Ecclesiology 48, 2 John 9-11
Let’s open with a word of prayer if we could. Father, we’re grateful for Your grace, we’re grateful for the fact that Your grace that saves us is the grace that sustains us. And I do ask for the enablement of Your Spirit as we try to teach Your Word today in Your church. Help us to have an attitude where our minds are fixed on You and the things You have for us rather than our own personal things which we’re easily distracted on those things but help us to focus today on You. And I pray You’ll be with us in the Sunday School hour and the worship service that follows and all the things that You would seek to accomplish today in Your church. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…Amen.
Let’s open our Bibles, if we could, to the Book of Romans, chapter 16 and verse 17. As you know we’ve been continuing on in our study on Ecclesiology. We’re sort of at the very end of this study where we’ve talked about ordinances, and we finished that up last week, and then we started the whole subject of purity, Roman numeral XII, Purity. And here we’re not talking about positional purity, that’s something that we already have at the point of faith alone in Christ alone. But really what we’re dealing with here is practical purity, allowing our practice to catch up to our position.
And the church has a difficult calling of representing God in a world that’s fallen, in Satan’s domain, and so the issue becomes well, how do we keep ourselves not positionally pure, we already have that, but how does the church maintain its practical purity. And the reality of the situation is the Lord, when you look at all of the biblical verses in the Bible relating to the church the Lord has given the church two tools that are of a practical nature that allow it to maintain practical purity in a fallen world, and you hardly hear about these spoken of today, in most places, yet when you look into the Bible they’re clearly there.
One is ecclesiastical separation and the other is church discipline. So what we’re doing today is we’re trying to finish up the first of the two, ecclesiastical separation. And in a culture, and the culture to a large extent invades the church, and a culture that’s promoting unity at all costs. What you find in God’s Word is there comes a point in time when church bodies need to separate themselves from some sort of alliance with other bodies, like in a denomination for example, or in a feeding seminary, a seminary that feeds your pulpits, etc. when those other groups kind of veer off the path. So what happens if you’re in a denomination that wants to ordain homosexuals or gets into the whole gender surrender movement, the transgender movement and all these kind of things? And they start talking about kind of socialistic causes all of the time from the pulpit. You know, universal health care, redistribution of the wealth, whatever it is, what do you do if you find yourself with that kind of group? Well, I think there’s a biblical case for separation.
So why separate? Number one, I think we covered this last time, separation is not hatred, you’re not saying you’re hating people when you separate but it’s sort of necessary to maintain your walk and witness in the world. Number two, if you don’t separate and the church starts to look exactly like the world then it gives the world a false sense of security. So the person that’s in the world will just say well, what’s the harm of me being in the world, the representatives of God down the street are just as worldly as I am and they don’t see their need to trust in Christ for salvation. And beyond that, and I tried to show you this last time with the story of Lot in the Old Testament, who is an example of a backslidden Christian in the Old Testament sense of the word. A good sermon title is Are you a lot like Lot. You see, when Lot, a believer became just like his environment around him, he lost his distinctiveness and his power and he lost his prophetic voice to those around him because his lifestyle was just like theirs. So that’s letter A there, why separate. And what we were working on last time, before we adjourned, was is this really a biblical idea; I mean, is biblical separation under certain circumstances really something that the Bible talks about.
So what I was doing is I was giving you a number of passages, church age passages from the epistles so these are directly binding on the church today, where it’s very clear that there’s a case for biblical separation. Last time (if I remember right) we had already looked at 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and verse 14. We’ve looked at 1 Corinthians 5:11. We looked at a very important passage, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 which says, “Do not be unequally yoked.”
And then I think we need to pick it up here with Romans chapter 16 and verse 17. Notice what Paul says. “Now I urge you, brethren,” so obviously he’s speaking to believers, “to keep your eye on those who cause dissentions and hindrances,” now why would people be causing “dissentions and hindrances” in a church at Rome? Because they are teaching things, quoting here from verse 17, “contrary to the teaching which you have learned.” So there were people coming into Rome and they were teaching all kinds of concepts and ideas that were different than what the Apostle Paul had taught them. And you actually see this happening very early in Paul’s ministry. Paul, as revealed in the Book of Galatians and the Book of Acts had evangelized the various region of southern Galatia and planted churches there and no sooner had Paul gotten back from that missionary journey there to Antioch towards the northern tip of Israel, legalists had come in and were teaching sort of a salvation by works idea.
And then also very early on in Paul’s ministry, in his letter to the Thessalonians, particularly 2 Thessalonians 2, around verse 1 and 2 basically what was happening is Paul had taught the Thessalonians that they were going to escape the tribulation period through the rapture and lo and behold a forged letter shows up after Paul had left, allegedly coming from Paul, teaching something exactly the opposite, that they were in the tribulation period itself. So Paul is constantly dealing with people who are challenging the things that God has given him as an apostle to teach His authoritative doctrine. And he’s dealing with how you deal with those situations.
So it says there in verse 17, “Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,” and then it says very clearly, “and turn away from them.” So you don’t give them a pulpit, you don’t give them a platform, you don’t let them set up some kind of ministry table in your lobby, you don’t allow them to post whatever they want on your church website or Facebook page. Basically he says you mark them, you keep an eye on them and the first chance you get you turn away from them. That’s ecclesiastical separation.
Notice, if you will, the Book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 11, another example of separation. Notice what Paul says, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” So if you’re yoked to some group that’s all of a sudden drifting off the path in terms of Biblicism you don’t hang around them to the point where you are some sort of co-laborer with them as a participant, you don’t participate with them because their deeds are “unfruitful” and they’re “of darkness.” But rather, what you ought to do is to turn the searchlight of truth on them and expose them for what they are through the light of God’s Word. So once again you see here this idea of not participating or co-laboring with people that hold to contrary doctrines.
I’m just giving you these passages very fast just to show you how prominent this idea of ecclesiastical separation is in the Bible. If you go over to Titus, which is a pastoral letter, so it’s specifically dealing with issues taking place in churches, in this case on the island of Crete. Notice what Paul says there. “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. “ [Titus 3:9] What he’s saying in verse 9 is don’t get yourself involved with a bunch of arguing about things that the Bible really hasn’t spoken on clearly anyway. That’s just a waste of your time.
Then he says, verse 10, “Reject a factious man,” now that’s someone that’s trying to bring a split into a church by debating about some kind of speculative matter. “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,  knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. [Titus 3:10-11] And I’ll come back to this a little bit later but you might want to underline the word “factious” in verse 10. It’s the word in Greek hairetikon, anybody know what word we get from hairetikon? What does it sound like? It sounds like the word heretic, doesn’t it. So people throw around this word heretic and heresy all of the time but what is a heretic? A heretic is somebody who wants to come into a body and bring division by teaching something not found in Scripture. So you don’t buddy up with such a person. Notice there’s a grace period, you give them a first warning, a second warning and then after that if they won’t listen they’re obviously addicted to a perverted way of thinking and they’re self-condemned and you reject such a person, see that? Ecclesiastical separation.
One of the clearest passages on this is in 2 John verses 9-11, there’s only one chapter there in 2 John, just like there’s only one chapter in 3 John. So these are very small books towards the end of our Bible but it’s amazing how John, the love apostle, you know John probably speaks about the love of God more than anybody else. It’s interesting how John the love apostle also talks about this whole idea of ecclesiastical separation.
Notice what he says there, I’m actually going to begin at verse 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world,” now that’s something worth noting, there’s not a few deceivers out there, it seems like there’s an abundance of them. From where I sit it seems like they’re increasing.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. [2 John 1:7]
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world” well, who’s a deceiver? “those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” So this is basically an early form of Gnosticism, the early Gnostics taught that the physical world is evil and the spiritual world is good, which obviously can’t work biblically because God created everything in six days, which involves the physical world. And what did He say after the six days of creation? Genesis 1:31, He didn’t even say it was good, He said it was what? Very good. [Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”] So the physical world in and of itself is not evil. It’s certainly under a curse but it’s not in and of itself evil. It’s not the world as God intended it but it’s certainly not in and of itself evil just because its physical.
And basically if you believe that the physical world is bad you start getting all kinds of strange doctrines taught. I believe this is largely the source of amillennialism; amillennialism really you can track it to Northern Africa or the school there in Egypt, Alexandria, Egypt. Antioch up north was the literal school, Alexandria, down south was the allegorical school interpreting the Bible allegorically. And one of the things that came out of there was the spiritualizing method of interpretation, meaning the Bible wasn’t literally true in certain areas. And one of the doctrines that came out of that is amillennialism. Amillennialism is the idea that there will be no future kingdom of God on the earth. Why is that? Because we’re in the kingdom now, so they took all of those prophecies about Israel and the land, Jesus reigning from David’s throne in Jerusalem and they started to allegorize those.
So if you think that the physical world is bad it starts to mess up your eschatology and it also starts to mess up your Christology or your doctrine of Christ because if the physical world is bad then how in the world could Jesus have come in a physical body? See that! And what developed from that is what’s called Docetism, from the Greek word dokeō, which means to seem or appear. So they started to teach things like well, Jesus really didn’t have a body, it just seemed like He had a body. And that’s why when you go through 1 John there’s so much information about the antichrist’s that are coming will deny that Jesus has come in a body.
In fact, if you back up and you go back just one book and you look at verse 3 of chapter 4, it says, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” [1 John 4:3] And then if you go back to verse 2 of 1 John chapter 4, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;” [1 John 4:2] And then if you look at verse 1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” But you’ll notice it says there in verse 3, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, that is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
And then I John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, you have overcome them because greater is He that’s in you than he that’s in the world.” So those are the antichrist’s that John is talking about and that’s why there’s so much information in John’s Gospel about physically touching Jesus. That’s why he records the story of Thomas, post resurrection, physical touching Jesus because a lot of people were running around saying the physical world is bad and if the physical world is bad not only can there not be a future kingdom but Jesus could not have come in the flesh. So that’s who John is talking about here in verse 7.
So going back to 2 John 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus as coming in the flesh.” That’s what he’s dealing with. “This is the deceiver and the antichrist.  Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” So allowing false teachers into the church circumvents your growth in Christ and it doesn’t disqualify you from salvation which you already have, but it can disqualify you from running your face effectively and not receiving a full reward from God at the Bema Seat Judgment.
Verse 9, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine,” notice what it says there in verse 10, “do not receive him into your house,” now why would it say that? I mean does that mean not if but when the Jehovah’s Witnesses show up I can’t invite them into the house for a glass of lemonade on a hot day in Texas? Is that what it’s saying? No! Where did the early church meet? In houses, so you don’t have chapels and cathedrals and stained glass windows and all of the things that we’re accustomed to in the 20th and 21st century.
When he says “do not receive them into your house” he’s not talking about a lack of hospitality when the Jehovah’s Witnesses show up, we should demonstrate love towards those people. What he’s saying is don’t give them the pulpit in the church. That’s what he’s saying. “…do not receive them into your house.” Don’t let them teach Sunday School, don’t let them set up their ministry tables in your church. Don’t let them post whatever they want on your Facebook page. Don’t let them have access to your e-mail addresses and send out to the church a church wide announcement about the Jehovah’s Witnesses are meeting down the street. And then he says, “and do not give him a greeting;” and then it says, this, now this is very important, verse 11, “for the one who gives him a greeting” does what? “participates in his evil deeds.” I don’t think it’s saying don’t be loving or don’t have basic manners. What it’s saying is don’t do anything to contribute to their ministry (A) financially, (B) giving them some sort of venue in a local church, because when you do that you become a partner with them in their evil deeds. See that.
So this is John, the love apostle, also talking about ecclesiastical separation. So it’s interesting that the Bible does talk about love quite a bit but the biblical love is not sort of an open-mindedness. You know, some people are so open-minded their brain actually leaks out of their head. That’s not biblical love. Some people are kind of wrapped up in this syrupy sentimentality to the point where they’re completely undiscerning about truth. So there’s a balancing act here, you don’t want to be rude to people but at the same time you don’t want to give them some kind of platform. And you also certainly do not want to give them some kind of support which allows them to do their ministry in a wider scale.
And it’s sort of interesting to me to contrast what John says here with what Paul, the apostle, wrote about financial support for his own ministry. Over in the Book of Philippians, chapter 1 verse 5, Paul says, “in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” So you’ll notice that Paul acknowledged that the Philippians had participated in his ministry and here, 2 John, is talking about not participating in someone’s “ministry,” “ministry” there in quotes because it’s really not a ministry, it’s a false teaching, if they do not abide by apostolic teaching at least concerning the incarnation of Jesus Christ which the Gnostics were denying.
So how do you participate in a ministry. I mean, why would Paul say to the Philippians say, in view of your participation with me in the gospel, I mean what were they actually doing to participate in the ministry of Paul. Well, what they were doing is they were giving him financial support. And you see that over in Philippians 4, same book, verses 15-17 where Paul essentially explains how they were participating. [Philippians 4:15-] “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;” chapter 4, verse 16, “for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” That’s finances. Verse 17, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”
So here he is acknowledging that the Philippians were participating in his ministry, chapter 1. How are they doing that? They were helping him financially, chapter 4. So when you give money to a ministry you’re not giving to that ministry, you’re giving through that ministry and you become a participant, a co-laborer, a partner in that ministry. And of course that’s a good thing to do as long as you have a ministry that’s on track. But what do you do in a situation where the ministry runs off the rail and starts to deny apostolic authority and teaching and become unbiblical? Then you have to factor in what 2 John 11 says, “for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” So if I’m writing checks to a ministry that’s running off the rails doctrinally, then I am participating in their evil deeds, just as if I were writing checks to a ministry that’s doing God’s work following biblical truth. See that? So if you give money to a good ministry you’re a participant. If you give money to a bad ministry, a false teaching ministry, then you’re a participant as well.
So what is the Bible saying? The Bible is basically saying look, you get behind financially ministries that are following what the Bible says and ministries that aren’t following what the Bible says, first of all they’re not even ministries any more but secondly you cut them off financially. That’s not my opinion, this is what the love apostle is saying here in 2 John 9-11. [2 John 9-11, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;  for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”]
So the bottom line to the whole thing is when you put all of these Scriptures together, and there may be others that I haven’t even thought of, you see a very clear case for ecclesiastical separation. I mean, there is a point in time in which you have to remove yourself, your presence, your membership and the money that God has entrusted to you from certain people. Although it’s a biblical responsibility for the disciples of Christ to support ministries that are doing God’s work there’s a biblical place to cut other ministries off. See that? And it’s not non-loving to do that, it’s following what the Scripture says. And if the church won’t do that what’s going to happen? It’s going to be sucked into all kinds of partnerships that God has not called the church into. And what’s going to happen is those partnerships are going to negatively affect you more than you are positively affecting them.
And so that’s how the church keeps itself pure in a world that’s constantly losing ground and in a Christian community that’s constantly becoming more and more apostate. You have to start becoming very discerning who you’re going to support with your presence and your dollars. It’s sort of like investing in a stock, if you’re going to invest in a stock you would want to know everything you could about the company you’re investing in. Right? You would want to see financial reports, you would want to see a portfolio and all of these kinds of things because you don’t just throw money at something that is not going to earn for your investment a good return on that investment. Well if that’s true in the natural world it should be more true in the spiritual world, shouldn’t it. I mean, before you support anything you need to figure out who are these people, what are they teaching, what is their doctrinal statement like, what kinds of things have they written, what are some of the criticisms that have come against them, (A) are those criticisms fair or (B) are those criticism unfair.
In other words, you’re using your mind and you’re a careful investor of the Lord’s money that He has given you because you want a good return on your investment. You want your money actually to be fruitful for God’s purposes. Well, it’s not going to be fruitful for God’s purposes if you’re giving it to the wrong source. If you’re giving it to the Gnostics it’s not going to be very fruitful but if you’re giving it to people like Paul or those who try to imitate his pattern then you’re going to have a great return on your investment, ecclesiastical separation.
Now one of the things that’s happening in our day that I wanted to bring up is this whole issue of interfaith dialogue, where you get together with Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and you sort of have a debate about who’s right and who’s wrong kind of thing. And what I’ve started to notice is that more and more of these debates, while they may have their place, they’re starting to take place within the confines of the church. One very well-known one happened in Tennessee between James White, a Reformed theologian, and Yasser Khadi who is an Islamic imam, he’s actually connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and you’ll notice how this event was described, it was “Beyond Debate.” So this wasn’t even a debate and both sides agreed not to counter each other. And the title of this was A Friendly Dialogue Between Christians and Muslims. Now if you want to have that over at Starbucks or the hotel ballroom, if you want to spend your time… frankly I don’t see a lot of fruit that comes out of these kinds of things, but some people are really into this kind of stuff.
Go over to Starbucks, go to a hotel ball room, go to some neutral site and go ahead and have your dialogue. The problem here is this particular one took place within a church; this was in front of the assembled saints of God and because the title of this was Beyond Debate, and you can watch this whole thing if you want to on You Tube, it’s all over the place, it was a big deal not last summer but the prior summer. The problem with having this idea Beyond Debate in a church before the assembled saints of God means that the Muslims could get in front of God’s people and say whatever he wanted. In fact, part of that debate involved Yasser Khadi saying to everybody Jesus did not die on the cross, because as you probably know from Islam Jesus did not die on the cross according to their view, that was just an imposter that died on the cross.
So here he is, Yasser Khadi in front of the assembled saints of God on a stage just like this espousing all of this heresy in front of the assembled saints of God. And James White, the Christian, sat there like a potted plant and didn’t refute anything Yasser Khadi said. Why? Because they agreed to these rules beforehand beyond debate. And what’s disturbing about this trend is this is not happening at some neutral site, this is happening in a church. See that? And this is how a lot of false teaching, I believe, is coming into the church under the guise or the Trojan Horse of interfaith dialogue. And I believe that this should have never happened on the basis of 2 John verses 9-11 and many other passages that we’ve referenced.
And in fact, I found this tremendous quote, it was floating around on the internet and the quote was so good I didn’t believe it was true, I thought it was fake news, and so I actually went and purchased the book and looked it up and there it was, a wonderful quote on this by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a Reformed theologian in London, I think he followed the church that he was in was once pastored by G. Campbell Morgan. So in his time he was sort of a giant in the Christian world. And in one of his books, Knowing the Times, and he wrote this all the way back in 1989, not that long ago, but a few decades back. He makes a statement that’s almost prescient in terms of this mindset of the interface dialogue, and I want to just share this quote with you.
He says, “To regard a church, or a council of churches, as a forum in which fundamental matters can be debated and discussed, or as an opportunity for witness” and see this is how all this inter faith dialogue is coming in, it’s like oh, we’re getting a chance to witness to the Muslims. Well no you’re not, when you agree to rules where you can’t refute what they’re saying what you’re doing is you’re giving them a pulpit to teach their perverted doctrines in God’s church.
“To regard a church, or a council of churches, as a forum in which fundamental matters can be debated and discussed, or as an opportunity for witness” bearing, is sheer confusion and muddled thinking.’ He says, “There is to be no discussion about ‘the foundation’, as we have seen. If men do not accept that, they are not brethren and we can have no dialogue with them.” What verses do you think he’s talking about? 2 John 9-11. [2 John 9-11, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;  for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” I guarantee that’s what in his mind here.
“We are to preach to such and to evangelize them. Discussion takes place among the brethren who share the same life and subscribe to the same essential truths. It is right and good that brethren should discuss together matters which are not essential to salvation and about which there is, and always has been, and always will be, legitimate differences of opinion.” There are some things within the body of Christ that are open to discussion. “We can do no better at that point than quote the old adage, ‘In things essential, unity, in things indifferent liberty, in all things charity.’”
[“They are to be regarded as unbelievers and need to be called to repentance and acceptance of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. To give the impression that they are Christians with whom other Christians disagree about certain matters is to confuse the genuine seeker and enquirer who is outside. But such is the position prevailing today. It is based upon a failure to understand the nature of the New Testament church which is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). In the same way it is a sheer waste of time to discuss or debate the implications of Christianity with people who are not agreed as to what Christianity is. Failure to realize this constitutes the very essence of the modern confusion.”]
But then he goes on and he says, “Before there can be any real discussion and dialogue and exchange there must be agreement concerning primary and fundamental matters.” There is no such agreement between Christians and Muslims. I mean, Christianity and Islam are teaching two different things completely right down to who it exactly was that died on the cross. Not exactly a tangential issue in Christendom.
“Without the acceptance of certain axioms and propositions in geometry,” see, I like this because he’s a medical doctor, that was his training so he uses this example. “Without the acceptance of certain axioms and propositions in geometry for example, it is idle to attempt to solve any problem.” I mean, how do you get down to business and solve algebra problems and geometry problems unless everybody agrees on the rules of algebra and geometry, which are not open to this view. I mean, if you’re going to sit around and argue about one of the fundamentals of geometry and algebra with a bunch of people that disagree on the fundamentals you aren’t going to solve any problem. See that. But this is what this interfaith dialogue mentality wants to do, it wants to act like everything is up in the air and open for discussion. And the Muslims are smart enough to use this as a vehicle to teach their doctrines in the Christian church, interfaith dialogue! And it’s an issue that’s not going away, I can guarantee it.
“If certain people refuse to accept the axioms, and are constantly querying and disputing them, clearly there is no point of contact between them and those who do accept them. It is precisely the same in the realm of the church. Those who question and query, let alone deny, the great cardinal truths that have been accepted throughout the centuries do not belong to the church, and to regard them as brethren is to betray the truth. As we have already reminded ourselves, the apostle Paul tells us clearly what our attitude to them should be:” oh my goodness, we quoted that verse earlier didn’t we, Titus 3:10, look at that, “‘A man that is a heretic” that’s what the word fascist means in Greek in verse 10 of chapter 3 of Titus, “‘A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject’ (Titus 3:10).”
He goes on and he says, “They are” outsiders, “to be regarded as unbelievers and need to be called to repentance and acceptance of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.” I mean, is this what Jesus told us to do, “Go into all the world and dialogue,” I mean today everybody is dialoguing with everybody. We’re not in the dialogue business, we are in the proclaiming business. We have already decided what the Bible says and we are to go out and we are to proclaim that to an unbeliever.
“To give the impression that they” that’s your dialogue partners, “are Christians with whom other Christians disagree about certain matters is to confuse the genuine seeker and enquirer who is outside.” Now what’s an unbeliever supposed to think when a Muslim is allowed to propagate and propagandize in a Christian church. Think of the confusion it throws them into.
“But such is the position prevailing today.” Remember, he said this is 1989. “It is based upon a failure to understand the nature of the New Testament church which is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’” (1 Timothy 3:15).” See that? That’s what the church is, and when we were going through word pictures of the church early on in our ecclesiology series we looked at that verse. The church “is the ‘pillar and the foundation of the truth. It is not some sort of debating society.
“In the same way it is a sheer waste of time to discuss or debate the implications of Christianity with people who are not agreed as to what Christianity is.” It’s like trying to figure out, as I mentioned before, geometry and algebra with someone who doesn’t even agree with you on what the rules of algebra and geometry are. “Failure to realize this constitutes the very essence of the modern confusion.” [Knowing the Times (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989; reprint, 2001), 161-62.]
I believe James White pushed that whole thing into high gear by agreeing to this ridiculous situation with Yasser Khadi. James White, interestingly enough is a very capable debater. You know, James White wanted to even refute this guy in a church, I personally here at Sugar Land Bible Church would never host that kind of thing but I could sort of see what he’s trying to do because this, as the title says, was beyond debate; in fact, it wasn’t even a debate, it’s a friendly dialogue, which means the Muslims could stand up in front of the assembled saints of God in God’s church and propagate all sorts of heresy and James White sits there like a potted plant and doesn’t say a single word in refutation. And if you can put your ear to the ground you can hear the late Martin Lloyd Jones rolling over in his grave because this is exactly what he warned about all the way back, a few decades back, in 1989.
And see, this is why we’re having to think about this whole issue of ecclesiastical separation because what is happening is the rubric of interfaith dialogue is being used to teach false doctrines in the church. That’s why I’m bringing it up. So why separate? Because the church loses its power if you don’t. Is there a biblical basis for separation? I showed you multiple verses on that.
So this leads to number 3 or letter C, what exactly do you separate from? Well the first thing you have to separate yourself from as a church is false doctrine. If you take a look, for example, at 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul is instructing Timothy, a pastor, and he says, “Pay close attention to” the offering numbers… NO, he doesn’t say that, “Pay close attention to how many people you could cram into the building,” he doesn’t say that, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
So the first thing he tells them to pay attention to is your teaching, your doctrine. I mean, Paul says is young Timothy in line with what I’ve taught you as given me by God or not? Now Paul wrote (as you know) thirteen New Testament letters so we have to constantly ask ourselves are the things talked about in this church consistent with God’s revealed truth. That is supposed to be the preoccupation of a pastor. And this needs to be said because everybody kind of has a different definition of what a pastor is and should be doing. You know, a lot of people look at a pastor as sort of a cruise director… we’re going to have shuffleboard on the Leo deck, do a bunch of activities, keep everybody moving. Not that activities in and of themselves are wrong but the primary preoccupation of a pastor is doctrine. That’s what He says to Timothy here.
Take a look if you could at Titus 1:9, what should an elder be able to do to be qualified as an elder. It says in Titus 1:9, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching,” now when you see teaching, now when you see “teaching” here the Greek word is the Greek word is didachē, teaching or doctrine. What taught doctrine? Paul’s doctrine that he got from who? He got from God. “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine” see, you have to have the ability to exhort people in the truth, but look at this, “and to refute those who contradict.” Would that not include a Muslim who is propagandizing the fact that Jesus didn’t die on a cross in your church before the assembled saints of God? Of course it would. And if an elder won’t do that or if an elder can’t do that then an elder has no business calling himself an elder. It’s the priority of doctrine.
So the first thing you separate yourself from in terms of ecclesiastical separation is you have to separate yourself from false doctrine. Well, what doctrine should you keep an eye on? I would say at least these ten, and believe me, this is a very short list here. This should be dramatically expanded. And you’ll notice that in the Sugar Land Bible Church statement of faith, which we ask people to sign on to in terms of agreement if they want to become a member of this church there are certain doctrines that we are asking people before they request membership that they hold to. You’ll see it all in our constitution. The constitution is right there on our website.
And then there’s another part of our constitution which has our position statement which tightens things up even more. And there’s about seven position statements there and these are thing that will be taught from the pulpit. In other words, when anybody teaches at Sugar Land Bible Church, whether it’s in a Sunday School class, whether it’s from the pulpit, whether it’s in written form, it will embrace these seven concepts or ideas that we call position statements. We are not hiding the ball from anybody; the statements of faith are there for you to examine, position statements are there as well. So we at Sugar Land Bible Church have made a decision to separate even from those who don’t hold to those position statements
- Creation/fall – Rom. 5:14
- Inspiration/inerrancy of the Scripture – Matt. 5:18; John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21
- Salvation by faith alone
- Eternal existence of heaven/hell – Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46
- Virgin birth of Christ
- Deity of Christ
- Atoning death of Christ – Isa. 53:3-6; 1 Pet. 2:24
- Bodily Resurrection of Christ – John 20:27-28; 1 Cor. 15:14
- Bodily Second Advent of Christ – Job 19:25; Zech. 14:4; Acts 1:9-11.
So we at Sugar Land Bible Church have made a decision to separate even from those who don’t hold to those position statements or statements of faith. But at a bare minimum any church… ANY church should separate ecclesiastically from people who deny, just like there are fundamentals of geometry there are fundamentals of the faith. Without these things you don’t have Christianity. So let’s go through this list if we could of ten.
Number 1, anybody that starts to play games with literal Creation and fall, the fall of man, literal creation, Genesis 1 and 2, the fall of man, Genesis 3, you separate yourself from them. Why is that? Because if you don’t understand creation and fall you don’t understand God’s answer, which is Jesus. The answer makes no sense to someone that won’t embrace creation, what God intended, and fall, how it got marred. In fact, Jesus is called, Romans 5:14, at least He’s alluded to this way, as “the last Adam.” I’m not sure if he’s called that there but the concept is there. [Romans 5:14, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”] In other words, Adam is a pattern of the One to come. When you go to Luke 3:23-38 you’re going to see a genealogy there, Christ’s genealogy linking Jesus back to Adam.
[Luke 3:23-38, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,  the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,  the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai,  the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,  the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,  the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,  the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,  the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,  the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,  the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,  the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,  the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah,  the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,  the son of MethuSelah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,  the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”]
If Adam was not a historical figure, and a lot of people today, even within the church, are starting to challenge that point, if Adam was not a historical figure then it is just a matter of time before you start saying Jesus was not a historical figure, because they are linked together in one unbroken chain in genealogy. So if you mess around with creation and fall, separation.
The second fundamental of the faith is the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scripture. What does it mean inspired? It means the original writers of Scripture as they wrote were being carried along by God. “All Scripture is inspired by God,” notice the word ”all” there, not some of it, all of it. [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”]
And Peter, in 2 Peter 1:20-21 analogizes this process of inspiration to wind that fills up a boat’s sails and consequently propels the boat. [2 Peter 1:20-21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”]
In fact, if you study that passage, and we don’t have time to look at it, 2 Peter 1:20-21, the Greek verb phérō there as God carried along the writers of Scripture is the same word used to describe wind in the Book of Acts, chapter 27 verse 15 and verse 17. [Acts 27:15, “and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.”  After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.”]
And just as that wind pushed that boat along the Holy Spirit carried along the writers of Scripture, respecting their individual gifts and temperaments and writing styles but somehow carried them along in such a way that those individuals recorded God’s book, God’s Word. That’s what we mean by inspiration. And because God carried them along the book itself can’t have errors in it. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth, Thy word is” what? “truth.” [John 17:17] The truth goes down to every word, this process of inspiration, Matthew 4:4,”It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” And it also goes down to the smallest, Matthew 5:18, letters or strokes of the pen. [Matthew 5:18, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”]
When the original writers of Scripture wrote their original manuscripts the teaching of inspiration and 100% error free content is guaranteed to the smallest strokes of the pen which make up the letters, and to the letters themselves, which make up the words, and to the words themselves which make up the sentences, and to the sentences themselves that make up the paragraphs and to the paragraphs themselves that make up the chapters, and to the chapters themselves which make up the books. And then you have all sixty-six of these books and we look at the Bible that way.
So if you want some technical verbiage for this we believe in plenary… what does that mean? Full! Why full? Because Timothy said “all Scripture is inspired.” So we believe in full and complete, inerrant, inspired Word of God. So we believe in verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy. We don’t believe the Bible is true in some areas but not in others; we believe in plenary inerrancy and inspiration. We don’t believe the Bible is just a book of big ideas, because you can’t have an idea without words, just like you can’t have music without what? Notes. A lot of people have this mentality, well, I just like the big themes of the Bible. Well where do those themes come from? They come from words and the words come from letters and the letters come from the smallest strokes of the pen.
So we believe in what’s called verbal, right down to the words themselves in the letters themselves, plenary, which means complete, inerrancy, even when the Bible is commenting on physical things, science, art, archeology, geography, and spiritual things also… verbal plenary inerrancy and inspiration. And if you find yourself in a group that does not acknowledge that or embrace that you have to disassociate from them because you’re denying the source from which Christianity comes.
What else do you separate from? You separate from people who deny that salvation is by faith alone. Well Andy, isn’t John MacArthur great? I mean, I hear John MacArthur all the time, on different media outlets, and he’s so fundamental in this area and that area and look at all the books he’s written and look at all of these people that are following him, and I like the way he talks, he talks with authority. I mean, isn’t Sugar Land Bible Church going to be sort of a beachhead for John MacArthur? And the answer to that is no. Why? Because John MacArthur has a lot of good things to say on a lot of areas but he’s wrong here on number three. John MacArthur… and I’m not afraid to say this, denies salvation by faith alone. He will pay lip service to one side of his mouth and deny it on the other side of his mouth.
You say well how do you know that? It’s in his books. “Eternal life is indeed” he says, “a free gift” great, I should stop reading, right? No, read the fine print, he goes on and he says, “Salvation cannot be earned with good deeds or purchased with money.” I’m on board with that. “It has already been bought by Christ, who paid the ransom with His blood.” I’m on board with that. “But” oh-oh, what’s there to “but” here? “But that does not mean there is no cost in terms of salvation’s impact on the sinner’s life.” Oh no! “This paradox may be difficult but it is nevertheless true:” Look at this, “salvation is both free and costly.” You can’t have both, that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? It’s like saying white black top. If salvation is free you can’t turn around and tell someone it’s going to cost them.
“… salvation is both free and costly Eternal life brings immediate death to self. ‘Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, [that we should no longer be slaves to sin’ (Rom 6:6).] Thus in a sense we pay the ultimate price for salvation when our sinful self is nailed to a cross. It is a total abandonment of self-will, like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that it can bear much fruit (cf. John 12:24). It is an exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is. And it denotes implicit obedience, full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Nothing less can qualify as saving faith.” [The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140]
What has he just done here? He has intermingled the steps for a believer to become a disciple with the free offer of salvation which allows the lost sinner to enter in in the first place. And because he doesn’t separate them what he just did there in that quote is he just taught works justification.
MacArthur also says, “Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith He demands involves unconditional surrender…He does not bestow eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him.” [Faith Works, p. 25]
John MacArthur in a sermon transcript, and these are all posted on his website, says: “Self- discipline comes when you look back to the covenant of your salvation…that is to say when you remember that at the point of your salvation you made a promise to submit to the Lord. You made a pledge at that time to be obedient to Christ.” Now folks, if a Mormon had said this everybody would say that’s works salvation. But because it’s coming from someone within the camp people, for whatever reason, are unable to recognize this for what it is. We don’t make any pledge to Christ at the time of salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave,” God makes the pledge, God bore the cost, your responsibility is to receive; God gave, we receive. This is not some kind of deal where I’m across the desk from God making a business deal and God says well, I’ll do My part if you do your part. And I say to God well, okay, I’ll do my part if You do Your part and we reach hands across the desk and we shake hands and we say we’ve got a deal. If that’s what you think salvation is, quite frankly you many have never experienced salvation yourself, because you never enter into a relationship with God by doing anything other than believing what He has done in our place. You don’t find that at all in MacArthur’s teaching.
It says, “You confessed Him as Lord…And Lord means that He is above all. It’s essential then as believers to remember that we made a covenant of obedience when we confessed Jesus as Lord.” You didn’t make any covenant. In fact, if you made a covenant with God, God doesn’t care about your covenant. What He cares about is you receiving what He’s done for you as a gift, by way of faith. “We were saved unto obedience which God had before ordained that we should walk…” now pay attention to the sermon today because I’m going to deal with that concept, “and obedience characterized by good works…and obedience to God’s Word.” Is that how we got into this whole thing with God, I’m going to do this for You, I’m going to do that for You? And therefore You’re obligated to do something for me. That’s not Christianity. That’s not biblical salvation. He says, “That pledge was inherent in salvation.” No it was not. “God at the time you came to Him for salvation promised you forgiveness and eternal life and all the grace necessary to fulfill His will, and the Holy Spirit, and you” what did I do? I “pledged obedience. And you need to go back and remember that and have the integrity” see, it’s my fault that I’ve been graced, I don’t have enough integrity to remember my promise to God. “… you need to go back and remember that and have the integrity to be faithful to your original promise…” [Transcription of The Art of Self-Discipline, part 2, www.gty.org]
What original promise? The promise I originally made to God allegedly at the point of salvation. Now John MacArthur can be right on 99% of everything else but he got this one completely wrong and so that’s why we do not consider Sugar Land Bible Church to be some kind of John MacArthur satellite campus, because you can read his books and find some good stuff in it but interlaced with all this stuff is this kind of works oriented salvation. I’ve done teachings on this before, if you go back to our Soteriology series, The Seven Problems with Lordship Salvation. Lordship salvation is something that denies one of the most basic fundamental essentials of Christianity without which there is no Christianity, which is salvation by faith alone and by grace alone. So clearly you have to separate from people that will not embrace that reality.
We’ll have plenty of time for Q and A and I’ll try to finish this list next time. Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your Word, we’re grateful for the tools that You have given us for living in Your Word in a practical pragmatic way to keep ourselves pure. And I ask that in a culture that is all about inclusivism that we would pay attention to these passages that tell us in certain circumstances ecclesiastical separation is appropriate. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said…. Amen.