Impressionable Women

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When Paul writes to Timothy in his last letter, he refers to self-professed Bible teachers who infiltrate into households and captivate impressionable women. These gullible women are said to have piles of sin overwhelming them and are being led away with a variety of desires. (2nd Timothy 3:6). These women are constantly seeking to acquire more knowledge but are never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. This is a tragic situation indeed. It is characteristic of the dangerous times associated with the last days (3:1).

As I have communicated with various pastors over the decades, I have heard a variety of sad stories that illustrate this Biblical truth. Too many pastors and congregations have experienced the wrath of spiritually gullible women who have listened to bad doctrine from false teachers and taken upon themselves the responsibility of attempting to “correct” the pastor and the congregation. Too often the husband stands on the sidelines with a befuddled look, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, “Well, you know how she can be at times.”

One pastor has noted the pattern that when certain men have come to his office to talk about their “concerns” with the pastor or congregation, it almost always goes back to, “Well, my wife has been reading/listening/studying, and she thinks you are wrong about ….” One church member stated, “If you want to know why Mr. ____ is upset, it’s probably his wife. She makes him tick.”

One pastor mentioned that of the most scathing letters their congregation had received from upset people, the vast majority were from strong-willed women with spiritually weak husbands. I think I would have to concur.

So what to do about it? Men, be aware of what your wife is reading/listening to. Guide her to sound theology. So much of what passes for Christian books for women today is actually unbiblical and full of dangerous theology. Are there sound books available for women? Yes, but one has to exercise great caution in this area. This demands that husbands know sound doctrine themselves in order to evaluate potential resources for your wife.

Women, guard your heart with all diligence. Just because a book claims to be Biblical doesn’t mean that it is. Don’t be gullible. Be sober-minded. Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Talk about sound doctrine with your husband (1st Corinthians 14:35). Don’t be led astray by attractive front covers and the promotional blurbs on the back cover. Use the standard of God’s Word to sift what you hear/read. As a general rule publishers are after you and your money. They are not genuinely concerned for your soul. Your husband is. Your pastor is. Your congregation is. Listen submissively with tranquility of spirit (1st Timothy 2:11).

Biblical pastors have watched too many women over the years get a burr under their proverbial saddle and get increasingly unsettled, to the point of not listening to what is actually being said. One pastor shared the following story. It seems that Mr. & Mrs. ____ were now officially upset with the pastor and congregation. They came to express their concerns with what said pastor had taught during his Sunday morning sermon. He secured a recording of the sermon and listened to it with the couple right there in his office. Wise move. When the alleged teaching was not found in the recording, the wife responded with, “Well, you must have edited the recording. I know what I heard!” This is a good example of a bad example. Women, don’t be like this. This dishonors God and your husband.

The Gracelessness of “It’s All Grace” Advocates

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Ever noticed the irony of certain theological positions? For instance, those who hold to the “It’s All Grace” (neo-antinomianism) position can be quite legalistic in their condemnation of those with whom they disagree. They condemn those who hold on to the Biblical expectations for believers. They condemn any attempts of holding believers accountable to the negative aspects of grace. And by their harsh criticisms they demonstrate a lack of grace.

Titus 2:11-12 clearly tells us that God’s grace trains genuine believers to say No to ungodliness and world desires but also to say Yes to sobermindedness, righteousness, and godliness. Grace has both a negative and a positive aspect.

Sadly, these individuals (Dan Phillips refers to them as “gutless gracers”) blur the line between justification and sanctification. They misunderstand, as Phillips wisely reminds us, that “He is not justified because he grows in holiness; and when his growth has a setback, his justification is completely unaffected. But he will grow in holiness, because he has been justified.” (192)

Pastors I know have been the recipients of various condemnations because they were unwilling to accept the confused theology of gutless gracers. The phone calls and emails have been, at times, (shall we say?) intense. Anything other than words of grace fell from their lips or fingertips. It’s the sort of thing that causes you to reach for asbestos-lined gloves while reading it.

I find it ironic that people who attempt to emphasize grace actually distort and diminish grace in their attitudes and words. One congregation received a scathing letter from a gutless gracer. It was a verbal inferno, showing no grace whatsoever. This was not merely salty verbiage, but rather a linguistic nuclear habanero. It was curious that somehow one’s professed theology did not rich to their words. No wonder God reminds us through Paul that our speech is to always be with grace (Colossians 4:6).

If we rightly emphasize God’s grace, we will reflect Jesus Christ as we do so (Luke 4:22). There will be words of grace, acts of grace, attitudes of grace, and a spirit of grace, even with those with whom we may disagree.

The Danger of Calling Evil Good

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I recently wrote the following for our local paper. Will have to wait to see if it gets published.

– – – – – – – – – –

Twice in the Old Testament book of the prophet Jeremiah one finds the following condemnation: Are they ashamed because they have done such shameful things? No, they are not at all ashamed. They do not even know how to blush! (Jeremiah 6:16; 8:12) God clearly states that certain sins are accompanied by public shame and embarrassment. But some people are so fixated on their sin that they are somehow ignorant of the disgrace that accompanies such behavior.

Our society has rapidly degenerated to such a position. The various media elevate such immodest people to their 15 minutes of shame fame. And anyone who dares to publicly, or at times privately, disagree with such sinful behavior is threatened with organized protests, lawsuits, and fines because of their alleged intolerance. We are now told, “You will embrace such behavior or else.”

Such heroes of indecency are applauded for their supposed courage and bravery. These folks live with a deluded mindset. God says to us through the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Changing the name of something does not change its character. Calling a tail a leg does not make a dog have 5 legs. Truth cannot be ignored without consequences, no matter how much we protest otherwise.

Yet even this shamelessness is a symptom of a more significant problem. Like the people referred to in Isaiah 5, we too “have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 5:24) Therefore we as a society no longer have a standard by which to judge any behavior as right or wrong (except those who condemn the “harmful intolerance” of those who stand against sin).

What can we do in a culture that is determined to destroy itself? This has happened before throughout history. What we are observing in our day is nothing new. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers in the corrupt capital of a sin-filled empire: “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:32 NET) He then proceeded to outline the doctrines of sin and salvation from God’s perspective. That too is our responsibility.

The problem cannot be fixed by simply having a surgery in a failed attempt to change one’s gender, or by irrationally claiming to be a different skin color in our mind. The problem is internal; in our hearts before a holy God. We are the problem.

Christ died and rose again to rescue unrighteous individuals from His wrath and the eternal consequences of their sin. All those who genuinely repent and turn to Christ in faith can be rescued. There is hope for the individual. The culture may fall, but the individual can be rescued. There is hope.

Ryle on Repentance

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Anglican Bishop John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) wrote in his helpful commentary on Luke:

We must carefully bear in mind, that no repentance can make atone for sin. The blood of Christ, and nothing else, can wash away sin from man’s soul. No quantity of repentance can ever justify us in the sight of God. ‘We are accounted righteous before God, only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and no for our own works or deservings.’ It is of the utmost importance to understand this clearly. The trouble that men bring upon their souls, by misunderstanding this subject, is more than can be expressed.

But while we say all this, we must carefully remember that without repentance no soul was ever yet saved. We must know our sins, mourn over them, forsake them, abhor them, or else we shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. There is nothing meritorious in this. It forms no part whatever of the price of our redemption. Our salvation is all of grace, from first to last. But the great fact still remains, that saved souls are always penitent souls, and saving faith in Christ, and true repentance toward God, are never found asunder. This is a mighty truth, and one that ought never to be forgotten.

Do we ourselves repent? This, after all, is the question which most nearly concerns us. Have we been convinced of sin by the Holy Ghost? Have we fled to Jesus for deliverance from the wrath to come? Done know anything of a broken and contrite heart, and a thorough hatred of sin? Can we say, ‘I repent,’ as well as ‘I believe?’ If not, let us not delude our minds with the idea that our sins are yet forgiven. It is written, ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3). (Expository Thoughts on Luke, 1:67)

Odd Study Bible Footnotes

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Occasionally people from the congregation will show me what their study Bible footnotes say. Often the notes are quite helpful, and other times … not so much. Sometimes they are ridiculous (i.e. worthy of ridicule). The image below is one such ridiculous study Bible note.

Ezekiel's Temple RefSBOne can easily see that the first sentences contradict the printed illustration. They read: Ezekiel’s restored temple is not a blueprint, but a vision that stresses the purity and spiritual vitality of the ideal place of worship and those who will worship there. It is not intended for an earthly, physical fulfillment ….” My question is this: why engage an artist to produce a detailed diagram of a building if the information revealed in Ezekiel about the temple is not a blueprint? That makes no sense to me. Draw a picture of something else, but leave the blueprint out of it. This is silly, and worthy of laughter. Perhaps this particular study Bible has an updated edition, so things might have changed since my edition was published.

Just remember, only the text of your Bible is inspired, not the footnotes. Don’t do what one former classmate of mine did. He took a black permanent marker and crossed out ALL the footnotes in his Bible. Made it hard to read the back side of the printed page. Don’t overreact. Be sober-minded, and, at times, enjoy a good laugh.

The Privileges and Responsibilities of Being Christ’s Freedman

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For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. (1st Corinthians 7:22 NKJ)

In the New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Rogers and Rogers highlight the following observations in their comments on 1st Corinthians 7:22 (p. 363). I reproduce their list with a small amount of editing.

There were certain obligations the freedman had to the one who purchased his freedom:

  • He bore the family name of the one providing the freedom
  • He lived in the house (paramone) of the one providing the freedom
  • He rendered service (operaeto the one providing the freedom
  • He received gifts (munera) from the one providing the freedom
  • He rendered respect (obsequium) to the one providing the freedom

The wise will understand the applications to the Christian life. What privileges are ours because of the finished work of Christ!

Women Who Embrace Godward Ministry

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In the book Paul the Counselor [Focus Publishing, ISBN 978-1-936141-25-8], Ruth Froese and Shirley Crowder highlight women in connection with Paul’s ministry. They provide a non-exhaustive summary (with a couple of reference corrections) of Godward ministry for women as recorded in the New Testament.

Women who provided a welcoming home where the Word of God was spoken:

  • Lydia–Acts 16:14-15
  • Philip’s daughters–Acts 21:8
  • Priscilla/Prisca–Acts 18:26

Women with a helpful, responsive spirit:

  • Phoebe of Cenchrea–Romans 16:1-2
  • Priscilla/Prisca–Romans 16:3
  • Mary–Acts 12:12
  • Tryphena and Tryphosa–Romans 16:12
  • Euodia and Syntyche–Philippians 4:2
  • Junia–Romans 16:7
  • Chloe–1st Corinthians 1:11

Women who nurtured:

  • Eunice and Lois–2nd Timothy 1:5; 3:15
  • Rufus’ mother–Romans 16:13

I am thankful to God for women in the congregation among whom I serve as pastor who are willing to embrace such Godward ministry.

Should We Forgive the Unrepentant?

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Allow me to illustrate a widespread problem within Christianity concerning forgiveness of others. A pastor with whom I am familiar received a rather confusing message similar to the following:

For any perceived or actual wrongdoing, I ask forgiveness.

“Perceived or actual wrongdoing”? What exactly does that mean? How can perceived wrongdoing be forgiven if it is not actual wrongdoing? Isn’t it true that only actual sin can be forgiven. Nowhere in Scripture is this alleged “perceived sin” said to be forgiven. But this does illustrate my point: people are ignorant of the Biblical teaching on forgiveness.

Another illustration is that of people who claim that we must forgive those who never ask for forgiveness. “Unconditional forgiveness” is their mantra. But is this Biblical? Are we not taught to forgive one another even as God in Christ has forgiven us? (Ephesians 4:32) If this is so, then it begs the question: what does the Father’s forgiveness of us actually look like? Does God actually forgive those who do not repent and ask His forgiveness? And if He did forgive the unrepentant, what are the ramifications of such a forgiveness?

Unless they repent

Four times in the NT we find the phrase “unless you/they repent. (cf. Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 2:5, 22). Luke 13:3, 5 indicate that repentance is the condition on which the perishing hinges. If you don’t repent, you will perish. No unconditional forgiveness here.

Revelation 2:5 shows us that if the repentance does not take place, Jesus will come and remove their lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:22 shows that there are severe consequences for people not repenting. No unconditional forgiveness here.

Jesus taught that forgiveness of a brother is conditioned on their repentance (Luke 17:3-4). No unconditional forgiveness here.

Conditional forgiveness

Jesus taught us that the Father’s forgiveness of us is conditional (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Mark 11:25-26; Luke 6:37; 11:4). John teaches us the same truth (1st John 1:9).

Confession and repentance are essential for the bestowal of our forgiveness, just as it is with God. We must be sure that our hearts are prepared to forgive, so that when the sinning brother confesses to us and tells us of his repentance, forgiveness may be granted graciously. This is how the Father forgives us.

Meditating at the Lord’s Supper

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The next time your local congregation observes the Lord’s Supper, consider these wise words from John Owen (1616-1683). The following is a summary of his teaching from Sacramental Discourses (Works, 9:558-560).

  1. The horrible guilt of sin and the payment on the cross
  2. The purity, holiness, and severity of God that would not pass by sin, when it was charged upon His Son
  3. The infinite wisdom and love of God that found this way of glorifying His holiness and justice
  4. The infinite love of Jesus who gave Himself for sinners
  5. The reason Christ gave Himself to the cross—to glorify God by reconciling sinners to God

Preaching Only Christ and Him Crucified Revisited

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Some time ago I posted about those who attempt to reduce Christian teaching to Christ crucified and nothing else. I have personally been attacked by certain people who grossly misunderstand what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 2:2.

I recently came across John Frame’s explanation of this concept that I found worthy of reproducing for you.

So we should not take “Christ and him crucified” in a reductive sense, as if our preaching and teaching must be confined to the person of Christ and the atonement. Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians and his other writings, as well as his sermons in Acts, discusses many other subjects: factionalism (1 Cor. 1:10–17; 3:1–23), wisdom (1:18–26), the nature of the apostleship (4:1–21), sexual immorality (5:1–13; 6:12–20), lawsuits (6:1–11), marriage (7:1–29), food offered to idols (8:1–11:1), worship (11:1–34; 14:1–40), spiritual gifts (12:1–31), love (13:1–13), our own resurrection (15:1–58), collections for the saints (16:1–4), Paul’s personal plans (16:5–21). “Christ and him crucified” is not a boundary, but a center. Though Paul speaks of many things, in the end it all traces back to Christ. (John M. Frame (2014-09-05). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 22831-22837). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

And again:

So to be “Christ-centered” is not to speak only of Christ, ignoring all the effects and applications of his work. Christ-centered preaching is not preaching that limits itself to the events of the history of redemption and eschews the applications of his work to marriage, suffering, anxiety, wealth, and poverty. Neither Jesus nor Paul restricted the gospel in that way, and we should not do so either. Christ is a great light that shines into every corner of human life, because he is Lord of all. (John M. Frame (2014-09-05). Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 22842-22845). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Thank you, Dr. Frame.

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