Defective Views Of The Church

This article was written decades ago; much more is this counsel needed in our day.

Charles D. Alexander
All By Grace
Sola Christus          
Sola Scriptura           
Sola Gratia           
Sola Fida           
Soli Deo Gloria
Defective views of the Church lie at the root of most prophetical errors, and have played havoc with the holy art of Bible exposition. “Dispensations” have been invented to account for the insertion of the Age of the Christian Church where the kingdom of earthly Israel should have been established according to the literal interpretation of prophecy. So convinced are the dispensationalists that all prophecy is for the nation of Israel that they have introduced the extraordinary theory that the Church as such is nowhere envisaged in OT prophecy, but is hidden from the view of the prophets. This despite the fact that the Day of Pentecost was the subject of the main prophecy of Joel, as Peter asserts in his great Pentecostal sermon   and James’s subsequent verdict at the council of the Church at Jerusalem that the calling of the gentiles into the Church was the subject of the prophecy of Amos in his ninth chapter (see Acts 15:13 18). Paul teaches the Ephesians that the Church, so far from being an unexpected event in history was all along that to which God was working from before the foundation of the world, as the means by which He should make known to all creation His manifold wisdom (Ephesians 3:9 10).
 
In Galatians Paul makes it plain that the Church in her NT form is the continuity of the Israel of the OT and the inheritor, as of rights, of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26   4.7).
 
There has been but one Church from the foundation of the world, and one faith (which Paul describes in its continuity from Abel down to his own day, and from then on to the end of time   see Hebrews 11). Faith does not change either as to its nature or its object. The object of faith is the promise of life in Christ Jesus, first made in the Garden in the presence of our first parents, around from the beginning. The priesthood of Abel anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. Enoch’s translation was an assurance to the antediluvian world that immortality was pledged in the promise death would be overcome. Abraham’s faith was sealed by the same anticipatory sacrifice as was Abel’s. Paul assures us that so far from the promise to Abraham ‘and his seed’ being the exclusive preserve of the natural seed of Abraham, it was in fact the promise of life to all who believe, be they Jew or gentile. Abraham’s altered name was a pledge of this – “The Father of Many Nations”. “They who are of faith are blest with faithful Abraham”, declares Paul. (Galatians 3:9)
 
The promise of life, made to Abraham, was not to be the prerogative of an earthly people who throughout their history thrust it from them, but was something which only faith could grasp. Hence “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”. (Romans 4:16)
 
Abraham’s seed was Christ: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). So the natural seed of Abraham was never the subject of the promise only that spiritual seed which by faith and the new birth partake of the new life in Christ. This is the only Israel which inherits the promises, and it is an Israel of Jew and gentile, on terms of absolute equality and right, indifferent as to ancestry, a people of faith and repentance.
 
This Church will continue unchanged as to its calling and nature, till the end of time. No assembly of the Jewish people in Palestine can be regarded as the fulfillment of any promise to Abraham. The land of Canaan was not in itself the fulfillment of the promise, but only a temporal pledge until the seed should come to whom the promise was made, even Christ. Any restoration of the nation of Israel to its ancient privileges would be a reversal of the divine order by which the temporal only foreshadows the spiritual. All the prophecies under the figure of the land of Palestine have been fulfilled in the Church, and are intended to be spiritually understood. The literal interpretation requires that the temple be rebuilt and a ‘most favoured nation’ be established; Christ must vacate His eternal throne to come down to earth as a temporal monarch at Jerusalem. The New Testament knows nothing of this and the New Testament is the sole interpreter of the Old Testament   not the reverse.
 
Our readers should not be startled by the present Jewish occupation of Palestine. It may or may not be permanent, but it is certainly not the fulfillment of any prophecy as understood according to the New Testament. The only ‘nation’ to which the kingdom of God is given is one which brings forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43). To avoid the force of this verse Dr. Scofield introduces a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven a distinction which does not exist in Holy Scripture.
Literalism has sealed up large tracts of the Divine Word from any relevance to the people of God, and lies at the root of much ineffective preaching today. It also lies at the root of much commercialism in the writing and sale on an enormous scale, of books which purport to foretell the future and read current events in terms of Bible prophecies. It is for this reason that we press on without hope of earthly reward, in our task of presenting our thesis  REVELATION SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTOOD.
 
Note: While this article was written over thirty years ago it is as timely as the current [2006] conflict between “Israel” and Lebanon.

Faith and Justification

faith alone

There was a man who had made his way in the world. He lived by himself, for himself; spent much of his time in his nice condominium on the 5th floor of a nice building, away from the fray and cares of the world. One day a fire broke out in his building, on his floor. By the time he noticed the danger, the way out was impassible. Fire was breaking into his condo, causing the roaches and other vermin that had lived out of sight to seek escape in the open rooms. Desperation was setting in on the man, as he was seeing the stuff of his life consumed and his hidden companions revealed.

Through the open window he heard people yelling. On the ground below he saw men from the fire department, holding a net and yelling for him to jump. But jumping would not save him unless the firemen caught him. If he missed the net, if the net failed, if the men couldn’t hold it or cruelly moved out of the way; he would die. His jump would not save him. The fire had revealed the passing nature of his life trophies and the hidden pests he had been sharing his home with. But the fire could not save him – it only revealed the condition he was in and threatened his safety.

Do you see the spiritual lesson? The fire represents law, which reveals sin. While we Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law, we were a law unto ourselves before Christ saved us and we were convicted by our own consciences that we were guilty. Unless we are made aware of this danger, we won’t notice it – man is naturally blind to spiritual truth. Jumping represents faith, a necessary component of our salvation, but not the entire scope. Faith in the firemen and their net wouldn’t save our man but it would get him to the safety they could provide. The firemen called the man, he jumped, the net held. Creator God calls men to Himself, (just as He did Lazarus) and they come to Him and are saved. Far more trustworthy than mere men and their net, our Savior is certain to save His elect. Our anchor holds!

Let’s take a closer look at faith and its part in our salvation. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. As a footnote, I want to remind us that this faith is itself a gift from God, not something we contribute. Salvation is monergistic – all God and none of man. We also know that without faith no man can please God (Hebrews 11:6) and that not all men have such faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). And lastly, we know that demons have some sort of faith which does not save them (James 2:19). This faith that God gives so that we can answer His call to “repent and believe” is special, necessary, and always present in the Christian’s life. This faith is not present in the lost person and the lack thereof keeps him from knowing and loving Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

This verse describes people who do not have the Spirit and do not believe in Christ: “the natural man.” This question must be asked: What work of the Holy Spirit is lacking? Does the unbeliever simply need a non-saving form of illumination (which would support faith preceding regeneration) or does he need regeneration itself (which would demand regeneration preceding faith) to overcome his deficiency? Stated plainly, can one who is classified as dead in sins and trespasses be illumined, given faith, without being regenerated?

Natural or unregenerate man is darkened in his understanding (Eph 4:17), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), incapable of pleasing or trusting God (Rom 8:7–8), and dead (Eph 2:1–5; Col 2:13). This is his nature, and he always discerns, evaluates, and chooses in keeping with this nature. The only satisfactory solution to this condition is for him to be given a new nature and become a spiritual man, a man with the indwelling Spirit—he must be regenerated before he can be illuminated with spiritual understanding that comes with faith. (Mark A. Snoeberger)

As important as faith is, to rightly comprehend its meaning and use, we must understand its role in our salvation. For how a man gets saved is the most important thing we can comprehend.

While faith is important, it is not most important. Faith is not what turns away the wrath of God, the blood of Christ does that. Although by faith we have peace with God, faith does not save us; the finished work of Christ dos that. We cannot be saved without faith, but faith cannot save us. And while the righteousness of God comes to us by faith (Romans 3:22), it is Christ’s righteousness that grants us God’s favor: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21) Reconciliation with holy God is possible because we become His righteousness by having been bought by the blood of His Son.

Therefore, in everything we do; Bible study, evangelism, personal devotions, discipleship; Christ Jesus and His glory is to be our focus. The gospel is the proclamation of His sinless life and atoning death. The redemptive plan of God is revealed as the core theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Once we are born again by the Holy Spirit, we are no longer the carnal human we used to be – drawn and driven by the sinful desires of our flesh; we are new creatures in Christ, no longer regarding one another “in the flesh” but seeing all things through spiritual eyes of faith.

If we have been saved, we walk by faith and not by sight. We are no longer hostile towards God but anxious to know and please Him. While some would tell us sin is no big deal – we’ve been forgiven! – Scripture tells us that if one’s mind is set on the flesh, he is a dead man:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:5-9)

If you and I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, His Spirit does dwell in us and we are pleasing to God for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:24 & 25) We are justified and redeemed, by grace alone received by faith alone in Christ alone.

Some teach that justified means “just as if I’d never sinned.” If you say it just right, it sounds really cool. But that catchy phrase does not begin to describe the depth of our need nor the scope of Christ’s provision. The truth of our situation is that we were dead in sins and trespasses and Christ died for us while we were His enemies. A Man of sorrows, He stood in our place, having no sin of His own. His blood paid the price we could not pay. We were great sinners who were even more greatly forgiven by our great and holy God. We are forgiven, redeemed, ransomed, and reconciled – by the blood of Christ; to be shielded from the wrath of God and the Lamb on that great Day of Judgment. Are we to consider ourselves as if we’d never sinned? God forbid! Such a view does violence to the cross and the ongoing intercession our Lord provides. Our sin debt was not merely dismissed as a bad grade on an elementary school report card. Jesus hung on the cross and suffered the wrath of God on our account and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

The haunting lyrics of Matthew Smith’s rendition of “All I Owe” portrays how the sinner praises Christ for His sacrifice:

And all I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

We were bought at a price, we do not belong to ourselves any longer. The Spirit of the living God dwells within us, so we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). Paul went on to tell us (Gal 5:16-25) to walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. He contrasts the fruit of the natural man with the fruit of the spiritual man and finishes with an exhortation: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. This is a life of faith; we struggle against sin, take measures to avoid sin, keep our focus on the unseen realm where we are seated with Christ. We are to be heavenly minded so we can be of earthly good. We won’t walk perfectly, for the flesh will always be tempted and sin too often; which is why no flesh can inherit the kingdom of God. But we have not been left to walk this path alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us, working in us to will and to do that which pleases Him (Phil 2:13). And we have an advocate, the Lord Jesus, Who is ever interceding on our behalf!

Walking in Spirit means we are sensitive to the sinful desires of our flesh and repent from those things that grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). It also means our focus is to cooperate with Him and do, speak, and think things that please Him.  We have been translated from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life!

Justification and Regeneration, Charles Leiter

Page 34 – 35: There is nothing in man that causes God to justify him, including his repentance and faith. Repentance does not pay for sin. A criminal’s remorse for his crimes does not satisfy the just demands of the law. Neither does faith pay for sin! Only the blood of Jesus can pay for sin! Justification is based on the blood of Christ.

This explains why a person can have a very weak faith and still be justified. Imagine two bridges crossing a chasm: One is very weak and untrustworthy; the other is very strong. A man may have a very strong faith in the weak bridge and confidently step out onto it. His strong faith will not keep him from plunging to his death. On the other hand, a man may have a very weak faith strong bridge and only barely manage with fear and trembling to venture forth upon it. The bridge will hold him securely, regardless of his weak faith. All that is necessary is for him to have enough faith to get him onto the bridge! When someone told Hudson Taylor that he must be a man of great faith, he replied, “No, I am a man of very little faith in a very great God.”

This little snippet reveal something else about faith that we must understand. The object of our faith is what is important. As the strong bridge in the story was essential, so the right Jesus for us. This is why the Roman Catholic Church is a synagogue of Satan: they have an unbiblical Jesus who cannot save. One can have all the faith in the world in a false savior and be certain of doom. As 1 Corinthians 15 declares, Christ Jesus dies for our sins according to the Scriptures; was crucified according to the Scriptures; He was resurrected according to the Scriptures. The Jesus Who saves is the Jesus of the Scriptures, not of man’s imagination!

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Beloved, we who have been bought by the blood of Christ have died to self and this world, our life is hidden from the world because we are in Christ and they cannot see Him unless they are born again (John 3:3). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6), crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). It is only our mortal body, our flesh, which has not been redeemed; that and our mission of reconciliation is all that ties us here. We are to put to death our members that are upon the earth (Col 3:5) and present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto our God (Rom 12:1). We are to resist being conformed into the pattern of the world and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds on the word of God so we will know discern that which pleases Him (Rom 12:2).

This is the life of faith! Having been raised to new life in Christ, we are able and will want to be people who bring honor and glory to Him. He alone is worthy of all praise and we are those living stones He raise up to be His temple and to sing His praises now and throughout eternity!

John’s apocalyptic view of the end of this age (Revelation 5:1-9):

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

What a glorious Lord and Savior is Christ Jesus! He conquered hell and death and sin; He is the author of life and holds the keys of David. By His obedient life He earned the privilege to open the scrolls that spell out God’s consummation of history. The Lamb Who suffered and died, rules all of creation and will judge the quick and the dead. He is worthy of our praise, our devotion, our lives. And He is faithful even when we are faithless and tempted by the devil.

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tell me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free,

For God, the Just, is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

(Charitie L. Bancroft)

Fifty Years in the Chuch of Rome

Most magisterial reformers took only a half-step from Rome. Much of what protestant churches hold to was learnt from Rome. Certain doctrines and practices clung to men like the sin that so easily entangles us. The following is from Charles Chiniquy’s book, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, chapter 30; published in 1886.
Half-step from Rome
Later in the book, after describing the horrors women experienced in having their most secret sins pried from them by expertly crafted questions, the author reveals one of the vipers mentioned above.
586

Biblical Covenants – Baptist Perspective

Covenant chart color 768x400

The diagram above is my attempt to show the relationship between the various covenants between God and man discussed below. The covenants with Adam and Noah were with mankind and all the created order. Adam fell and we all are dead in him, our federal head; so too all of creation was cursed because of Adam’s sin.

From the dust of men, YHWH called out a people for Himself, to be custodians of His Word, to shine forth His glories in the wicked world, and to preserve the promised seed as it was carried through the generations from Adam to Christ Jesus. National Israel inhabited what is shown as the Old Covenant. Gentiles are not in the Old Covenant.

If all men are not in Adam’s Covenant, then all men could not die in Adam. But since all men die in Adam, we must see those that God formed into the Hebrew nation were born dead in Adam. The covenant of circumcision and the Mosaic covenant applied to them as God’s temporal people, but in Adam they all died. Some of them were redeemed by faith in the promised Christ and were bought out of the Adamic covenant into the covenant of redemption, to be sealed in Christ in the fullness of time. While they lived in the flesh, they were in the Mosaic Covenant as God’s temporal people. So all national Israel was at all times members of two covenants – one determining their spiritual condition (in Adam or in Christ), the other identifying them as God’s temporal people.

The eternal covenant called out in Hebrews 13 was a prelapsarian agreement within the holy trinity. It was revealed progressively until it was fulfilled by Christ and the issuing of the New Covenant. What the eternal covenant does is provide redemption for sinners (Ephesians 1 and others). 2 Timothy 1 shows us that our redemption was effected before the foundation of the world. I consider this covenant to be the guardian for the elect through redemptive history, until the New Covenant was issued, as was the Old Covenant for national Israel. Hebrews tells us the Old Testament saints waited until Christ came to get their full reward – while saved looking forward to the promised seed, “they did not receive that which was promised (temporal rest), since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.”

Both the Hebrew people and Gentiles have Adam as their spiritual father; only by being given new life in the last Adam do we become children of Abraham according to the promise. This gives us standing with Creator God as His children through the adoption of sons.

The covenant with Noah is outside the redemptive chain, as it is an unconditional promise of God to provide for man and beast seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night until the end of the age. It is included to remind us of God’s kind provision even to those whose best life is now. It mitigates the wrath of God for those in Adam while this age winds down. The shaded oval is labeled “Old Covenant” and represents God’s relationship to national Israel. It includes the three major covenants contained therein, although the Abrahamic Covenant has only one side in this arena. This line of covenants began as YHWH called people from Adam’s line to form His temporal people, and began to close with the Davidic Covenant, coming to a final close when the son of David who was his Lord fulfilled all the requirements of Moses and the prophets and cut the New Covenant (Galatians 3:24). The Covenant of Promise was revealed to man as God cursed the serpent, recorded in Genesis 3:15 and fulfilled in the New Covenant, being revealed with increasing clarity as redemptive history unfolded.

The Adamic Covenant runs parallel to the Old Covenant, and does not expire until the end of the age. All people in history are ruled by this covenant, with God’s universal law at work in the nations; the works of which are written on the hearts of these people (Romans 2:12-16). Those who are in the First Adam remain in this covenant unless, in time, God redeems them. From God’s covenant with Abraham come children of the flesh (being held captive by the Law of Moses – Galatians 4:21 – 25) and children of promise (being set free by faith in the promised seed – Galatians 3:29 & 4:26 – 31). This ever-increasing family gathers members from all races, creeds, and covenants. Sons of Adam who are redeemed have Abraham as their spiritual father (Galatians 3:29) Jesus is the promised son of David (Acts 2:22 – 39), being born under the law and its curse (Galatians 3:10 – 14), and giving Himself as a ransom to buy the elect (John 6:37 – 40). His work of redemption fulfilled the demands of the Old Covenant and all the types that pointed to His coming. This work made the Old Covenant obsolete and introduced the New Covenant which displays the glories of Christ in the lives of the redeemed (Hebrews 8).

With Noah as our federal head, we have so-called common grace from our Creator, both man and creation. The curse of Adam remains throughout this age, conquered but not eliminated, as we wait for the age to come; so the blessings through Noah remain throughout this age, to be made all the more glorious in the age to come.

The Pastor – Chapter 8, Conclusion

If you have listened to this book, you know the author desires only to please YHWH and help Solaequip His people so we will not be tossed about by the whimsy of man. Here’s his wrap for the last chapter:

Having published this book, I know I shall be accused of denigrating both the biblical work of the gospel minister, and the man himself. Indeed, I knew it before I began. But I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now. Yet, if such a critique of an unscriptural title really has undermined what many regard as ‘the ministry ’, then something is seriously wrong with what we think of as ‘the ministry ’. And the sooner we find it out the better. In the 16th century, men like Thomas Cartwright and Robert Browne came to realise that the warrant to preach does not depend on a magistrate’s licence, and they had the courage to destroy the noxious bits of paper which pretended to make a man into a minister. We must show the same courage and the same spirit in our day. If an elder’s authority depends on the invention of an office, on Humpty Dumpty’s misuse of biblical words, or on the use of a title, we ought to recognise where we are – and the consequences of it. To accommodate the words of the Independent, Henry Jacob: A teacher in Christ’s church has a far ‘better original’ than calling him ‘Pastor’; or ought to have! Of course, we must honour all men to whom honour is due (Rom. 13:7). In particular, as I have repeatedly stressed, we should ‘respect’ our elders ‘who work hard among [us], who are over [us] in the Lord and who admonish [us]’, and we should ‘hold them in the highest regard in love
because of their work’ (1 Thess. 5:12-13), but this does not mean we should give them a title.
While we must not undervalue the gifts of Christ to his church, pastor-teachers among them, neither must we make little popes of them! Or big!

Chapter 8 is here.

Chapter 7 can be found here.

The Pastor – Chapter 7, The All-Body Ministry

What is meant by “the priesthood of believers?” Does the Bible show “the pastor” as being the ruler of all that goes on within the local church? SolaHere’s a note from the author on this chapter:

As we have seen, church rule and care has been ruined, twisted into a monstrosity. In tandem – the one feeding off the other – the priesthood of all believers has been allowed to dwindle into practical neglect, so that it has become the poor relation of the Christian religion, rarely discussed, let alone thought about, least of all acted upon. And for those who do have some concept of it, too frequently they think of it as an individual thing, a personal thing – I can go directly to God for my self. A wonderful truth, of course, but one that fails to exhaust the breadth and depth of meaning of this priesthood.

Chapter 7 is here.

Chapter 6 was posted here.