CTT | Discernment or Critical Spirit?

A recent radio segment by Beth Moore called “A Word with Beth Moore” was entirely dedicated to an ad hominem attack on discernment ministries. She began with a caveat of, “now spiritual discernment is important but…” and then she launched into her diatribe that people cloak their critical and judgmental spirits behind discernment and that it just makes her sick to her stomach. She didn’t differentiate between the sin of being mean and the practice of discernment. She ended her segment demanding that everyone should be loving leaving the trailing implication that discernment (broad stroke) is the opposite of love.

More recently, I was accused of being “too critical” and “judgmental” myself for bringing up questionable memes taken as memes in a Facebook forum I created specifically to practice discussing matters Biblically. It is interesting to me how long and hard some will fight to defend an unbiblical statement/meme/concept as “maybe having some value to someone” without ever opening up the Scriptures to see what God has to say in His Word. That’s the result of our post-modern society influencing the church, being conformed to this world’s rationale and philosophy. So let’s talk about this “critical spirit” thing, shall we?

Critical Spirit?

There is no “critical spirit” in the sense of a particular demon whose job it is to make people mean and overly critical. What makes us mean and overly critical is sin. Don’t look to blame demons for sin, we do that all on our own. Demons practice deception, false teaching, temptation, and pose as angels of light. We sin when we follow our own fleshly desires. Sometimes the enemy tempts us, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we sin plenty on our own.

Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Discernment and Sin

The major problem with Moore’s ad hominem is the conflation of discernment with sin. Discernment is differentiating between Truth and error. It can (and should) be done in love. Is it possible to sin while practicing discernment? Yes. We are all sinful creatures in need of a Savior. Does that mean that we should avoid practicing discernment? That’s ridiculous. It simply means we need to be humble in our approach and ready to confess and repent from sin. We repent from the sin, not the Truth of the discernment. For example, the Apostle Paul issued the following command to exercise discernment in love without compromising the truth:

Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV) | No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Those are strong, direct, and harsh words… and they are spoken in love, and there is no sin in this. Paul did not have to repent of these words. The church would be out of line to rebuke Paul for disguising a “critical spirit” behind discernment. Later in the same letter, Paul also makes the following statement:

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

The context of Galatians is that they were being told that in order to be a true Christian, Gentiles had to become Jews (circumcision). Therefore, Paul is saying that in this case he wishes the individual who is forcing them to be circumcised would just go ahead and remove his own member. Very harsh words… because the error is so great. The error here hindered the Galatians from obeying the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is loving, and the rebuke was warranted and ordained by God the Holy Spirit. Ms Moore may not like it, but discernment isn’t just avoiding pitfalls, but calling out the charlatans.

Now, having established that discernment can be simultaneously harsh and loving (hence discipline), where men are involved there is always room for sin. We’ll be looking at the Sermon on the Mount later this week, but let’s look at how Jesus taught on Anger (since it can burn both the one practicing discernment and the one being rebuked).

Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV) | Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

So, you see, if the motive is wrong in the one pointing out error, there is sin in his heart. That sin is separate from whether or not the error is in-fact an error. If what he is speaking is Truth, the sin in his heart has no bearing on the Truthfulness of God’s Word. He needs to repent and be reconciled to his brother, but the Truth remains the Truth. Similarly, if in being offended one chooses to reject the Truth of God’s word and refuses to repent from wrong doing or false teaching, their guilt remains on their heads. It’s not like you get a bye on your false teaching simply because you found the other person “offensive”. Ms Moore twists scripture and has been joining with many a popular false teacher of late, as she enjoys much notoriety, fame, and honor of women in the public square. While it remains our duty to speak in the Truth in love at all times, it is also incumbent upon ourselves to remain humble and receive rebuke and correction as noble Bereans.

Stop Straining at Gnats and Focus on Essentials

This is one of those times when I really want to open up the scripture and point out how someone is misusing a passage. The average evangelical would probably not know where to find this reference, and would most likely assert that the problem of the Pharisees is that they were too busy fussing about unimportant things… just like some Discernment bloggers myopically focus on the unimportant things in order to disparage their favorite “anointed” ones. This comes from Jesus’s 7 Woes to the Pharisees, recorded in Matthew 23. I’ll make a quick list and then point out what this passage is really about.

  1. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
  2. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
  3. Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
  4. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
  5. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
  6. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
  7. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

So, is this passage about fussing over inconsequential matters? No. It’s about hypocrisy. Notice in the 23rd verse the clause, without neglecting the others. All of the Law is important, and the sin of the Pharisee was his hypocrisy and rejection of Jesus Christ.

Discernment in the Little Things

In closing, I’d like to address the notion that there is such a thing as discernment wasted on “the little things”. The idea that one should wait until something is important to speak up and exercise Biblical discernment. Rather than spell out my objection to this thought, let’s look to one of Jesus’ teachings as He closes out one of the tougher parables and expounds upon it to call out the Pharisees.

Luke 16:10-17 (ESV)

10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Is this only about money? I don’t think it is limited to money.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present youblameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

Why We Aren’t Cessationists

If you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know that while we do preach Biblical discernment in all matters, we firmly assert that we are not cessationists. I think today we should clarify our position a bit so that there is no mystery on where we stand.

We are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge
that God remains Sovereign over His gifts

First, let’s clearly define cessationism. Cessationsim is the assertion that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the Bible are no longer available or in operation today. That at some point in early church history, they ceased. Sometimes this assertion is tied to dispensationalism, at other times it is simply tied to the Apostles (or those upon whom the Apostles had directly laid their hands). When tied to dispensationalism, the assertion sometimes sounds like, “God doesn’t operate or deal with His people in that way anymore”, and when tied to the Apostles it sounds like, “those where only for a short time as a testimony of the authority given to the Apostles, and now that there are no more Apostles, the need for those gifts has gone away”. These views are held (in general) by both Lutherans (who generally take the Apostolic argument) and Calvinists (who generally take the dispensation argument). Our problem with the assertion of cessation of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit is that it isn’t taught in Scripture. That presents a bit of a problem when one considers Sola Scriptura as a major tenet of the Reformation.

Generally speaking, there is an argument within the cessation camp that pre-supposes a win as its fundamental argument for discernment. The argument is, “God doesn’t speak to people directly anymore; therefore, anyone who claims a direct revelation from God is either lying or deceived”. This is an argument that really should cease. If the Bible declared that God no longer speaks to His people directly, then there would be no further argument. That it doesn’t, means that we should drop this argument or at least demote it from being a foundational presupposition. At best, it is an empirical bias that may motivate an individual to exercise Biblical discernment, but the assertion should really be presented as a bias and not an objective Biblical truth.

Common Proof Texts for Cessation of Gifts

To Seal both Vision and Prophet

Perhaps one of my favorite pastors to listen to, whether it be one of his sermons or his discernment ministry, is Pastor Chris Rosebrough. When it comes to preaching the Word of God and practicing sound Biblical hermeneutics in breaking down bad teaching, I’ve not found anyone better. I haven’t heard him speak on this recently, but in the past on his program I’ve heard this approach taken a few times. This proof comes from Daniel 9:24. Let us start at the beginning of Daniel 9 so we understand the context of this passage.

Daniel 9:1-2 (ESV) 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Okay, so we have Daniel, one of the exiles who feared the Lord God and was blessed by God and promoted to a leadership position in the realm of the Chaldeans. We see here that as he studied the Scriptures, he perceived the minimum number of years of the exile prophesied by Jeremiah as 70 years. What follows is Daniel’s prayer of repentance for himself and on behalf of Israel. In so doing, Daniel is following the instructions given to Solomon at the completion of the Temple.

2 Chronicles 7:11-22 (ESV) | If My People Pray
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

Solomon and Israel did not obey, and God kept His Word, as He always does. But now that the 70 years had been completed, Daniel sought the Lord in prayer.

Daniel 9:3-5 (ESV)3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

I encourage you to take some time and read his prayer in full. For now, let us skip to the response from the Lord given to Daniel by messenger, the Angel Gabriel.

Daniel 9:20-27 (ESV) | Gabriel Brings an Answer
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. 24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Itsend shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

So, our proof text for cessation comes from a Messianic Prophecy. This scripture gets presented as a declaration that when the second Temple is built both vision and prophet are sealed up, which is taken to mean “closed”. The Hebrew words used here can be legitimately interpreted in that light, so there is no point in digging into the roots of the words. There are 2 problems with using this passage, the first is that it comes in a prophecy regarding the Temple and the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ) which points to Jesus. So it is difficult to treat this text as a clear teaching text, because it was a specific message, to Daniel, regarding His plans for Judah and Jerusalem. The second problem is that if we are to take this as a definitive closing of both Prophet and Vision, well, then we have a problem because the New Testament has both visions and prophets revealed by God the Holy Spirit. So, in this text, there is no mechanism for putting this sealed up vision and prophet “on hold” until sometime after the John finishes writing the Book of Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.

This proof-text isn’t always used alone. It is often used in tandem with the following proof text.

But in These Last Days

Many will point to the introduction to the book of Hebrews as the proof that God no longer speaks directly to His people. The argument goes that the author is declaring that while God spoke in many ways to our fathers by the prophets, He now only speaks one way and that is by the Son. Let’s take a look at it.

Hebrews 1 (ESV) | The Supremacy of God’s Son
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

But is the author making a declaration regarding how God will no longer speak, or is he pointing out that in Christ, the Son of the Living God, we now have something far better than Moses and the Prophets? I believe it is the latter. Why? Well, because this letter is first and foremost a letter to those who are familiar with the Law and the Prophets, but need better understanding and teaching on how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and is now our perfect High Priest of a covenant superior to all previous covenants. There is also the matter of a member of the trinity not being included in this intro, namely, God the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Holy Spirit was promised to the Apostles to teach, remind, and grant power and gifts for the edification of the Church. Therefore, if the event that silenced God from speaking directly to His people by prophets was the virgin birth of Jesus, then why are we promised God the Holy Spirit?

Prophecies Will Pass Away; Tongues Will Cease

This one is less often used, but I have seen it so I want to point out the issue with using this one. It comes from 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (ESV) 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The idea behind using this proof-text is that this passage demonstrates that all of these gifts have a limit. What follows is usually an argument from silence or borrowing from the close of the Book of Revelation to suggest that tongues already ceased once we learned how to understand all of the major spoken languages and that prophecies have ceased since the canon of Scripture is now closed. The problem with using this text in that way is that its primary teaching is to demonstrate the eternal quality of love (a more excellent way). Paul explains that we see in part and prophesy in part but when the perfect comes… ah, Paul did insert a marker. To what is Paul referring here as when the perfect comes? The Return of Jesus Christ Our Lord. And that stands to reason, for once Jesus returns, we’ll have no need of prophecies or tongues or even knowledge, for all will know and bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Of this I am quite confident, especially when we consider that the very next chapter is a prescriptive text on the primary gifts of the Holy Spirit that cessationists make off-limits, namely the gifts of Tongues and Prophecy.

Cessationism is Lazy Discernment

It would be very easy to rubber-stamp any claim to a direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit as clearly heretical (and many take that stance).  However, we know that God speaks to everyone through His Written Word, and we know that all scripture is God-breathed. We also know that God will not add to the Law, the Prophets, or Revelation and as such the canon of scripture is closed. We know that if anyone preaches a Gospel that does not agree with the Gospel revealed in Scripture, that person is to be accursed. We know that signs and wonders do not in themselves point to God or His blessing, nor do they prove the existence of an “anointing”. We know this from both the Old Testament Law regarding testing of the Prophets as well as in the New Testament warnings. We also have 1 Corinthians 12-14, we have the Book of Revelation, we have several mentions in Acts of prophets and prophetic words spoken over Timothy.

Biblical Discernment is a Mandate

While I do consider cessationsism to be lazy discernment, what I’ve found in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that no one exercises discernment beyond their emotions, or what they call “feeling in their spirit that it isn’t right”. They seem to rely only on the Gift of the Holy Spirit listed:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

In the KJV, the highlighted portion phrases it “discerning of spirits”. So, they (in my experience) seem to rely on “those with that gift” to practice discernment just as they rely on those with the gift of prophecy to prophesy. In my opinion, that goes beyond lazy and into negligent. I have yet to find an online biblical discernment ministry from a Pentecostal/Charismatic point of view. I have come to believe (granted, by an argument from silence) that the movement(s) actively discourage Biblical discernment ministries and seeks to silence them. The seeker-mergent church actually teaches in their leadership conferences that those who question the pastor (exercise discernment) are wolves and need to be silenced, even going so far as practicing excommunication. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are standing on solid, Biblical foundation, there is no need to fear being challenged doctrinally. I’m not saying you have to stop mid-service to entertain a heckler every time, but the standard is Scripture, not the so-called “vision of the pastor”.

The Biggest Problem in Today’s Church

Cessationism is not the biggest doctrinal problem facing today’s Church. A Church that limits itself to only hearing from God the Holy Spirit as He speaks to them through the Written Word of Scripture has in no-way hamstrung itself, for the Word of God (in this case Written) will not return void. Some leaders take cessationism to an unhealthy extreme where they believe it is unbiblical to pray and ask for healing, or for wisdom, knowledge, etc… but in those cases the Scriptures refute their false teaching directly. Where cessationism is hurting the Church, is in its outreach to those who are lost in a sea of mysticism or being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. When one claims to be engaging in Biblical discernment, and starts with an assertion, that person has laid a stumbling block for the individual similar to that taught in 1 Corinthians 8. By all means, take every thought captive and submit it to Christ, and tear down every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of Christ. Expose the false teacher by his fruit, his false doctrine.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The biggest problem in today’s church, is that we’ve allowed the entertainment culture to supplant the preaching of the Word and sound doctrine. And many have turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths. Mysticism has infiltrated every Christian denomination and many have abandoned the infallibility of Scripture because for too long they’ve ignored (or down-played) its sufficiency.

Not every direct revelation was included in Scripture, in-fact, we have record of some direct-revelation that were specifically prohibited from being recorded or spoken. The problem isn’t when someone says, “the Lord showed me” or “the Lord told me” or even “the Lord spoke to me”… the problem is when what is being claimed as coming from God the Holy Spirit isn’t Biblical. When someone claims “thus saith the Lord” when God has not spoken, that is blasphemy, and the individual is a false prophet. A teacher’s fruit is NOT how much money they raise, or how many disciples they gather; rather, it is their doctrine and what they teach.

In closing, if this is your first time visiting this site and you are worried about our non-cessation stance, here are some links to give a better picture of where we do stand. It could be argued that we are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge that God remains Sovereign over His gifts.

Thank you for reading through to the end. Our desire is to study the Word of God in context, and as free from outside influence as possible, by God’s Grace. If you disagree with us, or feel we’ve missed a clear passage of scripture, do please share either in comments below or by contacting us directly. One final thought, in our understanding and application of Sola Scriptura, we affirm that unless a doctrine can be taught from scripture, it shouldn’t be taught from the pulpit. I don’t mind referencing a commentary or “church father” from time to time to maybe bring a different perspective, but we will not be “teaching” from the extra biblical texts. Sola Scriptura is indeed Scripture Alone. As Alistair Begg puts it, “the plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things”.

May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | As long as Christ is preached…

CTTI recently read a blog article that misapplied the following verse in Philippians.

Philippians 1:18 (ESV)  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

I say it was misapplied, because it was inflated to cover all doctrine and practices of a mega-church pastor who has come under fire recently from secular and Christian media over money, messaging, branding, and doctrine. The odd thing here is, that the use of the Scripture did not, in any way,  defend the individual; rather, it got warped into an attack on any who would dare speak out against what may have been viewed to be out-of-step with Scripture. It is even issued as a blanket accusation of pride to any that would dare speak against this particular ministry, and issued a call for repentance. But was Paul attacking Timothy, accusing him of pride, calling Timothy to repentance? Let’s look at the verse in its immediate context:

Philippians 1:1-20 (ESV)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

If Christ is proclaimed, then I can rejoice in that. If the motives of the proclaimers are wrong, but the proclamation or teaching of Christ is correct, then we can rejoice in the latter, but that does not remedy the former. The former is still a problem, for that person, and should not be emulated with reckless abandon. In this case, though, Paul identifies the wrong motive as an attempt to afflict Paul in his imprisonment. Interesting. Paul is forgiving the personal attack for the sake of the Gospel. Paul never forgives false teaching. In fact, look at how he instructs Timothy at the end of his first letter:

1 Timothy 6:3-10(ESV) If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

The doctrine we preach/teach/share matters. If what we preach/teach/share isn’t plainly stated in the Gospel of Jesus, or in the teachings/writings of the Apostles in the New Testament, we need to be careful. There is a big difference between “words” and “Word”. Arguing over “-isms” without relying on the Word of God to explain the Word of God is tantamount to arguing over “words”. When we open our Bibles, the prevailing thought should be, “What does God’s Word say?” Too often, we skip that question and jump right into interpreting the meaning of bits and pieces of scripture without ever really understanding what it plainly says in context.

There is One Holy Spirit. If anyone thinks he has received a direct revelation that cannot be substantiated in the Word (by which the Holy Spirit teaches all Christians)… I recommend he test the spirit (1 John 4) behind that “revelation”.  Am I against mega-churches? Not if they preach sound doctrine. If they don’t preach sound doctrine, my heart breaks because their false teaching is affecting a much larger audience wholesale. We judge a tree by its fruit,  but “congregation size” isn’t included in the Fruit of the Spirit. If the one speaking out against a mega-church is doing so out of envy, then the accuser is wrong. However, accusing everyone who speaks out against a mega-church of doing so out of envy, is equally wrong.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV) Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge