WE ARE SAVED BY THE SHEDDING OF CHRIST’S BLOOD AND DEATH: BUT JOHN MACARTHUR SAYS OTHERWISE

By Lloyd Streeter
From The Baptist Arrow, March, 1993

“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.” Colossians 1:20-22

The passage above tells us of the problem that sinners have, the way of salvation, and the future of the righteous. The problem that sinners have is that they are alienated from God and enemies of God. The unsaved cannot approach unto God because of sin. The sinner does not want the way of God. His mind is set against God, and his works are wicked.

The way of salvation is in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, because of the redemptive work He did for sinners. His redemptive work is summarized in the words “blood,” “cross,” and “death.” These words are not to be considered symbolically or euphemistically. Our only hope of eternal life lies in the fact that Christ paid our sin debt by suffering in our place.

The future of the righteous is that we will be presented holy, spotless, pure, white, unblameable, and unreproveable before the Lord Jesus. We will be eternally in His presence, delivered from sin and from all that is offensive to Him. But, all the praise will be to the glory of His grace. Our salvation is only because He suffered for us.

The shedding of Christ’s blood was one of the things He suffered for us in payment for our sins. His blood was “shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). “Shed” and “shedding” does not mean death. These words mean to gush out, to pour forth. This gushing out of Christ’s blood was essential in and of itself, not as a mere euphemism for His death, and not simply as fulfillment of prophecy, but as an effective part of God’s redeeming work. As Dr. Earnest Pickering says, “The blood which Christ shed was a purchase price. It was a payment for others. It was a vicarious, substitutionary offering.”

There is no reason (scriptural, theological, or historical) to start downplaying, minimizing, and deemphasizing the blood of Christ. As Dr. Terry Rude says in the November, 1988, issue of Biblical Viewpoint, “The obvious emphasis would tell us that Christ’s blood was precious blood even if Peter had not said it plainly (I Peter 1:18-19). The multitude of New Testament statements on Christ’s blood, the efficacious reality, maintain the exact strong emphasis of the Old Testament on the anticipating symbol. The Scripture’s focus on the blood has naturally led the church to an affectionate appreciation and magnification of that precious blood. We shall do well to make much of it.” [emphasis mine]

Dr. John MacArthur does not think Christians should get preoccupied or “teary-eyed” about the blood of Christ. He is worried that Christians will get too emotional about the blood. He would not agree with Spurgeon’s emphasis on the blood. But, Spurgeon seemed to have exactly the right doctrine and emphasis as expressed in his sermon, “The Blood-Shedding.”

Yes, there was a shedding of most precious blood, to which I must forth-with refer you. I shall not tell you now of massacres and murders, nor of rivers of blood of goats and rams. There was a blood-shedding once, which did all other shedding of blood by far outvie; it was a man—a Godthat shed his blood at that memorable season. Come and see it. Here is a garden dark and gloomy; the ground is crisp with the cold frost of midnight; between those gloomy olive trees I see a man, I hear him groan out his life in prayer; hearken, angels; hearken, men, and wonder; it is the Saviour groaning out of his soul! Come and see him. Behold his brow! O Heaven! drops of blood are streaming down his face and from his body; every pore is open, and it sweats! but not the sweat of men that toil for bread: it is the sweat of one that toils for heaven—he “sweats great drops of blood!” That is the blood-shedding, without which there is no remission. Follow that man further; they have dragged him with sacrilegious hands from the place of his prayer and his agony, and they have taken him to the hall of Pilate; they seat him in a chair and mock him; a robe of purple is put on his shoulders in mockery; and mark his brow—they have put about it a crown of thorns, and the crimson drops of gore are rushing down his cheeks! But turn aside that purple robe for a moment. His back is bleeding. Tell me, demons, who did this? They lift up the thongs still dripping clots of gore; they scourge and tear his flesh, and make a river of blood to run down his shoulders! That is the shedding of blood, without which there is no remission. Not yet have I done; they hurry him through the streets; they fling him on the ground; they nail his hands and feet to the transverse wood, they hoist it in the air, they dash it into its socket, it is fixed, and there he hangs, the Christ of God. Blood from his head, blood from his hands, blood from his feet! In agony unknown, He bleeds away his life: in terrible throes he exhausts his soul. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani.” And then see! they pierce his side, and forthwith runneth out blood and water! This is the shedding of blood, sinners and saints, this is the awful shedding of blood, the terrible pouring out of blood, without which, for you, and for the whole human race. There is no remission.

Yes, our Lord Jesus paid the redemption price for our salvation. This is a truth reflected in the Lord’s Supper. The broken bread reminds us of His broken body. That broken bread reminds us of His sufferings in His physical body—His bruising, scourging, agonizingly painful experience before He died. The cup represents His precious blood shed for us. The Lord’s death is included in that of which the broken bread and the cup remind us (I Corinthians 11:26); however, His shed blood and His physical sufferings were a part of the price of our salvation. The Lord instructed us to memorialize His blood because it is efficacious.

Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., is the pastor (teaching elder) of Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California. He is president of the Masters College (a former GARBC “approved” college) in Newhall, California. His radio and tape ministry is called “Grace to You.” His leadership ability and his gifts as a writer and speaker have made him a popular conference minister. His charm and charisma have made him beguiling.

A wake of confusion, contention, and controversy have followed MacArthur for many years. In an apparent attempt to astound and bedazzle his audiences and to bring out “some new thing,” he continually tries to put a new twist on old doctrines. In so doing, he has resurrected some age-old heresies, and he has even invented some new ones. We are reminded of Dr. H. A. Ironside’s warning, “If it is true, it is not new, and if it is new, it is not true.”

Among the heresies espoused by MacArthur are Lordship Salvation (which is a doctrine of salvation by works); that Jesus is not the eternal Son of God, but only became God’s Son at the incarnation; and Lay Elder Rule. Perhaps causing the deepest concern among fundamental Christians has been MacArthur’s errors on the blood of Christ.

Nothing is more important to a true Bible-believer than the precious blood of Christ. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” [forgiveness] (Hebrews 9:22). It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, that cleanses us from all sin. So, when John MacArthur minimizes the blood, downplays the blood, denies the efficacy of the blood, and distorts the Bible’s teaching on the blood, that is an error which must be exposed. People must be warned, lest they unwittingly support MacArthur’s ministries, become beguiled by his personality, or be led astray on crucial Bible doctrine.

In this article, we will quote directly from MacArthur’s own tapes, books, and articles. We want our readers to see his position in his exact words. Then no one can say that he was “misquoted,” “taken out of context,” or “misunderstood.” His position on the blood of Christ is well documented and can be known by anyone who cares to find it.

In his tape, numbered GC 80-44, titled “The Blood of Christ—Selected Scriptures” (which is a series of sermon excerpts), from sermons preached by MacArthur, we find this statement:

There is no sense in getting teary-eyed and mystical about blood. We sing hymns about “There is power in the blood,” and so forth, and we don’t want to get preoccupied with blood. The only importance that the blood of Jesus has is that it shows he died. There is no saving in that blood itself. We cannot say that the very blood of Jesus—His physical blood—is what atones for sin. It is His death that atones for sin. His blood shed was an act of death. So, we do not want to become preoccupied about fantasizing about some mystical blood that is floating around somewhere. It is by the sacrificial offer of Himself—it is by His death—that we are redeemed. Blood shed is only the picture of His death. . . . So, when Jesus died and shed his blood this is no big thing. This is nothing for Israel to get all bent out of shape about.

Ladies and gentlemen, the statements you just read, spoken by John MacArthur, are considered heresy by many Christian leaders. His doctrine on the blood of Christ is false and unscriptural.

Notice how he ridicules singing hymns about, “There is power in the blood.” See how he downplays the importance of the blood when he says, “The only importance that the blood of Jesus has is that it shows He died.” Note the false doctrine when he says, “There is no saving in that blood itself. We cannot say that the very blood of Jesus . . . is what atones for sin.”

It is easily seen that MacArthur’s big error in the above quoted statement is that he separates Christ’s bleeding from His dying, and says that only Christ’s death was the redemption price. This is a fatal fallacy! This is the exact same doctrine taught by R. B. Thieme sixty-five years ago. Thieme’s doctrine on the blood of Christ was condemned as heresy by all the leaders of fundamental Christianity during the 1960’s.

MacArthur’s position is that the bleeding and suffering of Christ had no part in paying the price for our sins. He says Christ’s blood is “only a picture,” a symbol, a metaphor, a metonym for His death, therefore it “is no big thing . . . nothing to get bent out of shape about.”

The next excerpt, from tape number GC 80-44, is from a sermon preached by MacArthur in February, 1975. MacArthur states:

It is not that the blood itself had some quality. It is that the giving of His life paid the penalty for sin. The giving of His life was symbolized by the shedding of His blood.

Note that MacArthur’s doctrine is that the only importance of Christ’s blood is that it is a symbol of His death. The blood itself does not help to save. The bleeding and suffering of Christ do not have any actual part in paying our sin debt, because only the death of Christ does that.

These are statements MacArthur repeats time and time again. These are not isolated mistakes or misstatements.

On the same tape, in a 1988 statement, MacArthur says,

His sacrifice for sin was one act that involved both His dying and the pouring out of His blood. Sacrificial death was the essential element. References to His blood are symbolic references to the death He died.

Notice that it is implied that the shedding of blood was not “essential” to our salvation and that Christ’s blood is only a symbol.

Of course, all true Bible-believing Christians believe that the death of Christ was essential for our salvation. The Bible says “Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3), and “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). But, true Bible-believing Christians also believe that the bleeding and suffering of Christ, and the presentation of His blood on the altar (Hebrews 9:12-24) are also essential for our salvation. In fact, in speaking of the saving work of Christ on our behalf, forty-one times the Bible speaks of the blood, fourteen times it speaks of the cross, and eight times it speaks of the death of Christ. All of the redemptive work of Christ was essential for our salvation. It is a serious heresy to separate (tear asunder!) one part of God’s redemptive work while downgrading the rest as nonessential.

According to MacArthur’s tape, number GC 80-44, in April of 1976, he preached a sermon titled “The Outrage of Idolatry.” He made the following unscriptural, very dangerous statement:

Let me say something that might shake some of you up, but I will try to qualify it. There is nothing in the actual blood that is efficacious for sin! Did you get that? The Bible does not teach that the blood of Christ itself has any efficacy for taking away sin! Not at all! The actual blood of Christ is not the issue. The issue is that His poured-out blood was symbolic of His violent death. The death was the thing that paid the price. It is His death that is the issue . . . . So, the pouring out of blood was the significance of death. So, we “commune” with the blood of Christ. It does not mean that the literal blood of Christ is involved. It means we enter into a genuine vital participation in His death. But, it is not the blood. The blood is only the symbol of the poured-out life.

The above statement by John MacArthur is as poisonous and as void of scriptural doctrine as any I’ve ever read by any modernist or reprobate! When MacArthur says, “The Bible does not teach that the blood of Christ itself has any efficacy for taking away sin,” it is no better than the modernistic statement of the Interpreter’s Bible which says, “From the earliest records of primitive sacrifice man has been obsessed by the efficacy of innocent blood to save from disaster. Both Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches have perpetuated this primitive tradition in all their ritual, in their hymns, and sacred books.”

How are MacArthur’s statements on the blood any better than the American Baptist modernist preacher Myron J. Hertel who was asked what he believed about the blood of Jesus Christ, and replied, “The blood of Jesus Christ is of no more value in the salvation of a soul than the water in which Pilate washed his hands”?

How is MacArthur’s doctrine of the blood of Christ any better than Mary Baker Eddy’s? She wrote, “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed . . . than when it was flowing in his veins . . . .”?

How is MacArthur’s teaching on the blood of Christ any better than that of Colonel Robert B. Thieme who wrote, “It was His substitutionary spiritual death that was efficacious for our salvation. . . . The red liquid that ran through the veins and arteries of Jesus’ mortal body is not related to our salvation”?

Mind you, we are not saying that MacArthur holds any other doctrines in common with the modernists, with infidels, or with Christian Science; but we are saying that his doctrine of the blood of Christ is in gross error and no better than that of other false teachers.

In years gone by, fundamentalist Bible teachers and preachers, without exception, condemned false doctrine on the blood of Christ such as the statements of the Interpreter’s Bible, Myron Hertel, Mary Baker Eddy, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Nels Ferre, and Bishop Oxnam. It is now discouraging to see conservative Christians equivocating alibiing, and making excuses for John MacArthur.

On the blood of Christ, MacArthur is “speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30). He is a false teacher (Matthew 7:15), “speaking evil of things he does not know” (Jude 10). He has brought in “damnable heresy” (II Peter 2:1). He has “perverted the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7).

We quote another excerpt from MacArthur’s tape, (#GC80-44) a sermon titled “Reconciled to God,” which he preached in April, 1976.

Blood is the metaphor for sacrifice. It is His death for sin that saves us . . . . Not that the shed blood is the literal saving thing, but that it connects His death with the Old Testament sacrifices. The blood was still in His body long after He was dead. He did not bleed to death . . . . His blood saves us only in the sense that His death was the sacrificial death of the final lamb. And you want to know something, He never lost His blood—the majority of it. Apparently, only some of it came out of those wounds—and those would have sealed up pretty fast with nails there. The majority of His blood remained in His body at least a half hour—maybe longer—after His death. It was His death as a man—His death incarnate in human flesh is the thing that reconciles us to God.

This MacArthur says in order to degrade and downplay the blood of Christ. He implies that ordinary Bible-believing Christians who disagree with his views must think that Christ bled to death. I have never heard of such a preposterous thing! I do not know of a single Christian who believes that Christ bled to death. He gave up His life voluntarily (John 10:10). But, His bleeding was one of the things He suffered in paying the penalty for our sins.

If Jesus had died without bleeding, His death would have saved no one. He had to die “according to the scriptures” just like the Bible says in I Corinthians 15:1-4 where the gospel is defined. Jesus died according to the Old Testament prophecies, fulfilling the types of the Old Testament sacrificial lambs. The Old Testament sin offerings had to have their blood shed and presented to God on the altar. The shedding of Jesus’ blood was essential not only to fulfill Old Testament prophecies but as a necessary part of the gospel which we must believe in order to be saved, “lest we have believed in vain” (I Corinthians 15:2).

MacArthur speculates about things he could not possibly know; about how much blood Jesus lost, about how fast the wounds sealed up, and about how much blood was still in Christ’s body. All of that is foolish and blasphemous speculation, attempting to minimize the importance of the bleeding of Christ. Again, MacArthur separates the bleeding from the dying as if the bleeding was not very important because it is only a symbol, a metaphor; but the death, he says, is the really important thing. He says it is only the death of Christ, not His shed blood, that reconciles us to God.

MacArthur goes on to say, on tape number GC 80-44: “Blood is a metonym . . . . He could not cut himself, bleed on someone and save them.” A metonym is a metaphor. So MacArthur believes that the blood of Christ has no saving power in its own right, rather the blood is only symbolical.

The historic, orthodox position is much different from MacArthur’s doctrine. None of the great Bible teachers of bygone days believed what MacArthur teaches. You will not find MacArthur’s doctrine in the writings of Chapman, Spurgeon, Torrey, Truett, MacClaren, Boettner, Ryle, Henry, Gray, Alford, Bancroft, Strombeck, Ironside, Morgan, Pettingill, Scofield, or Gaebelein.

No one, to my knowledge, ever said that Christ could have cut himself, bled on someone, and thus have saved them. This is a strawman argument, and in an oblique sense, it is a way of ridiculing the blood atonement.

MacArthur has spelled out his position in other places. For example, in his commentary on Hebrews, pages 236-237, he says basically the same thing which he says in the statements we have already cited:

Blood is a symbol of death. . . . It is possible to become morbid about Christ’s sacrificial death and preoccupied with His sufferings and shedding of blood. It is especially possible to become unbiblically preoccupied with the physical aspects of His death. It was not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us but His dying on our behalf which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could have been saved by blood without death the animals would have been bled not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus. . . . The purpose of the blood was to symbolize sacrifice for sin. . . . Therefore, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Again, however, we need to keep in mind that the blood was a symbol.

You should remember the above statement by MacArthur when you read anything he has to say about the blood. The core of his doctrine is that the blood of Jesus is only a symbol of Christ’s death. Sometimes he tries to obfuscate his true beliefs, or make people think he believes the historic Christian position on the blood of Christ. But when he says “I believe in the precious blood of Christ” he means it in the sense that the blood symbolizes death. When he says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” he means it in the symbolic sense that blood means death.

It is heresy to teach, as MacArthur does, that Christ’s blood is only a symbol of Christ’s death, that blood itself is not part of the redemption price, that only Christ’s death is the atonement for sin.

MacArthur does not believe in a blood atonement at all. He believes in a death atonement.

Incidentally, we do not know of a single person who has ever said that we could have been “saved by blood without death.” MacArthur loves to put up strawmen. He has sometimes accused his opponents of believing that the blood of Christ is in a little bowl in Heaven and that a little of it is literally applied to the soul of each person at the moment that he gets saved. Again, we know of absolutely no one who believes this.

In an article titled “Not His Bleeding but His Dying,” published in his newsletter, MacArthur makes these statements:

It was His death that was efficacious . . . not His blood. . . . The shedding of blood has nothing to do with bleeding . . . it simply means death. . . . Nothing in His human blood saves. His shed blood represents His sacrificial physical and spiritual death for us. . . . It is not His blood that I love, it is Him. It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying.

Those are the words of a heretic on the blood of Christ! The Bible teaches that all of the sufferings of Christ, including His bleeding, helped to pay the penalty for our sins along with Christ’s death. Christ’s death was the final capstone and consummation of Christ’s atoning work. To downplay or minimize any part of Christ’s atoning work is heretical and must be rejected.

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An Addendum
August, 2016

The above article was written several years ago. Since that time, some good men have come to believe that Dr. MacArthur has changed his position on the blood of Christ and now he teaches that the blood of Christ is as efficacious as Christ’s death. I do not know what evidence might exist that MacArthur has changed his position, but I hope that it is true. I hope that he no longer makes the kind of statements that we have cited. If and when we see or hear a clear statement from MacArthur that he has cured his heresy on the blood, we will gladly take down any reference to it on our website.

One further thing—we believe that there are several places in the Bible where the word “blood” includes the idea of “death.” We also believe that the word “death” sometimes includes the idea of Christ’s bleeding. The word “cross” can include the idea of Christ’s bleeding and Christ’s death. But that is a far different thing than saying that when the Bible says “blood” it means “death.” It is the difference between a metaphor and a synecdoche. A metaphor (or metonym) is used to say that one thing is a symbol for another; whereas, a synecdoche names one part of the whole as representative of the whole. A metaphor eliminates the reality of the bleeding of Christ as a necessary part of the redemption price. A synecdoche, on the other hand, includes all of the sufferings of Christ, His bleeding, and His death as the price of our salvation.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY VS TOTAL INABILITY

By:  Lloyd L. Streeter

This past Sunday I helped teach an adult Sunday school class.  The lesson was about how every Christian should be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within the believer (I Peter 3:15).  In the lesson, I was making the point that we can give an answer or make the biblical case for what we believe but we cannot argue anyone into becoming a Christian.  Only the Holy Spirit can convince a sinner to become a Christian.  No one gets saved apart from the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  A sinner will never turn to Christ on his own because every sinner is totally depraved.  The sinner is too sinful to turn to Christ for salvation without the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.

After the class, I was approached by a person who asked me, “Do you believe all five points of Calvinism?”

My answer, of course, was “No.”

I am not sure that I believe any of the five points of Calvinism, the so-called TULIP.  The five points have been defined in different ways by various people.  There are several versions of the five points.

I am not a Calvinist, and have never been a Calvinist.  Why should I call myself by Calvin’s name?  Calvin baptized babies; I do not.  Calvin believed that the church was going to bring in the kingdom of God on earth before Jesus comes back.  I do not believe the kingdom can come until the King first returns.  Calvinism believes in local church government by lay elders.  I, like all good Baptists, believe in congregational government.  These are just a few of the doctrines wherein I disagree with Calvinism.  So, I have never been a Calvinist and I am not now a Calvinist.  This does not mean that I consider Calvinists to be bad people.  I have great respect for many Calvinistic Christians.  But I simply do not agree with some of their doctrines; so I am not a Calvinist.

The second question that I was asked was, “Do you believe in total depravity?”

My answer, of course, is “yes.”

Total depravity is the doctrine of original sin that says that the sinner has been blighted by sin in all of his parts.  Every person in the human race is corrupted, perverted in his soul, spirit, body, intellect, emotions, will, mind, and understanding.  Total depravity does not mean that all of the sinner’s behavior is as bad as it could possibly be.  It does not mean that all sinners are equally outrageous in their sinful acts.  It does not mean that the sinner cannot make some good decisions or choices by God’s grace.  Man is a free moral agent and able, by God’s grace, to make choices within the parameters of his nature.

It does mean, however, that humans are so damaged by sin that they will never turn to Christ to be saved unless God, by His grace, convicts them by His Holy Spirit.

Total depravity is not a doctrine owned by Calvinists.  The T in Calvin’s TULIP stood for total inability, not total depravity.  Almost all evangelical theologians, both Arminian and Calvinistic, believe in total depravity.  Anyone who wants to read the arminiantheologyblog can find it on the net.  Under the headline “Do Arminians Believe in Total Depravity?” the Arminian writer takes issue with John Mac Arthur, Loraine Boettner, and other Calvinists who have accused Arminians of not believing in total depravity.  The article quotes, at length, James Arminius, who wrote, “[I]n his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good.”

The Arminian writer then quotes the president and vice-president of the Society of Evangelical Arminians saying that Arminians do believe in total depravity and, that without God’s help, man cannot think or do anything good “or even believe the gospel.”

Several other notable Arminians are also quoted to prove that Arminians and Calvinists alike believe in total depravity because of the Fall.

So, total depravity is not exclusively a Calvinist doctrine, nor does believing in man’s total depravity make one a Calvinist.

Total depravity is often confused for total inability.  They are not the same thing.  Calvin’s doctrine of total inability means that the sinner does not have to co-operate with God in order to be saved.  Strong Calvinists go well beyond total depravity.  They embrace total inability because they do not believe that a sinner can co-operate with God by believing until after he is regenerated.  This doctrine is known as “monergism.”  Strong Calvinists believe this “monergism,” this doctrine of total inability, because they believe that regeneration must come before believing, that the sinner must be regenerated before he is saved, and therefore, the sinner cannot co-operate with God.  I reject this doctrine.

The doctrine of total depravity holds that the sinner does co-operate with God in order to be saved.  The sinner must believe.  No one has ever been saved without believing.  This co-operation of the sinner, empowered by God’s grace, is known as “synergism.”

I believe in total depravity, not in total inability.  Total depravity was not one of Calvin’s five points; total inability was.  I believe that God makes the sinner willing, frees his will, and gives to the sinner the ability to co-operate, to believe, to trust in Christ.

The best theologians have believed in total depravity.  Based on Romans, chapter 3, man has “no good” in him.  Apart from God’s grace, the sinner can do no good and he has no good in him.

All goodness comes from God.  He is the fountain and the source of all that is good.  Jesus said to the rich young man, “There is none good but God” (Mark 10:18).

Herbert Lockyer, in his All the Doctrines of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964, p. 145] wrote, “The Fall resulted in the total depravity of man . . . every part of his nature became tainted by sin.”

Emery H. Bancroft, a Baptist theologian, wrote in his Christian Theology: Systematic and Biblical [Hayward, CA: J. F. May Press, 1949, p. 176], “In every individual, in every department and faculty of his nature, from the circumference to the center, or from the center to the circumference of his being,” he is intensively sinful.

Augustus Hopkins Strong, another Baptist theologian, remarked in his Systematic Theology [Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1944, p. 637], under the heading, “Depravity, Partial or Total?” “The Scriptures represent human nature as totally depraved.”  He then quotes H. B. Smith, on page 637, “By total depravity is never meant that men are as bad as they can be. . . .” etc.

The common grace of God helps even the unregenerate person to do some good things.  The good that a person does, while admired by his fellow humans, does not commend him to God because the good is done for selfish and wrong motives.  The sinner is totally depraved, not half depraved, nor 90% depraved.  He does not have a “spark of divinity.”  The Bible says there is no good in him.  Jesus said, “There is none good but God.”  God is the source of all good in the universe.

Norman L. Geisler discusses the extent of depravity in his Systematic Theology [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011, pp. 784-787].  He explains that the view that humans are born with no sin nature is called Pelagianism; the view that mankind is partially depraved is called “semi-Pelagianism.  He says, on page 787, “Sin does penetrate and permeate our whole being.  Humans are born wholly, not partially, depraved, that is every aspect of our being is affected by sin.”

Wayne Grudem, comments on the doctrine of inherited sin, in his Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000, pp. 494-498].  He remarks, “a.  In our natures, we totally lack spiritual good before God.  b.  In our actions, we are totally unable to do spiritual good before God.”

L. Berkhof, a strong Calvinist, in his Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941, pp. 246-247] discusses both total depravity and total inability.  He discusses them separately because they are two different things.  The terms are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably.  Lots of people believe in total depravity who do not believe in what Calvinists call total inability.  Berkhof says, “[I]nherited pollution is called total depravity. . . .  The inherent corruption extends to every part of man’s nature, to all the faculties and powers of both soul and body.”  This total depravity is denied by Pelagians, Socinians . . . but is clearly taught in Scripture.”

Charles Hodge discusses the doctrine of original sin in his Systematic Theology, Vol. II, [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, printed in 2016, pp. 227-256].  Like Berkhof and other strong Calvinists, Hodge goes beyond total depravity and embraces total inability.  However, what he says about total depravity is instructive.  “The Scriptures not only indirectly teach the doctrine of original sin, or of the hereditary, sinful corruption of our nature as derived from Adam, by teaching as we have seen, the universal and total depravity of our race, but they directly assert the doctrine” [p. 240].

Henry Clarence Thiessen was a fine Baptist theologian.  In his Lectures in Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], he discusses “The Extent of Depravity” on page 191.  “The Scriptures speak of human nature as wholly depraved.  However, the doctrine of ‘total depravity’ is easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.  It is important to know both what it does not mean and what it does mean.”

What total depravity means is that every part of man is corrupted and that there is no good in man to commend him to God.  What it does not mean is total inability as it is defined by strong Calvinists.  It does not mean that a sinner cannot believe upon Christ when that sinner is sufficiently convicted by the Holy Spirit.  Strong Calvinists who believe in total inability hold that sinners must be regenerated before they can believe.

Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his Systematic Theology, Vol. II [Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947, pp. 218-219] discusses total depravity.  He remarks, “The claim that the unregenerate are totally depraved is resented by many for want of a right understanding of its meaning.”  This remark is true.  Chafer then quotes Shedd, another reliable teacher.  In Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology, he says, “The depravity or corruption of nature is total.  Man is ‘wholly inclined to evil, and that continually.’”  Shedd also says, “Total depravity means the entire absence of holiness, not the highest intensity of sin.  A totally depraved man is not as bad as he can be, but he has no holiness, that is, no supreme love of God.  He worships and loves the creature rather than the creator, Romans 1:25.”

So it would appear that while believing in total depravity, I am in good company.  I agree with Lockyer, Bancroft, Strong, Geisler, Grudem, Berkhof, Hodge, Theissen, Chafer, and many, many others that man is totally depraved.  As a matter of fact, all good, credible and faithful teachers and theologians believe[d] that man is totally depraved.

What does the Bible say?  “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” [Isaiah 1:5-6].  “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:9-18).

The Bible does not teach the doctrine of Pelagianism, that is, that man did not inherit a corrupt, sinful nature.  Nor does the Bible teach semi-Pelagianism, that is, that man is only partially corrupted by sin and has a “spark of divinity” or “an island of righteousness.”  Both Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism are serious heresies.  Those who believe such things do not take sin seriously enough.  They do not understand the seriousness of man’s desperate condition.

To summarize, I have made these points:

  1. I am not a Calvinist.
  2. I believe in total depravity, but not in total inability.
  3. Man is so wicked that he will not accept Christ as Savior except by Holy Spirit conviction and the grace of God.
  4. Total depravity is not an exclusively Calvinistic doctrine; even Arminians believe in total depravity.
  5. All good Bible teachers in evangelical Christianity believe in total depravity.
  6. The Bible says, in no uncertain terms, that all humans are totally depraved.

MORE SOURCES

Many other witnesses have shown that believing in total depravity does not make one a Calvinist.  They have shown that there is a difference between total depravity and total inability; the difference being that adherents to total inability do not believe that a person can co-operate with God by believing until after he has been regenerated (mongerism).  Most people who believe in total depravity, but reject total inability, believe that God initiates salvation, frees the future believer’s will, and makes it possible for him to co-operate with God by believing (synergism).

George Zeller had it right when he wrote in the Biblical Evangelist , under the title “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?” [Biblical Evangelist, November-December, 2002].  He wrote,

            Today there are those of a reformed persuasion who teach that regeneration precedes faith.  They would say that a person must be born again before he believes.  They would say that a person must have God’s LIFE before he can believe on Christ.  C. D. Cole states it this way: “The Calvinist says that life must precede faith, and is logically the cause of faith.  Faith did not cause the new birth, the new birth caused faith.”

            Why do such men teach this?  The doctrine of man’s total depravity has been carried to the extreme by some Calvinists resulting in a wrong understanding of man’s inability.  They believe that the sinner is dead in sin and totally unable to respond to the gospel.  They believe he first must be regenerated and only then will he be able to believe the gospel. . . .

            We agree that no one can believe on Christ apart from God’s great and gracious working in the heart which involves both enabling and enlightenment (John 6:44, 65; Matthew 11:27; 16:16-17; Acts 16:14).  It is interesting that God sometimes commands a person to do what, in himself, he is totally unable to do. One example involves the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-5).  Christ gave him the command, “Stretch forth thine hand!”  How could he do this if he suffered from paralysis?  Christ commanded, the man obeyed, and God enabled!  Christ enabled him to do the impossible!

Zeller gives his position on the matter when he writes:

            If regeneration precedes faith, then this would make faith unnecessary since the person would already be saved.  If a person is regenerated, then he is born of God and a member of God’s family.  If you are a member of God’s family then you are already saved so what need is there for faith.

Zeller then quotes the great C. H. Spurgeon.  Spurgeon rejected the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith.  Wrote Zeller:

            Charles Spurgeon, a strong Calvinist himself, recognized the folly of saying that the sinner must be regenerated before he can believe: “If I am to preach the in faith Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.”

Another source rejecting the mongerism doctrine is evangelist and Bible teacher, Paul L. Freemen.  In a pamphlet titled, “What’s Wrong With Five-Point Calvinism?”  Freeman deals with the strong Calvinist’s doctrine of “total inability.”

            Concerning the statement that man cannot believe the gospel and that man cannot believe until he is born again, let the following Scriptures be studied—John 1:12; 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:40; 7:39; 12:36; and 20:31.  These Scriptures all show that spiritual life follows upon the sinner’s believing in Jesus Christ.  The apostle John gave as his reason for writing his gospel, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” It is very clear that believing comes first and the new birth follows. The verses I have cited from the Gospel of John by no means exhaust  the Scriptures which prove life through believing. If you will take Strong’s Concordance and study the words believe, believed, and believeth, you will find much more. A notable example is Acts 16:31 where Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The Calvinist would twist it to read, “When thou are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt believe.” What utter disregard for the plain teaching of the Word of God!

Still another witness who holds that we can believe in total depravity without being a Calvinist and without believing in total inability is evangelist Robert L. Sumner.  As editor of the Biblical Evangelist, Sumner has probably done as much to combat the doctrine of total inability as anyone in Bible-believing Christianity.  While I do not agree with everything he says about election, I do heartily agree with all that Sumner says about total inability.  Writing in his pamphlet, “An Examination of TULIP—The Five Points of Calvinism,” Dr. Sumner says,

            The “T” stands for total depravity, which the more extreme Calvinists call “total inability.” By this is meant that man cannot do anything at all to bring about his salvation—not even believe! To the fact of man’s total and complete depravity, as stated in Sacred Scripture, we heartily concur. Man is completely corrupt from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He does have a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). His total pollution is such that even Paul was compelled to confess, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Man is born in sin (Psalm 51:5); he goes astray as soon as he is born (Psalm 58:3); and the completeness of his impurity is such that it takes a passage like Romans 3:9-20, with its fourteen-fold indictment, to sum up his true condition.

            Furthermore, we readily acknowledge also that man’s depravity is such that he cannot and does not initiate any move toward God and redemption on his own. As David and Paul agreed, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. . . .  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Psalm 14:2, 3; Romans 3:10, 11). Our Lord Himself said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw. . . .” (John 6:44). We most certainly do not deny these truths; we emphasize and preach them.

            However, it is the false conclusions which five-point Calvinism draws from these basic, biblical facts to which we strongly object.

So we can add Zeller, Spurgeon, Freeman, and Sumner to the list of those who believed in total depravity but rejected total inability.  Even Curtis Hutson, who certainly was no Calvinist, believed in total depravity while rejecting total inability.  [Sword of the Lord, “Why I Disagree With All 5 Points of Calvinism,” July 21, 1989].

These sources could be multiplied.  In my vertical files, which I kept up for decades, I collected hundreds of articles, books, and pamphlets which testify to the truth that I am teaching in this paper.

Incidentally, I have an article by a well-known adherent to the doctrine of total inability in which he makes this statement: “[I]t takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ; it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.”

Not only is that statement wrong about the matter of what comes first, believing or regeneration, it is blasphemous about the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is able to enlighten and convict the sinner enough to bring him to Christ and salvation.  Nothing more is needed, and it is shameful to denigrate the work of the Holy Spirit by teaching that it takes “much more” to bring the sinner to Christ.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE “BLOOD MOONS”

by Lloyd Streeter

“All the rage” now-a-days is the talk of a tetrad (four) of “blood moons” that are supposed to be seen in 2014-2015.  What is actually being discussed are four full moons eclipsed which are remarkable because they fall on four Jewish holy days, two in 2014, and the same two in 2015.  These four full moons are also remarkable because among them will be a solar eclipse.  Of course, there are many full moons, one every 29 days, and a few of them do fall on Jewish holy days.  Several times in the past, eclipsed full moons have fallen on more than one Jewish holy day in a single year.  However, more notice is taken of a 2014-2015 tetrad of full moons because they have been sensationalized by some well-known ministers who seem to find prophetic significance to them.  The first minister to write of these so-called “blood moons” was Mark Biltz, founder and pastor of El Shaddai Ministries in Washington state.  Biltz has linked solar and lunar eclipses to Israel’s history and biblical feast days.[1]  Another minister, John Hagee, has written a book on the subject, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change.

The first full moon under discussion will appear on the Day of Passover, April 15, 2014.  The second of the tetrad will take place on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles, October 8, 2014.  The third one will arrive on Passover, April 4, 2015.  The fourth and final full moon of the tetrad will happen on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles, September 28, 2015.  Right in the middle of this tetrad of full moons will be a total solar eclipse, on March 20, 2015.  These full moons are called “blood moons” because Mark Biltz was looking at a picture of a full moon and to him it looked red.  This reminded Biltz of what the Bible says about the moon looking like blood in several prophetic passages.

The tetrad of 2014-2015 is not the first time that there have been four eclipsed full moons on four Jewish holy days.  It happened in 1949-1950, and again in 1967-1968.  In each case, the full moons fell on the Day of Passover and the Day of the Feast of Tabernacles, in the respective years.  And in each case, a total solar eclipse arrived in the midst of the tetrad.  Very few people would say that these events are uninteresting but the real question is, are the prophetic speculations taking place justified?

Unfortunately, some people have jumped to the conclusion that because past tetrads of full moons have fallen on Jewish holy days, and will again in 2014-2015, there must be some prophetic event which is about to happen, perhaps the rapture, perhaps an event in the Great Tribulation.  By going back, in retrospect, Biltz, Hagee, and others have been able to arbitrarily link the full moons of 1949-1950 and 1967-1968 to important events for the nation of Israel—the birth of the nation and the Six Day War.  However, Biltz and Hagee have been rather loose in choosing events that are only relatively close in proximity to the time of the “blood moons.”  The events arbitrarily chosen are sometimes a year or more away from when the “blood moons” and eclipses appear.

The last tetrad of “blood moons,” before modern times, occurred in 1493-1494, again on the same Jewish holy days, and again accompanied by a total solar eclipse.  That tetrad has been linked by Hagee to the persecution and expulsion of the Jews from Spain.[2]

It should be remembered that there are notable events during every year that directly impact the history of the Jews.  If someone is determined to arbitrarily select an event to link with a tetrad of “blood moons,” it will not be difficult to do, especially if plenty of latitude in time is allowed, as seems to have been done by Biltz and Hagee.  The Spanish Inquisition lasted for decades, 1478-1501 and was not specifically linked to the dates of a “blood moon.”  The Edict of Expulsion came a full year before the first “blood moon” of the 1493-1494 tetrad.  Israel’s independence as a nation came on May 14, 1948; a full year before the first “blood moon” of the 1949-1950 tetrad.  The Six Day War was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967; whereas the first “blood moon” of the 1967-1968 tetrad appeared on April 24, 1967 (The only “blood moon” to be near the date of the historical event arbitrarily chosen.)

When the 2014-2015 tetrad of “blood moons” has become history it will be easy for the speculators to link it to some major, or not so major, event.  It will be easy, especially since events a year before the tetrad and year after the tetrad may be considered.  This is the past practice of Biltz and Hagee.

The important thing to remember is that Christians are supposed to get their doctrine from the Bible.  The Bible is authoritative, sufficient, inspired by God, and inerrant.  With such a source, Christians do not need to speculate or make things up in order to help Christians to be knowledgeable of prophecy and equipped for service.  A careful study of what the Bible says about the moon turning blood red during some future prophetic event does not lead to any legitimate speculation about the tetrads 1493-1494, 1949-1950, 1967-1968, or 2014-2015.  References to the moon turning blood red (Joel 2, Matthew 24, Acts 2, and Revelation 6) all refer to the Tribulation Period.  Unless a teacher is setting a date for the rapture (before April 15, 2014) or implying that the church will be in the Tribulation Period, that teacher should not say that the coming tetrad has any connection with the above references.  There is certainly nothing in Scripture to lead us to the conclusion that the coming tetrad will harbinger any great prophetic event such as the rapture, an invasion of Israel, or the unveiling of the Antichrist.  Furthermore, it would be pure speculation to link the tetrad of full moons to any non-prophetic events such as an attack on Israel by Iran, the betrayal of Israel by a “friend,” or the development of a nuclear weapon by one of Israel’s enemies.  Such guess work regarding “blood red moons” may be attention-getting and sensational, but will undoubtedly lead people astray and will result in corrupting the Word of God and wrestling the Word of God to one’s own destruction (II Peter 3:16).

The Bible nowhere tells the Christian to look for full moons on Jewish holy days, or any other signs.  The Bible instructs the Christian to look for the Lord to come to rapture His church (Titus 2:13).  There are no signs at all for the rapture.  The signs mentioned in Matthew 24-25 are signs for the Revelation of Christ in glory, signs for which Tribulation saints are supposed to look.

The anti-dispensationalists are having a “hay-day” in ridiculing all dispensationalists (those who believe that the church will be raptured before the Tribulation begins).  The anti-dispensationalists (mostly amillenialists) want to paint all pre-Tribulationalists with the same brush.  All pre-Tribulationalists are being accused of believing that some great coming event is linked to the coming tetrad of “blood moons.”  It is, of course, a slander and a ruse.

JOEL 2

A correct understanding of several Scriptures will help the Christian to avoid getting involved in questionable speculations, shameful date-setting, and heretical teachings.  Joel, chapter 2, is a notable Scripture that mentions that “the sun and the moon shall be dark” (Joel 2:10). 

Joel’s prophecy is about “The Day of the Lord.”  It is mostly about the Tribulation Period, with a few verses describing the kingdom age.  Verse one of chapter one is the key verse: “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”

Joel says that even the animals will groan and cry because their pastures are burned up (1:18-20).  He says that the Tribulation Period will be “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains” (2:2).  It is an awful time that is described as a time of Israel’s invasion, (2:3-4), a time of starvation (2:6), a time of great earthquakes (2:10).  It will be a time when the Lord calls on Israel to repent (2:12-17).

Joel says the Tribulation will be followed by a time of great blessing of God upon the earth (2:18-27), a time when God will dwell with His people.

The prophet also tells of an event that was partially fulfilled at Pentecost in Acts 2.  This prophecy is found in 2:28-32:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

Verses 28 and 29 is the portion of the prophecy which was partially fulfilled at Pentecost.  The Spirit being “poured out on all flesh” was not fulfilled and won’t be fulfilled until the kingdom age when “all Israel shall be saved” and God begins the millennium with a 100% saved population.  What we have at Pentecost is a small partial fulfillment, sort of a precursor of that which is to come.  God’s Spirit came at Pentecost in a new and different way.  The church was begun that day when believers at Jerusalem were baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body. 

That part of the prophecy in verse 31 about the sun being “turned into darkenss, and the moon into blood,” was not fulfilled at Pentecost.  Of course not!  There was no moon “turned into blood” at Pentecost.  This part of the prophecy will be fulfilled during the Tribulation Period.

That part of the prophecy that says that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (2:32) is being fulfilled during the entire church age and will continue to be fulfilled throughout the Tribulation and the Millennium.  It is a promise of God to “whosoever.”

Chapter three of Joel describes the invasion of Israel by her enemies (3:1-2).  This will happen during the Tribulation Period.  The campaign of Armageddon and the Judgment of God upon the nations are described (3:9-17).  Then this little book closes with a final promise of the millennial reign of Christ (3:18-21).

In conclusion, there is no question that the reference to the moon turning into blood, i.e., blood red in color, was not fulfilled at Pentecost and will not be fulfilled until the Tribulation Period.  Dr. Leon Wood, the Old Testament scholar, wrote about the prophecy of the moon being turned into blood, “These events will transpire just preceding the millennium.”[3]  The events prophesied in Joel 2:28-31 are not being fulfilled today.  They have nothing to do with full moons in 2014-2015.  Any teacher who pretends that Joel 2:28-31 has anything to do with the four full moons of 2014-2015 is doing a disservice to the people in his audience, and he is mishandling the Word of God.

MATTHEW 24

Matthew 24-25, the Olivet Discourse of our Lord, is entirely about the Tribulation Period, the Revelation of Jesus, and some accompanying judgments.  This wonderful prophetic passage is not at all about the rapture of the church.  The rapture of the church is not mentioned a single time in the Olivet Discourse.

The Gospel of Matthew was written to Jews about a Jewish King (Christ).  Matthew 24-25 is about the coming of the Jewish King to rule and reign in this world.

At the end of the Tribulation, before Jesus returns to earth, we read,

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matt. 24:29).

The moon will be darkened.  This is perfectly consistent with Joel 2:31.  This has nothing to do with a tetrad of full moons in 2014-2015.  Before Jesus returns to earth at the Revelation, the moon will be darkened.  Almost all of the Tribulation will be past.  This will happen “after the tribulation of those days.”

Some people do not want to accept that the rapture of the church is not in view in the Olivet Discourse.  But that is because they do not understand the context.  One of the most important principles of Bible study is that you have to get the context right or you will not understand the Scriptures.

Here’s the context: (1.) False christs will come (24:5).  (2.) Believers will hear of wars and rumors of wars (24:6-7).  (3.) There will be famines, starvation, diseases, earthquakes in unusual places (24:7), especially in Israel.  (4.) The saints will be persecuted, even to death (24:8-12).  (5.) But those who endure until the end of the Tribulation will have their lives saved (24:13).  (6.) The gospel will be preached all over the world which will result in multiplied millions of people being saved (24:14).  (7.) The abomination of desolation will occur (24:15).  (8.) The Jews will be persecuted and will flee for their lives (24:16-22).  (9.) When Jesus comes, He will come quickly like lightning (24:27).  (10.) He will come in power and great glory (24:30).  (11.) He will gather up His “elect” (the Jewish people) and miraculously transport them to Israel (24:31; 40-41).  (12.) The Jewish generation, i.e., the Jewish race, will not pass, will not become extinct, before those prophecies are fulfilled because God has a plan for the Jews (24:34).  (13.) The day and hour of the Revelation will not be discerned by people living during the Tribulation Period (24:36, 42-44).  (14.) At the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus comes in glory to establish His kingdom, two people will be working in a field and one will be miraculously taken by God’s angels.  Two will be grinding at a mill and one will be taken and one left.  This is not the rapture of the church.  This is a miraculous catching away and transporting of Jews to Jerusalem at the Revelation of Christ in glory.

The context of Matthew 24 is the Tribulation and the Revelation.  Therefore, verse 29 about “the moon will be darkened and not give her light” cannot be a prophecy of any “blood moons” of the church age, cannot have any connection to a tetrad of full moons in 2014-2015.

Those who pretend that Matthew 24:29 has anything to do with a tetrad of full moons in 2014-2015 are leading people astray.  They are delving into foolish speculation about things that are not taught in Scripture.  If the teacher of “blood moons” is not talking about the Great Tribulation, then he is not talking about anything in Matthew 24-25.  Matthew 24-25 is entirely about the Tribulation and the Revelation of Christ in glory when He comes after the Tribulation to establish His earthly kingdom.  All competent dispensationalists know that the rapture is not in sight in Matthew 24-25.  E. Schuyler English wrote, “To state categorically, as some have done in speaking of Matthew 24:29-31, that this is the rapture,” is not in our opinion, good exegesis.  On the contrary, it would seem to be much more scriptural to state, concerning these verses, “This is not the rapture of the church.”[4]

ACTS 2

Peter said, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit: and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.

This paper has already asserted that this prophecy from the Book of Joel was not all fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.  There was no sun darkened and no moon turned to blood that day.  The “last days” (v. 17) began on the Day of Pentecost and the world will still be in the last days during the Millennium.  The “moon turned to blood” prophecy is for the Tribulation Period.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee makes it clear that the most complete fulfillment of Joel and Peter’s prophecy awaits the Tribulation Period:

The question arises: What did Peter mean when he referred to this passage of Scripture on the Day of Pentecost?  Did he mean that the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled?  No, he didn’t say that.  He never claimed that this prophecy was fulfilled. . . .

What does Peter say in Acts 2:16? “. . . this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (italics mine).  He does not say it was a fulfillment of what Joel had predicted.  Rather he said, “This is that” . . . .

In effect, Peter is saying to them, “Don’t mock at what you see happening.  You ought to recognize from your own Word of God that Joel says the day is coming when God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.  If it is poured out on a few people today, you ought not to be surprised at that.”

Then Peter went on to quote the rest of Joel’s prophecy regarding what would take place: “I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come: (vv. 30-31).  Was that fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost?  Of course not.  There were no earthquakes, no changes in the sun and moon.  These will occur on “that great and notable day of the Lord.”  Joel calls it “the great and terrible day of the Lord.”  The Day of Pentecost was a great day, but it was not a terrible day. It was a wonderful day![5]

REVELATION 6:12

Revelation, chapter 6, is a Tribulation passage.  The church will have been raptured to heaven when this chapter is fulfilled.  The scientist and Bible scholar, Dr. Henry Morris says that the blood-red color of the moon in that day will appear due to the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Israel that will fill the air with vast quantities of dust particles.[6]

If Revelation 6 is a Tribulation scene, then its blood-red moon cannot refer to a moon in 2014-2015.  The world is not now in the Tribulation Period.  The Antichrist has not been revealed, and he won’t be until after the church is raptured.

To insist that full moons or solar eclipses in 2014-2015 are connected in some way with blood moons or changes in the sun and moon in the Tribulation Period comes very close to date setting.  Date setting, regarding the coming of the Lord is a shameful practice that has brought much reproach upon the church of God and upon those who believe the Bible prophecies.  Jesus said that even the Jews during the Tribulation Period will not know the date or the time of His Revelation from heaven (Matt. 24:36; 42; 44; 50).

CONCLUSION

A picture of a moon that looked red to Mark Biltz may not look red to others.  And, certainly, a moon that has already been memorialized in a picture cannot be what the Bible predicts for the Tribulation Period.  Our doctrine should be based on what the Bible actually says, not on guess work.  To work up excitement over supposed events about which the Bible does not speak is not a wise course.  To arbitrarily make a connection of events that the Bible does not connect is a practice that will bring shame to the teacher and will discredit the teacher who does it.

 


            [1]Mark Biltz, www.elshaddaiministries.us/miscpdf/markbiltzbio.pdr.  

            [2]John Hagee, Four Blood Moons: Something Is about to Happen (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013), 187.

            [3]Leon J. Wood, The Bible and Future Events (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1973), 164.

            [4]E. Schuyler English, Rethinking the Rapture (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1954), 47.

            [5]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. III, Proverbs – Malachi  (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982),  674-675.

            [6]Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 1995), Notes on Revelation 6:12, 1438.

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE

by Lloyd Streeter

The Bible says in John 11:25-26, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?”

This is one of the great “I Am” statements of the Gospel of John.  John is the only Gospel writer to record these statements.  There are seven of these “I Am” statements in this book.  These statements describe the Lord Jesus Christ.  These statements all teach the deity of Jesus Christ, and much more.

All of the “I Am” statements in John are related to what Jesus said in John 8:56-58.  After Jesus’ enemies had accused Him of being demon possessed, He told them who He really was.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.  Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

There was no doubt about what Jesus was saying.  He was saying He was present before Abraham was born.  In fact, He was saying that He is the Eternal, Ever-present God whom Moses knew.  His “I Am” is a clear reference to Exodus 3:14.

Jesus had been saying this all through His conversation with the Jews, but they were not “getting it.”  For example, in John 8:23, He had said, “I am from above.”  He also had said, “for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (8:24), and “I am he, and I do nothing of myself” (8:28).

However, when Jesus said “before Abraham was, I am,” they “got it.”  And they did not like it, because Jesus was saying that He is the ever-continuing, self-existent, eternal, always-in-the- present God.

This claim of absolute deity on the part of our Lord was more than His enemies could take.  “Then took they up stones to cast at him” (8:59).

So, the “I Am” statements of Christ are the lowest common denominator of Christ’s description of Himself.  He is saying, “I am Jehovah God.”

That self assertion of deity then helps to form the other titles in Christ’s self-descriptive “I Am” statements.  He says: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35);  “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12);  “I am the door” (John 10:7);  “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11-14); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” it was the occasion of the death of Lazarus.  Lazarus is one of three persons raised to life by the Lord Jesus.  He raised the young man from Nain saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”  He resurrected the little girl saying, “Talitha cumi; . . . Damsel, I say unto thee, arise”  To the dead, decaying body of Lazarus he cried, “Lazarus, come forth”!  And Lazarus came to life and hobbled out of the tomb with grave clothes still wrapped around his body.

Only God can raise the dead.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power, . . by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was saying that He is the only source of resurrection.  He is the only power of resurrection.

There is intimation in what Jesus said of the Rapture of the Church, of the translation of dead saints, and of the catching away of the living.

When He said, “Though he were dead yet shall he live,” does it not refer to those who “sleep in Jesus” who will be raised when He comes?  And when He said, “Whoso liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” does it not refer to a generation of believers who will be living when Jesus comes, living saints who will never die, but be translated and raptured to Heaven to live with him forever?

Paul the apostle wrote under inspiration of God to say, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

A young boy in England grew up being constantly fearful regarding the Coming of the Lord.  His fear was increased by the huge stones used for grave markers in the local cemetery near his home.  He was worried that the gigantic memorial stones would prevent him from rising on Resurrection Day.  Eventually, the young man became comforted by two events.  The first was that he saw and heard an old man walking through the cemetery talking to the grave stones.  He saw the old man shake his cane at the markers and say, “O, ye stones, ye’ll all be broken to pieces on the Resurrection Morn. . .ye will!”

The second and more important event which brought courage to the young man’s heart was to hear the words of the Lord Jesus as they were read to him by his mother, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?”

The power of the Lord Jesus to raise the dead is a great comfort to every child of God.  But, that power is  no comfort to the unsaved!  This wonderful death-abolishing power will be used to drag every Christ rejector out of the grave to stand before a thrice Holy God for judgment.

In John r:25, 27-29, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. . . . And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

He who has the power to raise the dead has power to bring men into judgment.  He proved by His resurrection from the dead that He will judge all men.

God has given over all judgment unto His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This living, glorified, eternal Son of God will judge every unsaved person at the Great White Throne in that coming day when the books are opened (Revelation 20:12).

The proof of this judgment is the fact that He is alive from the grave.  In Acts 17:31, we read, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man who he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

We urge any unsaved person reading these words to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Personal Savior.  Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

 

 

WRITTEN WITH A PEN OF IRON WITH THE POINT OF A DIAMOND

by Lloyd Streeter

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, preached and predicted the future during a time when his people, Judah, had forsaken the Lord and had lived wickedly. He correctly predicted that Judah would be defeated as a nation and carried away into captivity because of her idolatry and sin.

Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, Jeremiah thundered out these words to his people: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart” (Jeremiah 17:1).

One thing we noticed in going to any of the excavations in the old Mediterranean world is that the ancients did a lot of writing on stone. In Turkey, Cyprus, Patmos, or Crete–it is the same everywhere–there are messages on the rocks. What those ancient peoples wrote is written forever in granite.

The sinner’s heart is hard toward God. And the prophet was telling Judah that her sins were written there, to be remembered forever, written “with a pen of iron, and with a point of a diamond.” God reads hearts.

These same words remind the unsaved person that God writes our sins in a book of works. God writes those sins indelibly, undeniably, and unforgettably that they might be reviewed on Judgment Day. In that day the unbelieving Christless person will be “judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

In this article we will discuss the problem, the proof, the permanence, and the pardon suggested by Jeremiah’s words.

The problem is sin. God remembers the sins of man and brings them into judgment.

What is sin? To the Pharisee in the Bible, sin would have been eating with unwashed hands, or going into a Gentile’s house, or touching a dead animal. The Pharisee hardly ever thought of injustice, cruelty, covetousness, or hatred as sin.

Human nature never changes. People still strain out a gnat and swallow the camel! To the great mass of people today sin is being unappreciative of the UN, opposing homo-sexual marriage, wearing fur, eating meat, or driving an SUV.

But what is sin according to God? It is a lack of conformity to God’s will. It is disobedience to God’s commands. Sin is missing God’s standard of holiness, deviating from God’s requirements, or transgressing God’s law.

We need only look at the Ten Commandments to see how sinful we are. God said, “No other gods!” but we do sometimes put other things, or people, or ourselves, before God.

God said, “Make no graven image and bow down to it.” But many do bow down to images of Christ, angels, and saints.

God said, “Do not take God’s name in vain.” But God’s name so easily comes to the lips as a curse.

God said, “Remember the Sabbath.” But Christ is our Sabbath and He and His day are easily forgotten.

God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” And many of us disobey this command.

God said, “Do not murder.” But some have wished another dead, and have been angry with a brother without cause.

God said, “Do not commit adultery.” But many have broken this commandment in deed or in thought.

God said, “Do not steal.” But how often do we steal someone else’s peace of mind?

God said, “Do not lie.” But all people are liars.

God said, “Do not covet.” And all of us are guilty of breaking this commandment.

The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . They are all gone out of the way” (Romans 3:10-12)

So, the problem is that we have sinned against a holy God.

The proof of this is that “It is graven upon the table of their heart.”

It is imprinted within our nature. It is what we love and prefer. Until a person is born again he does not want spiritual things, and does not want to hear about God or eternity. It comes out. You can not keep it hidden. It manifests itself in a thousand ways. “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deed were evil” (John 3:19).

What is most precious to you? What do you worship? What takes most of your time and money? What gets most of your attention? What occupies most of your thoughts? This is proof of your sin. It is graven upon the table of your heart.

And it is permanent. The nature of man never changes. It is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond. Can an Ethiopian change his skin? Can a leopard change his spots? So is man’s nature permanent. That which is born of the flesh is always just flesh.

The Bible uses many similes to show the permanence of man’s sinful nature. The Bible says our old sinful nature is like the adder that has venom, like the ass that is stubborn, like the bear that is cruel, and like the canker worm that is destructive. Our nature is like the uncleanness of the dog, the desolateness of the dragon, and the fierceness of the leopard. Our sin nature is ravening like a lion, stupid like a sheep, filthy like the swine, and ferocious like the wolf. And it is permanent.

“Well then,” you ask, “how can we have pardon? How can we get sin out of our hearts and lives?” You can not do it by yourself. But if you repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus as your only Savior, He will forgive your sin. He will then take away your sin and give you a new heart.

Yes, the Bible says if you will repent and trust Christ He will “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31).

Nehemiah 9:17 says, “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”

So, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

THE RAPTURE IS A REAL COMING EVENT

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

Recently, some people have felt threatened by the Left Behind series of popular novels, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The series has been read by millions of people in all religious denominations.

LaHaye and Jenkins followed the Scriptures very closely, and the basic premise of the books is absolutely true in the prophetic details. Of course, the books Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Armageddon, Glorious Appearing, etc., are novels, and as such, the personalities, conversations, and activities of many of the characters are fictional. However, the descriptions of the major events are true and accurate, according to the Bible.

Some people do not like the venue, using a novel to portray prophetic events. However, the technique is not new. About 350 years ago a Baptist preacher, John Bunyan, wrote a fictional story, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book which proved a most popular and enduring work. An allegory of Scripture, Bunyan’s book has proved helpful to people of all ages in learning Bible doctrine and the way to Heaven.

LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ books have proved helpful also as many people have inquired more carefully about future prophetic events. In fact, many people have been born again as they thought anew about the Rapture.

Some people are very uneasy about books that say that many will be “left behind” when Jesus returns. The truth has a way of doing that to people. Consequently, some have been speaking out, saying that there is no Rapture, no future Tribulation Period on this Earth, and no coming Armageddon.

The truth is that there will be a Rapture of the Church, just as LaHaye and Jenkins portray it. This is not a new teaching. The Apostle Paul taught the Rapture in 52 A.D. He wrote to the Thessalonian church, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [I Thessalonians 4:16-17]

The word “Rapture” means “caught up.” We can easily see from the above Scripture that the Church is going to be caught up, raptured.

The Church of Jesus Christ consists of all born again people, no matter what their denominational affiliation. All of Christ’s Church, His Bride, will be caught up and taken to Heaven. This will include the resurrection of all Christian believers who have died. It will also include the translation (changing) of all believers who are still alive on Earth in that day.

Christ loves His Church, His Bride, and He will come back for Her. Jesus Himself said so in John 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Jesus said that when He comes He will “receive” believers unto Himself and will take them to Heaven. That is the purpose of the Rapture. This will not be a “yo-yo” event with the Church being caught up into the air and then immediately coming back down to earth. The purpose of the Rapture is to save the Church out of this world, that the Church would avoid the judgment of the Tribulation Period. The seven year Tribulation Period is a time when God’s wrath will be poured out on this world. The Church will be saved from that unprecedented time of death, disease, starvation, catastrophe, and war. The Bible says that He has “delivered us from the wrath to come.” [I Thessalonians 1:10] God has “not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” [I Thessalonians 5:9]

When the Bible says that Jesus is coming again, it does not refer to Him coming at death, at Pentecost, nor at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. When the Bible says “This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11], it means that He is coming back personally, visibly, suddenly, unexpectedly, and literally.

Many will be “left behind” when Jesus comes, “left behind” because they are not ready, “left behind” because they are not saved through faith in Christ. Any who are not ready should get ready be receiving Christ as personal Savior. As the Bible says, “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” [Matthew 24:44]

RULING LAY ELDERS-ARE THEY SCRIPTURAL?

Lloyd L. Streeter

Every twenty years, or so, the ruling lay elder issue surfaces again among Bible believing Baptists.  Often, a group of laymen in a church will decide that they want neither congregational government nor a pastor who guides the people.  Typically, that group of laymen will either try to establish a Board of Ruling Elders in their local church, or, if their efforts are resisted, to start a church of their own with the desired lay elder government.

Recently, the lay elder concept has become more popular among some Baptists. In 1990, the GARBC, over the protests of many stalwarts, admitted a church which had a board of lay elders (in addition to a board of deacons and a board of trustees). It is believed by many that the teaching of Dr. John MacArthur has done much to soften Baptist attitudes toward the ruling lay elder idea.

Historically, there have been three types of church government in Christendom.  Episcopalian government is rule by bishops and the clergy. This form of church government is employed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal denominations, and, to a lesser degree, by Methodists and Lutherans.  Episcopal government is completely without any scriptural basis.  It is a very dangerous and heretical system because it destroys the autonomy of the local church and sets a hierarchy to rule over the doctrine, practice, and conscience of God’s people.

Presbyterian government is ruled by a presbytery on the denominational level and by a board of elders on the local church level. This board of elders may be called by different names but is present in almost every church of the reformed tradition.  Presbyterian government, with its board of ruling lay elders, is just as unscriptural, heretical, and dangerous as its Episcopal counterpart.  Elder rule destroys congregational government, violates democratic discussion and procedure, and relegates the biblical office of pastor to the station of a “hired hand.”

The third form of church government, of course, is congregational.  This is the form of government which is both true to the Scriptures and true to Baptist history.  It is a system that makes the congregation the final decision-making body and allows the pastor to guide and influence the people by means of his example and preaching.

In congregational government, each member of the body has one vote.  Each member is responsible before God for using his vote and his influence to keep pure the church’s doctrine, to keep orderly the church’s business, and to keep holy the church’s worship and practice.  The scriptural form of church government allows for the pastor to lead, guide, even rule, in the congregation; but his power is not a legal one since he has only one vote like all the other members; rather, his authority is a moral one.  The pastor’s only power is the power of his influence, his counsels, and his position as a God-called, biblical, local church officer.  No doubt, God intended that the pastor should be the most influential member of the local church in matters of business and worship.  God calls the pastor to be the teacher, leader, shepherd, and expounder of His Word in the flock of God.  However, the pastor does not have any more legal authority than any other member.  He must not, and can not, “Lord it over” God’s church (I Peter 5:3).  In deciding all matters of opinion, the majority rules in Baptist churches with congregational government.

Some confusion arises, perhaps, because the Bible speaks of “elders that rule” (I Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17).  What is not usually understood is that the word “elder,” in the New Testament, is simply another word for “pastor.”  As a matter of fact, the words “elder,” “bishop,” overseer,” and “pastor” are words that all refer to the same office in the local church.  These words are all interchangeable as they refer to this church office.

Emery H. Bancroft, the noted Baptist theologian, explains the significance of the words “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” in his book, Christian Theology, Systematic and Biblical:

The passages in which the elders appear as church officers are as follows: Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 10:17; 21:18; I Timothy 5:17; 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1; II John 1; III John 1.  This term is by far the most frequently used of them all. This probably grew out of the fact that it was already an established word among the Jews, and while it describes the same office as the other two, bishops and pastor, it has rather the idea of maturity and experience, thus describing the character of the officer rather than the function of the office.  Another term for this office is “bishop.”  There are only a few places where this term appears: Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; I Timothy 3:1,2; Titus 1:7.  The word bishop from the Greek (episcopos) means literally an overseer, and in the margin of the Revised Version is so rendered.  This title of overseer as applied to an officer in the church looks rather to the functions of the office than to the character of the officer, describing his care, his outlook upon those who are committed to his keeping, as a leader, guide, and teacher.  It carries with it more of the idea of authority and rule than does that of elder.  The third title for this same office is that of “pastor.”  There is only one passage where the word is used, that is Ephesians 4:11, where, in describing the gifts bestowed on the Church by the ascended Christ, the Apostle says, “and some pastors and teachers.” This term seems to have in it the thought of shepherding.  See John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; Acts 20:28; I Peter 2:25.  Thus the term pastor, “shepherd,” involves the personal tendency and spiritual concern which the bishop-elder should exercise over his flock. (J. F. May Press, Hayward, CA, 1949, p. 236)

The Bible teaches congregational rule in such passages as Acts 6, where men were chosen out from among the congregation for special work; in Romans 14, where the congregation had power to receive certain members; and in I Corinthians 5, where the congregation had power to discipline its members.

A church may have more than one minister, such as a youth minister, assistant pastor, minister of education, or minister of evangelism.  But, it would appear from a study of the New Testament that a church has only one elder-bishop-overseer-pastor.  The term “Senior Pastor” is as foreign to the New Testament as the term “under-shepherd,” inasmuch as the term is not found in Scripture and seems to indicate that there should be a plurality of elders.

There is only one “chief shepherd” for the flock of Christ (I Peter 5:4), and that fact would tend to set the procedure for the local church as well.  One pastor (elder) is responsible for taking the oversight over each local flock to feed it and care for it (I Peter 5:2).

Each of the seven churches of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, had only one elder-pastor.  The elder-pastor is addressed there as “the angel [messenger] of the church of Ephesus” (Rev. 2:1); “the angel of the church in Smyrna” (Rev. 2:8); “the angel of the church in Pergamos” (Rev. 1:12); and so forth.  This same language is used for all seven of those local churches (see Rev. 2:18; 3:1, 7, 14).  It would seem that each of those churches had only one elder, otherwise Jesus would have addressed them in the plural.

Epaphroditus was the only pastor of his church at Philippi (Philippians 2:25).  James was the only pastor of his particular local church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). And it would appear that Timothy was the only pastor at his church at Ephesus (I Timothy 1:2-3).

Yes, there is to be only one pastor in each local church, according to the Bible; and that one pastor-elder is to be both teacher (Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:1; Acts 20:28) and ruler ( I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17; Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24; and I Peter 5:2).

In many Bible cities, there were many local churches, each of them having a pastor, so the elders are mentioned at Ephesus, for example, in the plural (Acts 20:28); whereas, when the bishop and deacons are mentioned as from a specific local church, then the “bishop” is singular (I Timothy 3:2) but the “deacons” are plural (I Timothy 3:8; 11, 12).

The conclusion of the matter is that the present day movement to have a “Board of Ruling Lay Elders” to rule over the church and over the pastor is an unscriptural invention.

The word “deacon,” on the other hand, means servant.  Any movement to make deacons into a “Board of Elders” (in everything except name only) is as unscriptural as any other form of elder rule.

Congregational rule is scriptural, but, practiced biblically, it does not take away the pastor’s authority, making him simply a hired hand to “preach the sermons.”  Lay-Elder-Rule advocates like to call the pastor the “teaching elder” to distinguish him from the “ruling elders.”  They divide, in an unscriptural way, the functions of the pastor’s office, giving to the pastor the teaching responsibilities, but giving to the “lay elders” the “ruling” part of the pastor’s work.

Edward Hiscox in his book, New Directory for Baptist Churches (which has been a standard book on Baptist government since shortly after the Civil War), says, on page 100, under the heading “The Pastor’s Authority”:

The pastor is to be loved, honored and obeyed, in the Lord.  He is placed over the Church by both the Head of the body, and by the free and voluntary act of the body itself.  Though he professes no magisterial authority, and has no power, either spiritual or temporal, to enforce mandates or inflict penalties, yet the very position he occupies as teacher and leader supposes authority vested in him.  On the one hand, the minister is not to be regarded with ignorant and blind devotion, as if possessed of super human attributes, whose official acts must be venerated even though his private life be scandalous; not yet, on the other hand, is he to be considered a mere puppet for the capricious mistreatment of such as wish to show their independence, and “use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness.”

Dr. Clay Nuttall was absolutely correct when, in his book, The Weeping Church, he wrote:

The third level of discipline–discipline by the pastor–is the one that is most neglected.  This is the major cause of heartache in the local flock because no one but the pastor can accomplish it.  When a brother goes to a brother, he goes as a peer.  While the shepherd should and must act in tenderness, he must act.  Discipline by the [shepherd] is a despised subject, but since it is a Biblical mandate we cannot dismiss it.  Further, let us be reminded that a church without pastoral discipline will be a weeping church.  The pastor will weep in his own failure when he faces the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

The shepherd’s tools include a rod; therefore, a pastor must exercise discipline.  Since he is elder/bishop/shepherd, this discipline extends to his oversight in every area.

His supervision of paid staff, including multiple pastors, must include the heavy responsibility of directing, guiding, and, if need be, releasing them by use of that oversight.  Since all volunteer persons also fall within his God-given administration, he must be willing to dismiss them from service.  The pastor’s tool for discipline is the ability to remove from service and place of leadership.  There can be no exception to that rule or a monstrosity of headship is created.  He must reprove and rebuke with the authority of the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). Without pastoral discipline he is not shepherd at all.

We do not agree with all that W. A. Criswell has done.  Especially, we do not agree that he should have stayed in the Southern Baptist Convention. However, we do heartily agree with this noted Baptist scholar and pastor when he says of the pastor:

Anytime there is anyone else who is leading the church, they will be a poorly-led congregation.  I do not care who he is, how many there are, or however they may be organized.  The church may be run by a clique, or by an organized group, or just by anybody, but God intends for the rulership of the church to lie in the pastor.  He is under God, responsible to the Lord for the church.  These who stand by his side are fellow helpers.  A deacon is a diakonos, a servant, a helper.  He is to stand by the side of the pastor and hold up his arms like Hur and Aaron.  You will have a mighty church if you have laymen and deacons who stand by the side of the pastor and help him build up the house of God.  They make an unbeatable team, a consecrated deacon and a dedicated pastor.  It takes both of them. [Quoted by Dr. Kenny McComas in The America Review, 1st quarter, 1985]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon made some interesting comments in discussing the need for the men whom God calls.  In his sermon, “The Two Draughts of Fishes,” he speaks of the Plymouth Brethren, whose assemblies are ruled by elders:

The Plymouth-ist strives to get rid of the pastorate, but he never can, for the Lord will ever continue to give pastors after His own heart to feed His people, and all attempts made by the flock to dispense with these pastors will lead to leanness and poverty of soul.  The outcry against the “one man ministry” cometh not of God, but of proud self-conceit, of men who are not content to learn although they have no power to teach.  It is the tendency of human nature to exalt itself which has raised up these disturbers of the peace of God’s Israel, they will not endure to submit themselves to the authorities which God has Himself appointed, and abhor the teachings of the apostle, where he says, by the Spirit of God, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you.”  Brethren, I warn you, there is a spirit abroad which would pull down the men whom God Himself has raised up, that would silence those into whose mouths God has put the tongue of fire, that foolish men might prate according to their own will to the profit of no one, and to their own shame.  As for us, we shall, I trust, never cease to recognize that agency by which the Lord works mightily among us.  We would check no ministry in the Church of God.  We would be too glad to see it more abundantly exercised.  Would God that our solemn protest against that spirit which, under pretence of liberty to all, sets aside the instrumentality by which the Lord especially works.  He will have you still keep the fishermen to nets and to their boats; and your new ways of catching fish without nets, and saving souls without ministers, will never answer, for they are not of God.  They have been tried, and what has been the result of the trial?  I know not a Church in existence that has despised instrumentality, but it has come to an end within a few years either by schism or decay.  Where upon the face of the earth is there a single Church that has existed fifty years where God’s chosen instrumentality of ministry has been despised and rejected? “Ichabod!” is written upon their walls.  God rejects them because they reject God’s chosen way of working.  Their attempts are flashes in the pan, meteoric lights, will-o’-wisps, swellings of proud flesh, bubbles of foam, here to-day and gone for ever on the morrow.

In the light of Baptist history and doctrine, and in the light of common wisdom, the modern Ruling Lay Elder movement should be rejected.  It is a movement that would have proud men install themselves as rulers over God’s church-men who have not been called by God to that work, have not been gifted by God for that work, and have not been trained for that work.  It is a movement that would place over God’s churches a form of government which is totally contrary to God’s will.

ONLY ONE WAY

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

An unsaved man said to me recently, “Well, I think all religions are pretty much alike. All of them lead to Heaven if the followers are sincere.”

The ideas expressed by my unsaved friend are commonly accepted. Many individuals think that there are many roads to Heaven. Unfortunately, those ideas do not agree with what Jesus said.

In John, chapter 10, verse 9, Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”

The words of Jesus will sound intolerant to some people, but His words are absolutely true. The fact is, there is only one door to Heaven.

In John, chapter 14, verse 6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Please note, dear reader, that the words of our Lord do not allow for more than one way to Heaven. He said “I am the way.” He did not say, “I am a way,” but rather, “I am the way.” There is only one way to Heaven; God has only one plan of salvation.

The Bible says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Some people think that church membership is a right way to Heaven, but that is the way to eternal death. Some people think that being a good person is a right way to be saved, but that is the way of eternal death. The same can be said of man’s hopes to be saved by baptism, by keeping the Ten Commandments, and by living by the Golden Rule. All of them are the way to eternal death.

Jesus is our substitute. He shed His precious Blood on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty for our sins. All who place their faith in Him will be saved. This is God’s way to Heaven. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Paul and Silas were asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Their answer was consistent with all of the rest of the Bible when they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Yes, it may fly in the face of what many think, and it may go against common logic, but the fact is that Jesus is the only way that anyone can be saved. God has made provision for sinners to be saved, and His provision is absolutely the only plan that He will accept.

“But,” some will say, “that is too exclusive. That is too narrow. God should accept more than one way to be saved.”

My friends, may I remind you that Jesus Christ is the Sovereign of the Universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is in them. And He can make entrance into His Heaven on His own basis. Only He can say who shall enter into salvation. We must be saved God’s way or not at all.

Peter said in Acts, chapter 4, verse 12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” That verse means that only Jesus can save us. The Baptist name will not save you. The Presbyterian name will not save you. The Methodist name will not save you; nor the Catholic name, nor the Seventh Day Adventist name, nor any other name. Only Jesus saves! The Bible says, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Noah’s ark was a type of Christ in His saving ability. Noah was a saved man (Genesis 6:9) who was instructed by the Lord to build an ark to save them that would believe (Gen. 6:13-16). God instructed Noah to put only one door in the ark (v. 16). Those who believed the Word of God could come into the ark when judgment came. God sent His judgment upon all unbelievers in the form of a great world-wide flood, and the ungodly drowned and went down to Hell (Gen. 7:23). But Noah and his believing family were safe because they entered in by the one door, “and the Lord shut him in” (Gen. 7:16).

There is a gospel chorus which the children sing in Sunday school and which expresses the truth of the Bible. It says, “There’s one door; and only one; And, yet, its sides are two, inside and outside. On which side are you?”

A man was fighting a forest fire. All around him, seemingly, the fire burned. He looked for a way to escape the flames, but saw none. Soon he would be destroyed in the fast-approaching inferno. A pilot flying above the flames could also see that the man was becoming trapped, but he could see that there was yet one way out. The pilot flew low over the firefighter and dropped an object with a note attached. The note said, “Only one way out, come this way.” By going in the same direction as the plane, the firefighter got out, and was safe.

God looked down and saw our awful condemnation for sin. He sent His Son down to pay our sin debt. Now, He says to you, “There is only one way out, only one way to be saved; come this way.”

If you have never received God’s Son as your Savior, do it today. He is the only way to Heaven.

OUR FINAL AUTHORITY

(A newspaper column by Lloyd Streeter)

Why do you believe what you believe? In a sense, that is the most important question related to religion. Why do you believe what you believe and why do you do what you do in your religion? Throughout history theologians have had a term for this determining factor: FINAL AUTHORITY.

Something has to be the final authority in your belief and in your behavior. Something must regulate your doctrine and your practice. If what we believe and what we do is to be pleasing to God, then we must follow the authority which God has given us. In the Old Testament we read of the dark days of the judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

When a person does not claim Christ as king and when a person does not follow what King Jesus has said in the Bible, that person will end up doing that which is right in his own eyes, but, it will not be right in God’s eyes.

The Bible should be our final authority and not man-made tradition. The sixty-six books of the Holy Bible are sufficient in all matters of faith, doctrine, and practice. Nothing should be added to the Bible or substituted for the Bible as the final authority.

The final authority even tells us what the final authority is. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

The Apostle Paul’s standard was always, “For what saith the scripture?” (Romans 4:3).

The diligence of the Berean Christians was commended. They tested everything and judged everything by the Word of God. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were” (Acts 17:11).

On the other hand, Jesus condemned making mere human tradition the final authority. “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men….ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition….Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition” (Mark 7:8, 9, 13). “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?….ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition…But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:3, 6, 9).

Our traditions are fine as long as they do not go contrary to the Bible. Some of our traditions are helpful. Paul admonished the Thessalonians, for example, to hold fast to the traditions which he had taught them (II Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). It is only when tradition or human teachings are substituted for, or made equal to the Bible that they are dangerous. God is very displeased with those who add to or subtract from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19).

So, if anyone asks us, “What and where is the real Church of Jesus Christ?” Our answer is that the Bible is our sole authority on that subject. The Bible teaches that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a spiritual organism, a living body consisting of all born-again regenerated persons from the time of Pentecost until now. It does not consist of a single denomination or organization (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:22; Acts 2:47).

Or, if someone asks, “Does the Lord’s Supper and baptism help make it possible for a person to go to Heaven?” We reply that only the Bible answers that question with any authority. And the Bible teaches that we are saved only by faith in Christ not by such works as baptism or the Lord’s Supper (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). These ordinances only symbolize Christian truths.

Or, if someone asks, “What should we believe about the Virgin Mary?” Our answer is that we should believe just what the Bible says about her; no more, and no less. What the Bible teaches is that Mary was a lovely Jewish girl, highly favored and blessed of God, worthy of our honor and esteem, a sinner saved by grace, a virgin until after Jesus was born, the mother of at least seven children, and not one to whom we should pray (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 13:55-56; Matthew 1:25; Psalm 69:8; I Timothy 2:5).

No man, no church, no denomination, no seminary professor can be the final authority. To make them such is to usurp the place of the Bible and of God Himself.

Someone asks, “But which Bible is the final authority?” That’s a good question in this day of a multitude of new versions, versions that differ greatly from each other.

My answer is that the Bible that God’s people have always had is the Word of God and it is the final authority. After all, God promised to preserve His Word (Psalm 12:6-7), and so every generation of true believers have had God’s final authority. The true Word of God was preserved in the vast majority of manuscript copies, in Luther’s Bible, in Calvin’s Bible, in Tyndale’s Bible, and in the Authorized King James Bible.

The new English translations have been made from two or three corrupted Greek manuscripts of suspicious origin. New translations weaken Bible doctrines in numerous places. For example, some of them have removed GOD from I Timothy 3:16. They remove Jesus’ blood from Colossians 1:14. Some of these new translations remove the resurrection of Christ from Acts 2:30, and the ascension of Christ from John 16:16 and Hebrews 4:14. One of the new versions even says that Elhanan killed Goliath (II Samuel 21:19) even though we all know that it was David who killed Goliath (Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother). Some new versions call Joseph the “father” of Jesus in Luke 2:33. And they leave out many verses entirely.

We do not say that the new translations are “no good,” because they do have many verses properly translated, enough so that a person can get saved reading them. However, the new versions have too many mistakes in them to be called the final authority.

OLD IS BEST

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

There is a poem which contains the words “After all, old things are best.” No doubt, it is not always true. Some things about the “good old days” were not so good. I, for one, am all in favor of modern conveniences, modern transportation and modern health care.

However, I am not ready to throw away everything that is old. I am not ready to part with the old just for the sake of change. In many cases “old things are best.”

This is especially true in religion. We should not be quick to change the time-honored, tried and proven beliefs and practices which have sustained God’s people through centuries past. There are plenty of new items–new beliefs, new cults, new music, new morality, new doctrines, and new versions of the Bible. There also is a lot of new irreverence to go along with these items.

Just because something is new does not mean it is better. It means only that it is different; and usually in religious matters the new is deleterious. I’m reminded of what a well-known Bible teacher said (back in the good old days) about new doctrines. He rightly said, “If a doctrine is new, it is not true; and if it is true it is not new.”

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still like the old music, the old hymns. We are not ready, and don’t expect to ever be ready, for the new irreverent cabaret night club sound in church music. We don’t have “soft rock” (much less “hard rock”), contemporary Christian music. Reason?–the old music is far better. We still sing out of a good hymnal, hymns such as Charles Wesley’s, “Arise, My Soul, Arise!”

Arise, my soul, arise! Shake off thy guilty fears;

Thy bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears,

Before the throne my Surety stands

My name is written on His hands

 

Five bleeding wounds He bears, received on Calvary;

They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me;

“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,

“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

Yes, we love to sing the great old hymns, such as “O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth;” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God;” “Be Thou Exalted;” “Nothing But the Blood;” “The Lily of the Valley;” and “Amazing Grace.”

These old hymns are filled with good theology, true to the Bible. They help to teach us the love of God, the salvation of God and perfections of our Savior. They are so much better than the new man-centered, fleshly, worldly songs. The old hymns are best.

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still love the old King James Version of the Bible. No one has ever improved on this old A.D. 1611 Bible. It is the clearest, the most accurate and the easiest to read. So, we read from it at every service. We preach from it. We do not correct it, because it is our final authority. It is the Word of God.

Some teachers of religion are saying that on the basis of two or three newly discovered manuscripts of the Bible that the new versions of the Bible are better. This is a relatively new theory, less than 120 years old. And it is a false theory, proven false by more than 5,000 ancient manuscripts.

The King James Version is the best because it does not add to the Word of God, subtract from the Word of God, nor change the Word of God as new versions do.

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the Rock on which I stand!

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the bulwark of the land!

Thro’ storm and stress they stand the test.

In every clime and nation blest;

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the hope of every land!

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still love the old Gospel message. We reject all new “gospels” such as the social gospel, the gospel of good works, and the gospel which says that none is lost and that everyone is going to heaven. These new gospels will save no one. The old Gospel message of the Bible is that until we come to know Christ, we are sinners, lost, and condemned. But Jesus loves us and died for us, shedding his blood to pay the penalty for our sins. He was buried, but after three days and three nights, He rose again from the dead. This is the true Gospel. Those who believe upon Jesus become the children of God, have forgiveness of sin, and are saved for eternity.

We preach and teach this Gospel. It is the old message of the Bible. It is good for all people, no matter what their religious background, race, or station in life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

My sin was old-fashioned, my guilt was old-fashioned,

God’s love was old-fashioned, I know:

And the way I was saved was the old-fashioned way,

Thro’ the blood that makes whiter than snow.