Friday, November 29, 2002
Some have accused us Pharisees of being such an exclusive group that we don’t even fellowship with one another, let alone members of other denominations. They are correct in stating that we are an exclusive group (narrow is the way and few there be that find it) but they misunderstand why it is important that we continue to remain so.
First of all, our critics miss the point that we are members of the True Church. All other denominations are false churches who preach only a form of the gospel. We alone preach the entire truth of the Word of God free from error. Other churches preach a portion of the truth but they either leave out the rest of the truth or add errors of their own. Both of these faults cause them to be in the wrong.
Second, we should avoid any fellowship with those in error. We run the risk of being contaminated with erroneous doctrine if we ever tolerate the doctrinal impurity of others. At the very least, it shows that we approve of doctrinal error. This is why we not only refuse to fellowship with non-Pharisee churches but we also avoid fellowshipping with Pharisee churches who have strayed even the tiniest bit into error. By maintaining this stance we insure that we will not fall into the same error.
I have had people ask how we can be so sure that we are not the ones in error and that the other churches might be in the right. This absurd accusation fails to take into account the role of the Holy Spirit in leading us into all truth. We are given unction from on high that protects us from error by allowing us to rightly divide the word of truth. Other churches may claim to have the Holy Spirit but only our kind of Pharisee churches truly have the leading of the Spirit.
Others try to convince us that God is not so concerned with what they think are petty details of doctrine. I agree that there are some doctrines, which are ambiguous by nature, and God does not demand absolute agreement on those issues. However, not everyone agrees on what those ambiguous doctrines are. For example, some would try to convince us that a premillennial, pretribulational rapture of the saints is an ambiguous doctrine. This is clear proof that just because someone claims to be led by the Spirit, doesn’t mean they are truly led by the Spirit. The Rapture of the Saints is one of the clearest truths in the Word of God and for anyone to not understand the essential facts of the Tribulation and the Millennium is to leave the Word of God and dwell in error.
Who would think for a minute that Christ would be pleased with someone in error? I know for a fact that Christ would not tolerate for one moment, anyone who held the truth in error. So if Jesus Himself expects us to maintain doctrinal purity, then we should be just as intolerant of error as He is. For us to tolerate error, even if we did not succumb to its allure and follow it, would make us guilty by association. Maintaining doctrinal purity is a way for us to demonstrate our holiness to our brothers and sisters who are following the wrong path and lead them back into Truth by our good examples.
The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
I Corinthians 8:2 (NIV)
Friday, November 22, 2002
I have received an accusation by a reader who says that my stand on Biblical purity and holiness is really an excuse to be divisive and sectarian. She accused me of being a sower of disunity and discord. She then went on to say that true Christians should be united in the cause of Christ and the gospel rather than so eager to divide over petty doctrinal differences.
I do not question this woman’s sincerity but she is so completely deluded by the ecumenical thinking of our day that she believes that compromise and tolerance are virtues rather than Taking a Stand for the Truth. This is proof that good Pharisees like myself need to constantly preach against the corrupting influences of the world.
Let me state first of all that I am not against unity. I believe the Bible teaches unity and that we should practice it. But I do not believe in unity at any cost. I am certainly unwilling to sacrifice the Truth on the altar of popularity in the name of a false unity.
The chief obstacle to unity is not Pharisees as some claim. The chief obstacle is the stubbornness of others. I find it interesting that they always want us to compromise what we believe in order to join their cause but they are never willing to compromise what they believe in order to join our cause. So who is really against unity – them or us?
Unity would easily be obtained if everyone would join the Pharisee cause and be like us. Even Paul opposed Peter in Galatians 3 because Peter was unwilling to adopt Paul’s attitudes. Was Paul against unity? Certainly not. He is the author of I Corinthians 12, after all. But he was not willing to sacrifice principle for the cause of unity, even to the point of righteously accusing brethren in error, just like I do.
So what is Biblical unity? Clearly it is the conformity of all people to a single set of beliefs. What set of beliefs, you ask? Why, the Pharisee doctrinal statement of course. If everyone would come over to our way of thinking, we would then see true Christian unity. If all denominations were just like the Pharisee church, then we would see a worldwide revival.
Others say that the Pharisee denomination itself is so fractured by various divisions within its ranks that we are not truly united. This is proof once again that we need to be constantly vigilant to eradicate error. There are churches who wear the name Pharisee and claim to be true Pharisee churches but they are not. “They went out from us because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” So it is not our fault if other people who are less committed to unity leave our church and start rival congregations.
Our critics say, “If I were to unite with the Pharisee denomination, then which branch should I be associated with?” Once again, the answer is quite clear – you should be a part of the same branch that I am a part of. It is only by joining my cause that you can truly consider yourself part of a fellowship of unity.
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites
Romans 16:17-18 (NIV)
Friday, November 15, 2002
A Preterist, who read my recent column on Eschatology, thought he would catch me in a mistake. What he did instead was to expose his own ignorance. I never cease to be amazed by those who believe they can catch me in an error. I have devoted my life to reading sermons, commentaries, books and articles of all sorts so I am considered by most to be an authority on the Bible. At least, I should be so considered by most people.
The crux of the accusation from the young Preterist (a person who believes that nearly all the prophecy in the Bible has been fulfilled) is his claim that I don’t take the Bible literally. He accuses me of believing in a physical Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13:16-18 but not believing in a physical “Mark of the Lamb” in Revelation 14:1.
My first objection is that he claims I do not take the Bible literally. Yet his belief system claims that there will be no future Beast ruling over a one-world government. He does not believe there will be a physical mark and that people will not receive invisible tattoos, computer chips or hidden bar codes in their right hands and foreheads. He denies the future need for a massive computer system to monitor people’s ability to purchase goods and services. He claims that all of this was fulfilled during the Roman Empire. How absurd! Rome never had computers or microscopic chips embedded under the skin, so it is clear that this prophecy was never fulfilled. So I have a “brother” who is telling me that I do not take the Bible literally while he himself is guilty of spiritualizing the text.
His second mistake is to think that the Mark of the Beast and the Mark of the Lamb are related. This is pure hogwash. One is a physical mark that is noticeable on the earth. The other is a spiritual mark that is only visible in heaven. These two passages occur in two separate chapters in the book of Revelation. If the apostle John had wanted us to think they were the same kind of mark, there would not be a chapter separation at this point in the KJV Bible. For proof of this, see the Scofield heading above the chapter. It says, “Parenthetical: vision of the Lamb and the one hundred and forty and four thousand.” This is absolute proof that chapter 14 is unrelated to the events in chapter 13 because it is a “parenthetical” event. Some people just don’t know how to read the Bible.
Another mistake this young Preterist makes is that taking the Bible “literally” does not mean that I am ignorant of figures of speech. The Mark of the Beast is a literal mark and it is physical. The Mark of the Lamb is a literal mark and it is spiritual. Taking one passage as a physical manifestation and another as a spiritual manifestation does nothing to detract from the literalness of the passage. It is the responsibility of learned scholars such as myself to distinguish between what needs to be taken physically and what needs to be taken spiritually.
But then, that is the problem with the Bible; it is a spiritual book as well as a literal one. It is a tragedy that some are so carnal as to be incapable of spiritually discerning the truth of God’s word. This dear brother, God rest his soul, is caught in the trap that one cannot take a literal interpretation and a spiritual interpretation at the same time. I am not “spiritualizing” scripture like he is, but spiritually discerning scripture. It is too bad that he cannot be like me and be so discerning.
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriputres or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29 (NIV)
Friday, November 08, 2002
This will come as a surprise to many of you, but some have accused me of arrogance. I am sure these are well meaning and respected Christians but they have missed an essential component of gospel preaching and that is boldness. Paul preached with boldness (2 Corinthians 7:4). Peter preached with boldness (Acts 2:14). It only stands to reason that we should preach with the same boldness.
Boldness is a sign of Christian confidence. We should behave in a way that reflects the confidence and certainty of our position. I have no respect for the “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” school of thinking which gives rise to a wishy-washy faith in nothing of substance. A Christian should be characterized by a sense of certainty.
I have no sympathy for those who are “looking for God’s will.” Any Christian with an ounce of faith can boldly declare the will of God because they know it for sure. A proper reading of the Bible leaves us with no doubts or ambiguities. This is the source of our boldness and confidence. Some try to say the Bible has gray areas. These are undiscerning Christians who lack the courage to define black as black and white as white.
We know that we are right because we have confidence in our ability to spiritually discern the Truth of God’s Word. We have the skills for rightly dividing the Word of God and we have the right intellectual equipment for making wise decisions. If God had not so equipped us with a powerful ability to insightfully divine the text (unlike so many others who hold the truth in error) then we would have no right to our confidence and boldness. But God has not left us so unprepared. We are above being deceived by the blindness of our own intellectual ability. After all, that is part of the discerning ability that God has given us – the ability to discern truth and falsehood in our own lives.
Others have accused me of believing so strongly in what I hold to be true that I would never admit the possibility that I could be wrong. While this may be true in practice, I do hold to the principle that I am a fallible human being. The Lord Himself tells us that there is none perfect but God. For me to make the claim of perfection would be an exercise of hubris which would be a sin, and of course pride is a sin of which I would never be guilty.
On the other hand, if anyone could ever show me to be in error about anything, I would appreciate them pointing it out to me. Some have tried to show me my “errors” but I have to confess that none has been successful. In all my years of ministry I cannot recall a single instance where any major Truth that I have held to has been undermined by the attempts of others to convince me of the validity of their erroneous position.
However, if I were ever approached by anyone who held a belief or opinion different from my own and they had the Truth and I was in error, then rest assured that I would join them in subscribing to the Truth. To be perfectly honest, though, I cannot think of a single instance where someone else held to the Truth on a position where I was in error.
Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
I Corinthians 8:1b-2 (NIV)
Friday, November 01, 2002
Misguided misanthropes have attributed the small size of our denomination and even smaller size of our congregations to Pharisee churches being so exclusive and obnoxious that no one is attracted to them. This accusation would be justified if it were our desire to be popular and we intended to have large congregations. Unfortunately, our critics completely misunderstand the nature of the Truth.
Pharisees represent a small denomination in wider “Christianity” because we are the only denomination that holds to the complete Truth of the Word of God. Yes, some denominations hold to one portion of God’s Truth or another but only the Pharisee churches hold to the complete Truth absolutely free from any admixture of error or falsehood.
The fact of the matter is that those who hold to the Truth have always represented a tiny remnant. Elijah complained that the remnant was down to him alone, and God confirmed that it wasn’t much larger than that. In the entire land of Israel there were only seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. This number was a tiny fraction of the population of the nation of Israel and an even smaller potion of the world’s inhabitants. Besides the minuscule size of the group, this total also included those who were nominal followers of God. The Lord didn’t even mention what fragment of this percentage remained absolutely True to Him. I am confident that it was only a tiny fraction of this seven thousand.
This parallels the situation in our day and age. Of the billions on the earth today only a small fraction of them are nominally Christian. A smaller percentage of that comprises Christian denominations that hold to the Fundamental truths of the gospel. The number continues to shrink as we exclude those who hold to one error or another such as using wrong translations of the Bible or permitting contemporary worship styles. By the time we get down to those who follow the Truth, the number isn’t much bigger than Elijah’s seven thousand. And we aren’t too sure about all that seven thousand.
People must face the fact that Truth is not popular. If something is popular, then by definition it can’t be Truth. Our small numbers and tiny congregations prove that we hold to the Truth. It is only by the grace of God that people become Pharisees. We have made the choice to turn from being popular with men to devote ourselves to being True to God. We have sacrificed widespread acclaim and the admiration of others for the approval of God who smiles down at us for making the hard choice to follow Him. Some think that we are unpopular because we are rude and intolerant. Sadly, it is the pernicious nature of error that leads our critics to believe that our unpopularity is somehow a fault rather than a virtue.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:9 (NIV)