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: November 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Subtlety of “Good Words and Fair Speeches”

The Subtlety of “Good Words and Fair Speeches”
          People who are called to serve the Lord as pastors, missionaries, and evangelists understand the insecurity of ministry.  They know that people are often fickle.  Pastors understand the volatile nature of local church ministries.  Many local churches are like powder kegs that could explode at the first spark of a personality clash.  The natural tendency for pastor and missionaries living in such volatile conditions is to live by the simple principle – PROCEED WITH CAUTION!  Sadly, in many cases, pastors and evangelists simply avoid any thing that is controversial just to protect the little bit of job security that they have.  The central thrust of Romans 16:17-20 is a warning about the subtlety of the failure to deal with the issues of false doctrine that regularly arise within local churches.  The thrust of the warning is found in verse 18 – “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” 

17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20).

          I was notified recently that the Minnesota Baptist Association will host its annual Men’s Fellowship in September of 2013.  The featured speaker will be Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, the broadcast ministry of John MacArthur.  John MacArthur is a hyper-Calvinist, believes in Lordship salvation, Presbyterian polity, uses CCM and Christian-rock in his church ministries, and is undoubtedly a New Evangelical.  MacArthur was flirting with the National Association of Evangelicals back in the early 1980’s when I was a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (I.F.C.A.).  Phil Johnson is essentially MacArthur’s public relations person.  MacArthur and Johnson are certainly not independent Baptists. 
          Why then would an association of independent Baptist churches promote someone that so blatantly disagrees with them in doctrine and practice?  The answer is obvious.  They do not disagree with him in his doctrine and practice.  They must think his doctrinal positions to be at least viable.  They have changed!
          Compromise is often expressed in small increments.  There is a subtle and dangerous undercurrent in the temptation to compromise.  The undercurrent has to do with a pastor’s inherent desire for self-protection and survival in the ministry.  It also affects leaders of ministries like Bible colleges and seminaries.  When a pastor allows such inherent feelings to dominate his thinking, he will soon be led into varying degrees of incremental compromise.  Pragmatic measurements, particularly in using numbers of people in determining ministry success, lead many men astray.  No one wants to see the numbers of people diminish under their leadership whether it is in a local church, Bible college, or seminary.  Talk to any pastor who has lost large numbers of people and almost always you will find a man who believes he has failed.  The fact is, he may have been faithful in preaching the “whole counsel of God” and some people just did not like it.  When the solution to a loss of numbers of people is anything other than revival, you will find the willingness to compromise somewhere in the mix.
Perhaps the main reason Paul was so faithful in his many battles for “the faith” was that he saw himself as a “sheep for the slaughter.”  He told the Roman believers earlier in his epistle to the Romans that their thinking of themselves as “sheep for the slaughter” ought to be the norm for all true believers. 

“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36).

          Maintaining such an attitude in our ministries is certainly difficult.  In order to maintain such an attitude, it demands that we do not view our ministry as a job, and that we do not give ourselves self-importance.  Although pastors serve people, people are not their employers.  God is their boss and it is to Him they will ultimately answer for our leadership.  All of this is even more difficult when we consider the threat to the financial security of their families.  In most cases, they cannot be men-pleasers (I Thessalonians 2:4) if they are going to be God’s ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:16-21).  Although those that truly love the Word of God will be pleased when it is preached without consideration of the fear or favor of men, those who do not love the Word of God will wince and retreat when it is proclaimed.
          The church I pastor separated from the Minnesota Baptist Association in 2012 because the M.B.A. began to redefine the way they were going to practice separation.  The use of Phil Johnson as their featured speaker is merely a reflection of their new Gospel Centrism (their Gospel is really Reformed Soteriology).  During the six years I was the State Missionary of the Minnesota Baptist Association and editor of their North Star magazine, I wrote many articles to keep the association from going the direction it has gone.  Apparently, in most part, those articles have gone unheeding.  In some cases, they were ridiculed.  One such article, entitled The Hegelian Dialectic, is quoted below:

The Hegelian Dialectic is basically a process that ultimately results in Centrism.  This is accomplished by bringing together diverse positions for dialogue.  The process involves bringing together a thesis (extreme right) together with an antithesis (extreme left) for discussion that moves both extremes towards the center (compromise).  Two things happen to the majority of those involved in the dialogue.

1. The majority of the participants form a synthesis (a composite position) somewhere between the two extremes (this is the goal of the Hegelian Dialectic).
2. Those not accepting the synthesis become sympathetic towards the various degrees of positions of those involved in the dialogue in that tolerance becomes the banner under which the process functions.

      This process is repeated with each generation and the center (synthesis) constantly moves towards the extreme left (compromise, tolerance, and liberalism).  No one likes to be viewed as an extremist or a radical.  That is why all Christians are naturally prone towards moving towards the middle on every issue of conflict.  That is the reason why the vast majority of local churches, associations of churches, and conventions/denominations have become New Evangelical and Liberal. 
      When conflicting positions arise, we will find most people settling for one of two solutions: tolerance or compromise.  Neither of these two positions is acceptable to God.  Neither should they be acceptable to the person that calls himself a Biblicist.  Truth is always a constant.  God is immutable.  All truth originates in God’s immutableness.  Therefore truth is immutable.  Which of God’s truths is inconsequential to Him?  Which of God’s truths does He delineate as a major truth and which is a minor truth?” 

          Therefore, Centrism is an applicable term to describe the outcomes of what we see in the dialogue between radically different theological positions.  Romans 16:18 describes this process by the phrase - “good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  One example of this is how biblical separation is now being redefined during this dialogue.  In order to justify the way separation is being redefined, they must redefine the way unity is defined.  Therefore, they must take a Big Christianity view of the doctrine of the Church rather than an independent local church view.  This is Reformed Ecclesiology.  Reformed Theology seems to be a common denominator for defining who is going to be included in the dialogue and who is excluded.  In fact, Dr. Kevin Bauder has regularly criticized people for criticizing Reform Theology, especially Reformed Soteriology.  Under his paradigm, anyone believing that Reformed Soteriology is unscriptural, and is willing to say that publicly, is outside of his acceptable Fundamentalism. 
          Dr. Kevin Bauder, past president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, clearly defines “fundamental doctrines” as those “doctrines that are essential to the gospel.”  This statement seeks to reduce Fundamentalism to Gospel Centrism.  Certainly, Fundamentalism is Gospel centered, but the fundamentals of the Bible extend into other areas of theology as well.  Anything less is the abdication of theological dogmatism regarding anything other than the Gospel.  In most cases, Evangelicals cannot even agree on what the Gospel is and certainly do not agree on what defines a biblical response to the Gospel. 

“To be an evangelical is to be centered upon the gospel.  To be a Fundamentalist is, first, to believe that fundamental doctrines are definitive for Christian fellowship, second, to refuse Christian fellowship with all who deny fundamental doctrines (e.g., doctrines that are essential to the gospel), and third, to reject the leadership of Christians who form bonds of cooperation and fellowship with those who deny essential doctrines.”[1]

New Evangelicalism essentially developed in order to build bridges between Evangelicalism and Liberalism (Theological Modernism).  Gospel Centrism is a group within Fundamentalism (actually Evangelicals), trying to build bridges to the ever drifting New Evangelicals now rapidly becoming the Emergent Church.  Dr. Kent Brandenburg defines the issues in this form of compromise very well in a new book he has recently edited and in which has written a number of chapters:

“Disobedience to the Biblical doctrine of separation follows the spirit of this age, which reflects post-enlightenment human reasoning.  The world will get to where man is in charge of everything, but to get to that goal, there will be a series of compromises fitting to a Hegelian dialectic.  Dialogue and consensus building are the means.  The goal is the ‘third way’ that we often read about in politics today.  The first and Biblical way is separation.  The second and man’s way is getting along.  The third way is the compromise of separation in order to get along more.  The result of the compromise is called progress, reaching toward the end of world peace.  Churches are now caught up in this cycle.
Compromise is called love, which is really sentimentality.  The watering down of doctrine is labeled humility, which is really pride.  Humility submits to God.  Pride replaces what God said with man’s ideas, elevating men.  Pride is the new humility, however, in the new political and theological correctness.  The new humility emphasizes nuance and repudiates dogmatism.  Finally, anything anyone believes is accepted so that everyone can get along with everyone else, except God.”[2]

          Dr. Doug McLachlan seems to be a connecting link to what he refers to as a “radical new center.”  This “radical new center” is being fleshed out by a form of Gospel Centrism in some kind of New Fundamentalism.  Unfortunately, this New Fundamentalism looks much like old New Evangelicalism.  He has stated that he believes that the way Northland International University, Central Baptist Seminary, Calvary Baptist Seminary, and Detroit Theological Seminary are now practicing separation is what he intended in the writing of his book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism.  This Authentic Fundamentalism is markedly absent of a central characteristic of old Fundamentalism, which is militancy.  Dr. Roland McCune offered his review of Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism:

Militancy has always characterized Fundamentalism.  It is not so much a matter of personality as adherence to principle.  Militancy has been so fogged over by its detractors that it has become a wholly negative concept, even for many Fundamentalists.  Dr. George Houghton, of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, gave an excellent definition of militancy.

‘What exactly is militancy, anyway?  One dictionary says it is to be ‘engaged in warfare or combat . . . aggressively active (as in a cause).’  It springs from one’s values, is expressed as an attitude, and results in certain behavior.  One’s values are those things in which one strongly believes.  They are what one believes to be fundamentally important and true.  From this comes an attitude which is unwilling to tolerate any divergence from these fundamentally important truths and seeks to defend them.  It results in behavior which speaks up when these truths are attacked or diluted and which refuses to cooperate with any activity which would minimize their importance.  The term is a military one and carries the idea of defending what one believes to be true.’[3]

I must confess that I do not hear a clear note of militancy in the book under discussion.  Forcefulness in leadership and in defending the faith is simply not there.  (The concept of “Militant Meekness” or “a militancy for the meekness of Christ” [p. 140] is a little confusing in terms of historic Fundamentalist militancy.)  The idea of “servant leaders” (p.40ff.), while certainly a biblical thought,[4] seems expunged of all notions of aggressiveness.  Some of this may be explained by the author’s non-confrontational type of personality.  Many of us could identify with this.  But again militancy is not a matter of personality.  There are many Fundamentalists who are reticent and retiring but who are militant in the fight for truth.”

Terms like “militant meekness” and “radical new center” sound very intellectual, but they are nothing more than “good words and fair speeches” that “deceive the hearts of the simple.”  I wrote an article on this October 22nd, 2011 entitled - Has God Changed the “Old Paths” for a new "radical center"?  The closing paragraph of the article is quoted below:


I do not understand how knowledgeable men can so easily be led into the ditch of philosophical compromise.  I do not understand how knowledgeable men can justify using the language of Centrism when they must know it is the language of cultural manipulation.  I think they must understand their methodology and have adapted certain agreed upon talking points.  If they are right (and their argument is that they are right), then everything to the right of them is wrong and everything to the left of them is wrong.  Yet, they are willing to label everyone they say is to the right of them as Hyper, while labeling select individuals to the left of them as friends.  Then they separate from those to the right of them (which means all those unwilling to accept their new center) and maintain fellowship with those they admittedly understand to be to the left of them.  It does not seem too difficult to discern the direction in which they are moving, even though they claim they have not moved.  This obviously tells us something about them.  Either they never were where they once professed to be, or they have moved.  Either of those two possibilities is unacceptable.”[5]

When professed fundamentalists such as Dr. Kevin Bauder, Dr. Douglas McLachlan, Dr. Timothy Jordan, and Dr. Dave Doran begin to defend men like Al Mohler, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Mark Dever, C.J. Maheney, and Rick Holland (to name a few), it becomes very apparent that there has been a considerable change in direction regarding the practice of militant separation.  This goes one step further when they invite these men to preach for them. 
In Romans 16:19, Paul commends the Roman believers for their obedience to “the faith” and then warns them in the next sentence – “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.  I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”  The word “evil” is from the Greek word kakos (kak-os').  The context would imply the meaning to be about worthless teaching that is harmful or injurious.  This context is established because the word “simple” is from the Greek word akeraios (ak-er'-ah-yos), meaning unmixed in the sense of being unmixed with false teaching.  Therefore, the word “simple” here means harmless.  An alternative reading of last part of Romans 16:19 might be, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and harmless concerning harmful false doctrine.” The “harmful false doctrine” refers to what Paul said earlier when he spoke of “good words and fair speeches” that are intended to “deceive the hearts of the simple.” 
The biblical doctrine of separation is nothing to be trifled with.  The biblical doctrine of separation should certainly never be reduced the way the Gospel Centrists are attempting to reduce it.  To propose that Christians focus on the center while ignoring the parameters is ludicrous and bizarre.  Such a proposition is to say the center of biblical truth is more important than the boundaries established by biblical truth. 
To emphasize unity at the sacrifice of doctrinal continuity is equally ludicrous and bizarre.  This is what the New Evangelicals have done for years and is the practice of those within the varying degrees on Emergent Christianity.  We all certainly understand we are not talking about doctrinal unanimity.  No two people will ever be perfectly unanimous doctrinally.  However, there certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what defines the Church and how it is to be governed.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Gospel is and how people get saved.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Bible teaches about the end times and the Christian’s part in these future events.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on whether sign gifts have ceased or if they continue throughout the Church Age.[6]  These are very important issues of orthodoxy that radically impact orthopraxy and orthopathy. 
To define the “unity of the Spirit” outside of its parameters of the statement in Ephesians 4:5-6 is equally ludicrous and bizarre – “5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  This simple statement does not reduce unity down to one commonality as does Gospel Centrism.[7]  This simple statement in fact expands the “unity of the Spirit” exponentially by the phrase “one faith.”  There is but one true God and He has given only one inspired Bible.  Therefore, there is only one correct interpretation that defines the “one faith.”  True “unity of the Spirit” will only be found where there is unanimity within all the parameters of the “one faith.” 
Who then gets to decide what defines unanimity?  Does a Bible college get to define this?  Does a seminary get to define this?  No, every individual and every local church must define unanimity for themselves.  Then they must decide how they are going practice separation within their own definition and agreement.  They must do this so as to insure no believer will be led astray by identifying with someone, or another local church, that teaches false doctrine or practices separation that appears to endorse false doctrine. 
Romans 16:17-20 appears almost as a parenthesis within the context of Paul’s salutation to the faithful believers within various local churches at Rome.  The text is Paul’s final statement defining a true Opus Dei (the universal call to holiness).  Paul pleads with these faithful believers to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17.  There are two admonitions in the text.  These faithful believers were to “mark” the people that cause “divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine” and they were to “avoid them.”  The word “mark” is from the Greek word skopeo (skop-eh'-o), which literally means to take aim at.  The intent is to put a mark on them like a point on a target.  The word “avoid” is from the Greek word ekklino (ek-klee'-no), which means to deviate.  The idea is to walk away from such a person.  Obviously the intent of the verb is separation. 
Let me be careful here to say that I do not disagree with everything these men teach.  I have been often enriched and edified by their ministries, teaching, and writings.  However, this new pathway of Gospel Centrism is a pathway on which we cannot walk together.  It is serious enough to require biblical separation from these men.  It is serious enough for spiritual men to separate them from their associations.  I have talked to a few men in the leadership of the Minnesota Baptist Association of churches regarding these issues.  My comments were received with a smirk of derision and ridicule.  What they have done is shunned the “mark” that should be put upon these men for their apparent compromises.  In doing so, they have accepted a pathway of heteropraxy foreign to every Bible believing fundamentalist for thousands of years.  Thousands over the centuries have adorned the true doctrine of biblical separation with their own blood. 
Most importantly, these men have rejected the clear statements of the Word of God about separation in exchange for “good words and fair speeches” intent upon the deception of “the hearts of the simple.”  This was addressed in an article entitled Conservative Evangelicalism’s Distortion of the Doctrine of Separation.  The quote below is from that article:

We must understand Paul’s instruction to ‘mark them’ and his command to ‘avoid them’ as referring to anything that departs from ‘the faith’ he had just laid out in careful divisions and meticulous detail including the vocational election of national Israel, the details of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the place of Church Age believers in the unfolding already, not yet beginning of the New Covenant.  Paul gives details of Pneumatology in Romans chapters 6 and 12 regarding the supernatural baptism with the Holy Spirit (6:1-18) and the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of consecrated believers (12:1-8).  Paul gives details of the Church Age priesthood of all believers in Romans chapter 11 and warns them of the consequences of unfaithfulness by disobedience to what they were saved to do - Ambassadors of Reconciliation. 
      Secondly, two practical outcome failures are addressed in the statement ‘cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.’ 

1. ‘Divisions . . . contrary to the doctrine’
2. ‘Offences . . . contrary to the doctrine’

      Those to be marked and avoided are those involved in these two corrupt outcomes.  The words ‘the doctrine’ are synonymous with the words ‘the faith’ used elsewhere in Paul’s epistles.  In fact Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ to refer to the complete inscripturalized doctrines of the Word of God over and over again in his epistles.  I believe Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ on 20 different occasions and Peter and Jude each use it once.  The phrase ‘the faith’ is what Paul refers to in Acts 20:27 as he addressed the ‘elders’ of the local churches of Ephesus, ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.’ 
      The word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah), which means disunion.  Paul is referring to doctrinal dissension resulting in division or sedition.  Therefore, the primary meaning of ‘divisions’ is the breaking of what was previously joined together.  ‘Divisions’ is doctrinal disunity as contrasted with doctrinal unity.”[8]

          The men I seek to mark by this article are creating “divisions contrary to the doctrine.”  This refers to heresy in that heresy is creating a faction or a new group from those led away from a previous group.  This is explained in the same article as the quote above.

Once the division is created and an individual is disjoined from the unity of the ‘one faith,’ this creates a faction or new sect within Christianity.  Therefore, this division in doctrine leads to heresy.  The word heresy in the New Testament is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is), which basically means to choose a party or sect.  The negative aspect of the word heresy refers to the removing of an individual from the main stream of Bible believing Christianity to form another division that wants to represent itself as the main stream or the norm.”[9]

The Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is) is often translated by the word sect rather than by the word heresy.  There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Sadducees’ (Acts 5:17).  There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Pharisees’ (Acts 15:5).  On two occasions, true Christianity was called heresy by the Jews (Acts 24:5 and 14).  Paul refers to the divisions within the church at Corinth as heresy (I Cor. 11:17-19).  Paul referred to ‘heresies’ as one of the manifestations of the ‘works of the flesh’ in Galatians 5:19-21.  Peter referred to the divisive teaching of the ‘false teachers’ as ‘damnable heresies’ in II Peter 2:1 that ultimately denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The point is that even though individuals who come under the pretense of unity, but with some new divisive theological position thereby creating a new faction and sect within Christianity, thereby this is the very essence of what defines the word heresy.  Therefore, although Paul’s use of the word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is not the Greek word hairesis, the outcome of these ‘divisions’ is heresy (new sects). 
The second practical outcome failure addressed in the statement of Romans 16:17 is that they ‘cause . . . offences contrary to the doctrine.’  The word ‘offenses’ is translated from the Greek word skandalon (skan'-dal-on), from which we get our English word scandal.  It is derived from a word meaning trip stick.  The context of use gives us the meaning to refer to the outcome of false doctrine that would cause people to be tripped up or to stumble in their Christian walk.  This certainly would apply to the false teaching of Conservative Evangelicalism that cooperation amongst various sects of Christianity should only be determined by some ambiguous definition of the Gospel.”[10] 

          The words “good words and fair speeches” in Romans 16:18 do not sound as ominous as these words that come forth in the Greek text.  We see how ominous these words are when we look at the outcomes of their intent.  David Sutton brings this forth in his comments on this text:

“They deceive the hearts of the simple.  These good words (xrestologia) have a pleasing quality.  They seem full of virtue and reason.  They are not brash or harsh, but gentle, offering better results that the ‘old’ way.  This is the same tactic that Satan used with Eve.  He questioned God, contradicted God, and gave a reasonable solution for why Eve should do what he wanted.  Does it work?  It does?  The fair speeches (eulogia) come out as polished language, smooth and flowing, filled with good words and blessing.  Many times, these people speak their messages with eloquence and style.  They use tactics that tickle people’s ears and capture their attention. They flatter, look humble, sound sincere, and talk spiritual.  They know the Bible and often do good works.  Yet something seems off.  What they say does not line up with Scripture, yet they seem so believable.  The spiritually mature see problems, but the simple do not.  As a result, the simple are deceived in their hearts (their way of thinking).”[11]

          There is always a common pattern in the process of developing leadership among people.  The first step is to earn a hearing.  The second step is developing a friendship.  The third step is winning the heart.  The fourth step is creating loyalty.  However, once these four steps have been achieved, they can be used for good or evil.  Those following these leaders must always be extremely cautious when leadership appears to be taking a new pathway contrary to God’s Word.  

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Psalm 14:12).

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16).

[2] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 296-297.
[3] George Houghton. “The Matter of Militancy,” Faith Pulpit (May 1994)
[4] The idea of “servant leadership” as it is propagated in the New Evangelical community was severely criticized by by David F. Wells, a fellow New Evangelical.  He says that the term “has the ring of piety about it.  But it is false piety, or it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to biblical understanding.  Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of “the body” from which their direction and standing derive” (No Place For Truth [Eermans, 1993]’ pp. 214-15).  His attack was directed at the lack of convictions and biblical/doctrinal truth that has overtaken the New Evangelical movement and that has displaced theology with psychology and the prescriptions of the modern self movement.  This is not the case with the author of Reclaiming . . . Fundamentalism, but a word of caution is in order.  Without forceful leadership and the aggressive prosecution of a biblical philosophy and agenda, the Fundamentalist will find his vision being challenged by another who is quite militant about his own proposal.  Well’s point is well taken: Servant leadership does not necessitate a benign, non-aggressive stance.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 40.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Habakkuk’s Dilemma

Habakkuk’s Dilemma

Habakkuk is a book about people facing enormous changes in their lives. Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, political, economic and social changes were on the horizon of their lives. God’s hand of chastisement was upon them. This was a great dilemma for those of Israel who wanted to be faithful to God. It would be a time when their faith would be tested. For many others it would be a time when they would begin to question God and their faith in Him.
          Because of the faithfulness of king Josiah (640-609 B.C.), God had blessed Israel with great material wealth and national prosperity (Read 1 Kings 22:1-20). However, it was not long before Israel would forget God. They forgot He was the source of their blessing.  Therefore, God was about to withdraw His hand of blessing.
          We are living in a similar period of history. We are seeing vast changes in the political arena. The things Christians have held sacred for centuries are being ridiculed and rejected by our society. Violence, fornication, adultery, drug use, and perversion flaunt themselves openly and without shame. We are reminded of the words of Jeremiah to a similar generation, “Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.” (Jeremiah 3:3)

The “burden” of knowing what God will do.

Verses 1-4 of Habakkuk chapter one could be the prayer of any Christian as he prays for our nation.  Habakkuk knew he served a holy and righteous God. He knew God hated compromise.  The prophecy given to Habakkuk was a “burden” because it involved God’s judgment coming on the nation of Israel, faithful and unfaithful alike.  Like many Christians today, Habakkuk was confused about God’s apparent inaction to the nation’s moral decline (verses 2-4). Habakkuk was perplexed by God’s apparent inaction.  He asked God for the answers and solutions.
Unless we can get an accurate theological world view, we will always be perplexed by the present problems of our society.  Although the future historical problems for Christians may be overwhelming, confronting those problems with faith is complicated because so many see the Bible as only a textbook for personal salvation.  Actually the Word of God provides an overview of world history in a steady, progressive moral decline into the judgment of God as the final destiny of the world.  The message of salvation is not a message to correct the decline, but to help lost souls escape the pending judgment.
Do we just need better laws?

Christians look for a solution to the moral decline of our society in government.  Has the dispensation of law taught us nothing?  Israel had perfect law, the laws of God.  Israel had a perfect theocratic government. Why didn’t it work?  It did not work, because perfect laws and perfect government require perfect people to make them work.  Law is irrelevant to unregenerate people.  Isn’t that what verse four says? “The law is ignored and justice is unenforceable.”

The Bible puts every problem in life in the context of the world view of a steady degeneration of truth.

Because many Christians do not hold this world view, they think the solution to this moral decline is Theonomy.  Theonomy is a world view that thinks Christians can establish the Kingdom on earth by forcing the moral laws of God upon a society.  Theonomy says, “if we can change society by changing government and moral law, we can change man.”
          This is the same message of the old social gospel wrapped in a new package. It didn’t work with that name on it and it won’t work with this name on it.  If there is any hope of changing a society, it is through evangelism.  However, if you have read the end of the Book, society will not be changed.  Therefore, Christians need to understand they are not here to reform society.  We are here on a search and rescue mission to help as many as possible escape the “wrath to come.”
When we look at world history (past and future) in the context of God’s world view, we see all circumstances of life in their divinely appointed place in the culmination of God’s universal world plan.

Habakkuk is a book relating by example how God wants believers to function when faced with worldwide or national calamity.  God wants us to respond with faith (trusting Him).

“Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

How many Christians, in situations of life such as Habakkuk, greatly burdened when they see things contradictory to the absolutes of God happening in the world, adopt man made methods  of dealing with them?  The vision of faith always sees God in control of every circumstance (or it is not a vision of faith).  We may not understand it all.  It may be very disturbing to us, but our sole responsibility is to keep our eyes fixed in faith on the Lord and continue with our search and rescue mission. Stay on track! 
The only way to balance life’s difficulties is with faith.  Faith trusts the national and world situation to God.  Faith trusts God to use you to rescue as many souls as possible from the pending judgment

Never interpret God’s inactivity as indifference.

God had a plan.  The “burden” that was given to Habakkuk signified he understood that plan and was greatly troubled by it.

1. Sometimes we don’t like God’s answers to our prayers.
2. He doesn’t always do things according to our dictates.
3. God does not work in the shoe boxes we make for Him.

Try not to be impatient with God.  He does not work according to our time table.  When time is ripe, He will answer. That is God’s pattern.

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4).

When society is filled with injustice, don’t accuse God of injustice because He does not immediately act.

1. God is not the cause of injustice.
2. Sin is the cause of injustice.
3. God cannot deal with the sin without condemning the sinner.
4. When justice finally prevails, all injustices will be corrected.

          Keeping our faith fixed upon Jesus throughout national and international incidents keeps us on track.  Faith looks beyond the moment and sees everything from an eternal perspective and with God’s world view.  This world is on a roller coaster ride to Armageddon.  If you are lost, the most important thing you can do is to get off the roller coaster.  If you are saved, the most important thing you can do is to rescue as many people as you can before they come face to face with a righteous God and judgment.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.