Ecclesiology 49, Romans 16:17
We’re grateful for today , grateful for this morning, grateful for the cool weather, grateful for physical life, and beyond that we’re grateful for the spiritual life that You’ve given us in Your Son, Jesus. And as children of life and light You have given us truth and so I just ask, Father, that You would make us good stewards of truth today, not just only in the study and proclamation but also in application to our personal lives. And we just invite the Holy Spirit to do a personal work in each of us as the Word of God today is taught in Your church. And 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!
All right, well good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Romans, chapter 16 and verse 17, as we’re continuing on, believe it or not, towards the tail end of our study on Ecclesiology or the doctrine of the church. And we’re in a section of the doctrine of the church called the purity of the church. In other words, how in the world is the church, God’s people, supposed to keep itself practically pure living in the devil’s world or in a fallen world.
And so what you’ll discover every time man has a problem God has a solution. And of course here we’re not talking about positional purity, the church already has that, we’re talking about practical purity, daily purity. So how can the church keep itself clean in an unclean world? Well, the Holy Spirit has given to the church two doctrines that hardly are ever spoken of in modern day evangelicalism but they’re very important none the less. They are ecclesiastical separation and number two, church discipline. So I’m going to try to finish Ecclesiastical separation today.
But we’re basically looking here at three questions. A. Why separate. B. Is there a biblical basis for separation. And C, what exactly do we separate from. So A and B I think we’ve already gone over, why separate. Well, really the bottom line, and we demonstrated this through the story of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, that when the church becomes just like the world it loses its authority to speak to the world in a prophetic way. And then number two, we went through a list of verses that give us a biblical basis for separation. I mean, it’s completely appropriate under some circumstances to separate from people, even to separate from other Christians or organizational structures that are no longer biblically faithful. And so I gave you those verses, there are at least seven of them, and you can probably find more if you started studying this carefully, but these are all in the epistolary literature, which basically means in the part of the New Testament that is directly binding upon the church. And not the least of which is 2 John 9-11. That may be the most important. [2 John 1:9, “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.”] So it says, verse 10, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house,” i.e. the church, “and do not give him a greeting;  for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
And then third, letter C, and this is where we were last time, what exactly do you separate yourself from? I mean, what should a biblically faithful church separate themselves from? What kind of groups? What kind of people? And we are to separate ourselves from those that promote at least four things. The first thing is false doctrine. Paul, when he writes to Timothy basically instructs Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine very carefully. That’s what Paul said to a pastor. And so we would separate from people or groups that deny the fundamentals of the faith and this is kind of an abbreviated list of things that you look for that you would separate yourself from. Our doctrinal statement is not much broader than that, as I’ve tried to explain. But these are at least the core essentials of Christianity. If you don’t have these you don’t have Christianity, and so I have listed ten, some people would call these the fundamentals of the faith. ————————————————————————————————————————
- 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 what type of doctrines do we separate ourselves from? Number one, you separate yourself from people that deny creation and the fall. Anybody that plays any type of game with Genesis 1-11, and a lot of people are doing that today, they’re kind of trying to rewrite it to sort of keep up with Darwinism, you have to understand that you’re gutting the foundation upon which Christianity stands because if there is no literal creation and literal fall then there is no need to reach out to the solution, which is Jesus Christ. And if Adam was not a historical figure then maybe the last Adam, Jesus Christ, was not a historical figure either because the two are connected on one unbroken chain in Luke’s genealogy in Luke 3.
The second fundamental of the faith that you separate yourself from, if people won’t embrace it that is, are people that deny the inspiration and/or the inerrancy of the Bible. The inspiration of the Bible is the fact that in the original manuscripts God carried along the writers of Scripture in such a way that they ended up recording God’s message, without error, in the original manuscripts. I’ve shown you that doctrine from 2 Timothy 3:16. You’ll also see that doctrine in 2 Peter 1:20-21. [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 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.”]
And consequently we believe that the Word of God in the original manuscripts is completely without error. Every time the Bible talks it cannot be making a mistake. The Bible is not primarily a scientific textbook but when it talks about science it’s accurate in what it says. The Bible is not primarily a history book or an archeology book but when it talks about those things it’s without error in what it says.
So the Bible is true with physical things that you can validate and it’s also true with spiritual things that require faith to understand, like angels, demons, heaven, hell, etc. And we believe that that process of inspiration and also here talking about inerrancy goes right down to the very words of Scripture and goes right down to the smallest strokes of the pen. So anybody that wants to fiddle around with inspiration of the Bible, it’s not a completely inspired book, or if they want to get into this idea of maybe the Bible’s got mistakes in it, you’re gutting the source from which Christianity comes. Without an inerrant and inspired Word you don’t have a source of truth that you can look to. I heard one pastor say recently, well, the inerrancy of the Bible is not that important, what’s important is the resurrection of Jesus. And I thought to myself well where in the idea do we learn anything about the resurrection of Jesus? Is it not in the where? In the Bible! So if you’re going to throw out the inerrancy of the Bible you have to, by definition, start questioning everything including the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And then the third group or fundamental of the faith is if it’s mishandled you have to separate yourself from such a movement or such a group. If those that deny the doctrine of sola fide, salvation by faith alone. Religion, the world of religion basically will tell you this: Jesus did about 90% and you have to kick in the final 10%. Now if you ask a Roman Catholic well, what do I have to do for the final 10% to make me secure in Christ he’ll basically say you have to pay, pray and obey. So if God did his 90% that you accepted by faith and you’re not doing your 10% pay, pray and obey, then you’re not saved. And you see, this was what the whole Protestant Reformation was fought over, this issue. In Latin it’s called sola fide, sola means by itself, fide means faith. And so we believe not the upper part of the screen, we believe the bottom part of the screen, that Jesus did not 90%, not 99%, not 99.999999999% but 100%, because His final words on the cross were what? “It is finished!” Man’s responsibility then, coming under the conviction of the Spirit, is to receive as a gift by way of faith what Jesus did.
So this is not a scenario where, you know, your father-in-law buys lunch and you kind of have to save face, well, let me leave the tip. It’s harder to receive the gift sometimes, isn’t it, than to give a gift. So Jesus is not buying lunch and we’re throwing in the tip. I’m talking about what’s necessary for justification; I’m not dealing with sanctification here or growth in Christ at all. So basically Jesus bought the lunch, Jesus left the tip, the only thing left for you to do is to receive the gift and to enjoy the meal. And of course, there are many, many people that are denying that doctrine today.
Now one of the key verses on all of this is Romans 4:4-5, where Paul says,  “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,” so we’re dealing with justification here, what does it take for a person to be declared innocent before a holy God as a lost sinner. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” So we are called the “seed of Abraham,” the “children of Abraham” in the sense that Abraham in Genesis 15:6, which is what’s being referenced here in Romans 4, was saved the exact same way. [Genesis 15:6, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”] He believed God, Genesis 15:6, and God credited it to him unto righteousness. There were no good works for Abraham to do, he simply believed or trusted in the revelation of God up to that particular point in time. Now we have a complete revelation, we look back and we see the complete mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, we see what He did for us and we trust in Him alone and in a nanosecond, some use the expression in a punctiliar point in time, meaning a nanosecond, a lost sinner is justified before God.
And that’s the only way to receive a gift from God because that’s the only thing that God accepts from us that’s not a work or non-meritorious, as Paul describes it here in Romans 4:4-5. Now if you don’t have this concept you don’t have Protestantism, what we would have today is we would still be Roman Catholic. And this is one of the reasons… and I went through these quotes last time so I won’t re-read these for you because you have them there on your sheet and you can look them up yourself in the various books this individual has written. Basically when you start looking at some of the teachings and writings of John MacArthur, who has a lot of good things to say on other topics, what you start seeing is the denial of sola fide, salvation by faith alone.
[“Eternal life is indeed a free gift (Rom. 6:23). Salvation cannot be earned with good deeds or purchased with money. It has already been bought by Christ, who paid the ransom with His blood. But that does not mean there is no cost in terms of salvation’s impact on the sinner’s life. This paradox may be difficult but it is nevertheless true: 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.” John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140] So there’s one of his quotes in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus.]
Here’s another one of his quotes, in the book he wrote called Faith, Works. [“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]
Here is something he said in a sermon where he portrayed justification as sort of a deal between you and God. It’s sort of like two business people reaching across the table and shaking hands and one businessman says to the other, I’m going to do my part and the other business man says no, I’m going to do my part and so you reach in the middle and you have a meeting of the minds and all of a sudden we’ve got a deal. [“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. 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. We were saved unto obedience which God had before ordained that we should walk…and obedience characterized by good works…and obedience to God’s Word. That pledge was inherent in salvation. 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 PLEDGED OBEDIENCE. And 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. John MacArthur]
And he’s making these comments related to justification. And that’s one of the reasons that we’re not promoting John MacArthur’s ministry here, we’re not going to promote his books because the fact of the matter is there’s some good things in some of those books but it’s an absolute maze of confusion when it comes to the clarity of the gospel. And so we’re making a separation from people that are denying what we think is a critical cardinal Christian doctrine–sola fide.
Now I’ve done teaching at this church in other venues, other classes on Lordship salvation and I’m not going to reteach all of that, you can go back to our soteriology series and listen to all of that but Lordship salvation is the idea that to become justified before God a person must not only believe in Christ but they also must be willing to submit every single area of their life to Christ. If they’re believing but at the same time you don’t see at the point of faith alone commitment, obedience, perseverance, submission, sorrow, John Piper, for example, says that in the concept of belief there is a hundred other things you have to do simultaneously. Now he just took the word “believe” which has a simple definition in the Scripture which means trust, and he loaded it with a whole bunch of extra verbiage. And in the process we believe that these men are teaching, whether they realize it or not, a salvation by works type of system. And this is what’s called Lordship salvation.
And we’ve gone through, if you’re on the edge of Lordship salvation, don’t know exactly what it is, I would encourage you to dial back into our soteriology series where we went through seven problems with Lordship salvation. Lordship salvation changes the gospel; it places an impossible burden upon the unsaved. You’re asking an unsaved person who doesn’t have the new nature, doesn’t have any biblical teaching, doesn’t even have the Holy Spirit inside of him yet, to do something that is an impossibility. Lordship salvation confuses justification with sanctification.
Now all of these things, commitment, obedience, submission, sorrow, all of these kinds of things, we’re not negating the importance of those but those are supposed to happen in your growth “in Christ,” after you’ve already been won to Christ. See the difference there? And so it becomes imperative to rightly divide God’s Word to distinguish between justification and sanctification. We call it around here the three tenses of salvation, and you’re probably familiar with the chart I put up here over and over again just so we can get this down.
And what you find in Lordship salvation is that distinction is not drawn; they perpetually take verses that relate to the Christian’s growth and apply it to what a Christian must do on the front end to be made right with God and in the process they’ve just subtly taught a salvation or justification by works. I’m not going to stop talking about this issue of Lordship salvation as much as it brings me into criticism from a lot of people because I believe that perhaps this is one of the most lethal deceptions that has been unleashed in the body of Christ in recent times. And of course, if you were Satan, wouldn’t you do that? Wouldn’t you attack the heart of Christianity? And that’s what we see coming from within with Lordship salvation. Lordship salvation confuses the results of salvation with the requirement of salvation. Obviously once a person receives the Holy Spirit and the new nature God puts in the life of the believer a desire to learn His Word, a desire to grow, and those kinds of things, but you see, to make a desire to submit to Christ on the front end of salvation is to get the cart before the horse.
Lordship salvation fails to make basic dispensational distinctions. They’re constantly taking passages that are national in nature and aimed at Israel related to the coming of the kingdom and misapplying them to what the church age believer is supposed to teach to the lost today. Lordship salvation ignores the reality of the carnal Christian; they don’t even think there could be such a thing in many cases. I’ve watched Lordship salvation after Lordship salvation after Lordship salvation proponent say there is really no such thing as a carnal Christian. And yet when you read the Book of 1 Corinthians, particular chapter 3:1-3 there it is in black and white.
[1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,  for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”]
And the reason they deny the reality of a carnal Christian is you’re supposed to do all these things for Christ on the front end, to get saved to begin with, so therefore when you move into your salvation there shouldn’t be great vestiges of ongoing sin in your life. And the reality is there’s a big difference between birth and growth. Being born is one things but we all know people or children that are born and the birthing process, once you’re born you can’t be reversed, we know that growth is impeded physically in some people, malnutrition, bad parenting, whatever the case may be.
And that’s exactly how it is in the body of Christ. You’ve got an awful lot of people that have been born spiritually whose lives really are not yet reflecting the position that they’ve been given at the point of salvation. And so there’s quite a big difference between being an obstetrician and a pediatrician. And you see, all of that, all of those distinctions are lost in Lordship salvation and this is where they get into sort of this idea that well, if you’re not living for Christ I guess you were never saved to begin with. And it’s like let’s hold the horses here just a minute. Paul opens up a whole different category of people that have been saved but are not growing as they should.
And part of the fear is if you simply acknowledge the reality of a carnal Christian they think that somehow you’re supporting carnal Christianity. It’s like yeah, carnal Christianity, isn’t it great. I would call carnal Christianity this—an unfortunate possibility. It’s not something to be emphasized, it’s not something obviously to be promoted, but you really can’t do pastoral ministry the way God requires pastors to do it without first acknowledging that there could be an unfortunate possibility in someone’s life.
And then number seven, the most destructive part of Lordship salvation is it denies the assurance of salvation, because if I have to submit to a bunch of subjective criteria to be justified before God in the first place, whether it be faith plus commitment, faith plus obedience, faith plus sorrow, faith plus perseverance, how do I really know if I’ve persevered enough. How do I know if I’ve sorrowed enough? How do I know if I’ve done enough good deeds because those things are never objectively defined exactly what it’s supposed to look like in terms of an ironclad standard. I mean, let’s say most of my thoughts this week were 75% good but I entertained 25% of the time some negative thoughts that I shouldn’t have entertained. Well, I guess if Lordship salvation is true maybe I never yielded at all on the front end. See that?
So you have this epidemic of people in the body of Christ that really don’t know if they’re Christians or not. And if you don’t know you’re a Christian how in the world can you live for God when that uncertainty is always nagging away in your mind, because we, as Christians, have up days and we have down days. And we don’t fall into a state of maybe I’m saved, maybe I’m not every time there’s a down time. So Lordship salvation, there’s almost no assurance of salvation in their teaching. A lot of the advocates of Lordship salvation themselves don’t even know if they’re saved. I should have brought them in but I could give you some quotes from the late R. C. Sproul where he publicly had tremendous doubts about his own salvation. At different times he made statements about it in his ministry and I’m thinking what a shame to live that way when Jesus Himself has made us an ironclad promise that you can take to the bank in John 5:24, if you believe in Him then you have been transferred from death unto life in a nanosecond. [John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”]
And you build your Christian house on that promise because you fulfilled your part, which if faith alone, now the Lord wants you to grow and sometimes you’ll be very successful and sometimes you may have a step or two backwards but your salvation is never in doubt. Your rewards at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ may be in doubt; your degree of authority in the coming millennial kingdom is still sort of up in the air, but not your salvation and deliverance from hell itself. So I have absolutely no problem demarcating Sugar Land Bible Church from people and teachers that teach this doctrine of Lordship salvation because it’s a denial of one of the fundamentals of the faith, sola fide and faith by itself.
In fact, and you don’t have this slide but you have your Bible, right, which is more important than the slide, amen! He says in Galatians 1:6-9, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ,” grace is unmerited favor, “for a different gospel;” different in what sense? It mixes faith plus works,  which is really not another;” in other words, it’s really not a gospel, “only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  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)!  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 (anathema)!” Now when you look up the word “accursed” in Greek it’s the word (anathema) which essentially is a strong condemnation to hell on the part of the Apostle Paul, against people who commit this theological error of mixing faith plus works to be justified before God.
So if you think Sugar Land Bible Church is sort of hard core on this issue, gee, I mean, how would you like to have Paul as your pastor. I mean, Paul was so hard lined on it that when Peter started to compromise the issue, Galatians 2 talks about how he went and challenged Peter right to his face, Peter, of course, being the lead apostle. Up until that particular point in time Peter is the main man all the way through Acts 1-10 and Peter got wishy-washy on this and Paul thought it was such a problem that he actually went and challenged Peter to his face. And so if that is true why would we accommodate that kind of teaching and that kind of doctrine. You can’t accommodate it because it goes directly against one of the cardinals of the Christian faith, justification by faith alone.
And that’s where we stopped last time. What are some other doctrines that you separate yourself from? What other doctrines are mistaught that you say that’s a false doctrine? Well another one is the eternal existence of heaven and hell. And there is an awful lot of gamesmanship being done today regarding the eternality of eternal retribution. I could give you some big names in the evangelical society, I’ll give you one of them, his name is Clark Pinnock, and he is basically saying… he’s sort of teaching what the Jehovah’s Witness teach, he’s sort of teaching a modified form of annihilationism. In other words, when the lost sinner dies they just sort, after a certain process or some would say instantaneously, their soul kind of explodes or is annihilated or disappears and once that happens there’s no longer eternal retribution upon the unsaved.
Notice Daniel 12:2, I want you to know that your Bible flatly denies annihilationism, as much as it would be comfortable to believe in annihilationism, because maybe we have a friend or a relative that died in an unsaved state (we think) and so we kind of want to make some kind of accommodation for them. Your Bible doesn’t allow that. Daniel 12:2 (one of the clearest statements on the future resurrection that we have in Scripture) says this: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and” what’s the next word, “everlasting contempt.” You see in that verse it gives you everlasting life for the believer and right there in the same verse it gives you everlasting contempt for the unbeliever and you’ll notice the repetition of “everlasting.” It’s the Hebrew word olam. That word is applied to the believer in the next life and it’s again applied to the unbeliever in the next life as well. So if you’re saying heaven is forever, which everybody says, but somehow hell isn’t forever, then you’ve got a linguistic problem here. You have to resort to all kinds of linguistic and exegetical gymnastics to make that theology work.
And by the way, olam is also used to describe God, Psalm 90:4, “Before the mountains were born or gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting” that’s olam, “to everlasting” olam, “You were God. So you ask an annihilationist, well, do you believe God is forever? Oh yeah, absolutely. Well do you believe that heaven is forever? Oh year, absolutely, I believe that. Well do you believe that hell is forever? Oh no, that’s not true. Well, you can’t play that game with God or His Word because olam is used to describe all three. So whatever you believe about heaven in terms of its eternality and God in terms of His eternality you can’t make a special pleading for hell; hell is just as much an eternal reality as is those previous two things that I mentioned.
This concept is not just taught in the Old Testament, you’ll also find it in the New Testament. There’s a parallel passage over in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25 and verse 46, Jesus’ sheep and goat judgment. Jesus says, “These will go away into” what? “eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [Matthew 25:46] Now just like “olam” is the Hebrew word for eternality, in Greek ionios is the Hebrew word for eternality. So you’ll notice that ionios is applied to the believer in the next life, but also in the same verse the repetition of ionios is applied to the unbeliever in the next life. “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Ionios first here for the unsaved, ionios second here for the saved.
And by the way, just for the record, the same word, ionios is used to apply to God Himself in Romans 16:26, “but now is manifested by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal” that’s our word ionios, “God, who has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;” you’ll notice that ionios there applies to God Himself.
So you ask an annihilationist do you believe that heaven is forever? Oh yeah, I believe that. Do you believe that God is forever. Oh yeah, I believe that. Well do you believe that hell is forever for folks that die in an unsaved state? Oh no, I don’t believe that. Well, you can’t have it that way because ionios is applied to all three concepts, just like in the Old Testament olah is applied to all three concepts as well. We haven’t gotten to Revelation 14 yet, we may get there before the rapture, but what does Revelation 14:11 say? It’s a very clear statement about eternal retribution. It’s talking about people in the tribulation being unsaved and evidencing that because they received the mark of the beast. So the smoke of their torment goes up for how long? Forever, and if that weren’t enough it says “forever and ever.” So there’s aiōnios there’s a kind of a shorter form of the word there but it’s the same root, there’s aiōnios used twice to describe the unsaved. I mean, saying “the smoke of their torment goes up forever” would be enough but just to get the point across the Holy Spirit doesn’t just say forever, He says “forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, who receives the mark of his name.”
Now it’s very interesting that at the end of the tribulation period in Revelation 19:20 the beast and the false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire. And notice what it says there. “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” And then you might know from our prophecy charts we’ve been using as we’ve been teaching through Daniel and the Book of Revelation and other prophetic books that following that judgment in Revelation 19 a thousand years will elapse, called the kingdom of God or the millennium, where the devil is not thrown into the lake of fire with his buddies, the beast and the false prophet, as happened at the end of the tribulation period but the devil is put in another place called the abyss because God has one more purpose for Satan, to deceive the world at the end of the thousand years.
And then once God has finished using Satan for God’s purposes then Satan, a thousand years later, will be thrown into the same lake of fire that the beast and the false prophet have been thrown into. And I want you to see something very interesting—a thousand years later Satan is reunited with his two cohorts, the beast and the false prophet, in the lake of fire. Look at Revelation 20:10, it’s very interesting. This is a thousand years later. It says, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone,” now look at this, “where the beast and the false prophet” what’s the next word, “are also;” wait a minute, they’re still in there, a thousand years has passed but they’re still in the same lake of fire, they didn’t disintegrate, they didn’t explode, they continue on in this state of eternal retribution. And then the last clause in verse 10 is, “and they will be tormented day and night” and then it uses aiōnios twice again, “forever and ever.”
And as much as I’ve never really liked this doctrine and if I had my way I would take white out and take all this out of my Bible, I’m not here to second guess what God has said; God has disclosed things to me that are beyond my comprehension or even my way of doing things. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “as the heavens are higher than the earth,” His ways are higher than mine. [Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”]
And what we have today with liberalism and in some cases evangelicalism is people, like Clark Pinnock or you get into the kingdom of the cults, annihilationism is taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses also. It’s just an unwillingness to submit to what the text says. So what they want to do is they want to make God in man’s image rather than the other way around. And that’s an authority of Scripture issue and when somebody starts to challenge these types of concepts, the eternality of heaven and hell it’s time to just say well, we’re just going to part company, you go your way and we’re going to go a different path. I mean, there’s no room for fudging around on something that God has clearly spoken.
And by the way, if this wasn’t true, the eternal retribution concept, why in the world would we work so hard to evangelize? Why would we work so hard under God’s grace to send out missionaries? I mean, why even bother to go to the trouble of being a missionary, learn another culture, translate the Bible from Greek or Hebrew into some foreign dialect that folks that’s unnatural for them. You’re doing that because you’re trying to reach an unreached people group because there’s something to be afraid of when you look at these passages. If you throw a wet blanket on the doctrine of eternal retribution and you sort of make it into something that it’s not you just simultaneously threw a wet blanket over missionary work. The whole impetus of evangelism and missions is lost when you start going soft on what the Bible says concerning eternal retribution.
And this is one of the things that my study of systematic theology has taught me; one of the things you have to understand is if you compromise one area of doctrine it’s not going to be long until that has an impact on another area of doctrine. Eschatology, eternal retribution, has a direct impact on your philosophy of missiology, it’s a seamless tapestry and an alteration is one is going to lead automatically to an alteration in another. It’s just like dominoes in a row, all you’ve got to do is knock over one domino and the rest start to follow very, very fast. And so this concept of eternal retribution is not something that you can monkey around with.
One of my professors, Dr. Alan Gomes of Talbot Seminary, I took a few classes under him, he was very good professor, he wrote an article criticizing evangelicals back in 1991, who were already compromising on eternal retribution and instead teaching annihilationism. Gomes says, “A punishment [such as torment]” because what they’re saying is poof, you just disappear, well if you disappear as an unbeliever how could that be eternal punishment? Gomes says, “A punishment [such as torment] that is not felt is not a punishment. It is an odd use of language” you know, being tormented forever and ever, “to speak of an insensate state (an unfeeling state), an inanimate object receiving punishment. To say, ‘I punished my car for not starting by slowly plucking out it’s spark plug wires, one by one,’ would invoke laughter, not serious consideration.” [(Summer 1991). “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell” (Part 2). In the Christian Research Journal. Page 11.]
Because you can’t punish something that can’t feel, do you see that? For eternal punishment to be punishment that concept itself is incompatible with the doctrine of annihilationism. So that would be another doctrine that we would separate ourselves from, people that will not acknowledge what the Scripture teaches.
Another doctrine that we would separate ourselves from is individuals that deny the Trinity. What do we believe about the Trinity? It’s a mystery, it’s hard for the human mind to wrap itself around it but the best I can explain it is the Trinity is as follows: God is one, He’s monotheistic. Many, many Old Testament and New Testament verses teach that. One of them is Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” You might want to jot down Isaiah 45:21, it very clearly teaches monotheism. [Isaiah 45:21, “Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.”]
However, even though God is monotheistic He has revealed Himself in three separate personages, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all three of which sharing in the essence of deity. And yet somehow at the same time each maintains its own personhood or uniqueness. The Son uniquely remains the Son although He shares in the same essence of deity with the Father, and it’s the same with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit always remains the Holy Spirit even though the Holy Spirit shares the same essence of deity with the Father and the Spirit.
So you know people sometimes criticize our view on the rapture and they say this all the time, we believe in the pretribulational rapture and they’ll say this and it always makes me laugh when they say it, they say give me one verse that proves the pre-trib rapture. My response is well give me one verse that proves the Trinity, because that’s not how Bible doctrine is revealed. There is no book of the Bible that says we’re in the Trinity part of the Bible now. There is no book of the Bible that says we’re in the rapture part of the Bible now. To put any doctrine together, including the tri unity of God, you have to piece Scripture together with Scripture and we do that with the rapture; we’re doing that with the Trinity.
In 1 Peter 1:2 you’ll see that the Father is called God. [1 Peter 1:2, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”]
In Acts 5:3-4 you’ll see that the Holy Spirit is called God. [Acts 5:3-4, “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”] That has to do with the discipline, maximum divine discipline of Ananias and Sapphira. Peter specifically says in Acts 5:3-4 to Ananias and Sapphira, you have not just lied to the Spirit but you have lied to God, which means that the Holy Spirit is God.
So the Father is God, the Spirit is God, there’s no doubt that the Son, Jesus Christ, is God. My mother, for example, was raised in a home where she was taught that Jesus is a good moral teacher but He never claimed to be God. And I think to myself, well then He wasn’t a very good teacher if that’s true because He taught He was God over and over again. And yet people have this mindset of Jesus, He was a great Reformer, or whatever they want to make Him into, a very teacher but He never claimed to be God. Of course He claimed to be God. In John 8:58-59 He took the title “I AM” and applied it directly to Himself. [John 8:58-59, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’  Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”]
Now “I am” in the Greek it’s ego eimi, is a big BIG dea1! (With an exclamation point after it). Why? Because that’s the title that God uses. Remember the calling of Moses? Moses, and Exodus 3:14 says “whom shall I say has sent Me.” And God says tell him “I AM” sent you. [Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”] The self-existent One. And Jesus took that title and He applied it directly to Himself in John 8:58-59. [John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’  Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”]
And the Jews had absolutely no problem deciphering the message; they knew exactly what He was doing because immediately, John 8:59 says they picked up stones to stone Him to death. To their mind it was blasphemy because a mere man is not supposed to claim to be God. I mean, there’s absolutely no ambiguity that Jesus claimed to be God. Now in the trials of Jesus there’s three religious trials in the Passion Week and three political trials. Three before the Jewish leaders and three more before the political Roman establishment. And over in Mark 14:61-64 Jesus took Daniel 7:13, the prophecy of the Son of Man coming at the end of the age to bring in His kingdom, He took that prophecy and applied it to Himself.
[Mark 14:61-64, “But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”  And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”  Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? “You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” Daniel 7:13, “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.”]
And they had once again no problem, there was no ambiguity here, they had no problem deciphering the message because the Bible says, Mark 14:61-64, at one of these religious trials of Jesus the high priest immediately tore his robe, just like in John 8:59, they immediately picked up stones to stone Him to death. He [the high priest] tore His robes and He said, what further evidence do we need, to put this man to death in other words This man is a blasphemer.
[Mark 14:61-64, “But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”  And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”  Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” John 8:59, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”]
So this idea that Jesus was a good teacher but He never claimed to be God, that is laughable when you actually read what the Scripture says. So the Son is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is God, and yet at the same time somehow they maintain their unique personhood, the mystery of the Trinity. And this is why we don’t invite Jehovah’s Witnesses in her to set up their ministry table. By the way, when you go in and out of Fort Bend Public Library, every time I’ve been over there, if you go on a Saturday there’s where the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, passing out their literature; very nice people, very smiley, it’s amazing how attractive and colorful their brochures are, but why would we not embrace that type of doctrine? Because they’re denying the Trinity. They don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the eternally existent second member of the Trinity. They believe Jesus Christ was a creation. See that? And if you say that Jesus was a creation then you’re denying the Trinity.
What’s wrong with Mormonism? I mean, they all vote Republican, right? What could be wrong with that? You look at a Mormon, you look at someone like Glenn Beck for example, who’s very popular on TV, you listen to a lot of his things that he says and he’s got the same sort of limited government political philosophy that I have but the fact of the matter is you separate yourself from somebody like that because he is denying the Trinity whether he openly teaches on it or not. They believe that Jesus was nothing more than a brother, if you will, of Satan. So it’s important to understand true doctrine so you can sort of understand what to separate yourself from. So one of the fundamentals of the faith that collapses very fast is any type of teaching tampering with the Trinity.
Another doctrine that’s mishandled that you separate yourself from folks if they don’t teach it correctly is the virgin birth of Christ. Here are some quotes from leading evangelicals that to me look like they’re getting very soft on the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ. This is Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley, to my knowledge probably has the largest, or perhaps the second largest church in the United States of America and it’s sad to watch because he is the son legendary Charles Stanley who I’ve always had a very high opinion of, and I’ve always wanted to like Andy Stanley, we went to the exact same school, he was there before I was, and he’s got a pretty good first name… I mean, why not reach out and why don’t we just set up an Andy Stanley satellite campus here at Sugar Land Bible Church? I mean, why don’t we just livestream his stuff? Why don’t we put all his stuff on our website? Well, you can’t, because he’s soft on the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ.
He said, this was a couple of years ago, “One of the challenging things about the Christmas season and one of the challenging things about the Christmas story is, in fact, the Christmas story – the Christmas story as it relates to the birth of Jesus. Because there is so much miraculous, there is so much amazing, there is so much that’s really unbelievable about it and a whole lot of people just don’t believe; and I understand that. Maybe the thought is that they had to come up with some myth about the birth of Jesus to give him street cred later on.”
I mean, is that how the doctrine of the virgin birth came about, a bunch of people in biblical times inventing it to give Jesus street cred. “It is interesting because Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Jesus. Luke does, but Mark” doesn’t even mention it. Well, Andy, there’s a reason Mark doesn’t mention it—Mark has a different purpose for writing. Mark is trying to explain that Jesus, to a Roman audience, is a suffering servant. And in Greco Roman times a mere slave did not have a genealogy. That’s why it’s omitted. I think Mark probably reasoned that the issue has already been covered very well in Matthew and Mark so why just restate it? To say that Mark doesn’t mention it so therefore it’s a denial of the virgin birth, that misunderstands what Mark is doing or what any biblical writer is doing; they’re weaving material together consistent with their purpose in writing. In other words, a failure to mention something is not the same thing as a denial. It’s like when I used to teach at the college and I used to give people exams and I was one of those professors that did that. Can I get an amen! [Laughter]
And so you have students coming up at the end of the semester and they’re saying I didn’t think I had to take the final. I say why would you think that? Well, you never emphasized it later on in the class. I said well was it on the syllabus? Yeah, but you never talked more about it. Well, you’re confusing a lack of mentioning something with a cancellation. And this is what is very troubling about this statement that he makes; it’s not even brought up in Mark’s Gospel. And then he says it’s not even brought up in John’s Gospel. Now I don’t even think that’s true. I think Jesus makes an indirect reference to it in John 8 when the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of being an illegitimate child. Luke does but Mark and John don’t even mention it and a lot has been made of that. “And you have heard me say some version of this a million times but if someone can predict their own death and resurrection I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world. Do you realize what he just did there? He is not concerned about how Jesus got into the world because after all, we’ve got the death, burial and resurrection. Folks, if you don’t have a virgin birth you don’t have a Messiah qualified to die and rise from the dead.
He goes on and he says, “because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing and, in fact, you should know this. Christianity does not hinge on the truth or even the stories about the birth of Jesus, it really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.” [https://christianindex.org/andy-stanleys-approach-to-the-virgin-birth] That last statement I completely reject that; Christianity doesn’t exist if you don’t have a virgin birth. So we would separate from groups like this.
Brian McLaren, you sort of expect more of this kind of thing from him as a leader of the emergent church. He has a podcast called “Be Still and Go.” And he talks here about A Post-Patriarchal Christmas and how the resurrection is a “science-defying miracle.” Well, of course it is, that’s what a miracle is supposed to be, right. It’s supposed to deny science or else it wouldn’t be a miracle. “He protested, ‘This approach never really worked for me. How can you use something you can’t prove—a virgin birth long ago—to prove something else—the unique identity of Jesus?’ McLaren goes on and he says “the virgin birth’s “greatest value isn’t in proving something, but in meaning something.” McLaren says men are messing it up, in other words, our interpretation of it is messing up what God originally intended. And then he says “I’m going to work directly with women for a change.” Oh, so this whole virgin birth thing is really about the oppression of women. Did you know that? “’I’m going to work directly with women for a change.” I’m taking a step to overthrow the patriarchy.” Whether you believe the “virgin birth story” or not, McLaren said, whether you believe in “its “literal factuality” is “not the point.”
The literal factual miraculous reality of the virgin birth is not the point? I thought that was the point! But what he’s doing is he’s bringing in what’s called critical theory, deconstructionism, that’s what’s taught in all the campuses today, that when you read people of the past what they’re really doing is they’re trying to oppress you. Anybody that’s a racial minority is being oppressed by these dead white people from the past. And here he’s reading in critical theory related to feminism into the virgin birth story. This is what you call deconstructionism. “McLaren concluded the virgin birth is” quote “about a profound rejection of violence,” the notion that peace can never come through the old, blood-stained path of patriarchy.”
Now it’s dominoes in a row, isn’t it. Were you here when I preached the Sunday before Christmas. I gave seven purposes or reasons for the virgin birth, back to the old dominoes in a row, you knock over one domino and the rest start to fall very fast. Like what? Fulfillment of prophecy, Christ’s humanity and deity, Christ’s eternality, Christ’s sinlessness. I mean, if Jesus had had a normal physical conception the sin nature from Adam would have been passed on to him.
And it doesn’t matter what lip service you give to the death of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of it is invalid for the simple reason that God requires what kind of a sacrifice? An unblemished sacrifice, just like the Passover Lamb was unblemished. And the atonement of Jesus Christ suffers; you’ve got Jesus now physically born under a curse and at least two gospel accounts, Matthew and Luke are telling you a lie. This is what deconstructionists want you to believe. It’s really all about the oppression of some group, in this case women.
So what do you do with people that start to play games with the virgin birth of Christ? Well, you give them a warning. You try to figure out are they saying something that I misunderstood? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt as much as I can but you get to a certain point where there’s no repentance and they just continue to barrel forward with this false doctrine, what am I supposed to do as a shepherd? I would steer my sheep away from people like that. And people say well, don’t you know all the good things that are happening in Andy Stanley’s church? Don’t you realize how big it is? And don’t you realize how many satellite campuses they have? And I’m not denying that they’re probably are some good things.
But let me ask you a question. How much, if this is filled with water, in fact, I have a better one for show and tell, here’s a real one filled with water, which won’t be filled with water in a second if I drink it all, but if this thing is filled with water and I wanted to poison it how much poison do I really need? I mean, I don’t have to fill this thing three-quarters up with poison, or 95% with poison. All you’ve got to do is put one drop in there. And this is my concern with some of these so-called ministries that I’ve been talking about. It’s not with a lot of the wonderful things they may be saying or doing; it’s that single drop of poison on a fundamental issue, the virgin birth, which left unchecked will, mark my words, will destroy Christianity.
And if you think that liberalism has so effect on the church I would just invite you to do something. Go travel around Europe today and take a look at the state of the church. You know, Europe is where the Protestant Reformation itself happened. God mightily worked through Europe and today what is it, less than 1% of the population is even church going at all. The dominant growing religion probably in Europe is not Christianity but Islam. And how do you account for this deterioration? I’ll tell you exactly how you account for it. It’s what started to happen in their institutions because that’s where you have higher criticism. And Rudolf Bultmann and Wellhausen, and the JEPD theory denying Mosaic authorship and folks saying well, the Book of Daniel wasn’t written in the sixth century, it was written in the second century. And after all, we don’t really have the original manuscripts so we think this was all pieced together by folks long after the time of Moses, through various documents, called the JEPD theory.
Where did all this stuff originate? It originated in Germany, it originated in Europe, and look at the state of the church today? It’s destroyed. So when you start to understand this you can start to see why I, as a shepherd, get a wee bit uptight with people that are very, very popular that seem to be always either denying or marginalizing something without which Christianity couldn’t, won’t go forward. Christianity, if this kind of stuff continues unchecked, and if you don’t start to have voices raising up against these kind of things the Christianity we have will not exist for generations down the road. And it may be too late already, I hope it’s not! But history is largely repeating itself; the things that happened in Europe are largely repeating themselves for the United States.
Father, we’re sorrowful by some of these things we see but at the same time grateful for the truth You’ve given us. Help us to be good defenders of the truth in these last days. 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.