The “Not one in Twenty” of Ellen White is too optimistic

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As I have demonstrated in older posts, the Sabbath was an old covenant law. Particular to a certain people, living in a specific geographic location, during a specific period of time. The old covenant Sabbaths pointed in type and shadow to the rest we have in Christ today.

 

A common thing debated amongst Adventist laity is whether or not it is permissible to cook meals for your family on the Sabbath.  This stems from the verse in Exodus that reads as follows;

 

“You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” Exo 35:3 ESV

 

Because of this many SDA cook their meals the day before, and then of course use their oven to heat them up on the Sabbath, that way they don’t have to light a fire in their dwelling.  Obviously this doesn’t actually avoid the problem of lighting a fire in their dwelling, but I digress.  The point is that this verse in Exodus was never meant to be read as speaking to modern kitchens and dining practices of the 21st century.  When you do so you end up with wonky anachronisms and contradictions.

 

Another example along these lines is the VCR. When that became mainstream SDA debated whether or not recording your favorite TV shows on the Sabbath to watch later was permissible. Should a VCR be considered a maidservant or manservant (Exodus 20:11)?  No matter what you do with the VCR issue, you’re gonna have to employ an anachronism and then draw a conclusion off of it foreign to the text of scripture. It’s silly, which is why SDA will quickly move on and try to forget things like VCRs we’re ever a controversy.

 

But here’s the thing. When it comes to Ellen White’s teachings you better get it right on this issue or you won’t be among the one in twenty.

 

“It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner.”–ChS 41 (1893).

 

Combine that with her teachings on keeping the law perfectly by your own diligent effort in the end times and you have a receipt for disaster.

 

“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.”  The Great Controversy, Pg. 425 Ellen White

 

So here’s the issue, you better be on the right side of the VCR debate if you expect to be saved in SDA teaching. It’s impossible to know if you are right or not either, as the Bible doesn’t address VCRs, so there will always be mystery as to whether or not you chose the right side.  The VCR isn’t the only thing like this either, there have been many controversies like these in my lifetime alone.

 

Can the VCR be used on the Sabbath? 

Can you play Nintendo on the Sabbath?

Can you play sports on the Sabbath?

Can you swim on the Sabbath? 

Can you drive far on the Sabbath?

Can you play Pokémon-Go on the Sabbath? 

Can you accept a paycheck for working in a hospital on the Sabbath?

 

 

Those are just seven (7) controversies in Adventism off the top of my head.  Keep in mind, the scripture not only condemns sin, but it also condemns approving of those who do sin (Rom 1: 32).  So to meet Ellen White’s standard you have to stand on the right side of every controversy above, there is no neutral ground.  You can’t just play it safe and forbid all of them either, because if you do and get one wrong then you’re calling something good evil which is also a sin (Isaiah 5:20 ESV).

 

There have been far more controversies than this, but let’s run the math on just seven of them and see what our odds stack up like.  Each controversy is binary, let’s be gracious and assume every SDA has a 50/50 chance of standing on the right side of each issue.

 

1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/128

 

That’s only a snapshot of one generation though, and it’s controversies off the top of my  head.  Let’s try to project a minimum of the number of such controversies that have existed in Adventism as new dilemmas or inventions have presented themselves.  This won’t be scientifically accurate of course, but it could give us a ball park figure.

 

Assuming that the average person lives three (3) generations long, and assuming that at least seven (7) controversies arise each generation, what are the odds of for someone standing on the right side of all of them?

 

1/128 * 1/128 * 1/128  = 1/2,097,152

 

Those are some pretty long odds!  That means with a fair understanding of Ellen Whites teachings each Adventist has less than a one in two million shot of going to heaven.  Maybe that’s what she meant by *not* one in twenty?  Let’s be clear, if keeping the law is how you plan on going to heaven then you will fail.  It’s a one way ticket to hell.  Ellen White is actually wrong, your odds of earning heaven are not one in twenty, or even one in two million.  Your odds are a big fat zero.

 

What???? Zero???

 

Yeah that’s right, no matter if your SDA or otherwise you don’t stand a chance at keeping the law perfectly.  And even if you somehow managed to pull it off you still got original sin against you.  The Bible is clear though, all have sinned.

 

“as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one;” Rom 3:10 ESV

 

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom 3:23 ESV

 

This is true even in the end times, you never stop sinning.  Even Paul struggled with sin in his life and during his ministry.  The truth is we are saved by Jesus, even in the end times.

 

“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” Phil 3:9 ESV

Conclusion

Ellen White is actually wrong on both law and gospel.  She presents a law that is tough but not tough enough.  It’s actually possible for man to fulfil her law, maybe with a little help from Jesus, or maybe even helping Jesus out a little bit.  But not a Biblical law where total perfection of thought word and deed is required (Matt 5:48).

 

She also presents a Gospel where mans efforts and works are essential, particularly during the end times.  It is also a hopeless ineffectual gospel that only saves “not one in twenty”, or as I calculated, less than one in two million.  The truth is her false gospel (Gal 1:8) doesn’t save anyone.  It only sends people to hell.  As I frequently say, trust in Jesus.  The Sabbath will not save or seal you, not even in the end times.

 

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A Debate: Did Christ Die For All? With Jordan Cooper and Dr. Theodore Zachariades. Sin Boldly Episode 93

Really good debate, take a look if you would like to see some of the differences between Lutheran and Reformed beliefs.

The Sin Boldly Blog

cross_the_passionWell, I have been looking forward to this episode for a while. I was honored to be joined by Dr. Theodore Zachariades of Reforming America Ministries and Jordan Cooper of the Just and Sinner Podcast and Blog to discuss the Limited Atonement. Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world, or only for his elect people? What is the extent of the work of the cross? Jordan comes from a Reformed background but is now a Lutheran pastor and theologian. Theodore came to the Reformed Baptist tradition after growing up Eastern Orthodox. This debate features conversation around many of the relevant Biblical passages and demonstrates the different ways that these two traditions come to see the way God has worked in the world to save sinners. Thanks again to both of my guests for their time and expertise!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that…

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Leaving Adventism: The Rage Stage

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This post is going to have a lot more in the way of my personal opinion than most of the others.  The conclusions I am going to be expressing here are mostly from a study that I did on the hardening of the heart, which you can find HERE.

The Purpose of Adventism

When I was growing up I had a very insightful Sabbath School teacher.  He was and probably still is a very brilliant man.  What I respected about him is that you could open up to any random book of the Bible and he could give you the historical context, insight into the congregation that the letter was addressed to, and provide perspective on each verse you came across.  He could also handle very well all of those pesky verses that contradicted my beliefs.  I realize the latter isn’t a good thing but at the time I appreciated it a lot.

Some time just before or during my High School years it came out that this Sabbath School teacher had sexually abused the pastors very young female grandchildren.  We all got a letter from the conference in the mail informing us.  This also happened to be occurring around the time that the issues in the Roman Catholic Church were coming to light.  It was a big deal.

My dad was a big advocate of Church discipline in response to this.  He didn’t want the Sabbath school teacher to be ex-communicated or something.  I think the aim was for him to be sent to another congregation and leave it at that.  This isn’t what happened though, instead the Church kicked out the pastor whose grand kids were abused.  That’s how I remember it anyways, maybe they simply graciously asked him to retire and to stop complaining.  I don’t know.

I could give you a few other stories like these, some of them directly impacting my family as I was growing up.  Interestingly enough none of these are the reason that I left.  When someone does leave Adventism though it’s usually assumed that something horrible happened to motivate their departure.

In many cases this is true.  I’ve seen a lot of people leave Adventism out of despair, triggered by some kind of an event.  This is common enough  that when you do tell people you left they will ask “what did they do to you?”.  This is because they too have heard stories like the one above before and have worried about the people that left over  them.

I believe that this is actually the purpose of Adventism.  This is the end game.  The cherry on top.

The goal the devil had in mind when he birthed this monstrosity was to scare Christians out of the Church with false doctrine and a false gospel, bury them in the law, hide the gospel, and then let their wicked flesh play out.  Each generation more and more fall away, wash rinse repeat.  People leaving into full fledged unbelief isn’t an accident it’s the reason the denomination exists.

Why would God allow that?

While I would never claim that God is the author of sin, he certainly does allow it.  He even righteously judges people and nations with impenitence and a hardened heart so that they may believe a lie and go to hell.

“And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The LORD has declared disaster concerning you.” 2 Chronicles 18:18-22

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

“But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” Exodus 9:12

Keep in mind I am not seeking to systematize the above verses in this post.  I am not going to speculate when and how a heart is hardened into unbelief by God.  I am only asserting that based on the Bible it happens, and then when it does happen it is done in the form of a judgment.

How am I relating this to Adventism though?

Jesus promised that the time would be shortened for the sake of the elect, and it is promised that a delusion would be sent to our earth.  The Bible also speaks of a great falling away.

I don’t know if what we are seeing in this age we live in is that event, it’s impossible to tell as the texts don’t give a lot of details.  But even if we are not living in “THE” great apostasy I do believe it’s perfectly rational to assert that we are living in “A” great apostasy as it can be observed that many delusions have gone out into the world.

Adventism is one of those.  You have a cult teaching heresy, burying people in the law, offering no gospel, and then abusing people as a result.  And when people leave over the inevitable abuse they have nowhere to go because Sunday is the mark of the beast.  Which is why many who leave Adventism end up agnostics and atheists, that’s the only recourse they really have.  It’s no gospel but it’s a lot lighter on the law.

The Devil knows his time is short so he is going to drag all that he is permitted to on his way to hell.  Adventism is simply one of the systems he has used for over a century to deceive myself, my family, generations that came before, and those in the future.   Adventism isn’t the first or only institution to do this either.

Conclusion

We are being systematically lied to and deceived over the millennia.  This doesn’t stop with Adventism.  I would toss Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses in that category as well.  Doesn’t stop with them either; the Gnostics, Judaizes, Muslims, Hebrew Roots, New Apostolic Reformation, Prosperity Gospel, you name it.  The fact that we farm out cults like nobody else is actually one of the things about being an American that I’m not proud of.

Adventism just happens to be the one that effected me the most.  When you leave a cult or a cultic way of thinking and get saved by Jesus among other things you kind of go through this “rage stage” for a while.  The realization that you and those you care for have been systematically lied to by people that knew they were wrong when they did it is a hard pill to swallow.  The only solution for this is gospel and lots of it.  You, your sins, and all this world dies at the foot of the cross.

Some more good news is that this rage stage passes in time.  If you kinda feel like the guy in the picture below for a while though, know that you’re not the only one who has gone through that.

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Augsburg Confession Article VI: About New Obedience

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This is my sixth post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  Three older blog posts which I would recommend reading if you have not are The Three Uses of the Law and Repentance.  Though I have not blogged much on defining good works those would be helpful for this topic.

 

“We teach that this faith must bring forth good fruits and that one must do the good works commanded  by God, in accord with God’s will. However, one must never rely on such works to earn justification in God’s eyes.  For we receive forgiveness of sins and justification only by faith. Christ himself says, “When you have done everything … say, ‘We are unworthy servants”‘ (Luke 17:10). The church fathers teach this same thing.  Ambrose says, “God has established that whoever believes in Christ freely receives the forgiveness of sins. He is saved without works, by faith alone.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

We should expect that when we become Christians we will have the desire to do good works and for sin to be pruned from our lives.  We should also expect not to notice this personally.  You’re only going to become more convicted of your sin in the Christian life and actually feel a great deal of guilt.  This is why it is so important for us to hear the gospel as often as possible.

I don’t believe that we should “fruit check” people’s good works.  It’s my observation that such an outlook is a reflection on poor theology.  Specifically, I think that many protestants today treat good works as if they were sacraments.  Instead of looking to our works for assurance we should look to Christ.

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Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation: Dr. James White vs Trent Horn

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I have linked a two part YouTube debate below between Dr. James White (Alpha and Omega Ministries) and Trent Horn (Catholic Answers) on whether or not a believer can lose salvation.  This was an exceptionally good debate and I highly recommend watching it.  I have blogged on the topic in the past, you can find that post HERE.  Before getting started, I just want to point out that Dr White clearly won in the category of awesome bow-tie.

Below I am going to present some of the passages and arguments that both of the debaters used along with my own analysis.  I am not going to attempt to represent the entire arguments of any of these debaters.  If you want their whole presentation you will have to watch it yourself.

 

White’s Prooftexts

“39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 KJV 

“5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Rom 4:5-8 KJV 

 

There are some other passages that I either didn’t notice him reference or that he simply chose not to bring up.  For example I didn’t hear Dr. James White mention Romans 8:38-39 KJV as that is frequently cited as support for Perseverance of the Saints.  That being the case, the ones he brought up instead make his case better in my opinion.  Specifically John 6:39 as it is very compelling.

Dr. White emphasized many times that Jesus loses nothing, nada, zilch.  He also emphasized that Jesus doesn’t fail in what he has been given to do.  Finally, he ties this in to Romans 4 with the Blessed Man who is not imputed sin.

I actually don’t disagree with Dr. White on this at all, he is absolutely right in that the elect are predestined and that none go to hell in the end.  My understanding is that Trent even agrees with this as well.  I found that Dr. White’s arguments missed their mark here as nobody is arguing that anyone of the elect go to hell. Maybe an open theist would but none were represented in this debate.  It’s possible I simply misunderstood him and am open to correction but that’s how his argumentation came across to me.

 

Trent’s Prooftexts

 

“16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.; 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.; 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.; 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:; 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Rom 11:16-22 KJV 

“29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29 KJV 

“19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:; 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Tim 1:19-20 KJV 

“4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4 KJV 

 

By presenting more verses from Trent I’m not implying that his case was stronger, I just heard him cite more specific passages.  I also noticed that he left some out entirely which I think would have been helpful, specifically Hebrews 6:4-6.  He makes the same argument though with Romans 11 so perhaps he felt it would be redundant, I don’t know.

If you deny that a true Christian can lose their faith then you remove all meaning from passages like Rom 11 above.  The text plainly states that those part of and partaking of the tree are cut off.  If they were never truly Christians then that means nobody is and there is no elect because that which they were cut from cannot be Christ.

The same reasoning applies to Hebrews 6:4-6.  How can an unbeliever fall away?  If you assert such things the text loses it’s meaning.

Also look at 1 Tim 1:19 above.  How can you have no faith and make a shipwreck of your faith?  Such a notion is ridiculous.  It is plain as day to me that one who holds to perseverance of the saints has some very uncomfortable passages that they must tap dance around.  A more extreme example of this would be the way Seventh Day Adventists do backflips around Col 2:16-17.

 

Analysis – Methodological Error

I firmly believe that the most honest approach is to accept all teachings from scripture as true.  I will freely admit that I am appealing to the Lutheran tradition here so discern for yourself if you believe it is the best approach or not.

Thus it is most certainly true that Jesus desires to save all, ends up not saving all, but still loses none.  All of these are taught from scripture and we are free to attempt to reconcile but not to abrogate.  If this means you end up believing something paradoxical then so be it.

So, I would say that the elect are foreknown in eternity past and all of them will be in heaven.  But means of grace is still just as efficacious and accessible to all in the present.  Even those who are reprobate in eternity future.  A category of people are truly saved now in Christ but will fall away and damn themselves in Adam.  A sacramental understanding of means of grace is very helpful with this but not required as evidenced by the fact that many Zwinglian based protestant traditions still hold that a believer can fall away.

 

Analysis – Prescriptive vs Descriptive

 

During the debate White called out Trent for using descriptive passages prescriptively.  He then gave some examples of what he meant by that.  Trent then called out White for bending the meaning of prescriptive vs descriptive with his Calvinist tradition.  I have to say, I found White’s application of this distinction arbitrary as it relied too heavily on a subjective analysis of the texts rather than an objective one.

A fair objective definition of descriptive would be a story, like the book of Acts for example.  In a descriptive text we are seeing a narrative play out.  There are themes and principles that can be drawn out but they must be interpreted through prescriptive texts.  Romans would be a good example of that.  Some books have a mixture of the two like the Gospels for example.  But a degree of objectivity can be applied with that.  Dr White is taking verses like Matt 6:15 and saying they are descriptive.

 

“15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:15 KJV 

 

I’m sorry, but you don’t get more prescriptive than Matt 5, 6,  and 7.  Those are some of the heaviest law passages in all of scripture and to assert otherwise waters down your terms to the point where they have no meaning.  Any tradition that tries to make that descriptive is special pleading at best in my honest opinion.  Because of this I think that Trent was right to point out White’s appeal to tradition here.

In my opinion on this topic White is magisterially bending the text to keep it in line with his tradition.  Because of this I don’t find White’s handling of apostasy passages compelling as I don’t have a Calvinist tradition to defend.

 

Analysis – The word “He”

 

“29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Heb 10:29 KJV

 

This verse came up during the debate and during the question answer portion.  I agree with Trent that the plainest referent to “He” is the apostate not Jesus.  White brings up a good point with Leviticus 16, in how the priest also receives atonement.  But in my opinion this interprets the new testament with the old rather than the other way around.  Also there are other fair ways of understanding that, not least of which is the fact that the Aaron was a sinner.

If “he” is read as Jesus this ends up turning the sanctification of the cross into an ordinance, which confuses law and gospel.  Even if I am wrong though, even if “he” is Jesus, the last phrase at the end would negate irresistible grace.  Given the frame of the debate and the focus on this verse I find that interesting.

I do not believe I am wrong, I am convinced that “he” does refer to the apostate.  I think  anyone who says that it does is assuming their theology going into it.  But even with that understanding I wouldn’t use this verse to prove apostasy, it’s just extra evidence.

 

Conclusion

 

Overall I would say that I enjoyed this debate a great deal.  Like most of Dr. James White’s debates we are given a fair representation of both sides and how they interact against each other.  To get this perspective without a good debate one would have to extensively study the works of Catholics and Calvinists for years.

I must say that I agree a great deal more with Trent Horn here.  Particularly in the manner of his presentation.  In this debate we saw a Calvinist use tradition against a Roman Catholic who was using Sola Scriptura.  Heaven help us when the papists are doing that better than the protestants are, but that’s what happened here.

Please don’t take away from this that I disrespect Dr. White,  I actually enjoy his debates and podcasts a great deal.  In the future I’ll try to make up for this by reviewing one of the debates he clearly won.

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Augsburg Confession Article V: About the Ministry

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This is my fifth post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  I have two older blog posts which I would recommend reading if you have not, which present both the office and means of grace from scripture.

 

“So that we might receive this faith, God established the ministry of teaching  the gospel and administering  the sacraments. For the Holy Spirit is given to people through the Word and sacraments,  the tools through which God works.  Whenever and  wherever it pleases  God, this ministry  creates faith in the hearts of those who hear the gospel.  And the gospel message is this: that not because of our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace because of what Christ did.

We condemn the Anabaptists and all others who believe that the Holy Spirit can come to people  without the external Word, through their own preparations, thoughts, and actions.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

The idea is that God saves through means, and that the office God has given is here to provide these means.  It is not the means themselves which save, but God’s work in with and under them.  The most notable of which is the preaching of the Word.

 

“17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” 1 Rom 10:17 KJV 

“2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Tim 4:2 KJV  

” 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:; 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt 28:19-20 KJV  

 

When the confessions condemn the anabaptists it is because they are condemned by their false teaching in rejecting Monergistic means of Grace.  Just like Rome, they teach quite consistently that man must be prepared and disposed of himself to receive grace, usually in the form of making a decision.

Just like Rome does most protestants will use the false teaching of prevenient grace to get around the obstacle of original sin here.  Some these days won’t even bother to do that.  The great irony in my opinion is that much of Protestantism today teaches the same falsehood of Rome, they just set the bar lower that’s all.

I think this is very sad, and those who don’t have the comfort from scripture that they are fully and wholly saved by Christ without themselves at all are condemned in false teaching.  This doesn’t mean they are going to hell.  But it does create an unnecessary stumbling block at best.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to lower the bar so that it is easier for you to save yourself.  Jesus took the punishment of sin for us entirely and gives this benefit to us.  We contribute nothing but the sin that made it necessary.  He has even sent others to find you and give it to you through means so that you can physically witness it happen and know that your salvation is a done deal.

 

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor 22:24 KJV 

 

You heard the Word of God preached in which God has promised to create faith in you.  You were baptized in which God has saved you.  You received the very body and blood of Christ in your mouth by which God has forgiven you.  There is no reaching within your heart to grope the devil and ponder whether or not you were saved.  You don’t have to try harder to make the decision right next time, it’s a done deal.

There is a great comfort and peace in this.  Many well meaning faithful Christians like the Anabaptists above of course receive this benefit but they miss out on the comfort that goes with it due to false teaching.

 

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The Office of Holy Ministry

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In the past I have presented two posts that I would categorize as Eccelsiology (Study of the Church).  The first one was a refutation of Modern Apostles and the second on the modern office of Pastrix.  Both of those posts rebuke false teachings.  In this one I want to present what is true from Scripture.

The Office of Holy Ministry (Pastor) can’t be properly presented without fitting it into an Ecclesiological framework.  So along with a positive presentation of the office I want to also present a Biblical exposition on Ecclesiology.  In my experience most seem to rely too heavily on their tradition here.  And I don’t mean just the Roman Catholics,  evangelicals do this too.  They just use modern traditions of their own invention instead of ancient Christian ones.

How you can tell when someone who claims Sola Scriptura is eisegeting their tradition is when they go straight to Acts for their Ecclesiology.  Acts is historic narrative and thus lends itself well to eisegesis.  This is why you will see me start in the gospels and epistles and work my way to Acts from there.

Below are the arguments that I am going to make in this post from scripture as a foundation for presenting the Biblical office of Pastor.

  1. The connection of the “keys” between the Apostles, the Church, and Peter.
  2. The “keys” that apply to the Apostles also apply to the Church.
  3. The office of the “keys” is given to the Church by God.

The “Keys” of the Christian Church

The three passages below use very similar language with regards to binding and loosing, forgiveness of sins, and the keys of heaven.  The first passage is addressed to Peter, the second to the Church, and the third to the Apostles.

This is most easily identified by the context and the word “you”.  Which for example, is singular in Matt 16 and plural in Matt 18.  Check the passages in the KJV and you will notice they use a different word for “you” to convey this properly.

“15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matt 16:15-10 ESV 

“15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matt 18:15-20 ESV 
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:22‭-‬23 ESV

What you do next is going to depend on your methodology.  If I take a Biblicist approach I would pit these verses against each other and then declare which one I believe is correct over and against the others.  Instead of doing that though I am going to believe that all are true and try to figure out how by comparing them to other scripture.

The manner I believe is most honest is to accept these teachings as the same keys being given to three different recipients equally.  The language is a bit different each time, but gives us a different perspective on the gift as a whole.

Aspects of the Keys

Peter

Church

Apostles

Keys of Heaven

X
Binding and Loosing

X

X

X

Forgiveness of Sins

 

 

X

Withholding forgiveness

X

To be clear, I would apply all four aspects of the keys to all three categories equally.  Peter, the Church, and the Apostles were given the same keys.  So when it’s all put together it would look like below.

Aspects of the Keys

Peter

Church

Apostles

Keys of Heaven

X  X
Binding and Loosing

X

X

X

Forgiveness of Sins

 X

X

Withholding forgiveness

X  X

X

Peter and the apostles are in heaven now so we don’t see them using these things today.  But the Church is still with us and thus so are these four aspects of the keys given by Christ.  Because of the connection between these three we can look at how the apostles used them make fair conclusions about what believers are called to do when using the keys.

The “Keys” of the Apostles

Peter and the Apostles had the authority given to them by Christ to forgive sins.  How did they do this?  The answer is the same as it is for the church today, through Word and Sacrament (Rom 10:17)(1 Pe 3:21)(Mat 26:26-28).  The only difference is that instead of being called by the Church to do it they were sent by Jesus directly.

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18‭-‬20 ESV

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:11‭-‬12 ESV

We above see that Christ commissioned the apostles to give forgiveness of sins out with Baptism.  I have made the case in an older post on Justification that the same Gospel received in Baptism is the same as the one received in hearing the Word preached.

What am I saying?  I’m simply saying that Christ commissioned the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel in all its forms and that doing so is a use of the keys, specifically in the loosing of sins (Matt 16:15-10)(Matt 18:15-20)(John 20:22‭-‬23).  Just as the apostles had the commission and power from the Word to do this so does the Assembly of Believers today.

Below notice that to accomplish this commission the apostles established and directed Bishops and Elders in the Church with their apostolic authority given to them by Christ.  In addition to that, they also granted to the Bishops the ability to appoint elders.  As with above, I would then argue that the Church has the commission and authority by God to appoint the same functions with the same Keys.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:1‭-‬3 ESV

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28 ESV

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 ESV

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 14:23 ESV 

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:5‭-‬9 ESV

The office of the “Keys”

The Church has the authority to call Bishops and appointing Elders.  That said, these offices are Biblically defined.  The authority that the Church has to call people into these offices only extends as far as the scripture allows.

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:1‭-‬7 ESV

That is a long list of demands that sets the moral bar very high.  Does this mean Pastors should never sin?  I would argue that it means that they are to be sinless in Christ just as any believer is.  By that same token though this is the authority the scripture gives the Church to remove impenitent Pastors.

I don’t think it says that they must be married, my understanding is that in the Greek the meaning is “one-woman-man”.   This would mean though that we cannot forbid a pastor to marry (1Tim 4:3).

untitled

Source: Biblehub

My point is that the Church has the authority granted by God to appoint a Pastor into the office defined above.  If you redefine the office then it’s not the Biblical office of Pastor, it’s something else.

This is very similar to the qualifications of an Elder, which from what I understand, works as an assistant to the Pastor.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:5‭-‬9 ESV

Even though the Church has the authority to call pastors and elders, they ultimately oversee us with the authority given to them in that office.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 ESV  

The concept of Elder is similar to Pastor, we can appoint someone into that office but we cannot redefine it.  If we do so we end up with something different even if we call it by the same name.

What am I getting at here?

Well many Churches today practice women’s ordination.  To do that though you have to water down all the passages that actually define the office of pastor, so you don’t really have an office to call anyone into at that point.  I’m not slamming on women, I’m just slamming on the false teaching, it is not a matter of intelligence or physical ability.

Can the Church create other offices and fill those how they please?

Of course we can, there is nothing in scripture forbidding that.  Church secretary and grounds keeper are good examples, and we can fill them however we like.  The church can and does do this on many different man made offices.  Much of these come and go from one generation to the next but the Biblical office of Pastor remains the same.

There is no scripture forbidding that we add requirements to the office of Pastor either.  A masters degree in divinity from an accredited seminary wasn’t a thing in Paul’s day but it’s something most Churches require now.  This is a good thing too, shouldn’t I expect my Pastor to be an educated man the same as I would a doctor or lawyer?  Why should the bar be higher for a secular profession than a religious one?

Conclusion

In the future I intend to blog on Church authority.  What I have given here is more on the local Church congregation than it is anything else.  But there are good Biblical reasons which tie into what I have represented for larger bodies of believers that need an overseer of pastors and congregations at large.  That can wait though.

At the end of the day God has given his assembly of believers the same authority that he did the apostles in calling and appointing Pastors and Elders, who in turn have a divine authority over us granted by the Word.  Obviously other man made traditions have been incorporated over the millenia, probably to help protect the Church from error and schism.  But in spite of those traditions the teachings from scripture remain over them.

Where Word and Sacrament are present we can expect that the Church is also present.  And where the Church is present the ability to call some into the teaching office of the Holy Ministry exists.  Even if a missionary travels in a Godless land he has no calling to the office of Pastor until believers there recognize and appoint him either formally by a written letter or informally by paying his salary and submitting to his authority.

Additionally, when someone says they were “called” to the ministry it is fair to ask what they mean by that.  Was it a funny feeling in their heart or did they receive a letter in the mail from a Church formally calling them to an office?  Because the letter is an example of a Biblical call and the fuzzy feeling is a man made tradition. #ShotsFired

 

 

Below are my extra Biblical sources for the study outlined in this post…

Christian Dogmatics Vol III, Pg 397-427, F. Pieper

My Pastor Ken Burton III for breaking this topic down for me in plain english

Lastly, a well done video by Rev. Jonathan Fisk which you can find below:

 

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Augsburg Confession Article IV: About Justification

luther_auf_dem_reichstag_zu_worms

This is my fourth post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  In my opinion this is the most important article of the Augsburg Confession.  The Gospel itself hinges on this doctrine, the minute you start adding the merits of man to salvation the Gospel is swallowed up by the Law.

 

“Our  churches  also  teach  that  humans  cannot  be justified before God by their own power, merits, or deeds. Rather, they are freely justified for  Christ’s sake  through faith. By faith we mean this: that they believe that they are both received into God’s favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. For by his death, Christ has paid the debt for our sins. Thus God views the person who has this faith to be righteous in his sight (Romans 3 and 4).”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

I have very lengthy posts on Faith, Grace, and Justification which I recommend reading if you’re unfamiliar with the topic.  The idea though is that God gives faith to man as a gift.  Man doesn’t have to be prepared for it or contribute to it, he just receives it.

 

“17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:17 KJV 

“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:; 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9 KJV 

“1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?; 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.; 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.; 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.; 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom 4:1-5 KJV 

“9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faithPhp 3:9 KJV 

 

In the blog posts that I linked above I dig into this in greater depth.  But the idea from scripture that is confessed at Augsburg is that we are saved by faith alone.  Using the word “only” in a theological confession is a bold thing.  As you may have noticed with the confessions on the Trinity and such one cannot say “only” very often.  Instead you have to accept all teachings as true though paradox exists.  With justification however there is a very clear “only”.  I have highlighted some of the key words above that make this the only possible interpretation of Pauls teachings.  Furthermore, Paul ties this to the Gospel itself and anathematizes those who teach otherwise.

 

“8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Gal 1:8 KJV 

“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.; 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” 1 Cor 15:1-4 KJV 

 

Either Paul is a anathema or the synergists are, there is no third option.  And since Paul so carefully and clearly defines Justification as something that is imputed to us through faith without works at all, I do believe that the word “only” is necessary here.  Works of man cannot be added to Justification.

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Augsburg Confession Article III: About the Son of God

reading-the-bible-on-bench

This is my third post in a series on the unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.

 

“Our churches also teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, took upon himself human nature in the womb of the blessed vir-gin Mary.  Therefore, he has two natures, one divine and the other human. They are united in one person and cannot be sepa­rated. Thus there is only one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the virgin Mary. He truly suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He went through all this so that he could restore us to peace with the Father and be a sacrifice, not just for original sin, but also for all other sins.

The Word [Christ] also went down into hell, and truly rose again the third day. Afterward he went up into heaven so that he might sit on the right hand of the Father. There he rules forever and  has  power over  all creatures,  making  holy all  those  that believe in him.  He does this by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts  to rule, comfort,  and make them alive, as well as defending them against the devil and the power of sin.

This same Christ will openly come again to judge the living and the dead, etc., as the Apostles’ Creed says.”– The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

The above is simply what the scriptures teach about Jesus Christ.  I have written before on such topics in several posts at great length.  You can find them below:

  1. The Deity of Christ
  2. Two Natures of Christ
  3. Two Natures of Christ: Zwinglian or Lutheran
  4. Decent to Hell

 

Below are some common passages to support the things taught in Article III.

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.;  The same was in the beginning with God.; All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 KJV

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” Heb 1:8 KJV

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.” Matt 4:2 KJV 

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2:52 KJV 

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Tim 2:5 KJV 

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:; 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison1 Peter 3:18-19 KJV 

 

As is the case with all Christian paradox, Christology depends on accepting all scriptures as true.  When you come to two teachings that don’t make a lot of sense the temptation can be to abrogate one with the other.  This is how most denominations are formed in my opinion.  Instead of doing that we should accept all teachings in scripture as true.  We can use logic to try and put them together, but we should also be honest and concede when we cannot.

Just as Jesus “increased in wisdom” he is also omniscient.  Just as he tired and hungered he is also omnipotent.  He is fully man and fully God.  With Lutheran theology particularly, it is my understanding that we do not separate the two either.  There is communion between the two natures, thus we would expect Jesus to walk on water with his human flesh and raise the dead with his human voice, just as we also expect that he is omnipresent in the Eucharist.  This is explained better in greater detail in Solid Declaration VIII.

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Augsburg Confession Article II: About Original Sin

jesus-thorns-cross-sculpture

This is my second post in a series on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.  A full copy of which you can find HERE.  Original Sin is more controversial in Christianity than it should be.  This is because in our day a lot of Churches are functionally if not confessionally Pelagian or at least Semi-Pelagian.

 

“Our churches  also teach that since Adam’s fall into sin, all men who are fathered in the normal physical way are conceived and born  with sin. This means  that they are born  without  the fear of God, without trust in God, and with evil desires.  This disease,  or original  sin, truly  is sin. It condemns  and  brings eternal death to those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.

Our churches condemn the followers of Pelagius and all others who deny that original sin is truly sin. Such people argue that humans can be justified before God by their own strength and rea­son. This lessens the glory of Christ’s work and its benefits.” The Unaltered Augsburg Confession

 

Above the writers of the Augsburg Confession is making it clear that those they speak for are not Pelagians.  My understanding is that Pelagius taught that we are born perfect and in time fall away in the commission of sins.  This is why he didn’t teach that Baptism was necessary until around the age of two or three.  The Bible teaches however that we are born with the guilt of sin.  This is taught in many places but is most obvious in two particular passages.

 

“5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalms 51:5 KJV 

“3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 2:3 KJV 

 

Notice above that David teaches he was “shapen in iniquity”.  This is powerful imagery of sin itself knitting with his very flesh as he is growing in his mothers womb.  Also, with Paul in Ephesians it is taught that we are “by nature” children of wrath.  There are many passages which corroborate this teaching that a blog contributor detailed in an older post you can find HERE.

The reason I focus on those two verses above though is because they are the clearest and most obvious as identifying our guilt in sin at the time of conception.

I personally find it interesting though that most protestants will agree with me in rejecting the Roman Catholic teaching of the sinlessness of Mary, but then will go and teach that billions of Christians have been born and died sinless before the age of accountability.  I think this demonstrates an inconsistency on their part at the very least.

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