicts the true meaning of Scripture and our common sense often makes no heavenly sense. The genre of the text we are reading will indicate how we are to read it – poetry and apocalyptic books cannot be taken literally, and even historical narratives are full of word pictures that must be interpreted rightly to get God’s view of His Scriptures. The Jews of the first century had common sense and they took certain prophecies in the plain sense. This caused them to look for a king like David – a man of war – and miss the true meaning of their own Scripture.

In regards to John 3:16, let’s examine a couple of key words upon which the meaning of this verse hang. In English, the word “so” can be either an adverb or an adjective. We see it in verse 14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up (KJV). Here, the word “so” is an adverb, meaning “in like manner” or “in the same way” – describing the nature of something. Many people think the word “so” is an adjective in verse 16 – describing the degree of the thing that follows: God loves the world SO much. The problem with this view is that the Greek word translated as “so” in English (houtos – Strong’s #3779) is rarely used as an adjective. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary defines it only as an adverb. Houtos shows up more than 200 places in the Greek New Testament. In only four occurrences it is definitely an adjective: Galatians 1:6; 3:3; Hebrews 12:21 (houto); and Revelation 16:18. In more than 97% of the uses the word houtos is an adverb. ( accessed 25 May 2015) Now looking back John’s gospel, let’s read a little more for context:

John 3:14-16 (KJV) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Is there a compelling argument that John’s use of houtos changes from the common adverb in verse 14 to the extremely rare adjective in verse16? If its use in verse 16 is as an adjective, the Bible tells us God loved the world to a great degree that He sent Christ to die for the same world He said we are not to love (1 John 2:15). Since Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) we must interpret Scripture with Scripture and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), even if the plain sense makes common sense to us. Our common sense is our understanding, not God’s. I don’t have space here to examine “the world” and how it’s used; but since not everybody at all times in every nation, tribe, and tongue has been forgiven, it’s reasonable and in keeping with Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17 that Jesus did not come to save the whole world in the comprehensive sense some assert. As noted in Ephesians 5:25, Jesus gave His life for the church, not everybody in the world. And since “the world” often means a region (Luke 2:1; John 12:19), or the system which lies under Satan’s rule (John 15:19; 17:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12), we have no reason to assume this term means everyone everywhere as regards salvation, as the Lamb of God died for the redeemed, not the damned.

The argument is not whether or not the death of Christ is sufficient to save everyone – His death is more than sufficient for the entire human race. The question is, did Christ die for all men – is the atonement universal? One English Bible translates this phrase, “in tasting death He should stand for us all” – those for whom Christ stands are the redeemed. The word, man, is not in the Greek text, meaning the original phrase would be “should taste death for the whole” – the whole body, the church for whom Christ gave Himself (Ephesians 5:25); Jesus died for every son God brings to glory. God the Father chooses only some to be saved – election is not universal. God the Spirit regenerates only some to bring them to new life, He only seals those who are born again – the Spirit’s work in saving and sealing is not universal. For Christ’s death to be universal, it would mean that some of His blood, some of His trials and suffering under the wrath of God the Father, was for those who are spending eternity under God’s wrath. Any blood or work done by Christ on their account would be wasted! And if the death of Christ was universal, it would put Him at odds with the Father and the Spirit, because their work in salvation is particular, not universal.

Let’s read the passage from John 3 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is more in line with the common use of the Greek and keeps consistency within the passage and with the whole teaching of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.

What Price Revival?

Fathers, the best gift you could receive today would be the overwhelming desire to seek repentance from the thrice-holy Almighty, the One whom we have long forsaken for the pleasures of the world. Paul reminds us that we are to set our affections on things that are heavenly, not on the things of this world. We need revival in America and in England, but at what price will it come?

Why Did Jesus Come?

I’m sure just about everyone who has grown up in church can give pat answers as to why Jesus left the splendors of Heaven to enter a world where He would be scorned and persecuted but have you ever taken time to examine exactly why Jesus did that? The obvious answer is taken from the familiar John 3:16 (He loved us) but it is more in-depth than that.

To Give Abundant life

John 10:10 tells us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life. Think about it. If you look up the definition, this means life that is “more than adequate, over-sufficient, richly supplied.” Way too many professing Christians are just trying to get through their days. They are barely living instead of living in the abundance that is available to them.

In John 5, Jesus told the people, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” This happens way too often even today. So many are seeking for answers, a reason to live but they want to keep their life instead of surrendering to the only One who can really give life.

Someone came up with the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him,” and I will add that men and women who are really wise will find Him. He has promised that, “when you seek Me, you will find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.” Oh that people would realize how desperate they really are and not stop seeking until they find Him.


To Bring Light

Another reason Jesus came is to bring light to a dark world (John 12:46). God still desires to do that through His people. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, your light should be shining bright. He can enable you to shine in the midst of darkness, to rejoice in the midst of trials, to smile when you would usually be crying. We sometimes forget that we have a part to play in this “game of life” but, unlike most games, it’s our choice if we are going to win or lose this one. With Jesus, we will be a victorious winner.

That the World Might Be Saved

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

It may seem odd that I didn’t start with this but I believe that, if we who are saved will live an abundant life and be the light God desires us to be, we will see more people come to know Him as well.

If you do a study, you will find more reasons why Jesus came to earth. He was our example. He came to serve, to minister, to do the will of the Father, etc. And He came to be the supreme sacrifice for our sins so that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This must begin with you and me, however. God can save anyone in any way He chooses but I believe many people are not being saved because they are not seeing true Christianity lived out in our lives. We don’t study Matthew 5 and take it seriously. Instead, we live, talk, and act like the world, wanting to fit in yet using Christ’s name when it profits us something.

Brothers and Sisters, don’t grieve the Lord. He did not have to come to earth but He did so out of love for a lost, dying, and hopeless world. As you celebrate this Christmas, examine your heart. Are you living the abundant life that Jesus came to give you? As you go to work each day or interact with people around you, are you being a light, or are you trying to fit in so people don’t tease you for being different? This is not just a time to celebrate the birth of a baby but a time to realize what His coming did for us and how we can best serve Him. After all, he is the only person who was born over 2000 years ago yet is still alive.