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The State of Discernment – Physician Heal Thyself

The State of Discernment – Physician Heal Thyself

The State of Discernment – Physician Heal Thyself

Please note:

Any reference to “discernment ministries” (lower case) is not to be confused with “Discernment Ministries” (upper case). I am fully aware that this newsletter contains shocking statements and that there are many generalizations. We must, however, examine the general trends. Those ministries that do not conform to the general trend are an extremely small minority of less than  five. The fact that there may be exceptions, do not prove the rule.


My Testimony

I have been standing against error from soon after I first was saved. My first experience of noticing error was when, in 1971, a beloved pastor friend handed me Prison to Praise by Merlin R. Carothers with the words – “this book had changed my life”. I read it and as a 20 year-old was convinced that this was not the truth. My initial response turned out to be correct as this was the first in a long line of books teaching positive confession, which is the foundation of the Word of Faith error. I also remember well how my friend rejected me because I told him that I did not like the book and that it contained error.

In 1994 I preached a series of messages in various churches in South Africa on the “Toronto Blessing”. This was my public entry into the so-called discernment ministry. Since then I have examined, exposed, written and preached against, almost every major error that has plagued the church since Oral Robert’s Seed Faith. I still regularly research, write, and preach against false doctrine.  Over these 34 years I have been in close contact with many of the discernment ministries and the personalities that operate those ministries.

During this time I have carefully observed every aspect of these ministries including the impact they have had on the church at large, local churches, and on the lives of individual believers. Recent events involving many in the discernment community have finally prompted me to once again re-evaluate the impact, viability and Biblical mandate of these ministries.

Is there a Biblical mandate for ministries of discernment?

Before analyzing the fruit of these ministries, we must establish whether, or not, there is a biblical mandate for such ministries?

The typical justification for a discernment ministry comes from the idea of a watchman: “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.” (Ezekiel 33:7) (Also Isaiah 21). God tells Ezekiel that he has a responsibility to warn the nation of God’s impending judgment because of their wickedness. The problem is that the bulk of the “watchman passages” are in Isaiah and Ezekiel and these have nothing to do with watching for the enemy. But, the idea of a watchman is extrapolated to mean that the watchmen must watch for the enemy. This is then applied to the New Testament and taken to mean that discernment ministries must watch for the enemy in the form of false teaching and teachers.

However, where in the New Testament do we find examples of such watchmen who stand outside the church (city) warning the church of the error? There is not a single person anywhere in the New Testament that functioned as modern discernment ministries do. All ministry in the New Testament happened within, and out of, the local church. Even Paul was sent out from a local church and would return to, and report back to, the local church (Acts 13).

Titus 1:9 and Jude 3 are often quoted but neither of these verses sanctions a parachurch discernment ministry. Indeed, these texts, and many others, speak of the need for discernment. Almost every epistle was written to address some error or the other and a large portion of each letter exposes and corrects error. Clearly discernment is necessary and vital as false doctrine continues to grow.

Who then, is responsible to guard the purity of the doctrine? Ephesians 4:11 mentions the ministries and then goes on to say that  they are to equip the saints “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,” (Ephesians 4:14). Thus at the broadest level discernment is the responsibility of each of the gift ministries, who then equip believers to discern.

But more specifically, it is the function of elders and teachers (Acts 20:28; 1Timothy 4:16 etc.). The reason for this is simple: The antidote for error is not to point out the error. A doctor who makes an accurate diagnosis of the disease without prescribing the treatment is of no value. The diagnosis must be followed by the cure. This is exactly the model Paul shows us in his epistles. He does not just point out error but administers the therapy in the form of sound doctrine. That is the function of pastors and teachers in the local church – they combat error with truth, false doctrine with sound doctrine. That is the biblical model.

Oh, but local pastors have failed, is the reply. Yes, many have forsaken the truth for the lie and introduced error into their congregations. However, it is up to the individual believer to be discerning (Hebrews 5:14) and to leave that church when it moves into error. I know the retort is that it is unrealistic for believers to recognize when their leaders get into error and that they need the help of outside ministries to point out the error. Let’s examine that notion for a moment:

First, if the only way a believer will know he is being deceived is through some website or external ministry, then we have no faith in the Lord Who promised that He will build His church and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18) and Who also said “… the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”(John 10:3-5) and, “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (John 10:8). The sheep must, and will, hear the voice of the Shepherd. Sometimes He has to bring an obstacle across their path to get their attention, but He will lead and true sheep will follow. To introduce a pragmatic idea (a discernment ministry) in order to protect the church is a statement of unbelief in the Great Shepherd.

Those who do not love the truth will not, and do not, heed the warning of the Shepherd or of the discernment ministry, since they love the darkness more than the light. Thus, any effort by a discernment ministry to rescue such is a waste of time. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:31).

I have witnessed many times how people reject the clear warnings about error because they choose to ignore the evidence. It is my contention that everyone who testifies that they came out of error as a result of a discernment ministry, would have seen the light anyhow since they were open to, and seeking for, the truth.

We are not fatalistically saying “what will be will be”. No, those who are true sheep, who love the Lord and His Word, will be led into all truth by the Spirit: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13).

God does not bless man-made and extra-biblical methods that substitute for a work of the Spirit. Remember what happened when Israel put the ark on a cart instead of carrying it on the shoulders of the priests (1Samuel 6)?

By the above, I am not saying there is no need for recognized pastors and teachers, operating from the context of a local church, to be speaking and writing on discernment issues. There clearly is. However, the majority of discernment ministries are not operated by pastors or teachers but by discernment researchers who operate outside the local church and do not exhibit a pastoring or teaching gift. I must therefore categorically reject any and all discernment workers, irrespective of their other credentials, who do not operate within the context of a local church.

This is for two reasons: Accountability and a reality check.

Without real, on the ground, accountability we are far more open to deception, error, pride and sin. This alone, accounts for most of the problems within the discernment community of the past 30 years. By accountability I am not referring to heavy shepherding but I am also not meaning a loose association with a church without real accountability. Many pay lip service to the idea of accountability but the moment someone corrects them, they turn on the person who dared correct them thus proving that they never were accountable. (While I am writing this one discernment blogger is publishing a series of articles denying that there is any need for accountability). It is abundantly clear that no one who is not in submission to godly brethren should have anything to say to Christians. Sadly, many within the apologetics ministry are mavericks who cannot, and will not, submit to anyone. Yet, the Scripture is clear: “… Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1Peter 5:5) See also 1Corinthians 16:16; Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 13:17 etc.

The second reason discernment must flow from the context of the local church is that life in the local church keeps us in touch with reality. Dealing with real people in a real church is a very humbling process. It keeps us, and our ministry, real. There is no room for ministry that flows from those who cannot get along with others and thus sit in their isolated towers shooting arrows at all and sundry. Yes, the road a prophet walks is often lonely, but it is not isolated. No ministry can just be about facts and data. All ministry must revolve around the people who make up the Body of Christ. There is no room for, and no elders should allow, a hit-and-run preacher to address the congregation. Hit-and-run preachers are those who come into the local church, say a bunch of radical stuff, cause upset and division and then run away, leaving the local shepherds to deal with the mess. If they just ran, that would be one thing, but they also reap names for their mailing list and through their mailings continue to sow trouble into the local churches.

And yes, I have heard the cliché that there are no good churches. There are enough good churches, but those in the discernment camp are hyper-critical and thus even very sound and healthy churches do not measure up to their unbiblical standards. There are no perfect churches and neither was there a perfect church in the New Testament, yet we are instructed to be part of a local congregation and ‘not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together’ (Hebrews 10:25).

Easy Entry

Discernment ministry is the easiest of all ministries to get into and therefore attracts some questionable characters. You don’t need to know the Bible or the Lord, you don’t have to pray, you don’t need any kind of spiritual gift, you don’t even need to be saved to set up a discernment ministry. Several don’t even know the basics of the English language. All you need is some gall, time to troll the internet for some juicy morsel and some basic Facebook or blogging skills. It is no wonder that I have met a few discernment bloggers who get on famously with atheists who have the same mission – to criticize Christianity.

Harsh, you say? Maybe, but it is the truth.

There is no such ministry as “faultfinding” yet it is the easiest thing in the world to do and it takes no skill or gift at all. I can look at the most magnificent architecture, painting or other form of art and find fault with it. Why is the Mona Lisa so dark? Why is St Paul’s Cathedral so brown? Why is Luciano Pavarotti so fat? Anyone can listen to a sermon and pull it apart – there is nothing to it and millions of people do that every Sunday over the lunch table. But can they preach or do they even understand what was said? Probably not! Every one of the thousands who watch ball games can play the game better than the men on the field and every armchair critic knows more about theology than the men who have been called and gifted to teach the Church. This has resulted in a reversion to the day of the Judges when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Let’s be clear; this kind of lawlessness is not a good thing but has led to anarchy in Christian circles.

I do not understand why people travel many miles to sit at the feet of their favorite ranter, yet will not bother to support their local church. I have watched people travel long distances to a conference where a discernment blogger was present and sit at the feet of their guru outside the meetings while God was pouring out his Spirit on the people inside.

Allow me to sum up by saying again: no one should read or listen to anyone who is not in submission to a local church and godly men.

The Fruit

Since the root is suspect, it is no wonder the fruit is also bad. Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). We must therefore examine the fruit of the discernment ministries over the past 30 years. Yes, there have been a few people who testify that they came out of deception because of one, or another discernment ministry, but as said above, these are generally people who have a love for the truth and who would have found the truth without these ministries. But on the whole, the fruit is not good.

One of the hallmarks of almost all who engage in discernment work is arrogance and pride. When fixated on the darkness of heresy, it does not take long for one to believe that one’s own little light is a blazing spotlight and is the only light out there. Instead of a gratitude for the Lord’s grace, such soon feel superior to everyone around them, including other discernment people and pastors. The arrogance I have seen and experienced at the hand of discernment people surpasses the arrogance and elitism so common among Calvinists.

Discernment conferences are populated by people patting themselves on the back and thanking God that they are not as deceived as those poor people over there (Luke 18:11). I knew a “church” made up of around a hundred people who met every week to discuss the terrible state of the churches around them and to preach on some heresy. The fact that the group was run by a woman (contrary to scripture) did not bother them and it was no wonder when the whole thing was destroyed a few years later as a result of immorality.

This is not just anecdotal. I am a careful and objective observer and could fill pages of examples of the prideful behavior and words of the ‘discernment community’. I know of one or perhaps two out of the dozens I have met and interacted with, that were humble servants of the church. After almost 50 years in the ministry, I can say categorically, there are none as arrogant as discernment and “remnant” people.

Again, there is no sanction in the New Testament for people to group together around a common hate for error. The basis of the true church and true fellowship is a love of the Lord and His Word.

As a direct result of the arrogance and one-upmanship that prevails in discernment circles, division is common to all these groups. Because their whole focus is to fight error and because these ministries are largely made up of mavericks that don’t get on well with others and who are not submissive, this constant aggression often turns inward against those who are supposed to be on the same side. The events of the past few months are a prime example of the open civil war that often erupts. One or two ministries lead in this ungodly behavior but many of their followers emulate the bad attitude of their gurus. When I read the hateful, caustic, arrogant and unrestrained comments by discernment followers on articles written by pastors who are trying to bring sanity into the recent mess, I can only wonder whether these people are actually saved since the fruit of the Spirit is totally absent in their behavior.

These wars are fought in the public arena for all to see the bad behavior, terrible language and general carnality. Not only do they fight their battles in public but they also go to court contrary to 1Corinthins 6. Twenty five years ago, one of the first discernment ministries in South Africa sued me because I had opposed them when they divided and destroyed a healthy church through error that they had introduced. There are several other examples. As late as yesterday, I saw a video by a “Christian” group in the UK encouraging people to sue a brother because his behavior was unchristian! These people believe that it is permissible to fight unchristian behavior with equal or worse unchristian behavior; no wonder the world does not believe our message. This argumentativeness and criticism spills over to their personal relationships and has destroyed families, marriages and friendships. But when that happens they claim to be suffering for the faith and suffering for truth. No, you have destroyed your relationships through your hatred and lack of love.

Sensationalism and Scoops
Some discernment ministries thrive on dishing out the latest dirt on the heretics. Just like the worldly news media, it is important for them to break the news first (commonly known as a scoop), and as sensationally as possible. This attracts readers and followers.

This competitive environment leads to badly done and rushed research and often the twisting of the facts in order to sensationalize the story further. I frequently witness stories that are completely false as a result of bad research or sensationalizing the sins of the heretics. This lack of integrity and objectivity in dealing with the information ultimately results in spiritual blindness on the part of the publisher. Today I noticed one of these people on social media accusing me of taking a position, which I had twice told him I do not hold. But the truth is just not as exciting as the lie.

As a result, playing fast and loose with the truth permeates every area of their ministry. I recently saw an internationally known discernment speaker publish that he does not live in the country where he has resided for at least the past 25 years. Everyone knows that, that is where he and his wife have lived and raised their kids. You can see how a lack of integrity in dealing with the information plus arrogance can result in people saying whatever they want without accountability and without a twinge of conscience.

This hunger for sensationalism is driven by a need to draw a following and a lust for the money that sometimes comes from publishing books and touring the speaking circuit.

This is nothing more than gossip and people gather around the blogs and social media to pick up the latest bit of scandal that they immediately share with everyone else who has the same lust for bad news. The Bible has much to say about the evil of gossip and very few of those who spread the stories will stop for one moment to intercede, let alone weep, for the sin that has come into the Church. While these same people will rush to the computer to spread the news of another preacher’s fall, I have never seen one of them rush to speak about souls being saved or the truth being proclaimed elsewhere. Thus they are no better than the Hollywood tabloids.

Lack of Discernment
People who make it their business to be discerning seem to have no discernment. That does not seem to be possible. Yet discernment people are notorious for their lack of discernment on two levels:

Firstly, knowing the truth is the only antidote to error since the devil is constantly repackaging error in new forms. It would be impossible for anyone to know every permutation of error – past, present and future; so the only way to avoid deception is by having a thorough knowledge of the truth. But discerners do not study the truth, they study error and when an error comes their way that has not been defined for them as error they fall for the new error.

As a result, I have watched with dismay as discernment workers fall for Eastern Orthodoxy, replacement theology, Calvinism, Arianism, Dominionism, Trumpism, and worse. Recently, one of the leading discernment ministries appointed a man, who has always held to clear heretical views, to a senior position in their ministry. They discovered their mistake only when it was too late and the imposter had already split their following in half.

Secondly, discernment is not just an intellectual process dealing only with facts. It is also a spiritual process. Firstly, the discerner must be led by the Spirit and secondly he must have the ability to discern spiritual things (1Corinthians 2:14). But because many discerners have little or no real spiritual walk, they are insensitive to the spiritual issues that surround any matter. I am constantly appalled by the lack of insight exhibited by discerners. Many seem unable to grasp the most elementary spiritual matters and in that process become handy weapons for evil.

Critical Spirit
It seems to me that the prime qualification to get into discernment work is a critical spirit. I can spot a “discerner” a mile off! Whenever I publish something on the internet, no matter how orthodox and spiritual the article, they will always find something to nitpick. At the same time the message has no impact on them as it is always for someone else because they sincerely believe that they have attained perfection.

There have been some “discerners” in churches that I have served in that are the worst members any shepherd could have. They are not happy to go home from the meetings unless they have stirred some trouble while their own sins remain untouched by the Word. I, and other good pastors, do not want “discerners” in our churches. Not because we do not want to be held accountable (we most certainly do), but these people are divisive and instead of listening to the message to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to them, they are looking for every opportunity where you may have misspoken or emphasized one truth to the apparent detriment of another.

I had one such woman, not too long ago, who is addicted to a particular drug, yet would argue with me because the bread at the communion is not unleavened. The same person was very proud of the fact that she does not watch TV, yet her every spare moment is spent on the internet scouring the dregs for some new filth on someone.

Fortunately most of them don’t stay in any church for long because they are above being surrounded by ordinary believers and shepherds who know less than they do (or so they think). A second blessing is that very few of them will commit to a good church, no matter how godly the elders and congregation because they can never find a church that is able to rattle off every single heresy and misdeed of every false preacher on the internet. This, they define as a lack of discernment, even though they often cannot even give a clear definition of the basics of the gospel.

No Fruit of the Spirit

Some of the speakers in these circles, egged on by their groupies, have set an example of harshness, vitriol, name-calling and generally un-Christ like behavior. This is seen as strength, courage and righteous indignation and many seek to emulate these examples. They obviously have their pet Scriptures to sanction such behavior, and have fallen into the error of the Pharisees “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23)

But Jesus says that a tree is known by its fruit and this is the ultimate test (Matthew 7:15-23). Some of them point to the correctness of their doctrine or miracles or their devotion to Christian works as fruit. The point of Matthew 7 is not about the fruit of someone’s ministry, the question is about the fruit of their lives. In this analogy the tree is not the ministry, it is the man. So, what fruit does he bear through the whole of his life? How does he treat his wife and children? Can he control his temper? Does he exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What testimony does he have before the world etc.

The fruit defines the tree – anger, bitterness, strife, arrogance, division, a critical spirit and slander are NOT the fruit of the Spirit of God. It is that simple yet many pour money, time, and support into ministries that do not promote the fruit of the Spirit but rather the fruit of the flesh. Let me make it plain: I don’t care how much you know about the heresies out there, or even how much you know about the Bible. If you do not produce “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” But rather – “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy”, you have nothing to say to anyone and you need to repent and get back to the Cross. Jesus said: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:18-20).

What is Our Mandate?

Above we established that there is no Biblical mandate for discernment ministries. What then, is our mandate? The only mandate the church has (outside of the obvious commission to preach the gospel) is to bring believers into conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Everything we do can, and must be, measured against this question; “Does it help people to become more like Christ?” Conforming people to Christ is the purpose of all preaching, doctrine and ministry. Except for one or two exceptions, discernment ministries have not produced this result but rather, the reverse.

The Way Forward for Me

This obviously leads to the question about the future and direction of my ministry.

My primary concern is the building up and the protection of the Body of Christ and I know from experience that you cannot build a church on negativity, criticism and pointing out error.

What is also clear is that over the past 30 years of countless discernment ministries, millions of words written and countless videos believers are still no better at discerning the truth.  On the contrary, as we have shown above, not only are believers not discerning but those who lead, and those who follow discernment ministries have arguably done more harm than good by fostering a false sense of security and promoting ungodly behavior.

Redefining Goals

Our goal can clearly not simply be to point out error. It has not worked, and it is not part of the Biblical commission. Yes, we will still research and write on error as new forms of error evolve. But we need to do more:

We need to equip believers, leaders, and churches with the truth, and the skills to know the truth, and to recognize error for themselves, even when something has not been defined as error before. This can only be done by teaching the truth more than pointing out the error. We cannot move away from the original mandate of making disciples and “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Equipping and teaching can also not simply be at the academic and intellectual level. Knowledge for knowledge sake “puffs up” (1Corinthans 8:1). This is certainly at the heart of the failure of discernment ministries in general. They have operated in the realm of the intellectual and have forsaken the spiritual dimension.

Let’s be clear, you can have all knowledge but without the fruit of the Spirit you have nothing (1Corinthians 13). It is a waste of time. Knowledge is only of any value when it is accompanied by spiritual maturity and fruit. Forgive me for repeating myself but the vast majority of those involved in discernment work are carnal and spiritual babes as evidenced by their fruit. And yet, it is these babes  who have been set up as the custodians of truth!

Hebrews 6:12-14 is clear that babes are undiscerning and unskilled in the word of righteousness and that it is those who are mature who are able to discern. I know your reaction may be that those involved in discernment work are not babes but mature. However, Paul says the presence of envy, division and strife are proof that people are still babes: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men…” (1Corinthians 3:1-4).

Beyond doubt envy, division and strife (carnality) have been the hallmarks of discernment people over the past 30 years and has finally found its low point in the events of the last months of 2018.

In case I was misunderstood: The carnality that defines discernment workers means that they are unskilled in the Scriptures (no matter how much they know). They cannot discern and have proven themselves disqualified for the task they have taken upon themselves.

So, I will continue to point out error, but I intend, by God’s grace, to continue to emphasize truth rather than error. Yes, I know that is not as exciting as the latest bit of gossip but that is the only mandate we have from the Head of the Church.

I will also not engage, or even respond to, the lies and mudslinging that is so much part of discernment groups. Just last night another scurrilous video was distributed by a discernment group making me out to be a heretic. The problem is that the entire video is based on lies and a gross distortion of what I believe and teach. (This article was written two weeks ago, long before the video was recorded).

If you want to know what I believe on anything then ask me. I have taught through 95% of the New Testament and part of the Old Testament. These verse-by-verse studies are in the public domain, so anyone who wants to know what I believe on any topic simply needs to listen to the appropriate recording.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-25)


Doctrine Plus Character

Doctrine Plus Character

This is one of the first articles I wrote about 18 years ago. No one paid attention to it then and probably no one will listen today, but I felt strongly to republish it:


Christians have been confused by the fact that there are Christian ministers and teachers who, in spite of serious sin, continue to teach the word in a doctrinally correct way. We understand that none of us is perfect and that we all sin. What I am referring to here is ongoing sin which has not been repented of. This is often glossed over with terms such as “character flaws” or “weaknesses”. Often a vile temper is excused as “righteous anger”. Hatred, an unforgiving spirit, bitterness, strife etc. is often brushed aside by the claim to righteous zeal. A judgmental and critical attitude is justified under the term “discernment”. The fact remains that sin is sin and wrong can never be called right.

Isaiah 5:20;  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;  Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;  Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

The question then is how is it that such people can continue to preach right and live wrong? What does the Bible say about it, and can I continue to receive ministry from such men?

First remember that apparent doctrinal correctness does not prove God’s blessing:

  • The Devil quoted Scripture when tempting Jesus.
  • On at least two occasions the Scriptures record that demons preached the truth (Luke 4:41, Acts 16:17).
  • Balaam four times prophesied the Word of God correctly and yet, because he was driven by greed, brought the people of Israel into idolatry and judgment (Numbers 22-24).
  • Solomon had a real gift of wisdom from the Lord and wrote three of the books of the Bible and yet in the end worshipped idols.
  • Jesus judged the church of Ephesus as being fallen (Revelation 2:5), not because they had the wrong doctrine, in fact, their doctrine was 100%, but because they had left their first love. They were not even guilty of a sin of commission, but simply one of omission!

God does not excuse a life which does not back the teaching. Is this not the essence of hypocrisy? The right outside, but the wrong inside, appearing to be religious and yet denying the very essence of the message?

1Corinthians 13 makes it very clear that one can have the greatest gifts, and make the greatest sacrifices, but if it is not motivated by love, it is a waste of time. Many preach because they love themselves, the acclaim of people, the influence it brings, or the money. Some preach because they love being right while others do so because they want to feel superior. According to Paul they are wasting their time. The only motivator that is acceptable is a love for God and, as a consequence, a love for people. This chapter teaches that unless we are driven by Agape love, we are just performing dead works. This issue was so real to Paul that he saw it as possible that having preached to others, he himself could become cast away (reprobate)! (1Corinthians 9:27).

Jesus warns of those who, although they had preached and performed miracles in His name, were not known by Him (Matthew 7:21-23). Although they were doing all these wonderful things, they were practicing lawlessness/iniquity. Notice that he does not question their doctrine or the validity of their miracles. He does question their relationship with Himself and their lifestyle.

Paul admonished the Ephesian Elders to take heed to themselves and to the flock (Acts 20:28). To Timothy he says, “take heed to yourself and the doctrine” (1Timothy 4:16 – emphasis mine). He writes as much to Timothy about right conduct as he does about right doctrine. Thus taking heed to the flock and the doctrine without the minister taking heed to himself will disqualify him for the ministry and worse.

If sound doctrine is not the only measure of a preacher / teacher / minister, how then, will I recognize the true shepherds from the false?

  1. Obviously his doctrine must be correct. Nothing we have said thus far can be taken to mean that doctrine is not important. He may be the most loving, kind, caring and sacrificial brother, but if his doctrine is wrong, he will lead you into error. Avoid him and find a true man of God. If he really loved the Lord and His people, he would be much more careful about his doctrine! True shepherds and teachers study and agonize about rightly dividing the word of truth.
  2. Does he operate from a basis of love? Does he love the Lord, His people and His Word. Even if the order is reversed in that he loves the word or people more than the Lord, avoid him.
  3. Is he in submission to a local fellowship? The question is not whether he attends or even holds office in a local fellowship. The question is whether he is truly in submission to other godly men (Ephesians 5:21).
  4. How does he respond to correction? Does he repent or does he lash out with counter-accusation or by discrediting the one who dared bring correction to him?
  5. Is he broken before the Lord? No man in the Bible ever became a man of God without being broken first. Think of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and every other man who was truly a man of God. If your favorite preacher is not broken he will be imparting himself and his ideas to you. If he is broken it will be evident and he will impart Jesus.
  6. What is the fruit of his life? Jesus presents this as the ultimate test (Matthew 7:15-23). Some point to the correctness of their doctrine or miracles or their devotion to Christian works as fruit. The question is not about the fruit of their ministry, the question is about the fruit of their lives. In this analogy the tree is not the ministry, it is the man. So, what fruit does he bear through the whole of his life? How does he treat his wife and children? Can he control his temper? Does he exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What testimony does he have before the world etc. The requirements of a preacher are no less than that of an elder. Is he blameless (1Timothy 3:12)? If not, we may not appoint him as an elder, much less allow him to occupy our ears and minds as a preacher.

Now you may say that it is impossible to judge all these things because you do not know him well enough. Maybe you have never met him or seen him in his home context. That is exactly why you should not be opening your mind to him. Unless you can personally, or on good testimony, verify every one of the above six points, can you afford to build your eternal life on someone you do not know or who fails some of these tests? I think not. No wonder when people moved from one town to another in the New Testament, they did so with letters of commendation from their local fellowships. (Acts 18:27, 2Corinthians 3:1, 1Corinthians 16:3). These days anyone can preach on the internet and people follow them, not knowing they are pied pipers leading to ungodliness.

In 1Timothy 5:22, in the context of appointing elders, Paul commands Timothy not to lay hands on someone hastily, nor share in their sins. When you support, listen to, and promote a preacher without thoroughly checking him out first, you are, in a sense, laying hands hastily on him, and if his life is not right, you are sharing in his sins by encouraging him in his ministry while he continues in sin.

If believers were obedient to these principles fewer would be deceived and hurt by false preachers. If you don’t know me well enough, you should be asking for contact details of other ministers and folk in my local fellowship. You should be contacting them for a report on my life before reading another word I write or listening to another recording I produce. I urge you to apply this to me and to every other preacher you listen to or read.

It is high time that Christians become more discerning and preachers more accountable.

Discerning Good and Evil

Discerning Good and Evil

In order to know who and what to trust we need a number of important spiritual tools. First we need to look at the fruit of someone’s life. For this we simply need a pair of eyes and some basic good judgment. Sadly, unbelievers are able to look at many of the false prophets of today and recognize them for what they are, while Christians are being deceived.

Secondly we need the Bible against which to measure the doctrine. We live in times of relativism where truth has become relative to culture, political expediency and profitability. But truth is not relative and changeable. It cannot be manipulated. Truth is absolute, just as a wall is either vertical or not and it’s trueness can be measured by a plumbline or a spirit level, so a man’s doctrine is either true or false and the measure is the Plumbline of God’s Word (Amos 7:7,8).

But then we need a third tool called “discernment”. Unfortunately in the last thirty years Christianity has become very sensual and subjective and much error has crept in because it “felt” right. This kind of subjectivity is very dangerous in the hands of those who are unskilled or immature and yet godly discernment remains an important tool to the true child of God. Sadly, many who have been burnt by the subjectivity and emotionalism of modern Christianity have over corrected resulting in a cold, heartless and intellectual form of Christianity.

If you watch a skilled craftsman you will notice that he has developed a “feel” for his craft. He can often “sense” that something is not straight or square and will then apply the straightedge or square to confirm or refute his “feeling”. BUT he cannot go by his ‘gut feel’ alone. There are a few amusement places in California where gravity does not seem to operate and where water seemingly flows “uphill”. This is an illusion to fool one’s senses into believing something runs uphill when, in fact, it is running downhill.

One of the realities about being a Christian is that we are led by the Holy Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). The problem is that most of us are so fleshly that we often think we are being led by the Spirit when we are actually being led by the flesh. Thus, discernment becomes an unreliable tool in the hands of the carnal or fleshly believer.

However, Hebrews speaks of “those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14). The writer is speaking about spiritual senses that need to be exercised or practiced to discern what is good and evil. Just as one has to exercise one’s mind or body to develop, so our spiritual senses need to be exercised to be useful. In order to develop our muscles or mind we have to use them. If we don’t they become weak and ineffectual, so it is with spiritual senses. In the same way as most of us are very good at hearing the flesh because we are attuned to it, we need to “learn” to listen to the Spirit, tune out the flesh, and hear that still small voice warning us and directing us.

I am not advocating a mystical, airy fairy, dazed eye, mumbo-jumbo, feelings-based religion. But each of us has, at some stage, felt uneasy about someone or something. This uneasy feeling often turned out to be a warning we should have heeded.

This sense or witness does not stand on its own and is not sufficient to accept or reject something but it is an early warning that we need to be alert. Whenever you have that sense, it is an indication that more questions need to be asked. This is when the Plumbline and the microscope needs to be dusted off and applied. If you do this every time you will soon learn to recognize the warnings that come from the Holy Spirit or from other “static”.

Those who are mature and have their ‘spiritual senses’ exercised, are not only able to discern evil but also good. If all we can do is recognize the toxic, we may not die of poison, but we may well die of starvation. We need to sharpen and hone our abilities at recognizing good spiritual food and messengers when they come our way. Again, we cannot just trust our discernment and accept a teaching because it “feels” right. We need to subject everything to the test of the fruit and the Plumbline of the Word.

The ability to be discerning is a spiritual one. This means that it cannot be learnt in a school and it cannot operate in a carnal believer and definitely not in an unbeliever. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things…” (1Corinthians 2:14-15).

Discernment is a direct result of spiritual maturity and a close walk with the Master. The closer we get to Him; the more we will see things the way He does – the further we walk away from Him; the less we will understand and perceive. Solomon asked for “understanding to discern justice” (1Kings 3:11) which the Lord gave him. Nevertheless, as time went on, he began to obey the flesh rather than the Spirit until his judgment became so clouded that he started worshiping idols and plunged Israel into war and spiritual ruin. Samuel, on the other hand, began by confusing God’s voice and that of Eli but as he grew; he became very adept at understanding exactly what the Lord was saying.

“The Lord is my shepherd… He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1,3).
Anton Bosch




Everything is Not What it Seems

Everything is Not What it Seems

Have you ever come across any of the following?

  • The sister who repeatedly tells you to correct her when she is wrong but when you do correct her, gets angry and defensive.
  • The “holiness preacher” who lives a life of immorality.
  • The teacher who is adamant that he is not this or that, yet his statement of faith and his preaching reveals him to be what he denies.
  • The brother who tells you how much he loves and appreciates you, while defaming you to others.
  • The preacher who rants against speculating and going beyond Scripture while doing exactly that in the same breath.
  • The church that claims to be Bible based yet its doctrines and practices are far from biblical.
  • The missionary (or anyone else) who says he is not asking for money while asking for money.

These are only a few examples that I recently observed, and obviously, they are a small sample of many other such “anomalies”. However, they are not anomalies. They are lies and deceptions!

The problem of deception began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent deceived Eve (2Corinthians 11:3) and continues right through human history to the last deluded church (Revelation 3:17). It is bound up in the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), and it finds its lowest manifestation when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss – the highest expression of friendship in that culture. Every single church addressed in the NT was affected by deception of one kind or another. Why should you, and your church, be any different? In fact, Paul warns that the closer we get to the end the worse it will be: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13).

The dozens of warnings to Christians of the dangers of deception in almost every book of the New Testament should be more than enough to keep us alert, but alas, it does not. Every day believers are deceived by some trick of the devil. He is after all the arch deceiver, appearing as such in the opening chapters of the Bible and being identified seven times as the deceiver in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 12:9, 20:10 etc). However, he does not do the dirty work himself but uses people to mislead others.

One of the reasons why so many are caught is the very nature of deception. No one is hoodwinked by a deceiver who boldly proclaims that he is a deceiver and has the intent of cheating someone. Deception must fool the unwary into believing that the deception is not deception. As is often said, the devil does not present himself as having a tail, horns and a pitchfork, but he presents himself as a minister of the gospel; “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

One of the tricks that seems to be working very well for the enemy, is that those believers who have not bought into wholesale deception are so focused on the obvious frauds like the TV evangelists, prosperity preachers and the major cults that they have become unaware of the deceivers that have crept right into the midst of the remnant and who present themselves as “ministers of righteousness”. They have even infiltrated so-called discernment circles!

But even when we see someone being less than honest in some area, we feel we should give them the benefit of the doubt since they are basically good people, or they have convinced us that they are “one of us”. But, here is the problem: deception is like leaven. It can never be isolated to one area of someone’s life but it permeates the whole of the person so that his whole life becomes one big lie! 2Timothy 3:13 warns that such are “deceiving and being deceived”. The moment you try to deceive others, the disease begins to infect you so that you become as deceived as those you are deceiving. Many people wonder whether false prophets know that they are frauds? I don’t believe they do. They sincerely believe that they are doing the Lord’s work because the sin of deceit has infected them and they have become deceived themselves. That is why they are so convincing – they have been persuaded themselves.

Men do not have to start with false doctrine in order to become deceived, but unrepented sin, often the sin of disobedience, is deceptive and leads to further deception: “but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13). Sin is deceptive and leads to a hardened heart which results in further sin, and often, wrong doctrine.

Deceiving others is a terrible thing, but self-deception has to be the worst form of fraud. Yet the Bible frequently warns of the danger of deceiving oneself (1Corinthians 3:18; James 1:22,26; 1John 1:8; etc). Except for the grace of God, one who is self-deluded cannot see the lie by which he has become ensnared. Isaiah 44:20: “… A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?

My appeal to you, is not to allow any man to deceive you and “Let no one cheat you of your reward…” (Colossians 2:18). If you are aware of some dishonesty or manipulation of the truth by someone you respect, immediately withdraw your confidence in that person (I’m not referring to “honest mistakes” but explicit dishonesty). If they will be dishonest in one area, they will be in others also. How can you trust such a person?

My second appeal is not to deceive yourself. The antidote to self-deception is brutal honesty and a willingness to face the facts about yourself, no matter how painful. It is only as we bring these things to the light, that the deception is exposed. “… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1John 1:5-7)

Let’s resolve to follow Paul’s example in 2Corinthians 4:2: “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Anton Bosch
Los Angeles
April 9, 2018


The Kings and the Great Harlot

The Kings and the Great Harlot

There are three main players on earth during the last days – Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Even though they appear on the scene near the end, the principles that they represent have always been with us. Satan has done his dastardly work since before the Garden of Eden and there has always been those who oppose and seek to take the place of Christ: “And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (1John 4:3). Those who are forerunners and minor fulfillments of the final Antichrist are antichrist (Note lower and uppercase). There have also been numerous personalities that foreshadow the ultimate fulfillment of the Antichrist – Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero and Hitler (to name a few). The fact that they were not the ultimate fulfillment does not minimize their evil. They stand as warnings to us that the final fulfillment of Scripture in the form of a world ruler who will attempt to take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of kings will certainly be fulfilled.

While many Christians are somewhat informed about the Devil and the Antichrist, they are less informed about the third person of the Satanic trinity – the False Prophet. Just as the Antichrist has his forerunners, so the False Prophet has his forerunners and principles that underlie his essence. We read about the False Prophet in Revelation 13:11-18. He occupies a central position in the drama of the last days and is symbolized as the beast from the earth.

The False Prophet has characteristics that are the ultimate fulfillment of the same principles that were manifest in each of the forerunners:

  1. He appears to be religious (Jewish in the Old Testament, Christian in the New Testament). He has horns like a lamb – a counterfeit of the Lamb of God (Revelation 13:11). He performs miracles, as if He is a true prophet (Revelation 13:13,14).
  2. He is in alliance with, and supports, the political power of the Antichrist (Revelation 13:15-16).
  3. He persecutes the true believers (Revelation 17:6).

Just as the Antichrist seeks to replace Christ, so the False Prophet seeks to replace the prophets of God.

Thus, we have Satan seeking to usurp God, The Antichrist seeking to replace Christ and the False Prophet taking the place of true ministers of the Gospel. However, there is a fourth figure: The Great Harlot – supplanting the Bride – the Church.

She is called the “Mother of Harlots”. The Bible never accuses the world or the heathen of committing spiritual adultery, but in the Old Testament, Israel is accused of adultery when she forsakes the Lord and enters into an illicit relationship with idols. (Ezekiel 16, 23; Hosea 1:1- 14:9 etc.).

In the New Testament, the Church is the bride, betrothed to her Husband, the Lord Jesus. But, she is also warned of the potential of adultery: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). Thus the spiritual harlots profess to be the Lord’s people, but have forsaken their true Bridegroom, Christ, and entered into an adulterous relationship with the Devil and the world and in the process made God their enemy.

Common to all the minor fulfillments of the False Prophet and false wife is an alliance with the political powers of the day. This alliance gives the political entity power over people that would not normally submit to an evil potentate. In exchange, the false prophets receive recognition, fame, money and influence. Here are a few of many examples:

  1. Balaam entered an illicit relationship with Balak the king of Moab and led Israel into physical and spiritual adultery for money. (It is also significant that the nation of Moab was born out an illicit / incestuous relationship).
  2. Israel rejected the Lord and His prophet (Samuel) and turned to a political system of kings for their answers, protection and help (1Samuel 8:7).
  3. Solomon married Gentile women who undermined his relationship with the Lord and seduced him to worship idols.
  4. Ahab, king of Israel, married Jezebel, a Gentile woman, thus entering into a forbidden relationship. Jezebel used this unholy alliance to lead the people of Israel into idolatry and, true to the spirit of the false prophet, persecuted and killed the true prophets.
  5. Many times Israel was seduced to enter into unholy alliances with Gentile nations in order to win military battles (Isaiah 30:1-7; 31:1; Ezekiel 17:15; Hosea 11:5 etc.). This is the same spirit of adultery in that they forsook the Lord and put their confidence in the arm of flesh, yet the Lord says “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5).

At the time of the Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Sadducees had entered into an unholy alliance with Rome. They were given sovereignty in the practice of their religion and governance of the temple, money, and influence. In exchange they were to keep Israel subjugated to the Roman overlords. The High Priests and rulers of the Temple were all political appointees by Rome from the party of the Sadducees. It was this adulterous relationship and political expediency which led directly to the crucifixion of our Lord (John 11:49-50).

I trust by now you can see that the false prophets of the Old Testament always led God’s people away from the Lord and into an adulterous relationship with false gods and that whenever that happened, it incurred God’s wrath and ultimately led to their captivity: “The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword.” (Ezekiel 39:23). The Lord is a jealous husband and requires that his bride be faithful to Him alone.

For the first three centuries of the church, she was persecuted by Rome and thus there was very little opportunity for the church to enter into a relationship apart from the Lord. However, in 300 AD that all changed: Constantine came to power and married church and state. Constantine himself presided over the council of Nicaea, which would establish the doctrine for the organized church for the next 2,000 years! Not only did the emperor preside over the council but he had a powerful influence over the final creed that Nicaea produced. The adulterous relationship between the church and the Roman government is arguably the worst thing that ever happened to the church and it, and its consequences, are still with us today. The relationship was often stormy and at times the state was the dominant party and at other times the church was. This was just as it is in any carnal marriage where there is a constant struggle between the two partners for dominance, control and power. However, in spite of these difficulties both partners have gained enormous political and financial power through the relationship and the marriage produced many illegitimate children in the form of many false churches, denominations and members. Just as in the Old Testament, the church had forsaken her Bridegroom in order to enter this adulterous relationship.

The Reformers were also not able to separate from their whoredom with the government and all of them sought to use secular rulers for protection, money, and judicial systems to persecute and martyr true believers. This was true throughout Europe and found its low point in Calvin’s Geneva where the marriage between church and state was taken to new extremes so that the church became the weapon of the state and the state the weapon of the church. This pattern was reproduced wherever the Reformation spread. For example in Arminius’ Amsterdam, all senior officers of the church were appointed by the government and in most European countries the government collected the tithes on behalf of the church. (A repetition of the temple tax levied by the Romans).

At almost the same time, an even lower point would be reached when the serial adulterer Henry VIII appointed himself as “Supreme Head of the Church of England”. He did this because the Pope would not annul his first marriage. It is interesting how his physical adultery mirrored what the church had been doing for 1200 years (do you see a pattern here?). 800 years later, the Monarch of the United Kingdom remains the head of the Anglican Church worldwide, including the Episcopal Church in the USA. As such, The “Supreme Governor” formally appoints high-ranking members of the church on the advice of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Notice that Christ has no say in the leadership of the church. He is no longer the Bridegroom nor the Head – the government is. And just as with Constantine, the Roman Church and Geneva, the church and government empower and authenticate each other and false prophets facilitate the harlotry.

In all these examples the central truth is that instead of the false church looking to her true Husband for help, support, protection, and blessing, she looks to her illicit lover – the government. In exchange, she supports, affirms and empowers the state. She thus forsakes her Husband and enters into an adulterous relationship with the world. (Just as in the Old Testament this adultery was facilitated, encouraged and promoted by the false leaders who would persecute and kill true prophets who warn against this infidelity.)

No wonder that He, the Lord Jesus, describes her as: “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5). Notice that she is not alone but is the mother of harlots. Traditionally, Protestants have said that this is Roman Catholicism, and while Catholicism is the ultimate incarnation (and mother) of this evil, all churches and denominations that have forsaken their true Head to enter into an alliance with secular rulers are likewise her daughters and harlots in their own right (Revelation 17:5). Remember that the contract between a harlot and her client is that he gives her money and protection while she renders him services – this reflects the relationship between church and state.

Notice how the Harlot of Revelation does exactly what the false church of the past 2,000 years has done:

  1. The kings of the earth commit fornication with her (Revelation 17:2).
  2. She sits on the Antichrist and is carried by him (Revelation 17:3, 7).
  3. She is wealthy and lives luxuriously (Revelation 17:4).
  4. She martyrs the true saints of Jesus (Revelation 17:6).
  5. She controls many peoples (Revelation17:1, 15).

This brings us to the USA in 2017: Many Christians and churches are again establishing a relationship between the state and the church. The government needs the votes of the church and the church needs the protections, “legitimacy” and esteem that comes from such a relationship. However, these are things that only the true Head of the true Church can provide. Only Christ can protect, legitimize and bring honor to His bride. But, because He is delaying His coming (Luke 12:45), she is turning from Him to another. The moment the believer and the church look to the government to provide what Christ alone can provide, they have committed adultery and forsaken the only true Head of the Church. (True to the pattern, the church is being encouraged to commit this adultery by false prophets who masquerade as true leaders of the church).

We have been deceived into believing that the government will help us, protect us, police morality in society and create an environment in which the church can grow and flourish. That is exactly the relationship that has been in existence in the USA for 250 years and for 450 years in the UK and Europe, and what has it produced? The church is declining spiritually and numerically at an unprecedented rate and is at an all-time low while immorality in society (and the church) is at an all-time high. 250 years of adultery has produced nothing except illegitimate children and false churches and cults. Yet many believe that the current American government is the savior of the church and that it will save the church and America (and even the world). It has not happened in the past and it will not happen in the future. When will we learn that endlessly repeating the same mistakes will not produce different results and that there is only One who can save, protect, keep and give legitimate offspring?

Almost without exception, the only times and places where the true church has prospered has been, and is, where the government is hostile to the church! This is not because there is some direct blessing in living in an unfriendly environment, but because it is in such an environment that the Church learns to look to her Bridegroom alone for all her needs and He in turn blesses her with true children and spiritual gifts.

Please note that I am not advocating civil disobedience. We are to obey the government as far as its laws do not contradict God’s commands (Romans 13; 1Peter 2:17; Acts 5:29 etc.). As such, we must fulfill our civic duties (Matthew 5;41; 1Peter 2:13-17), including voting (unless your conscience forbids it). We must pray for the government (1Timothy 2:1-2; Jeremiah 27:7 etc.) and pay our taxes (Luke 12:24,25; Matthew 17:27).

The many “prophecies”, public prayers and speeches by church leaders in support of Trump, or any other government – no matter which party, has led countless Christians to trust in man and the state, rather than the Lord. They have done exactly what the False Prophet will do in the end: “… and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast…” (Revelation 13:12). Each prophet in the Old Testament who put a stumbling block before the people of Israel and led them into adultery was severely judged and likewise the False Prophet and all who follow his example will be cursed.

By the way, whether a politician is “pro-Israel” seems to have become a litmus test to divide the good from the bad. In the process we have forgotten that the Antichrist will also (initially) be pro-Israel and will sign a peace accord with her!

It is noteworthy that the same spirit of the Old Testament Jezebel reappears in Revelation 2:18 and that “Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). Just as the Old Testament type dies a terribly and ignominious death with her lover, the king, so too will the New Testament antitype die a terrible (eternal death) with her lovers. Even more significant is the warning that the Lord will also kill those who have been born out of this illicit relationship (Revelation 2:23).

Even though Nebuchadnezzar had been raised up by God for a specific purpose, the three young Israelites would not bow before his image. May there be others today who will confess: “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Dear friend, if you have posted on Facebook, tweeted or preached in support of Trump (or any other politician) and hoped in them for the protection of the church and its values, you have committed adultery against your Bridegroom and you will be judged with the Mother of Harlots unless you repent!

The voice from heaven is already calling: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4).

Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly… For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” (2Corinthians 11:1-4).

When God Makes a Missionary

When God Makes a Missionary

After a year of work we have finally republished Br Willie Burton’s book “When God Makes a Missionary”.

When God Makes a Missionary is the life story of a missionary (Edgar Mahon), written by one of the greatest missionaries of the last century – William F P Burton. This book tells of how God changed Edgar Mahon from a rough-living transport rider, during the South African diamond and gold rush, into a missionary, who would reach thousands with the Gospel and affect the lives of people for many generations. Willie Burton was famous for his ability to hold young and old spellbound by the wonderful stories of God’s great works in the remote jungles of Africa. Stories about miracles, divine protection and provision, and of the transforming power of the Gospel. When God Makes a Missionary will thrill, move you to tears and excite worship through the story of the life of Edgar Mahon.

It is available on Amazon at cost ($4)

It is also available as a free Kindle (and .mobi and .pdf) download here:

I believe that all young people (and others) should read this very exciting book.

Who was Arminius?

Who was Arminius?

The article below is different to my usual articles in that it is more technical and a bit longer (7 pages).
Most Christians’ (Calvinist and non-Calvinist) understanding of who Arminius was, and specifically what he believed, is shaped by a 400 year-old propaganda campaign which grossly distorts the truth.
So, I humbly submit this to those who may be interested in the truth about Arminius.
To my one or two Reformed friends; this is not a personal attack on you, or what you believe, and I trust you will receive this as part of my own genuine search for the truth.

A Review with Personal Comments on:
Arminius . A Study in the Dutch Reformation
. by Carl Bangs

1.     Introduction

This article is not a review or critique of the book as such. It is simply my perceptions of the book, but also my observations regarding Arminius and his theology, as compared to my own.

In my almost five decades of serving the Lord, I had never read anything substantial on Arminius and purposely avoided reading his theology as I wanted my doctrine to be based on  the Scriptures and not on that of any man. But, over the past year I began to recognize that my understanding (as of most other Christians) of Arminius and his doctrine was increasingly being shaped by the false image created by Calvinists. I felt it essential therefore, at this late stage, to find out as best as I could, who Arminius was and exactly what he believed. (See below for some of these false notions about Arminius and Arminians.)

My initial research indicated that this book by Bangs is the most complete and authoritative on the life and doctrine of Arminius. However, be warned; it is not an easy read. It is more of an academic thesis on Arminius and his doctrine, but also on the theological, ecclesiastical, economic, and political circumstances in the Netherlands in the late 16th and early 17th century in which Arminius lived and worked. The book is filled with endless details of names, family connections, and even the addresses where the various characters lived. A lot of this information simply clouds the central issues and slows reading down to a crawl. But, the book has been very helpful to understand the many outside factors that had an impact on Reformed theology, churches and universities in Holland at the time as well as the factors that ultimately led to the Remonstrance a year after Arminius’ death. It also is probably the most detailed and complete biography on every detail of Arminius’ short life of 50 years.

The book does outline Arminius’ doctrine and the evolution thereof, but I would have preferred to see a bit more detail on his views. However, it is understood that it is primarily a biography and history of the Arminius and the Dutch Reformation and not a detailed expose of his doctrine.

2.     Common Fallacious Ideas on Arminius.

Having made the statement above that Arminians and Calvinists alike have a mistaken idea of Arminius and his doctrines, I felt it necessary to quote a sample of the many such statements.

Arminius asserted “…that man is saved by good works as well as faith. He admitted that virtuous heathen might escape hell, and surmised that in the end all men would be saved” (Will and Arial Durant. The Story of Civilization. Vol 7. p459.). This statement does not contain a shred of truth – see below but the truth does not prevent many from bearing false witness that Arminius was a Universalist.

Arminius and his followers teach that “man was not totally depraved and could therefore co-operate with God in the spiritual regeneration.” (Lars Qualben. A History of the Christian Church. p351). This is clearly contradicted by Arminius – see the quote under “original sin” (below).

“According to the Pelagian conception regeneration is solely an act of the human will, and is practically identical with self-reformation. With some slight differences this is the view of modern liberal theology. A modification of this view is that of the Semi-Pelagian and Arminian…” (Louis Berkhof. Systematic Theology p 473) “Berkhof frequently combines Arminianism with Semi-Pelagianism or Socinianism in his caricature of Arminius and Arminians. Since Pelagius and Socinian were heretics, this amounts to guilt by association.” ( None of these statements of Berkhof contain any truth whatsoever.

“Pragmatism’s ally is Arminianism, the theology that denies God’s sovereign election and affirms that man must decide on his own to trust or reject Christ. That places on the evangelist the burden of using technique that is clever enough, imaginative enough, or convincing enough to sway a person’s decision… to teach or imply that human technique can bring someone to Christ is contrary to Scripture” (John MacArthur. Our Sufficiency in Christ.” (p152). This is a spiteful and gross misrepresentation of Arminian teaching.

“Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.” (JI Packer. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. p128). Once again, this is just not the truth but a straw man argument by someone who needs to stoop to this level because his own argument is too weak to stand on its own.

“I agree with Packer and Johnston that Arminianism contains un-Christian elements in it and that their view of the relationship between faith and regeneration is fundamentally un-Christian. Is this error so egregious that it is fatal to salvation? People often ask if I believe Arminians are Christians? I usually answer, “Yes, barely.” They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency”. (RC Sproul. Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will. p25). Judging just by the spirit and attitude of Calvinists and Arminians, I would dare say, the opposite is true. Should an Arminian dare to say about Calvinists what Sproul said about Arminians, he would be hung, drawn and quartered. Yet, Calvinists make these statements every day.

One could fill a book with similar egregious statements propagated by Calvinists, and unfortunately, often believed by non-Calvinists. Dr Reasoner compiled an excellent list of similar statements and clear proof against them:

3.     Arminius was Thoroughly Reformed.

One of the aspects of Arminius that is often misunderstood is that he was thoroughly Reformed and was not an Evangelical or fundamentalist by modern standards. Even though his views on Predestination differed from the Calvinism of his day (and of today), he saw himself as a true disciple of Calvin. He was not Evangelical, nor was he Anabaptist and he certainly was not Lutheran. He rose within the Reformed church, studied at Reformed schools and topped off his education by studying in Geneva under Beza, Calvin’s disciple and successor. Beza highly commended Arminius for his piety and intellect in a testimonial to the church in Amsterdam (p111). At the conclusion of his studies he served as one (and the most popular) of the pastors of the leading Dutch Reformed Church in Amsterdam for 16 years before spending his final six years as professor of theology at the Reformed University of Leiden, his Alma Mater.

When he later differed from Beza on supralapsarianism (pp194, 273)(Supralapsarianism says that the decrees of election and damnation came prior to the decree to create man – thus denying God’s omniscience by saying he reasons and knows things sequentially, like man) , Arminius appealed to Calvin and Augustine for support. He did not see his views on predestination as being contrary to Calvinism, as we do today, but saw his views as the correct interpretation of Reformed doctrine. Not only did he appeal to Calvin and Augustine (p192) for support, but also to other Church Fathers such as Origen on the subjects of Subordinationism and eternal Generation (p282) as well as the creeds. He goes as far as to say about Calvin: “…I concede to him a certain spirit of prophecy in which he stands distinguished above others, above most, indeed, above all” (p287).

He strongly defended Reformed doctrine against Catholicism, Lutheranism and the Anabaptists.

My assessment is that except for the doctrines around TULIP, Arminius was much closer to being a true Calvinist than either side of the argument gives him credit today.

4.     His Life and Testimony

Many spoke of Arminius’ piety and dedication to the things of God. His life was marked by holiness, righteousness and humility. Unlike Calvin and his disciples, Arminius always strove to exhibit a Christ-like spirit to friend and foe alike. While he was willing to pay the highest cost in order to stand by his convictions, he was not a rabble-rouser or trouble-maker. All his debates and writings are marked by real humility, a lack of argumentativeness and a willingness to be corrected and to resign his position if it could be shown from Scripture that he was mistaken (p298).

He certainly stands as a major contrast to his opponents’ lust for a fight and blood and their frequent use of lies, political power and manipulation to achieve their ends that had very little to do with doctrinal correctness. Often lay people sided with Arminius, even if they disagreed with his doctrine, because of the spirituality of his response and the brutality of the attacks of his enemies (p299). The vindictiveness, dishonesty and brutishness of Arminius’ opponents (more correctly enemies), seems to be a hallmark of Calvin and his followers  at Arminius’ time and subsequently.

While Arminius was steeped in the teachings of Calvin, the Creeds, and the Church Fathers, he also stood by the call to Sola Scriptura. Unlike his opponents, Arminius did not only pay lip service to the Scriptures, but he genuinely saw the Scriptures as the final authority in all matters and did not hesitate to call into question any personality and any tradition that could not be upheld by a clear exposition of the Scriptures. Thus it was the Bible, rather than his Reformed tradition, that shaped his views on predestination (but not in all doctrine).

5.     His Doctrine

It must be borne in mind that Arminius was not the “originator” of what would become known as “Arminianism”. He was one of several who had through a careful examination of Scripture come to the conclusion that Predestination is not taught in Scripture. It is not clear at what stage he had formed his views but it seems that from the beginning he had never fully accepted Beza’s view and that Arminius’ view was formed over a long time and then finally solidified as he taught through Romans (particularly chapters 7 and 9) during his occupation of the pulpit in Amsterdam (pp139-150).

Arminius died in 1609 before he could fully publish his theology on predestination. Some of his work was published after his death and was further refined by the Remonstrants (protesters) and finally published in the form of the Five Articles of Remonstrance, a year after his death. These five articles gave rise to the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 where the Remonstrants were put on trial. The Calvinistic churches condemned Arminius’ teachings as heresy and pronounced anathemas against those who teach them. It is interesting to note that the five points of Calvinism (also known by the acronym of “TULIP”), were developed as a counter to the Five Articles of Remonstrance and not the other way around as some mistakenly claim. As a result of Dort, the Remonstrants were evicted from their pulpits, imprisoned and some were executed. Those who were not imprisoned or executed had to flee for their lives. It seems likely that had he not died (probably of TB), when he did, he would have been executed after the synod of Dort.

One of the difficulties in coming to a clear understanding of Arminius’ views is the degree to which tradition has foisted on him developments in “Arminian theology”, that continued to evolve under the Remonstrants, Wesley and others.

Original Sin (Total Depravity)

Arminius very seldom used the term “original sin” and saw man’s state as being more one of “privation” than “depravation”. The difference between his view and that of his opponents on this issue was very small and largely semantic (in my humble opinion). He believed that Adam, through his sin, became subject to a “double death” and was deprived of the holiness and righteousness, which was a great part of the image of God in man. As a result of Adam’s sin, all men became guilty and “are by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 11:3). Each man is born with the sinful nature of Adam and as a result sins by nature. (pp336-340)

He said: “In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but is also imprisoned, destroyed and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatsoever except such as are excited by divine grace. For Christ has said, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’” (p341).

Free Will and Grace

While Arminius says that man has a free will in other areas, his will is not free to accomplish spiritual good or to do anything that is meritorious. “All response of man to the divine vocation is the work of grace. The entire process of believing… is of grace. But one result of gracious renewal is the cooperating which man does in believing. When light was kindled… man… being made capable in Christ, cooperating (cooperans) now with God… This cooperation is not the means of renewal; it is the result of renewal. It is not a meritorious work.” (pp341-342 Emphasis mine). He thus plainly disavows synergism whereby salvation is a joint work between God and man. He is explicit that salvation and the process of salvation is all of God (p342).

Resistible Grace

The whole process of salvation is a work of God and man is so fallen that he cannot even choose salvation when it is offered to him. And while man does not have the will to choose salvation and the good, he does have the will to choose evil and to reject the call of God. “Grace is not a force; it is a Person, the Holy Spirit, and in personal relationships there cannot b the sheer overpowering of one person by another” (p343). Thus Grace can be resisted.


Man is not justified by believing (as many accuse Arminius of teaching), but man is justified because God imputes to man His righteousness. (p344).


“Arminius felt that supralapsarianism led to either unwarranted security or unwarranted despair.” He tried to steer clear of these two errors and taught that “It is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, if his heart condemn him not, he is now in reality assured, that he is a son of God and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ” (p348).


Arminius’ view on whether a believer can fall from grace progressed from his earlier to his later writings. But he is, at best, vague. He was certain that grace is sufficient and abundant to preserve the faithful through all trials and temptations for life everlasting. The clearest statement of the view at the time comes from the fifth Article of Remonstrance: “…but whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind.” ( Later developments of this teaching resulted in the view that “Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned. Apostasy (turning from Christ) is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection of Jesus and renunciation of saving faith. Such apostasy is irremediable.” ( It must be stressed however that this is a later development and neither Arminius nor the Remonstrants had fully come to this conclusion. BUT looking at indirect statements of Arminius, it is my considered opinion that had he had the time to pursue this question to its conclusion, he would have come to the conclusion that Wesley and others came to that the believer could come to a point of apostatizing. For example on 1John 3:9 Arminius said: “…I shall take the word ‘remains’ as signifying indwelling, but not continued indwelling. As long as the seed remains in him, he does not sin unto death, but by degrees the seed may be taken out of his heart” (p218). He makes similar points regarding the parable of the sower and the vine and the branches in John15:3 (p218). In his declaration of Sentiments (1608 – a year before his death) he wrote: “I have never taught that a true believer can either totally or finally fall away from the faith and perish, yet I will not conceal that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect.” (p313).


In his Declaration of Sentiments (1608), Arminius defines his view on predestination, but he first outlines the parameters he had set for the establishing of the doctrine: “Predestination must be understood Christologically; it must be evangelical; it must not make God the author of sin; it must not make man the author of salvation; it must be scriptural, not speculative; and it must not depart from the historical teaching of the church.” (p350). I think that these criteria are as important in understanding his thinking as the conclusions he comes to. He manages to balance these criteria in his “four divine decrees” which he lists in a very specific order of importance:

  1. The election of Jesus Christ. The point of this decree is to make Christ the object of the Gospel and not man. He wrote: “The first precise and absolute decree of God for affecting salvation of sinful man is that he has determined to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, as Mediator, Redeemer, Savior, Priest, and King, to nullify sin by his death, to obtain the lost salvation through his obedience, and to communicate it by his power.” (p350).
  2. The election of the church. “The second precise and absolute decree of God is that he has determined graciously to receive in favor those who repent and believe, and, the same preserving, to effect (sic) their salvation in Christ, for Christs’ sake, and through Christ…” (p351). In this decree Arminius speaks of believers as a “class” and this is also the way he interprets Romans 9 (and other Scriptures): that God deals with classes (Israel, the church) as well as with individuals. Thus election is conditional on repentance and faith, but neither is a meritorious work.
  3. The appointment of means. “The third decree of God is that by which he has predetermined to administer the necessary, sufficient, and powerful means of repentance and faith…” (p352). “The means are ‘sufficient and powerful’. The preaching of the cross is a serious call… [Thus] the reprobate cannot be damned for disobedience to a call not made to them.” (p352). (He thus denies “irresistible grace”.)
  4. The election of individuals. “From this follows the fourth decree to save certain particular persons and to damn others, which decree rests upon the foreknowledge of God, by which he has known from eternity which persons should believe… through his preceding grace and which would persevere through subsequent grace, and also who should not believe and persevere.” (p352). The nature of God’s foreknowledge was one of the central issues in the dispute between Arminius and his enemies. Beza, and his followers, insisted that God’s foreknowledge was “causal” – it was based on God causing that he foreknew to come to pass. Arminius said that God’s foreknowledge was “contingent”, based on His knowledge how individuals and classes would respond, without causing that response. (pp 219; 253; 352-355).

6.     Why I am Not an Arminian.

I have been blessed to find in Arminius’ views on predestination a wonderful confirmation for my own views. I have also been encouraged to read about a man, at that time, who was not just a theologian, but one who lived and practiced his faith. However, I am not an Arminian and eschew the title for the following reasons:

  1. My views were never formed by, or based on, those of Arminius, but rather, on a study of the Scriptures and a study of the Reformed view. Yes, I had indeed studied the Reformed doctrine and became well acquainted with it, decades before studying the Arminian view! I therefore only own the label “Biblical Christian” and am not a disciple of Arminius.
  2. Arminius believed in, and practiced, paedobaptism and not believer’s baptism. He was well acquainted with the Anabaptist position on water baptism and was tasked by the church to write a rebuttal of Anabaptist doctrine. He avoided this assignment, not because he was in agreement with the Anabaptist view on baptism, which he opposed, but because the Anabaptists stood against the doctrine of predestination (pp166-171). I cannot be identified with someone who does not uphold such a fundamental doctrine as believer’s baptism.
  3. Arminius held to Subordinationism (that Jesus always was subordinate to the Father) and the concomitant theory of eternal generation. He freely quotes the heretic Origen on these theories in the absence of Biblical evidence for them. (p282). In my view they diminish the deity and eternality of Christ.
  4. Arminius, like other Calvinists of his day, saw the sacraments, as more than simply earthly elements signifying spiritual truths. He did not accept the Roman heresy of transubstantiation (the bread and wine are changed into the literal blood and body of Christ). Neither did he accept the Lutheran idea of consubstantiation (The “substance” of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present). But, he did see the bread and wine as more than simply earthly tokens demonstrating heavenly truths. He saw them as having a spiritual and mystical power “…seals and pledges, which affect not only the mind, but likewise the heart itself” (p334).
  5. Arminius was very committed to the marriage of church and state. Not only did he see them as inextricably linked, but he saw the church as being subject to the secular leaders. “Arminius and the burgomasters [city councilors] stood together in affirming the right and duty of the magistracy to exercise oversight of the internal affairs of the church…” (p147). Not only did he perpetuate Calvin’s Genevan system, but went further than his opponents in giving power to secular authorities over the affairs of the church (whereas in Geneva it was the other way around). This is obviously not a system that has any Biblical basis and I certainly cannot countenance the usurpation of Christ’s supremacy over the church by secular leaders.
  6. While he stood vehemently on the supreme authority of Scripture and the idea of Sola Scriptura, he was also strongly influenced by some of the erroneous ideas of the Church Fathers, the Synods of the church and particularly by John Calvin. All the problems I highlighted above are a direct result of these influences and it saddens me greatly that he was not able to cast off the yoke of tradition and return fully to the Scriptures alone, as he had on the matter of predestination.

7.     Conclusion

In spite of Arminius falling short of a full revision of the dogmas of Calvinism, he still stands out as a great man for his courage, wisdom and humility. His influence has been a counter-balance to Calvinism’s predestination and he has impacted millions by his return to Scripture on this matter. After him, the Remonstrants, and later, the Wesleys and still later, 20th century Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism took up the baton. Sadly, in the last 40 years, we have seen an increasing abandonment of this Biblical doctrine and a return to the traditions of men. May the Lord give us more men who are committed to truth, no matter how unpopular truth may be, and no matter the cost of standing by the Scriptures alone.

Anton Bosch
Los Angeles
August 2017

Christ our Passover

Christ our Passover

Most Christians probably know that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and that he fulfilled the type of Himself as shown in the Passover lamb. Yet, when I started looking for a list of the aspects that were fulfilled in the crucifixion, I could not find a complete list. Therefore, this is an attempt to compile a fuller list:

Jesus is called  “the Lamb of God”: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! ” (John 1:29)

  • The lamb was to be selected on the 10th of the month Nisan (the first month of the year). It was then to be examined until the 14th to make sure that it was without blemish (Exodus 12:3-5). Deuteronomy 17:1: “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God”. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan, riding on a donkey. He was examined by the same chief priests who were examining the lambs until the 14th when He was crucified.
  • Just as the Passover Lamb was to be perfect and without blemish, Jesus was found to be perfectly sinless (Matthew 26:59-60; John 19:4,6; 1Peter 1:19).
  • In preparation of the Passover, the Jews would go through their houses in search for leaven (leaven represents sin and impurity – Matthew 16:6-12, Luke 12:1, 1Corinthians 5:2-8) and clean all the leaven from their houses. In Matthew 21:1-13, Jesus went into Jerusalem and cleansed the temple. Thus at the same time the Jews were cleaning the leaven from their houses, God was cleaning the leaven (sin) from His house.
  • The lamb was to be a year old, meaning it was to be in its prime (Exodus 12:5). Jesus was 33 years old – generally accepted to be when a man is in his prime.
  • The lamb was to be a male just so Jesus was a male (Exodus 12:5).
  • The Passover Lamb was to be slain on the eve of Passover, on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan. Jesus was hanging on the cross and dying at the very moment that the Passover lambs were being killed in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:45-50).
  • Just as the lamb died in the place of the oldest of the family – Jesus died in our place.
  • The killing of the Passover lamb prepared the way for Israel to be delivered from the bondage of Egypt. The Jews call the Passover, “the festival of redemption”. (The Jewish Festivals by Hayyim Schauss). Jesus’ death also sets us free from the bondage of sin (Galatians 3:13, Titus 2:13-14 etc).
  • The Passover lamb had to be killed in Jerusalem, but outside of the city gates. (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). Christ was killed in Jerusalem, but outside of the city gates. (John 19:16-19, Hebrews 13:10-13)
  • The last words from the high priest as he cut the Passover lamb’s throat was “It is finished” (The Seven Festivals of the Messiah by Eddie Chumney). “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30). That means that at the same time that the high priest was saying, “It is finished” (referring to the Passover sacrifice), The High Priest (Jesus) was saying the exact words (referring to the sacrifice of Himself).
  • Not a single bone of the Passover lamb was to be broken. (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). In spite of the tremendous trauma He endured, and the custom to break the legs of the crucified, not a single bone of Christ was broken. (John 19:31-36). In both cases it would be expected for bones to be broken, yet contrary to what would be normal, no bones were broken in the Passover lamb and Jesus (Psalm 34:20).
  • The blood of the Passover lamb was to be applied to the wooden doorposts and lintel (Exodus 21:7). The blood of Jesus was shed on a wooden cross.
  • The Passover lamb was to be roasted in fire (Exodus 12:9). Fire is always a symbol of God’s wrath. Jesus endured God’s wrath on the cross (Romans 5:9).
  • Just as the blood applied to the doorposts saved the inhabitants of the house from God’s wrath (Exodus 12:13), so the blood of Christ, applied to the life of the sinner, saves him from God’s judgement (Romans 5:9; 1Peter 1:18-19).
  • The eating of the flesh (body) of the Passover lamb was to be an everlasting memorial of their deliverance (Exodus 12:14). In the same way the eating of Christ’s body, symbolized in the bread, is to be a perpetual memorial of our salvation (Luke 22:19; 1Corinthians 11:24).
  • The Israelites were to remain inside their houses, trusting in the efficacy of the blood to protect them. We cannot work for our salvation. We need to remain “under the blood”, trusting in the blood for our salvation. It did not matter who (even an Egyptian) was behind the blood, he would be safe. It does not matter who we are or how much we have sinned. All God is looking for is the blood in order that his wrath my pass over us. But should an Israelite not apply the blood, he would die, meaning that our spiritual or ethnic heritage does not save us – only the blood of Christ.
  • The Lord decreed that the whole assembly of Israel shall kill the Passover lamb. (Exodus 12:6). In the same way, the whole world, everyone who ever lived, is responsible for the death of Christ through our sin.
  • The lamb had to be consumed entirely on the Passover evening. Nothing was to remain overnight (Exodus 12:10). Jesus was taken off the cross on the same evening of his crucifixion and was not to hang overnight, contrary to custom (John 19:31-36).

Once again, we can only marvel at the unity of the Scriptures and how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament types in the minutest detail. The Bible and our Gospel are not the fabrications of human minds but were marvelously planned and executed by an all-knowing and all-powerful God.


Doctrine Does Not Divide

Doctrine Does Not Divide

After writing the last article (Who’s the Heretic?[1]), I gave more thought to the question of dividing on the Non-essentials: If we ought not to divide on the non-essentials, why then is there so much division amongst Christians and leaders, often on non-essentials?

The common misnomer is that it is doctrine that divides. This misleads many to avoid doctrine since it appears to be such a divisive issue. (A search of the internet will deliver a plethora of articles that support the notion that doctrine divides and must be avoided.) Both extremes of the argument repeat the mantra that doctrine divides: Those who are weak on doctrine will emphasize love and use the argument to discard all doctrine because it is “divisive”. On the other hand, those who are more rigid will say that it is right that doctrine divides since truth and error cannot be in fellowship. Thus, the same saying is used both to avoid doctrine and to over-emphasize doctrine. Yes, doctrine can be over-emphasized – if it is simply a cold, hard set of facts, void of love, grace, and transforming power. And no, I do not believe that our fellowship should be based on the lowest common denominator and that doctrine should be scrapped for the sake of unity, nor do I believe that true love removes the need for, or mitigates against, sound doctrine. (When I refer to “doctrine” in this article, I am referring to what we define as the Non-essentials – see the previous article for a fuller definition.)

The fact is that doctrine does not divide but doctrine has become the great scapegoat on whose back is laid a multitude of sins that are the real cause of division. I know this sounds like “heresy” but follow my argument: Division is the product of bad attitudes and bad behavior and not of bad doctrine.

If the differing parties both exhibit the spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11) and are humble and respectful in their treatment of the other, then no matter how big the doctrinal differences, those differences can be worked through in order to arrive at the truth. However, if just one of the parties is arrogant, legalistic and judgmental, no matter how small the difference – unity will be fleeting and is guaranteed to be destroyed sooner or later.

“… with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:2,3,13). The unity of the Spirit here refers to the unity we have by virtue of our salvation. Since we share a common salvation, we have the unity of the Spirit. Ephesians 4:4-6 lists seven things that all true believers have in common and that is the basis of our spiritual unity. Note that Paul says we need to keep the unity of the Spirit. You can’t keep what you don’t have, but because all believers have the unity of Spirit simply because Father, Son and Spirit cannot be divided, we are urged to maintain the right attitude and preserve that unity.

Later Ephesians 4:13 speaks of the “unity of the faith”. The term “the faith” refers to our doctrine[2] and in this context speaks of the time when there will be unity in what we believe. While verse 3 says we need to keep the unity of the Spirit, verse 13 says we need to come to (arrive at) the unity of the faith. Note that Paul says to keep the unity of the Spirit “till” we come to the unity of the faith. Thus, we are not to divide even if we do not believe exactly the same and are to maintain the unity of the Spirit until we come to the unity of the faith. Here is my paraphrase these verses: “As Christians we have a common salvation, Lord Jesus, Father and Spirit. We must have the right attitude towards one another in order to preserve our unity of the spirit until we have all matured and believe exactly the same.”

There is therefore no excuse for division on the basis of differences on the non-essentials and any division on these issues is rank disobedience to the plain teaching of Scripture. Note also that we do not arrive at the unity of the faith by consensus, negotiation or intimidation but by submission to the ministry gifts of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).

When we do not have the right attitude (or spirit), division becomes inevitable, not because of doctrine, but because of arrogance, unteachableness, selfish ambition, jealousy or hurt. Then, because we do not want to appear to divide on such carnal things, we begin to nitpick the other’s doctrine until we find something that we can use as the scapegoat for the division! Many times, I have witnessed how brothers begin to pick at various minor issues until they find a doctrinal issue they can blow out of proportion so that they are “justified” to break fellowship or denigrate the other party. In addition, because the doctrinal issue is tenuous, at best, they will exaggerate the differences by using straw man arguments. The idea is make it appear as a violation of an essential doctrine, thereby making you a heretic, which “justifies” them in turning others against you. But, what they are really doing is allowing the Devil to use them to do his dirty work of destroying the work of God. Sadly, they pride themselves in being “defenders of the faith” when in fact they are the exact opposite.

Even if such people are one hundred percent correct doctrinally, they are still one hundred percent wrong:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18).

True wisdom is manifest in meekness. Wisdom that divides and destroys comes from selfish ambition and is ultimately demonic – plain and simple!

Paul says: “…though I… understand all mysteries and all knowledge… but have no love, I am nothing” (1Corinthians 13:3). Thus even if one had perfect knowledge of all doctrine, but had no love the knowledge is useless and invalidated.

In fact, Paul says we should withdraw (break fellowship) with those who are argumentative and whose doctrine does not agree with, and produce godliness (1Timothy 6:3-5). In using the word ‘godliness’ here, Paul does not just have holiness in mind but specifically points to the fruit of the Spirit. Here are some of the things that the context defines as godliness: “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness”. (1Timothy 6:11). Therefore, Paul says, anyone who claims to have the true doctrine but does not exhibit love, patience and gentleness is to be avoided. The reason for this is, as I have said, because no matter how correct their doctrine, if they have the wrong spirit, or attitude, their knowledge is empty and they become a tool of the Devil to sow discord among the brethren.

It seems that as we get closer to the Lord’s return, there is a proliferation of those who pride themselves in their hardline, legalistic, and unchristian attitudes and who boast in those things as though they are desirable attributes when in fact, they are simply evidence of their immaturity and carnality (1Corinthians 3:3).

Finally, lest you accuse me of being soft on doctrine: I am fully committed to purity of doctrine and the defense of the faith, but that is only part of the true faith. True wisdom and true knowledge is proven by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and not by boastfulness, bluff, bluster and bullying. Jesus said the fruit will separate the true from the false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20). Our doctrine shapes our behavior therefore the true measure of our doctrine is in our actions more than in our words. Remember that even demons and unsaved academics can learn to recite correct theology, but that does not mean they are saved.

Paul calls his lifestyle to witness to the correctness of his doctrine (1Thessalonians 1:5) and John says “He who does not love does not know God…” (1John 4:8). Therefore, those who wish to demonstrate their spiritual superiority need to do it through the right attitude. Knowledge proves nothing. Computers and the Internet contain more knowledge than anyone who ever lived but they are cold, heartless and devoid of any spirituality. Those who boast of their supremacy on the basis of their superior doctrine but who cannot apply that knowledge with love, patience and meekness are simply walking automatons, programmed by Satan to do his work.

Please permit me to challenge you to think about those with whom you have broken fellowship since becoming a believer. Did you reject them because of jealousy, pride, anger, selfish ambition or any other carnal reason; did you show them the same love, patience and gentleness you expect from the Lord for yourself? If not, don’t use your “pure doctrine” as a cover for your carnality but rather repent and make things right.

Oh Lord, preserve us from those who simply want to use Christianity as a means of proving their superiority and to satisfy their lust for endless arguments, and may I not be one of those. Teach me your kindness, love, gentleness and patience and the true wisdom that comes from above and not from below. Amen.




[2] See Colossians 2:7; Titus 1:13; Jude 3.

Who is the Heretic?

Who is the Heretic?

As I was preparing to teach a course on Apologetics (the defense of the faith) recently, I realized that I did not have a good definition of “heresy”. A search of the internet also produced nothing that seemed to be exactly right. The terms heresy and heretic are very much abused and mean many different things to different people. Some people label anything that doesn’t agree with their narrow doctrinal position as heresy, while others are reluctant to apply the label to beliefs clearly outside the Christian faith. What a Catholic would regard as heresy is very different to what an Evangelical would regard as heresy and what one Evangelical regards as heresy is different to what another Evangelical would count as such.

As a result, I set about attempting to define this term we all use, mostly with little understanding of the meaning or implications of the word.

The term is derived from the Greek word hairesis, literally meaning a choice, but referring more specifically to a sect, party or division. Luke uses the term in Acts to refer to the sects of the Sadducees (5:17), the Pharisees (15:5; 26:5), and even the Christians – called Nazarenes or the Way (24:5,14; 28:22). When Paul uses the term in 1Corinthians 11:19 and Galatians 5:20, he refers to the divisions and factions which cause strife in the church, while Peter links the term to false prophets and teachers (2Peter 2:1).

Paul uses the term in Titus when he explains how heresy should be dealt with: “Reject a divisive man (Gr: aihretikos, heretic in the KJV) after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11).

The New Testament sense of the word therefore combines two things: A doctrine outside the norm that becomes the basis of a division. However, our modern understanding is slightly different in that the word tends to lay the emphasis on unorthodox doctrine which requires that the heretic be excommunicated.

So here is an attempt at a definition: “Heresy is a teaching or practice which denies and/or adds to one or more essentials of the Christian faith, divides Christians, and deserves condemnation.” John gives a good example of such a doctrine: denying the true nature of the person and work of Jesus Christ (IJohn 4:1-3; 2John 1:7-11).

Note that in the definition I said that it is a teaching or practice that denies and/or adds to an essential of the Faith. The idea of “essentials” comes from a quote by a 17th Century German Theologian who said: “In Essentials unity, In Non-Essentials liberty, in all things charity”. This says then that there are “essentials” and “non-essentials” and the statement, when applied in practice, is generally stated in reverse: “We must divide when the Essentials are violated and maintain the unity when someone has a different view on the Non-essentials”.

Non-essentials are clearly things like whether the hymn book has a blue or green cover, whether the service starts at 10am or 11am etc. The problem is that most Christians struggle to agree on what are Essentials and what are not. Some will elevate things like which translation to use, or whether men should wear neckties to the services, whether Adam had a navel, and a host of other less-important things, to the level of Essentials and will divide on those. (More on this later).  Because of this confusion, I felt the need to briefly define what the Essentials are, for my own benefit, and for those of my students:

Generally heresy falls into four main areas:

  • A wrong Christology (a wrong view of the person and work of Jesus Christ)
  • A wrong Theology (a wrong view of the nature of God)
  • A wrong Soteriology (a wrong understanding of salvation)
  • A wrong Bibliology (a wrong understanding of the inspiration and authority of Scripture)

While this may seem simple, it is not. As you may appreciate, there are many details and nuances of the above that may, or may not, be defined as heresy. While even agreeing on whether the above four areas are the Essentials is problematic, defining when someone has crossed the line on any of these is even more difficult.

What is clear is that we dare not use straw-man arguments nor extrapolation to “prove” a heresy. It is common to hear that if this or that teaching is taken to its logical conclusion, it is heresy and therefore the teaching (before being extended to its conclusion) is heresy. This is simply not true. For example; because someone believes that God is loving and gracious, if extended to it “conclusion”, could mean that everyone will be saved (Universalism) and therefore those who teach the love and grace of God are all heretics. While an emphasis on grace certainly could lead to heresy, it is not necessarily heresy when it is balanced by a clear understanding of the holiness and righteousness of God. Thus, to take one statement and declare someone a heretic without understanding the balance that person may bring through a counter-balancing doctrine is unrighteous judgment. The fact is that a lot of genuine heresy is simply the overstatement of one truth without bringing the counter-balancing truth into view. Thus overemphasising the three persons of the Trinity is polytheism (worship of many gods) while the over-emphasis of the oneness of God leads to several opposite heresies.

The difference between truth and heresy is often a very fine line and we must be careful before branding someone with such a label without unequivocal evidence, righteously and objectively weighed by those who are skilled to do so.

On the other hand, once heresy has been established, there is no recourse but to excommunicate such a person unless the heretic repents. This procedure is clearly spelt out in Scripture (Titus 3:10) and cannot be done capriciously or at the whim of just anyone.

Finally, there is an opposite form of heresy to the above – those who make non-essentials the basis for division: There are many who will gladly divide on non-essentials even though we may agree on the Essentials. These people are guilty of heresy even though their doctrine on the Essentials may be quite acceptable. Their heresy is that they have turned non-essentials into essentials. Thus those who readily divide on the King James Version Only, whether the bread at the communion is unleavened, or whether baptism is by immersing three times or once, or any of the thousands of other non-essentials on which people divide so easily, are by definition, heretics.

However, unlike the first kind of heretic who must be excommunicated, these people excommunicate themselves by rejecting anyone who does not agree with them and their pet ideas. They are self-destructing in that they typically excommunicate themselves into a corner with one or two others who have an equally critical spirit. Once they have isolated themselves, they begin to turn on each other until they have consumed one another (Galatians 5:15).

Diotrephes is a good example of this kind of behaviour: “… Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” (3John 1:9-10).

Even though these people finally destroy or isolate themselves, the damage they cause is still serious because they bring unnecessary divisions and hurt to the body of Christ, disrupt the work of the Gospel, and bring dishonour to the name of Christ among the Gentiles.

Truth and heresy, and maintaining fellowship, are serious matters and should never be a cover for pride, a divisive spirit, or selfish ambition. Heresy and sin must be dealt with justly and decisively, with love. The same applies to those who boast in their exclusiveness, elitism and narrow-mindedness. These attitudes are simply a manifestation of carnality: “… For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1Corinthians 3:3).

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled ” (Hebrews 12:14-15).