The Shepherd and His Sheepdogs

The Shepherd and His Sheepdogs

One of the things I am passionate about is closing the gap between Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers within the body of Christ. We have become so segregated in our roles that it is almost as if they never overlap. The Pastor is in charge of the sheep, and the Evangelist is in charge of bringing the lost sheep into the fold. My dear readers, this is wrong! Just as equally wrong is the idea that the Evangelist is incapable of preaching on any other topic other than evangelism, that the burden of biblical counseling should only be left upon the head Pastor, or that Eldership belongs only to the pastors or teachers of the congregation. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-15, I would encourage all of us to view the roles/gifts these kind of men bring to our local congregations and the universal body of Christ.

I remember an illustration a famous preacher gave one time about how the sheepdog is like the Evangelist that barks at the sheep and the sheep run into the sheepfold. Meanwhile, the sheep are taken care of by the pastor(s) of the flock. I submit to you that I have a better illustration. The Evangelist and the Pastors and Teachers are all sheepdogs. And whether they hold to the office of Elder within a particular church or not, they are going to be called by God to gather the lost sheep, rally the sheep, guide the sheep, discipline the sheep, and keep the sheep bonded in the unity and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. But you know what, they do it all underneath the command of The Shepherd! Don’t miss this point. The Shepherd guides and gives commands to the sheepdogs as to what He wants, in accordance with His will. Let me further explain what I mean.

When I visited a farm in Washington, they were having a Scottish Border Collie demonstration. They showed how these dogs rally the sheep and guide them into the sheepfold underneath the command of the shepherd. The shepherd would whistle and call out commands that would inform the dog to run, lie down, or walk at a specific pace or in a certain direction. It is really a sight to see. I wanted to upload the video I captured, but my phone crashed before I could. So I could only find this video to give some visual illustration of what I am talking about. If you watched the video, you will notice that even though the dog may have some natural instinct on what to do, the sheepdog, nevertheless, must still be underneath the guidance and direction of the shepherd. And this is where Ephesians 4:11-16 comes in.

In the work of the ministry, all those who are gifts to the body as Ephesians says overlap in some way concerning their work among the sheep. I hope to write a book about how the Evangelist needs to be reclaimed and reintegrated back into our local churches, but for now, understand that true Evangelists are not lone wolves. They are sheepdogs, just like the pastors and teachers, among the body that listen to the voice of The Good Shepherd, my Lord Jesus. Although there can be street preachers who may not necessarily be Evangelists in accordance with Ephesians 4 (which isn’t a bad thing), and there may be some who claim to be Evangelists but preach a false gospel and disdain the body of Christ (which is a bad thing), an Evangelist called by God will fulfill their ministry not just by calling the lost to repentance and bringing people into the fold, but by building up the body, perfecting the saints, teaching sound doctrine, and many other things that seem to be only “the pastors job.”

If you think about this, this is one of the reasons why the plurality of Elders is not just biblical, but essential wisdom. I strongly assert that Evangelists are an essential piece on God’s chess board. Even if it was just one man in a small congregation, he should nevertheless do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). Also, even though an Evangelist may be typified by church planting, missionary work (local or overseas), and/or proclaiming the gospel among the heathen in the local area, the pastors and teachers among us should be doing some of the very same things! And if you’re thinking consistently about the Great Commission, every Christian is called to do their part in the work of making disciples. But regarding our ministerial duty to the body, as sheepdogs, we are called as a team that heeds the voice of our Shepherd to do the joyous labor of serving the body while we endeavor in the very same mission. And whether it is building up the body by adding to the church, or by edifying and perfecting those already added, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must rally together more than ever underneath the sound of Jesus’ voice to protect, guide, unify, and edify His sheep.

I am pleading with those of you who are leaders to stop putting Evangelists in the evangelistic sand box to play outside the church as if that is their sole domain.  We can do better than this! There are many Evangelists who are fit to lead and exegete the Scriptures and can provide relief to their fellow sheepdogs. Their heart may lie in a passion for lost souls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for God’s people either. We may differ in personalities, strengths, and abilities, but so do the many of pastors and teachers in our congregations. Evangelists are no different. We desire to train and build up and lead the sheep just as much as any of the others who are called to the work.

One thing I remember about my time at that farm was all the sheepdogs on the sidelines, chained to the fence, aching to get in the field and work among the sheep. They were zealous, eager, knowledgeable, and would jump up and down while they watched their fellow sheepdogs do the work they were also bred for. But when they were let loose, they all attentively obeyed the voice of the Shepherd. And if either them stepped out of line, or did not obey, they would be disciplined just as much as the sheep. And this applies to all sheepdogs! Some of us have been standing on the sidelines waiting for our local congregations to let us join in on the work for too long. Although anyone called by God will fulfill their calling whether blind leaders recognize it or not, they nevertheless desire to work hand in hand with other sheepdogs. The problem is, we have too many wolves in the pulpits who desire to devour the sheep and not obey the voice of the Shepherd. And unfortunately, there are too many goats that don’t mind serving themselves up on their plate every Sunday.

But that aside, if you are reading this, and you are a leader/elder/pastor among your congregation, I plead with you to join arms with your fellow sheepdog, the Evangelist. I’d love to help you on how you can best approach this. You can contact me here, and we can correspond through email. Or if you are reading this and you feel like you are called as an Evangelist, I would love to help you to study thoroughly what that means and equip you to know how you can support and approach your local church. You can also contact me here. Keep in mind, though, that in some churches, their ecclesiastical government may require that you submit underneath the Eldership. In other congregations, the Evangelist may be appointed as one of the Elders. But whatever government your church may have, one thing remains true – there are sheepdogs that are eager and called to do the work of the ministry within the body of Christ. Some are already obeying the voice of their Heavenly Shepherd. As a church, as leader, as a Christian, will you do the same?

-Until we go home

A Christian’s Duty Through The Heralds of Ancient Greece

A Christian’s Duty Through The Heralds of Ancient Greece

Whether a elder in the pulpit, a preacher on the street, or a believer seeking to be a faithful witness, we can all glean from this.

In Ancient Greece, heralds had a specific role in the culture with a specific reputation. It is that reputation that I am going to use as illustrative examples  concerning a believer’s/preacher’s duty to spread the gospel. Although we know that the Bible is sufficient for life and godliness, still, illustrations are a powerful tool to help nail the truths deeper into our mind and make plain what is simply less memorable to some. With that said, here are some points that will help us reaffirm our calling as ambassadors and heralds of the gospel. Once again, these points are purely illustrative, not expository. But they nevertheless communicate biblical truth.

  1. A herald was often called kerukes, which meant “herald.” In Ancient Greece, the name was often ascribed to a traditional family of priests thought to have descended from Hermes. However, it was used for anyone that was designated to carry a message.
    • The Bible declares that all Christians are now a royal priesthood and we are chosen to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into light (2 Peter 2:9) 
    • Because Christ has saved us, we are now direct descendants of Him who has commissioned usto preach His gospel.
  2. A herald (kerukes) can also be associated with any kind of messenger (angeloi) or envoy 
(presbeis), although not operating in the same manner as a herald.
    • The Bible declares that we are ambassadors (presbeuo) for Christ, and that we are to implore mankind as though God was pleading with man through us (2 Cor. 5:20).
    •  Our ministry is angelic in practice. And though we are not, by nature, angels from heavenbringing the good news (evanggelizo) (Luke 2:10), nevertheless we are fellow servantswith the angels and considered family in the work of being a messenger (Rev. 22:8).
  3. Kerukes were designated in a city to be watchers for prearranged signals in the sky that
 communicated messages from considerable distances. The signals were communicated by
 flag during the day, or fire by night. Whatever the message, heralds were to
 interpret those signals and immediately declare them to the town.
    • As Christians, our eyes should always be in the Heavens, looking unto Jesus and His word (God’s prearranged communicated message) and immediatelydeclare them unto those who are in our town (Col. 1:27-29; Heb 1:2). 
  4. Heralds carried a staff with them called kerukeion which not only established their identity  and office, but it was also a visual reminder that they were under the care of the Greek messenger god Hermes. And just like Hermes, whenever they were seen with the rod in  hand, it signified that they were about to announce an official message.
    • We should always have with us our kerukeion – the Bible. This willserve as a visual reminder for others that we are underneath the authority and care of Jesus Christ our King. And this will assist in establishing our identity withHim as well as His authority. Whenever we carry this rod with us, it should signify toour hearers that we are about to announce an official message. 
  5. Hermes was commissioned by Zeus to be his messenger and in turn, Hermes commissioned others to be heralds.
    • Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, sent by the Father to declare this gospel in the world, and thosewho are true followers of Christ are commissioned by Him to declare it to others(Matt. 28:19). 
  6. Some families appointed kerukes because it was an inherited right. Other heralds were elected  and/or dispatched by a legislative assembly of leaders called boule.
    • As Christians, we are adopted into the family of Christ, and therefore possess theinherited right to herald the gospel into the world.
    • As the chosen of God, we are elected and dispatched as kerukes to preach the gospelto every creature. Although this should be something that a local church should support, equip, and encourage one another to do, this is not always the case. In this instance, we must remember that our authority to share the gospel comes from Christ first and foremost.
  7. Heralds were often chosen for their ability to carry their voice over noise and distance.
    • If we plan on preaching in the open air, a general principle is that we should speak to be heard. This requires skill and clarity on the part of the speaker so that every detail of the message is not muffled because of inability or negligence.
    • Stentor, a herald mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, was described as having a voice aspowerful as 50 men. He was the herald for the Greek forces during the Trojan War. Although it is not mandatory to have this kind of voice, we must still speak to be heard.
  8. In military contexts, kerukes would be in close proximity to the commander to carry forth orders. Furthermore, they were called upon to rally the troops together, and also were sent out to recover the dead bodies of those slain (specifically in war) and bring them back.
    •   If you are going to be an Evangelist of the gospel, we should always remain close to the Commander (Jesus) in order to carry forth orders that He has declared. It is a preacher’s duty not only to carry forth the orders of the Commander appointed over him, but also in rallying the troops to obey His orders. A good preacher will not only declare what Christcommands to His enemies, but also declare to the allied forces that they are to be in obedience to His commission!
Whether those dead in trespasses and sins or our brethren temporarily slain by sin, the herald is to bring back those slain and dead through the resurrection power of the gospel proclaimed. We are specifically sent out to recoverthese poor souls and bring them all back to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  9. Heralds were not only used to convey information, but collect it.
    • We are not to be givers of information from our own will, but phonological reflectors of God’swill. We are to collect information and study God’s word so that we can clearly andzealously publish to the world that which we have already digested ourselves. Manuallabor on an empty stomach is not wise; neither is preaching the gospel without fillingup on His Word and Spirit. 
  10. Greek heralds were sent out to declare policy, demands, and decrees abroad. Also, they 
would announce warnings, or offers, to hostile cities or armies, as well as declare war itself.
 More often than not, kerukes were denied entry into warring cities as a sign of protest or 
    • We are to be faithful in declaring the policies, demands, and decrees of God to all.We are to preach the warnings of God as well as His offer of peace to the hostilecities of the world. It is necessary, as a part of our duties, to reveal that man isalready at war with God, and we must boldly stand before Satan’s Army to declare
 conditions of peace and judgment from the King.
    • More often than not, we will be denied entry into many places in order to declare ourmessage, but this should not deter us. Although done as sign of protest and insult against God, we are to be steadfast in delivering the message whenever possible (Luk 6:22).

As a final illustration, we will use a famous herald, Phidippides, as an example of a faithful messenger. According to myth, Phidippides ran 26 miles from the battle of Marathon to Athens to announce Greek victory in war. Depending on the source, the message was somewhere along the lines of “Joy to you, we have won” or “Rejoice, we have the victory.” It was after proclaiming this that he breathed his last breath and died.

As believers we have received the victory over sin, death, and hell. Christ has gone 
into the Most Holy place and atoned for our sins and has defeated the armies of 
darkness, making a public shame of them because of His sacrifice. Because this war 
is won, shouldn’t we also be running a spiritual marathon declaring “we have the 
victory?” Shouldn’t we be giving our very lives in order to publish this good news,
 even if it is the very last thing we say with our mouths? Phidippides, although myth, is a
 great example of dedication, swiftness, and perseverance in order to deliver a
message that literally cost him his life. Are willing to run in the steps of Phidippides 
for Christ? To go the extra mile or two or twenty-six? No matter how it must be
 done, let us be found faithfully preaching the glorious gospel until our LORD comes 
for His bride.

-Until we go home

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation – how does one get reconciled to God? It is my desire to show you how essential it is to grasp this doctrine rightly and how humbling and wonderful it is to comprehend what the Lord God has done in redeeming people. salvation

While there are many religions in this world, with myriad differences, they all have a few things in common and many differences. But no matter the religion, no matter the salvation, no matter the god, all systems of religion, including biblical Christianity, are based on salvation by works. All systems of religion are based on salvation by works. The differences lie beneath that truth. All but one system bases salvation on the works of those who need to be saved. The sole exception is based on men being saved by the finished work of another, a particular man who had no sin of His own to pay for. A man who is God and paid the price for others. The Lawgiver became the Law keeper for Law breakers. This exception, as I’m sure you already know, is our faith – biblical Christianity, based on the work of the God-man, Jesus.

Among professing Christian groups, many variants and shades exist, with most falling into self-saving works of the creature. These views are known as Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, Universalism, etc. All of these are variations of synergistic modes of salvation – systems in which creator God is at best a co-pilot in redeeming people. The Scriptures, which are our only rule for truth and faith and godliness, depict God as the One Who created and sustains all things, directing the paths of kings and storm clouds, saints and Satan. Properly understood, the Word of God reveals a monergistic mode of salvation – children of God are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God alone (John 1:13). Since Scripture cannot be broken, monergistic salvation and synergistic salvation cannot both be true. The passages that appear to contradict each other do not. Our understanding and comprehension are limited and twisted by sin – the Word of God is perfect and by it the Lord searches out our intentions and thoughts. To rightly understand this doctrine of how sinners are made right with holy God, we must humbly submit to the Word of God and cry out for wisdom from the Spirit of God.

This dispute over how a sinner is reconciled to Holy God has been raging among men since Cain’s offering was refused. In the early 17th century a protest was filed with the ruling church court in the Netherlands by activist disciples of Jacob Arminius. Here are the five articles contained in the protest presented to the Council of Dort:

  1. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief.
  2. Christ died for all men and for every man, although only believers are saved.
  3. Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.
  4. This grace may be resisted.
  5. Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.

Only the third point reflects biblical truth and was later denied by many of this view. The bedrock of the Arminian objection to monergistic salvation is the notion that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom and that ability limits obligation. This is complementary to the Pelagian view that God would never command man to do that which man was incapable of doing. However, the Scriptures are replete with commands from God to the creature to do that which nobody but God can do, such as be ye perfect, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. These commands are meant to drive self-righteousness from us and draw us to Christ. The Arminians claim God gives every human the ability to believe on Jesus, and that God will never refuse anyone who exercises that ability and comes to Him in the faith that God gives to everyone; but only some exercise it and are saved. If this is the case, who gets the credit for the sinner’s salvation? And what do we do with 2 Thess 3:2 which tells us not all men have this faith?

Most professing Christians hold to Arminianism, having never heard anything else because most churches do not teach the whole counsel of God’s Word. I personally believe that all Christians are born spiritually as Arminians because we are only accustomed to what our natural senses can discern. And when one is born again, the first thing he is aware of is that he chose Christ; without yet knowing that Christ first chose and first loved him. The Arminian system makes sense to the natural mind, confirmed by natural senses. It shows up in our language: when we say someone “accepted Christ” we imply the person needing salvation decided to get saved. But Scripture denies this. This is why it is of utmost importance that evangelism be firmly connected to and rooted in discipleship. A new-born child of God must be shown and taught the Bible – what he was before he was raised from the dead and what soil preparation the gardener performed to make the seed take root.

In understanding what it means for anyone to be redeemed, to have been reconciled to Holy God, to be made into a new creature, we must grab hold of the biblical reality of our union with Christ. Ephesians 1:3 tells us we were blessed with every spiritual blessing by God the Father – that these spiritual blessings are in the heavenly places and they are in Christ. We mortal sinners get no heavenly, spiritual blessings apart from being in union with Christ, in communion with Christ.

There are several terms that describe what happens when a person is raised from spiritual death, referred to as the order of salvation:

  1. Predestination: Rom. 8:29 & 30; Eph. 1:3-6 & 11-14
  2. Effectual Calling (Regeneration): John 1:12 & 13; 6:44, 63-65; Eph. 2:1-5
  3. Faith/Repentance:
    (Faith) – Eph. 2:8,9; Acts 13:48, 16:14
    (Repentance) – 2 Cor. 7:9 & 10
  4. Justification (Legal Declaration): Rom. 5:1 & 2; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16
  5. Adoption: Rom. 8:15-17, 23-25; Gal. 4:4-7
  6. Definitive Sanctification: Rom. 6:1 & 2; I Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11
  7. Progressive Sanctification: Eph. 4:11-16; Phil 2:1-4, 13-15
    (Preservation of the Saints) – John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Phil. 1:6
  8. Glorification: Matt 25:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23; 3:20 & 21

The first of these, predestination, took place before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Predestination is not a reaction to The Fall. God has no “Plan B”. Predestination is “Plan A”. The balance of the steps in this process take place in time, although regeneration, faith, repentance, and justification cannot be separated; we know that they happen in this order but are unable to plot them out, they are so tightly connected. But notice – regeneration comes before faith and repentance. That which is dead cannot develop root nor produce fruit. The soil must be prepared before the seed can sprout. If we do not properly understand this, we are vulnerable of being drawn aside into the Arminian camp, who claim that the spiritually dead sinner exercising faith in Christ causes regeneration. It is this level of attention that is required to discern between good and evil, as we are told in Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. We have the same fine degree of difference with the Roman Catholic doctrine of “salvation”, wherein the sinner is infused with grace and thereby enabled to be holy and pleasing to God, but never arriving at any assurance of having been saved. The Scriptures teach that sinners are imputed the righteousness of Christ and are thereby justified by grace that is apprehended by the faith that was itself a gift to us – lest anyone boast in anything other than the cross of Christ! Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling – this is how we all come to saving faith, no matter what our senses or churches tell us.

Kevin DeYoung, in Chap 7 of his book, The Hole in Our Holiness exhorts us: “… it’s appropriate … to talk about an “order of salvation”, whereby we are called by the Spirit of God, born again, moved to faith and repentance. Justified, adopted, sanctified, preserved, and glorified, we must never separate these benefits from the Benefactor. Every blessing in the order of salvation flows from our union with Christ.” John Murray is quoted as saying, “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation, not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ.” We often talk about gifts we get from God – provision in things of this world, for the most part – and need to remind ourselves to not confuse the gift with the Giver. So it is with this greatest gift of all; while we will not truly understand the depth and richness of God’s saving grace towards elect sinners, we must not get so fixed on that spiritual blessing that we lose sight of the One in Whom we have that blessing. If we be not in Christ, we are not His and we vainly imagine that the blessings of redemption and reconciliation are ours. Contrary to what the pope said, sincere belief in whatever god you have chosen is not going to reconcile any sinner to holy God. Responding to a list of questions published in a newspaper, Pope Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

Sin is not the failure of a creature to obey his conscience! Sin is not a bad habit, a hurtful hangup, or “something less than God’s best” – as a couple of well-known preachers have called it (referring specifically to homosexuality). An inadequate understanding of sin necessarily results in an inadequate understanding of grace, redemption, reconciliation, and a number of other orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith. Sin is a moral act, word, or thought that contradicts the expressed will of God for human beings. In other words, it is a covenantal breach with the Divine covenant maker. It is not limited to the will, the intellect, or the emotion. Sin involves the whole person.

What is the practical aspect of getting this doctrine – how is one saved? – correct? There are many examples from church history, but this one is my favorite. If you have read any history of the church, you should be aware that the Church of England went through an extended period (after their separation from Rome) wherein they had difficulty finding regenerate pastors. Wesley and Whitefield and Spurgeon all rubbed up against this. In fact, both Wesley and Whitefield came to saving faith in college, after they each had spent themselves in trying to make themselves pleasing to God; following the doctrine of salvation of the Church of England. One pastor in the Church of England discovered this in a rather unique way.

William Haslam was an English country parson who was a hireling of the state, a warm body to fill the pulpit in small country church. One Sunday in 1851 following a period of deep conviction of sin, Haslam ascended into the pulpit with the intention of telling his congregation that he would not preach again to them until he was saved and to ask them to pray for his conversion.

He began to preach on the text ‘What think ye of Christ’ (Matt 22:42), taken from gospel passage handed down from the mother church. As he read about the Jewish leaders who did not see Christ as the Messiah, he saw himself as one of them – a Pharisee who did not recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Haslam said, “I do not remember all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did not.” At that moment, the Holy Spirit breathed new life into him and the effect was so obvious and marked that a local preacher who was present stood up and shouted ‘the Parson is converted, the parson is converted! Hallelujah!’ and the people rejoiced loudly and with much commotion.

If one fails to see the dire consequences of sin, the hideous nature thereof; if he fails to see Holy God as the judge who weighs the universe in His hands; if he doesn’t see rightly the King of glory Who paid the price for sin that man could never pay – he will die in his sin and be lost forever.

The doctrine of soteriology is not a dry theological construct that has no relation to how we live. It is the very core of the identity we as Christians have – that of being found in Christ. The jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” So they (Paul and Silas) said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” It is simple in one aspect – believe on the Lord Jesus. But oh how deep and rich is the salvation we have in Christ Jesus! We are found by Him, secured in Him, preserved in Him, saved and sanctified in Him. We walk in Christ, labor in Christ, obey in Christ. We live and die in Christ; and we conquer and overcome death and hell in Christ!

The Apostle Paul fought against false doctrines that taught justification by any other means. It is an essential doctrine upon which our faith rests. All other systems of salvation rest on self-worth and deny the depth of man’s sin and the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Pete 1:3-5)

If Pelagius was right, Christ died for no purpose. If Scripture is right, and we were dead in our sins and trespasses, our life and worth depends on the death of Christ – in our place, to placate the wrath of God the Father.

Soteriology? It’s a matter of life and death.

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

There are certain denominations that don’t believe in the eternal conscious torment of the sinner, even among professing evangelical circles. I will deal with this in future articles, but they often bring up the inequality of punishment that Christ receives as a substitution for sinners. Someone like me who believes that hell is eternal conscious torment is often accused of not seeing the cross in just terms because Christ didn’t suffer eternally. There are some opponents who are inevitably annihilationist that will admit, however, that Jesus also was not annihilated. So in either case, Jesus’ punishment does not equally demonstrate the punishment of the wicked. Yet some within this camp further affirm that Jesus dying was the punishment. In other words, because Jesus died, that is how He was able to equally take our punishment because we die. And He rose again, defeating death on our behalf so that the righteous can have immortality. In essence, the moment that Jesus died is when Jesus took the punishment and only in dying, therefore, can we justly say He took our place, since death is the punishment.

While I do not holistically disagree with the conclusion, I also do not fully agree with the premise. Jesus’ experienced God’s wrath for us on the cross. The punishment was not solely death, but suffering God’s wrath because sin was laid upon Him. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus should have died long before He hung on that cross because of the way He was beaten. But because He was sinless, and had not yet had sin placed upon Him (which was a picture of the day of atonement), the body He had was not yet ready to die. It was only after sin was laid upon Him, and God’s wrath poured upon Him that He could cry, “It is finished!” This is penal substitution which some who reject eternal conscious torment love to also subtly deny. Or better yet, not explicitly affirm with plain speech. They rather affirm substitution, but not penal substitution. But I digress. The point is how do we reconcile the fact that Jesus was able to endure sufficiently and efficaciously God’s wrath that He will forever pour out on sinners? If the annihilationist position is true, why would Jesus have to experience the Father’s wrath if the punishment is realized in His death?

These are questions that seem weighty, but can be answered easily. Let’s make this plain. Jesus did not suffer punishment the same way that we will suffer punishment. Whether you believe annihilationism (in any form) or eternal conscious torment, one truth about Christ’s atonement will remain the same. Jesus suffered more for sinners than any sinner will ever suffer for their own sin. Why? Because of who He was! Listen, we are not just talking about a regular Joe Schmoe. We are talking about the precious Lamb of God! God of very God. The Holiest of Holies. The High and Mighty Son. The Prince of Peace. He humbled Himself, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was ridiculed, mocked, and beaten by His own creation who He could have crushed like grasshoppers. Yet, He endured suffering in obedience to the Father to fulfill all that was written concerning Him. In one sense, He did not need to hang for hours. He didn’t need to continue bearing with the mocking and jeering that He did on behalf of sinners. But He chose to. And whether God chose to do it with a paper cut, or He chose to do with all of His eternal might, because of who Jesus was, just one tiny drop of blood spilled from an open wound inflicted upon Him would have been sufficient to save infinite legions of depraved sinners. But because dying is a part of the punishment, He could have just had His throat slit like the lambs of the Old Testament. He could have had a swifter execution. But instead He chose one of the most excruciating and humiliating ways to die. And endured God’s wrath as He bore it all!

I pray you don’t miss this. The punishment of Jesus will never match the punishment we receive because Jesus should not have been punished. If it were not for the grace of God, the punishment of Jesus would never have happened. If it were not for the justice of God, the punishment of Jesus would not be necessary. So in one sense, I agree with those who are opponents of eternal conscious torment that the punishment on Jesus doesn’t seem fair and equal. Because it wasn’t! What’s fair is that >>>> I <<<< should have been slaughtered! I should have experienced God’s wrath for all eternity without mercy and grace. Jesus enduring even a millisecond of God’s wrath on my behalf is infinitely more grace than I will EVER deserve. So when I hear from certain circles concerning their rejection of penal substitution and eternal conscious torment on how it seems cruel, I agree. Jesus should have wiped us all out! It’s seems cruel that it took the matchless, priceless, precious, and spotless God-Man in order for wicked and depraved sinners like us to be free. That Jesus, in His willingness and obedience, stepped into time, clothed Himself in sinless flesh, and subjected Himself to something worse than an everyday criminal’s death. It was one of the most tortuously notorious executions invented by man. A punishment reserved for the worse of the worst. Yet He suffered more than just a criminal’s death so that criminals like me can be saved. Why would He do such a thing?! It is more than cruel, it should not have happened! God would have been perfectly justified in giving us what we deserve, and never thinking twice about it. And in light of what the Father did to Jesus, eternal conscious punishment in Hell seems like an act of mercy in comparison to what Jesus endured for us. But the Triune God, by His mercy and grace, had an eternally bigger plan to save sinners from their sin, and to separate a people unto Himself, so that they can enjoy the greatest blessing ever to receive –Himself.

Jesus was more than a substitute. He was THE Surpassing Substitute. He was more than what you could expect a substitute to ever be. Sacrifices in the Old Testament typified substitution, but Jesus outshines them all! But Jesus wasn’t just a substitute, He was THE Perfect Penal Substitute. He didn’t just suffer a little of God’s wrath, but endured as much as was necessary to appease and satisfy His justice as a propitiation for our sins. And this was still infinitely more than He deserved. He endure more suffering, more pain, more sorrow, more agony not because of how long He was on the cross, but because He was on the cross! I cannot stress this enough. Jesus is more valuable and more beautiful than any being in the universe because He was God. He gave Himself for our sins. The punishment was not what we should have received. It was way more than we’ll ever experience, because He was innocent. If we can grasp this, when we look at Jesus on the cross, we should no longer wonder how He could sufficiently endure God’s eternal wrath, but wonder in why He was on the cross in the first place. We should no longer ponder the punishment matching the crime, but the fact that He had to be punished in the first place. We should be more offended at Christ having to take such a punishment than the eternal conscious torment of the wicked. Because if we value Jesus as He should be valued, it should be no surprise that God would eternally pour out His wrath on those that choose their sin over Him. Jesus’ punishment is by far a greater offense than sinners suffering in Hell forever (although paradoxically, it is a glorious grace because of Him who regenerated me because of it). I am more humbled and broken about my sin when I see the Lamb of God crushed by the Father, than by millions of souls weeping and gnashing in Hell. Jesus shouldn’t have suffered and died on that cross. But praise God He did. For it was the only way I would see Jesus as preciously and magnificently as I do today (and it grows daily). And even still, this article falls miserably short in comparison to the glory and majesty of who He is and what He has accomplished for those of us who have repented and believed His glorious gospel.

One final word. While I get what people say when they sing or read that “it should have been us upon that cross,” I can no longer say that this is fully the case for me. I don’t seek to undo thousands of pages that say something to this effect, because, for the most part, I don’t disagree. I should have experienced my punishment for my own sin. And it is from this sentiment that this understanding springs forth. So when people say this, I don’t fret. But I have recently come to appreciate the crucifixion of Christ in a way that has become exceptionally humbling for me, and I sought to share it with all. I pray that this article brings you to the same place it has brought me. To a place of deeper reverence, worship, obedience, and understanding concerning what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

-Until we go home

The Absurdity of Rome

In all the discussions I’ve tried to have with papists, I can count on one finger those who were willing to discuss the issues rather than merely put up a defensive shield constructed of Romish fables. One thing I try to do us show them from friendly sources how bizarre some of their beliefs are. They cannot see the truth unless YHWH opens their eyes. May He use the foolishness of His gospel and the outrageous errors of Satan to do so.

There is no peace with God other than by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. For He has told us there is no other name under heaven or on earth that can save men and there is only ONE mediator between God and man – the God-man Jesus Christ! There is no room for you or me – or for Mary.

Even IF she could undo all the knots.

Here are their words from the web site Mary Undoer of Knots.

This Novena is known around the world…..and can change your life.

Why a Novena? Why nine days? novena-booklet

Mary stayed during nine days surrounded by the apostles in the cenacle, praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In this persevering type prayer, She taught us the constancy and ardour of faith, so that we do not get discouraged when direct a petition to God. The Mother of God prayed and gave courage to the apostles to pray for the duration of nine days, in order to receive the most important and precious treasure for human life – The Holy Spirit.

We need to learn to persevere because it is written in Ecclesiasticus 2,15-16, “Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God; Woe to them that have lost patience” and James says, “But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
( James 1,6-8).

Prayer is man’s strenght which shakes the heart of God because “nothing is more powerful than a man who prays” (St. John Chrisostomus) for they are participating in God’s power.
James tells us again, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4,3) and St. Basil says, “If you have asked and did not receive, is because you have asked wrongly, with no faith or superficially or you asked something you did not need or because you have abandoned the prayer.”
“All graces we desire need to be asked through Mary, She provides everything we need” (St. Alphonsus Ligori). “All gifts, virtues and graces are dispensed by Her hands to whom She wants, when She wants and how She wants” (St. Bernardin of Siena).

Look at the picture of Mary Undoer of Knots!

In this angelic court, two angels stand out. One of them holds on to a ribbon, the ribbon of our life, which is full of knots big and small, loose and tight. They are the knots of our life, the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude, etc.

The good hearted angel looks to our Queen and holding onto the ribbon of our life, presents to Mary, the Undoer of Knots and says, “We trust you, Mother; You can help us. Undo, then, the knots of this life!”
Then, Mary takes our life into Her compassionate hands and with her long fingers of mercy goes on to undo each knot, one after the other. Look at Her. Feel the attention, love and tenderness with which She does this, hearing our plea, the supplication of a beloved child!
See what happens?
This ribbon becomes free of any type of knot, reflecting all the mercy and freeing power of the holy hands of Mary Undoer of Knots.
Another angel comes over, then, and taking the ribbon of our life, freed of all knots, looks at us and seems to say, “See what She did. Look at what Mary, through her intercession can do again. Trust Her, place your problems and afflictions in Her hands!”

The power of this Novena is the unlimited hope which through our faith we put in our Mother’s hands.
What kind of mother would be insensitive to the screaming pain of her son? This Novena opens Mary’s heart ( compassionate and sensitive) to Her sons, because She wants to reconcile them with Her Son.
“Who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him? (Ecclesiasticus 2,12)
Because the constant increase in the number of devotees to the Novena, we are convinced more and more of the line in Saint Bernard’s prayer: “Never was it known that anyone who fled to Your protection, implored your help, or sought Your intercession was left unaided.” (St. Bernard).

“Nothing is more powerful than a man who prays” (St. John Crisostomus)

Back to reality. Note that last statement, amidst all the heresy? The one who prays is more powerful than the one to whom he prays.  If that clarify the nature of their god, I don’t know what will.

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On


No doubt many have run into an atheist who is adamant about the non-existence of God (usually, in a more specific sense, the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible). Whether it is all religions or just Christianity in general, they tend to reject what they believe is blind faith and fairy tales. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion. And there is no small shortage of satirical and philosophical rhetoric that some of them use to “refute” the existence of God. But, if you pay attention to the arguments they use to defame, blaspheme, and misalign God, there is one thing that Christians can agree with them on – the god they believe doesn’t exist really doesn’t.

A Strawman Argument is a logical fallacy that someone sets up as a misrepresentation, exaggeration, or complete fabrication of someone else’s position in order to make their own argument seem more reasonable. In this case, many atheists misrepresent their understanding of God/gods and portray them in such a way as to make their own argument seem reasonable, logical, and justified. But, in doing so, they not only set up a strawman, but they commit the most common and widely violated of all sins – idolatry. How? Well, it’s simple.

Anytime you hear an atheist speak, you will usually hear them mock God’s love in contrast to His justice (hell). Or misrepresent His “inability” to answer prayer. Or maybe you might hear how they don’t agree with Him creating intelligent human beings, yet require them to use “faith” to trust in Him (as if faith is absolutely blind). These are just a few of the many. But even if there is an answer to every misrepresentation they have about God, the most important thing is to reveal that although they don’t believe in God, they have inevitably made one up in their own mind! They have set up a divine strawman by which they can reason against over and over so that they can justify their suppression of the truth (Rom 1:8). So even though atheists may suppress the knowledge of God, and know that the true God of the Bible exists, in order for them to ease their conscience and justify their sin, they must create an image of god that suits themselves. A god that that they can deny, vilify, and reject by the approval of their own thoughts and imaginations. Most of their arguments do not work if they don’t do this. Whether you set up a idol to worship to go to war with, it is still idolatry.

Hopefully this strikes you as a much different approach then just providing scientific evidence for God’s existence. This is a mixed approach between revealing their sin and pressupostionally showing them another reason how and why they reject God. Next time you hear a false representation of God, you should disarm the atheist by telling them something like this, “Boy, I’m glad that the god that you are talking about doesn’t exist, because if he did, I would be an atheist too.” Because when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, what atheists do is exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25) just like everyone else who does not know Him. And since eternal life is defined by knowing Christ intimately (John 17:3), other than the fact that the typical atheist is just suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, we must engage them by showing them that they are just like every other religion in the world (yes, atheism is a religion) that believes in false gods. Except theirs is just a deified punching bag that they can throw philosophical blows at in order to make themselves feel superior, more intelligent, and morally justified in their sin.

While other world religions offer sacrifice to their gods in order to appease them, atheists repeatedly sacrifice their false representation of God on the altar of reason, logic, and scientific method (systems of thinking our Lord Jesus Christ gave them) in order to appease themselves.  But hey, at least now when we speak to atheists, Christians can agree that the god they are talking about truly doesn’t exist. Because once they are introduced to the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and are regenerated by His Spirit, they will no longer speak defiantly, but devotedly; no longer with a heart of war, but of worship.

Let’s pray for the atheists that we witness to and bring the light of the gospel to them.

Below is an quick example on dealing with these kinds of atheists in conversation.

-Until we go home


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Disclaimer: DefCon does not support Peter Kreeft. Only the quote used in the link window.

Not Everyone Can Be The Mouth

Not Everyone Can Be The Mouth

This article contains an excerpt that was taking from my book, Apocity: The Greatest Omission which can now be downloaded for free.
This portion of the book is emphasizing the true meaning behind 1 Corinthians 12, and how this passage cannot be used as means to say that  evangelism is the “mouth” of the body, and therefore, seeing that we have differing roles/gifts, not everyone can be the mouth. Sadly, there are variations to this excuse.

The idea that not everyone can be a consistent witness because they are not “the mouth” is also wrongly pulled out of 1 Corinthians 12. I have actually heard men (more often pastors and teachers within the congregation) say “not everyone can be the mouth.” In other words, we are
not all gifted with the gift of evangelism, and the mouth is the metaphor they use to describe those that do have it. Once again, this is urban legend, and I will clear up this confusion.

When you look at 1 Corinthians 12, right from the get go, in verse 1 Paul clearly says, “now concerning spiritual gifts.” This is a good clue that Paul is about to clarify some things for the Corinthian church. This issue with spiritual gifts and the divisions within the church was one of the reasons Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in the first place. In verse 4 he mentions how there are “diversities of the gifts” that come from the same Spirit. Verse 11 reveals how the Spirit passes out gifts as He wills (This challenges those who think that you have to speak in tongues as proof that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. See Chapter 5). Then, in verse 12, Paul begins to emphasize the unity of the body not only because we are all partakers of His Spirit through salvation (v13), but also because of how the diversity of the members affect the unity of that body. In other words, Paul is trying to give us an illustration that even though there are different gifts within the body of Christ, these divisions of gifts do not mean we are divided as a body. We are unified together by the Spirit, who distributes these gifts, and one gift is not more important than the other in the grand plan of the Church. Are you following? If not, this next part may be harder for you to grasp.

When you look at the metaphor that Paul uses for the body, he repeatedly gives us clues as to what he is trying to get across to the Corinthian church. In verse 15 he says, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body” (Emphasis added). He asks the same questions concerning another body part in verse 16. Verse 21 he says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Once again, Paul seems to be hinting at something here, and in verse 22 he gets to his point: “… those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” So basically Paul is trying to say that every member of the body is “necessary” no matter what gift, no matter what background (v13), and no matter how weak one seems to be (v23-24). Paul has said all this so that we realize that everyone within the body should need one another and that we should benefit from each other’s gifts, strengths, weakness, and backgrounds (v25). I might have been very general with my exegesis of this text but my purpose is not to get to the small details (that would be a whole other chapter), but to make some observations that I believe will squash this idea that evangelism is a gift, specifically here, “the mouth.”

If you are one to believe that not everyone can be the mouth (insinuating the mouth being a spiritual gift), or you have heard this from someone and think it is a valid statement, then here are some points to consider. 1) Where in this chapter does it specifically mention evangelism? The urban legend that evangelism is a gift still applies here too, not just Ephesians 4. Also, if you are saying that not everyone
can be the mouth, then you have to show me from 1 Corinthians 12 how believing this is in any way a “get out of witnessing free” card, because that is not Paul’s intent in this particular chapter of Corinthians. 2) Paul did not mean for this chapter to be used as a cop out to not preach the gospel. If you remember what I said in the previous paragraph, Paul’s main concern was unity. There seemed to be divisions in the church for various reasons, and the insinuation that Paul gives in numerous verses is that some believed that there were others that were not needed, or that they were not a part of the body because they seemed weaker or less honorable. There might be more background to this, but the main point is that Paul was more specifically targeting the need for everyone within the body and for every spiritual gift, rather than just emphasizing certain ones over the other. 3) Where does “not being the mouth” come into this metaphor? If you read this chapter carefully, when Paul used the metaphor of the body it wasn’t for us to figure out which body part we are (or think we are), it was to help us understand the importance of unity within a human body and relate that to the body of Christ. This was his main point! It is so absurd when I hear people call this person a foot, or that person the hand, or evangelism the mouth. This is not what Paul is saying! 4) When was the last time you did something without all body parts involved? If evangelism is the mouth, does that mean I don’t use my hands or my feet to preach? The Bible talks about feet being beautiful for preaching the gospel (Romans 10:15), so does this mean not everyone can be the feet either? Do I need someone who is the arms carry me to my corner to pass out tracts because I am not gifted in doing it myself? I am being very caustic for a reason. I have become so sorrowfully burdened about these vain attempts to explain away our responsibility to preach that it has caused me great spiritual distress to see professing believers continually making urban legends, like not being a mouth, a popular excuse. The nature of these excuses call into question the salvation of many who call themselves believers (a topic we will explore in the next chapter).

I can understand that there are persons within the body who are skilled in certain areas in which others are not. For instance, there are men and women who fly missionaries to their destination for the glory of God. These saints risk their lives to fly over dangerous areas to do  amazing things for God. Here is my question though: Just because they metaphorically can be the arms that carry missionaries where they need to go, does that remove their responsibility to preach to the lost themselves? Just because my primary job is “an arm” (I don’t actually believe that, just proving a point) does that mean I don’t have a mouth? If anything, anyone who is supporting evangelism efforts would see the importance of evangelism and would feel the obligation to preach themselves. This example goes for those who mow lawns for the church, who do the finances, those who usher, teenagers in youth group, deacons, pastors, and the list goes on! Your primary duty within the local church includes evangelism. Evangelism is not a secondary duty; it is the indivisible infrastructure of your calling as a Christian!

At this point, I feel it is necessary to say this. As I previously said in Chapter 2, I understand that the roles that God has given within the local church are for us to be perfected and conform to the image of Christ. I am not blind to the reality of our weakness, nor do I think that each
person’s gifting is unimportant. I know that pastors have a part, deacons, leaders, congregations, members, etc.; all play an important part in the whole of the universal church of Christ. What the revelation of Scripture seems to imply, however, is that none of that infringes upon our call to be faithful in our witness. None of it! There is no such gift of evangelism and there are no Scriptures that we can use to justify this position. If we refuse to accept this reality, then gross apocity among many local churches will continue. And I do not know about how you, reader, may feel about it, but I think God is weary of it.


-Until we go home