Pentecostals|Help Me Help You

helpmehelpyouToday I want to speak to the Pentecostal (and/or) Charismatic audience. If the case for Pentecostalism is truly Biblical, then should we not be fully submitted to Scripture? The 5 Solas of the Reformation serve as a return to the Bible as the only source for Truth. It doesn’t mean that the Protestant denominations fully achieved it, nor does it mean they preserved it, but at least we affirm Sola Scriptura. I grew up as a Christian under the Pentecostal tradition. Sure, the names change and not every Pentecostal denomination calls themselves Pentecostal, but the doctrinal distinctive relating to the Gifts of the Spirit remain.

I’d like to begin by plainly stating that those of the Pentecostal and Reformed camps do a poor job of characterizing each other’s doctrines. Honest research is exceedingly and exhaustively replete with ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, and mockery… from both camps.  Both sides engage in some proof-texting while accusing the other of the same. I’ve read a great deal researching Lutheran and Reformed theology from sites like Monergism.com. Pentecostalism isn’t nearly as historic, only dating back to early 1900s, but one resource for that movement’s history is Dixon Pentecostal Research Center. For all of the zealous antagonism between them it can be easy to forget their commonalities: both camps point to the same Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Both acknowledge God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Both understand that salvation comes by grace, through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and both hold to the same Bible as the Word of God. There are major differences, and they are not negligible; therefore, we should address them humbly, faithfully, lovingly, and truthfully according to the Written Word of God.

Is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues” the same thing that happened at Pentecost?

No, it isn’t. Pentecostals point to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place on the day of Pentecost, and the filling of the room by the presence of the Holy Spirit is central to their form of worship. Let’s look at what took place at Pentecost just before Peter’s sermon:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV)
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

The non-Christians (though devout Jews) understood what they were saying. What where they speaking? They were declaring the mighty works of God. They were proclaiming the testimony of God. Some have argued that this miracle was of interpretation, that God opened the ears of the hearers so that they could understand what was being spoken. That doesn’t fit the text. While one of the gifts of the Holy spirit is indeed interpretation of tongues, the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen on the masses, He filled the saints, the Christians, who were following the Lord’s last instructions before He ascended into Heaven. The miracle here, is in the speaking not in the hearing. Notice in Peter’s sermon when he quotes Joel 2:28-32a:

Acts 2:16-21 (ESV) 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

What happened on the day of Pentecost was not how modern-day Pentecostals should claim as “speaking in tongues”, for Peter recognized it as prophecy. What did they prophesy? The mighty works of God. What did Peter preach?

Acts 2:36-40 (ESV)36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Of whom did Peter bear witness? of Jesus the Christ. What was his exhortation? Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The key here is not in some hidden meaning of “other tongues”; rather, in that the others understood what the Holy Spirit was speaking through His disciples, the Word of God, Testimony of God’s greatness, leading to the Testimony of Jesus Christ. As we are told in Revelation 19:10 (ESV), “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Notice that in all of Acts 2, the only thing being taught is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything else in that section is descriptive, a testimony of what God the Holy Spirit did on that day. God moved through His people, to give testimony of His Son, Jesus. If you want to prescribe any Christian doctrine from this text, let it be the testimony of Jesus Christ found in the sermon uttered by Peter who was filled by the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory.

What is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues”?

What the Pentecostal refers to as “speaking in tongues” comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12-14. How does the Apostle Paul describe it? Let’s look briefly in 1 Corinthians 14.

1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (ESV) 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

So, in a sense, the Pentecostal should desire to prophesy as Disciples did on the day of Pentecost. However, that is not to say that every time the tongue fires off in unintelligible speech that they are prophesying. In fact, if there is no interpretation, they are decidedly NOT prophesying, for no one is being built up. Paul goes on to say that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t grant them understanding of what the Spirit is saying, then their mind is unfruitful. Therefore, Paul explains that he prays both with his mind and in his spirit.

Now, here is the part where today’s title comes into play. While I can see in God’s Written Word the basis and the instruction for the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, I find it difficult argue on your behalf in most cases. Why? Because of the very same abuses Paul was addressing in his letter to the Corinthians. We cannot wave the first half of 1 Corinthians 14 as a banner of justification while simultaneously ignoring the latter portion of the very same chapter.

Help me, Help you.

While I do plan on eventually addressing doctrinal concerns I have with Reformed and Lutheran theology, but given the current state of the visible church and the pervasiveness of Mysticism and False teaching, I need to first address (biblically) the most obvious problems.

1. “Speaking in Tongues” in a loud voice for all of the congregation to hear (sometimes in a microphone) is NOT prophecy without the interpretation. The church is NOT edified by it. God is NOT glorified by it. It only serves to draw attention to the speaker, whose mind is unfruitful if he is not granted the understanding of what was uttered.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 (ESV) 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

2. Understanding is not a matter of a level of faith; therefore, there is no benefit to pretending you understand what is being uttered without interpretation. It’s not “a faith thing”. Either God is speaking, or He isn’t. We don’t just accept it as the Word of God without testing it against Scripture. The first test is this, “is there an interpretation?”. If there is an interpretation, is it Biblically sound? Does it point to Jesus Christ?

3. Pandemonium, chaos, and sensuality do not bring Glory to God or edify His church.

1 Corinthians 14:26-32 (ESV)26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.

Why did I include sensuality? Well, it’s the only way I can cover things like the “drunk in the spirit” or the “high on Jesus” or the “holy laughter” manifestations. It is a craving for an experience measured by the senses rather than by the Word of God. I’ve witnessed the full gambit of these experiences growing up, and I’ve never seen discernment exercised. I’ve been in church services where the preaching of the Word of God was cancelled due to 3 hour “Praise and Worship”, where the worship was either the same song being played over and over with long instrumentals, or a lot of “spiritual (tongues) worship” is sung or spoken or declared without interpretation. I’ve seen what amounts to “open-mic night” where everyone is claiming to prophesy, well beyond the two or three limitation provided. Sure, some might say “well, that’s why we have special services apart from church”. Paul didn’t say “when you meet on Sunday mornings”, he said “When you come together…”.

4. God the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit; however, He is the only True God. There are evil spirits, as well as the fact that our flesh is sinful and actively works against the Spirit of God. Even within Christians, the war wages on between our flesh and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). The ONLY way we know we are hearing from God is by His Written Word. Your emotions are tied to the flesh, and the flesh is weak and sinful. Faith is a gift from God, and comes by hearing the Word of God. God has given us His Written Word. Start there. You cannot skip over the written Word of God and expect to just “know” or “recognize” the voice of God or to feel which spirits are of God and which are of error. You cannot rely on goose bumps… pagan films can elicit the same response. Without interpretation, you have no idea what is being said “in strange tongues”… none; therefore, you have no way of knowing if it is indeed the Holy Spirit or if it is man, or demon. If it is of the Holy Spirit, He will submit to the Written Word of God, for He is unchanging. John 1 tells us that in the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh, Jesus Christ. This isn’t “putting God in a box”, this is identifying what might be God by comparing it to what we know is God (His Word). Refusal to submit to Biblical discernment is a HUGE red flag.

5. God will not reveal something of Himself now that He hasn’t already revealed of Himself in Scriptures. When Jesus walked the earth, He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and then He established a New Covenant with His Apostles before ascending into Heaven. He granted John the final Revelation and then warned not to add to or take away from that Book. Any prophecy that makes a completely new claim about God, His Son, His Spirit, or His return that cannot be found in Scripture is false. That excludes the vast majority of prophetic visions turned into marketing campaigns for profit we see today. God the Holy Spirit is sovereign, and may grant a word of wisdom, knowledge, or insight for a specific people. Such a word, however, MUST point to Jesus as God and Savior and must be tested to see if it is true. If it doesn’t come to pass IT WAS NOT GOD. If it does come to pass, but the prophet preaches a different gospel, IT IS NOT OF GOD. If it comes true, is biblically sound, and Jesus Christ is glorified, then rejoice in the Word of the Lord and proclaim His kindness and mercy.

6. God’s primary language isn’t KJV. I say this, because I have heard a lot of “prophecy” spoken in King James English despite the speaker NOT quoting scripture. If you are quoting scripture and you’ve memorized most of it in KJV, fine… but if you aren’t quoting Scripture and are speaking words given to you by the Holy Spirit, why the KJV? It would be like an Arabic-English interpreter putting on an Australian accent to let folks know which words he’s translating from Arabic, and then dropping the accent to signify that he’s speaking of his own accord. Just odd. Additionally, just because a scripture was quoted does not mean it’s God providing the prophecy. Satan quoted scripture in his temptation of Jesus Christ. His twisting of scripture was quite subtle compared to what we hear these days. Which brings me to my final point.

7. If the person claiming to be anointed of God, His prophet, His apostle, or messenger demonstrates an inability to rightly handle Scripture, then we have no reason to believe he is speaking prophetically. The Written Word of God IS the Word of God. One who has mishandled the written Word of God cannot be trusted to rightly handle the spoken word of God. Now, God is still God, and He is still sovereign over His gifts and callings. Yes, God opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey, but the donkey didn’t deliver the Word of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) did.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of the Pentecostal / Charismatic church has lost its way. Before writing this, I spent some time reading through the Way articles from 1906, and saw so much focus and attention on the “gifts” and so little on Jesus Christ. I read through popular charismatic teacher Facebook pages, and saw so very little scripture. Lots of appeals to “trust the spirit” and “experiencing power” and “soaking in His presence” but so very little teaching from the Scriptures. Is that what Paul would support based on his teaching in 1 Corinthians 14?

The reformed camp has its problems, too. If Pentecostals struggle with mysticism and winds of doctrine, then the Reformed struggle with legalism, particularly of the Law ► Gospel ► Law variety. They preach law to convict of sin, then Gospel for the forgiveness of sin, and then burden the Christian with Law to prove themselves “true” Christians. The error in both camps ends is the same, the error of Peter on the water, the error of taking our eyes off of Jesus Christ and placing them on ourselves, our works, or our own righteousness.

This ended up being much longer than I had intended. If you feel I’ve misrepresented Pentecostalism, feel free to contact me. In closing, I leave you with the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in the closing of his first letter.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV) 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
In Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,
Jorge

The Parable of the Sower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been wrestling a great deal with several schools of doctrine/theology (all within the framework of Biblical Christianity). I’ve stated before that I consider myself a recovering Pentecostal. I am not recovering from Pentecostalism just to follow some other doctrine of man, or some other proof-text backed orthodoxy. My aim is that of the 5 Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola gratia, Sola fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria (Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone). From time to time, I will speak out against various doctrines and teachings here, but this blog’s purpose is to focus on what the Word of God does say (Sola Scriptura) rather than to chase down every doctrine of man trying to demonstrate what the Bible doesn’t say.

Today, I’d like to take a look at the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Weeds. We will be focusing primarily in Matthew 13, but I will also include Mark 4.

To set the stage a little, in Matthew 12 we see Jesus flat-out establishing Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath as He first defends His disciple’s act of picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. He then pushes further by healing on the Sabbath, and rebuking the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and rejection of God’s Laws for their own. He then casts out demons in front of the scribes and Pharisees and they accuse Him of casting them out by the power of Satan. After willfully rejecting Jesus, to include the signs and wonders performed by Him thereby blaspheming the Holy Spirit, they dare to demand a sign from Jesus. It is this portion that I’d like to read through to set up our study:

Matthew 12:36-45 (ESV)

36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Something greater than Jonah and Solomon was there, in their midst, speaking to them face to face. Today we have His Word, and God the Holy Spirit who testifies of God the Son who is at the right hand of God the Father. Let’s skip ahead slightly to Matthew 13 (and Mark 4).

Matthew 13:1-9 (ESV)

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.

Mark 4:1-9 (ESV)

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

In both accounts, the disciples ask Jesus why He speaks in parables. We are going to skip this discussion for now, but know that we will revisit this portion (CTT: Why did Jesus Teach in Parables). Suffice it to say that unless Jesus explained the meaning of this parable, we’d all be lost. Praise and thanks be to God for providing us with its meaning in scripture.

Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV)

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Mark 4:13-20 (ESV)

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

This parable pertains to the individual’s response to the Word of the Kingdom, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the imperishable seed.

1 Peter 1:22-25 (ESV)

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

The Gospel is the beautiful and perfect Word of God. It is the Gospel to which we are to hold fast and to preach, being good stewards of God’s Word. When we preach, we should make sure that what we preach is the Word of God, the imperishable seed (Sola Scriptura). It does no good to mix in the commandments/doctrines of men, for only the Word of God brings life. The words of men, well… they don’t come from us alone, but they come from the evil one. For the flesh is cursed by sin and death, and the heart of man is sinful as a result. Paul articulates this well in Galatians 6:

Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Now then, Jesus goes on in Matthew 13 to share another parable. This one pertains to the Kingdom as a whole rather than to individuals. Let us read.

Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:36-43 (ESV)

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

In this parable, the good seed represents the sons of the kingdom, believers, Christians. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior has sent us into the world. The evil one also has his own seed, those who are slaves of darkness, born dead in their sins and trespasses. The harvest is the end of the age, when Jesus Christ returns with His army of angels (the heavenly hosts) to bring judgement upon the unrighteous and blessing to the sons of the Kingdom of God. To highlight the point regarding the harvest at the end of the age, Jesus breaks from the farming analogy and moves to that of the fisherman (He was, after all, teaching by the sea).

Matthew 13:47-50 (ESV)

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is amazing to me to read each of the epistles in the New Testament, how each one bears a reminder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in each reminder we see a reflection of what these men were taught by Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus spoke in parables and rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of understanding. But God the Holy Spirit opened up the Truth of the Scriptures to His Apostles and granted them boldness to preach what Jesus had done in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and to the ends of the Earth. And so, brothers and sisters, it falls to us to continue in Him, in His Word, preaching and pursuing His righteousness by His Grace through Faith in Christ to the Glory of God alone!

I hope you have found some encouragement in today’s look in the Word. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below or message me privately. In closing today’s post, I’d like to visit Peter’s opening declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:1-9 (ESV)

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In Him,

Jorge

Peter’s first sermon

day-of-pentecost-acts-2-38

I tried to find the original of this image for proper citation, if you know the artist or title of this work please inform me.

I’ve made references to Peter’s first sermon a few times in prior posts, and today I thought it would be awesome to take a look at this first sermon preached by Peter. Our text will be Acts 2. If you’ve been following our bible studies here, you should remember that Acts 2 begins with the promise of God the Holy Spirit being poured out on the day of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost is not a “new testament” thing, it is in-fact a Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). Pentecost is the Greek word (the fiftieth day) referring to this Hebrew Festival. This festival is particularly important, because it was listed as one of the 3 festivals that all Jewish men were required to appear before the Lord God of Israel (Exodus 34:22-23), which by the time Jesus arrived on the earth, the Lord God had already declared His presence to be made at the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, all Jewish men had to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem 3 times a year, one of these times is for the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (in Greek). Jews from around the world were in Jerusalem to appear before the Lord God of Israel for Pentecost. It is on this day, that the Promise of God the Holy Spirit as spoken by Jesus Christ, was delivered. The first Gift of God the Holy Spirit manifested is the gift of different tongues/languages so that the men from all over the world would hear the Glory of God proclaimed in their native tongues, not just in Galilean Aramaic. So, Peter’s first sermon was not to Gentiles, it was to Jews. Devout, learned Jews who were observing the Feast of Weeks in keeping with the Law of Moses. These were not strangers to the Law or of the Prophets, they were familiar with the Holy Scriptures. However, in their knowledge, the did not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the Messiah. So, Peter’s first audience was a tough one. Thank God for His Holy Spirit. Now that we’ve set the stage, let us take a look at his sermon:

Acts 2:14-41 (ESV)

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

I just wanted to take a moment to highlight that Peter is quoting from Joel 2:28-32. This prophecy starts in Joel 1:1 and runs throughout the book of Joel. It is all one prophecy. Peter is quoting the portion that rests between the Lord taking pity on His people, and sitting in Judgment over the nations. These are the last days in which we find ourselves, for the Lord had taken pity upon His creation and gave to us the ultimate sacrifice for the remission of sin, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gift of God. We also await the day of His Glorious return, when He will redeem all who have called upon the Name of the Lord and He will sit in Judgment over creation. Why did Peter go to Joel first? Well, clearly the God the Holy Spirit was giving Peter the words to speak in that very hour (as Jesus told the disciples would happen), but notice the entrance into this sermon comes as a response to the accusations against the manifestation of the Gift of the Holy Spirit as mere drunkenness.  The first visit to Scripture is a clear statement of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as foretold by Joel (who prophesied by the Spirit of God). Peter was also clearly marking the present age, the need for repentance and acceptance of the gift of God and the need to do so before the coming judgement. The book of Joel is not long, and I encourage you to take some time to read through it. However, let us continue for now in Peter’s sermon.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Amen. Peter points out that the Jews were guilty of putting Jesus to death, by the hands of lawless men (Romans). Once Peter explained in Scriptures that the Jews were witness to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he then moved to identifying Jesus as the Christ. When he quotes from the Psalms of David, he first goes to Psalm 16. I have to be honest, had I read this Psalm without knowing Peter’s interpretation of the Psalm, I wouldn’t have read it as a prophetic Psalm about Jesus. However, Peter makes it clear that since David’s body did see corruption (his body rotted in the grave), it wasn’t about himself that he was speaking; rather, David was referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So awesome. The new testament provides us with clear insight into how we should read the old testament to see Jesus (not ourselves, because the bible is not about us).

The next Psalm Peter visits is Psalms 110. Here, however, Peter quotes the introduction to the Psalm. Read the rest of the Psalm, because David is again prophesying of Jesus but he is doing so regarding the Day of Judgement, the Day of Christ’s Return. So, again, we have Peter explaining from scriptures that we find ourselves in the last days, between the salvation of the Lord and His Judgement. Notice, in verse 37, that all who heard these words understood the gravity of what was being taught and their guilt was before them, something they dare not proceed into judgement with, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s response is great direct and powerful. He also returns to the initial point of the sermon, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They don’t have to wait, because they (as are we all) are in the last days when the Spirit of God is poured out.

Peter preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Scriptures, clearly identifies their sin and need of a Savior (these being folks who follow the Law and the Prophets, not a Godless group of people, but one still perishing nonetheless for they have not yet believed in Jesus as the Christ) and then offers them the Way of escape. He also is quick to relay the promise of God the Holy Spirit. The disciples had just received the very gift that Jesus instructed them to wait for and they knew immediately that this Gift was promised to all who believe and are baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That same Holy Spirit that gave Peter the words to speak, lives within each of us who call upon the Name of the Lord and have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. We may not move as powerfully in the Holy Spirit, but I think that is due to a lack of knowledge of the Scriptures, and poor discipleship. Peter walked with the Son of God for years. That’s powerful discipleship. We have a great deal of it, but we don’t have all of what Jesus did (John 21:25), so we don’t have the fullness by which the 12 Apostles were taught. Remember in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit is promised to both teach and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them. That is critical for us to have the New Testament written, but also as a promise to us that He will remind us of His Word that we have buried in our hearts (Psalms 119:9-16).

Brothers and sisters, please become life-long students of the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit, always, AND edify your mind by drinking in the written Word of God.  If you look around the web, you’ll see that gallop estimates that 40% of Americans attend church daily. However, a Hartford Institute of Religion study indicates that only half of those are telling the truth. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. If 20% attend church weekly, how much of each service is actually devoted to studying and exegeting properly the Word of God? If the typical Sunday morning service runs from 10:30am to Noon, with the first 45 minutes of a concert, 10 minutes of announcements, intro videos, skits, collecting of tithe/offerings, that leaves roughly 30 minutes for a sermon. Now, what if the sermon is geared more toward sloganeering of a self-help book, or casting the vision of the pastor rather than teaching the text of the Bible? It can become all to easy to lose sight of the Word of God even while conducting the business of church. I pray your church experience is nothing like what I’ve detailed above. Still, even if that 1.5 hrs of Sunday Morning church were devoted to biblical study, it wouldn’t be enough. That is why I am so eager to share what I am studying throughout the week, and am so excited that you are reading here today. Even if you disagree with everything I write, at least you are reading the Word of God that is copy-and-pasted into these posts and hopefully following the external links to bible references. 😉

In closing, I’d like to echo Paul’s benediction from 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (ESV) “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

In Him,
Jorge

When prayer and warfare become idols

prayerI recently sat through a rather painful “bible study” on prayer. The text that was read at the beginning of the study was:

Matthew 16:13-19 (ESV) 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

To be fair, I had happened upon a study that was in a series of studies, so there is naturally going to be some overlap of previous themes. However, when we got to verse 19 of this passage, we immediately lost sight of the meaning of the passage and of the notion of having a bible study. In a whirlwind of high-motivational pep speech (reminiscent of Joyce Myer or Beth Moore) the meaning of the passage was presented as follows

  • v17 Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Christ came by direct revelation (which was explained as being a result of having learned to pray)
  • v18 Jesus was going to build the church upon the revelation from the Father in heaven, not by flesh and blood (which was interpreted as prayer)
  • v19 the keys of the kingdom of heaven was prayer, and that having prayer as the key would grant authority to bind and loose (personal anecdote employed about how if I give a set of keys to my house to someone else, then I am giving that person authority to enter my house and use whatever is in there).

The point of the passage is the confession of Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God. If the keys to the kingdom of heaven were “prayer”, the disciples had already been taught how to pray back in Matthew 6; however, Jesus clearly stated that He will give the keys, so there is more to this than prayer. I believe He is referring to the authority in Matthew 28:18 (ESV), “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” as a result of having laid down His life and raised it back up again. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the keys to the kingdom of heaven, for by His Grace we are made righteous in the sight of the Lord and are granted entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven by the blood of the Lamb. If there remains any doubt, let us look at what Peter had to say in his Epistles. Surely since Jesus was building His church upon this rock, then Peter should at least echo this interpretation on some level, right? Well, prayer only gets mentioned 3 times in 1&2 Peter:

  1. 1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
  2. 1 Peter 3:8-12 (ESV) 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Peter quoting Psalms 34)
  3. 1 Peter 4:6-8 (ESV) 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

The over-arching theme of 1 & 2 Peter? I think it best to read the introduction to 1 Peter:

1 Peter 1:1-12 (ESV) 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Peter understood the point of it all to be the Grace and Mercy of God the Father in sending His Son Jesus so that we might be saved. While Jesus did call Simon  “Peter” (which means rock) and said that “upon this rock I will build My church”, Peter clearly identifies Jesus Christ as the cornerstone in 1 Peter 2. Since Peter’s confession of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church, it stands to reason that every stone laid on that foundation would in-turn be measured, trued, and lined up with Christ as the Cornerstone. I don’t think it was Peter (the man) who is the foundation of the church; rather, his confession of Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God is the foundation of the Church. Though, the argument could be made that both interpretations are valid given Peter was the first to preach on the Day of Pentecost, and was the first to be shown that God is calling Gentiles also into the fold.

The person conducting the study launched into what was clearly a personal soapbox issue. Once the confession of “being called to intercessory prayer” was made, I realized that there was a great deal of iesegisis at work, so I just let it go and smiled through it waiting for it to end. Do I have a problem with intercessory prayer? Absolutely not! There is a great need for intercessory prayer in the church. There are, however some problematic themes that come up whenever the topic of prayer becomes taught as a profession or ministry unto itself rather than a communion with a loving Heavenly Father, or an in-dwelling God the Holy Spirit.

The only text in the bible where we are specifically taught how to pray is when Jesus (God the Son) taught the disciples how to pray (Matt 6, Luke 11). We are told to pray without ceasing. We should live our lives in constant prayer, and we should also make daily time to pray. But the act of praying isn’t the point, it is to whom we pray and by whom we pray. Even in the realm of intercession, it is the Holy Spirit that intercedes for the saints, not the saints themselves (Romans 8:18-27), so we must not allow our fleshly need for credit to shade our speech/instruction in the discipline of prayer. Whether we are encouraging our brothers to seek the Will of God in their daily walk or for them to engage in intercessory prayer, we must always anchor the charge to pray onto the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within each of us who are called Children of God.  As we pointed out in our discussion of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, we must always keep our focus on the fact that it is God who does the work, not men. The individual giving the bible study had to stop several times to issue the caveat “not me, of course, but God working through me”. I’m very happy to have heard that confession in the form of a caveat so many times during the study; however, if a caveat needs to be issued that often then there is a language/emphasis problem with the discussion that should be addressed. Here, it was an over-selling of the “power of prayer”.

Prayer is not unique to Christianity… Our God is. Our understanding of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is unique to our Biblical Christian faith. Stop looking at routines/ceremonies/principles for power, and look to the person of God the Holy Spirit and His work in our hearts. I want to take a few moments to include any discussion of “spiritual warfare” that focuses entirely too much on the redeemed rather than the Redeemer. Spiritual warfare takes place primarily in your mind and in your flesh. The Spirit of God dwelling within you has made your spirit alive and it wars against your flesh, and your flesh works against the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). When it comes to declaring the Word of God, our focus should be fixed on Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For Only by the Grace of God can anyone be made alive in Christ, set free from the bondage of sin and death, and made the recipient of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit does all of this work. We pray so that we can grow in the fullness of the Knowledge of Christ, and for boldness and for the Holy Spirit to give teach us how to speak and what to say in the hour of need.  We must guard ourselves against pride and folly. Our authority will forever be a derivative of Christ’s authority; therefore, we must never allow ourselves to lose sight or focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. Stop looking for some “extra outpouring” of the Spirit… God the Holy Spirit has already been promised to those who believe and are baptized in His Name. If you are in Him, then He is in you. There is no extra anything! Walk by faith, pray without ceasing, and remain vigilant in your focus upon the Gospel of Grace, of which you are a Steward. The role of the Church is to preach the Gospel, not to specialize in private prayer and launching special attacks on demons, principalities and powers. Christ defeated them, and it is only by His Blood that we have been made free from them. We expand the Kingdom of God by preaching the Gospel, not by “waging war in the heavenly”.  The Apostles were over-comers not because they were never jailed, hungry, thirsty, persecuted, killed… but because the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, and those who were dead in sins and trespasses were brought to salvation by Grace through Faith in Christ.

The Book of Jude stands as a strong warning against this sort of stepping beyond one’s authority. A single chapter full of wisdom and warning. Stepping back from that extreme, though, let us remember how Jesus introduced his lesson on prayer in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:5-8 (ESV) 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Adorning your prayers with militancy is more likely to erode humility than it is to rightly charge your faith, or the faith of those around you. We pray to our Heavenly Father, not to the enemy. We declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those lost in the world, so that they might repent and be saved. As with prophecy, we do not presume to “declare the Word of the Lord” on our own, and we dare not blaspheme against things we do not understand. We yield in humble submission to God the Holy Spirit in all things.

Prayer is as essential as breathing. In the same way that breathing can become its own distraction (yoga, tantra, lamaze, etc.), so can an over-emphasis on the art of prayer, rather than the God to whom and by whom we pray. Is the focus of your intercessory prayer self-feeding? Do you spend more time reading about prayer than you do the Bible? Has your quest for spiritual warfare changed your study of the Bible into a search for special phrases to “declare” for defense and for offense (the Harry Potter approach to bible study)? Has your prayer specialization made you unavailable for sharing the Gospel, fellowship with the saints, and meeting the physical needs of the brethren? If so, then prayer and warfare might have become an idol. Just as the Praise and Worship Leader can allow music or his own ability to become an idol, or the pastor who preaches himself rather than Christ, or the affluent giver his affluence, etc. Idolatry is very subtle, and requires constant vigilance to avoid.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 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