Ecclesiology 028: Spiritual Gifts 8

Dr. Andy Woods | Jul 8, 2018 | 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 | Ecclesiology

Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 28, Spiritual Gifts 8

7-8-18     Lesson 28

I’m going to open us up in a word of prayer so let’s pray.  Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for this morning, grateful for Your Word, grateful for the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.  I do ask, Father, that You’ll be with us in Sunday School particularly as we deal with sort of a delicate issue and be with us in the main service as we study the Book of Revelation together.  I do pray, Father, specifically that You would do something eternal here today, either change someone’s mind about something so that they can apply it to their lives as a Christian, or if they’re unsaved we pray, Father, that people would trust in Christ and Christ alone today for salvation.  And we ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.

Good morning everybody, I hope you all are enjoying this cool weather, Texas plus July does not equal cold weather, Amen!  Praise the Lord for the rain.  Let’s take our Bibles in Sunday School and let’s open up to 1 Corinthians 13:8, and for those that are tracking in with us in Sunday School for the first time you might feel like you’re getting hit with a sledge hammer because we’ve been inching into one of the most difficult and controversial subjects in the body of Christ and that has to do with the charismatic movement.  The reason we’re going into this is it’s part of our study on ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church.  And we’ve talked about how one of the great purposes of the church is to equip God’s people for their area of service, depending on their area of gifting.

So consequently one of the great discoveries you have to make as a Christian that God has in front of you is the discovery of your spiritual gift or gifts.  And it is a terribly exciting thing to discover that God has gifted you and we’re all gifted to do different things. So we’ve been doing a study on spiritual gifts, as it relates to the subject of the doctrine of the church.  And so we’ve made some general observations about spiritual gifts and then we have to address the big elephant in the room, are all the spiritual gifts for today because when you examine the various places in the Bible that speak of spiritual gifts, and there’s basically four chapters that enumerate the various spiritual gifts, you’re going to run into these gifts.

There’s probably about twenty-two gifts total, maybe a little more, but you’re also going to run into these seven:  Number 1, apostle, Number 2, prophet, Number 3, workers of miracles, Number 4, tongues, Number 5, interpretation of tongues, Number 6, the gift of healing, and Number 7, the gift of knowledge.

And you might be saying to yourself well how come we don’t practice those here at Sugar Land Bible Church?   Where is the tongues, where is the miracles, and those kinds of things.  Now I go to the church down the street and all those things are in full operation, you might say, but I don’t see them in operation here at Sugar Land Bible Church.  So what’s the deal?  How come you guys are holding out on us?  And what you have to understand is within Christianity today, within Christen­dom today there’s two ways of approaching this subject.  You have what are called the charismatics or continuationists, and they basically believe that every gift you see in the New Testament is fully in operation today, including tongues, apostles, laying on of hands and people immediately being healed, and that kind of thing.  So that’s group A.

Group B is where we fit on the theological orbit, where we call ourselves not cessationists necessarily but selective cessationists.  In other words, we believe that those seven gifts that I just had on the screen ceased back in the first century.  And we’ve explained that this is basically the doctrine position of Sugar Land Bible Church, and more important than understanding the doctrine of the position of Sugar Land Bible Church is the following issue: does the Bible really teach this?  I mean, does it really teach that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are very active in the Book of Acts, for example, somehow ceased with the death of the apostles back in the first century.

And most people have never heard the case for selective cessationism, so that’s why I’ve been trying to sort of gradually walk through this and sort of explain our thinking on this and why we believe the way we do here at Sugar Land Bible Church.  And it really relates to taking the gifts of the Holy Spirit and putting them into four categories.  The first category is what’s called the foundational gifts, and as we have explained in prior studies these are the gifts of apostle and prophet, and these are gifts that the Lord used to lay the foundation of the church.  And we all know that you lay a foundation how many times?  ONE time.  So we’ve done teaching on those two gifts and why we think they ceased.  And what I’m doing right now is just reviewing a little bit.

Then there’s a second series of gifts called sign gifts or the confirmatory gifts and we noted that in the Word of God, and these would include workers of miracles, tongues and healing.  Miracles have a tendency to cluster around time periods when God is inaugurating something new.  And so miracles in the Bible cluster around six basic errors, including when the church started.  And once the church got off the ground those sign gifts ceased because God was not doing something new.  When He started the church in Acts 2 He was reversing 1,500 years of history where God was dealing with the nation of Israel. Suddenly in Acts 2 He did something new, the body of Christ is formed and started at that point.  And so God testified to it through various signs and miracles.  So that’s why we believe that certain sign gifts, such as workers of miracles and tongues and healing ceased in the first century, because those were signs that God used to authenticate what He was doing that was brand new, the age of the church.

We’ve also been very clear that although the gift of healing has passed we still believe God heals today.  Amen!  It’s just when He does so He does it directly according to His will, rather than indirectly through someone that claims they have the gift of healing.  And we’ve also spent a lot of time explaining that God doesn’t necessarily heal everybody today and why that’s true.  So you can go back into the archives and catch the teachings on that.

Then there’s a third category of gifts that we started talking about last week in Sunday School and these are basically what you call the revelatory gifts.  Revelatory gifts would include prophet, tongues and their interpretation, and also the gift of knowledge.  And we were very careful on how we defined these revelatory gifts.  These are gifts that were in operation in the first century where God, through a prophet, and here we’re talking about New Testament prophets, they were revealing truth as a direct channel on equal par with Scripture itself.  We also believe, based on the teaching last week, that the gift of knowledge is one of those revelatory gifts, not knowledge in terms of understanding what God has revealed already but knowledge, a gift of knowledge in effect where somebody was basically a conduit of divine revelation.

And then a little, I don’t want to say gimmick but a little linguistic device that was given to me this week by a former charismatic, is the following: tongues plus interpretation of tongues equals prophecy.  So there is a particular use of tongues or languages in the New Testament, you’ll see it in 1 Corinthians 14:26-27, where someone would speak in a language that they’ve never learned and then it would be interpreted for the congregation.  [1 Corinthians 14:26-28, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. [27] If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; [28] but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.”]And then through that process God was revealing new truths that His church…, very similar as to how the gift of prophecy was working.

So we have explained in detail that these were basically what you call revelatory gifts; these were gifts where actually new truth was being revealed on equal par with Scripture itself.  And we’re trying to make the case that just as the foundational gifts ceased, just as the confirmatory gifts ceased, we also believe that the revelatory gifts have ceased as well.  So that’s sort of where we are in our study and the key chapter on this is 1 Corinthians 13 and the key paragraph on this is 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, which we introduced last time.  So let’s sort of review what 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 says.

[8] “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge,” now here it’s talking about the revelatory gift of knowledge, “if there is knowledge  it will be done away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part;” and here’s the key phrase or verse,  [10] “but when the perfect comes,” that’s the Greek word telioin,  the partial” what’s the partial?  Prophecy, tongues and knowledge will be done away with.” And then it goes on and it says,  [11] “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. [13] But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So last time I sort of gave you this outline about paragraph and it’s a three part outline; verses 8-10 say unlike love the revelatory gifts will cease.  And the reason Paul is bringing this up is because the Corinthians in their carnality were using these revelatory gifts in a self-serving manner.  And Paul says instead of being focused on those gifts you ought to focus on love because love will never cease but your revelatory gifts will cease when the perfect comes.  That’s verses 8-10.  Then he illustrates his point through basically two illustrations, as the church transitions from the revelatory gifts to the perfect, it will be like the movement from immaturity to maturity, verse 11.   It will be like the movement from limited sight to full sight, verse 12.  And then he says finally in verse 13 but love will never cease.  In fact, the day will come when faith won’t be necessary because you’ll actually be with Jesus, you don’t have to exercise faith in the presence of Jesus Christ because faith is the substance of things that are not seen, right?  And hope itself will disappear; hope is confidence of the future but when you’re with Jesus in the future  your hope will be realized so hope will become unnecessary at that point.  But what will never cease?  Love will continue on.  That’s why he says love, faith and hope but the greatest of these things is love.  So he’s trying to get the Corinthians to focus on the issue of love because love will transcend, number one the revelatory gifts, verses  8-10.  And love will actually transcend faith and hope, verse 13.

So that’s sort of the context of our paragraph.  Now what then is the key issue?  Well, the key issue in this whole discussion is what in the world is Paul talking about there in verse 10 when he talks about “the perfect,” the Greek word telioin, what does that even mean, because he specifically says that when the perfect comes the revelatory gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge will disappear. So there’s been sort of a battle taking place within evangelicalism concerning what in the world is the perfect or the telioin in verse 10 because how you define the telioin or the perfect in verse 10 will shape your view on whether the revelatory gifts have ceased or now.  Does that make sense?

And as you can imagine this is not an easy subject to deal with because there’s three views on it.  And what I’m going to do is walk you through these three views and make the case for the last view.  But I’m kind of one of those teachers where I don’t just come out and tell you what the right view is, what we think the right view is, I’d rather you first see why the other views are inadequate.  And once we tear down that stronghold (if you will) then we’ll be in a position to present the right view.  So that’s why that paper that I wrote that hopefully was passed out to you either last week or this week is helpful because I try to argue this position in the form of an academic paper and so if you want to go deeper into the subject you have the paper where you can go deeper into it.

The first view on the telioin is telioin, or the “perfect” verse 10, is something that takes place in the eschaton, now eschaton means last or end.  And this is probably the most popular view out there.  This is a view that shows up in most of the study Bibles and basically what they mean by the eschaton or the end is they sort of connect it with something related to the second coming of Christ.  So the telioin could be the rapture, when the rapture happens tongues and prophecy and knowledge will cease.  Some say well, it’s the second advent of Christ where Jesus comes back and His feet touch the Mount of Olives, that’s when tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease.

Other people say it’s the eternal state and if you look at verse 12 very carefully, Paul says, “For now we see dimly in a mirror, but then face to face,” and when you cross reference that (1 Corinthians 13:12) with the last chapter in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 22:4, it says, “they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”  And so a lot of people connect Revelation 22:4, which is talking about the eternal state, they connect it with 1 Corinthians 13:`12.  And so they argue that the telioin is the eternal state.   Once the eternal state comes then prophecy, tongues and knowledge will cease.

Now let me just give you a little clue here without revealing all of my arguments.  When you look  at verse 12 does it say there we’re going to see God face to face?  It doesn’t say that, does it?  The word God has to be completely read into the passage of verse 12 to make that point.  I’m going to be making the case that what you’re going to see face to face is your own reflection through the completed canon.  So just sort of tuck that back in the back of your mind for a few weeks and God willing we will get there, hopefully before we actually do see Jesus face to face.  Amen.

So the first of the views is that this is really something that relates to the end times, that’s what the perfect is.  So they will argue that the telioin is basically something ideal, perfect or unblemished, because that’s what the return of Christ is, it’s perfection, right?  And they will argue it’s the rapture, it’s the second coming, it’s the eternal state, some people believe it’s referring to death because to be absent from the body is to be what?  Present with the Lord.  And so that is probably the majority position that’s out there, it’s related to something, what we would call in the eschaton, or the end.

And you’ll notice in verse 12 the  now/then language.  If you look at verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says, “For now we see dimly in a mirror, but then face to face, now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  So how do they interpret the “now/then” language according to the first view, the eschaton view.   The “now” is when the revelatory gifts are in operation; the “now” is tongues, interpretation of prophecy and knowledge being in effect.  The “then” (verse 12) is those revelatory gifts ceasing after Jesus comes back.  That’s how they handle the now/then language.

And as I’ve mentioned before this view, the eschaton view or the end view is the most popular view today within Christianity.  How do they handle the illustrations, there’s two illustrations.  Verse 11 the immaturity to maturity, so they would say the church is in immaturity today and won’t be in full maturity until Jesus comes back.  And Paul talks about knowing in part and knowing in full, verse 12, so now we know in part but when Jesus comes back then we will know in full.  And so that’s probably the most popular view out there, is the eschaton view or the end view.  In fact, most of my Christian life and walk that’s the only view that ever knew.  It’s not until you actually begin to get into the literature and explore the debate you learn that this is a hotly contested issue.  But most people think that it’s a slam/dunk, the perfect coming is something related to the second advent of Christ and if that’s true then the revelatory gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, knowledge and prophecy you can expect them to occur and continue until Jesus comes back.

And what I’d like to show you is that view has some major problems with it.  These are problems very significant but you probably would never become aware of them unless someone that studied the issue told  you about these problems.  So what I have on this slide are six basic problems with the eschaton view.

The first problem is the telios or the telioin in verse 10 never means perfection, EVER, because what people believe is the perfect is absolutely perfect, no flaw, no blemish, no sin, and it’s related to the kingdom, it’s related to the eternal state, it’s related to the rapture, it’s related to the second coming, it’s related to seeing Jesus at death, and they define telios, telioin as something that is completely and totally unblemished.  And when you study this word out in its use in the Bible telioin, what you’ll discover is that word never means that.  Well, what does it mean? It means a lot of different things but not perfection.  Sometimes it refers to a grown man; a grown man is not a perfect man, right?  He’s not a person that is sinless but a person that sins less.  You’ll see the use of telioin that way even in this book and chapter.  1 Corinthians 14:20, Philippians 3:15, Ephesians 4:13.   [1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”  Philippians 3:15, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;”  Ephesians 4:13, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”]

Sometimes telios means maturity.  Now just because you’re mature doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Colossians 4:12.  [Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”]

Sometimes telios means complete; now complete doesn’t mean perfect.  You’ll see that usage in Romans 12:2.  [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”]

And what’s very interesting about this is Paul, in this whole metaphor, uses himself as an example.  You see how he says when I was a child, when I became a man I did away with childish things, for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, now I know in part, Paul says if you want to see what telioin looks like he points to himself.  Now Paul was a terrific guy, right… amen!  Where would we be without the Apostle Paul?   But the fact of the matter is as mature as Paul became he never became sinless.  How do I know that?  Because he had his own struggles with the flesh.  You can read about them in Romans 7.  He actually says in Galatians 5:16, that within him the new nature and the old nature were at war with each other.  [Galatians 5:16, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”]

Paul frequently calls himself “the least” and the last of the apostles, someone that’s not even fit to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God.  You’ll find those references in         1 Corinthians 15:4, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:5.  [1 Corinthians 15:9, “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  Ephesians 3:8, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,”  1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’”]

Paul explains in Philippians 3:12 not that I’ve arrived, speaking of his final resurrection, not that I’ve arrived.  [Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”]  So when Paul takes the concept of maturity and applies it to himself he can’t be talking about something unblemished, flawless, ideal, and perfect because Paul certainly made great strides in his progressive sanctification, but he never reached a point of sinlessness.  In fact, if you want to see an example of Paul getting in the flesh, kind of acting like I would act and you would act normally, it’s over in Acts 23:3 where’s struck in the face, I mean, what would you do if you were struck in the face?  We know what our natural reaction would be, right?  I mean, I can’t even keep my sanctification under control when someone bumps into me in the airline and that’s a crowded flight, you know, I get flustered over that little thing.  You can imagine what it’s like to get hit in the face.

In Acts 23:3 it says, “The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth.”  Verse 3 says, “Then Paul said to him,” blessed are the peacemakers… actually he didn’t say that, did he, He said, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! [Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’]  Now that’s something I can identify with because that’s how we’re like in our natural flesh.  I’m not trying to denigrate the Apostle Paul at all; what I’m trying to say is the guy was flesh and blood with a sin nature just like the rest of us.  So for Paul to use himself as an analogy in this whole thing can’t mean that telioin is something ideal, unblemished, and perfect.  That’s the first problem.

The second problem is telios, the word translated perfect, is never used in the entire Bible for an end time event.  It’s never used for the eternal state; it’s never used for the millennial kingdom, it’s never used for the second advent of Christ.  In fact, in my paper I quote the great Greek scholar, Gary Gromacki, who taught many, many years at Cedarville University and he makes that very point.  I mean, if  you want this to be the second coming then that’s a use of the word that’s found nowhere else in the entire Greek New Testament.

And here is a third problem that many people just sort of kind of skip over this but I think it’s a big deal.  The perfection “you” is pitting two ideas that don’t go together.  The perfection idea is pitting a quality against a quantity.  Perfection and unblemished is a quality and when you look at what Paul says here he’s not dealing with the subject of quality, he’s dealing with the subject of quantity.  Why would I say that?  Because he says, “Now I know” what”?  Verse 12, “in part.”  He’s not comparing something ideal to something in part, that really wouldn’t make any sense.  What he is doing, as I’ll try to explain, is he’s trying to compare the full revelation of Scripture with the closing of the canon to sporadic partial revelations that the church was receiving through the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, knowledge of prophecy. So if you move into the second coming eschaton view you’re pitting two ideas together that don’t go together.

So the ideal or perfection view is talking about a quality which does not provide a suitable antithesis to impart, which is the Greek word, ek merous, “in part, of verse 12 which is not a quality idea, it’s a quantity idea.  I realize these are concepts that you may have never thought about so just kind of let that rattle around a little bit and we’ll be returning to that.

The fourth problem with the first view is that eschatological events of the end time, whether it’s the rapture, the second advent, the dissolving of this present heavens and earth and replacing it with the new heavens and new earth, are those events that are a process or are those events that are instant­aneous?  See, those events are things that are going to happen suddenly.  Jesus talked about the establishment of the kingdom suddenly.  He talked about the rapture, at least Paul did, taking place in a moment, “in the twinkling of an eye.”  God doesn’t need billions and billions of years to wrap things up.  So when the end time events happen they’re going to happen suddenly.

So if that is the case then how in the world can telion be referring to a sudden event when Paul, in verse 11, analogizes it to the maturing of a child.  I mean, how do your children mature?  Suddenly?  Now we may want that to happen but as we all know maturity is a gradual process that someone goes through.  So the second coming view really doesn’t fit the analogy of gradualness that Paul is dealing with here because second coming events, events in the eschaton happen instantaneous.

And here’s another problem, this is number five, the fifth problem with the telion view is in this passage, 1 Corinthians 13:10, telion is neuter, it’s a neuter adjective.  Now in English we’re not really sensitive to gender as much in our language as the Greek language was, but in Greek gender was a big deal and the gender here, at least in verse 10, is telion is a neuter adjective.  In other words, it’s not described as masculine “he,” it’s not described as feminine, “she,” it’s described as neuter.  Now quite frankly that is a very strange way to describe the personal return of Christ, isn’t it?  The personal coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, Jesus always being referred to in the masculine, is a very odd way to describe His personal return through a neuter adjective. So that’s what I would consider to be a fifth problem with the eschaton view.

And then let me take you to a sixth problem, and this is the part that I think is very important for the proper functioning of the church.  If you believe that tongues and their interpretation, prophecy and the gift of knowledge as revelatory gifts continue until the second coming of Christ, then what you have just created, without even being aware of it, is an open canon.  We believe that the canon of Scripture was shut in the first century.  But if someone can come into a church and give a prophecy or give a word of knowledge directly from the Lord, then you might as well take what they have said and you might as well add to  your Bible Revelation chapter 23.  We all know Revelation ends with chapter 22, so if someone comes in with a word of knowledge about something and they’re a direct conduit of God, as they claim, then I should be able to take their message, write it down and tuck it into my Bible as Revelation chapter 23.  That is the logical outcome of saying prophecy, knowledge, tongues and their interpretation are continuing on today and they will continue on today right up into the second coming of Jesus Christ.

And that, beloved, cannot be because the Bible is clear that the canon of Scripture is shut.  Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, he talks about prophecy, tongues, knowledge.                   [1 Corinthians 13:8-10, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part; [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”]

He says those things are going to continue right on into the coming of the perfect, which many people incorrectly believe is something related to the second coming of Christ, and if that’s true until the second coming of Christ comes then you can expect prophecy, tongues and their interpretation of tongues and knowledge to be just part of ordinary Christianity, basically meaning that the canon of Scripture is wide open.  And that is not how the New Testament portrays the closing of the New Testament canon, twenty-seven books, thirty-nine books already revealed.  And when John completed Revelation 22 and I think verse 21, isn’t it the last verse in chapter 22, when he got to verse 21 the canon was shut.  No open canon.

What does Jude 3 say?  Jude says that we ought to “contend earnestly for the faith” notice the definite article in front of the word “faith,” so he’s talking about a body of knowledge.  And then he specifically says, this faith “was” what? :once for all handed down to the saints.  [Jude 1:3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”]  In other words, the truth that God has wanted to disclose has been disclosed.  If it was continuing to be disclosed then He wouldn’t say truth was once and for all handed down.  See that?  So the canon is something that we would call shut. And when  you go to the very last chapter in the Book of Revelation there is a very solemn warning against either adding to or subtracting from these sixty-six books.

What does John write here.  He says, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him” WOW, “the plagues which are written in this book;” I don’t know if I even now what all of that means.  I know it isn’t good though.  And verse 19 says, “If anyone takes away from the words of this book of this prophecy God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city which are written in this book.”  And we could get into the nuances of what all that means and I don’t think we want to get into that particular discussion this morning. I just want to show you that the testimony of the Word of God is the canon of Scripture has been closed.  And God has revealed to us an all sufficient word, the canon is not only complete but it is absolutely sufficient for all matters of faith and practice.  And I’ll be explaining to you what the sufficiency of the Scripture means as we progress through the various weeks of this study.

But for the time being I’m just trying to get us to understand the logical implications of saying “the perfect” is the second coming.  If the perfect is the second coming that changes everything. That changes your definition of divine knowledge.  It changes your definition of how a church ought to function and operate, because if a “the perfect” is the second coming then you can fully expect prophecy, knowledge, tongues and their interpretation where people are revealing things on equal par with Scripture to continue right on up to the second coming of Christ, meaning that the canon of Scripture is not shut.  See this is why we need to think about this very, very carefully.  This is why in my opening remarks, when we started down this road a few Sundays back I said look, this is not a heaven or hell issue.  There’s lots of people I plan to share heaven with that may disagree with Sugar Land Bible Church on this subject.  However, even though it’s not a heaven or hell issue this is an important issue because if affects so many ways of Christian life and practice in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Now as a lot of you may know I’m not exactly what you would call John MacArthur’s poster boy.    I, from this pulpit, have been very critical of some of the teachings that have come forth from John MacArthur over the years, particularly on the subject of what’s called Lordship salvation.  If you want to know what Lordship salvation is I would encourage you to go back into our soteriology course, we taught fifty-eight lessons on this, (don’t you think fifty-eight is a pretty sizeable number) explaining what Lordship salvation basically is.  It’s a mixture of faith and works to be justified before God, which according to the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-9 is a heresy.  It’s an anathema to teach that.

[Galatians 1:6-9, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; [7] which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  [9] As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”]

And some of the MacArthurites, they come to our church because we teach verse by verse and John MacArthur teaches verse by verse, therefore Sugar Land Bible Church equals John MacArthur, are very disappointed to learn this.  We part ways with John MacArthur on this subject which is our right to do as an independent Bible Church.  Amen!  This is not a John MacArthur satellite campus.  We’ve had a lot of people come here and want to turn our church into that and that’s not who we are, that’s not our DNA, that’s not our genetics, it’s not in accord with out statements of faith because we don’t believe that his teaching on this is true.

However, that doesn’t mean I just throw out everything John MacArthur has ever said or written.  You have to have some maturity on this and I believe that John MacArthur wrote, what I would call an excellent book back in the 80’s, and you know it’s an excellent book because it [can’t understand word] against him a lot of antagonism.  So to me that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  He wrote a book called Charismatic Chaos, which I would encourage you to read with a warning that because his presentation of the gospel is inaccurate.  And on pages 66-84 of the edition that I used he documents how heresies have come into modern day evangelicalism through a mindset that says the canon of Scripture is open.

You can track major heresies coming into the church through a belief that says tongues and their interpretation, prophecy and knowledge are in full effect until the second coming of Jesus Christ.  One of the heresies he documents coming into evangelical Christianity, what we would call evangelical Christianity, very early on is a heresy called Montanism of the second century and he explains what that heresy is.   Another heresy is neo-orthodoxy, and one of the heresies is Roman Catholicism.  I mean why in the world are we here in a Protestant church and not worshipping down the street with Roman Catholics?  What are we doing?

Do we just want to do things our own way?  No, it has to do with the issue of the closed canon; that’s the issue.  We, as Protestants believe that our authority comes from these sixty-six books called the Bible.  The Roman Catholics do not believe that.  What they believe is the Pope speaks ex-cathedra which basically means from the chair.  So they will take the church traditions, the statements of the Popes, and they will put them equal with the Bible.  In fact, the Roman Catholics, very late in the sixteenth century, long after the apostles were dead, added the Apocrypha Books to the Bible. And so the reason that you’re on a different page with your Roman Catholic friends, and I would encourage you to have Roman Catholic friends because it’s a great way to evangelize.

But the reason you’re always talking past each other is because they’re operating from a different authority base than you are.  You’re operating from an authority base of sixty-six books; their authority base is bigger.  That’s why they believe things that you don’t believe.  And why is that?  Because they believe in an open canon; we do not.  See that.

And then, it’s interesting that John MacArthur talks about how Mormonism itself, now we’re getting outside of what we would call Christendom and the cults, how many cults started because somebody thought they had some kind of private revelation from God that’s on equal par with Scripture.  There was a man named Joseph Smith, very early in his lift thought he had a visitation from an angel named Moroni, and he believed that what that angel revealed to him, what that angel disclosed to him, which today we call the Doctrines of Mormonism, found in The Book of Mormon, The Pearl or Great Price, and The Doctrines and Covenants I think is what it’s called.  The Mormons, they’ve got this book, but they’ve got three other books.  And they believe those three other books supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith, which supposedly revealed Jesus North American appearances… did you guys know that, that Jesus showed up in this country a couple of hundred years ago, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago?  That’s what the Mormons believe.

It’s sort of interesting, they have at BYU University one of the greatest archeological departments academically on the face of the earth and they can’t find a shred of evidence for Jesus’ appearance in North America.  Now we go to the land of Israel, we go back to the first century and almost every time an archeologist puts his shovel into the dust you’ve got some sort of archeological remnant that appears that corroborates the stories of the Bible.  Isn’t that interesting?  But what is the deal with Mormons?  Well, the bottom line is they don’t believe like we do because their canon is open.  See that?  That’s why you’ve got to think very carefully about this issue of an open canon, because as John MacArthur, at least in this chapter, beautifully documents, and you can find all the footnotes and the history in this particular chapter, explains very, very well that the open canon introduces massive heresies, inside and outside the church.

Now I’m not saying that a closed canon person can’t introduce heresies either; a closed canon person can twist the Scripture.  But the opportunity to introduce wild teachings accelerates dramatically if you believe that this book is an open canon, because the teleion is the second advent and therefore, knowledge, prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues is alive and well.  I was sitting in a class in Dallas Seminary, the professor’s name was  Doug Cecil, and it was one of those classes where they had different professors do the teaching, and I only got to hear Dr. Cecil teach once and I don’t remember what he was talking about quite frankly, but I remember this comment; he says you guys better get this figured out before you leave this school, what you believe on this, because the issue is authority; that’s the issue.  The issue is whose authority, the whole debate about  modern revelation is an issue of who’s in charge and what the authority base is going to be.

At another school I had another professor, Dr. John Beck, who’s now with the Lord, and he recounted this story where it was a Bible church, like the one we’re in here, elder rule, and one of these elders allegedly started having these private revelations from God  and it’s interesting, when people have these private revelations from God, you look at Jack Deere who brought a lot of this into Dallas Seminary, he wrote a book called, I think it’s called Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.  I don’t know why this is but he’s always in Europe when he gets these visions and he’s out walking with his wife or his wife is out walking in Europe and she gets a vision and she tries to change his mind.  So I told my wife number one, you’re never going to Europe by yourself, [laughter] and if we take a walk we should go together, amen!

But one of these elders starts to get this idea that God is giving these private revelations.  Well what happens is that elder convinces all of the other elders, including the senior pastor, to acquiesce to this and once that is acquiesced then the elders say oh, we just had a revelation from God, pastor,  you’re not the pastor any more.  Well how can you argue with that?  If it’s from God and you just acquiesce it’s from God then what these private revelations are revealing are just as binding and authoritative as the Word of God.  What I’m trying to get at is heaven and hell issue—No, important issue—Yes, this becomes a big deal.

And not always but many, many times in my experience what I’ve discovered is this: the more a church opens itself up to private revelations, private visions, private dreams, the more this Book gets discarded.  Think about this for a minute.  Why would I want to read the old version that’s 2,000 years old, or 3,500 years old in the case of the Old Testament, why would I want to read that version when I can get version 2, the upgrade today.  I mean, why would I want to bind myself to an antiquated book when I can get the fresh new insights today from someone allegedly with the gift of prophecy.  See that.  And so this has an effect on how we do church and it has an effect on really, the authority and the sufficiency of the Word of God in our lives.  So a major problem in my mind with this open canon view with the eschaton view is it creates a scenario where the canon is wide open.  There’s no logical way to shut it down.

So that takes care of number one, why do I not think that the teleion is the second coming?  Number one, teleios never means perfection, ever!   Number two, teleios is never used of eschatological events anywhere else in the Bible.  Number three, you’re pitting against one another quality versus quantity which is very awkward.  Number four, the analogy of verse eleven becomes very, very difficult because Paul describes the transition from the imperfect to the perfect as something gradual taking place, the maturity of the child, and the eschatological events of the end times are like lightning that happens immediately.  That was number four.  Number five, teleion, at least in 1 Corinthians 13:10, is neuter, it’s not masculine which to me would be a very, very strange description of the personal return of Jesus Christ, which is so personal.  And really, my sixth problem with it is the open canon says it allows, and the implications of an open canon.

So that would take care of view number one, why I would not embrace it.  Now let me very briefly, I won’t be able to get into this but at least let me introduce view number two.  In fact, let me not introduce view number two because I only have six minutes left and I’ve been saying all this time I’m going to open the canon for questions… that’s supposed to be a joke by the way.   And so I haven’t been doing that and I’ve been derelict in my duties so we’ll get into view number two next week and we could spend the last six minutes or so asking questions.  If you ask a question I’m going to be answering down the road I’ll just make you aware of that.  Any thoughts, comments, questions.