Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Dealing With Conservative Evangelicalism Part II

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dealing With Conservative Evangelicalism Part II

The Doctrine of Separation and the Priesthood of the Believer

5 Ye also, as lively {living} stones, are built up a spiritual house {a new Living Temple of Living Stones}, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ {the High Priest of the new Living Temple}. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone {of the new Living Temple}, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye {Church Age saints collectively} are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:5-9).

“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).

When most modern Evangelicals speak of Fundamentalism, they do so with an almost complete historical disconnect. They think of Fundamentalism as defined by the Fundamentalist Movement of the early 1900’s. Fundamentalism and the Fundamentalist Movement are not the same thing. Fundamentalism and the Fundamentalist Movement are based on two different definitions of the word fundamental.

1. Fundamental used as an adjective: that which serves as an original or generating source in the sense of something that is foundational to reality or that which serves as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function. In this sense the word fundamental is used merely as an adjective describing a noun as in fundamental Baptist or fundamental Presbyterian. The whole of “the faith” revealed by the inspired 66 books of Scripture would be considered fundamental under this definition. This is the definition of Fundamentalism existing prior to the Fundamentalist Movement (although divided in numerous sects and denominations all believing that their statement of faith as defining “the faith”). This is also the Fundamentalism that co-exists within the Fundamentalist Movement, yet separated in cooperation from many of the variations within the Fundamentalist Movement.

2. Fundamental as used as a noun: a basic principle, rule, law, or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part. This is the way the word fundamental is used in the Fundamentalist Movement defining itself by a category of essential doctrines. These fundamental doctrines were essential for anyone, primarily individuals, to be included within the framework of the Fundamentalist Movement and be given a voice in speaking from their platforms or given an ear by official endorsement of their writings.

Fundamental Christianity (using the adjectival form and definition) is simply New Testament Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ in the Gospels and as extrapolated in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. It is normal, Biblical Christianity. William Ward Ayer, in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in April 1956 (as quoted in Louis Gasper’s book, The Fundamentalist Movement) gives what I believe is one of the best definitions of Fundamentalism I have ever read:

“Fundamentalism represents a resurgence of ancient practices, which began not with Martin Luther but at Pentecost. Fundamentalism is apostolic, and the doctrine of justification goes back to Paul. That branch from which the fundamentalist movement sprang lived obscurely through the ages and had never been completely silenced even in the Dark Ages . . . What fundamentalism did was awaken the slumbering apostolicism from lethargy.”

Note that Ward states that the “fundamentalist movement sprang” from the “Fundamentalism” that is “apostolic” Christianity. This is certainly true. I certainly do not agree that “fundamentalism” needed to be “awaken” from some “slumbering . . . lethargy.” For instance, most Baptists (those that had not succumbed to Liberalism, New Evangelicalism, and Reformed Theology) would quickly have asked the question, “What do you mean by ‘resurgence of ancient practices’? Baptists have always historically represented true apostolicism.”

This is really a point that seems to be ignored in the present day discussion regarding ecclesiastical separation among those in the Fundamentalist Movement and those that call themselves Conservative Evangelicals or Young Fundamentalists. These latter terms invariably refer to inter-denominationalism. All of these terms also refer to people or groups of people who are theologically inclusivistic by nature. In other words, they think inclusivistically because they view the Church as some disconnected mystical entity that must find unity somehow lest they be judged by God for failure in their disunity. Baptists historically have always been free-church (separation of Church and State) and their Ecclesiology has in most part been independent of any hierarchy and local church. Denominations of Baptists never really existed in history until the 1644 Baptist Confession was signed by 7 Particular Redemption (Reformed) Baptist Churches. The 1689 London Baptist Confession would add many more signatories and form the first real Baptist Convention/Association of Churches. It was this group that became the Baptist Union with which Spurgeon struggled in the Down-Grade Controversy about 200 years later. The stress of this struggle is thought by many to have led to the early death of Spurgeon. Although local churches maintained their independence in the Baptist Union (in most part), they were dominated from a top-down oligarchy formulated through denominational structuring. I think that the present controversy is very similar in nature, although the area of discussion is different.

The point is that true independent Baptists have always separated from other local churches or denominations over issues of what they think truly defines Sola Scriptura, what they think truly defines Sola Gracia, and what they think truly defines Sola Pistis. Baptists have historically separated from other churches over numerous theological issues outside of those listed in The Fundamentals[1]. They separated over the issues of Church polity and positions of error regarding Eschatology such as Preterism and Amillennialism. I know they have done so historically because I have been part of about a half century of that history and because I have seen it practiced by hundreds of local Baptist churches individually and within Associations of local churches on the State level in numerous states. Most of those State Associations require local churches to have the word Baptist in their name before they will allow them in the fellowship. They certainly have a definitive doctrinal statement to which any local church wanting to cooperate in the fellowship must adhere.

What we are seeing in the dynamic of the redefinition of Fundamentalism by redefining how separation is to be applied is really an example of the praxis of Social Constructionism[2]. Hermans writes on page viii of the introduction:

“All scholars working within the field of practical theology agree on the fact that their discipline cannot be defined as applied theology. This idea is clearly expressed in a recent volume by leading scholars within the International Academy of Practical Theology (Schweitzer & Van der Ven, 1999). According to Osmer three elements of practical theology set it apart from dogmatic theology and Christian ethics, namely:

(1) a performance orientation, based on this literature’s interest in how best to perform a particular practice or activity in concrete circumstances;

(2) a theory of formation and transformation guiding the praxis of the Christian life over time; and

(3) a practical theological hermeneutic of the field in which an action or practice takes place, locating the actors involved in moral time and space’ (Osmer, 1999, p 126)”

In the very first chapter by Kenneth J. Gergen entitled Social Construction and Practical Theology: The Dance Begins of the above quoted book, it seems apparent that Fluid Constructionism (the interpretation of Scripture according to evolving cultural mores rather than a grammatical/historical hermeneutic) as this relates to Modernism and Postmodernism will be the focus. Gergen states in his first paragraph:

“It is quite possible that the closing of the 20th century represents the twilight of the modernist project of knowledge. This project – with deep roots in Enlightenment philosophy and subsequent installations in our institutions of democracy, public education, law, and public morality – casts individual knowledge as the critical benchmark of cultural achievement. In the modernist world, knowledge is defined as a condition of the individual mind. And, while the object of such knowledge can be mental or spiritual life, the modernist project has become increasingly identified with the individual’s knowledge of the ‘external’ or material world – objective as opposed to subjective. In this sense, scientific knowledge stands as the crowning achievement of Western culture, with individual scientists singled out for their individual accomplishments. In this desideratum of individual knowledge to which we can also trace the flourishing of the social sciences within this century, and the increasingly central place occupied by the natural sciences in society. And it is the conflation of individual knowledge with science that has functioned antagonistically with long standing beliefs in the knowledge of the sacred (subjective, mystical), and served within the 20th century to recast religious studies as a social science.”

Note the statement “knowledge of the sacred” is defined in parenthesis as “subjective, mystical.” In other words “knowledge of the sacred” can no longer be determined by exegesis of the inspired objective Truths of the Holy Scriptures. This low view of Scripture is manifested in varying degrees by varying positions on inspiration and preservation of the Word of God. This is certainly manifested by those involved in, or accepting of, Textual Reconstructionism in their belief statement, “We do not believe that God has preserved His Word perfectly and miraculously in any manuscript or group of manuscripts, or in all manuscripts.”[3] If this statement is true, we have NO FOUNDATION FOR OBJECTIVE FAITH OR PRAXIS! If this statement is true, everything we have in any original language text or derivative translation of such texts must be in question and therefore subjective. Therefore, the only avenue left to moral praxis is rationalism.

It seems to me that much of the teaching on separation that we are seeing being propagated by the new sect that call themselves Conservative Evangelicals seems almost completely disconnected from Biblical exegesis, at least little is offered. There is really a very narrow line between the old arguments of New Evangelicals and the new arguments of Conservative Evangelicals. In both cases, the arguments are based more on cultural relativism than upon Biblical exegesis. At least I hear the same kind of language coming from the Conservative Evangelicals that we heard from the New Evangelicals 50 years ago. The one difference today is the way Conservative Evangelicals embrace Reformed and Covenant Theology. Interestingly they do this why calling the old Main Stream Fundamentalists unloving and extreme. Are they completely ignorant of Calvin’s Theonomic Model of government erected at Geneva beginning in 1536 A.D.? Are they completely ignorant of Luther’s hateful book The Jews and Their Lies? We need look no farther than these two examples of Reformed Theology’s praxis in exemplifying unloving and extreme. Yet, they wonder why we refuse their invitation to be called to their discussions around their Camp fire. Baptists have been there before.

It certainly appears to me that this new discussion regarding separation is disconnected from the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers “in Christ.” How can we understand the doctrine of separation if we disconnect it from the primary example in the Old Testament type in the Levitical priesthood? The Old Testament (Mosaic Covenant) Levitical Priesthood and High Priest are merely typical of the New Covenant Priesthood of all believers with Christ as our High Priest. However, the responsibilities regarding separation in the transition from type to actual remain.

Take separation away from sainthood and you reduce fellowship to boys in da hood. Separation and holiness are a collaboration. They co-exist like a married couple. Holiness is the outcome of separation. Without separation, we cannot have holiness. In the simplest sense holiness defines the peculiarity of a distinctive possession of God set apart to be used only to His glory and only for His purposes.

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD. 3 Say unto them, Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. 4 What man soever of the seed of Aaron is a leper, or hath a running issue; he shall not eat of the holy things, until he be clean. And whoso toucheth any thing that is unclean by the dead, or a man whose seed goeth from him; 5 Or whosoever toucheth any creeping thing, whereby he may be made unclean, or a man of whom he may take uncleanness, whatsoever uncleanness he hath; 6 The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water. 7 And when the sun is down, he shall be clean, and shall afterward eat of the holy things; because it is his food. 8 That which dieth of itself, or is torn with beasts, he shall not eat to defile himself therewith: I am the LORD. 9 They shall therefore keep mine ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, and die therefore, if they profane it: I the LORD do sanctify them” (Leviticus 22:1-9).

Holiness is the practical responsibility of our position in Christ. Every truly “born again” believer is a “saint” before God. The word “saint” is from the Greek word hagios (hag'-ee-os). It is a word that describes a most holy, sacred thing. It refers to something or someone that has been set apart for God’s use and God’s use alone. As it refers to believers, it refers to their particular calling as servants of God. It refers to their position “in Christ.” It refers to the Priesthood of all believers. All “born again” believers from the Day of Pentecost forward makeup a new priesthood. We are to be faithful where the Levitical priesthood failed in the preservation and proclamation (discipleship and evangelism) of the Word of God.

The Priesthood of the believer refers to the ministry that is common to all believers. The word ministry defines God’s work. The word “priesthood” describes both the believer’s position in this world and his responsibility. The word “priesthood” is associated with a job description and the responsibilities of that job description. Any time a believer fails to fulfill his job description as a priest before God, in any way, that individual believer is living in sin.

Every true believer is a Sanctified One. All believers are God’s representatives before lost mankind. They are representatives of the character of God to restore His image and bring Him glory by being living embodiments of the Word of God. They are to represent God by working to replicate His character in their lives.

When the Word of God says “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), God is saying that we come short of replicating the character of God in our lives and therefore do not deserve His blessings or praise. The character of God is what distinguishes Him from every other being. The central and foremost responsibility of every Believer Priest is to replicate the character of God in our lives through the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Therefore, a major part of the “work of the ministry” relates to this issue of personal holiness. Again, we must remind ourselves that the word holy does not refer to moral perfection or personal piety. (Those realities may be achieved to some degree by personal holiness.) The twofold reality of personal holiness is defined on two spiritual battlefronts:

1. Separation from worldliness

2. Separation unto God

These two realities are essential to the “work of the ministry” of the Believer Priest. The “work of the ministry” refers to the “spiritual sacrifices” that the Believer Priest offers up to the Lord. In order for those “spiritual sacrifices” to be “acceptable” to the Lord, holiness is an absolute essential.

10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean” (Haggai 2:10-14).

The “work of the ministry” is spiritual work. It is unlike any other kind of work. Spiritual work is a supernatural endeavor that brings the physical world into contact with the supernatural world. Anytime that happens, like metal in a microwave oven, sparks start to fly. The separated Believer Priest becomes the spiritual conduit through which God works. Before a Believer Priest can become that spiritual conduit, all that he is and can be must be absolutely and completely given to the Lord and separated from the world. In the Old Testament, this relationship was expressed by the words “perfect heart.” The idea is that there was no difference between the will and desires of a person and God. They were one.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

When a Believer Priest sins in any way, he defiles himself before God and makes himself “unclean.” What are some of things that defile the Priesthood of a believer? Any sin defiles the Priesthood of the believer. However, there are certain practices that are common that many Christians do not consider as defiling. Worldliness comes in many forms and is usually evidenced by the presence of any one of the “works of the flesh.”

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21).

None of us would have any problem with identifying the first seven things listed (“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred”) and understanding that they would defile a Believer Priest from being used of God. However, many Christians do not see that the next seven things listed are equally defiling (variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings).

The word “variance” is from the Greek word eris (er'-is). It refers to a spirit of contention and strife. It refers to the wrangling that goes on behind the scene when someone wants to get their way or force their opinion on others. Bitterness results from self focus and a high self opinion that believes a person does not get what he deserves. This contentious spirit is absolutely defiling and almost always generates factions and bitterness between believers.

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

The word “emulations” in Galatians 5:20 is equally defiling. It is from the Greek word zelos (dzay'-los). It refers to an angry, contentious rivalry of a person or group of people that seek to punish or banish anyone that is not willing to bow down to their opinion. It refers to a selfish misdirected zeal. “Variance” and “emulation” are almost always the inseparable twin sisters of carnality. They are defiling sins.

The next defiling sin listed is the sin of “wrath.” It is from the Greek word thumos (thoo-mos'). It refers to the fierce kind of anger that blows up and vents itself against the person disagreed with. It comes from the Greek word thuo (thoo'-o), which means to sacrifice or slaughter. Although this wicked spirit may not seek to kill a person, it almost always seeks to sacrifice another person to get its way.

The word “strife” is from the Greek word eritheia (er-ith-i'-ah). It refers to the person who practices electioneering to gain power or position. It is almost always done through gossip and in secret. I call this politicking. It is probably one of the most destructive defiling practices that destroys more local churches and individual lives than any other sin. God condemns it on numerous occasions in Scripture.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:13-16).

The word “seditions” is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah). It is from two Greek words. The word Dis (dece) means twice or again and stasis (stas'-is), which refers to insurrection. In other words, “seditions” is referring to an ongoing, standing insurrection against authority. “Seditions” refers to an ongoing, continuous work (not just a single act) of rebellion. Before God can use a Believer Priest, or a local church of Believer Priests, this spirit of insurrection must be rooted out.

The next defiling sin that destroys the usefulness of individual Believer Priests is that of “heresies.” “Heresies” is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is). It refers to the act of taking a captive. Those promoting Conservative Evangelicalism are involved is this divisiveness in a major way. They are leading a whole generation of young believers away from theological Fundamentalism into a new sect (that is really not fundamental at all). A false teacher leads people astray from the right way (righteousness) by false teaching. A heresy is anything that generates wrong practices and divides into sects. That can come through the perversion of Biblical truth or through a practice of life. This type of person always tries to gather a following. He captures a person when that person follows him in doing what he is doing (usually sedition). Any one of the “works of the flesh” can generate “heresies.”

The last of these defiling sins we want to look at in this text is “envyings.” It is from the Greek word phthonos (fthon'-os). Although it simply means to envy, it probably relates more to its root word, which is phtheiro (fthi'-ro), which means to corrupt or to destroy. In the opinion of the Jews, the temple was corrupted or destroyed when anyone defiled it or damaged anything in it to the slightest degree. In the context of Galatians 5:21, it refers to a selfish, prideful attitude that results in leading a church away from the knowledge and holiness in which it ought to abide.

As Believer Priests, every Christian needs to regularly examine and cleanse his heart from these corrupting, defiling sins of “variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies and envyings.” We need to understand that God not only puts them in the same category as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, murders, drunkenness and revellings, but that God presents them as equals. They render a Believer Priest unclean and useless to God.

Pride keeps a person from acknowledging the wickedness of these particular “works of the flesh.” Pride will keep a believer from even looking at his heart and seeing the corrupting influences of these sins in his own life and in the lives of others. Pride will keep a heart closed to the pointing finger of conviction as the Holy Spirit directs us all to repentance and commitment to change.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride not only produces the “works of the flesh,” pride keeps feeding them. Without pride they will die. But pride will also keep a person from seeing his sin, acknowledging it as sin and repenting.

[1] A four volume set of books entitled The Fundamentals issued by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1917; “Edited by R.A. Torrey, A.C. Dixion, and Others” (later reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

[2] C.A.M. Hermans, G. Immink, A.de Jong, & J. van der Lans; Social Construction and Theology, available on the web: http://books.google.com/books?id=5JRen1UxLkoC&lpg=PA63&ots=oPV9ExcChE&dq=Fluid%20Constructionism%20in%20Theology%20of%20Postmodernism&lr&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

[3] W. Edward Glenny, Larry Pettegrew, and Roy Beacham, The Bible Version Debate, Central Baptist Seminary, Mpls., MN

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

1 comment:

John Terpstra said...

I agree with your comments. Strong defines holiness as self-affirming purity -- that means God's holiness differs from His purity in that holiness includes the steps necessary to maintain His purity. He gets this from the definition of both the Hebrew and Greek words for holiness which include the concept of separation.